29 Jul

Come on if you think you’re hard enough–we’re not!

A few years ago, I asked an Air Marshal, “If the government decides we should bomb Libya, will both our aircraft be involved?”

Emphatically: “No – one of them is out of service.”

Things are not as bad as that – quite or yet. But the number of our military personnel – army, navy and air force – now stands at 143,000, down from 176.000 five years ago.

Of course, when asked why the reduction, the government blames the economies which have to be made following the financial crisis. Agreed, economies have to be made, but is military provision the right place to make them?

The world-political scene would suggest not. The Russia-Ukraine conflict shows no sign of abating and, more generally, there is plenty of evidence for believing that the Cold War is hotting up.

And, unless you’ve been asleep for the last twenty years, you have probably noticed that there is a violent Muslim insurgency in west Africa, central Africa, north Africa, all across the Middle East and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Given recent local atrocities – and the un-stemmed tide of immigration – this shows every sign of moving imminently into Europe.

Is the minister of defence confident that we have the forces to counteract this threat?

We have limited resources, so what are our spending priorities? An out-of-control benefits racket, a national health service that is not fit for purpose and foreign aid – including to countries such as India which are wealthy enough to boast a space programme; as well as to profligate African states where our hand-outs disappear into the pockets of crooks and dictators.

The first duty of government – some would argue the only duty of government – is to preserve the peace in our streets and to defend us from foreign enemies. But we conspicuously fail to honour these responsibilities because we are spending our resources on items not essential to our survival.

When a breadwinner loses his job and belts have to be tightened, the household does not look first to cut back on necessities but on optional extras. And so it should be with the national defence.

I have just read a very disturbing sentence from Professor Keith Hartley, a defence expert at York University. Asked to comment on the reduction in our armed forces, he says: “We can’t fight in as many wars as we used to.”

But we don’t always have a choice when it comes to which battles we are obliged to fight. Often war is thrust on us.

Clearly Professor Hartley has not thought through to the shocking implications of his statement. He is as good as saying to any enemy, “Please don’t attack us, because we are unable to defend ourselves.”

Pre-emptive self-abasement. Cowardice and abject surrender.

It’s a serious crime to give such comfort to the Queen’s enemies. A crime almost as serious as our government’s refusal to arrange for the national defence.

28 Jul

A thousand fantasists

It is remarkable to notice how often very intelligent people say the daftest things.

Over a thousand high-profile artificial intelligence experts and eminent scientists – including Professor Stephen Hawking – have signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons.”

Actually, all weapons are offensive: a radar shield, for example, might be considered to provide such a good defence that it encourages the defender to go on to the attack. But leave that aside for a moment.

Their letter says: “Technology has reached a point where the deployment of autonomous weapons is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

The authors argue that AI can be used to make the battlefield a safer place for military personnel, but that offensive weapons operating on their own would lower the threshold for going to war and result in greater loss of human life. Should one military power start developing systems capable of selecting targets and operating autonomously without direct human control, it would start an arms race similar to the one for the atom bomb. Unlike nuclear weapons, however, AI requires no specific hard-to-create materials and will be difficult to monitor.

In philosophical ethics, there is a famous rule: “Ought implies can.” In other words, you can only be obliged to do those things which you are capable of doing. The writers of that letter say there ought to be a ban on AI weaponry. The first question, therefore, is of who is to institute and police such a ban?. Let us say the United Nations, always supposing all members of the security council agreed to it. The next question is why should any nation state accept the ban? Nation states act in their own perceived interests and so, if the leaders of a particular country assessed that AI weapons would give an advantage over potential enemies, they would naturally proceed to manufacture AI weapons.

They could not afford not to. No responsible government can allow advantage to the enemy. And, should a government permit such an advantage – thus endangering the lives of its people – it would justly earn the people’s condemnation.

The case of AI weapons is technologically new, but it is not ethically new. It has happened time and again with the development of armaments from the crossbow to gunpowder, from the tank to the hydrogen bomb.

I suggest that the eminences who signed that letter confuse the possession of new weapons systems with their use. For again, a nation would not deploy a particular weapon if to do so would not be in its own best interests. For example, the great powers possess thousands of nuclear weapons, but only two atomic bombs have ever been used in warfare over the last seventy years. Why not? Not because some fantasists in CND have managed to ban them, but because to deploy them would be to invite destruction.

I know all this is not nice. It is not something which appeals to idealists. But idealism is not appropriate in a world that is far from being ideal.

