A page containing extracts and quotes from "A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900" by Andrew Roberts.
"This book is emphatically
not intended to be a comprehensive history of the English-speaking peoples,
which would be impossible to write in one volume and anyhow probably rather
dull to read. Instead of a textbook, this is a series of snapshots taken
rather arbitrarily, episodically and idiosyncratically, from the life of
the English-speaking peoples since the dawn of the 20th century, through
whose shared experiences I believe certain common themes emerge, almost
unbidden. For my purposes, the English-speaking peoples hail from those
places where the majority of people speak English as their first language:
the United States, the United Kingdom and her dependancies, Canada, Australia,
New Zealand, the British West Indies and Ireland... D-Day saw the supreme
expression of the English-speaking peoples working together for the good
- Andrew Roberts, writing in 2006
~ 1900-1904: Shouldering 'The White Man's Burden'
~ 1905-1914: America Arrives
~ 1914-1917: The First Assault - Prussian Militarism
~ 1918-1919: Peace Guilt
~ 1920-1929: American Energy
~ 1929-1931: Capitalism At Bay
~ 1931-1939: The Second Assault: Fascist Aggression
~ 1939-1941: Divided and Faltering
~ 1942-1944: United and Conquering
~ 1944-1945: Normandy to Nagasaki
~ 1945-1949: The Third Assault: Soviet Communism
~ 1950-1959: Cold War Perils
~ 1960-1969: Civis Americanus Sum
~ 1970-1979: The Long, Dismal, Drawling Tides
~ 1980-1989: Attritional Victory
~ 1990-2001: The Wasted Breathing Space
~ 2001-2005: The Fourth Assault: Islamicist Terrorism and its De Facto Allies
~ Beyond the Book: Reviews
~ Beyond the Book: Interviews
~ Beyond the Book: Similar Works
[Introduction: A Portrait of the English-speaking Peoples at the Dawn of the 20th Century]
"This will be the English
- Winston Churchill (1943)
"If one reflected on
the most important events of the last millennium compared with the first,
the ascent of the English-speaking peoples to predominance in the world
surely ranked highest."
- Professor Deepak Lal, "In Praise of Empires"
As the first rays of sunlight broke over the Chatham Islands, 360 miles east of New Zealand in the South Pacific, a little before 6:00am on Tuesday, 1 January 1901, the world entered a century that for all its warfare and perils would nonetheless mark the triumph of the English-speaking peoples. Few could have suspected it at the time, but the British Empire would wane to extinction during that period, while the American Republic would wax to such hegemony that it would become the sole global hyper-power. Assault after assault would be made upon the English-speaking peoples’ primacy, each of which would be beaten off successfully, albeit sometimes at huge and tragic cost. Even as the twenty-first century dawned, they would be doughtily defending themselves still.
Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no-one will bother to make a distinction between the British Crown-led and the American Republic-led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. It will be recognised that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common - and enough that separated them from everyone else – that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity, which only scholars and pedants will try to describe separately. A Martian landing on our planet might find linguistic or geographical more useful than ethnic factors when it came to analyzing the differences between different groups of earthlings; the countries whose history this book covers are those where the majority of people speak English as their first language.
As the dominant world political culture since 1900, the English-speaking peoples would be constantly envied and often hated, which far from being anything perturbing has been the inescapable lot of all hegemonic powers since even before the days of Ancient Rome. Like the Romans, they would at times be ruthless, at times self-indulgent, and they too would sometimes find that the greatest danger to their continued imperium came not from their declared enemies without, but rather from vociferous critics within their own society.
Despite the harsh methods occasionally adopted to protect their status and safety from Wilhelmine Prussian militarism, then the Nazi-led Axis, then global Marxism-Leninism and presently by Islamic fundamentalism, the English-speaking peoples would remain the last, best hope for Mankind. The beliefs that they brought into the twentieth century largely actuate them yet; their values are still now the best available in a troubled world; the institutions that made them great continue to inspire them today. Indeed the beliefs, values and institutions of the English-speaking peoples are presently on the march.
In 1901 there was nothing inevitable about the domination that the English-speaking peoples’ political culture would retain throughout the twentieth century and beyond. Wilhelmine Germany’s burgeoning economic power was reflected in the massive High Seas Fleet that was being built specifically to challenge the Royal Navy. Third Republic France had a huge global empire and a thirst for revenge against Britain for slights real and imagined that it had received over the last century culminating on the Upper Nile three years earlier. Tsarist Russia, the largest country in the world with a vast standing army, looked enviously at British India across the narrowing gap between them in Central Asia. Each would have liked to have seen the United States humiliated over her continued protection of Latin America through the Monroe Doctrine. Within a decade the German High Command had drawn up plans to shell Manhattan and land a one hundred thousand-strong army in New England.
The world of 1901 was a multi-polar one of fiercely competing Great Powers. The idea that a century later, the English-speaking peoples would hold unquestioned sway in the world, challenged only — and even then not mortally — by some disaffected fanatics from the rump of the Ottoman Empire, would have astounded Kaiser, Tsar and French president alike. Two global conflagrations in the space of a generation, in which the English-speaking peoples escaped invasion — except those who lived in the Channel Islands — whereas no other Great Power did, explains much, but certainly not all.
When, just before his death in 1898, Otto von Bismarck was asked what was the decisive factor in modern history, he replied: "The fact that the North Americans speak English."
As the new century dawned, both the British Empire and the American Republic were involved in protracted colonial wars, in South Africa and the Philippines respectively. War has been the almost constant lot of Mankind since the days of Rome, yet the English-speaking peoples have presided over a longer period of peace between the Great Powers than at any time since the Dark Ages. In 1901, neither Britain nor the United States saw herself as part of a greater entity, the English-speaking peoples. They were rivals, though newly friendly ones... Yet their reverses — Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor, Suez and Vietnam among them — have come when they were divided from another. By contrast, their many victories all came when they were united.
In South Africa, the war was proving far more expensive in terms both of blood and treasure in January 1901 than anyone had predicted when it had broken out 15 months earlier... Although the Boers' conventional forces were militarily defeated in the field, they nonetheless refused to surrender resorting instead to a protracted insurgency campaign. The United States already had to deal with a popular revolt in the Philippines that was fought against her with very similar guerrilla and terror tactics. The problem of how to deal with asymmetric warfare being made upon them would be one that would perplex the English-speaking peoples several times over the next 11 decades.
Criticism from churchmen, liberals, and public thinkers of the mission of the English-speaking peoples was to be a recurring theme throughout the coming century. The British Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, was to complain that, "England is, I believe, the only country in which, during a great war, eminent men write and speak as if they belonged to the enemy." In fact, the phenomenon was to recur through the English-speaking peoples over the coming decades, and in some engagements — such as Suez and Vietnam, opposition from vociferous domestic minority was to doom their enterprise far more than foreign opponents.
"Other nations might
have built a modern unified world, but they would probably not have done
it as quickly, efficiently, elegantly — or as humanely."
- Arthur Herman, on the legacy of the British Empire
Ever since the mid-1830s, the English-speaking peoples had considered it their civilising mission to apply — with varying degrees of force — their values and institutions in those areas of the world they believed would benefit from them. Although Britain was under no threat from them herself, Lord Palmerston imposed regime change in Spain, Portugal and Belgium, using the power of the Royal Navy to force liberal constitutions on countries that baulked at first but later came to value them. "I hold that the real policy of England", he told the House of Commons in 1848, "is to be the champion of justice and right... not becoming the Quixote of the world, but giving the weight of her moral sanction and support wherever she thinks justice is, and wherever she thinks wrong has been done". The neoconservatives of President George W. Bush's Administration did not invent some brand new political philosophy in their desire to extend representative institutions to the Middle East... Whether the Middle East proves too theocratic, obscurantist and in some places feudal to benefit from democracy remains to be seen, but neo-conservatism is certainly no new historical departure in the self-proclaimed mission of the English-speaking peoples.
"It is very sad, but
I'm afraid American is bound to forge ahead and nothing can restore the
equality between us. If we had interfered in the Confederate War it was
then possible for us to reduce the power of the United States to manageable
proportions. But two such chances are not given to a nation in the course
of its career."
- Lord Salisbury
British post-imperial greatness has been preserved and fostered through its incorporation into the American world-historical project.
The foresight of Lord Salisbury's Unionist Government to observe a benevolent neutrality during the Spanish-American War — while the rest of Europe openly sympathized with Spain — ensured that the 20th century dawned on the best state of Anglo-American relations since the Revolution... The century was to see strains in the Special Relationship, particularly in 1927, 1944, 1956, 1965, and 1994-5, but never the break for which their rivals and opponents desperately hoped.
One of the common threads uniting the wars of the English-speaking peoples in the 20th century was that they have often suffered serious reverses in the first battle, or even the first campaign, before going onto to ultimate victory — seen in the Boer War, the Great War, the Second World War, the Falklands... This pattern of initial humiliation, or even catastrophe, is too well-established to admit to any doubt about the recurring phenomenon. Initial defeats, provocations or utter disasters early in the conflict, served to rally the English-speaking peoples for the necessary sacrifices ahead.
The separation of Church and State in the American constitution and the complete subjection of the armed forces to democratic control throughout the English-speaking peoples meant that they have been free of undue influences that have time and again stunted other nations' opportunities in the 20th century: theocracy and military dictatorshio. While some of the people who made their names whilst soldiering have become succesful politicians, they never had the threat of force at their back.
An inevitable concomitant of power has been the envy of others. In the 20th century, no less than in any other, the Great Powers excited the envy of lesser powers not necessarily because of how they behaved but simply because of what they were... Resentment of the leading world power by its rivals in 1901 was simply a factor of the human condition and not the result of anything in particular that the British Empire had done in South Africa or anywhere else.
"I never spend 5 minutes
in inquiring if we are unpopular. The answer is written in red ink on the
map of the globe... No, I would count everywhere on the individual hostility
of all the great Powers, but would endeavour to arrange things that they
were not united against me... I would be as strong in small things as in
big. This might be a counsel of perfection, but I should like to see the
- Lord Curzon, British Viceroy in India (1901)
The vital importance of maintaining the authority and prestige of the English-speaking peoples — a duty which passed from Britain to America in the 1940s — was upheled throughout the century in every decade except the second half of the 1970s... Overall, however, the prestige of the English-speaking peoples and pride in their reliability as allies and indefatigability as foes, has actuated their leaders, which is one explanation of their global success since 1900. Prestige is a tangible benefit in the calculus of international relations, its loss a concomitant danger.
In the debate over whether America was born great, achieved greatnes or had greatness thrust upon her, the only possible conclusion must be: all three.
Staying at the forefront of all the major developments in automobiles, aernautics, computers, finance, biotechnology, and the information revolution — and of all their various key military applications — has enabled the English-speaking peoples to win and retain their global hegemony. That would leadership will only be ceded to whichever world power — possibly China or India — is capable of producing better products cheaper than they, in a similarly secure political environment. It will happen, but hoepfully this time it will not happen violently.
As the 20th century dawned, New Zealand had every right to consider herself one of the most progressive and advanced nations on earth. In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the vote... Her state system of education was free, secular and compulsory... On New Year's Day 1901, New Zealand also introducted a universal penny postage rate "to all important parts of the Empire." Premier Seddon saw no contradiction between being a progressive and a convinced imperialist. "The flag that floats over us and protects us was expected to protect our kindred and countrymen who are in the Transvaal," he said of the Boer War. "We should take action because we are a portion of the dominant family of the world — we are of the English-speaking race."
Throughout the period covered by this book the experience of Ireland, or at least the southern 26 of the island's 32 counties, seems to run contrary to that of the rest of the English-speaking peoples. It provided the exception to every rule, disrupted every generalisation and pursued so different a route from the rest of the English-speaking peoples so often that it must be considered quite apart from the rest. Yet that was not the case in 1900, when the Queen received loyal accolades from ordinary people quite as fervent as any that would have been heard in Manchester, Glasgow, Adelaide, Toronto or Auckland. That said, 1905 saw the founding of Sinn Fein, an anti-British revolutionary organisation that wad to cause mush misery over the coming century in its ultimately failed campaign to separate the whole island of Ireland from the United Kingdom.
fine four-volume book "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples" — their
"origins, their quarrels, their misfortunes and their reconciliation" —
ends in January 1901, just before by far the most important and interesting
part of their tale began. He concluded his great work, for which he won
the Nobel Prize for Literature, with the words:
"The vast potentialities of America lay as a portent across the globe, as yet dimly recognised, save by the imagination. But in the contracting world of better communications to remain detached from the pre-occupations of others was rapidly becoming impossible. The status of world-Power is inseparable from its responsibilites... The English-speaking peoples... are now to become allies in terrible but victorious wars. Another phase looms before us, in which alliance will once more be tested and in which its formidable virtues may be to preserve Peace and Freedom. The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope."
Here is the next stage of their story.
[1900-1904: Shouldering 'The White Man's Burden']
Within a few months of taking office, President Theodore Roosevelt presented an awesome challenge to Congress and the nation. "The American people must either build and maintain an adequate Navy," he said, "or else make up their minds definitely to accept a secondary position in international affairs."
Roosevelt understood international naval power politics like no other previous president. His huge expansion of the US Navy presaged the American eruption onto the global stage that was to be the single most important feature of world politics in what was to be dubbed 'the American century'... he forced on the pace of naval armament, which was ultimately to make the United States a world power by the time he left office in 1909. As historian John Vincent has perceptively put it, "In terms of bloodshed and lives lost, America's rise to great power status could hardly have been more harmless."
Roosevelt filled the White House like no other peacetime president.
The process of splitting Panama from distant Colombia in order for the Panama Canal to be built has long been held against Roosevelt in Latin America; yet Panama had rebelled 50 times in 50 years — surely some kind of a record in international rebellion — and all he had to do in November 1903 was to let the 50th rebellion succeed... Senator Samuel Hayakawa of California once said of it, "We stole it, fair and square," but the United States in fact paid vast sums for it.
The Panama Canal was to bring the United States into West Indian and Latin American politics on a very regular basis, as a force for stability and the protection of property rights.
Most of Roosevelt's interventions in Central America were taken reluctantly and at the urgent request of the governments there, for, as he said about one crisis in the Dominican Republic, "I have about the same desire to annex [islands] as a gorged boa constrictor might have to swallow a porcupine wrong end to." Nor was Roosevelt's expansionism doctrinaire; he handed Cuba her independence in May 1902... In vigorously enforcing the Monroe Doctrine throughout the 20th century, the United States deserves commendation for not allowing that continent to develop into a battleground between the Great Powers.
The statesmanship — and there can be no greater test of statesmanship than sticking to unpopular bur correct policies in the face of a general election — of McKinley, Roosevelt and Hay laid the basis of the friendly co-operation of the English-speaking peoples in the coming century.
"Europe has a set of
primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation."
- George Washington, 1796 Farewell Address
Those words — wise for 1796 when it took seven weeks' sailing to reach America from Europe — made far less sense in the world that George Washington could never have forseen, that of the railway, the telegraph, the steamship, the aeroplane, the submarine, the aircraft carrier, the jet, the internet, let alone the inter-contintental ballistic missile. Under Washington, the fastest a man could travel was on a galloping horse... As the globe shrank so America's world role grew, and by the early 20th century it had certainly outgrown its late 19th century mantras.
The 20th century record of imperialism of the English-speaking peoples, be they American, British or Antipodean, was far superior to that of any of their rivals.
In the four years that the Philippines were part of Japan's so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity, no fewer than 5% of the entire Filipino population died.
The way that Pretoria treated the Britons who lived and worked in the Transvall... was humiliating for the British Government, which saw itself as their champion.
The real fear of the effect of loss of prestige was to recur again and again in the story of the English-speaking peoples. Empires run by tiny elites are to a great extent ruled as much through kudos as by deployable military power.
The clash between the Boers and the British in South Africa was long in coming, but once it materialised it was a straightforward struggle for primacy of prestige.
A characteristic of the English-speaking peoples displayed both in South Africa and in the Philippines at the dawn of the 20th century, and then fairly regularly ever since, was their tendency towards ruthlessmess in warfare. For all that they are slow to anger, they have historically been very hard-nosed once the fighting was actually taking place, although this has often been tempered by a tendency to treat defeated enemies generously. Plenty of what in the luxury of peacetime have been called 'war crimes' have been laid at their door since 1901... No one in history has done more for the concept of human beings having certain inalienable rights than the English-speaking peoples, and it is often solely becase of their belief in the rule of law that abuses ever come to light and are punished. Every war has thrown up its dirty secret.... to expect anything different is to misundertand the way humans behave in wartime, from whichever colour, creed or class they hail. What is needed is a legal device to correct abuses, and that is something that the English-speaking world has generally had in place, but which the Germans in 1900s Angola, the Japanese in 1930s China, the French in 1950s Algeria and the Russians in 1980s Afghanistan had not. The difference is not that the English-speaking peoples never commit crimes in wartime, but rather that their open societies and free press tend to ensure that they are punished, while many other societies' crimes rarely are, or are even acknowledged as such.
If America's Administrations — as opposed to her people — were stalwart during the Boer War, the rest of the English-speaking peoples were magnificient.
The nationalism — indeed jingoism — engendered by the Boer War encouraged a profound desire amonst Canadians to differentiate themselves from Americans, whose population was as pro-Boer as her leaders were pro-British... In 1901, Imperial unity served as a counterpoise to bad US-Canadian relations and affored Canadians a means of preserving national identity, but also of standing up for what they believed to be their right vis-a-vis their militarily, demographically and economically giant neighbour to the south. Complaining that their situation was like that of living next door to an elephant, Anglo-Canadians wholeheartedly embraced the alternative vision for which the British Empire stood. The 20th century was to see ultra-loyal Canada brusquely rejected by Britain, yet not drawn into America's orbit as a result.
Why was this land of opportunity and growth so keen to become involved in a war 7000 miles away, on behalf of an elderly Mother Country, in which Canada had no direct concern? In the 1960s it was fashionable to explain this remarkable phenomenon in terms of conspiracy theories and 'propaganda manipulations'... yet this was because of English Canada's deep-seated commitment to the concept of Imperial unity and genuine Canadian identification with the Empire's cause.
At this distance of time it seems unimaginable that there might have been a US-Canadian war, not least because English-speaking democracies do not fight one another, but in 1894 forty-two out of America's forty-five state governors promised to enrol troops for one, and a senior American general, Nelson Miles, was quoted saying, "Canada would fall into our hands as a matter of course." Be that as it may, the pounding that the eastern seaboard of the United States would have suffered from a Royal Navy that was hugely larger than the pre-Rooseveltian US Naby might not have made invasion worthwhile.
The way that capitalism, when allied to the right to own secure property and the rule of law, has unleashed the energy and ingenuity of Mankind has been remarkable and forms the basis of the English-speaking peoples' present global hegemony. So long as they retain the technological edge in the military field, the only way they can be replaced as the world-hegemon is through another Great Power adopting an even more effective form of capitalism... The French, Swedish, social democratic, Japanese corporatist and various other models of capitalism have all failed dismally compared to the Anglo-Saxon version.
It had been under the Royal Navy in the 19th century that Britain had originally established what the distinguished Indian political scientist Professor Deepak lal calls a 'Liberal International Economic Order', whose major attributes were free trade, mobility of capital, sound money due to the gold standard, property rights guaranteed by law, piracy-free transportation, political stability, low domestic taxation and spending, and 'gentlemanly' capitalism run from the City of London. "Despite Marxist and nationalist cant," he writes, "the British Empire delivered astonishing growth rates, at least to those places fortunate enough to be coloured pink on the globe." The United States was to inherit the duty of protecting, promoting and expanding this Liberal Internation Economic Order in the coming century.
Even more important than ruling the waves in the 20th century has been the English-speaking peoples' dominion over the skies... by stauing at the forefront of almost every advance in civil and military aeronautics throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the English-speaking peoples were able to bring decisive power to bear on their many and varied opponents. Air power was to become a central part of the reason why the English-speaking peoples have survived and prospered so successfully since 1900... Indeed, the day that the English-speaking peoples fall behind in the contest to build the world's best fighter and bomber aircraft will be the one when their primacy is doomed.
Religious toleration has been a mainstay of the English-speaking peoples since 1900; powerful emotions that have been channelled elsewhere in the world into suppressing minorities because of the way the choose to worship particular deities have been generally absent from the secular societies of the English-speaking world, with corresponding advantages both for social unity and the ability of these minorities to contribute to the greater good... In the 20th century, the best gauge of a society's attitude towards religious toleration has been its treatment of the Jews, and although they have undoubtedly been socially discriminated against, they have never been persecuted in the English-speaking world except in 1904 in Ireland, a country whose special historical development makes its experience very different from the rest of the English-speaking peoples since 1900.
The 1904 Entente Cordiale
proved to be one of the world's longest-lasting alliances and is still
in (at least nominal) existence. It would henceforth be the unspoken assumption
that in any war central to their continued existence, Britain and France
would fight on the same side. Of course the Entente has worked in France's
interests more than in Britain's, for the inescapable geographical fact
that any country capable of threatening Britain's independence was likely
to have attacked France beforehand... In pure realpolitik terms, Britain
did herself few favours by concluding the Entente, thereby shackling herself
to the fortunes of a nation that was in even faster imperial decline than
she, and which stayed so ever since... yet short of making an alliance
with aggressive and unpredictavlble Wilhelmine Germany, there was little
Thenceforth, from 1904 to 1940 Britain's fate was intimately linked to that of France, even though the subsequent story was one of having to fight two world wars, primarily because France was incapable of defending herself alone. Of course, the gargantuan ambition of both Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler has to be halted, but the Entente failed to prevent either of their attacks on France in 1914 or 1940. Britain instead sacrified her freedom to maneuver by being connected to France and gained little from it thereby. Militarily she was forced to send two expeditionary forces to continental Europe... Nonetheless, there was little alternative in 1904, and the Entente was responsible for preventing the whole of Europe coming under the domination of a violently aggressive Imperial Germany ten years later.
[1905-1914: America Arrives]
"The same causes which
havr raised Great Britain to her present exalted position will (probably
in the course of the next century) raise the United States of America to
a degree of industry, wealth and power which will superpass the position
in which England stands as at present England excels little Holland."
- Friedrich List, German political economist (1844)
"Germany had been preparing
every resource, perfecting every skill, developing every invention, which
would enable her to master the European world; and, after mastering the
European world, to dominate the rest of the world. Everybody had been looking
on. Everybody had known... Yet we were all living in a fool's paradise."
- Woodrow Wilson, speaking in 1919
The way that the English-speaking peoples led the world in embracing female suffrage is a sign of its political maturity and liberalism, but also of its enlightened self-interest... Only after the English-speaking peoples experimented successfully with female franchise, progressively dropping property and age restrictions and extending it to married women, did the rest of the world begin to adopt it.
conflict in the summer of 1914 consisted of two wars, not one. Both were
started deliberately. They were started by rival empires that were bound
together by mutual need... The wars were about power."
- Professor David Fromkin, "Europe's Last Summer: Why the World Went to War in 1914"
In both the cases of
the Habsburg and Hohenzollern Empires, the decision to go to war "was made
by a few individuals at the top, whose peoples were unaware that such decisions
were being considered, let alone made." The lack of proper democracy in
either country therefore clearly exacerbated the situation.
It was Austria-Hungary's little local war against Sebia — relatively unimportant in itself given the history of Balkan conflicts since 1875 — that, in Fromkin's estimation, "provided the German generals with the conditions they needed in order to start a war of their own: a European conflict, which grew into a global conflict". Far from being the pointless, unnecessary war that poets, playwrights and screenplay-writers have continually depicted since the mid-Twenties, in fact "It was about the most important issue in politics: who should rule the world."
Why should a Maori New Zealander have died in Turkey and been buried in Greece because an Austrian had been shot by a Serb in Bosnia? The relations of the peoples of the British Empire were so close in 1914 that an assault on the independence of one was automatically considered an assault on the independence of all, and Germany's march through Belgium was certainly such an assault. Belgium was a British creation intended to ensure the Channel ports stayed out of the hands of a hegemonic power, and the threat to incorporate Belgium into Germany was a direct threat to Britain. In a sense it was even more more of a direct threat than that posed by Napoleon at Boulogne in 1804... a following wind was no longer necessary for the powerful German High Seas Fleet in the era of oil-powered engines.
New Zealand, Australia and Canada all equipped, trained and paid for their own forces throughout the conflict, which had not been the case in the Boer War. Even South Africa, which had been an enemy in 1902, declared for Britain in 1914.
For over three centuries, entirely out of realpolitik reasons of self-preservation, britain had pursued a policy of supporting a balance of power in Europe, attempting to ensure that no single nation dominated the continent. be it Philip II's Spain or Louis XIV and Napoleon's France, total hegemony could not be allowed to go to any single Great Power. "England has ever watched the Channel ports with especial jealousy," Lord Robert Cecil wrote of William Pitt's foreign policy during the Napoleonic Wars. "It has always been one of the cardinal maxims of our foreign policy that they should not fall into the hands of any power whom she had need to fear."
