hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Friday, 14 July 2017

War or Peace?

“An Englishman's self-assurance is founded on his being a citizen of the best organised state in the world and on the fact that, as an Englishman, he always knows what to do, and that whatever he does as an Englishman is unquestionably correct".
War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy

Alphen, Netherlands. Quatorze juillet. Interesting week. On Monday I drove some 600 kilometres from here to Strasbourg to address senior executives on matters strategic. On Tuesday I drove some 500 kilometres from Strasbourg to Brussels to address senior British military commanders. All went well until I reached Belgium, which was closed for repairs. And then I flew from Brussels to London, and my own failing state, the fabric of which, both actual and political, seems these days to be in a permanent state of disrepair. On Thursday I addressed the Air Power Conference on future war in which I painted a Monck-esque picture of hybrid, hyper, and kinetic war combined creating chaos across a Europe made brittle and vulnerable by years of strategic pretence.  With politicians all too keen to avoid hard choices, and senior civil servants all too career keen to protect them from such choices, neither Britain, nor any other European state is at all serious about addressing the very real possibility of such a war. Rather, they prefer to live in the twilight world of an implicit Ten Year Rule in which nothing bad can happen if it costs too much.

Talking of chaos it is perhaps fitting that I write this piece on Bastille Day. With Macron and Trump reviewing shiny military stuff in Paris, on the centennial of the arrival of the Dough Boys in France, the symbolisms of power and pretence are at their most stark. Issues of war and peace seen through the lens not of history or strategy, but of ceremony and appearance.  In Europe’s post-strategic age appearance is all the rage. And yet the symbolism of Macron with Trump also matters for the British. Britain’s entire security and defence strategy relies on being close to, and exerting some influence over, the Americans. Make no mistake, Trump is with Macron (rather than May) because the Trump world-view can be essentially broken down to winners and losers. Right now, Trump sees Macron (and by extension France) as a ‘winner’, and May (and Britain) as a ‘real loser’. Result? Britain is failing to exert influence in Washington, as well as losing influence in Berlin and Paris.

Political London is a mess. The smell is awful. Made worse by the huge posters promoting a new ‘blockbuster’ film “Dunkirk”, which commemorates another moment of ‘glorious’ British failure.  Dunkirk happened because all power is relative. In 1940 Britain’s army was defeated because an enemy had spent more and better for a significant period proved it on the beaches of the Pas de Calais. It happened because at a time of danger a powerful state put sound money before sound defence? It happened because a powerful state chose to recognise only as much threat as it thought it could afford? It happened because of the the gap between what a state said what it must do to secure and defend itself, and what it was actually prepared to do. A gap that became so wide as to make the Potemkin preservation of appearance more important than either the protection of its people, or projection of its influence and effect. That state was Maginot France. Maginot Britain?

Britain’s credibility and influence is fast declining.  Specifically, and consequently, Britain is not spending anywhere near well enough on either security or defence (the two are very different) to meet the risks, threats, and indeed opportunities as established in Britain’s own National Security Strategy. Rather, London is retreating into the appeasement of reality, and a kind of defence theatre d'absurde in which a proud but increasingly cardboard cut-out military desperately tries to close its many gaps with a ‘can do’ spirit, and by sending one man (or woman) here, a little force there, armed with a little bit of everything, but not much of anything. Rule Britannia? I don’t think so. Indeed, I can almost hear Chancellor Phillip Hammond in the wake of a coming security shock saying “Don’t worry. We were defeated within our national means”.

Ultimately, the rational for what passes as current British security and defence policy comes down to an interpretation of the word 'security' - the first duty of the state. For Phillip Hammond 'security' is purely financial and economic.  Prime Minister May rather confirmed that in Prime Minister’s Questions when she referred to the national debt being at a peacetime high. Firstly, she is wrong. Between 1922 and 1955 both Britain’s net public debt was far higher than today. Second, Britain is not at peace. Britain maybe not at war, but it is certainly no longer at peace.

Consequently, Hammond's economist's 'in an ideal world, all things being equal' approach to security and defence, in which all threats must meet his deficit reduction target, is becoming daily more dangerous. Or, to put it another way, Britain is locked into a race to the bottom between preparing for either a major economic shock or a major security shock...but not both. You takes yer pick, you yer makes yer choice. Balance?  Forget it! As an informed citizen I am frankly appalled by my great country’s across the board retreat of late into strategic pretence, and how such retreat is making Europe and the wider world more, not less dangerous. You don’t believe me? Look around you.

