« Pakistan and ‘AfPak’ - FB Ali | Main | "Obama on 'The Daily Show'" CSM »

26 October 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Col., great anlysis.

Let's see where "The Tea Partiers" lead us, now that we are increasing alone.


I always called the British military the, US Foreign Reserve Force. But the Brits are getting the picture...So are most of the others including the French.

The question is when are "WE" the United States going to get with the program? Its like Horace Greeley once said, “Apathy is a sort of living oblivion.”

Speaking of Apathy... 6 more days til National Apathy Day!

William R. Cumming

Okay the Special Relationship is complicated. Odd how language blocks and cultures ring down through history. The "English Speaking Peoples" that Churchill used to muster support against the HUN several times was not an insignificant choice of words.

Britain is clearly headed to economic bankruptcy having sold its treasured North Sea oil too cheaply and now unless gas finds allow the British to enjoy several decades more of relatively cheap and secure energy supplies they are making adjustments that will make the loss of "Empire" look simple. Failure to join the EURO looks a brilliant choice in retrospect as within this decade that currency could easily collapse. What has happended in the EU is that while no one was really paying much attention the EU marches to the tune of GERMANY's control, specifically through the EURO. Always remember over 400M speak German in Eurasia and don't just look at Germany's borders and that population. Russian friends here in US tell me that no longer do the young of Russia try to go stateside if they want to think long term. Instead they learn GERMAN and have extensive GERMAN contacts and because of the failure of RUSSIAN governance in particular in the arena of corruption, the GERMANS are looked on as having a system that is in it for the long hall. For the last 20 years I have argued that the resources of the area EAST of the URALS is all about Chinese/German rivalry over this century. Behind the scenes the Germans dominate even the Russian economy.

So where does that leave Britain and where should the US be headed. One approach would be to try and link the "English" speaking peoples more closely economically and militarily. More than enough money exists for the US to basically subsidize the British military much more directly than it has done so so far. Clearly the British governments now and forever more will have to face the tensions of the Eurasian populations and economy. If they don't want to be dominated by the continental powers, China and Germany through economics, energy and military power then they have only one choice. The choice for the US is do we want Britain coopted by the continental European system.

Probably the most fascinating thing about the Chinese/Indian rivalry is that the one clear advantage India has is language if English not Mandarin becomes the world language in business and technology and science. So perhaps it is in US interests to forge closer relations with all those more broadly speaking "English"!

By the way in the US 40% of all undergrad B.A.'s used to be in English with 20% History. Now over 20% are "Communications" majors. Perhaps what we have here with respect to Great Britain is a "failure to communicate" as in the phrase made famous in a Paul Newman movie. Hey over 2M with American citizenship live today in Great Britain. Perhaps more. Many might be elsewhere except that they don't speak any other language than English. Follow the growth and expansion or demise of language blocks for insights as to the future. IMO of course.

Farmer Don

From: http://www.dollarvigilante.com/blog/

"What in the world is the US government doing? Seriously.

China's government is literally doing business deals every day, purchasing assets and buying up stakes in Canadian oil sands, a Guinean iron ore mine, oil fields in Angola and Uganda, an Argentinian oil company, and a major Australian coal-bed methane gas company just to name a few.

Meanwhile, the US government announced a major international investment this week. What was it? The US announced it is going to build an $12 billion "super base" on the island of Guam."

The US still doesn't get it, and prob. won't until it can no longer borrow money on the cheap.


"Britain's purchase of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be cut from a planned 138 to just 40."

At least they won't be wasting thier money on overpriced aircraft they don't need.


To borrow the old joke about the cavalry; the function of the British as Americas allies since WWII has been to lend tone to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl.

There are about Four issues conflated here by the various commentators.

The first and most obvious point is that as Kissinger said, nations don't have friends, they have interests, which usually flow back to matters of trade and markets. It follows that if American forces are in Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, etc. then its because the American Administration of the day believes its in its interests and for no other reason. That should shut up the "America as long suffering world policeman" crowd.

To put it another way, there are hard commercial reasons for Americas activities. Complaining that no one else is "sharing the burden" is nonsensical unless they are also sharing the rewards.