Should the German High Command put into operation their notorious Schlieffen Plan, by which France was attacked through Belgium, British participation in the war would be automatically triggered by the British guarantee of Belgian neutrality, formally given when that country was created in 1839. Because this is precisely what happened, it is clear that Imperial Germany bears full responsibility for the outbreak of that terrible war. Far from being a futile, unncessary conflict, Britain went to war in 1914 for the noblest possible ideal and best possible reason: her honour and self-defence. To have attempted to renege upon, or legalistically wriggled out of, the 1839 would not only have been unacceptable to British public opinion at that time, but, as Edward Grey later put it, "We should have been isolated; we should have had no friend in the world." It was not the British way.
The Treaty of 1839 was "a Treaty with a history", said Foreign Secretary Grey, who mentioned Bismarck's promise in 1870 to respect Belgian neutrality when he attacked France during the Franco-Prussian War.
Furthermore, without British intervention there can be little doubt that France would have been overwhelmed, probably in only a matter of weeks, as in 1870 and 1940. But unlike 1870, the Germans had no intention of merely annexing a province, exacting relatively light reparations and then withdrawing after three years. The Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II had ambitions far closer to the Third Reich's than to his grandfather's limited desire for Alsace-Lorraine. Wilhelm II wanted nothing sort of a German-dominated continent, what he later tellingly described as "a United States of Europe under German leadership". German control of such an entity from Brest to the Polish border would ultimately have posed a mortal danger to Britain's continued existence as an independent power... To have allowed such a man as Wilhelm II to rule Europe would have been a crime against Western Civilization to an almost equal degree as to have failed to challenge Hitler's bid for the control of Europe 20 years later.
No one would ever seek to doubt or deny the horrors of the Great War, with its gas, mud, machine-guns and mass slaughter, but questioning the merits of the manner in which a war was fought is quite different from questioning its motive. Its tactics might be doubted, its necessity cannot. For Britain and her Empire to have stood aside in 1914, looking only to her defences and colonies while Europe was ravaged, would only have postponed the day of reckoning whilst divesting her of her Russian, French, Belgian, Italian, Japanese and ultimately American allies... In the First World War no less than in the Second, Britons did not die for a vain cause.
*To get a snapshot picture of just how weighty Britain's imperial obligations were in 1914, and what she had on her mind over the two days in which Europe slipped into war, here is a sample of the written and oral parliamentary answers that ministers were giving on 3 and 4 August 1914, none of them to do with the Balkan crisis. They were busy answering questions from MPs on tribal customs in Assam; the governorship of Tasmania; the Bengal Military Orphan Society; an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Tipperary; the South African Native Land Act; Coptic newspapers in Egypt; press freedom in Lahore; the University of Calcutta; the abdication of the Raja of Cochin; Indian police pensions; "suicide by burning among girl wives in Bengal"; cocaine possessions in India; Masai cattle in British East Africa; taxation in the Straits Settlements and Malay States; sanitation in the Punjab; and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Bill. Such was the width of British responsibilities.
[1914-1917: The First Assault - Prussian Militarism]
"Her military men published
booksand told us what they were going to do, but we dismissed them. We
said 'The thing is a nightmare. The man is a crank. It could not be that
he speaks for a great Government. The thing is inconceivable and can not
happen'. Very well, could it not hapen? Did it not happen? ...The great
nations of the world have been asleep."
- Woodrow Wilson, on Wilhelm's Germany (1919)
Although it is true that large crowds congregated in London on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of August 1914, the British did not celebrate the outbreak of war in the jingoistic manner often alleged. People will throng the streets on what are clearly going to be historic occacions for all sorts of non-political reasons. The presence of large numbers of spectators should imply popular support for whatever the Government was deciding at the time. Added to that, central London was traditionally where large crowds gathered on Bank Holiday Monday... The true mood of the country was one of sombre, concerned realism. Our forefathers were thus not the naive, bloodthirsty chauvinists of the popular imagination; they needed persuading to go to war against such Great Powers as Germany and Austria-Hungary, and what persuaded them was the cold blooded execution of the Schlieffen Plan. After Belgium's ill treatment by German forces, a tsunami of moral outrage was unleashed from one end of the English-speaking peoples to the other.
It was not the outbreak of war itself that encouraged vast numbers of Britons to flock to the colours — only 100,000 had enlisted by 22 August — so much as the publication of the Mons Despatch of Tuesday, 25 August 1914. The defeat in the battle of Mons was presented in stark though heroic terms... On the same page of 'The Times' as the Despatch lay an editorial entitled "England's Call", which was a masterpiece of recruitment literature and bears repetition because in the week between 30 August and 5 September no fewer than 174,901 Britons applied to join the colours.
"We are committed to
a life-and-death struggle for all that we hold dearest with the mightiest
military Monarchy in the world... Now is the time for all men of British
blood to bethink them what they may do to safeguard their national inheritance...
When our troops are under fie and our Allies have met with reverses, there
is no place amongst us for the idler or the loafer, England needs all her
- The Times
As a recent historian of the analysis of the patterns of recruitment in the early part of the Great War has said, "Far from signing up in a burst of enthusiasm at the outbreak of war, the largest single component of volunteers enlisted at exactly that moment when the war turned serious. Men did not join the British Army expecting a picnic stroll to Berlin but in the expectation of a desperate fight for national defense."
In his intriguingly
entitled 1975 book, 'The Social History of the Machine Gun', John Ellis
explored the profound militarym political, social and even moral effects
that the machine-gun was to have upon modern society, for never in the
field of human conflict could so many be killed so quickly by so few.
In the Sudan campaign in 1898, machine-guns played a major part. After Omdurman, where General Kitchener lost 48 killed and the Dervishes over 11,000, it was remarked that, "In most of our wars it has been the dash, the skill and the bravery of our officers and men that have won the day, but in this case the battle was won by a quiet scientific gentleman living in Kent."
While the English-speaking
peoples have kept the technological edge on the invention and development
of weaponry, they have managed to retain the hegemony of the world. The
machine-gun, the tank, the Spitfire, the Lancaster, B-29 and B-52 bombers,
the H-bomb and A-bomb, Agent Orange, the F-16 fighter, stealth aircraft,
the 'daisy-cutter' bomb — each were ground breaking weapons and all were
first deployed by the English-speaking peoples, and to devastating effect.
The primary reason that peace reigned between the Great Powers for over
sixty years after 1945 — an unprecedented length of time in modern history
— was that the English-speaking peoples possessed weaponry of such power
and sophistication that no rival power could defeat them in a general tactical
The understandable entusiasm to abolish certain types of weapons — such as the antipersonnel mine — needs to be set against the fact that some have been needed by the English-speaking peoples. The British used minefields to cover their retreat across the Western Desert in the Second World War and to narrow Rommel's field of attack.. A blanket ban of the kind advocated by Diana, Princess of Wales, in the 1990s would, had it been in places in the 1930s, have spelt disaster at the fulcrum moment of the war in North Africa.
On Easter Monday, April
16, as the battle of Verdun was reaching its between, between 1000 and
1500 volunteers from Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Brotherhood staged
a rebellion against British Rule in Dublin. The Rising was put down by
the Royal Irish Constabulary with some support from regular forces. It
had not spraked a general Irish uprising against Britain, as was hoped
by the nationalists, and by 1 May it had been suppressed after some fairly
The execution after summary trials of 12 of the rebels, including their leader Patrick Pearse and the wheelchair-bound James Connolly, however legally correct and well-deserving considering the wartime circumstances, was a disastrous political error on behalf of the Government solely because it led to their 'martyrdom' by the republican movement.
"Initially seen as
a lunatic gesture by an unrepresentative minority, the Rising came to be
canonised as the founding event of the independent Irish state."
- Roy Foster
is something of a sham. As of old, the Irish have a warrior class now known
as the IRA... The warrior class do not mind destroying Ireland if by such
means they can spite England. Throughout their history they have invited
would-be rulers from France, Spain and Germany. Far from being proudly
independent patriots, they are willing to be ruled by any foreigner as
long as he's an enemy of England. The pre-provisional IRA toyed with the
idea of an alliance with Soviet Russia... We English are the unwitting
enemy of the warrior Irish no matter what we do, whether we like Ireland
- Roy Kerridge
The idea that the Kaiser, if successful in a war against Britain and thus master of the European continent for decades to come, would have allowed souther Ireland to be free and independent is a geopolitical absurdity.
Overall, Irishmen gave their lives for the British Empire in the Great War at a high rate, even compared to Australians and New Zealanders: 50,000 Irishmen died out of a population of 4.38 million, or 1.14%, which was only slightly lower than Australia's 1.25%, and New Zealand's 1.66%, but higher than Canada's 0.76%. It is a sign of how loyal most Irishmen were to Crown, even while a tiny minority of them raised the flag of rebellion over Dublin at Easter 1916.
The losses sustained by the British Army on the first day of the Somme offensive, 1 July 1916, not only completely dwarfed all earlier battles in British history, but exceeded many other entire wars. The casualties, including 19000 dead, of that single day bear equivalence to the 16,000 British soldiers killed in the Boer War and the 20,000 of the Crimean War... As an extreme example, the Charge of the Light Brigade cost 110 dead in 7 minutes, whereas the first day of the Somme killed 175 times that number.
"To call it a crime
against Mankind is to miss at least half its significance, it is also the
punishment of a crime."
- Frederic Manning, "Her Privates We", on the Great War
The Great War myth
insists that the British generals in that conflict were mainly "aristocratic
cavalry officers who lived in chateux well behind the front lines and send
millions of young men, either duped working-class heroes or sensitive middle-class
poets, to their deaths."
In fact... the Great War generals tended to be infantrymen in their late 40s, who had seen plenty of active service. No fewer than 97 were killed in the war and a further 146 were wounded or taken prisoner. As many major-generals were killed in action at the battle of Loos as in the whole of the Second World War. The military historian Richard Holnes considers them to have been "honest, brave and hard-working" soldiers, who were "all too aware of the consequences of their mistakes."
Since the armies of the English-speaking peoples were the only ones still capable of mounting any kind of offensive in 1918, with morale still high, and considering that they demonstrably won the war with a series of impressive victories that summer and autumn, Field-Marshal Douglas Haig could not have been the blunderer depicted in plays and films... Haig learnt fastest and best of the Allied generals how to defeat our most formidable and efficient foreign enemy since the Napoleonic Wars... If there had been a way of fighting the war differently once trenches stretched 400 miles from the Channel to the Swiss border, the Germans of the French might have discovered one, but neither did. Modern critics of the High Command need to explain how they would fought the Great War differently.
Discipline was not simply kept up through fear. Only 346 out of the 3080 death sentences for desertion and cowardice were actually carried out — from an army of over 5 million men — and usually to reinforce discipline in a particular unit or at a particular time... The reason most Britons fought — apart from the sense of comradeship and regimental pride fostered in all armies — was that they rightly believed that Britain's safety depended upon victory. Some 704,208 Britons died in the war — 1.53% of the population — but they did not consider that they were dying in vain.
"They never weep; their
voices do not falter. Not a tear have I seen yet. They take it as part
of the price of greatness and of empire. You guess at their grief only
by their reticence. They use as few words as possible and then courteously
take themselves away. It isn't accident that these people own a fifth of
the world. Utterly unwarlike, they outlast anybody else when war comes."
- Walter Hines Pages, US Ambassador to Britain, on civilian reaction to casualties
Public displays of emotion were thought, rightly, to be bad for civilian morale, there was genuine, heartfelt lamentation for loved-ones, of course, but it was patriotically kept private.
Although co-ordinating a peace approach with the other Allies such as France, Russia and Italy would have been hard, it would not have been impossible in November 1916. Similarly, ensuring that the Germans fully withdrew from France and Belgium and all captured territories would have required tough negotiation. Yet an armistice in late 1916 when Lord Lansdowne first advocated it would probably have saved the 20th century from the horrors of the Bolshevik and Nazi revolutions and their aftermaths.
Without fixed-term premierships, the British have long been ruthless in sacking wartime prime ministers who are not perceived as up to the task: Aberdeen was replaced by Palmerston during the Crimean War, Asquith by Lloyd George in the Great War and Chamberlain by Churchill in the Second World War.
If Australia and New Zealand defined themselves as independent nations partly through their sacrifice of Gallipoli, Canada's apotheosis moment came on Easter Monday 1917 with her victory at Vimy Ridge... Only 4.7% of men eligible from Quebec volunteered by 1917, compared with 15.5% of those from western Canada and 14.4% from Ontario — this despite the fact that the war was being fought largely to protect metropolitan France.
[1918-1919: Peace Guilt]
"The age of nationalities
will be of short duration, or of a very tyrannical character."
- Benjamin Disraeli (1860)
"This is not peace;
it is an armistice for twenty years."
- Marshal Foch (1919)
"There was never a
quick path to victory on the Western Front, because the 1914-18 technology
of destruction vastly outstripped that of communication and mobility. Defenders
could always reinforce a threatened sector more quickly than the attackers
could advance across it, until the German army had been worn down by four
years of loss and Allied blockade. Haig's commitment to the doctrine of
attrition seems repugnant, because its human cost was unspeakable. Yet
he was correct that victory was unattainable without it."
- Sir Max Hastings
Overall the Great War is estimated to have mobilised over 63 million soldiers (42 million Allied, 23 million Central Powers) and cost the lives of over 8 million soldiers (5 million Allied, 3 million CP) and 6.6 million civilians (3.15 Allied, 3.45 million CP). The total number of wounded numbered no fewer than 21,228,813 people. Such was the appalling human cost of the Central Powers' grasp for global hegemony in August 1914; the most incredible phenomenon of the century was that only one generation later they were ready for a sequel performance.
A 'Dolchstosslegende' (stab-in-the-back myth) was promoted by the Nazis and other extreme nationalities that insisted that Germany had been 'Im Felde umbesiegt' (undefeated in the field) but only betrayed by the "criminals of November" such as socialists, capitalists, Jews and pacifists. In fact, however, the Germany Army had sustained a series of overwhelming straightforward defeats during the summer and autumn of 1918 at the hands of the Allies. Yet such had been the earlier successes in 1914 that the Germans had surrendered before the fighting reached their borders, so their own territories were not ravaged by marching armies. The myth was allowed to germinate precisely because when they had surrendered in November 1918, Germany's armies were all on foreign soil. Despite the terrible ravages of the Allied blockade, the country had not duffered the kind of domestic physical destruction that 'Bomber' Harris was to visit upon it in 1940-5. As the historian Margaret Macmillan put it in her book Peacemakers, "Of course thngs might have been very different if Germany had been more thoroughly defeated."
It was at Versailles that the British Empire reached its vertex. So vast was the British Empire as a result of the treaty that by 1922 a coal-burning round-the-world steamship could, with a the single exception of the three-day string across the South Atlantic from Ascension Island to Trinidad, be sure that every nightfall it could "berth safely under the lee shore of a British dependency."
The way in which the Dominions signed the Versailles Treaty independently and joined the League of Nations separately under their own names marked an important stage in their national stories. During the Great War, the British Empire raised armies totalling nearly 9 million men, of whom 3 million came from outside the United Kingdom. The contributions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who between them raised over 1 million troops despite their small populations, needed to be recognised and rewarded. By 1919, it was now impossible for them to feel that foreign policy and its military consequences could be left to the UK. Back in 1902, during the negotiations over the Anglo-Japanese alliance, for example, Britain had spoken for all of them. After the Great War the implicit autonomy of the Dominions in these remaining spheres of policy had to be made explicit.
Ever since Macauley's Education Minute of 1835, it had been envisaged that the Britishwould quit their Empire as soon as they had educated their successors. It was thus the first empire in human history to be manufactured with a sell-by date attached. Now, hoever, it attained the greatest spain in its history, if one includes the various Protectorates awarded it under the terms of Versailles. Yet just as its extent reached the widest, so the cracks in its edifice were beginning to become very apparent. The most obvious was the loss of nearly a million of its brightest, bravest and best young men over the previous four years of war.
The first draft of the proposed Covenant of the League of Nations sparked intense debate across the world, but especially in the United States where opinion was deeply divided about the extent to which a burgeoning world power like theirs should have its hands tied by a powerful supranational body. One of its most considered responses came from former Secretary of War Senator Elih Root. He was unhappy about several key areas of the League's constitution... saying that the scheme had great value but correspondingly "very serious faults", which needed to be addressed... including that arbitration before conflict was not made obligatory on all signatories; and in undertaking to preserve the territorial integrity of all League members, the world' borders would effectively be set in aspic for evermore... Root was all too aware of the danger of aranchy sweeping through Russia, Germany and Eastern Europe. He wanted a League of Nations, just not one that proved counterproductive to peace in the long run... Active American involvement in the general world settlement of 1919 was a crucial prerequisite for its success... yet it was not to be.
As a result of the
Versailles Treaty, 70 million Germans would be surrounded by a cordon sanitaire
of small and medium-sized states, which, as one historian has pointed out,
"were domestically unstable, economically increasingly dependant on Germany
and which had tro rely for their independence on the goodwill and assistance
of faraway Great Powers."
The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires have been likened to old, beautifil vases that no-one appreciates until they have been smashed into hundreds of pieces, impossible to restore. The tragedy was that the vases weren't broken by accident, but flung to the ground by the hubristic vandals of Versailles.
"Vienna and the monarchy
made up one enormous family of Hungarians, Germans, Moravians, Czecds,
Serbs, Croats, and Italians, all of whom understood that the only person
who could keep order among this fantastical welter of longings, impulses
and emotions was the Emperor, in his capacity as sergeant-major and imperial
majesty, government clerk in shirtsleeve protectors and grand seigneur,
unmannerly clod and absolute ruler.
- Sandor Marai, "Embers"
By breaking up that family and forcing its emperor into exile, Woodrow Wilson created a maelstrom of inherently unstable, competing nationalities, increasingly prone, as the years went by, to the lure of fascism... Borders had to be drawn somewhere for the hypenated new countries like Czecho-slovakia and Yugo-slavia. In order to protect these new artificial borders, long-term commitments from all the victors needed to be entered into in good faith. It was the world's tragedy that this did not happen.
The central accusation made against the Versailles Treaty is that its supposed harshness on Germany made revanchism, and thus future conflict, more rather than less likely. Yet to blame Versailles for Hitler's war is, as Margaret Macmillian put it, "to ignore the actions of everyone — political leaders, diplomats, soldiers, ordinary voters — for twenty years between 1919 and 1939. Had the Treaty actually been harsher on Germany — specifically if it had divided the country in two or more (as was the case before 1871) separate entities — then there might have been no via dolorosa of Rhineland-Anschluss-Sudetenland-Danzig for Europe to walk between 1936 and 1939... The problem with the peacemakers of Versailles was that they were willing to wound but afraid to strike, though admittedly it did not look that way at the time. It was not the Treaty itself, so much as the US and other's refusal to stand by its measures to curb German rearmament, come what may, that exposed the weakness of the security it was designed to instill.
Although there was a clause relating to Germany's "War Guilt" in the Treaty, it was not ling before the Western powers were suffering from something almost as bad: "Peace Guilt".
The refusal of the US Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty was perhaps America's most fateful and worst decision in the history of the 20th century.
"The monster that had
resorted to arms must be put in chains that could not be broken."
- Woodrow Wilson
"I have the profoundest
faith that we shall win and by winning I mean putting Germany in such a
position that she never again can repeat the horrors which she has precipitated
upon the world."
- Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, as American soldiers enter combat (1918)
Fearful of "any arrangement
which would sabotage our independence and sovereignty", Senator Lodge persuaded
39 senators to sign a resolution hoping that Versailles "may revise this
draft in such a way as to make it acceptable to the Senate."
[Among his objections] Lodge wanted to safeguard the right of Congress to prevent the US going to war... and felt that Article Ten setting up the League of Nations should not be attached to the peace treaty but debated separately, since it was too important to be hurried through under pressure. All these were reasonable demands, yet the vain, over-confident and surprisingly impulsive President Wilson failed to address any of them, refusing the amendments and reseverations of senators who had read the small print of what was proposed and baulked at a situation in which US could in theory, be required to furnish an army of 200,000 men to take over Anatolia and Armenia. Because Wilson insisted on keeping Article Ten tacked onto to the Versailles Treaty, the US Senate rejected it by 55 votes to 39 in November 1919... Wilson had warned "If America goes back upon mankind, mankind has no other place to turn." Yet it was largely Wilson's own fault that it happened, and an historic opportunity was missed.
[1920-1929: American Energy]
"Interest is not necessarily
amoral; moral consequences can spring from interested acts. Britain did
not contribute any less to international order for having a clear-cut concept
of its interest which required it to prevent the domination of the European
Continent by a single power (no matter in what way it was threatened) and
the control of the seas by anybody (even if the immediate intentions were
- Henry Kissinger, "Central Issues of American Foreign Policy"
With a staff of 143,000 by 1921, the Cheka (Soviet Secret Police) employed terror and torture to destroy what it called 'anti-Soviet subversion', but which was often just innocent life.
This was the way that
the Bolsheviks built their workers' utopia:-
"In Kharkov they burned the victim's hands in boiling water until the blistered skin could be peeled off. The Tsaristyn Cheka sawed its victims bones in half... In Kiev they affixed a cage with rats to the victim's torso and heated it so the enraged rats ate their way through the victim's guts in an effort to escape... In Odessa a favourite winter torture was to pour water on the naked victims until they became living ice statues."
- Orlando Figes, "A People's Tragedy"
A very small but heroic band of anti-communist writers sought to expose the true nature of Soviet tyranny to the English-speaking peoples from the 1920s onwards... All too often their message was met with disbelief, quibbling over facts, accusations of partiality or worse, and occasionally outright ridicule. When finally the Berlin Wall fell and the archives became available to Western scholars, it was discovered that many of these writers had if anything underestimated the true scale of the horrors being perpetrated by the Bolshevik regime against their own peoples.
"We cannot act alone as the policeman of the world," Andrew Bonar Law wrote to 'The Times' on 6 October 1922. It was as well he announced that in the pages of the newspaper of record, because it came as news to an empire that was well used to acting in precisely that way, particularly in areas of the world adjacent to the ocean. Yet in a sense Bonar Law was right; without the United States being closely involved and without the League of Nations having teeth, there could be no world policeman, at least not a British Empire that was exhausted by the Great War, doubtful of its future and no longer the pugnacious force it once was.
The British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote that, "To succeed pre-eminently in British public life it was necessary to conform either to the popular image of a bookie or of a clergyman." After the Conservative Party voted in 1922 to withdraw from the Lloyd George coalition and govern by itself, the Cabinet saw a wholesale swapping of bookies for clergymen.
One of the problems the English-speaking peoples have long encountered in their diplomacy has been their insistence on precise language and verifiable outcomes.
[1929-1931: Capitalism At Bay]
"No society on Earth
has ever had such a privileged existence as the capitalist West. Even the
lives of the poorest sections of society are immeasurably better in almost
all ways than under any other form of economic system."
- Anthony Browne, "The Retreat of Reason"
The St Valentine's Day massacre came to symbolise America's scourge of gangsterism, racketeering and gun-crime... It also came to be seen in time as a standing indictment of freebooting American capitalism, however absurd that might be... In fact, since it arose largely through the gross restraint of trade involved in Prohibition, one might more profitably blame the rise of gangsterism on the nanny state.
Refined European art
critics all too often develop a form of Tourette's Syndrome when they are
faced with American culture, yet it rarely prevents them from pocketing
the Yankee dollar they affect to despise.
The most virulent criticisms of America and Americans comes from Americans themselves. Self-hatred, often through guilt over their supposed materialism and obsession with money, is an abiding defeat in the English-speaking peoples, and for some reason especially strong in Americans.
A superior, cultured contempt for aspiration — for people working hard to better themselves and their families — also led the modern British writer Zadie Smith to describe Britain as "just a disgusting place", adding, "vulgarity, stupid TV shows, aspirational arseholes, money everywhere." English-speaking peoples' worst critics have long come from within their own society. The politics of the pre-emptive cringe is evident throughout the culture of the English-speaking peoples, who in reality ought to be proud of the way their citizenry can aspire to better themselves.
Capitalism works best within the political, social and legal framework perfected by the English-speaking peoples, partly because of the strength of Protestantism in those societies. The connection between Protestant individualism and personal responsibility creates a favourable environment for free enterprise.
"It affirmed the spiritual
without the need for ritual. It relished argument, lived in language, and
celebrated a faith that had its beginning in the Word. Its spirit was democratic,
with the Bible and the church office open to all. Its polar opposite is
not atheism, but the New Age 'faiths' that celebrate feeling over thought
and privilege a caste of gurus over a questioning congregation."
- Michael Gove, Conservative MP on the legacy of Protestantism
Just as isolationism had seemed attractive to many Americans in the 1920s, so too did many non-Americans feel that it was possible to isolate themselves... but those days were now over, as the Wall Street Crash proved from Sweden to Egypt and from Lancashire to Poland. What people said and did in New York mattered, as it had never mattereed before but was increasingly to in the future. By 1929, the US was contributing 34.4% of the world's gross production by value, as against Britain's 10.4%, Germany's 10.3%, the USSR's 9.9%, France's 5%, Japan's 4%, Italy's 2.5% and Canada's 2.2%. It was therefore inescapable that a collapse in US share prices would affect the rest of the planet.