As I drove back from Brussels Airport to my home yesterday morning I was thinking of Churchill and the ‘wilderness years’, and wondering after a week of discussions whether Britain can escape the political and strategic wilderness in which it is now lost.  It would take real leadership and I see neither the talent nor the capacity for such leadership in London today. Rather, what Tolstoy wrote of his fellow Russians seems better applied to Britain’s elite these days. “A Russian is self-assured simply because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe in the possibility of knowing anything fully.”

War or Peace? Britain must end the strategic pretence and finally decide what kind of power it seeks to be. Pocket superpower or yet another weak European? This is a big question for the choice Britain makes could well help decide whether it is indeed future war or future peace, future defence and deterrence or future defeat.

Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 6 July 2017

2020: World of War

“We who have put this book together know very well that the only forecast that can be made with any confidence of the course and outcome of another world war, should there be one, is that nothing will happen exactly as we have shown here”.
The Third World War, August 1985: A Future History
General Sir John Hackett

Alphen, Netherlands. 6 July. With the world stuttering towards a possible armed confrontation between the US and North Korea, and between superpower America and proto-superpower China, it seems appropriate to announce the publication of a new book in which I have made two very substantial contributions. Entitled 2020: World of War (London: Hodder) the book is edited by my friend Professor Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson, and is (of course) brilliant and very reasonably priced.

The book sets out a series of dangerous, but plausible scenarios that “depicts twenty-first century international security as a complex of interwoven pressures, challenges, hazards and threats”.  Critically, the book avoids overly-military prescriptions and advocates the need for a real joined-up government and governance approach to dealing with complex crises. At the heart of the book there are seven scenarios, although the threat posed by Russia’s strategic challenge is also considered, together with a piece entitled Strategy in Breadth, which captures the essence of both the challenge and the much-needed strategic response.

Scenario 1: Unravelling Imperiums: China and the US in the South-East Asia Region. China in 2020 is on the verge of re-establishing one of its greatest historic achievements; reclaiming its place at the centre of world affairs.  However, Beijing’s actions are clumsy and aggressive leading to dangerous frictions across Asia-Pacific, but most particularly in south-east Asia.  What if strategic miscalculations by China are matched by similar mis-steps in other key capitals?

Scenario 2: The Afghan Factor. Afghanistan in 2020 is still a failing state, and unlikely to be stable for the foreseeable future. India and Pakistan continue to struggle, both overtly and covertly, to assert dominant control over southern Afghanistan. As the West retreats in the wake of a failed stabilisation mission and tensions mount a combination of poor policy decisions in Islamabad and New Delhi, terrorist attacks, transnational organised crime, and nuclear proliferation results in that worst of all nightmares; a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

Scenario 3: The Caliphate Resurrected: Cairo in Chaos. In 2020 having lost Mosul and Raqqa, and with Egypt collapsing, a reinvigorated IS establishes a powerful base in lawless Libya.  As IS shifts the centre of gravity of the campaign to create a new Caliphate they come to an uneasy but enduring alliance with Al Qaeda. Specifically, they see an opportunity to exploit the huge numbers of disaffected migrants trapped in camps across southern Europe. They set out to recreate the Ummayid Caliphate of the 8th century across North Africa and Southern Europe. The campaign fails because most migrants want nothing to do with either AQ or IS, but not before several months of lawlessness is endured as gangs of terrorists roam across southern Europe, and co-ordinated terrorist attacks take place in the cities of northern and western Europe.

Scenario 4: The Passenger in Seat 7B. In 2020 a hitherto virtual threat becomes real as an individual exploits the interplay between criminality, terrorism, advanced weaponry and the darker reaches of cyber-space, to force the effective collapse of UK border security.

Scenario 5: Dark Code: The Cyber-security Challenge. A massive cyber-attack takes place on the British power grid. Several people are killed and many injured as a result of the attack. However, only later does the geostrategic significance of the attack become apparent…
    
Scenario 6: A Disunited Kingdom: UK Domestic Security. Brexit has many consequences, but perhaps the least understood is the impact on the Union itself. As Scotland gains independence the bonds between the four home nations fray and border security becomes an internal issue for the islands for the first time since the 1998 Good Friday agreement led to the removal of the border between the UK and the Irish Republic. On the UK mainland the impact is far, far greater as internal border security is forced onto to the agenda for the first time since the Union of Crowns in 1603.