The second point I wish to make is that if you think the British economic situation is bad, just wait until the full impact of the global financial realignment hits Americas shores. Your situation is much worse than Britain's and you have yet to feel the full impact. Wait for the Deficit Reduction Commission to report after the elections. I wonder how you are going to cope when the irresistible need for defence budget cuts hits the immoveable military industrial complex.

As for Britains security needs, that is up to the British to decide. I have no dog in that fight. I will confine my observation to expecting no defence department public servant jobs will be cut. As for the British demise as a world power, that is a direct result of an entrenched system of class and privilege that deliberately refuses to recognise and reward talent and initiative. Oxford and Cambridge? "Group therapy for congenital deviates", as Len Deighton once put it.

Finally the obvious question; what should the relationship of Allies be? Britain has been described as an aircraft carrier on the shore of Europe, just as Australia is on the shore of S.E. Asia. Bases and shared facilities, listening posts, shared intelligence, common equipment (much of it purchased from America), joint exercises, participation in the occasional American adventure like Afghanistan, fine words and sentiments on high days and feast days. What more do you want? If we are attacked, we assume you will make a calculation about coming to our aid, and that may go either way.


WRC - I agree, Germany is the most underrated economy in the world, even has a trade surplus with China.

But do you think we Americans could ever be that organized?

Given the current "Tea Party" mentality we appear to be moving towards Britain.

Don't take it in the wrong way, I live in Florida and we do things a little different down here. lol



You're going to blame the House of Lords (et. al.)? Really the problem is with Britain's massive welfare state and its desire to let every single muslim male who's skill set includes:

-Squatting in front of a convienience store for 18 hours of the day

The House of Lords has been the one thing keeping Labor from enacting even more insane "we can never offend anyone anywhere" policies.

Norbert M. Salamon

No nation can afford going to war, for the very war will destroy the economy due to the misallocation of VERY SCARCE CAPITAL, and even scarcer selected natural resources, necessary for the war fighting machinery [oil and its deratives, rare earth metals, alloy metals etc]..

If the USA public has not learned this lesson, and acts irrationally on Nov 4, then they deserve the mess which will come by further misallocation of national wealth and misallocation of social resources necessary for a properly working society. The Price will be terrible!


The election is Nov. 2, but I'm sure some of my fellow Americans will act irrationally on the 4th also.



"You're going to blame the House of Lords (et. al.)? Really the problem is with Britain's massive welfare state and its desire to let every single muslim male who's skill set includes:

-Squatting in front of a convienience store for 18 hours of the day

The House of Lords has been the one thing keeping Labor from enacting even more insane "we can never offend anyone anywhere" policies."

With the greatest of respect Tyler, as in America, it is not a matter of "Left vs. Right" it matters not which side of British politics is in power BOTH SIDES are chosen from the same narrow circles or predominantly Oxbridge men. It is the same in the management of British businesses; unless you have a "proper" accent and went to the "right" school and University (eg. If you are "Left", the LSE.) Your skills and expertise are automatically devalued and your opinion ignored.

The litany of wonderful British inventions that have been left for the Japanese or America to fully commercially exploit is legion, thanks to the lethally short sighted nature of the British senior management monoculture that looks down their nose at anyone who came up from the shop floor and is thus not "one of us". The fact that their entire car industry has had to be sold to foreign interests should tell you something.

I think I understand that Washington has a similar "beltway" monoculture, but it has not (yet) spread to American industrial management or your economy would be even more of a basket case.

Call me biased. I should have realised there was something wrong when I discovered I had to lift the engine of my Triumph Tiger Cub in the motorcycle frame to get at the oil filter. I compounded the problem by marrying a British girl (from a good family of course).

Norbert M. Salamon

An interesting analysis of economy and politics in USAland:

rerad and weep

David Habakkuk


As for the British demise as a world power, that is a direct result of an entrenched system of class and privilege that deliberately refuses to recognise and reward talent and initiative. Oxford and Cambridge? "Group therapy for congenital deviates", as Len Deighton once put it.