In 1926 and 1927, the Kansas Republican Congressman, James A Strong, had tried to amend the 1913 Federal Reserve Act in order to make price stability an explicit goal of 'the Fed'. He was opposed in this by Benjamin Strong, the Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a powerful figure in the organisation, who feared that it would be interpreted as meaning that the Reserve would end up trying to maintain price stability in agricultural products. The bill was defeated. Today, Alan Greenspan, amongst many others, agrees with Allan Metzler's contention that if Strong's bill had passed, the Federal Reserve "could not have permitted the Great Depression of 1929-33 or the Great Inflation of 1965-80".
New York erected itself over the traces of its own past... It is true that, as the architectural writer Martin Filler has put it, "No great world city retains so little of its visible past as New York, not even post-apocalypse Berlin"... Of course in any city it is impossible to build anything without first razing something else. A whole district of Federal-era brick buildings were levelled to make room for the World Trade Center in 1969-71... Yet that was a far cry from the gross vandalism represented by the destruction of the neo-classical Pennsylvania Station, which was so solidly built that it took two years to demolish between 1963-65. Built in 1906-10, this noble portal to New York was replaced by a "mediocre office tower, sports arena and a hopelessly seedy underground terminal", which prompted the architectural historian Vincent Scully to remark that travellers used to enter New York like gods but now must scurry in like rats.
[1931-1939: The Second Assault: Fascist Aggression]
"It is the English-speaking
nations who, almost alone, keep alight the torch of Freedom."
- Winston Churchill, May 1938
"An Englishman's mind
works best when it is almost too late."
- Lord D'Abernon in "Geoffrey Madan's Notebooks"
The essayist Norman Douglas wrote, "There is no cause so vile that some human being will not be found to defend it." The Russian gulag was attended by scenes of dysentry, dementia, monasteries being converted into torture chambers, starved slaves hacking at permafrost, massacres and mindless, sadistic savagery. One way the Left in the West has attempted to undermine its legacy is to try to argue that there was a 'moral equivalance' between Soviet communism and English-speaking capitalism. Thus in 2004 the University of California Press published a book by Mark Dow entitled "American Gulag: Inside US Immigration Prisons"... It is perfectly true that the US has 2 million people in prison, which the Left regularly describes as 'a gulag'. Yet however vicious, unpleasant and forbidding those prisons might be — or Camp Xray in Guantanamo Bay — to equate them to the Soviet gulas, which housed many millions of complete innocents and killed 5 million in the last 5 years of Stalin's life, is to indulge in an outrageous misnomer. Everyone imprisoned in the US is there because a judge and jury convicted them after a trial, and only 1000 people out of a population of 297 million have been executed in the last 30 years. To draw a moral equivalence between that situation and the Soviet gulag of the Thirties and Forties is fraudulent history, yet it is done regurly by the Left.
"Intellectuals by and
large disgraced the 20th century... With rare exceptions, they whored after
false gods, of which the most odious and overwhelming was power. Writers,
artists, philosophers, historians, even musicians and architects, enthusiastically
committed their talents to the service of one cause or another. This treason
of the clerks spread like an epidemic, diminishing the world's hard-won
stock of wisdom and morality, and Civilization is still reeling from it."
- David Pryce Jones
With Western intellectuals having so dreadful a record in the 20th century, it is small wonder that the conservative American journalist William F. Buckley Jnr has said that he would sooner be governed by the first 200 names in the Boston telephone book than by the faculty of Harvard University.
There has been virtually no murderous communist dictator who has not had apologists on the Left, be it Stalin (worshipped by Sidney and Beatrice Webb and George Bernard Shaw), Charmain Mao (adored across Sixties' campuses), or Fidel Castro.
Stalin committed seven major acts of racial genocide, against the Ukranians in 1930-2, the Poles, Balts, Moldavians and Bessarabians in 1939-41 and 1944-5, the Volga Germans in 1941, the Crimean Tatars 1942, the Chechens and the Inguches in 1944. Indeed, as Professor Alan Bullock so comprehensively proved in his 1991 book "Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives", the Nazis actually learnt most of their repression techniques from the Bolsheviks.
A hundred times more people were murdered by the Soviet Communist Party than willingly sacrificed their lives for it.
Probably any time between 1924 and 1941 Mussolini would have won a free and fair election in Italy if he had been unfascist-minded enough to have held one... It was his defeat of Italian communism that originally raised Mussolini high in the opinion of the West, but thereafter the combination of nationalism and fascism in his domestic politics and the vainglory of his foreign policy should have signalled his true nature to many people.
With no army, navy or air force, the League of Nations was impotent. "And covenants, without the sword, are but words," wrote Thomas Hobbes in chapter 17 of 'Leviathan', "and of no strength to secure a man at all." It was as true in the Devil's Decade as when Hobbes had written them in the mid-17th century.
If the 20th century was, as Henry Luce dubbed it, 'the American Century', it was largely due to the Roosevelt cousins. Theodore created a framework to ensure that capitalism did not devolve inot unregulated monopolistic cartels while simultaneously thrusting the United States onto the world scene and attaining Great Power status for her, but it was under Franklin D. Roosevelt that she became a superpower. First his defence of democracy domestically and then his promotion of it globally set the political weather for the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st... It was the ability of the English-speaking peoples to throw up leaders of the stamp of FDR, who could turn fury and resentment into non-revolutionary avenues, that saved America from being led down avenues of extremism.
Yet for all her ability to build the Empire State building and the Hoover Dam in the Thirties, America was a minor player in world affairs in that decade. In the first eight years of his presidency, FDR travelled outside the US only once, and by 1935 the US army was still only the world's 19th largest.
By coming out of the Great Depression, the United States had shown that capitalism has an inherent power of resurgence and renewal that should never be underestimated by its opponents.
"This is the midnight,
let no star delude us, dawn is very far... Stand by! The lull 'twixt blast
and blast signals the storm is near, not past."
- Rudyard Kipling, "The Storm Come" (1932)
"An insular country,
subject to fogs and with a powerful middle class, requires grave statesmen."
- Benjamin Disraeli
Unfortunately, Britain had a surfeit of grave statesmen in the 1930s.
The vast majority of people had chosen not to listen to Winston Churchill's jeremiads against Nazism and his Cassandra-like warnings of the dangers of Hitler, but trusted to the 'Respectable Tendency' of British politics to see them through future crises. A glance at Churchill's pre-1939 career explains why the English-speaking peoples seemed justified in supposing that his warnings about Germany sounded suspiciously like the boy who cried 'Wolf'... For this was the man who devised the Gallipoli landings, promoted the ill-fated intervention in the Russian Civil War, who rejoined the gold standard at the wrong time and rate, opposed Indian self-government and supported the King over the Abdication crisis.
At the time of Churchill's campaign against Indian self-government, Mrs Ogden Reid of the New York Herald Tribune, who was placed next to Churchill at a White House dinner asked him: "What do you intend to do about the poor Indians?" According to a story told years later by Lord Mountbatten (admittedly not an altogether trustworthy source in his anecdotage) Churchill replied: "Mada, to which Indians to you refer? Do you refer to the brown Indians of the Asian subcontinent, who under benign and benevolent British influence have multiplied alarmingly? Or do you refer to the red Indian of this continent, who under the current Administration are almost extinct?
In May 1937 Neville
Chamberlain took over the premiership from Stanley Baldwin. Chamerlain
was a man of culture and honour... a forceful politician and had been a
highly effective Mayor of Birmingham, Minister of Health and Chancellor
of the Exchequer. However, as the historian Robert Blake caustically put
it, "When national security is at stake, one does not judge a statesman
by his successes in slum clearance."
Yet the fact remains that to those who had lost family members in the Great War — which comprised a vast cross-section of the English-speaking peoples — the prospect of a European conflict breaking out all over again was simply an unthinkable obscenity, and Chamberlain expressed that better than any other politician of the day... After Hitler's bold, bloodless coup in the Rhineland, the West had to face three full years of bluster, bullying and brilliant brinksmanship before Chamberlain laid down the tripwire of Britain's guarantee to Poland in April 1939.
Chamberlain was not the naif that some of his detractors have painted him. In a public letter in 1938 he made it clear that "the preservation of the peace of the world must be largely dependent on the strength of our own country. If we are to avert the perils of war the defence programme on which the national Government embarked three years ago must be accelerated even though it may involve sacrifices. But let us always remember that the sacrifices of peace are far less terrible than the sacrifices of war."
Appeasement was not simply a political phenomenon. The Church of England supported it on spiritual grounds, ex-servicemen's organisations supported it to avoid war, and the management of corporate Britain embraced it as the best way to avoid damaging Britain's economic strength... Britain's major companies believed that they could play a key role in humanising Hitler's regime through closer trade contracts... Certainly, the London Stock Market reacted very positively to the Munich agreement, with the industrial sector leaping 13%.
"Neville anoys me by
mouthing the arguments of complete pacifism while piling up armaments."
- Clement Attlee, Labour Party leader
The title of Tory MP Quintin Hogg's 1945 book about the Labour Party's foreign policy in the Thirties, "The Left Was Never Right", can hardly be bettered as an accurate analysis of the effects of its opposition to rearmament, conscription and all the other measure that might have made the fascists take note.
Simply to enumerate the Jewish emigres who left Germany, Austria and Poland in the 1930s, and who settled in the English-speaking world, is to read "a more of less endless list of eminence" — including Einstein, Freud, Popper, Kissinger, Pressburger, Schonberg... Had Hitler not persecuted the Jews, forcing German-Jewish nuclear scientists to flee Germany, the Nazis might have produced an atomic bomb. But then, he would not have been Hitler.
In a sense, although the governments of the English-speaking peoples produced the finance and facilities for building the atomic bombd, it was the vombined genius of the Jewish Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller, along with the New Zealander Sir Ernest Rutherford, that brought into being the technology that finally ended the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers in the Pacific theatre in 1945 owed their lives to the Jewish scientists who had fled Nazism in the Thirties.
English-speaking society was chronically infected with the bacillus of anti-Semitism on both sides of the Atlantic, albeit not of the exterminationist kind found in Germany, on the extreme Right in France and in much of the rest of continental Europe... For all the influx of individual geniuses into the US, the 1930s were overall a hard time for American Jewry.
Between 1951 and 2000, 32% of Nobel Prizes for Medicine went to Jews... For Central Europe to have lost so many people from that race, and the English-speaking peoples to have gained them, was to due to the superiority of democracy over dictatorship, and of religious toleration over persecution.
While communism made some very limited headway in Britain — there were 5 communist MPs selected to the House of Commons between 1924 and 1945 — fascism made none... And membership of the British Union of Fascists declined dramatically after the Olympia riots. The fighting that broke out at the Olympia stadium in June 1934, where hundreds of communists disrupted a Mosley rally of 2000 Blackshirts among a 12000 strong audience, profoundly shocked the British public.
It is perhaps a necessary attribute in anyone who wishes to be prime minister to believe unquestioningly in one's own brillance...
Time ran out for Chamberlain
and Britain in the early hours of 24 August 1939. The non-aggression pact
signed by Molotov and Ribbentrop in Moscow was a masterpiece of cynicism,
opening the way for Hitler to unleash Blitzkrieg on Poland and subsequently
on the West... The differences between the fascist and communist ideologies
diseappared before the perceived requirements of both countries' realpolitik.
A diplomat in the British Foreign Office put the situation succintly when
he said of the pact, "All of a sudden, all our isms became wasms."
Much has been made, rightly, of the tremendous sacrifices of the Russian people in defeating Hitler at the cost of over 20 million dead in 1941-45. Yet against that must be placed the fact that Stalin had allowed Hitler to secure his eastern flank in 1939. Fear of a war on two fronts, such as wrecked Germany in the Great War, had been the only thing holding Hitler back in 1939. Ths Pact removed that fear and thus made was as inevitable as anything in human affairs. The Soviets reaped in June 1941 only what they had sown in August 1939.
Fortunately for Britain the year between Munich and the outbreak of war solidified Commonwealth feeling behind Britain and allowed for major advances in the crucial areas of air rearmament and radar.
[1939-1941: Divided and Faltering]
"We can never forget
how in the hour of trial in 1939 the call to save Civilisation met with
an instant response from the Dominions... Hitler, like the Kaiser before
him, learnt that there are bonds of the spirit much stronger and more enduring
than any material ties, and that freedom unites more surely than domination."
- Clement Attlee (1945)
"War is a beastly thing
now, all the glamour has gone out of it."
- Winston Churchill
"I never met anybody
who wasn't quite confident that we would win the war."
- Hugh Trevor Roper
The overwhelming response to the outbreak of war in September in 1939 was of sad resignation that Hitler should have behaved in the way he had. The English-speaking peoples entered their second great test of the century without any sense of euphoria, but firm in the knowledge that, as in 1914, the conflict was not of their making... The coming struggle was to see the united English-speaking peoples (except Ireland) fighting Nazism all over the world, facing every kind of adversity.
During the Second World
War, no fewer than 5 million Commonwealth went to fight for the Allies;
170,000 of them perished. The 2.5 million who joined the Indian Army comprised
the largest all-volunteer military force in human history. The Commonwealth
contribution in theatres as diverse as the Western Desert and Burma, Normandy
and the Pacific, the skies of Britain and the Murmansk convoys was crucial
in wearing down and eventually destroying the Axis. Indeed, had the BEF
been captured at Dunkirk and Britain invaded, there were only two divisions
protecting London, both of which were Canadian.
Patriotism was a primary motive for those millions who willingly joined the colours in 1939 — two years before Japan entered the war — even though Nazi Germany alone could not possibly have posed a direct threat... For millions too, the war provided the best and most regular pay they had ever enjoyed, whilst giving them the chance of taking part in a noble global endeavour.
By contrast, Eire declared her neutrality in September 1939 and stuck to the policyright to the end of the war... When Eamon de Valera criticised the invasion of Belgium and Holland, he not even specify who had been responsible. "Today, these small nations are fighting for their lives, and I think it would be unworthy of this small nation if, on an occasion like this, I did not utter a protest against the cruel wrong that has been done to them," he said. Quite who had done this cruel wrong was left to the listener to deduce, but from de Valera's language it might almost have been an Act of God.
"Paris is a beautiful
woman and London is an ugly man, still, the masculine quality counts for
- Benjamin Disraeli (1857)
The 'masculine quality' of London certainly counted for much during the Blitz. The architecture of London — with its winding streets, small alleyways, courtyards and street names going back six centuries — represents the legacy of liberty. By contrast, the wide boulevards of Paris were designed by Baron Haussmann so that government artillery could destroy barricades and command great sweeps of the centre of the city... It was this ancient, largely unplanned London that took such a pounding during the Blitz, many are the churches and public buildings with commemorative plaques that record only two eras of destruction — the 1666 Great Fire and the London Blitz.
In May 1940, Sean Russell,
the IRA's chief of staff, visited Ribbentrop in Berlin and concluded that,
"Our ideas have much in common". He was quite right; the IRA was essentially
a fascist revolutionary organisation in aim, method and organisation, and
remained so... Russell's visit to Germany in the summer of 1940 represented
the high-water mark of IRA-Nazi relations... For all that Russell "only
wanted what was good for Ireland", in fact, there is nothing to suggest
that after a successful invasion of the British Isles, the Wehrmacht would
have dutifully stopped at the border of neutral Eire. Like so many Irish
nationalists before and after him, Russell put his pathological hatred
of Britain before his patriotic love of Ireland.
Although the Germans sent ten agents to Ireland, none supplied them with any useful information... German espionage in southern Ireland during the Second World War was generally characterised by hilarious incompetence.
At a time between 1941 and 1943 when the entire English-speaking peoples were fighting for their existence, the Irish government was keeping its options resolutely open, while putting the issue of partition above the question of the survival of Civilisation itself. The idea that a Nazi victory in the West would lead to an extension of Irish liberty, sovereignty and independence might be laughable today, but a (fortunately small) section of the Irish governing class was so blinded by Anglophobia that they were willing to take the risk.
The only part of the
English-speaking peoples' sovereign territory to be subjected to German
occupation during the war were the Channel Islands; but does its experience
of collaboration with the Nazi authorities give us any indication about
how other parts of the English-speaking world might have responded to a
successful invasion? Does their experience of German occupation between
1940 and 1945 — in which they undoubtedly collaborated and established
a modus vivendi with the enemy — really mean that the English-speaking
peoples are exactly the same as everyone else when it comes to withstanding
tyranny? The subliminal question is why, if the English-speaking institutions
would have been no better that the rest of Europe's in withstanding Hitlerism,
should we be so protective of them today?
Fortunately, their experience tells us precisely nothing about the way the rest of Britain would have behaved towards a Nazi invasion... The island had been specifically ordered by the War Office not to resist, as their strategic importance was minimal... One-third of the population, including all their able-bodied men of militar age had already been evacuated. The 60,000 who were left were guarded by no fewer than 37,000 Germans — a ratio which, if translated to mainland Britain, would have required them to station 30 million troops there.
"You can always take
one with you."
- Message to be broadcast by Winston Churchill in event of German invasion
If the same strict standards regarding financial disclosures had pertained in the 1930s as do in the British Parliament today, it is uncertain that Winston Churchill would ever hade made it to Downing Street. Sleaze allegations would have continually dogged him if he had been forced to admit the truth about his financial affairs in any Register of Members' Interests form.
In his speech of 18 June 1940, in which Churchill coined the phrase 'Their finest hour', the Prime Minister had to try to advance some arguments to persuade the British people that, as he put it, "there are good and reasonable hopes of final victory", despite the French armistice... It was in fact to be another year and three days before Hitler's invasion of the USSR gave any logical grounds for optimism.
In September 1940 they (fifty American destroyers swapped to Britain) were priceless as a propaganda tool, and it was brave of Roosevelt to take such a bellicose step less than two months before an election in which he was forced to promise — in Boston on 30 October 1940 — "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." The best that can be said is that he believed it at the time.
On the night of Tuesday, 17 September 1940, the 'City of Benares', a ship taking Britons to Canada, including 90 child evacuees, was torpedoes with the loss of 255 passengers, among them 83 children. "I am full of horror and indignation that any German submarine captain could be found to torpedo a ship over 600 miles from land in a tempestuous sea," said Geoffrey Shakespeare, Under-Secretary at the Dominions Office. "This deed will shock the world." He was right, at least as far as the English-speaking peoples were concerned: the American Secretary of State Cordell Hull described it as "a most dastardly act".
It was fortunate for the fate of the English-speaking peoples that FDR was re-elected in 1940. An opponent of isolationism, whose secret policy was to try to get the US into the war against Hitler, Roosevelt's feline touch for politics allowed him to push each incident as far as possible towards interventionism, but never too far to provoke an isolationish backlash. His Republican opponent, Wendell Wilkie, though a fine man and a true American patriot, would probably not have been able to massage, embroide and subtly tug the USA towards war in the war that the arch-politician FDR did.
One indication of the power and confidence of American capitalism was the explosion in commercial aviation in the US before her entry into the Second World War. The free markets had been able to create in America that which even state-subsidised corporations were unable to elsewhere: a viable, profitable non-military aircraft industry.
The English-speaking nations are each proud of their independence and act according to their own national self-interest; it just to happens that tehse interests have historically tended to coincide very much more than they have diverged.
"Let us remember that
the American War of Independence was fought by British Americans against
a German king and a reactionary prime minister for British ideals."
- Lady Astor, fostering warm Anglo-American relations
On the night of 10 May 1941, no fewer than 1,486 Londoners were killed, 1800 were injured and 11,000 houses were destroyed. It was a 400-bomber raid, taking advantage of bright moonlight... Ths historian of that terrible night has nonetheless concluded that London emerged "the symbol of the free world, bruised and battered, but unbeaten and as bloody-minded as ever."
There was a curious dichotomy between the way the Nazis tried to keep visiting allies and clients away from bomb-damaged areas, thinking it bad for morale, whereas the British positively encouraged visitors to go to such places.
Adolf Hitler predicted that when he unleashed his Blitzkrieg invasion of Russia, "The world will hold its breath." It certainly was breathtaking in its scale — involving 3.6 million German troops attacking across a 1,000 mile front — but in a sense the British were able to exhale, since they and their allies were, after a year of standing alone, no longer the sole components of the anti-Hitler struggle.
There is no more ironclad commandment in human affairs than the Law of Unintended Consequences, and Stalin had not expected the non-aggression pact of 1939 to result in Hitler having a free hand to attack the Soviet Union by June 1941.
"Any coalition of Powers that turns against Germany can from the outset depend on France," Hitler stated in his unpublished sequel to 'Mein Kampf', and thus the destruction of France had to be the first duty of any future Chancellor of Germany.
[1942-1944: United and Conquering]
"We Nazis never said
we were nice democrats. The problem is that the British seem like sheep
or bishops, but when the moment comes they are shown to be hypocrites,
and they become a terribly tough people."
- Reinhard Spitzy, private sectreary to Joachim von Ribbentrop
The decision of Roosevelt and the US Chiefs of Staff to concentrate on defeating Germany before directing the full might of the US against Japan represents one of the greatest acts of American statesmanship of the 20th century. Much militated against it; Japan had attacjed Pearl Harbor, after all, whereas Germany had so far deliberately not attacked US interests. Japan was much closer to the US, had captured US possessions and was in the process of attacking the Philippines. American newspapers and public opinion were clamouring for an immediate punishment of Japan's "infamy". Yet Roosevelt and General George Marshall held ferm and decided to fight a war of containment in the Pacific until Germany had been defeated... They correctly identified Germany as being the stronger and thus the more dangerous threat, and so decided to deal with her first. So, however illogical it might seem at first glance, it was in North Africa that the US struck the totalitarian Axis powers first, in response to an attack thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean.
General George Marshall inherited an army of 174,000 men and 1,064 aircraft in September 1939, but by 1945 this had grown under his stewardship to one of 8.3 million men and 64,000 planes, the fastest and greatest mobilisation of any society in human history.
Considering how much more the US was contributing to the war effort than Britain in terms of men, money and materiel by the autumn of 1942, it is impressive how often Churchill managed to get his way in the great strategic issues that faced the Western allies. Crucially, in the summer and autumn of 1942, he persuaded the Americans not to undertake a risky cross-Channel invasion in 1943. Although he was very conscious of being the junior partner from 1943 onwards — and was regularly infuriated by it — Churchill defended his corner with tenacity, and except at Yalta, where there was virtually no room for maneuver between Stalin and Roosevelt, he generally got his way.
In all during the war, the US spent a total of $350 billion, more than Germany's $300 billion, Russia's $200 billion, the UK's $150 billion or Japan's $100 billion. She turned over her huge industrial capability to war production and harnessed the limitless energies of her people to creating the tools with which the Allies finished the Axis.
Although there were undoubtedly some severe social (and sexual) problems that were thrown up by the presence of large numbers of American servicemen stationed in Britain during the war, there was a good deal of true love too. No fewer than 60,000 British girls became 'GI brides', marrying American soldiers and going to live in the US after the war.
The genesis of the
Dieppe raid was political: the Western Allies wanted to prove to Stalin
that they were active at a time when the Red Army was bring so grievously
hard-pressed deep inside the USSR. As with so many operations with a primarily
political rather than a strictly military objective — such as the Dardanelles
adventure or the attempt to protect Greece in 1941 — it was a disaster.
The cracking of the German naval code by Bletchley Park allowed Lord Mountbatten to know that there was an escorted enemy convoy in the Channel, which could not fail to compromise the operation by warning the German forces in Dieppe of the raid hours before it started. Yet despite this complete loss of tactical surprise the raid still went ahead... The forces were massacred... Mountbatten later tried to blame several other people for the debacle, but it was he who was personally responsible for every stage.
"Twice in my lifetime
the long arm of destiny has reached across the oceans and involved the
entire life and manhood of the United States in a deadly struggle. There
was no use in saying "We don't want it; we won’t have it; our forebears
left Europe to avoid these quarrels; we have founded a new world which
has no contact with the old. "There was no use in that. The long arm reaches
out remorselessly, and every one's existence, environment, and outlook
undergo a swift and irresistible change... The price of greatness is responsibility.
If the people of the United States had continued in a mediocre station,
struggling with the wilderness, absorbed in their own affairs, and a factor
of no consequence in the movement of the world, they might have remained
forgotten and undisturbed beyond their protecting oceans: but one cannot
rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilised world without
being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies
and inspired by its causes.
If this has been proved in the past, as it has been, it will become indisputable in the future. The people of the United States cannot escape world responsibility. Although we live in a period so tumultuous that little can be predicted, we may be quite sure that this process will be intensified with every forward step the United States make in wealth and in power. Not only are the responsibilities of this great Republic growing, but the world over which they range is itself contracting in relation to our powers of locomotion at a positively alarming rate."
- Winston Churchill, address to Harvard (1943)
[1944-1945: Normandy to Nagasaki]
"To us is given the
honour of striking a blow for freedom which will live in history; and in
the better days that lie ahead men will speak with pride of our doings.
We have a great and righteous cause."
- General Montgomery's message before Operation Overlord
"Our generation has
succeeded in stealing the fire of the Gods, and is doomed to live with
the horror of its achievement."