Scenario 7: Operation Imperfect Storm. Based on a scenario I have been offering in various speeches and lectures for some five years now this scenario poses THE most sobering question of all. What if several (or all) of these scenarios occurred simultaneously? Fantasy? Think about it. None of the scenarios are entirely implausible in the twenty-first century, which means they could in some form all be plausible together – a meltdown in the Middle East, Russian cyber and territorial aggression in central and eastern Europe, and armed conflict in the South China Sea between the US and China.

The message of the book is clear: if peace is to be preserved as some sort of recognisable state, and today’s complex international security environment is to be managed effectively to that end, policy-makers and strategists must have the capacity and the confidence to deal with a wide-range of evolving security challenges.

Former NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson says of the book, “This informed and expert book examines credible scenarios of what might happen, could happen, and hopefully won’t happen”.

2020: World of War…or big strategy for dumb, little leaders. As the Yanks like to say, "have a nice day".

Julian Lindley-French 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Europe’s Twin Crises: Migration and Terrorism

Alphen, Netherlands. 3 July. This blog coincides with the publication of a new book edited by Professor Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson entitled 2020: World of War (London: Hodder) in which I have a chapter. A second blog on the book itself will be published later in the week.

The mission of this blog is to confront difficult policy and strategy issues.  With badly-managed hyper-immigration into Europe once again on the rise this blog poses two policy questions.  What is the link between migration and terrorism? What level of increased risk will be imposed on European citizens through the importing of conflicts made elsewhere whilst Europe’s leaders fail to find a balance between security and humanity?  This blog makes no judgement on those seeking a better life in Europe. As an immigrant myself I would do exactly the same if faced with the same circumstances.  It takes incredible courage/desperation to set off into the unknown in the hands, and at the mercy of the unscrupulous. However, migration and terrorism are twin crises that when combined with mismanagement in Europe enable a link between them.

Relevant Facts

The International Office of Migration says that thus far in 2017 some 95,768 people have entered Europe illegally across the Mediterranean. Some 85% have made the crossing from Libya to Italy, with over 500,000 having passed through Italian ports since 2014. In 2016 over 10,000 arrived in Spain from Morocco, a 46% increase over the previous year.  A leaked German government report of May this year suggested up to 6 million illegal immigrants were waiting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, with over 1500 having died already in 2017 trying to make the crossing. One Spanish official warns that Spain is facing an “avalanche” of people. 

The other day I gave a talk in Vienna to language professionals on the front-line of migration management. My speech focused on the relationship between badly-managed hyper-immigration and terrorism. My essential point was that most European leaders will do almost anything to avoid answering the questions I have posed at the outset of this blog, rendering impossible the making of policy and the crafting of strategy. Consequently, the risk grows daily to the very people to whom, and for whom, they are meant to be responsible. Three recent tragedies in my own country, Britain, serve to illustrate the extent to which political leaders are failing, even refusing, to protect their own citizens.  

Home-grown or imported?

Politicians talks increasingly of home-grown terrorism when atrocities are committed. Really? The recent attacks in the UK were all the products (save one) of immigration. The suicide bombing in Manchester, which killed twenty-two and injured many more, was committed by a first generation Briton of Libyan descent whose family had been granted political asylum in the 1990s. Two of the three terrorists who committed the London Bridge attacks were born in Pakistan and Morocco respectively, whilst the third was of Moroccan-Italian extraction. Only the (alleged) terrorist who attacked Muslims outside a mosque in North London identified himself with what might be termed extremist nativist identity.

Last month Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that over the last year the UK population grew by the largest number since 1947, when huge number of British servicemen returned to the country in the wake of World War Two. According to the Head of the Population Estimation Unit at the ONS, “net international migration continued to be the main driver”. This would tally with recent Home Office (interior ministry) figures that suggest that each year up to 250,000 immigrants simply disappear from official view.  In other words, the British government has no clue who is in the country, making the crafting of security policy almost impossible. Much the same can be said for the rest of Europe.  From a security perspective this is an unacceptable situation.

Strategic Implications

Strategic implications?  Control of immigration has clearly been lost by the British and other European states.  Consequently, trust is breaking down between Europe’s citizens and their states/EU over this issue.  It is a breakdown of trust that accelerates in the wake of every terrorist attack creating the political space for so-called ‘populists’ to exploit, which in turn widens the gap between communities within society.

Societal challenges? It is in that gap between communities where terrorism is so often spawned. Even if migrants eventually gain the right to stay in Europe, as most do, there is little evidence of their being properly integrated into society.  Britain again.  Trevor Phillips, the former Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality warned recently that ‘communities’ in Britain now live “parallel lives” with little contact between them.