Statesmen have a duty to deal with the rough-hewn world as it is, with all its messiness, compromises and blurred edges.

It’s called making the best of it. 

05 Jul

Prayers before a capitulation

Here are three prayers issued by the Church of England for the minute’s silence in commemoration of those slaughtered on the beach in Tunisia.

“Father, you know our hearts and share our sorrows.We are hurt by our parting from those whom we loved: when we are angry at the loss we have sustained,when we long for words of comfort,yet find them hard to hear,turn our grief to truer living,our affliction to firmer hope in Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.”

”Lord, have mercyon those who mourn who feel numb and crushed and are filled with the pain of grief,whose strength has given up. You know all our sighing and longings:be near to us and teach us to fix our hope on you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

”Lord, do not abandon us in our desolation.Keep us safe in the midst of trouble,and complete your purpose for us through your steadfast love and faithfulness,in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.”

No mention of the rightness of our cause in waging war on a terrorising barbarism, only the gospel of touchy-feeliness.

“Numb and crushed…strength given up.” There speaks the church militant! I’m only surprised that these prayers were not accompanied by a rubric saying, At this moment the officiating priest shall raise a white flag.

What a falling off there has been from better days and better ways! In AD 732 the Christian Charles Martel fought the Battle of Tours to halt the Muslim takeover of Europe. Again in 1571 an alliance of Catholic maritime states repulsed the Muslim threat at Lepanto.

So here is a prayer in time of war from The Book of Common Prayer (1662) – a book which, of course, the C. of E. has discarded:

“O Almighty God, King of all kings, and Governor of all things, whose power no creature is able to resist, to whom it belongeth justly to punish sinners, and to be merciful to them that truly repent: Save and deliver us, we humbly beseech thee, from the hands of our enemies; abate their pride, asswage their malice, and confound their devices; that we, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore from all perils, to glorify thee, who art the only giver of all victory; through the merits of thy only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

And here is the second verse of the National Anthem:

”O Lord our God arise,

Scatter her enemies,

And make them fall:

Confound their politics,

Frustrate their knavish tricks,

On Thee our hopes we fix:

God save us all.”

I look forward to the day – not to be long delayed – when the pusillanimous, faithless, gutless C. of E. issues A form of prayer for a people who died of political correctness.

24 Nov

He’s behind you!

If you can’t wait for Christmas for the pantomime, I can tell you where you can see a performance today – but you’ll have to travel to Vienna for it. That’s where six of the world’s great powers – including our most wonderful allies Russia and China – are talking to the Iranian Islamic dictatorship about their project to build the atomic bomb. Sorry, I mean of course their peaceful use of atomic energy. I leave aside for the moment the question of why a nation which sits on more oil than water should require nuclear power to keep the lights on.

Today is the deadline when the current round of talks must conclude. The purpose of these talks, and the threat of sanctions against Iran, is not to prevent that country’s acquisition of the bomb, but only to fudge, delay and generally play for time and hope, in the words of the International Atomic Energy Commission, “…enough progress may be made to reassure Iran’s neighbours.”

Which, being interpreted, means to try to discourage Israel from a military attack on Iran’s bomb factories.

The IAEA  is referred to as a “watchdog.” It can certainly bark, but it has no teeth. The IAEA was powerless to prevent either Pakistan’s or North Korea’s obtaining the bomb. To what shall I liken this reliance on the IAEA? It is as if you should wake in the middle of the night and discover the house is one fire and, instead of phoning the fire brigade, ring The Guardian and ask them urgently to send round half a dozen of their finest journalists. The IAEA resembles the UN peacekeeping force, which is a wonderful institution – if you discount the fact that it has never anywhere or at any time kept the peace.

So what will happen when the deadline is reached? My guess is that it will be extended. More fudge, delay and playing for time. More ganging up of the great powers to cajole, falsely reassure and threaten Israel on the dire consequences which would follow any unilateral military operation on its part.

Will Israel accept an extension of the deadline? It’s hard to tell. But it should be emphasised that the matter for the Israelis is not theoretical, as it is for the great powers and their poodle the IAEA. For Israel the issue is existential, because the Iranians have threatened many times to wipe Israel off the map.

In June 1981, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactors at Osirak. At the time Israel issued a statement which set forth the so called Begin doctrine which stated that this attack should not be regarded as a one-off but as “a precedent binding on all future governments of Israel.”

So at midnight tonight when the deadline is arrived at, what should Benjamin Netanyahu do? Should be listen to the soft-soapers, the great powers, be reassured by the Job’s comforters in the IAEA and sheath his sword?