Among the most significant of the 'congenital deviates' from Cambridge was of course the King's College mathematician Alan Turing, whose crucial role in breaking the Enigma codes is well known. I do not know whether one should also include the King's classicist 'Dilly' Knox – as though he had been the boyfriend of John Maynard Keynes at Eton, he later married and had a family.

Although Knox's role in cracking the Enigma codes is less well known than than of Turing, it was of momentous significance. It was he who broke the Italian navy Enigma code – leading the Director of Naval Intelligence, the great Admiral John Godfrey, to ring through to Bletchley Park after the battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941, with the message 'Tell Dilly we have had a great victory in the Mediterreanean and it is entirely due to him and his girls.'

It was also Knox who broke the Abwehr Enigma – a success which was central to the great deception operations which enabled the Allies to fool the Germans about the locations of the landings both in Italy and Normandy. Particularly given the superiority of German armies over British, one does not like to think of what might have happened, had the intelligence advantage also been on the other side.

Actually the great British intelligence successes in both world wars were largely the product of old-boy networks, created by the collaboration of intelligent military men and other elements in the 'establishment', with Oxford and Cambridge playing key roles. It was Churchill who in 1914 drafted the charter for the codebreakers of the Admiralty's 'Room 40' – later I.D. 25 – which called for a study of 'all the intercepts, not only current but past, and to compare them continually with what actually took place in order to penetrate the German mind and movements'.

The key figure in bringing in the 'professor types' who made it possible to realise Churchill's vision was the engineer Sir Alfred Ewing, actually educated at Edinburgh Universitybut subsequently a professor at King's, and then appointed by the Admiralty as the first Director of Naval Education. On good 'old boy network' principles, he brought in three fellows of his college – the ancient historian Frank Adcock, the historian Frank Birch, and the classicist Knox.

At the end of the war, Knox and Birch – who later went into the theatre and was apparently a memorable Window Twankey in Aladdin – collaborated on a kind of pantomine parody of codebreaking, based on Lewis Carroll, which was entitled Alice in I.D. 25. It features strange characters such as the Dodo, the Dormouse, and the Dindon – french for 'turkey cock'.

In fact it was the Dormouse – the old Etonian Nigel de Grey – who with help from the Dodo – Knox – cracked the telegram in which the German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmerman, offered German support for Mexican claims to Arizona and Texas, should the country join in a war against the United States. The Dindon was Admiral Godfrey's predecessor as Director of Naval Intelligence, the formidable Reginald 'Blinker' Hall. It was he who worked out the ruse which made it possible to inform the American government of the telegram, without letting the Germans know how far key codes had been broken. Between them the three were instrumental in involving the United States in the war.

Without doubt traditional English snobberies – including those of Oxford and Cambridge – can be infuriating, and indeed destructive. And much can be said against traditional British elites. But to say that they did not 'recognize and reward talent and initiative' is somewhat over-simple.



excellent points. I believe something similar was pointed out about Ivy Leauge colleges in the US
The cruxt of it pointing to this:
"the extent that a large range of high-prestige jobs (eg Supreme Court justice) are reserved for, or dominated by, graduates of the top colleges, around 99 per cent of the population have missed out by the age of 18. "
Here's the reference:



End of relationship eh? Maybe 'coz a particular B-movie actor's gone to see the Lord (or the Devil, dependin' on what his policies did to ya) & there ain't nobody else with that sort of charisma to keep it all goin'.

Well, "the Empire on which the sun never sets" may be a thing of the past but I guess there'll always be 007 & the rest of 'em Bond Girls.

Long live Britannia!

Re: lethally short sighted nature of the British senior management monoculture that looks down their nose at anyone who came up from the shop floor and is thus not "one of us"

(sigh) Some things NEVER do change. Elitism.

Addendum: Apparently, the Brits ain't the first to describe 'emselves so --


Nuthin' ever lasts forever... not even the mightiest.


Yes ! where is he, the champion and the child

Of all that's great or little, wise or wild;

Whose game was empires, and whose stakes were thrones;

Whose table earth --- whose dice were human bones?

Behold the grand result in yon lone isle,

And, as thy nature urges, weep or smile.