- Henry Kissinger
"How do you expect
us, the British, to adopt a position separate from that of the United States?
We are going to liberate Europe, but it is because the Americans are with
us to do so.When I have to choose between you and Roosevelt, you should
know that I will always choose Roosevelt. And when I have to choose between
Europe and the wide open seas... I will always choose the wide open seas."
- Winston Churchill to Charles de Gaulle
It is sometimes easy, especially when considering great historical events of six decades past, to forget the personal side of sacrifice, the immense scale of the human tragedy engendered by the Nazi ambition to conquer and subdue. A short walk through any of the war cemeteries of Normandy quickly reminds one of the fact that every man lying buried was someone's son.
In his recent book,
'Armageddon', about the battle for France and Germany in 1944-5, the distinguished
military historian Sir Max Hastings summed up the moral difference between
the Atlantic allies and the totalitarian powers thus:
"To an impressive degree, the American and British armies preserved in battle the values and decencies, the civilised inhibitions of their societies... The Germans and the Russians... showed themselves better warriors, but worse human beings. This is not a cultural conceit, but a moral truth of the utmost importance to understanding what took place on the battlefield."
Of course, as Hastings is the first to admit, there is no telling whether Atlantic civilised values might have survived if Britain and America had ever to fight the kind of war-to-the-knife that the Soviets did to defend their Motherland and expel the invader.
Although the truth was evident far earlier, in 1944 the United States was confirmed as the leading power of the Western alliance. The baton had passed from hand to hand, reluctantly and not without bluster, but neither was it wrenched from Britain's grasp. Churchill was to be the last British leader of the Free World.
The literary critic Desmond MacCarthy once described the primary national characteristics of the French as 'stinginess, and blind vindictive self-assertion', and both were certainly apparent when Charles de Gaulle spoke from the Hotel de Ville in Paris on 25 August 1944. In his speech he proclaimed that Paris had been "liberated by her own people, with the help of the armies of France, with the help and support of the whole of France, that is to say of fighting France, that is to say of the true France, the eternal France." No mention was made of any Allied contribution; the myth-making had begun.
Yalta was the best deal that Roosevelt and Churchill could have negotiated in the circumstances. Although the Russian promises of democracy were clearly worthless, at least it was delinated where the Red Army would halt in its march eastwards across Europe. Furthermore Greece and eventually Austria were saved from falling into the Soviet sphere... No statesman could have altered the sheer fact of Russian having million of troops on the ground, all across most of the territories under dispute... The sad but unavoidable truth is that the United Staes and Great Britain simply had no choice but to accede to Stalin's fait accompli. Never since 1900 were Western statesmen's decisions more important, more long-lasting, more bitter to swallow and yet more impossible to escape.
It is wrong to argue that the victory over Germany made no difference, that it merely opened the door for five more decades of totalitarian rule over countries such as Poland. To have ridden the world of a monster as baleful and dangerous as Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly worth the enormous sacrifices it took to achieve. A successful Lebenstraum policy and a completed Final Solution, let alone the possibility of a victorious Hitler getting hold of nuclear weapons in the late 1940s, are such nightmare concepts that they outweigh even the tragedy of post-war Poland.
The literary historian
Paul Fussell, who had been posied to take part in the projected invasion
of Japan, recalled what it was like when he heard the news of the surrender:
"We learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared and shelled, and for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live."
Any peace feelers that
Japanese diplomats were trying to put out via the Soviet Union ran up against
the granitic fact that the Japanese military, not civilians, had ultimate
control, and they had no intention of surrendering. Nor would it have been
possible for Truman to simply have dropped the Allied demand for Japan's
unconditional surrender, originally made by his predecessor Roosevelt.
"Practically all Germand deny the fact that they surrendered during the
last war," Roosevelt had said, "but this time they are going to know it.
And so are the Japs."
Those who argue that Japan was desperately looking for a way to end the war must explain the astonishing fact that she refused to surrender even after Hiroshima was destroyed.
Imperial Rescript of 14 August 1945 made it perfectly plain that the dropping
of the atomic bombs was absolutely epicentral to Japan's decision to surrender.
He told his people:
"The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but it would also lead to the total extinction of human civilisation. Such being the case, how are We to save the lives of millions of Our subjects? This is why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers."
As the writer Allan Massie has put it, excerpts from the diaries that some of the POWs held by the Japanese managed to keep "make you realise that the Japanese camps, like the Nazi deathc camps, were all that we have imagined of Hell translated to the surface of the earth and made reality."
With the official figure
for expected American casualties for the attack on Kyushu, one writer has
stated that "only an intellectual could assert that 193,500 anticipated
casualties were too insignificant to have caused Truman to use atomic bombs."
Fortunately, the English-speaking peoples’ wars are fought by professional soldiers under the direction of elected politicians, with intellectuals having very little to do with them until they are safely won, after which they can criticize with hindsight and moral superiority.
It is also forgotten
how the nuclear bombs did not just save Allied lives, but hundreds of thousands
of Japanese lives too... It took a brave former president of the Japanese
Medical Association to enunciate it, but it is true that, "When one considers
the possibility that the Japanese military would have sacrificed the entire
nation if it were not for the atomic bomb attack, then this bomb might
be described as having saved Japan." The fact that Japan has been a peaceful,
indeed almost pacifist, decent, democratic and law-abiding power ever since
Hiroshima, with no revanchist tendencies, is largely down to the events
of 6 and 9 August 1945.
Futthermore, the undeniable destructive power unleashed on those two days has meant that no-one in the Cold War and since has been under any illusions about the reality of nuclear warfare. In that sense, far from being the English-speaking peoples' greatest war crime, the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were its most signal service in bringing about the relatively peaceful world of the past six decades.
"My chief purpose was
to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of
the men in the armies which I had helped to raise. In the light of the
alternatives which, on a fair estimate, were open to us I believe that
no man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in
his hand a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose
and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterwards looked
his countrymen in the face."
- Henry Stimson, US Secretary of War
[1945-1949: The Third Assault: Soviet Communism]
"I think I can save
the British Empire from anything — except the British."
- Winston Churchill
"Close with a Frenchman,
but out-maneuver a Russian."
- Admiral Horatio Nelson
"Germany is no longer
the dominating power of Europe, Russia is. Unfortunately Russia is not
entirely European. She has however vast resources and cannot fail to become
the main threat in 15 years from now. Therefore foster Germany, gradually
build her up, and bring her into a federation of Western Europe. Unfortunately,
this must all be done under the cloak of a holy alliance between England,
Russia and America. Not an easy policy..."
- Field Marshal Alanbrooke (1944)
The blood and carnage of the Second World War had indeed been grievous, though for the English-speaking peoples — who escaped invasion everywhere but in the Channel Islands — nothing like so vast as in the Great War.
Britain led the list in terms of merchant shipping losses... The naval losses were staggering: the Royal Navy lost 8 carriers, 5 battleships, 26 crusiers, 77 submarines, and no fewer than 128 destroyers. Meanwhile the US Navy had lost 5 carriers, 2 battleships, 16 cruisers, 52 submarines and 71 destroyers. Germany lost 7 battleships, 7 cruisers, 25 destroyers and no fewer than 974 U-boats. The biggest naval losses of all were sustained by Japan, including the destruction of 15 carriers, 12 battleships, 36 cruisers, 125 submarines and 126 destroyers.
It is an accepted truism
that the victorious Allies of 1945 had learnt the lesson of Versailles
and consequently treated the defeated Axis powers much more generously,
with the result that they turned into liberal, decent, pacific democracies...
Yet is it true?
After 1945, the Allies split Germany into two separate countries... They hanged German soldiers, diplomats and journalists in 1946... Moreover, the Allies stationed hundreds of thousands of troops throughout Germany for over four decades which did not happen after the Great War. If anything, the 1945 terms were actually tougher on Germany than the 1919 ones, yet they have produced the longest period of European peace that the continent has seen since the Dark Ages.
The story is told of the American General Mark Clark, who, on being told by an aide thant another 'Carthaginian Peace' could not be imposed on Germany, answered: "Well now, you don't hear too much from those Carthaginians nowadays."
The successful reintroduction
of West Germany, Austria, Italy and Japan into the democratic world was
one of the greatest contributions of the English-speaking peoples to 20th
century civilisation. They were not to know whether the Nazis might stage
an insurgency campaign lasting years, or whether the Japanese parliament
would baulk at their demands for — amongst other things — the enfranchisement
of women; nonetheless they insisted on democratic constitutions after imposing
regime change, and these very quickly took root. As has recently been pointed
out, "Compare the subsequent fate of Hungary under Communist rule with
that of Japan under Western democracy."
To have helped raise their former deadliest foes to such a place is a tribute to the magnanimity of the English-speaking peoples in not going down the path of mass despoilation that Stalin envisaged for both countries, and which he carried out against much of the industrial plant of East Germany.
A central paradox of the Second World War was that in order for the pathological murderers of the Third Reich to be defeated, Civilisation had to call in aid Joseph Stalin and a Bolshevik regime that had also massacred innocents on a similarly vast scale since grasping power in 1917. Despite the gaping irony that their Soviet allies had no moral justification to sit in judgment on questions of genocide, the Nuremburg Tribunal sent an unmistakeable message to the world about the consequences of waging aggressive war, a message that dictators such as Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein failed to learn, to their eventual cost.
The recognition of a future danger does not imply that the Western Allies encouraged the outbreak of the Cold War, merely that their leaders were not naive about the likely development of Stalin's plans for the future.
The Cold War was only cold in the sense that the English-speaking peoples never went to war with the USSR directly. It was certainly not cold for Namibians or Afghans, Koreans or Vietnamese, Mozambiques or Malaysians, or any of the other numerous peoples who got caught up in the communsists' relentless drive to destabilise capitalist societies around the globe for over four decades. Because, in the words of one recent commentator, "hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions died in it", the Cold War can with reason be descrived as "the Third World War", which nonetheless never saw the two main protagonists fight one another except through proxies.
According to a Council of Europe document presented in January 2006, between 1917 and the present day communism has been responsible for — at a conservative estimate — 94.5 million deaths... There are nonetheless those who still argue that the Cold War was an over-reaction by the West, and specifically the English-speaking peoples, who were paranoiac about the ambitions and strengths of the Soviet bloc... Although it was perfectly true that the Soviet Union could not have physically conquered the world, victory in the Cold War would have allowed it — through imitation and subversion in many countries — to exercise hegemony over it, allowing her views on diplomacy, trade, democracy, human rights, the rule of war, property rights, and so on to prevail, perhaps for decades.
"A deterrent means
what it says. It is not a weapon of offence — a weapon used to start a
war — it is a weapon of defence."
- Harold MacMillan, defending Britain's acquisition of nuclear weapons
The true reasons for
the Marshall Plan were both to forestall communism and to try to make Europe
safe from a fascist revival; both of them noble impulses... The Plan achieved
in the economic sphere what the military based Truman Doctrine did in the
strategic, a confident, secure Western Europe. The fact that the British
largely wasted the money and the opportunity, in a manner chronicled unpityingly
in Corelli Barnett's 1995 masterpiece 'The Lost Victory', is largely irrelevent
to the story of American decency, generosity and far-sightedness.
Over a quarter of Britain's national wealth had been lost in the previous six years of war, so the vast sums of Marshall Aid that were being directed from America desperately needed to be spent rebuilding her industrial and transport infrastructure and making her economy competitive again. Indead of doing that, new Labour prime minister Clement Attlee effectively wasted it on trying to build a utopian society which socialists in those heady days called 'the New Jerusalem'. Instead of copying Germany and investing Marshall Aid in the crucial tasks of rebuilding infrastructure and modernising industry — and Britain was the largest beneficiary of Marshall Aid in Europe — Attlee instead spent much of it on the Welfare State.
When the British quitted India, they left behind monuments to their greatness that far surpassed anything that the French or Germans left in Africa, the Portuguese and Dutch left in Asia, or the Spanish left in Latin America.
In place of the formal empires of the past, the future would consist of 'informal empire' whereby trading and security arrangements delineated whether a country was in the Western capitalist or Eastern communist sphere of influence. As the German economist Moritz Julius Bonn wrote in 1947, "The United States have been a cradle of modern anti-imperialism, and at the same time the founding of a mighty empire."
"In a way, both the
Israeli state and the danger to it are products of the end of Western and
Ottoman imperialism in the Middle East. Great empires in history have been
the best protection of vulnerable minorities... When a great empire is
defeated in war, then it can turn on its minorities. But great empires
in the period of their prosperity on the whole are the best guarantee,
because the great enemy of empires is nationalism and nationalism is the
antithesis of a cosmopolitan empire."
- Hugh Trevor Roper
The process of creating a Jewish homeland in an area where other peoples were already living was always going to be a complicated and delicate business, and one for which Britain as the Mandated power had a profound responsibility... Yet instead of keeping a large number of troops on the ground throughout the birth pangs of the State of Israel, Britain hurriedly withdrew all her forces virtually overnight on 14 May 1948, this facillitating an Egyptian invasion on the very next day... Less than four years earlier, Britain had landed division after victorious division in Normandy; now 'Partition and flee' was the Attlee Government's policy, one whose consequences were still plaguing the world half a century later in Kashmir and the Middle East.
Yet despite that imperial
scuttle, Britain also failed to cash in what might be seen as her 'peace
dividend'. She was still spending ludicrously large amounts on defence,
as much as 8% of her GNP by 1950. In order to maintain the illusion of
still being a Great Power on the scale of the other victors Russia and
America, Attlee invested vast amounts in unncessary status symbols such
as a domestic civil aviation industry. Fourteen days after the Germans
surrenderd in May 1945, they had the Berlin bus system up and running again;
that same day London buses were on strike...
Attlee constantly looked back to the problems of the Thirties — primarily unemployment — rather than trying to look forward to those of the Fifties and Sixties, such as falling productivity, widening trade gaps and declining competitiveness relative to Britain's economic rivals.
As soon as the European economies could afford to, they also instituted comprehensive national health schemes, which have turned out to be in almost every case far superior to Britain's National Health Service. By then, however, they had established clear economic superiority... By contrast Attlee had, in Corelli Barnett's words, built "a lavish and expensive Welfare State in the aftermath of a ruinous war, on foreign tick, while paying huge defence costs on the back of an un-modernised industrial system."
Unfortunately the well-founded
fear of treachery and communism felt in the US was exploited one stage
too far by the Right.... True, there were indeed communist-sympathisers
in the State Department who needed investigating and unmasking, but once
the US Army and even Hollywood were subjected to accusations of un-American
activities, it was clear that McCarthyism was played out. On 9 December
1954, McCarthy was censured by a vote of 66-22 in the Senate and his power
Arthur Miller likened McCarthyism to the 17th century Salem witch trials, but this ignores the crucial difference that there no such things as witches, yet there were some Soviet agents at the highest levels of American administrative life.
It is true that J. Egdar Hoover's FBI was largely incompetent in its fight against the Mafia, and that it missed a number of Soviet espionage efforts, but the FBI also amassed vast amounts of material in its investigations of Lachlan Currie, Laurence Duggan, Harry Dexter White, Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, all of whom did indeed turn out to be NKVD agents, although none were unmasked by McCarthy, who did not in fact discover a single communist.
In the so-called McCarthy 'terror', no one was sent to any gulags or forced to till the permafrosted soil of Alaska, and there were no deportations or internments... People who were forbidden to practise their professions and threatended with gaol for ideological crimes did have their careers stymied, it was true, and many went abroad. However, this was usually the result of private action taken, for example, by the Hollywood studio cartel, rather than by government action. The McCarthyite era was an unpleasant, disgraceful one in American history, but one that needs to be seen in perspective. Those who claim a moral equivalence between the US under McCarthyism and what was happening behind the Iron Curtain can only do so by entirely ignoring the contemporaneous and truly murderous assault on human rights conducted by Lavrenti Beria and the KGB.
NATO came into being as a response to the vast Soviet military presence in Eastern Europe and the economic blockade of Berlin that had been in operation since June 1948... It is not too much to claim, as the political thinker Rodney Leach has recently, that "NATO established the USA for 50 years after the Second World War as a European power", and that as a result, "The American presenec saved Europe from succumbing, whether politically or militarily, to the Soviet Union." It was a noble achievement... NATO became the most successful military alliance in history, deterring the USSR from directly attacking any of its member states for the half-century it took Soviet communism to collapse and die.
Eire, true to form, declared on 8 February 1949 that she was unable to participate in NATO while the island remained divided, thereby once again failing to take her place in the ranks of Civilisation against the undoubted threat posed by totalitarianism.
Of course as ever there were accusations made against the USA for being unilaterist and aggressive, as there have always been against whichever is the greatest world power at the time. In a 1949 conference as the Waldorf-Astoria attended by prominent literary and artistic figures as the playwright Arthur Miller and the novelist Norman Mailer, "US warmongering" against the USSR was condemned, as were "a small clique of warmongerers" in Washington... All this came only months after the Berlin airlift. Strident expressions of anti-Americanism are therefore hardly new, are directed against both Democratic and Republican presidents, and are often most virulent when coming from Americans themselves.
[1950-1959: Cold War Perils]
"You have to go back
to George Washington to find another American who was first in war, first
in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
- Richard Nixon's eulogy for Dwight. D Eisenhower (1969)
"England is the only
country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality."
- George Orwell, "The Lion and the Unicorn"
When in July 1996 it was revealed that George Orwell had supplied the covert propaganda unit of the British Foreign Office, the Information Research Department, with a list of communist-supporting journalists and writers, the Left was outraged.
Sophisticated and expensive Soviet disinformation campaigns were being carried out in the Western media throughout the Cold War; it would have been gross negligence not to defend them and occasionally to counter-attack.
It was America, not Russia, that won the important cultural battles of the Cold War, through the simple use of artistic freedom, something that could not be permitted in the Soviet Union for ideological reasons... As a result of artistic censorship, several of Russia's finest dancers, musicians, writers and cinematographers left for the West, and nothing could be a worse advertisement for Soviet 'freedom' than that.
For the longest period since the Dark Ages, relative peace descended on the European continent that had hitherto been the cockpit for conflict for centuries. The role of the English-speaking peoples in policing this unprecedented peace, based on the ever-present threat of horrific, suicidal destruction should be a cause for great pride amongst them. By continually developing the very best and latest means of nuclear annihilation, and staying ahead in the arms race, the US served the cause of relative global peace for over 60 years and deserves commendation for it.
Polio was one of very many diseases for which doctors and scientists from the English-speaking peoples have found a cure since 1900, far more than the physicians of any other linguistic or political grouping before or since.
After three days of pro forma discussion in Warsaw on 14 May 1955 the Soviet Union signed a 'Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance' with Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The Warsaw Pact had little to do with friendship, co-operation or mutual assistance, but everything to do with the USSR reiterating her military authority over her satellite states. It was under the provisions of the Pact that Russia was to invade Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.... The Pact represented the political and military arm of Soviet imperialism.... Only once Soviet communism had been defeated in the open market-place of ideas, and near bankrupted by the Reagan Administration's refusal to lessen defence spending, purposely designed to cause such an economic collapse, was the Pact defeated.
On first entering the Commons in 1923, the twenty-six year old Anthony Eden was given a piece of advice by the Tory leader Stanley Baldwin about how to deal with Labour MPs: "Don't ever make fun of the party opposite; you may have a better education, but they know more about unemployment insurance." ...It was not until the Suez crisis thirty-three years later than Eden genuinely infuriated the Labour Party.
There was nothing inevitable about Muslim fundamenalist and Arab nationalist victories in places like Iran, Iraq and Libya in the 1960s and 1970s. Britian had regularly put down such revolts. Yet after 1956 she was in a far weaker position to protect Arab rulers from revolution. The coup in Baghdad on 14 July 1956 saw the murders of both King Faisal II and Nuri-es-Said, within two years of their advice ti Eden to "hit Nasser hard and quickly". The subsequent history of Iraq and especially her recent history, would have been very different if Nasser had been toppled... Eisenhower should have discerned pan-Arabic militancy as a far worse threat to American interests than the continued influence of the European imperial powers in some parts of the Middle East... If only Eden had paid more attention to the sensibilities of the Eisenhower Administration as it faced the 1956 presidential elections, much might have gone differently. Certainly Eisenhower himself years later admitted that not supporting Eden had been his greatest foreign policy mistake. The embers of Suex took a long time to cool in Britain, especially on the Right, where it resuscitated a strain of Tory anti-Americanism that had not been much in evidence since the 1920s. Even as late as November 2004, after David Johnson of the US Embassy had said that America had historically been prepared to "stand by your nation, through thick and thin", a letter appeared in 'The Times' consisting of only one word: "Suez?"
The Eisenhower Administration, like Western governments so often before and since, irresponsibly led the Hungarian resisters to believe that they could expect material rather than just moral support. Yet when 200,000 Red Army troops and 4,000 tanks rolled across the Hungarian frontier, Eisenhower, in his biographer's words, "did nothing, because there was nothing he could do without precipitating a third world war."
Britain behaved disgracefully towards Australia and New Zealand from the moment the Treaty of Rome was signed and Harold MacMillan applied for Britain to join the EEC... if Britain could no longer be relied upon in trade, investment or defence, Australia had her own way of making the transition, which she died with aplomb and considerable success. Prime Minister Menzies negotiated the ANZUS Treaty with America in 1951 and a controversial trade treaty with former enemy Japan in 1957, which were both to Australia's long-term advantage. He also bought America strike aircraft rather than the British TSR2 in 1963.
Canadians rightly felt themselves increasingly spurned by British governments of both stripes which, despite the pull of shared struggled, cousinage, language, history and monarch, tended to defer to the large European markets rather than the smaller Commonwealth ones... The importance of the Commonwealth to Canada continued to wane in the 1950s, as the power of the North American market waxed. As so often before and since, Canadians' hearts drew them in the opposite direction to their perceived economic self-interest, and the latter tended to win.
Although the ill-treatment of the Black American has long been held to represent an indelible blot on the eschucheon of the English-speaking peoples, the way in which it was ended goes some way towards counter-balancing this. For in retrospect it is fascinating just how well embedded the civil rights movement was in the established politics of the English-speaking peoples' tradition of protest. Without that tradition, Dr Martin Luther King's movement would have been forced down avenues that would have been bloody, counter-productive and ultimately perhaps even futile. King's movement — as opposed to that of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam — drew its primary inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign against the British Empire in India, which in turn looked to the British experience of Great War conscientious objection and the struggle for female struggle. Facing almost any other opponent in the 1930s, Gandhi's movement would have suffered far worse privations and oppression than they received from the 'boyish tyranny' of the imperial Britain. A glance at what Stalin was doing at the time, or the way the Japanese were behaving in Manchuria shows how important it was for Gandhi that he was faced by the English-speaking peoples, who were governed by customs of law, decency and fair play.
The doctrine of non-violence only worked so long as the pacifists maintained the moral superiority over their 'oppressors', which itself gave them tangible political power vis-a-vis their enemies. That simply was not the case with totalitarian opponents like the Nazis, who cared nothing for whether their opponents or the world in general thought them morally inferior. Non-violence only worked against the governments of the English-speaking peoples, which respected law, such as the British in India in the 1920s and 1930s, or the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson Administrations of the 1950s and 1960s.
Racial minorities in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East suffered horrific privations in the 1940s, whereas by 1946 the NAACP had 40 branches in Georgia alone and a total membership of more than 13,000. It was successfully sponsoring court cases establishing blacks' right to vote in Democratic primaries and equal pay for black schoolteachers. Outside the countries of the English-speaking peoples that same decade, racial minorities such as the Chechens, Crimean Tatars, Balkars and Volga Germans — totalling over 1 million in all — were being deported en masse from the regions they had in some cases inhabited for centuries... The plight of the black Americans, real though it undoubtedly was, needs to be seen in the context of the much worse contemporaneous suffering of persecuted minorities outside the English-speaking peoples' framework of protection under the law.
For all the century-long demonising of consumerism and free-market capitalism, ordinary people have clamoured to belong to the bourgeoise and there have been scores of would-be immigrants to English-speaking countries for every emigrant. Yet for all Richard Nixon's victory in the 'Kitchen Debate' with Kruschev, it still took three more decades for Soviet communism to collapse. Being right was not enough; pressure needed to be actively exerted against the Soviet system.
[1960-1969: Civis Americanus Sum]
"A bipolar world loses
perspective for nuance; a gain for one side seems like an absolute loss
for the other. Every issue seems to involve a question of survival."
- Henry Kissinger, "Central Issues of American Foreign Policy"
Despite the fact that John F. Kennedy was only president for as long as the completely obscure Millard Fillmore or Warren Harding, he still rides high in any popularity contest between the former presidents. Much can be put down to his inspirational oratory, promoting ideas and aspirations that were never empirically tested due to his sensational death.
The phrase "at the height of the Cold War" is one of the most overworked in the history-writing profession and has been variously applied to the Berlin airlift, the Korean War, the building of the Berlin Wall, Vietnam, the U2 spy plane incident involving Gary Powers, the invasion of Afghanistan, the shooting down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 and any number of similar incidents. In fact, it should only ever be attached to the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, which was the moment that Russia and America came closest to fighting one another directly, rather than through proxies. Even then, however, the odds never approached evens that they actually would, largely due to Kennedy's televised statement during the crisis that left the USSR under no illusions about the seriousness of the situation: "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."