Policy assumptions? London is seemingly incapable of deporting all but a few of those who have no right to be in the country, and given the growing pressure from huge numbers of people from war-torn and impoverished societies to get into Britain, such pressures will only grow.  As will the threat from terrorism. As Mosul and Raqqa fall Islamic State terrorists will disperse with many of them doubtless seeking to return to Europe from the Levant hell bent on causing carnage. 

Analysis? The refusal of Europe’s elite to recognise the link between badly-managed hyper-immigration and terrorism prevents coherent policy and strategy being crafted to deal with either or both. It is this failure of policy that provides the sombre answer to the questions I posed at the outset of this blog. Consequently, the level of risk imposed on British/European citizens will increase steadily through a mix of political incompetence and misplaced political correctness. Result? Many more Europeans – black, white, and people of faith and of no faith – will die because leaders lack the political courage to do what is necessary to make their own people safe.

What to do?

The strategic aim of policy should be an end to uncontrolled, badly-managed hyper-immigration, the re-establishment of control, the effective management of sustainable levels of immigration, and a proper understanding, and thus separation of the migration crisis from the terrorism crisis, via considered and properly applied policy and strategy.  The ‘solution’ to what is a systemic crisis, and the confluence between hyper-migration and terrorism, will require political courage, effective management, sustained efforts at integration, and long-term investment in source countries over the short, medium, and longer-terms.

Effective management: People with a right to asylum must be assessed quickly and afforded sanctuary. However, asylum must not be a backdoor route to permanent residency in Europe.  Those with no right to stay must be returned from whence they came, albeit in a manner consistent with Europe’s commitment to humane treatment.  Those who discard their papers in an attempt to thwart identification must be assessed by language and dialect experts.  More routes should be made available for properly managed immigration to Europe. Border checks should be rigorously enforced with a proper EU-wide effort to support the front-line states such as Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain.  In Britain’s case identity cards must finally be issued to everyone in the UK. It is simply unacceptable that a country that is so obviously a target for terrorism has little or no idea who is in the country. Efforts by legions of human rights lawyers to thwart due process in deportation cases must be resisted.

Integration: Far more systematic efforts must be made to foster social cohesion between host societies and immigrants. Efforts could include the recruiting of Imams born in their host country, rather than importing them from abroad.  Much greater efforts also need to be made in language training.  In fact, once such communities are established many second and third generation citizens do very well at school and in broader education. They must be afforded every opportunity so to do. In return for sustained efforts to promote better integration European governments must also work with communities to promote deradicalisation. The flow of money from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States into Europe in support of radical interpretations of Islam, such as Wahhabism, must be stopped, whatever the diplomatic consequences. The Times today reveals that London has suppressed a report that identifies the scale of financial support from Saudi Arabia for such extremism.

Investment: More sustained efforts is needed by all Europeans via the EU to inform and deter would be migrants from undertaking such a perilous gamble in the first place. This will also require the sustained application of aid and development in source countries.  Too often aid and development by European states reflects more the ticking of politically-correct boxes than a systematic and rigorous outcomes-driven application of taxpayer’s money in pursuit of strategic security goals.
 
Mind the Gap

Europe is not as yet a Kumbaya society. Badly-managed hyper-immigration involves importing into Europe the very stresses, problems, and indeed dangers, from which migrants are fleeing. Yes, there can be an upside to immigration, but there are also huge dangers for Europeans that range from crime to terrorism, as well as the creeping paralysis of effective foreign, security and defence policies as European leaders seek to ‘buy off’ diverse groups within society. Until Europe’s leaders properly confront the link between migration and terrorism the gap between what the politicians say, and the experience ordinary people face on the street, will continue to widen with profound implications for the very trust upon which society relies.
 
For Britain the implications of the twin crises are sobering. A state that cannot control its borders, does not know who is in the country, cannot house those people in the country properly, provide security, and which is led by people who refuse to face reality – Left and Right – is a country in terminal decline.  That, I fear, is the future for my once proud country, but one which could also apply equally to the rest of Europe.  Make no mistake, Europe’s society-bending, society-changing hyper-immigration crisis is only just beginning, and Europe’s leaders are in denial. What more could the terrorists want?

Unregulated hyper-immigration would always pose a policy challenge to European leaders. However, it is the confluence of huge and fast flows of unregulated migrants with Salafist jihadism that poses a real threat to Europe. That might seem a statement of the blindingly obvious. Sadly, it is not for too many of Europe’s in-denial leaders. For once Europe’s leaders must have the courage to face reality, and be honest about it.

Julian Lindley-French