Or send in the IAF?

What would you do if you were ultimately responsible for your country’s security, its continuation or its destruction?

09 Oct

Dying from political correctness

I’m getting very fed up of hearing from Cameron, Obama, MIliband, Clegg, Hollande, Merkel, the Archbishop of Canterbury and every public figure in the West you’ve ever heard of that the army of terrorists known as Islamic State, presently slaughtering thousands in Syria and Iraq and systematically beheading Western civilians, has nothing to do with Islam. IS has everything to do with Islam. In fact IS is the section of Islam most faithful to the command of Mohammed to force conversions on pain of execution. Islam expanded and spread by waging war and terror from its very beginning.

This “religion of peace and love” has got a CV. Here is a summary of its imperialistic incursions and attempted conquests over the last 1300 years:

In AD 732 a Muslim army of as many as 200,000 men was defeated by the Christian Charles Martel at Tours. If that battle had been lost, all Europe would have fallen to militant Islam .In 1565 the relief of the Siege of Malta, by a Christian alliance, ensured that the Mediterranean did not fall into Muslim hands and so give them a toehold in southern Europe

Then came the Battle of Lepanto on 7th October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Spain (including its territories of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia), the Republic of Venice, the Papacy, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller and others, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire.

There was that other 11th September – 1683 when Christian armies under Jan Sobieski arrived at the gates of Vienna and defeated the last substantial Muslim incursion: the last, that is, before the one which we face at present.

It is not as if we were not told about perpetual jihad. Among a great many warnings was that issued by Professor Marcello Pera, former president of the Italian Senate soon after 9/11:

“In Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Dagestan, Ossetia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Morocco and much of the Islamic and Arab world, large groups of fundamentalists, radicals, extremists – the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brothers, Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Armed Group and many more have declared a holy war on the West. This is not my imagination. It is a message they have proclaimed, written, preached, communicated and circulated in black and white. Why should I not take note of it?”

It is not as if the current murderous Islamic insurgency were limited to one isolated region. From West Africa to Pakistan, barbarism is the reality. In Nigeria, Boko Haram, – which means “education is forbidden” – murders thousands, captures hundreds of schoolgirls and holds or sells them on as sex slaves. Boko Haram has also seized and destroyed 185 churches. In Mali and other parts of Saharan Africa, A Q’aeda rules, as it does in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen particularly and in Iraq. In Algeria, through Tunisia and Libya, the jihadists are prominent. In Somalia Al-Shabaab is a similar threat. In Syria we find the Al Nusra Front, the most murderous of them all, apart from IS. Shia terror gangs based in Iran, or backed by the Ayatollahs there, emerge to subvert, to burn, rape, pillage and murder. Afghanistan and Pakistan are plagued by the Taliban

As Professor Pera asks: are we somehow not meant to notice?

In his book The New Leviathan (1942), R.G. Collingwood, Waynflete Professor of Philosophy at Oxford,  describes Islam as “the first barbarism.” He adds:

“With the logic of its position as a barbarism, it has no option but to aim at the conquest of the world. No agreement with any other body politic is possible. Like all barbarisms, it does not believe with any firmness of conviction that any body politic other than itself exists at all: with the characteristic of barbarism which is called fanaticism, it craves to be surrounded by a completely empty world, a world containing only itself and God.”   

And that empty, spoilt world is exactly what we see wherever Islam prevails.

Collingwood describes the Islamic ideology: “There is one thing that Islam in its whole history has done. It is a negative thing, as whatever barbarism does must be: a feat of destruction.They yearn for the death of martyrs for it leads them to paradise, while we cling to life and fear death.”

That is exactly what one of the leaders of Al Q’aeda said not long after 9/11: “We shall win because you love life, while we love death.”

And they are winning: by military insurgency, shocking cruelty, burning, looting and murdering; by infiltration, because we have lost control of immigration; and by their hugely greater birth-rate.

I wish our leaders would recognise what has been in front of their eyes for decades. I wish they would admit that there is a war on and fight it. The Muslim insurgents, terrorists and the latest would-be caliphate want to kill us.

For ourselves, it is one thing to die fighting a just war. It is a far worse thing to be killed without putting up any resistance.

Forget the absurd differentiation between “Islamic” and “Islamist,” for these are one and the same. Lay aside nonsense words such as “Islamophobia” and cease the policy of pre-emptive self-abasement.

Or we shall all die of our euphemisms and political correctness – and sooner than you think.