Cuba was emblematic of Kennedy's presidency; it demonstrated his fine skills as a crisis-manager, communicator, team leader and public-relations genius, but it was not a genuine victory for the United States.
The tapes and the transcripts of the special Executive Committee (ExComm), set up by Kennedy to advise during the crisis, reveal no high temper or intransigence in the meetings, no raised voices, no hawk-dove grouping, nor even people fighting corners either for themselves or for the organisations they represented. The tapes explode a few (largely Kennedy-created) myths about the crisis: that there was a split between hawks and doves, with a gung-ho military insisting on military action against a pacific White House.... No one at any stage expressed any enthusiasm for attacking Cuba... as an authoritative analysis of the tapes by the International Security Bulletin in 1987 has reported, "each participant seemed to be working mightily, often quite creatively, to find a diplomatic solution to the Crisis."
In the crisis that brough the English-speaking peoples closer than they ever got to a nuclear war, their leader was advised with dignity, calm, reason, and some commendable foresight.
It was Russian policy to raise the stakes over Cuba, which the crisis certainly did. An unexpected but very welcome by-product for Moscow was the deal over Turkey. In short, the Russians got more than they could possibly have hoped, considering their aims from the start were far more limited than were recognised at the time. Meanwhile, the Americans merely returned to the status quo ante, except that they had given up their Turkish-based missiles and given an undertaking that communism was safe only 90 miles from their shores. The Cuban missile crisis was thus a Soviet victory, which the Kennedy White House — by keeping the peace terms secret — managed to spin into an American victory instead. Yet if anyone 'blinked first', it had been JFK.
There were 16,000 American military 'advisors' in South Vietnam by the time that Kennedy was assassinated in mysterious circumstances in November 1963. By then, over 70 US servicemen had already died trying to preserve the part of Vietnam to the south of the 17th Parallel from falling to the communists. For all his commitment to keeping America's foreign policy options open, there is no reason to believe — as many Americans still do — that Kennedy would not have been drawn into Vietnam in much the same way that his successor Lyndon Johnson was.
"Great Britain has
lost an Empire and has not yet found a role. The attempt to play a separate
power role — that is, a role apart from Europe, a role bassed on a 'special
relationship' with the US, a role based on being the head of a 'Commonwealth'
which has no political structure, unity, or strength... this role is about
to be played out."
- Dean Acheson, former US Secretary of State (1962)
Yet Acheson's prediction has been proved to be wildly off the marl. In fact, Britain has managed to balance her commitments to the Special Relationship, the European Union and the Commonwealth — as well as to NATO, G7, Gatt and the UN Security Council — with remarkable assiduity. Far from being 'played out', over four decades after his speech she was in as strong an international position as she has enjoyed in any period since the Suez crisis... In the EU, but not in the Euro currency or federal constitution; 'shoulder-to-shoulder' with the US in the War against Terror; a nuclear power with an assured seat on the UN Security Council; and the world's fifth-largest economy despite having only 1.3% of the global population.
An accusation regularly made against the English-speaking peoples is that they helped to prop up the white-minority government of South Africa for decades before the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the subsequent all-race elections that inaugurated black-majority rule. As with American support for some right-wing dictatorships in parts of Latin America, Asia and elsewhere in Africa in the post-war period, this stemmed solely from the overwhelming strategic necessity of countering the Cold War advances of Civilisation's ultimate enemy: Soviet communism. Stability mattered more than democratic principles, for the simple reason that if the Soviets won, there would be no future hope for the extension of democracy. Only once that threat had imploded in 1989-91 could democracy safely be exported to places like South Africa, when it was indeed actively championed by governments of the English-speaking peoples.
Given the crude Marxist analysis of Southern Africa and its problems expressed by Nelson Mandela in 1951, it is hardly surprising that it was not considered in Western interests to encourage black-majority rule there at that time. It was a very different Mandela indeed who finally became President of South Africa a third of a century later and promoted precisely the capitalist democracy that he had earlier condemned as a tool of Western oppression.
The withdrawal of British forces from east of Suez further distanced Britain from Australia, which had troops stationed in Singapore until 1988, and New Zealand, which had them in Malaysia until 1989... When President Johnson was to ask Harold Wilson for help over Vietnam, memories of the Suez crisis were fresh in the minds of British policy-makers, who said no.
In May 1961, the Kennedy Administration sent 400 Green Beret 'special advisors' to train South Vietnamese troops in counter-insurgency techniques... By the end of 1961, the US was spending over $1 million per day training and supporting South Vietnam's 200,000-strong army. In his State of the Union speech of 11 January 1962, Kennedy avowed that, "Few generations in all of history have been granted the role of being the great defender of freedom in its maximum hour of danger. This is our good fortune." Yet four days later, when asked in a press conference whether any Americans were engaged in fighting in Vietnam, Kennedy answered, 'No'. Far from the supposed falsehoods of the Johnson and Nixon Administrations, the true mendacity began with Kennedy's desire to fight Vietnam as an unofficial war, rather than as the anti-communist crusade as it genuinely was.
As a member of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), Australia contributed about 7,500 troops in all between June 1965 and December 1972. A total of 520 Australians died in the Vietnam War, the first conflict they had engaged in without Britain, and as such it was an important part of their historical development as an independent nation... The introduction of conscription in March 1966, for the first time in Australia's peacetime history, provoked anti-government demonstrations and the election in December 1972 of Gough Whitlam's Labour Party, which withdrew from Vietnam and ended the draft in the same month as its election.
Zealand alliance in the Vietnam war, combined with British reluctance to
openly support that effort, weaned Australia away from Britain even more."
- James C. Bennett, "The Anglosphere Challenge"
After earlier requesting the removal of NATO bases from French territory... On 1 July 1966, France withdrew her forces from the NATO command structure altogether. This was not the disaster it seemed, since their nuclear plans included a 'pre-strategique' strike, in effort a demonstrative strike, which once outside NATO made France a further complication for Russian planning.
The English-speaking peoples who led the NATO alliance were always willing to countenance the massacre of millions of Russians in order to preserve their independence, just as they had indeed used the nuclear bomb on Japan to save several hundreds of thousands of American lives in 1945. This mental and moral toughness disgusted some — "The white race is the cancer of human history," wrote Susan Sontag in Partisan Review in 1967 — but it ensured that the Cold War stayed at that temperature, to the overall benefit of humanity.
If the Russians had launched the attack on Western Europe that they planned for, trained for, raised vast armies and navies for, bought advanced weaponry for and finally bankrupted themselves over, they might have succeeded through sheer weight of numbers... It is a tribute to American and British willingness to station large armies on the Rhine for nearly four decades after 1945 — backed up by the credible threat of nuclear war — that such a conflict never broke out.
In April 2004 provincial
councillors in the Eastern Cape of South Africa proposed that the statue
of Queen Victoria in Port Elizabth be removed, since they claimed it was
a symbol of colonialist oppression. "I wonder if the new rulers of South
Africa will be removing any of the other leftover relics of British colonialism,"
asked a letter to The Times, "such as democracy, freedom of speech and
the rule of law, not to mention the transport infrastructure, hospitals,
and the English language — and the very notion of a South African state?"
Destruction of statuary has long been an intensely political act. On 25 June 1940, the day that Adolf Hitler visited Paris after the Fall of France, he ordered that the statue of French Great War general Charles Mangin, be removed from the Place du President Mithuoard. He also demanded the destruction of the statue of Nurse Edith Cavell, who had been executed by the Germans for helping Allied soldiers to escape from German-occupied Belgium. Both have since been replaced.
The English-speaking peoples rarely resort to such historical vandalism. Admittedly in 1644 New Amsterdam did become New York, but such alterations are rare. A surprisingly large number of British names were retained after the American Revolution. The main street of Williamsburg, Virginia, is still the Duke of Gloucester Street. The states of Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland were all named after British sovereigns or their consorts... Nor did a triumphalist English-speaking American change the names of cities and towns founded by non-English-speaking people. The biggest cities in California are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. French names fill out much of the middle of the country, dating from 19th century trading posts: Detroit, Chicago and St Louis among them.
Since the 1960s the
universities across the English-speaking world have seen department after
department captured by the radical Left, whose grip on appointments and
tenured posts has been near impossible to loosen, even after the collapse
of Communism across Europe in 1989. From the late 1920s until his death
in 1937, the Italian communist intellectual Antonio Gramsci had preached
the importance of attaining 'cultural hegemony' within Western institutions
in order to promote Marxism. He believed that the bourgeois powers, by
which he meant Britain, America and France, could best be undermined through
capturing the high ground of intellectual and elite leadership, which he
thought as important economic factors in the class struggle. Thus capitalism
could be destroyed from within, even without the need for recurring financial
and economic crises.
Nowhere were Gramsci's ideas followed more effectively than in academia. In many faculties and in several fields such as sociology, English literature and philosophy, the Left has dominated since the 1960s, teaching Western culture in terms of a series of crimes against humanity. They have thence taight the teachers, who have perpetuated these myths in the schools. Those opposed to Deconstructionism and Postmodernism, who argue that empirical evidence is vital and one can go from facts to truth, have all too often been ridiculed and sidelined in the Left's pursuit of cultural hegemony. In the field of history, Postmodernism can be particularly corrosive... As the writer Patrick West recently pointed out, "According to the Poststructuralist relatvists, we cannot even be sure that the Holocaust took place."
In a number of respects, the Korean and Vietnam Wars were similar. An aggressive Marxist-Leninist dictatorship to the north of a peninsula attacked a weaker neighbour to its south, with US-led forces intervening to try to stem the advance of communism and defend if not democracy, then at least a relatively benign capitalist society. The great difference between them, which largely explains why the former war ended in victory whereas the second one ended in defeat, was that the Korean War began before the debilitating flood of counter-culture defeatism sapped America's will to win in the Sixties and Seventies.
Contrary to the received wisdom of the Vietnam War, the United States was never defeated in the field of battle... General Colin Powell states: "Judged in cold military terms, the Tet offensive was a massive military defeat for the Viet Cong and North Vietnam. Their troops were driven out of every town they attacked, with horrific losses, estimated at 45,000 out of the 84,000 men committed." Yet the bitterness of the fighting at Hue and the fact that the NVA had managed to infiltrate Saigon itself, helped turn the all-important US media against the war. Absurdly optimistic bulletins put out by the US War Department between 1965 and 1968 which reporters could see on the ground and hear from soldiers were largely untrue, also led directly to the media's disillusionment.
Although the Great
War had seen tremendous carnage and loss of life, the newspapers carried
no images of the dead. Even in the Second World War, the first photograph
of a dead American soldier did not appear in Life magazine until the US
War Department had held it up for a full 9 months. It was in Vietnam that
graphic photo-journalism of American corpses was used to try to turn domestic
support of the war into opposition... It was in America — rather than in
the jungles, paddy fields and deltas of Indo-China — that the war was truly
The English-speaking media had long criticised the armed forces in time of war... Although The Times had banged the drum for the Crimean War before it started, it was soon denouncing what it called the "incompetence, lethargy, aristocratic hauteur, official indifference, perverseness and stupidity of the High Command". Yet Times correspondent William Howard Russell, who in modern terms was 'embedded' with the British Army, was genuinely campaigning for a more efficient pursuit of the conflict, not for peace at any price.
Much of the American news media during the Vietnam War had a very different agenda. While the news coverage of the First and Second World War was generally undertaken highly responsibly, with journalists loath to report anything that might be of use to the enemy, as the Vietnam War progressed it became clear that some of the media was indeed a prime enemy of the conflict itself.
It would be wrong to assume that the Vietnam War was opposed by a majority of Americans, except perhaps after it was lost... Today the war is seen almost entirely through the eyes of the Left, as an unmitigated, ignoble disaster for the US. This has been exacerbated by Hollywood's treatment of the conflict, which relentlessly and excessively portrayed every negative aspect to the virtual total exclusion of any positive ones. A large number of movies such as Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and Platoon made far better anti-Vietnam propaganda than anything the Vietcong could have produced, and the John Wayne movie The Green Berets provided virtually the sole response.
"They are brutal, nasty,
hysterical, drug-sodden slobs, without decency or discipline, apparently
hating each other, despising their leaders, and generally disgracing the
profession of arms."
- George Macdonald Fraser, on the soldiers of Platoon, "Hollywood History of the World"
As McGeorge Bundy has pointed out, the Vietnam War gave South-East Asia an invaluable 12-year breathing space in which to develop their societies peacefully; Singapore's long-standing leader Lee Kuan Yew was certain that it saved the region from falling under the communist maw... Because the US held up communist insurgency in the Vietnamese peninsula for over a decade, the rest of South-East Asia did not 'go' to communism... To have simply abandoned Vietnam to a communist fate without attempting to protect her would have signalled to other countries in the region, indeed throughout the world, that the US would not support her allies and could therefore not be relied upon when pressure came to be placed on them by Soviet imperialism. Prestige and credibility was as important to Washington in the Cold War as ever it was to London back in the days of the British Empire.
If the US was prepared to defend South Korea and Taiwan in 2005, then of course, in the words of an American historian of Vietnam, "it makes no sense to argue that it was irrational for the US to defend its Indochinese protectorate at the height of the Third World War."
America's massive loss
of prestige when South Vietnam was overrun on 30 April 1975, coming exactly
two years to the day after Nixon's acceptance of responsibility for Watergate,
represented the most humiliating period in the history of the English-speaking
peoples since the fall of Singapore and Manila in early 1942. Yet the war
was still justified, even if there were doubtless better ways to have fought
it — "America's involvement stretched over 7 presidencies and was a unique
succession of misjudgments," is Paul Johnson's verdict, "all made with
the best intentions."
There were alternatives to the way the Vietnam story went, by which the US would probably have had to help defend the border for a very long period after a long-term, low-intensity conflict. She has defended South Korea in this manner for over half a century, one of her great oft-unspoken services paid to a free people. Since an invasion of North Vietnam could have resulted in a Sino-American War, President Johnson was probably right to have avoided that option, but the "massive, high-tech war of attrition" was probably in retrospect a mistake. What was certainly impossible, however, was simply to have allowed what one historian has called "a panicked bug-out from Indochina in 1965."
The nursing of long-term historical grievances has tended to be disastrous for minorities to look to their future in Western societie, tying them to the past and producing a victim culture that is only of limited use in doing much more than giving them a sense of moral superiority over the dominant English-speaking one. The Maoris, Roman Catholic Irish, French Quebecois, American Blacks and Native Americans have all dealt with this issue in their varying ways in the countries of the English-speaking peoples, and the most successful of them tended to be the ones who simply got over their (often perfectly genuine) historical greivances and instead looked resolutely to the future, embracing competition rather than endlessly remonstrating and effectively self-ghettoising.
It is astonishing how often anti-Americans refer to American eating habits in their list of the supposed failings of their 'bete noire' nation: a sign, perhaps, of how intolerant they often are. To despise a nation because a section of its population does not eat sufficiently nutritiously is a sure sign of a prescriptive, illiberal outlook.
On Sunday, 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 space module, walked on the surface of the Moon, the first human being to do so... The lunar landing rates as the single greatest technological triumph of the English-speaking peoples since 1900.
"What mattered most
was national prestige. The disinterested pursuit of science was transformed
into a new kind of ideology, and the scientist became a new kind of hero."
- Anthony Pagden, on the Cold War space race, "Peoples and Empires"
The deaths of all seven astronauts aboard the Columbia spacecraft in February 2003 underlined the heroism still involved in this hazardous method of travel. Indeed, as one of the men who walked on the Moon has pointed out, today there is more technology under the dashboard of a rental car than there was guiding man to a safe landing on another planet, and the technology that had crews escaping earth's gravity in the 1960s and 1970s wouldn't work a modern laptop computer. Spacecraft can now rech the Moon in nine hours, whereas in 1969 it took three days.
Despite it being the Stars and Stripes that were planted on the Moon, as opposed to the UN insignia, Apollo 11's achievement had the effect of promoting the concept of the planet having universal interests.
Despite the 1960s ending on such a bright, hopeful note for the English-speaking peoples, with their language being the only one spoken on another body in the cosmos, the next decade was to witness a series of debilitating retreats and defeats, the worst of the century so far.
[1970-1979: The Long, Dismal, Drawling Tides]
"The ancient insanity
of governments: the mania of wishing to govern too much."
- Maximilien Robespierre
"British history is
by no mean confined to Britain, for no other nation has had such a large
and enduring role in shaping events, institutions, and the fates of other
peoples around the world. Much of the world today, including the United
States, is still living in the social, cultural, and political aftermath
of Britain's cultural achievements, its industrial revolution, its government
of checks and balances, and its conquests around the world."
- Thomas Sowell, "Conquests and Cultures"
On Sunday, 6 September 1970, the English-speaking peoples entered a terrifying new phase of their existence in the era of international terrorism. Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), hijacked an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to London. At the same time three other planes were taken over in the air... The Conservative Government in Britain under Edward Heath, which had been elected that June, decided to appease the PLFP... which in the long term was quite the worst decision it could have taken, unleashing copy-cat hijackings and much worse over more than three decades... Would-be terrorists around the world were led to believe that Western governments would capitulate if enough hostages were taken. As a result, the Seventies saw a terrifying upsurge in such acts. For all his trumpeting of his support for Winston Churchill in the 1930s as a teenager, Heath had clearly not learnt the central message from that terrible decade: that if you 'feed the crocodile', you might get eaten last, but your ultimate fate remains the same.
An absolute refusal by Heath and all other Western leaders in 1970 might have led to the deaths of some air passengers in the initial stages of the campaign, but sooner or later the message would have got through to the terrorists that such outrages did not pay. If so, the atrocities of 9/11 might even have been avoided.
There was no doubt that the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 left many Palestinians feeling dispossessed, but instead of following the prescribed democratic, constitutionalist and internationalist routes for the relief of their grievances, their political leadership embraced a strategy of terrorism, entering a political cul-de-sac from which they had not emerged even over half a century later. They failed in 1948 to accept the offer of a two-state solution, proposed by the UN, even though Israel (reluctantly) accepted it.
Heath's surrender to PLFP blackmail set a leitmotif for the rest of the 1970s in Britain. During that decade, there was a tangible sense among the governing classes that the UK was in irreversible decline and that there was nothing much she could do about it... Although many senior political decision-makers, Heath included, had had 'a good war' between 1939 and 1945, they often evinced a moral cowardice when it came to fighting the problems that beset the country in peacetime. The worst of these by far, throughout the 1970s, was the issue of industrial relations... In December 1970, in the depths of mid-winter, the power workers started a work-to-rule for a 25% pay increse. Christmas lights were blacked out and there was even a run on candles.
"The severing of Britain's
economic ties with its Commonwealth partners as a price of European entry
further strained... relationships. Today, Germans arriving at London's
Heathrow airport breeze through the domestic arrivals line, while Australians
who fought against the Germans at El Alamein for Britain's sake wait in
the foreigners' line with the Japanese. As many Australians noted... 'There
were no bloody queues at Gallipoli; no bloody queues at Alamein'."
- James C. Bennett
Although they are ancient states, many of the constitutions of European countries are very young indeed, far younger than those of Britain's constitutional monarchy (1688-9), America's democracy (1776), Canada's responsible government (1848) or even Australia's Federation (1900). By contrast, the French Constitution establishing its Fifth Republic was only promulgated in 1958, Germany's Basic Law was passed in 1949... Italy's was adopted in 1949... and Portugal's became law in 1976... It is small wonder then, with these Constitutions being so young, that they do not have the same purchase on the imaginations of their populations as do the English-speaking peoples' constitutions, which — with the exception of Ireland's — reach long beyond the memory of anyone alive. The concept of an over-arching European Constitution is therefore much easier for European (and Irish) minds to embrace than for British.
The resignation in October 1973 of US Vice-President Spiro Agnew over charges of tax evasion was a glaring exception to the rule that politicians in the English-speaking world are generally not corrupt. They do not enter politics for the money. Few places in the world — and certainly not in Africa, Latin American, many parts of Asia, and much of Eastern Europe and Russia — can boast such high standards of honesty both in politics and public administration. The Victorian ideal of public service, by which public servants were repaid in honours and social standing for what they missed out on in financial renumeration, still generally holds good across the English-speaking world. This is partly due to the vigilance of the unfettered media and its relish for 'sleaze' stories, and to strict parliamentary rules for the policing of wrongdoing, but also because public service has never been seen as a lucrative source of income.
The wider implications
of Watergate did, and still do, infect the American body politic. The first
and most profound upshot of Watergate — coinciding as it did with Agnew's
resignation — was a sense of distrust in politicians and the political
process that extended far beyond the borders of the US, to affect the whole
of the English-speaking world. Watergate pushed healthy scepticism about
the political process over the edge into chronic cynicism about politicians'
motives, where it has tragically stayed ever since... A generation grew
to voting age who admired not the statesmen who led the country so much
as the journalists who led the investigations into them. The suffix '-gate'
once attached to virtually any noun immediately implied sleaze, cover-ups,
governmental corruption and wrongdoing in high places.
For Hollywood, Watergate opened up a vast opportunity to blame dark forces in government for every disaster to overcome ordinary people. The whispered phrase, 'This stretches to the very top', became a cliche of cinema-going, as film after film was made with the underlying premise that the US Government was essentially the covert enemy of the average American. This has spawned a whole genre of 'paranoia' movies, in which treachery and corruption are virtually the only characteristics attributed to politicians, policemen, generals and others previously considered as American role models... Individually, of course, most movies plots mean next to nothing, but taken together they can create, over decades, a baleful collective groupthink about the essential unworthiness and corruption of the political Establishment that represents a powerful social and cultural phenomenon damaging to American democracy. The days when the villains in a Hollywood movie were fascist or communist spies, Mafia chieftains or mere hoodlums are long gone; today they are more likely to be US government agencies, politicians or policemen.
So powerful is the post-Watergate fondness for conspiracy theories in America that a significant proportion of the US population today believes that President Roosevelt knew that Pearl Harbor wwwas about to be attacked; that President Lyndon Johnson was somehow involved in the assassination of his predecessor; that the FBI and CIA are covering up the crash-landing of a UFO at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947; that Israeli Intelligence was behind 9/11 etc etc... The American public has become far more gullible and paranoiac than ever before... The effect of these baleful and generally absurd theories upon trust in the elected representatives of the English-speaking peoples hs been enormous and has not lessened in more than three decades since Nixon's resignation.
The disaster that Watergate wrought on America's self-image and her standing abroad could largely have been avoided if the US had had a constitution like Britain's that did not require impeachment to remove an elected polticial leader. Similarly, a monarchial system would have allowed for the replacement of President Allende's Government in Chile without the need for General Pinochet's coup and subsequent military dictatorship. In Britian, all that would have happened was the dismissal of Allende or Nixon by the Queen and his replacement with someone else who could have commanded the confidence of the legislature... The months-long, painful, damaging process of forcing Nixon to resign through the threat of impeachment would have been over in the course of an afternoon in Britain and any of the Commonwealth countries where the Queen retains her prerogative. The advantage of having an ultimate constitional arbiter entirely above politics or the merest suspicion of partisanship, which the Supreme Court cannot be owing to its method of recruitment, is inestimable.
In Australia the year after Watergate, November 1975, the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, acting in the name of the Queen, dismissed the democratically elected Labour Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, for his chronic mismanagement of the Australian economy and other misdemeanours.
The more is known about the British Governments led by the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1964-70 and 1974-76, the more squalid they seem.
Wilson was not the only senior member of the Government to behave disgracefully. When the Foreign Secretary George Briown visited British embassies abroad, his Private Secretary Murray MacLehose would draw the Ambassador aside to warn: "If you don't know it already, this man is an alcoholic. In the course of the next 48 hours he is bound to insult you, your wife, and probably everyone on your embassy staff. There is no point in creating a fuss or resigning. It will achieve nothing. Just grin and bear it. He will be gone before the weekend and you can relax and pretend his visit never happened."
Blackmail might almost serve as a paradigm for the dreadful 1970s. David Astor, former editor of The Observer, revealed how the print unions used to exercise de facto editorial control over what went into some newspapers, simply through the threat of selective industrial action. For trade unions to undermine the freedom of the press is no less a disgrace than for government to do so, yet it went on in the 1970s.
The escape of the last US personnel from Saigon by helicopter from a roof in the American Embassy compund on 20 April 1975, marked the lowest point in the history of the US in the 20th century, alost equivalent to the fall of Singapore for the British Empire. The South Vietnamese Government collapsed the following day, to be followed by massacres of its members and supporters and millions of South Vietnamese being sent to re-education camps — the exact numbers can now never be known.
George Kennan had prescribed Western policy towards Russia in the late 1940s as, "Stand up to them, but not aggressively, and give the hand of time a chance to work." It was excellent advice.
'Finlandization' became the recognised term for a country that retains its nominal independence, but whose essential self-determination in terms of defence and foreign policy was ultimately controlled from Moscow. This was not through cowardice, however, the small country that had resisted Stalin so bravely and at such high cost in 1939-40 could not survive another clash.
One of the many astonishing facts about the fall of the Soviet system was that so few Western commentators, analysts, Intelligence officers, intellectuals or politicians predicted it until it was actually under way. Yet in 1976 a French social scientist named Emmanuel Tood published a book which predicted the collapse of Russian communism between 10 and 30 years from then. Analysing the USSR's infant mortality figures since 1920, Todd detected a rise that by 1974 had so embarrassed the authorities that the statistics were no longer made available. This, along with other economic and social indicators, led him to assume that the days of Soviet communism must be numbered.
Ronald Reagan possessed something that those who scoffed at him did not: an instinctive belief in America's capability to win the Cold War, because of the desire of those trapped behind the Iron Curtain to live in liberty... In his unsuccessful 1976 campaign he advanced a view of Soviet communism as something that could be faced down and ultimately defeated as a matter of immediate US policy, a near-revolutionary concept in post-war American politics.
The Vietnam War had left the US with a neo-isolationist consensus between Congress, the media and the American intelligentsia that encouraged the USSR and her Cuban and Vietnamese proxies "to engaged in empire-building in the Third World without fear of American reprisal". Henry Kissinger had done what he could to hold this back, but the Carter Administration allowed the perception of a waxing USSR and a waning American to seep into the global consciousness. Two prominent manifestations of this were Western European appeasement of Moscow and the willingness of Third World states to support the Soviets in the UN General Assembly. It was the Democratic-dominated Congress that had prevented the Ford Administration from stopping Angola, Mozambique, Somalia and Ethiopia from falling under pro-Soviet rule in 1975, and over the subsequent three decades the fate of each country was to jostle the others in the stakes for which was to be the poorest in Africa in terms of per capita income.
By 1980, no fewer than 60% of Americans responded positively when asked whether the US was spending too little on defence, when only five years earlier the figure had been 18%.
In November 1980, the 69-year-old Ronald Reagan won 489 electoral college votes against Jimmy Carter's 49, along with control of the Senate... The humilating retreats of the dismal decade were finally over.
[1980-1989: Attritional Victory]
"To win 100 victories
in 100 battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue an enemy without fighting
is the acme of skill."
- Sun Tzu, "The Art of War"
Ronald Reagan's assumption of office suddenly opened up the dazzling prospect of the West not simply fighting for a continued stalemate in the Cold War, but instead actively attempting to win it. "Politics", wrote Algernon Cecil in his 1927 oeuvre on Btiish foreign secretaries, "is one long second-best." This is usually true, but it was not like that for the English-speaking peoples in the 1980s.
Fostering private enterprise, reducing the size of government and cutting taxes produced a virtuous circle for the American economy. This prosperity allowed the Reagan Administration to spend enough on military rearmament to leave the Soviets little alternative but to sue for peace in the Cold War.
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher proved the most successful deo in leading the English-speaking peoples to victory over totalitarianism since Churchill and Roosevelt four decades earlier. Yet such was the visceral hostility against Reagan on the Left internationally that when he died a headline in Britain's Guardian newspaper on the day of his funeral in June 2004 read: "He Lied and Cheated in the Name of Anti-Communism." The Left regularly underestimated Reagan, which he never minded since it tended to play into his hands politically.
Yet Reagan was far
from the intellectual lightweight that his opponents constantly portrayed
him. As one reviewer of his handwritten speeches and addresses put it,
"The periodic newsflash that Reagan was no dummy is more a commentary on
the gullibility of those who thought him a dummy in the first place than
it is a genuine discovery."
Like Margaret Thatcher and most other successful politicians, Reagan was not so much an original thinker as an inspired interpreter and populariser of the ideas of others. Both Reagan and Thatcher had the gift of being able to make the ideas of Nobel Prize-winning economists — often the same ones — easily comprehensible to people with little grasp of higher economics.
"Some say shift the
tax burder to business and industry, but business doesn't pay taxes. Oh,
don't get the wrong idea, business is being taxed. so much that we are
being priced out of the world market. But business must pass it's costs
of operation, and that includee taxes, onto the customer in the price of
the product. Only people pay taxes — all the taxes. Government just uses
business in a kind of sneaky way to help collect the taxes."
- Ronald Reagan (1981)
So what if Reagan couldn't differentiate between "its" and "it's", so long as he could make such an important idea intelligible to millions of ordinary electors?
Although many aesthetes in Europe despised the genre of the western movie, and wished to portray Reagan as a slouching gun-slinging cowboy, most Americans had a far less prejudiced approach... For all his supposed trigger-happy, gun-slinging, the cowboy is also recognised as a hard-working, independent-minded American, their image thus an enduringly popular one in marketing and advertising. For the American public the Westerner had long had generally positive connotations, not least because the movies in which John Wayne and Ronald Reagan acted tended to include strong moral messages, that projected values of individualism, patriotism, the family, and of course, law and order. It was only much later, with the advent of Hollywood's counter-cultural film-making in the mid-1970s, that the sheriff's motives were held up to ridicule against those of the avenging lone stranger.
The Falkland Islands, at the eastern entrance to the Magellan Straits in the South Atlantic east of the Argentine province of Patagonia, was a strange place for a major test of the English-speaking peoples' will and sense of unity in 1982.
After the Falklands conflict, it was assumed that there must have been a grievous breakdown in the competence of British Intelligence that the invasion was not predicted, yet in fact there was no such failure, because Galtieri's three-man military junta did not itself decide to attack the Islands until 20 March 1982, and the British were apprised of it the very next day... Although much was later made of Defence Secretary Nott's decision back in June 1981 to withdraw the Royal Navy's Arctic survey vessel HMS Endurance from service, as having sent a signal of weakness to the Argentine leadership, in fact the Argentinians decided to attack not because of anything that British had done or not done, but rather from the classic Bonapartist tendencies of an authoritarian regime keen to divert attention from its domestic — in this case largely economic — failures.
In an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Saturday, 3 April, the leader of the Labour opposition, Michael Foot, fastened on to the United Nations as the central justification for the use of force by Britiain. "We are supposed to act under the authority of the UN," Foot said. "Indeed it is the only authority under which we are supposed to act." Enoch Powell demurred, pointing out that Britain's right to protect the Queen's subjects was "inherent in us", and was anyhow "one which existed before the UN was dreamt of".
The diplomatic cards fell in a fortunate way. With an Anglophile American president, and unpopular right-wing military junta which communist Russia and China could not possibly condone, a prime facie case of unprovoked invasion, and tough diplomatic bargaining by some of the finest professionals in the Foreign Office, Resolution 502 was passed by the UN, demanding "an immediate and unconditional withdrawal" by Argentina.
"Britain may have dashed
to the South Atlantic with nuclear-powered submarines and Sea Harriers
with advanced Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and its efforts may have
been almost undone by the sea-skimming Exocet air-to-ship missiles, but
the final struggle for the Falklands relied on old-fashioned soldiering
to a remarkable degree."
- Sir Lawrence Freedman, official historian of the Falklands War
Much about the Falklands campaign seems old-fashioned: with underlying causes that stretched back to the 17th century, it was about sovereignty and "what we have to hold" rather than -isms or ideas; the actual territory involved was far less important than the issues of prestige, honour, and whether Britain would be "a different country" if she had not at least tried to free Crown subjects, and it was in large part a Royal Navy operation, with all the atavistic flavour that implied. Finally, 26 years after Suez, the Empire seemed about to strike back.
Had British foreign and defence policy been decided by Europe back in 1982, rather than by the Thatcer Cabinet, the Falkland Islanders would probably not be Crown subjects today... The proposals contained in the 2004 European Constitution would have Finlandised Britain with regard to her defence and foreign relations, a state of affairs which would be as humiliating to her pride as it would be damaging to her interests, and to those of the rest of the English-speaking peoples, since she would not have been able to come to the aid of her countrymen and allies in wartime.
"In my lifetime all
our problems have come from mainland Europe, and all the solutions have
come from the English-speaking nations who have kept law-abiding liberty
for the future."
- Margaret Thatcher (1989)
The London School of Economics don Philip Windsor remarked when the Berlin Wall came down it meant the end of two ideologies: communism and political science. Certainly, for all the vast well-funded political science departments in universities across the West, none of them predicted the sudden end of European communism. It took Margaret Thatcher, who many political science professors despised, to do that.
"Today there are more
Marxists on the Harvard Faculty than there are in Eastern Europe."
- George F Will, commenting in 2005
European powers scored their highest economic growth rates n the decades after they shed their empires, despite the fact that, in Geoffrey Wheatcroft's phrase, there was "a widespread belief that Europe enjoyed its comforts thanks to the efforts of distant coolies". Simultaneously, after independence, "the former colonies suffered terrible economic decay, relatively in many cases, absolutely in some, suggesting that empire had been burden more than blessing for the imperial powers".
Whatever criticisms might be directed at the administrators of the British Empire in Africa — including the legitimate one that they occasionally drew straight lines on maps which sometimes cut through tribal groupings — they rarely ate mathetamtics teachers (unlike Central African Republic dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa).
"During most of my
life, freedom in this country was under a direct challenge from fellow-travelling
Socialists and an aggressive Soviet Union. These challenges were overcome
because the Conservative Party in Britain and other right-of-centre parties
— under the international leadership of Ronald Reagan — proved too much
for them. The fashionable expression is that Communism 'imploded'. If that
means that their system was always unviable, so be it, though many of the
people who say this scarcely seemed to believe it was true before the 'implosion'.
But let's not forget that the system collapsed because it was squeezes
by the pressure that we on the Right of politics applied. And the Left
should not be allowed to get away with pretending otherwise."
- Margaret Thatcher (1996)
"The very ships which
defend New Zealand in time of war may not enter New Zealand's ports in
time of peace."
- Monroe Browne, US Ambassador, after NZ refuses entry to nuclear-powered warships
Declaring New Zealand 'nuclear-free' was to employ one of the favourite weasal words of liberal internationalism, since in any conflict it is up to the enemy, not oneself, to decide who remains free from nuclear attack. There is no indication that the USSR altered her nuclear strategy in order to take Prime Minister David Lange's new policy into account.
There are many who argue that US bombing of Arab targets can never achieve positive results and only ever worsens matters. Yet the Libyan experience disproves that... Immediately after the US bombings, Gadaffi cut back massively on almost all his support for international terrorism and was the first Muslim leader to condemn Al-Qaeda after 9/11.
The way that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sought to defeat European communism was by simultaneously proving to the peoples of the Soviet Empire that capitalism was simply superior in delivering material benefits, and simultaneously deploying advanced weapons systems such as Cruise missiles and Pershing II. Moscow foreign policy analysts agree that if the huge Soviet efort to prevent these deployments had been successful, "The Kremlin leadership, already almost convinved of their ability to disarm much of Europe psychologically, would have adopted a particularly dangerous and aggressive stance." Fortunately, NATO's deployment of Pershing II and Cruise missiles were not prevented by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, German peaceniks and neutralists, Soviet 'agents of influence' and other — in Lenin's phrase — 'useful idiots' in the West.
Reagan and Thatcher dedicated themselves to undermining and eventually defeating European communism, and without their efforts it could have been further decades before it collapsed under the weight of its own internal contradictions — to borrow a phrase Lenin used about capitalism — and the days of glasnost and perestroike dawned. The shatting end came, with a truly poetic timing, just days before the close of the decade that President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher had made their own, the 1980s. In that sense, October 1989 was just as important a revolutionary moment as July 1789 or October 1917. As one post-communist Bulgarian put it, "Lenin said that the system that guaranteed higher productivity would prevail, but that turned out to be Capitalism."
[1990-2001: The Wasted Breathing Space]
in all matters of science, economics, industry, politics, business, medicine,
social life, social justice, and of course the military was total and indisputable.
Even Europeans suffering from the pangs of wounded chauvinisn looked on
with awe at the brilliant example the US had set for the world as the third
- Tom Wolfe, "Hooking Up"
The West's victory in the Cold War brought a general lowering of tensions across the globe, except in one particular region, where it led to them being heightened.
"More civil wars have
been ended by negotiation in the past 15 years than in the previous two
- Gareth Evans, commenting on the 2005 "Human Security Report"
The disappeance of the power of the USSR and her allies to intervene and destabilise pro-Western governments led directly to this 'New World Order'. Yet in the Middle East, where the USSR had generally exerted her power against Islamic fundamentalism due to her own internal security concerns with her own large Muslim populations, Russia had overall been a force for stability. The Soviet defeat in Afghanistan had led the victorious Islamicist mujahadeen to believe that the world's other superpower, the US, could also be forced to quit the region.
The first post-Cold War threat to the influence of the English-speaking peoples in the Middle East cam early, within a year of the fall of the Berlin Wall with the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's Iraq on 2 August 1990... Once again, the Intelligence services had failed to predict Saddam's likely action. The British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, discovered what had happened not from the CIA or MI6 but from the radio news. As with the Falklands invasion, there is only a certain amount any Intelligence agency can accurately surmise about the actions of an unpredictable dictatorship.
Just before the blow against Saddam fell, Margaret Thatcher was ousted from power by her own Conservative Party.
"I wonder how many
of those 168 Tory MPs who either voted for Michael Heseltine (against Thatcher)
or abstained would have rused to despose their most successful 20th century
leader if they had known what the future held? Although the short-term
effects were beneficial, the long-term consequences have been catastrophic.
Of thsoe 15 years since Thatcher fell, the Tories have been behind in the
polls for nearly 13. For eight there has been a Labour Government... It
is a thoroughly bad idea for a minority party cabal to bring down an elected
prime minister. The Liberals did it to Asquith in 1916 and never gained
power again. The Tories did it to Thatcher in 1990 and have since suffered
three successive election defeats — a calamity previously unknown to them
for 99 years."
- Robert Harris (2005)
The calamity was ver largely brought about by a minority of Conservative MPs whose commitment to what they called 'the European Project' out-weighed their loyalty to their Party and their gratitude to the woman upon whose coat-tails that had thrice been elected.
In November 1990, those nebulous concepts 'the world community' and 'international opinion' came together at the UN to authorise the use of force to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Even the Russians supported, but did not participate in, the UN action... To complaints that Resolution 678 sounded somewhat euphemistic, Colin Powell replied: "It did not matter. A bullet fired through a euphemism is still a bullet."
Unfortunately, the very breadth, width and depth of the anti-Saddam coalition built up by President Bush was to prove fatal to its proper purpose. The English-speaking peoples have long been expert at building and maintaining coalitions. The British brought no fewer than seven into being against Napoleon; the Crimean War was fought alongside France, Austria and Sardinia; the Great War and Second World War were fought together with France and Russia; NATO started life with 12 nations... Yet in each of those conflicts the participants had a common purpuse, which turned out to be not quite the case in 1991.
When the English-speaking peoples fight for specified, attainable objectives — such as capturing Pretoria, Manila, Berlin, Pyongyang, Seoul (twice), Port Stanley, Grenada or Baghdad (in 2003) — they achieve them, and in so doing they usually win the political ends desired. When, however, they deliberately hamstring themselves for moral scruples or other reasons, and refuse to match on an objective despite being militarily capable of it — the southern end of the Suez Canal Zone, Hanoi and Baghdad (in 1991) are cases in point — they wind up failing in the longer run. In Iraq's case, it was to take another 12 years before the English-speaking peoples and their allies finally put an end to Saddam's monstrous rule.
Far from a 'New World Order', Somalia became the first indication that the collapse of the bi-polar world had merely ushered in a new form of global disorder... The operation suuceeded in its short-term objective of preventing famine by securing supply routes through Somalia against the chief warlord General Aydid, but then in March 1993 the US force was withdrawn... A UN military spokesman summed up the campaign as, "We cam, we fed them, they kicked our asses."
It is hard to quantify how badly the various financial and sexual scandals that were to engulf President Clinton's presidency actually affected the performance of his duties... Clinton's Presidency was severely damaged, but then his career outside the economic field had largely been, in the historian Paul Johnson's sage words, "an extraordinary example how far a meretricious personal charm will get you in a media age."
Presidents and prime ministers of the English-speaking peoples have committed adultery while in office — including Woodrow Wilson, Asquith, Lloyd George, FDR, JFK, John Major, and no fewer than five Australian premiers — yet never before had the lights of the international media been shone into a leader's private life with the ferocious glare that the modern electronic media could then concentrate. Nor, it might be added, are previous presidents thought to have indulged in sex acts in the immediate environs of the Oval Office itself, as in Clinton's case.
Rather than allow their
beautiful and ancient tongue to compete in the open market-place of global
languages, France set up schemes for linguistic protectionism... In January
1997 a law required pop music radio stations to play French-language songs
for at least 40% of the time. One is tempted to quote Churchill speaking
in another context in 1906: "The recognition of their language is precious
to a small people", yet whatever else they might be, the French are certainly
not a small people.
By contrast, the United Kingdom attempts to protect the various non-English tongues spoken within her borders. Although only 20% of the residents of Wales speak Welsh, the language is given equal status and authority throughout the principality.
Despite Britain having just 1.3% of the world's population, English is today both the language of wealth, and, just as importantly, of aspiration to wealth. It is not enough that many hundreds of millions should speak English as their first or second language, but the people who do so have on average higher per capita incomes than those who speak the other great world languages.
"English is the first
language among equals as the UN, at NATO, the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund. It is the only official language of OPEC, the only working
language of the European Free Trading association, the Association of Baltic
Marine Biologists, the Asian Amateur Athletics Association, the African
Hockey Federation... while it is the second language of bodies as diverse
as the Andean Commission of Jurists and the Arab Air Carriers Association."
- Melvyn Bragg, "The Adventure of English"
There are dangers inherent in this success. "The more English spreads," Bragg tells use, "the more it diversifies, the more it could tend towards fragmentation." Just as we reach the tantalising possibility of that single global lingua franca, therfore, local dialects all over the world might so pidginise English that the opportunity slips away from us.
Should either India or China one day disloge the English-speaking peoples as the foremost world power, it will have to do so using the English language as a primary tool. Indeed, according the British Chancellor Gordon Brown, "in two decades, China's English speakers will outnumber native English speakers in the rest of the world". The modern Irish poet Michael Hartnett, explaining the almost terminal decline of the Irish tongue in the 19th century, explained that English was the better language "in which to sell a pig".
In the half-century
between 1890 and 1940, the proportion of lawyers to the general population
in the US remained at a steady (and healthy) level of one lawyer for ever
730 people, or 13 per 100,000 Americans. Yet by 1990, American law schools
were producing 35,000 new lawyers per annum. That year there were no fewer
than 281 lawyers per 100,000 Americans, a 21,000% increase in only half
a century. This contrasts with 111 Germans, 82 British and 11 Japanese
lawyers per 100,000. Total cases filed in all US federal courts rose from
68,000 in 1940 to over 300,000 by the mid-1980s, and in 2000 the US was
home to 1 million lawyers for the first time in her history.
The effect on politics has been astounding... In 1947 there were fewer than 2,500 staff members working in the US Congress; by the year 2000 this had grown to almost 18,000. Congress meets all the year round whereas once it took long holidays; almost all Congress business is done in public whereas in 1947 it was in private, and all the sessions of both Houses are now televised. The alteration of almost every aspect of American political life since WW2 has been described as, "A revolution without revolutionaries, without a revolutionary ideology or revolutionary manifesto or call to arms... It has been a revolution by accumulation, by inadvertence, by miscalculation, by demographic destiny — a revolution of good intentions run amok."
The 1990s were the period when it became clear that terrorism paid, and the more violent the terrorism, the more it paid. Of the 98 conflicts that took place worldwide between 1990 and 1996, only 7 were between recognised states, despite their collectively causing over 5.5 million deaths (of whom 75% were civilians). Of course, this was relatively peaceful compared to the 1945-90 period.
"Where force is necessary,
there it must be applied boldly, decisively and completely, but one must
know when to blend force with a maneuver, a blow with an agreement."
- Leon Trotsky (1932)
Whereas the IRA-Sinn Fein was embarked on the same route originally mapped out by Trotsky and later perfect by Mao Tse-tung, the new strain of Islamic terror was not. Under the old Trotsky-Mao strategy, terror is used first to raise the political consciousness of the population; then to force society to choose sidesl then to create a backlash which unmasks the power of the state; then to isolate, demoralise and destroy 'collaborationists'; and finally, by 'blending force with maneuver', blows are exchanged for an agreement. What the Clinton Administration failed to spot was that the new strain of Islamic fundamentalism was essentially fascistic and nihilistic in nature, and did not want an agreement, so much as to kill as many of the infidel — and preferably the English-speaking peoples — as possible, without any logically achievable goal in sight.
Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh's belief that the American federal government in all its guises was evil — even, in this case, its daycare centres — stemmed directly from the paranoia culture that had infected American society since Watergate. Just as there has been no mass murderer in history — not Stalin, not Mao, not even Pol Pot — who has not found someone amongst the English-speaking intelligentsia to put in a good word for him, so the writer Gore Vidal was quoted saying of McVeigh, "He's very intelligent, ths boy's got a sense of justice," and comparing McVeigh to the American Revolutionary hero Paul Revere. This was moral equivalence been taken to disgraceful levels.
A modern Great Power that today constantly works against the unity and amity of the English-speaking peoples is Hollywood. Just as Hollywood has been responsible, post-Watergate, for feeding the sense of betrayal and paranoia about the American political and military Establishment... so it also churns out movies that are determinedly Anglophobic. Hollywood is thus institutionally racist in the way that it portrays the United Kingdom, both in her past and present. Movies such as Michael Collins, Rob Roy, The Patriot and Braveheart are as anti-British today as the Alexander Korda propaganda movies were pro-British during the Second World War. Hollywood political correctness has fastened on the Brit, especially the imperialist Brit, as a safe target for sustained abuse and misrepresentation. Outrageously factually inaccurate, these films do have an effect on the way the American public views Britain and the British... Since 9/11 it has proved more difficult for Hollywood to glamourise terrorism (such as the IRA), but still the bad guys as the Brits... The list of films depicting Britons as villains is now so long as to amount to a virtual declaration of war on the UK by a geographically small but globally incredibly powerful suburb of Los Angeles.
Charles Dance in Michael Collins, Tim Roth in Rob Roy, Jeremy Irons in Die Hard, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, are all Britons speaking in British accents. The subtext is clear: such an accent is now shorthand for villainy. The careers of Christopher Plummer, Richard E Grant, Brian Cox, Tim Curry, Johnathan Pryce, Christopher Lee and many others have been boosted by their ability to denote evil simply by their deployment of strangulated English vowels.
Would any racial groupings but Britons be depicted as stooping to necrophilia in politically correct modern Hollywood - as they are in "The Story of Joan of Arc"?
As the English author AN Wilson wrote of a character in his novel 'Hearing Voices', "He usually played unscrupulous conmen or the cold-hearted 'brains' in criminal gangs. His villainy was made apparent to cinema audiences by his English accent."
"The villains used to be the Germans, Japanese or the Russians," Larry Mark, producer of Jerry Maguire, has explained, "but they protested. If the English get a bad rap they can take it." In a counter-intuitive way, Britons have almost taken it as a compliment that Hollywood bothers to cast them as villains. It shows they still matter in the world; after-all, no-one tries negatively to stereotype the Finns, Norwegians or Thais. Yet there is a point where the incessant negative portrayals must affect the way ordinary Americans view their closest and most dependable ally.
John Major only became the prime minister because, after the fall of Mrs Thatcher, he was neither the ultra-liberal Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, nor her political assassin, Michael Heseltine. Thatcher, who had wildly over-promoted Major to Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrongly believed him to be the heir to her ideological legacy. Very soon after securing him victory, the Thatcherites discovered their mistake. Major spoke of wanting to be "at the heart of Europe", without explaining what in practice this meant. Later he was tape-recorded calling the three euro-sceptics in his Cabinet 'bastards' and ruined his nice-neighbour image by being caught on tape saying, "I'm going to fucking crucify the Right." In one sentence he thus managed to swear, blaspheme, split an infinitive and make a promise he could not keep.
Major weakened himself in November 1994 by withdrawing the Party Whip from eight Conservative MPs over the European issue, something that Chamberlain never did to opponents of appeasement in the 1930s and which also never happened to the Suez rebels of 1956. By this gross act of intolerance, against patriots whose only concern was the protection of British sovereignty, he showed how at heart he was a Conservative hack politician rather than a Tory statesman, and essentially unfit for high office, let alone the premiership of the UK.
European anti-Americanism after 2001 has often been attributed to the actions of George W Bush, rather than to the innate resentment always directed against the world's strongest power... yet in 1997 the French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine complained of American 'hyper-power'; US capital punishment was held to prove America's "cultural inferiority", and the Clinton Administration's rejection of an anti-landmine treaty was held up as evidence of American unilteralism... Those anti-Americans who routinely claim that they are "not anti-American, just anti-Bush", were usually, on examination, anti-American long before the 43rd President ever arrived on the scene.
America had suffered only 18 deaths and 71 people wounded in Somalia, but clearly President Clinton's decision to withdraw US troops from that country gave Al-Qaeda a morale boost of astonishing proportions.
Prestige is a tangible currency in the Middle East, as British imperialists knew when they swore to avenge General Gordon's murder in Khartoum in 1885. Even though it took them 13 years to achieve that, at the battle of Omdurman in 1898, few in the region were left in any doubt that the war of vengeance would eventually ome. By contrast, the Clinton Administration missed what was in retrospect was the opportinity of the decade, to capture Bin Laden before he left Sudan.
On friday 7 August 1998, two lorry bombs exploded outside the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. 331 people were killed on that occasion by Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, yet the English-speaking peoples slept on.
"In 1998 when Osama
Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda training camps were identified as a serious
threat, plans were drawn up to attack both them and him... Each time an
operation was proposed, the chiefs of staff demanded impossibly detailed
'actionable' Intelligence and exhaustive feasibility studies. They imposed
the most restrictive preconditions, demanding assurances that no casualties
would be suffered — or inflicted — because of concern about collateral
- Edward Luttwak
Once again, the English-speaking peoples' fundamental decency was allowed to compromise their safety.
Of two of the attempts of Bin Laden's life, one was cancelled because of President Clinton's concern about collateral damage and the other because of fears for a sheikh of the UAE who had seen fit to visit Bin Laden.
By agreeing to end their campaign without their delcared aims being won, the IRA in effect admitted defeat, although obviously neither they not the British Government put it like that. Although the IRA had managed to murder so many innocent people over the course of 34 years, the British people stayed firm in their insistence that only the Northern Irish people themselves should decide which country they should belong to... The British people thus emerged from a sustained, incredibly bloody, long-term insurgency campaign with their principles intact, even though as part of the price for peace they had to endure the disgusting sight of convicted murderers — including several pathological homicidal maniacs — being freed from prison under the terms of the agreement... In all, no fewer than 300,000 British troops had to deployed in the province over three decades and the estimated cost to the Northern Irish economy was over £100 billion.
One of the purposes of this book is to explain how the English-speaking colonisation has succeeded triumphantly, and that those states represent the last, best hope for Mankind. Far from being 'entirely insignificant', the spread of the English-speaking peoples' political culture has been the most significant historical development since the invention of gunpowder and the printing press.
[2001-2005: The Fourth Assault: Islamicist Terrorism and its De Facto Allies]
"People will endure
their tyrants for years, but they tear their deliverers to pieces if a
millenium is not created immediately."
- President Woodrow Wilson (1918)
"The present Iraqi
regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread violence and discord in
the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform
that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions.
America's interest in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead
in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq."
- President George W. Bush (2003)
"We must make sure
that its work is fruitful, that it is a reality and not a sham, that it
is a force for action and not merely a frothing of words, and that it is
a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can some day
be hung up, and not merely a cockpit in the Tower of Babel."
- Winston Churchill, speaking about the UN (1946)
"Surprise happens so
often that it's surprising that we're still surprised by it."
- Paul Wolfowitz (June 2001)
"If a suicide bimber
targeted and killed civilians in Oxford Street he would be called a 'terrorist';
at a bus stop in Tel Avia a 'militant'; in Baghdad, an 'insurgent'. Where
- Letter to The Times (November 2004)
"The Americans behave
like a kind but strict unle in a pith helmet."
- Vladimir Putin (December 2004)
"If only the French
would cease to occupy themselves with politics, they would be the most
attractive people in the world."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
The world did not change 11 September, but the English-speaking peoples' understanding of it did.
That terrible day the American people had to painfully re-learn the lesson President Roosevelt had taught them in his fourth Inaugural Address in 1945, that "We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostiches, nor as dogs in the manger." For over a decade since the fall of the Berlin Wall, successive presidents and CIA directors had treated the threat of Islamo-fascist fundamentalist terrorism with too little appreciation of the true threat it posed.
In fact Islamic terrorism had been waging a war against the US for 20 years... Those who accuse Bush and Blair of exacerbating Islamic terrorism through their invasions of Afghanistan and especially Iraq fail to appreciate that murderous and pitiless war-making was already well under way long before 2003. If anything, the War against Terror was a very belated response. If those invasions had taken place far earlier than 2003, perhaps in 1999 under President Clinton's watch, once the evidence of Al-Qaeda's terrorist activities and Saddam Hussein's malicious disruption of the work of the UN inspectors was beyond doubt, the victories in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been far quicker and easier than was subsequently the case.
Before 9/11, successive Administrations of both political complexions decided to treat these assaults as terrorist-criminal acts rather than acts of asymmetric warfare, despite Osama bin Laden's very specific perioidic declarations of war against the US. Only after 9/11 were the English-speaking peoples finally prepared to fight the struggle properly and employ every element of national power to form a coherent and strong response.
The demands of Al-Qaeda were so extravagent that no Western nation could ever accept them. They included the recreation of the caliphate across the Arab crescent from Pakistan to southern Spain and the universal implantation of Sharia law. This was fortunate, because were it possible to appease Al-Qaeda, history suggests that there would have been voices raised in the West in favour of doing just that... As earlier chapters have attempted to show, since 1900 there have always been those amongst the English-speaking peoples prepared to appease, apologise for and even on occasion to laud and air their mortal enemies.
"The word jihad may
be literally translated as 'striving'. It is an important clue because,
in the distorted perspective of the global jihadists, waging war against
the West is not a means to an end but an end in itself. Political objectives
secured in the course of the struggle may be a welcome bonus but they are
not the spiritual or intellectual point."
- Zvi Heifetz (2005)
The unimaginative, bourgeois, earth-bound English-speaking peoples refuse to dream dreams, see visions and follow fanatics and demagogues, from whom they are protected by their liberal constitutions, free press, rationalist philosophy and representative institutions. They are temperamentally less inclinded towards fanaticism, high-flown rhetoric and Bonapartism than many other peoples in History. They respect what is tangible and, in politics at least, suspect what is not. But as Eric Hoffer recognised in fanatical movements long before Al-Qaeda, "In all ages men have fought more desperately for beautiful cities yet to be built and gardens yet to be planted... Dreams, visions and wild hopes are mighty weapons and realistic tools." Hoffer recognised how a conception of the past — or at least a highly idealised view of it — is an indispensable political weapon for a fanatical mass movement.
As well as an unappeasable desire for revenge for everything that has befallen the Muslin world since it stood at the gates of Vienna in 1683, Al-Qaeda acts out of the same sense of envious rage that has always actuated peoples who view the world's hegemonic power, whatever that power is or had been and however benign it might be. To appreciate quite how long ago it was since the Ottoman Empire was in the ascendant, 1683 in Europe saw the Rye House Plot against King Charles II and in the New World it was the year that William Penn published 'A General Description of Pennsylvania'.
It is often small nations, rather than other Great Powers, which have tested the resolve of the English-speaking peoples. The Boers, Filippinos, North Koreans, Egyptians, North Vietnamese, Argentinians, and Iraqis — for all that some of them might have been backed by Great Powers — were not particularly powerful in themselves, but they presented challenges no less important for the fact that they were not Wilhelm II's Germany or Hirohito's Japan. The end of Great Power status is often signalled by a successful challenge from a much lesser adversity, as Austria-Hungary found with Serbia, France at Dien-Bien-Phu in Indo-China, Britain at Suez and the USSR in Afghanistan. The US could simply not afford to allow either the Taliban's Afghanistan or Saddam's Iraq to continue to mock her after 9/11. The worst bloodshed in history tends to arise when nations make an unwarranted bid for world-primacy; no potential successor could be left in any doubt that the US was still a potent superpower more than capable of swatting a self-appointed irritant such as Saddam's Iraq.
Military Intelligence is necessarily an inexact science. To gain human intelligence on Saddam's Iraq involved having people who were willing to risk torture and execution not only on their behalf, but also upon that of their families and colleagues as well.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pointed out that even after high penetration of the IRA over 30 years, the British Army still didn't know the whereabouts of their weapon stockpiles, and that Ulster was a fraction of the size of Iraq.
"Iraq was the only
country in the world that had recently used weapons of mass destruction.
It had them in 1991, and every intelligence agency in the world believed
that it still had them. We viewed Iraq as the greatest threat."
- Senator John McCain
It says much about how far post-Watergate paranoia about the motivation and honesty of public servants had done that very many people genuinely believed that an American Administration and a British Government deliberately lied about the level of threat they believed Saddam posed in order to send US and British troops to fight and die in Iraq. Any such conspiracy would have had to have involved large numbers of utterly unprincipled people in the very highest reaches of government, the security services and armed forces.
"I apologise", said Tony Blair in October 2004, "for any information given in good faith that turned out to be wrong." This was the central issue — good faith — and the electorates in Australia, America and Britain all had to decide between October 2004 and May 2005 whether the information truly was given in good faith. In all three countries they re-elected their leaders with good majorities, suggesting that for all the conspiracy theorists and anti-war propagandists, most of the English-speaking peoples accepted that the incorrect information had nonetheless been given honestly.
"The Middle East is
one of the hardest-hearted areas in the world. It has always been fought
over, and peace has only reigned when a major power has established firm
influence and shown that it would maintain its will. Your friends must
be supported with every vigour and if necessary they must be avenged. Force,
or perhaps force and bribery, are the only things that are respected. It
is very sad, but we had all better recognise it. At present our friendship
is not valued and our enmity not feared."
- Winston Churchill, after the assassination of Iraq's King Feisal (1958)
The Iraq War should not be seen as some kind of brand new military engagement in the Middle East, so much as the culmination of hitherto-unfinished business left over at the time of the Gulf War 12 years before.
"In a world where the
only alternative is the moral posturing of arthritic international organisations
such as the EU or the UN, the transatlantic partnership is the only force
that can still offer freedom to distant lands... Then as now, the Atlantic
alliance in arms is an awesome thing."
- Editorial in Britain's "Daily Telegraph" on the 60th anniversary of D-Day
Nor was it true that George W. Bush had somehow invented a doctrine of 'the pre-emptive strike', as has been alleged. If the threat to their interests was serious enough, the English-speaking peoples have long been willing to strike first... The Germans did not directly attack the English-speaking peoples in either 1914 or 1939, but both times Britain delcared war against them first... France had been Britain's ally until her armistice in mid-June 1940 and was not an enemy belligerent after it, but in early June Churchill ordered the sinking of the French Fleet at Oran. He thought it safer to shoot first and answer Prime Minister's Questions later.
Enemy powers have not been deterred from attacking Pearl Harbor, South Korea, the Falklands Islands or Kuwait because of international law; all that such rules have done is to hamstring the English-speaking peoples, but never their unscrupulous foes... Just as generals tend to be ready to fight the last war rather than the next one, so international law covers the exigencies of the Cold War, rather than the nihilistic, high-tech, stateless terrorism that characterises the present one.
By late August 2002, the United Nations was not merely ineffective, as the League of Nations had been before the Second World War, but downright obstructive and — like many other unaccountable bureaucracies in history — grossly corrupt... An organisation that permitted totalitarian Libya to chair its Human Rights Commission and the UNSCOM-banning Iraq to chair its Disarmament Commission had clearly gone beyond parody and could not be permitted to circumscribe the foreign and defence policies of the English-speaking peoples. The UN is based, as Professor Deepak Lal points out, "upon the anthropomorphic identification of states as persons, and the presumption of an essential harmony of interests between these equal world citizens", which is so at variance with the reality of international relations as to make the organisation almost redundant in crises, as was proved all too regularly in Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Kosovo and latterly Darfur. Indeed, it is possible that the UN actually makes such situations worse by giving the impression that something is being done when it often is not, thereby taking the pressure off the Great Powers to act. As Lord Salisbury once put it, a balcony that appears to be safe but is not is far more dangerous than having no balcony at all.
In effect, through internal UN corruption under their Oil-for-Food program, Saddam was able to use the UN as a giant money-laundering scheme.
"If we were a true
empire, we would currently preside over a much greater piece of the earth's
surface than we currently do. Thats not the way we operate."
- Vice President Dick Cheney (2004)
In the modern world only the English-speaking peoples have the necessary wealth, let alone the will, to rid countries of their tyrants. Vast sums were spent in the past on the Hoover Moratorium, Lend-Lease, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift, re-supplying Israel during the Yom Kippur War and any number of other fantastically expensive US initiatives; bringing representative institutions to Iraq would now be no different. The cost to the US of fithing the Iraq War was approx $48 nillion, which seems like a significant amount, yet when one takes into account the $13 billion per annum it was already costing to confront Saddam, it represented only four years' containment costs.
By late January 2006,
the US had lost 2,237 soldiers killed in Iraq, less than 4% of those who
died in either Korea or Vietnam. Great Britain had lost 100 dead, of whom
more than 25% died in traffic accidents or training. "The number of British
killed in combat over the past year has been 12," reported the Spectator
in 2006," far lower than even the quiest years in Northern Ireland."
Seen in their historical perspective, therefore, the casualty figures were astonishingly low. Single engagements like the battle of Belleau Wood in the Great War or taking Tarawa Island in the Second World War had cost the US more fatalities than the entire Iraq War to date.
Al-Qaeda was wrong
to assume from the experiences of Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1993 than
Americans would refuse to tolerate substansial levels of casualties in
Afghanistan and Iraq. As Michael Barone has pointed out, "Americans will
tolerate very high levels of military casualties if they believe that their
leaders are on the road to victory. They tolerated them in Vietnam from
1965-68, and ceased to do so only when their leaders seemed no longer to
be seeking to win."
The two years that saw the highest numbers of casualties in American history — 1864 and 1944 — also witnessed the incumbent commanders-in-chief re-elected.
In Iraq, the English-speaking peoples had written the latest chapter in their long history of bringing liberty to places which had previously known fascism of one form or another, but hopefully not the last.
"We might have been
a free and great people together."
- Thomas Jefferson, 1776
"I am here to tell
you that, whatever form your system of world security may take, however
the nations are grouped and ranged, whatever derogations are made from
national sovereignty for the sake of the larger synthesis, nothing will
work soundly or for long without the united effort of the British and American
peoples. If we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all
will fail. I therefore preach continually the doctrine of fraternal association
of our two peoples... for the sake of service to Mankind and for the honour
that comes to those who faithfully serve great causes."
- Winston Churchill, Harvard University, 6 September 1943
"In today’s wars, there
are no morals, and it is clear that Mankind has descended to the lowest
degrees of decadence and oppression."
- Osama bin Laden, May 1998
"The descendants of
the 17th-century commonwealth, the mostly Protestant diaspora of English-speaking
peoples, will always see the world through particular eyes."
- Simon Jenkins, "The Times", 2004
"September the eleventh
was for me a wake-up call. Do you know what I think the problem is? That
a lot of the world woke up for a short time and then turned over and went
back to sleep."
- Tony Blair, July 2005
The Italians are rightly proud of the Cæsars and preserve the memory and relics of the Roman Empire with diligence and love. The Greeks venerate Periclean Athens as much as the Macedonians do the achievements of Alexander the Great. France’s moment of la Gloire under Napoleon is today burnished even by French republicans, just as the greatness of King Philip II is admired by Spaniards. The palaces of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great are kept pristine by Russians. Egyptians still feel proud of the New Kingdom’s Pharaohs of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth dynasties. Recollection of the reign of Gustavus Adolphus is uplifting for Swedes, and the highest decoration in Uzbekistan is the Order of Temur, named after the conqueror known to Westerners as Tamerlaine. The Portuguese esteem Prince Henry the Navigator and the Austrians their great Hapsburg Emperor, Charles V. A toast to ‘The Great Khan’ (Genghis) will still – despite decades of official disapproval – have Mongolians leaping to their feet. Indeed, there is no country, race or linguistic grouping that is expected – indeed required – to feel shame about the golden moment when they occupied the limelight of World History. Except, of course, the English-speaking peoples.
The fact that first the British and then the American hegemonies have held global sway since the Industrial Revolution is perceived as the source of profound, self-evident and permanent guilt. Ever since the 1960s, academics, the Left-liberal intelligentsias, and the social and political establishments of both countries have been united in the belief that English-speaking imperialism was evil. This is bad enough for Britain, whose time in the sun has been over for half a century, but the politics of the pre-emptive cringe is even worse for modern America, which is still enjoying her moment of world primacy, yet is being enjoined on all sides to apologize for it already, long before it is even over.
It was the Athenian historian Thucydides who first thought of uniting the four distinct but successive and related conflicts between Athens and Sparta from 431 bc to 404 bc into one great Peloponnesian War, the subject of his classic narrative composition. Similarly, the four distinct but successive attacks on the security of the English-speaking peoples, by Wilhelmine Germany, the Axis powers, Soviet communism and now Islamic fundamentalism ought to be seen as one overall century-long struggle between the English-speaking peoples’ democratic pluralism and fascist intolerance of different varieties.
Historians will long continue to debate precisely when the baton of world leadership passed from one great branch of the English-speaking peoples, the British Empire and Commonwealth, to the other, the American Republic, but it certainly took place some time between the launch of Operation Torch in November 1942 and D-Day in June 1944. It wasn’t handed over in any formal or official sense, of course, but the leadership of the Free World that lay in Churchill’s hands before Pearl Harbor was certainly held by Roosevelt three years later. The baton was not passed easily, as in a relay race, but neither was it forcibly snatched, as on most other occasions in history when one nation supplants another in the sun.
The way that the Suez crisis of 1956 italicised a power-shift that had already taken place raised an ire in Britain that has still not fully abated, yet it is naïve to hope that a world power will act against its own perceived best interests out of linguistic solidarity or a feeling of auld lang syne for a shared wartime past. The fact that in retrospect it was clearly in America’s long-term interests to permit Britain and France to swat the nascent Arab nationalism personified by Colonel Nasser is ironic, but immaterial. The fact nonetheless remains that of all the peoples of the world who could have supplanted her, the British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, West Indian and Irish peoples were immensely fortunate that it was the Americans who did. The surprising phenomenon is not that the United States acted in her own perceived national interest immediately after the Second World War and at the time of Suez – any Great Power would have done the same thing – but how often over the century the genuine national interests of the English-speaking peoples have coincided; and never more so than today.
‘Collaboration of the English-speaking peoples threatens no one,’ wrote Churchill in 1938. ‘It might safeguard all.’ He was quite wrong, of course, both then and now. The collaboration of the English-speaking peoples threatened plenty of people, and still does. Just as it threatened the Axis’ ambitions and subsequently the Soviets’, today in very different ways Middle Eastern tyrants, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, rogue states, world-government uniglobers, Chinese hegemonists and European federalists have every right to feel threatened by what that collaboration might still achieve in the future.
peoples did not invent the ideas that nonetheless made them great... The
Romans invented the concept of Law, the Greeks one-freeman-one-vote democracy,
the Dutch modern capitalism... Added to these invaluable ideas, however,
English-speaking peoples have produced fine practical theories behind constitutional
monarchy, the Church-State divide, free speech and the separation of powers.
It is emphatically not the case that the English-speaking peoples are inherently better or superior people that accounts for their success, but that they have perfected better systems of government, ones that have tended to increase representation and accountability while minimising jobbery, nepotism and corruption. These in turn have allowed them to achieve their full potential, while some other peoples on the planet have remained mired in authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and institutionalised larceny. The English-speaking peoples are unromantic and literal-minded, and do not dream of future utopias.
In the two political (though not military) defeats of the English-speaking peoples since 1900 — Britain's at Suez and America's in Vietnam — the operational side of events were relatively well from the start. Otherwise their wars tend to begin very badly indeed... Taken together with Germany's attack on France through Belgium in 1914, Hiter's invasion of Poland in 1939, Japan's attacks on Pearl Harbor and Hong Kong in 1941, the Berlin blockade of 1948, North Korea's assault on South Korea in 1950, Argentina's grabbing of the Falkland Islands in 1982, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and latterly the Al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, an identifiable pattern emerges: that of the essentially pacific English-speaking peoples and their allies coming under sudden, unprovoked and usually lethal attack from an aggressive foe whose assaults must be militarily avenged if honour and prestige are to be secured.
The reason that prestige is so important in international affairs is not because of pride or self-importance, but because it is a tangible currency in the realpolitik that governs the relations between states. Because the most costly wars in modern history have arisen whenever there is confusion about which is the world's pre-eminent power, anything that emphasises the true situation is good for security and stability. Today, fortunately for themselves but also for most of the rest of the world, the English-speaking peoples occupy that hegemonic place. The world is at its most peaceful when Great Powers are under no illusions as to where they stand in the global pecking order.
The speed and ease with which Saddam Hussein's army of well over half-a-million men was defeated in a matter of three weeks by the smaller forces of the coalition in March 2003 was an object lesson in courage, professionalism and superior technology. The coalition's willingness to stay in Iraq and fight against the insurgency there — while re-electing the American, Australian and British leaders in the process — was further proof to the world that it was serious about allowing Iraqis to decide their own government for the first time in over 30 years.
Both absolute poverty and the gap between rich and poor in the US is often held against the country by anti-Americans, but the fact remains that the poor there are a good deal better off than the poor almost anywhere else in the world. Over 46% of America's poor own their own homes, 72% have washing machines, 92% have colour TV sets, 76% have air-conditioning and 66% own one or more cars. Two-thirds of poor households have an average of 2 rooms per person, and the average poor American has more living space than the average individual in Paris, London, Vienna or Athens. Obesity, rather than hunger or malnutrition, is the danger for the children of America's poor, who nonetheless are growing up to an average of an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the Normandy beaches.
The hackneyed line that "When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold" also has its obverse side, that when virtuous phenomena take place in America, the rest of the world benefits. When American doctors find the cure for various diseases — as they do more than any other nation — all can celebrate... The Promethean power of free markets to provide material benefits has enriched the world. The extension of representative institutions since the 1940s first to Western Europe and Japan, then to the Indian sub-continent, than Palestine, then to parts of Asia, then to Latin America, then to Eastern Europe and Russia, then to much of Africa and recently to Afghanistan and Iraq, is also in great part down to America's willingness — to extend her birthright across the globe. When the threat from Marxism-Leninism was mortal during parts of the Cold War, the democratisation process that is America's default position had to take second place to stability and anti-communist tyrants unfortunately had to be tolerated. As with Stalin in 1941, realpolitisk dictated that "my enemy's enemy is my friend"... When freed from the isolationist impulse, the desire to liberate from tyranny runs deep in the English-speaking peoples' psyche; it was they who first came up with the then-unusual notion of first impeding and then abolishing Slavery by force of arms... Yet in countries too feudal, theorcratic, tribal or obscurantist for an experiment in representative institutions to result in genuine pluralism, democracy must sadly wait, especially if the likely result would be governments elected that were violently opposed to the West.
The stable Cold War conditions are already being seen by some as a golden age, which they were certainly not. Old hatreds have produced new terror in new guises. In the wars of the future, germs will be more dangerous than Germans.
The fact that 9/11 was not a chemical, biological or nuclear attack was a god-send , in that it finally woke the English-speaking peoples up to the fact that war was being waged against them, but in a way that did not leave hundreds of acre of downtown Manhattan as a sea of radio-active, cancer-inducing rubble.
"Law, language, literature--these
are considerable factors. Common conceptions of what is right and decent,
a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern
sentiment of impartial justice, and above all a love of personal freedom...
these are the common conceptions on both sides of the ocean among the English-speaking
peoples... Tyranny is our foe, whatever trappings or disguise it wears,
whatever language it speaks, be it external or internal..."
- Winston Churchill, Harvard Speech of 1943
They connect the peoples of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the British West Indies and — more often than not — Eire. Instead of distancing themselves from the heritage of the rest of the English-speaking peoples, as some siren voices in each of those places suggest, all of them should take pride in it. National identity is all the stronger for it.
There have been a number of sins and errors committed by the English-speaking peoples since 1900, as was inevitable in the course of human affairs. Amongst their crimes, follies and misdemeanours have been: underestimating the Turks at Gallipoli and the Japanese before Pearl Harbor; failing to dismember Germany in 1919; not strangling Bolshevism in its cradle in 1918–1920; treating France rather than Germany as Britain’s more likely enemy in the 1920s; not opposing Hitler’s remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936; allowing too few visas to Jews wanting to escape Nazi Germany; not doing enough to publicize the Holocaust once the truth was known; transporting non-Soviet citizens to Stalin after Yalta; the U.S. State Department fervently supporting closer European integration after World War II; allowing Nasser to nationalize the Suez Canal; encouraging the Hungarians to rise in 1956; Britain misleading Australia and New Zealand about the implications of its joining Europe; waiting for a century after Lincoln’s Emancipation Address genuinely to emancipate black Americans; fighting only for a stalemate in Vietnam; Jimmy Carter pursuing détente long after its initial purposes were exhausted; appeasing the Serbs too long after the collapse of Yugoslavia; failing to overthrow Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War; encouraging the Kurds and Shias to rise against him while allowing Saddam to keep helicopter gun ships; treating the al Qaeda assaults of the 1990s as terrorist-criminal acts rather than acts of asymmetric warfare; relying too much on intelligence-led WMD arguments to justify the Iraq war; and not establishing a provisional Iraqi government immediately after Saddam’s fall.
It is a long and at times shameful catalogue of myopic and failed statesmanship, but most other powers would have done worse, and a century is a very long time in politics. Most of these oversights and errors were made out of good intentions.
"Sometimes it takes a foreigner to open your eyes," recalled a recent British contributor to the Spectator. "A Norwegian diplomat told me long ago that he was taught at school, as British children aren't, that British gave the world industrialisation, democracy and football — its economic system, its political system and its fun."
Yet the phrase 'Anglo-centric' is still a term of disapprobation, at least among the English-speaking peoples themselves... Many citizens of the English-speaking peoples resemble the Jacobin in George Canning's rhyme, who was "A steady patriot of the world alone, the friend of every country but his own."
now written into the European psyche, the last acceptable prejudice in
a culture that makes a fetish of racial equality."
- Leo McKinistry
Instead of creating an outpouring of thanks and affection for the US, the demise of communism, ironically enough, made Europe safe for anti-Americanism once again... As Jonathan Swift said, it is useless to try to reason a man out of something he was not reasoned into.
One of the most common criticisms of Americans is that they do not travel abroad; only about 18% of adult Americans hold passports... Yet Americans have less reason to own passports than any other people on earth... Living on a land mass than comprises San Francisco, the Great Lakes, the Rocky Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley, Niagara Falls, Colorado ski-resorts, the Nevada Desert, New York City, Hawaiin beaches, Yosemite National Park, wonders of the natural world and almost every conceivable type of flora and fauna, as well as extremes of temperature and climate, all girt by the globe's greater oceans.
"We are happy to view
American society as both utterly materialistic and insufferably religious;
it is predominantly racist and absurdly politically correct; Americans
are both conformists and reckless individuals; US corporations can do whatever
they want and are stifled by asinine liability laws. In the same breath
the US is accused of 'unilateralism' but also of shirking its international
responsibilities. America is blamed for intervening everywhere, and expected
to save Mexico from default, protect Taiwan from China, mediate between
India and Pakistan... get the two Koreas talking..."
- Henri Astier
There are plenty of causes for hope amongst the English-speaking peoples: the most recognised word on the planet is not the name of a dictator or a political theorist but of a refreshing fizzy drink,'Coca-Cola'; on Christmas Day 2004, more than 1 million phone calls were made between Britain and America... Best of all, most Americans post 9/11 now view George Washington's isolationist Farewell Address in its proper historical context as an obsolete policy stance that has been comprehensively overtaken by events, rather like the Founding Father's compromise over slavery.
Churchill was right in his Harvard speech when he declared, "If we are together, nothing is impossible." In the last century, the Union Jack has flown on Everest and the Stars and Stripes on the Moon, and together the English-speaking peoples have brought down tyrannies across four continents, cured disease after disease, delivered unheard-of proposerity to hundreds of millions, made their tongue the global lingua franca... and smoothly passed the baton of global leadership from one of their constituent parts to another, right in the middle of a debilitating war. Their only possible limiting factor seems to have been a recurring, inexplicable, undeserved form of anguished introspection that makes them doubt their abilities and moral worth.
Just as in science-fiction people are able to live on through cryogenic freezing after their bodies die, so British post-imperial greatness has been preserved and fostered through its incorporation into the American world-historical project.
Back in 1900, any number
of rivals — Imperial Germany, France, Russia — might have snatched hegemony
from the English-speaking peoples. The British Empire was overstretched
and had no army to speak of; the US had neither a significant army nor
navy and was only beginning to discover a global ambition... A little over
a century later the landscape could not be more different. Not one but
two luanatic attempts to force geopolitical matters through military rather
than commercial means have left Germany a pacifist husk and wrecked French
power as much as her own; Russia suddenly capitulated in her long struggle
to impose communism on the rest of the world and is now the weakest she
has been since the 1905 Revolution. All of those countries, as well as
the other Great Powers of Austria-Hungary, Italy and Japan have been invaded
and occupied at least once, with all the dislocation and demoralisation
that that entails.
The English-speaking peoples, by total contrast, today know no rival in might, wealth or prestige. The most likely future challenger on the far horizon in China — not a contender in 1900 — which still has very far to go before she can threaten to supplant them. A few fanatical malcontents from the former Ottoman Empire have proven their ability to strike a painful blow to the heart of the greatest city of the English-speaking peoples, it is true, but their fury is a mark of their enemies' primacy rather than a serious threat to it. Even were terrorists to strike further, perhaps a blow involving WMD against one of the English-speaking peoples' principal cities, it would not destroy that primacy. As George Will has observed, "Al-Qaeda has no rival model about how to run a modern society. It has a howl of rage against the idea of modernity."
On 26 January each year, the Roman Empire celebrated the festival of Feria Latina, commemorating the origins of the Latin-speaking peoples, held at Alba Longa, once their principal city. The English-speaking peoples are far too deprecating to copy such a celebration for themselves, but perhaps they should, because today they are the last, best hope for Mankind.
It is in the nature of human affairs that "Earth's proud empires pass away", and so too one day will the long hegemony of the English-speaking peoples. When they finally come to redner up the report of their global stewardship to History, there will be much of which to boast. Only when another power holds global sway, will the human race come to mourn the passing of this most decent, honest, generous, fair-minded and self-sacrificing imperium.
# BEYOND THE BOOK
This is not so much
a history as a call to arms. Andrew Roberts has clothed himself in the
Winston Churchill and picks up where Churchill left off. The united phalanx of the United States,
Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, he declaims, has saved the world in 'one overall,
century-long struggle between the English-speaking people's democratic pluralism and fascist
intolerance of different varieties': Prussian imperialism, Nazism, Soviet communism and now the 'feudal,
theocratic, tribal, obscurantist' challenge of Islamic fundamentalism.
- Tim Gardam , Observer review of "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900"
peoples did not invent the ideas that nonetheless made them great," concedes
Roberts. "The Romans invented the concept of Law, the Greeks one-freeman-one-vote
democracy, the Dutch modern capitalism..." But it is the English world
that has managed to make these blessings seemingly permanent features of
the landscape. As Roberts sees it, the story of the 20th century is one
of anglophone democracies defending the planet against what he calls four
assaults: "The First Assault: Prussian Militarism 1914-17", "The Second
Assault: Fascist Aggression 1931-39", "The Third Assault: Soviet Communism
1945-49" and "The Fourth Assault: Islamicist Terrorism and its De Facto
Allies". In between come periods of complacency ("The Wasted Breathing
Space: 1990-11 September 2001") and loss of faith ("The Long, Dismal, Drawling
Tides: The 1970s"), but in the end the good guys always step up to the
- Mark Steyn, reviewing "History Of The English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900"
Roberts provides simultaneous
narratives of the countries where English is the dominant language (Australia,
Canada, Great Britain, the Anglophone Caribbean, New Zealand and the USA)
as well as marvellously provocative accounts of major events and traits
common to their civilisations. A Maori spokesman expressed this very well
in 1918 as he outlined why his people had fought so courageously for the
British Crown: "We know of the Samoans, our kin: we know of the Eastern
and Western natives of German Africa, and we know of the extermination
of the Hereros, and that is enough for us. For seventy-eight years we have
been, not under the rule of the British, but taking part in the ruling
of ourselves, and we know by experience that the foundations of British
sovereignty are based upon the eternal principles of liberty, equity and
Indeed, the alacrity with which people from around the world rushed to support Britain in various hours of peril is probably the most moving theme in the book, taking all of seventy-five minutes in the case of Australia’s prime minister Robert Menzies following intelligence of Neville Chamberlain’s announcement of war with Nazi Germany in September 1939.
- Michael Burleigh, "Literary Review"
In the past one hundred
years, four successive political movements—Prussian militarism, German
Nazism, Japanese imperialism, and international Communism— mounted military
campaigns to conquer Europe, Asia, and the world. Had any of them prevailed,
it would have been a profound loss for civilization as we know it. Yet
over the course of these bids for power, a coalition headed first by Britain
and then by the United States emerged not just to oppose but to destroy
them utterly. From the long perspective of human affairs, these victories
must stand as among the most remarkable of the past three millennia. They
were as decisive for world history as the victories of the ancient Greeks
over Persia, of Rome over Carthage, and of the Franks over the Umayyad
Moreover, military triumph has been complemented by economic success. The policies of free-trade liberalism, which in the nineteenth century made Britain the economic powerhouse of the world, were revived in our own time to achieve the same for the United States and its trading partners. In the past fifty years, much of the world has been economically transformed to a greater degree than in the previous thousand. Most of Asia has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, with both China and India propelled from socialist penury to future world-power status by the demands of America’s booming technology and consumer markets.
The great achievement of British historian Andrew Roberts’s new book, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, is to put the significance of these feats into their proper perspective. Instead of emulating other historians who have portrayed the twentieth century as a cesspit of almost uninterrupted warfare, slaughter, and misery, Roberts snubs reproach and defeatism. His tale is of the triumph of light over the forces of darkness. He is even more at odds with his peers by identifying the common culture of the victors as the principal reason they prevailed.
- Keith Windschuttle, "The New Criterion"
None of this should
lead readers to think the book is smug or triumphalist. It is a story of
falls as well as rises. The nadir of the book’s tale comes in 1975–1976,
undoubtedly, the author assures us, the worst peace-time twenty-four months
in the history of the English-speaking peoples. Saigon fell to the North
Vietnamese Communists on April 30, 1975 and across the globe the West was
subsequently on the defensive, suffering some of its worst defeats of the
Cold War. Most of Angola fell to Marxist MPLA guerrillas. The Khmer Rouge
took over Cambodia and began a genocide that killed over a quarter of its
citizens. Euro-communists formed part of the new government of Italy. Dictators
like Idi Amin (who declared himself Uganda’s president for life) and Jean
Bokassa ('emperor' of the Central African Republic) were able to play the
capitalist West and the communist East off against each other. In November
1976, Jimmy Carter, "easily the least effective American president of the
twentieth century", was elected to office.
Other notable disasters of Roberts’s story include the partition and transfer of power in India in 1947. It and the subsequent massacres that took place in the Punjab and the North-West Frontier cost the lives of somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 Indians. Although one of the most shameful moments in the history of the English-speaking peoples, the Attlee Labour Government always boasted of the handover as a great achievement.
The man directly responsible for the debacle, Lord Mountbatten, heads a list of post-World War II British political failures whom Roberts never shrinks from singling out. They include Anthony Eden, the worst British premier of the twentieth century according to a 1999 poll; Harold Wilson, who brought British politics to a new low and personified the 1970s, "an era that was deceitful, defeatist, and distinctly grubby"; and John Major, "a Conservative hack politician rather than a Tory statesman, and essentially unfit for high office, let alone the premiership of the United Kingdom."
- Keith Windschuttle, "The New Criterion"
Today, that Great Power
known as Hollywood is still doing its best to undermine its own heritage.
It has recently declared cultural war on the United Kingdom. Since the
end of the Cold War, the geographic and linguistic origin of Hollywood’s
stereotype villains has shifted from Eastern Europe to Britain. Terrorists,
kidnappers, despots, and various other screen criminals have had their
Iron Curtain vowels replaced by English accents. The 1997 Hollywood film
Titanic has a scene in which British officers on the sinking ship batten
down the hatches of steerage class, thereby consciously condemning to drown
all the happy, jig-dancing Irish working-class passengers locked below.
Their action allows the passengers in first class, most of them members
of the English upper class, to monopolize the lifeboats. The scene, however,
is pure fiction. Titanic’s director James Cameron borrowed this and several
other fictional incidents and characters from Werner Klingler’s 1943 Nazi
propaganda film of the same name.
One of cinema’s worst anglophobes is the former Australian actor-director Mel Gibson, whose 1995 paean to Scottish nationalism, Braveheart, portrayed the English as barbaric fiends, while in The Patriot he depicted an entirely fictitious massacre by British redcoats of innocent American churchgoers. Even the Disney cartoon The Lion King gives the treacherous, murderous lion Scar an English upper-class accent, courtesy of Jeremy Irons. Such movies, Roberts observes, are as anti-British today as the Alexander Korda propaganda movies were pro-British during World War II.
Hollywood is not the only offender. Recent British films set in the 1930s often portray the English upper classes in league with the Nazis. Merchant Ivory’s 1993 film The Remains of the Day was a memorable contributor to the genre. It was true, Roberts acknowledges, that not only the upper classes but most Britons were in favor of appeasing Hitler for a time. Their principal reason, however, was not sympathy for Nazi ideals but because everyone realized that up to 1938 Britain was in no shape to fight the Germans.
- Keith Windshuttle, "The New Criterion"
[From an interview with America's "Front Page" magazine]
FP: Andrew Roberts,
welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Roberts: Many thanks for asking me. It's a delight to appear in your pages.
FP: Some have called your work a “revisionist” history of the English-speaking peoples. Can you share with us one or two revisionist interpretations you have?
Roberts: I think it was Roger Kimball of the New Criterion who said that any history writing that doesn't conform to the dictates of political correctness as adumbrated by left-liberalism was now 'revisionist history', and I tend to agree with him. My book does not consider British imperialism to have been a Bad Thing, argues that the Versailles Treaty was not harsh enough on Germany, defends the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and considers the United States to have been a great force for good in the world since 1900. Once put in its proper historical context, the foreign policy of the Bush Administration is seen as being in the mainstream of the English-Speaking Peoples' political tradition, and none the worse for that.
FP: What was good about British imperialism?
Roberts: The British Empire provided good government, uncorrupt public administration, inter-tribal peace, the rule of law, free trade, the abolition of slavery, famine relief, the abolition of barbaric customs such as suttee and thugee, huge infrastructural advances such as railways, roads plus irrigation projects, and in every colony nurtured its native peoples towards running their own countries once they were ripe for independence. Compared to any other global empire, it was a fantastically beneficial institution. When one looks at the history of many parts of the former Empire today - especially in Asia and Africa - the most peaceful and productive part of their history was during British rule.
FP: What are some of the way the United States has been a great force for good in the world since 1900?
Roberts: The US liberated huge portions of the world from Spain at the start of the century, protected Europe from being taken over by Wilhelmine Germany in the Great War, called a unilateral moratorium on War Debts under the Dawes Plan, aided the Allies before Pearl Harbor, chose to destroy Hitlerism before Japan, mobilised more men in World War II and spent more money for victory than any other power, liberated North Africa, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Italy and Austria from the Nazis, and the Far East from the Japanese, launched the $14 Billion Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, saved Berlin from being forced into the Soviet zone of Germany in 1948, protected South Korea and Chile, attempted to her uttermost to protect South Vietnam from the murderous scourges of Communism, it reached the Moon, won more Nobel prizes per capita than any other country, discovered the cures for numerous diseases such as polio, spends more in private philanthropy than any other nation by a significant factor, financed a large part of NATO for over 60 years, masterminded ultimate victory in the Cold War under Ronald Reagan bringing democracy to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltics, and crushed Milosevic's murderous regime in Kosovo.
The US is presently shouldering around 90% of the burden defending Civilisation from the lethal and unappeasable threat of Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism. It's a glorious record, and one that deserves to be lauded more by a nation that all too often deprecated the enormously beneficial world role it has played since 1900.
FP: I agree, it is a glorious record and you have stated it powerfully and succinctly. I wonder why this side of history was never taught to me in university.
So give us a few sentences in terms of the key themes that you think mark the four world-historical struggles - against German Nationalism, Fascism, Communism and now radical Islam.
Roberts: The four great assaults on the English-speaking peoples since 1900 have been undertaken by various mutations of Fascism. The proto-Fascism of the Prussian militarists, the Axis powers' Fascism, the Red Fascism of the Soviets, and presently the Totalitarian Islamic Terrorist Fascism are all motivated by loathing of the English-speaking peoples' traditions of democratic pluralism.
FP: A large part of the Left, as you know, had a romance with Red Fascism throughout the 20th Century, just as it today cheers for Totalitarian Islamic Terrorist Fascism in our terror war. What explains this disposition of the Left? Why is it sympathetic to fascist ideologies and forces?
Roberts: Intellectuals of the Left bear a heavy responsibility for the cruelties and savagery of the 20th century, for reasons that I go into in some detail in my book. By believing that they could alter human nature given sufficient power over every aspect of people's existence, they tried to play God with human lives, around 95 million of which were lost in the process since 1900. It was a fatal conceit, yet they still believe it possible.
FP: What sacrifices do you think will be needed to maintain American greatness into the 21st century?
Roberts: I think that the English-speaking peoples will need to sacrifice their naivety about the true nature of war - and the losses that inevitably go with it - before they can win this latest bout of the anti-Fascist struggle. The experiences of conflicts such as Grenada, the Gulf War and Kosovo have instilled a belief that wars can be fought victoriously without significant allied losses. That was true of these localised, limited wars but is simply not true of the Manichean world-historical struggle they are presently engaged upon.
FP: Do the English-speaking peoples have the will to do what it takes to defeat the force of radical Islam?
Roberts: I fear, in the light of Congress's recent nonbinding (and utterly self-contradictory) resolution opposing the surge, the gross bias of much of the Left-Liberal media, and the present poll ratings of Sen Hillary Clinton, that the US will lose the will to fight the War against Terror in any manner that might hold out the hope of ultimate victory.
The alternative is isolationism, and the neutering of America and with her the English-speaking peoples. Her wealth will not protect her once the willpower has gone, as has been witnessed countless times in decaying empires of the past. It is, however, not too late.
FP: Let’s hope it is not too late. And if it isn’t too late, then may I ask what it isn’t too late for? What has to be done to win this conflict?
Roberts: The English-speaking peoples need to recognise that in a unipolar world they are not going to be as popular as they were in the pre-1989 bipolar world, especially when the other pole was Communism.
Therefore they must toughen their hearts to unpopularity, and instead earn the respect they deserve but doing what is right. In Iraq and Afghanistan this means fighting for as long as it takes to achieve complete and final victory over Radical Islam. They ought to view the conflict as a very long-term and necessarily painful but unavoidable generational conflict, and dedicate their energy and resources to it, in the way that they were willing to devote them to the extirpation of Nazism, Showa Japanese Fascism and Soviet Communism. They should not be afraid of threatening to widen the struggle to include foreign countries that aid and abet the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq. They need to do whatever it takes to ensure that no country becomes a safe haven for jihadist terrorism.
George W. Bush will be treated better by History than he has been hitherto by the 24/7 media, because of the aggressive way he rose to the challenge post-9/11. If either of his predecessors had put Islamic terrorism as high on their agendas as he was forced to, we might not be facing this world-historical struggle today.
FP: Andrew Roberts, thank you for joining us. You are truly a breath of fresh air.
[From an interview with The Observer — Sept'07]
Q: "Who rules the world?"
A: "The Chinese, sadly. As the sleeping giant finally awakens after six centuries, they are the ones with enough US Treasury bonds to dominate Western capitalism as soon as the moment appears ripe for them. They protect their yuan currency, are becoming the work (ie sweat) shop of the world, pollute with utter abandon, use the death penalty as a punishment of first resort against thousands per annum, oppress Tibet, have an unnecessarily vast army, sabre-rattle against Taiwan, allow female babies to starve to death in maternity wards, viciously persecute Falun Gong, and intrigue in every trouble spot of the world (especially in Sudan and African states with the raw materials they need). Most respondents to this question will doubtless reply that the United States rules the world, but it simply does not, more's the pity. For the loss of 3,500 or so troops killed in the Middle East the American political situation has been turned into turmoil, the Republicans have lost control of Congress, the Democrats look like winning the Presidency, and the nation is undergoing absurd levels of angst. The eclipse of the United States as the hegemonic world power, and its replacement by China is a matter of time. One possible hope is India, which despite having over a billion people is democratic thanks to its adherence to the Westminster model. Should India be another waking giant, then she might be able to lead the world into a much happier future than the new Dark Age that threatens from China."
Q: "Are dictators ever
A: "Very, very rarely, but occasionally. They can be useful in civil wars or near-insurrection, such as in Spain in the Thirties and Chile in the Seventies, to prevent takeovers by Marxist-inspired movements that would deny democracy in the future, since both Generals Franco and Pinochet eventually handed over to a democratic system in a way that until the late 1980s Communists never did. Dictators almost always carry on in office well after the initial need for them has gone, however, and their record on human rights is generally terrible. Presently, President Musharraf of Pakistan is the personification of a 'good' dictator, protecting his country from Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, but he needs to spot the right moment to leave, and the right person to whom to hand over power."
Q: "Is democracy good
A: "No. Some societies are so mired in obscurantism, feudalism, superstition and ignorance - often as the result of the deliberate policies of their governments, in order to stay in power - that universal suffrage would merely mean a census on the size of each tribe. In the Palestinian Authority, elections are merely popularity contests between differing groups of terrorist organisations. In several Arab countries that are presently dictatorships, a full, free and fair democratic election would probably bring pro-al-Qaeda governments into power, and thus the inevitability of sharia law, then dictatorship and then war. One-person-one-vote happening once is not democracy."
Q: "Who would you vote
for as president of the world?"
A: "The whole idea of uniglobalism disgusts me, so I would vote for a candidate who wished to abolish it once in office. The world is too diverse and its regions' needs too different to have a single government, and the only people who have supported the idea have been fascist dictators and UN enthusiasts."
[Other Books by Andrew Roberts]
What we can say for
certain about the battle of Waterloo is that it ended forever the greatest
personal world-historical epic since that of Julius Caesar... It also finally
brought to an end no fewer than twenty-three almost unbroken years of French
Revolutionary and subsequently Napoleonic Wars, and ushered in a period
of peace in Europe that was to last – with a few short if sharp exceptions
– for a century, until those self-same Low Countries fields were churned
up once more with the mud and blood consequent upon similar hegemonic European
ambitions. What Lord Byron disapprovingly called ‘the crowning carnage,
Waterloo’, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, with more reverence in his panegyric
poem to Wellington, described as ‘that world-earthquake, Waterloo!’, brought
the eighteenth-century to a full-stop, or rather to a final exclamation
mark. Despite taking place one-seventh of the way into the calendar 19th
century, Waterloo was nonetheless essentially an 18th century phenomenon.
Historians sometimes write of ‘the long’ 18th century, a period starting
with the English revolution of 1688 and ending in 1815, and it is right
to see Waterloo as the end of both a geopolitical and a military era...
With Napoleonic ambitions no longer subjecting Europe to campaign after
campaign, Mankind could finally look ahead to a period of peace and progress.
Ghastly as the carnage undoubtedly was at Waterloo, henceforth the wars of the future were to be fought with the infinitely more ghastly methods of trenches (the Crimea), barbed wire, railways and machine-guns (the American Civil War), directed starvation (the Franco-Prussian War), concentration camps (the Boer War), and mustard gas and aerial bombardment (the First World War). By the time of the Great War, chivalry was utterly dead as an element of war-making.
By contrast with today, when an enemy head of state constitutes a legitimate military target, Wellington refused an artillery officer under his command permission to fire his battery at Napoleon. The gorgeously-coloured uniforms worn in the Napoleonic Wars were replaced, by the time of the Boer War, with khaki and subsequently camouflaged uniforms, as troops sought to blend in with the surrounding country rather than bedazzle their enemies. For all that Waterloo was, as in all battles, essentially about bringing death and maiming to the enemy, there was also a tangible spirit of élan, esprit, éclat and – at least initially - aesthetic beauty to the scene.
..The enduring fascination of Waterloo is not just its sheer size, or its historical results, or the fact that Napoleon and Wellington had never faced each other across a battlefield before and never would again, or the strategy and tactics employed, or the tales of valour, or the famous and colourful individuals and regiments involved, or even the fact it was ‘a close run thing’; it was the unique combination of all of those factors, and of so many more besides.
- Andrew Roberts, from his introduction to "Waterloo"
was really dictated to him by the fact that although vast enemy armies
were being despatched towards France, they could only arrive at its borders
piecemeal and so could, he hoped, be defeated one by one, through his employing
superior generalship that had allowed him to win all but ten of the seventy-two
battles he had fought in his career... British regiments were on their
way back from America, no fewer than 200,000 Russians were marching towards
France along with 210,000 Austrians, and a Spanish! Portuguese force of
around 80,000 might also take the field in the south. Napoleon therefore
formulated a bold plan, as one might have expected from a commander who,
though he had tasted catastrophic defeat in Russia in 1812, terrible reverses
in 1813, and the humiliation of abdication in 1814, nonetheless remained
one of the most formidable strategists of world history... France had been
exhausted by almost continual warfare since 1792, and although she despised
the Bourbons and failed to support them on Napoleon's return, only a quick
victory would encourage the majority -- and especially the middle classes
impoverished by twenty-three years of war -- to return to his standard.
Andrew Roberts, "Waterloo"
The 22 years of French
Revolutionary and Napoleonic conflict between 1793 and 1815 were once called
'The Great War', until an even greater one laid claim to the sobriquet
in 1914. Fought on land and at sea in Africa, the Caribbean and Eurasia
as well as Europe, with whole societies mobilised and at a cost of over
six million dead, the Napoleonic Wars can indeed lay claim to be the first
Total War. (Although to complicate matters further, the Seven Years' War
of 1756-63 was the first world war.)
- Andrew Roberts, "The Telegraph"
>> Quotes from Winston
>> Quotes from Modern Times by Paul Johnson
>> Quotes from Conquests and Cultures by Thomas Sowell
>> Return to Quotes index, or Site homepage.