Sigh to behold the eagle's lofty rage

Reduced to nibble at his narrow cage;

Smile to survey the queller of the nations

Now daily squabbling o'er disputed rations;

Weep to perceive him mourning, as he dines,

O'er curtail'd dishes and o'er stinted wines;

O'er petty quarrels upon petty things.


Mr. Habakkuk, I stand in awe of Alan Turing, Dilly Knox and many others, notably the members of the Twenty Committee and the CIGS Alan Brooke whose diaries are worth re reading.

The trouble is that later Oxbridge men awarded themselves the same laurels. Furthermore, they all exhibit a disdain for getting their hands dirty. I was lucky enough to begin my engineering training at the hands of a Yorkshire-man who went against this trend "It it wi 'tammer lad!"

The practical effect of this is that manufacturing in Britain became a dirty word and their products suffered accordingly. I know people who boast about the cost of repairs to their Range Rovers. I've personally been lectured by British aerospace sales staff about "new product features" of their aircraft that Boeing has had for Forty years.

I also note that British "business ethics" is an oxymoron from personal experience. But for the grace of God, those terribly nice, well mannered, young men from Lloyds, would have convinced me to become a "Name" in time to join a syndicate that insured Piper Alpha.

Britain needs to go through the same furnace of self evaluation and renewal that America needs. I don't think they are ready for that yet. Australia will need it in due course as well.


P.S. Those nice young men from Lloyds laughed at my jokes. I was almost taken in.

David Habakkuk


As to 'a disdain for getting their hands dirty', I think there is a lot in what you say. But to say that British elites have been excessively prone to a kind of 'Mandarin mentality' is not the same as suggesting that Britain's decline is to be blamed on 'an entrenched system of class and privilege that deliberately refuses to recognise and reward talent and initiative.'

What we never developed in Britain was anything resembling the massively strong German engineering culture. This is not simply a matter of the Herr Dr. -Ing, in his pomp. It is also critically to do with German systems of vocational training. You started with Arbeitslehre in the schools, and proceeded through the apprenticeships which provided a combination of on the job training and training in Berufschulen. This system produced not simply highly skilled Facharbeiter, but also the Meister – the NCO grades if you will – who were critical to the operation of German factories.

My wife's father followed a traditional British engineering career path – with qualifications earned at night school – and created a successful business manufacturing catering equipment. She tells me how coming back from visiting Germany after the war, he commented on how amateurish our manufacturing was, compared with theirs. When in the Eighties I had occasion to film in German and British factories making fitted kitchens, the same contrast was glaring – and shamingly – apparent. (It also made it very easy to see some of the reasons why German conscript armies were so much better than British at mechanised warfare.)

As to Bletchley Park, it operated, if you like, on the basis of intellectual snobbery, but not social snobbery. In fact Churchill's instruction to Room 40 to 'study all the intercepts, not only present but past, and to compare them continually with what actually took place in order to penetrate the German mind and movements', was essentially a call for it to practice historical scholarship. And this was something that British intelligence did, with great success, in the Second World War.

A critical figure was F.H. 'Harry' Hinsley. The son of an ironworks wagonner – not a miner, as erroneously reported in Wikipedia – Hinsley went to St. John's College, Cambridge on a history scholarship, and was recruited to Bletchley Park before completing his degree. According to his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, Hinsley 'played a vital role in supplying the Admiralty with crucial intelligence derived from Admiral Doenitz's signals'; his 'powers as an interpreter of decrypts were unrivalled and were based on an ability to sense that something unusual was afoot from the tiniest clues.' The crucial breakthrough by Turing in cracking the naval Enigma in the summer of 1941 was facilitated by Hinsley's realisation that Enigma codebooks might be kept on German weatherships, the capture of two of which was of vital importance.

As to the initial breaking of the Abwehr codes, the extraordinary story is told by the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper in his paper 'Sideways into SIS'. This pays a long-overdue tribute to one of the great unsung intelligence heroes of the war, the Merton College, Oxford, physicist E.W.B. Gill, whom Trevor-Roper describes as 'a genial philistine with very little respect for red tape, hierarchy, convention or tradition.'

(See http://www.zamboodle.demon.co.uk/rss_old/htr-sis.htm.)

In the First World War, Gill had been a wireless intelligence officer in Egypt – using the Great Pyramid as a mast for wireless interception. In 1939, it was widely assumed that German bombers would be directed on to target by beams sent by spies, and Gill joined an organisation called the Radio Security Service, which was intended to winkle them out. A classicist turned historian, son of a GP from what his biographer describes as 'a background of faded gentry', Trevor-Roper was then a junior research fellow of the College. It was because he had taught himself German that Gill took him into the RSS.

In the event, there were no spies sending radio beams, but the RSS identified an interesting stream of encoded traffic, which from the operators' chat could be identified as German. After an unsuccessful attempt to interest Bletchley Park, Gill decided that he and Trevor-Roper would attempt to decode it themselves – and when Trevor-Roper broke one of the codes, they realised that they had stumbled upon the wireless transmissions of the Abwehr.

After the decryption was handed over to Bletchley, where it was dealt with by Knox and Lytton Strachey's elder brother Oliver, Trevor-Roper ran the unit in the SIS (MI6) which collated all the information thus produced – in precisely the way that Churchill had envisaged: recruiting another Oxford historian, Charles Stuart, and two Oxford philosophers, Gilbert Ryle and Stuart Hampshire to help him.

The unit was crucial to making possible the great deception operations, because it was Trevor-Roper and his colleagues who were able to ascertain that the Germans had swallowed the bait.

On the basis of the information from Bletchley Park, moreover, Trevor-Roper and Hampshire were able to see clearly, by November 1942, the depth of the underlying divisions between the German General Staff and the Nazi Party. And they concluded that the overtures that were being made by the Abwehr chief Admiral Canaris for a meeting in Spain with his British counterpart were not a ruse – as the overtures from supposed anti-Hitler conspirators which had produced the disastrous meeting at Venlo in November 1939, which helped the Germans roll up the SIS's European networks, had been.

As is now clear, the decision not even to attempt to ascertain whether there was a real possibility of engineering a coup attempt – doing a 'butcher's cleaver' move, to use Colonel's Lang's phrase – was Churchill's, and Churchill's alone. A major reason for this appears to have been that Churchill still believed that the fundamental enemy in the Second World War, as in the First, was 'Prussian militarism'. Steeped as he was in classical and seventeenth-century history, Trevor-Roper saw Nazism as a combination of a nihilistic millenarian cult, and the kind of 'Caesarist' tyranny described by Edward Gibbon. While he despised the conservative Germans of the General Staff for the 'devil's pact' they had made with Hitler, he fully realised how different their aims and aspirations were from those of the Nazis, and saw an opportunity of exploiting the gulf.

The figure whose 'talent and initiative' were – very deliberately – not recognised was Gill. But this was because the RSS was taken over by the SIS: the organisation which, alone among the significant British intelligence organisations in the Second World War, was deeply averse to make use of the talents of graduates from Oxford and Cambridge (with the exception of those of Kim Philby.)

In the event, it was the control which SIS succeeded in establishing over the material from Bletchley Park which allowed it to maintain its position, despite the Venlo fiasco, and to survive the war unreformed. What followed the takeover was a kind of purge by the 'Grandees of M.I.6' of key figures in the identification of the Abwehr traffic. Concluding his article, Trevor-Roper writes:

The real genius of the affair, Major Gill was also deliberately overlooked. Left to find other employment. He became a radar officer and an expert on captured German equipment. Under the new regime, his name was never mentioned. Although I do not think that he would have found himself at ease among the self-important mandarins of S.I.S., the manner of his extrusion seemed to me rather shabby. After all, he had thrown them a lifebelt which, after they, had run their own ship aground, had enabled them to be winched to safety. And afterwards, on dry land, to congratulate themselves on what they should claim as their achievement.

Charles I

Always with the beating up on Canada! We're buying 65 F35's, Britain just cut its order to 40. Where do we aim, 'em? sir?

I'm voting for the guy who says he'll cancel them.

Patrick Lang


How many battalions of infantry? pl

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad