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  • Archive for the 'Britain' Category

    Radar Wars: a Case Study in Science and Government

    Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2014 (All posts by )

    In 1960, the British scientist/novelist C P Snow gave a lecture–later turned into a book–which was inspired by the following  thought:

    One of the most bizarre features of any advanced industrial society in our time is that the cardinal choices have to be made by a handful of men: in secret: and, at least in legal form, by men who cannot have a first-hand knowledge of what those choices depend upon or what their results may be…and when I say the “cardinal choices,” I mean those that determine in the crudest sense whether we live or die.

    Snow discusses two very cardinal cases in which he was personally if somewhat peripherally involved: the pre-WWII secret debate about air defense technologies, and the mid-war debate about strategic bombing policies. This post will focus on the first of these debates, the outcome of which quite likely determined the fate of Britain and of Europe. (Snow’s version of these events is not universally accepted, as I’ll discuss later.) Follow-on posts will discuss the strategic bombing debate and the issues of expertise, secrecy, and decision-making in our own time.

    The air defense debate had two main protagonists: Sir Henry Tizard, and Frederick Lindmann (later Lord Cherwell.) These men were similar in many ways: both were scientists, both were patriots, both were men of great  courage (involved in early and dangerous aircraft experimentation), both were serious amateur athletes. They were “close but not intimate friends” when they both lived in Berlin–Tizard was a member of a gym there which was run by a former champion lightweight boxer of England, and persuaded Lindemann to join and box with him. But Lindemann proved to be such a poor loser that Tizard refused to box with him again. “Still,” says Tizard, “we remained close friends for over twenty-five years, but after 1936 he became a bitter enemy.”

    Snow, who makes no secret of his preference for Tizard, tells of a conversation with Lindemann in which he (Snow) remarked that “the English honours system must cause far more pain than pleasure: that every January and June the pleasure to those who got awards was nothing like so great as the pain of those who did not. Miraculously Lindemann’s sombre, heavy face lit up…With a gleeful sneer he said: ‘Of course it is. It wouldn’t be any use getting an ward if one didn’t think of all the people who were miserable because they hadn’t managed it.’”

    Some people did like Lindemann, though–and one of them was Winston Churchill, who though still in the political wilderness was not without influence. Indeed, the future PM considered Lindemann (later to become Lord Cherwell) to be his most trusted advisor on matters of science. If Snow’s version of events is correct, Churchill’s trust and advocacy of Lindemann could have driven a decision resulting in Britain’s losing the war before it even started.

    During the inter-war era, the bombing plane was greatly feared–it was commonly believed that no effective defense was possible. PM Stanley Baldwin, speaking in 1932, expressed this attitude when he said “I think it is well also for the man in the street to realize that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed, whatever people may tell him. The bomber will always get through.” Indeed, the problem of air defense was very difficult–the bombers could arrive at any time, and by the time they were sighted, it would likely be too late to get fighters in the air. Maintaining standing patrols on all possible attack routes was unfeasible. The only detection devices were long horns with microphones and amplifiers, intended to pick up enemy engine noise a considerable distance away–but their value was limited to say the least.

    In early 1935, the British government set up a Committee for the Scientific Study of Air Defense, chaired by Tizard. It reported to a higher-level committee, chaired by Lord Swinton, who was the Air Minister. One member of that higher-level committee was Winston Churchill, and he insisted that his favorite scientist, Lindemann (who had been quite vocal about the need for improved air defense), should be appointed to Tizard’s working-level committee.

    Radar had only recently been invented, and was by no means operationally proven, but all of the members of that Tizard committee–with one exception–viewed it as the key to successful air defense. That exeption was Lindemann. While not hostile to radar, he believed the committee should given equal or greater attention to certain other technologies–specifically, infrared detection and parachute mines…the latter devices were to be dropped from above, and were intended to explode after getting caught on the wing or other part of the enemy bomber. He also thought there were possibilities in machines that would create a strong updraft and flip a bomber on its back.

    “Almost from the moment that Lindemann took his seat undisturbed in the committee room,” says Snow, “the meetings did not know half an hour’s harmony or work undisturbed.” Exercising his novelistic talents, Snow imagines what the meetings must have been like:

    Lindemann, Hill, and Blackett were all very tall men of distinguished physical presence…Blackett and Hill would be dressed casually, like academics. Tizard and Lindemann, who were both conventional in such things, would be wearing black coats and striped trousers, and both would come to the meetings in bowler hates. At the table Blackett and Hill, neither of them specially patient men nor overfond of listening to nonsense, sat with incredulity through diatribes by Lindemann, scornfull, contemptuous, barely audible, directed against any decision that Tizard had made, was making, or ever would make. Tizard sat it out for some time. He could be irritable, but he had great resources of temperament, and he knew that this was too serious a time to let the irritability flash. He also knew, from the first speech that Lindemann made in committee, that the friendship of years was smashed.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Britain, History, Management, Military Affairs, Tech | 10 Comments »

    How Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama & Crew Want You to Live Your Life…

    Posted by David Foster on 21st February 2014 (All posts by )

    …as prefigured in a poem by W H Auden:

    He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
    One against whom there was no official complaint,
    And all the reports of his conduct agree
    That, in the modern sense of the old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
    For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
    Except for the war till the day he retired
    He worked in a factory and never got fired,
    But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
    Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
    For his union reports that he paid his dues,
    (Our report of his union shows it was sound)
    And our Social Psychology workers found
    That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
    The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day,
    And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
    Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
    And his Health-card shows that he was once in hospital but left it cured.
    Both Producers Research and High–Grade Living declare
    He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
    And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
    A gramophone, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
    Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
    That he held the proper opinions for the time of the year;
    When there was peace he was for peace; when there was war he went.
    He was married and added five children to the population,
    which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,
    And our teachers report he never interfered with their education.
    Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
    Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard. 

     The Unknown Citizen, W H Auden, 1940

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, Poetry, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 2 Comments »

    History Friday: T.E. Hulme (1883-1917)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    T.E. Hulme was a poet and critic who died leaving behind a very small corpus of work. Nonetheless, he is considered to be an influential figure in artistic modernism, and more tenuously, in modern conservatism.

    Further, Hulme was an English version of a peculiar type of artist and intellectual that emerged in the early 20th century, which we rarely see anymore: A radical reactionary, a revolutionary conservative, or an anarchistic tory. On the Continent, these sorts of people tended toward fascism. An excellent book on this era is The Generation of 1914.

    In the English speaking world, they tended to be religious and cultural conservatives. T.S. Eliot falls into this category. My favorite, Evelyn Waugh falls generally on this part of the spectrum, as well, though Waugh is a late specimen of the type, and on the more pugnacious side, which I like.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Quotations | 8 Comments »

    Under Water

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    A large part of the British Isles is – apparently under water – just as a large part of the US is snowed in. The up side of too much rain is that you don’t have to shovel the rain our of your driveway so that you can get to work. The bad side of too much rain is that you can’t shovel it out of your driveway…

    Anyway, I ran across this article in the Spectator (which I used to read on-line a lot before they re-did their site and put the best stuff behind a pay-wall…) about the massive flooding in one particular area. Blame it on the EU, apparently. And super-greenie environmentalists.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Europe | 8 Comments »

    The Depression may be here.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th February 2014 (All posts by )

    I have believed for some time that we were entering another Depression. I have previously posted about it.

    The Great Depression did not really get going until the Roosevelt Administration got its anti-business agenda enacted after 1932. The 1929 crash was a single event, much like the 2008 panic. It took major errors in economic policy to make matters worse. Some were made by Hoover, who was a “progressive” but they continued under Roosevelt.

    I posted that statement earlier and it got a rather vigorous rebuttal. I still believe it, however. I think a depression is coming soon. What is more, I am not the only one. Or even only one of two.

    The second article preceded the election of 2012 but is still valid.

    When employment hit an air pocket in December, most analysts brushed off the dreadful jobs number as an anomaly, or a function of the weather. They chose to believe Ben Bernanke rather than their lying eyes. It’s hard to ignore a second signal that the U.S. economy is dead in the water, though: on Monday the Institute for Supply Management reported the steepest drop in manufacturing orders since December 1980:

    fredgraph

    In January, only 51% of manufacturers reported a rise in new orders, vs. 64% in December. Not only did the U.S. economy stop hiring in December, with just 74,000 workers added to payrolls; it stopped ordering new equipment. The drop in orders is something that only has occurred during recessions (denoted by the shaded blue portions of the chart). The Commerce Department earlier reported a sharp drop in December orders for durable goods. In current dollars, durable goods orders are unchanged from a year ago, which is to say they are lower after inflation.

    So, the economy stopped hiring, even at the poor pace the past five years have seen, but business also stopped buying.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Business, Health Care, Obama, Politics, Taxes, Tea Party, Urban Issues | 33 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    Western Civilization and the First World War…with a very good comment thread.

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy.

    The Normalization of Abusive Government.

    Would You Trust Your Financial Future to This Woman? Patty Murray, a U.S. Senator and an obvious moron and bigot..as the quotes in this post clearly demonstrate…is head of the Senate Budget Committee.

    Whose Interests Will Jack Lew be Representing? There were some rather interesting clauses in the Treasury Secretary’s employment agreement with Citigroup.

    Time Travel. Some personal connections with the past.

     

    Posted in Britain, Economics & Finance, Europe, France, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    The Next World War

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Bumper-Stickers-MA-Deport-620x343

    This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany’s major trading partners were Britain and France, as well as the US. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ?

    UPDATE: I am not the only one thinking about this, of course. Here is another version. I worry less about China as a geopolitical rival to the US but a China Japan conflict would not be impossible.

    The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

    As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

    As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security | 27 Comments »

    Book Review – Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy by Ian W. Toll

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll

    —-

    I had some time to kill a few months ago and was stumbling around a local bookstore when this book caught my eye. I went ahead and bought it and am very glad that I did.

    Six Frigates is a fairly long book that takes a deep dive into the origins of the US Navy. The book is very well written, easy to read, and tells some great stories for those interested in the subject matter.

    The book gives in detail how the original six frigates were paid for, why they were conceived, and the associated debates that went along with those appropriations. Toll blends perfectly in the book a balance of the politics of the day along with the realities of sailing vessels in this era. It is rare in my experience to find a book that balances these things so well. It is clear that Toll spent a LOT of time researching the presidential and congressional archives to pick the correspondences and events out that were appropriate for the subject matter of the book. Toll lets the statesmen of the past speak for themselves during the debates about the original appropriations and also enlightens the reader as to the politics of the day. Also mentioned are the debates about the continuing maintenance of the frigates.

    There is a detailed section about the construction and engineering of the frigates. Toll explains very well how the boats were made and how the raw materials had to be obtained – again, just enough information for a relative layman such as myself to understand the how’s and why’s.

    Now that the frigates were built, Toll explains how they were used, and again blends in the politics of the day so the reader can understand why the ships were where they were. Along with this, he recreates many of the battles that the frigates were involved in. This part was to me the most enlightening.

    I have read many times of the famous battles of some of these frigates, the most famous being the Constitution. However, I never understood how insanely bloody and violent these ship to ship battles were. Toll goes into full on gore mode, sparing no adjective to make the reader get a feel for how the sailors felt and what actually went on. This book is extremely bloody so if you can’t handle that sort of thing, I would perhaps not recommend it. But it was a very good dose of reality for me, as I had never fully understood the power of the cannon they used, and how they used it. Also enlightening were Toll’s descriptions of the marine actions during battle. It was very interesting to hear how each side would use sharpshooters to try to pick off officers on the decks of the ships during battle.

    Great detail is given to the first Tripolitan war. This is a subject that has always interested me, and it was amazing how Toll was able to even blend in the politics of the Tripolitans into his narrative.

    Finally, we move to the War of 1812. Most readers here probably know the basics, but again, Toll is masterful blending in the politics of not only the US, but of Great Britain into the narrative.

    The book uses a LOT of sailing terms which I, not being a sailor of any sort, didn’t understand. This was on purpose. In the beginning of the book, Toll puts out for the reader his reasons for this. Basically he says that he could explain each term and have the book be twice as long, or let the reader pick and choose what they wanted to research as far as terms went. I think he took the correct approach. I have no clue what this sentence from page 348 means:

    Constitution stood on to leeward before the freshening northeast breeze, wearing double-reefed topsails and courses, with her royal yards struck down on deck.

    However, it is easy to imagine a ball park idea of what Toll is saying in the context of the overall topic – that the Constitution was getting ready, somehow, to engage the HMS Guerrierre in battle. It was really no big deal after you got used to the flow of the text. I did look up a few terms along the way, but not many.

    It is very clear that Toll spent a long time researching and writing this marvelous book. It is easily one of the top ten books I have ever read on any subject and I highly recommend it if you have any sort of interest in sailing, or early 19th century politics or even just to get a flavor of those times. Toll also speaks about the early cities and how they worked to a certain degree although the focus is on the Frigates, their battles, and the politics surrounding them.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, History, USA, War and Peace | 18 Comments »

    The Mini-Series in 1878

    Posted by David Foster on 21st November 2013 (All posts by )

    Just re-read Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native (outstanding) and watched the 1994 movie (pretty good.) The book, like much Victorian literature, was originally serialized in a magazine, in this case Belgravia: a Magazine of Fashion and Amusement.

    I found the original illustrations that accompanied the serialization here. Inclusion of illustrations was apparently quite expensive in comparison with straight text, even after the efficiency improvements that went with higher print volumes, so they tended to be fairly scarce–only 12 of them for the whole serialized novel, in this case.

    More about the book and the economics of Victorian publishing here…it is interesting that the high cost of book encouraged lending libraries to insist that books be published broken into multiple volumes, so that reader access to the book could be “timeshared,” resulting in a higher ratio of revenue to cost.

    Hardy and the artist who did the illustrations (Arthur Hopkins) were able to collaborate only by mail, and Hardy was not thrilled with the first image of his main female protagonist, Eustacia…he was happier with the later versions of this character.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Media | 2 Comments »

    Attention Brits: There Are Expanding Career Opportunities For You…

    Posted by David Foster on 14th November 2013 (All posts by )

    …in the fields of chimney-sweeping and firewood sales.

    Some of this is just because people enjoy having and using a fireplace, which is good…much of it, though, is apparently because people can’t afford to heat their houses due to increasing energy prices, which is not so good.

    I wrote about similar phenomena in Germany, here.

    Posted in Britain, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Germany | 13 Comments »

    Appeasement, Then and Now

    Posted by David Foster on 26th October 2013 (All posts by )

    The Prime Ministership of Neville Chamberlain is closely associated with the word “appeasement.” The policy of appeasement followed by Britain in the late 1930s  is generally viewed as a matter of foreign policy–the willingness to allow Germany’s absorption of other countries, first Austria and then Czechoslovakia, in the desperate but misguided hope of avoiding another war.

    But appeasement also had domestic as well as foreign policy aspects. In a post several years ago, I quoted Winston Churchill, who spoke of  the unendurable..sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their good will or pleasure…In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands” which “may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty.” A “policy of submission” would entail “restrictions” upon freedom of speech and the press. Indeed, I hear it said sometimes now that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticized by ordinary, common English politicians.”

    Churchill’s concern was not just a theoretical one. Following the German takeover of Czechoslovakia, photographs were available showing the plight of Czech Jews, dispossessed by the Nazis and wandering the roads of eastern Europe. Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, refused to run any of them: it wouldn’t help the victims, he told his staff, and if they were published, Hitler would be offended.

    I’ve just finished reading Niall Ferguson’s War of the World, and this book contains much more information about appeasement in British domestic society and politics. Some excerpts:

    (Times Berlin correspondent Normal Ebbut) wrote regularly on…the (Nazi) regime’s persecution of Protestant churches. As early as November 1934, he was moved to protest about editorial interference with his copy, giving twelve examples of how his stories had been cut to remove critical references to the Nazi regime.

    and

    The Times was far from unique in its soft-soap coverage of Germany. Following his visit in 1937, Halifax lobbied near all the leading newspaper proprietors to tone down their coverage of Germany…The government succeeded in pressuring the BBC into avoiding ‘controversy’ in its coverage of European affairs…Lord Reith, the Director-General of the BBC, told Ribbentrop ‘to tell Hitler that the BBC was not anti-Nazi’…Pressure to toe the line was even stronger in the House of Commons. Conservative MPs who ventured to criticize Chamberlain were swiftly chastised by the whips or their local party associations.

    and

    At around the time of the Abyssinian crisis, the historian A L Rowse–who was just thirty-four at the time of Munich-recalled a walk with (Times publisher Dawson) along the towpath to Iffley, in the course of which he warned the older man: ‘It is the Germans who are so powerful as to threaten the rest of us together.’ Dawson’s reply was revealing: ‘To take your argument on its own valuation–mind you, I’m not saying I agree with it–but if the Germans are as powerful as you say, oughtn’t we to go in with them?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Civil Liberties, Europe, Germany, Islam, Leftism, Terrorism, The Press, USA | 27 Comments »

    The news from Britain is not good

    Posted by Helen on 3rd October 2013 (All posts by )

    The news about public opinion and political debate in Britain is not good, I am afraid. My evidence is the recent brouhaha, possibly noticed by some American readers of this blog but probably not. It is, however, important in what it indicates. The fuss is about the Leader of the Opposition, Prime Minister in waiting (theoretically) and newly reborn firebrand socialist, Ed Miliband and his father, influential left-wing Marxist thinker and writer, Ralph Miliband. I put up a longish piece on Your Freedom and Ours and my unhappy conclusion is that, for the time being at least, the Ralph Milibands of this world have won the battle for the hearts and minds of the establishment, political and media.

    Posted in Britain | 14 Comments »

    301 Years of Steam Power

    Posted by David Foster on 15th September 2013 (All posts by )

    In 1712, Thomas Newcomen erected a steam engine of his own design near Dudley, in the West Midlands of England, thereby kicking off the age of steam. (Yes, this would have made a better post last year, to mark a round 300-year anniversary, but better late than never..)

    We were told in the 5th grade that the steam engine had been invented by James Watt after noticing the way that the steam pressure in a teapot could cause the lid to lift a little. A nice story, but (a) James Watt did not invent the steam engine, and (b) early steam engines did not work the way that the teapot story would suggest.

    In ancient Greece there were some experiments with the use of steam power to create mechanical motion; thereafter nothing significant happened in this field until the late 1600s, when Thomas Savery invented a device for raising water by steam: it was intended to address the growing problem of removing water from mines. Savery’s invention was conceptually elegant, with no moving parts other than the valves: unfortunately, it could not handle a water lift of more than about 30 feet, which was far insufficient for the very deep mines which were then becoming increasingly common.

    Newcomen’s engine filled a cylinder with low-pressure steam, which was then abruptly cooled by the injection of a water jet. This created a partial vacuum, which pulled the piston down with great force–these were called “atmospheric” engines, because the direct motive force came from air pressure, with the role of the steam being simply to create the vacuum when condensed. After the piston reached the bottom of the cylinder, it would be pulled upwards by a counterweight, and the cycle would repeat. (See animation here.)  Conceptually simple, but modern reconstructors have found it quite difficult to get all the details right and build an engine that will actually work.

    These engines were extremely inefficient, real coal hogs, requiring about 25 pounds of coal per horsepower per hour. They were employed primarily for water removal at coal mines, where coal was by definition readily available and was relatively cheap. But as the cotton milling industry grew, and good water-power sites to power the machinery became increasingly scarce, Newcomen engines were also employed for that service. For example, in 1783 a cotton mill–complete with a 30-foot waterwheel–was constructed at Shudhill, near Manchester..which seemed odd given that there was no large stream or river there to drive it. The mill entrepreneurs built two storage ponds at different levels, with the waterwheel in between them, and installed a Newcomen engine to recycle the water continuously. The engine was very large–with a cylinder 64 inches in diameter and a stroke of more than 7 feet–and consumed five tons of coal per day.

    Despite their tremendous coal consumption and their high first cost, a considerable number of these engines were installed, enough that someone in 1789 referred to the Newcomen and Savery engines in the Manchester area as common old smoaking engines. The alternative to the Newcomen engine described above would have been the use of actual horses–probably at least 100 of them, if my guesstimate of 40 horsepower for this engine is correct. These early engines resembled the mainframe computers of the early 1950s, in that they were bulky, expensive, resource-intensive, and limited in their fields of practical applicability…but, within those fields, absolutely invaluable.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Energy & Power Generation, History, Tech, Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

    September 1, 1939

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd September 2013 (All posts by )

    (This post is a rerun, updated to include a link to Sheila O’Malley’s extensive coverage of this topic)

    On September 1, 1939, Germany launched a massive assault on Poland, thereby igniting the Second World War.

    Britain and France were both bound by treaty to come to Poland’s assistance. On September 2, Neville Chamberlain’s government sent a message to Germany proposing that hostilities should cease and that there should be an immediate conference among Britain, France, Poland, Germany, and Italy..and that the British government would be bound to take action unless German forces were withdrawn from Poland. “If the German Government should agree to withdraw their forces, then His Majesty’s Government would be willing to regard the position as being the same as it was before the German forces crossed the Polish frontier.”

    According to General Edward Spears, who was then a member of Parliament, the assembly had been expecting a declaration of war. Few were happy with this temporizing by the Chamberlain government. Spears describes the scene:

    Arthur Greenwood got up, tall, lanky, his dank, fair hair hanging to either side of his forehead. He swayed a little as he clutched at the box in front of him and gazed through his glasses at Chamberlain sitting opposite him, bolt-upright as usual. There was a moment’s silence, then something very astonishing happened.

    Leo Amery, sitting in the corner seat of the third bench below the gangway on the government side, voiced in three words his own pent-up anguish and fury, as well as the repudiation by the whole House of a policy of surrender. Standing up he shouted across to Greenwood: “Speak for England!” It was clear that this great patriot sought at this crucial moment to proclaim that no loyalty had any meaning if it was in conflict with the country’s honour. What in effect he said was: “The Prime Minister has not spoken for Britain, then let the socialists do so. Let the lead go to anyone who will.” That shout was a cry of defiance. It meant that the house and the country would neither surrender nor accept a leader who might be prepared to trifle with the nation’s pledged word.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    A very small constitutional earthquake

    Posted by Helen on 30th August 2013 (All posts by )

    By now, there can be nobody in the United States who is even remotely interested in foreign affairs who does not know that on Thursday the government in Britain suffered a defeat in the House of Commons with a clearly hostile debate in the House of Lords over the question of whether to intervene militarily in Syria.

    Much has been made that this is the first defeat for a government over matters of war since some imbroglio in the eighteenth century when the Prime Minister was Lord North. The reason is actually simple: the government does not have to go to Parliament over either declaration of war and actual acts of war. These come under the Royal Prerogative, which is now vested in the government of the day and all attempts to change that through legislation have failed. However, Tony Blair found it necessary to ask Parliament (several times) about the war in Iraq and got his authorization. It would have been impossible for David Cameron to do otherwise but his case was quite genuinely not good enough to pass muster.

    I wrote a blog a few days ago, in which I put together some of the questions that, in my opinion, those clamouring for intervention needed to answer. This has not happened to any acceptable degree and even after the vote, those who are hysterically lambasting the MPs refuse to do so, constantly shifting the ground as to why we should intervene.

    Since the vote, which was immediately accepted by the Prime Minister, possibly with secret relief, I became involved in ferocious disputations on the subject. In the end I decided to sum up the situation as I saw it in another, rather long, blog. It is largely about the situation as far as Britain is concerned so it may be of interest to readers of this blog.

    For the record, I do not think this is the end of the Special Relationship, which exists on many more levels than political posturing. As I say in the blog, if it survived Harold Wilson’s premiership, it will survive the Obama presidency. Some things are more important than immediate and confused politicking.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Blogging, Britain, Current Events, Middle East | 16 Comments »

    Max von Oppenheim, German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Max von Oppenheim was a German ancient historian, and archaeologist who also worked as a diplomat and spy for the German Empire during the First World War. In those latter two capacities, he basically tried to incite Jihad against the Entente powers. From Wikipedia:

    During World War I, Oppenheim led the Intelligence Bureau for the East and was closely associated with German plans to initiate and support a rebellion in India and in Egypt. In 1915 Henry McMahon reported that Oppenheim had been encouraging the massacre of Armenians in Mosques.[12]
    Oppenheim had been called to the Wilhelmstrasse from his Kurfurstendamm flat on 2 August 1914 and given the rank of Minister of Residence. He began establishing Berlin as a centre for pan-Islamic propaganda publishing anti-Entente texts. On August 18 1914 he wrote to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to tell him that Germany must arm the Muslim brotherhoods of Libya, Sudan and Yemen and fund Arab exile pretenders like the deposed Egyptian Khedive, Abbas Hilmi. He believed Germany must incite anti-colonial rebellion in French North Africa and Russian Central Asia and incite Habibullah Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan, to invade British India at the head of an Islamic army.[13] Oppenheim’s Exposé Concerning the Revolutionizing of the Islamic territories of our enemies contained holy war propaganda and ‘sketched out a blueprint for a global jihad engulfing hundreds of millions of people’. Armenians and Maronite Christians were dismissed as Entente sympathizers, quite useless to Germany nicht viel nutzen konnen. [14]

    Because Germany was not an Islamic power the war on the Entente powers needed to be ‘endorsed with the seal of the Sultan-Caliph’ and on 14 November 1914 in a ceremony at Fatih Mosque the first ever global jihad had been inaugurated. The impetus for this move came from the German government, which subsidized distribution of the Ottoman holy war fetvas, and most of the accompanying commentaries from Muslim jurists, and Oppenheim’s jihad bureau played a significant role. By the end of November 1914 the jihad fetvas had been translated into French, Arabic, Persian and Urdu.[15] Thousands of pamphlets emerged under Oppenheim’s direction in Berlin at this period and his Exposé declared that, “the blood of infidels in the Islamic lands may be shed with impunity”, the “killing of the infidels who rule over the Islamic lands” , meaning British, French, Russian, and possibly Dutch and Italian nationals, had become ” a sacred duty”. And Oppenheim’s instructions, distinct from traditional ‘jihad by campaign’ led by the Caliph, urged the use of ‘individual Jihad’, assassinations of Entente officials with ‘cutting, killing instruments’ and ‘Jihad by bands’,- secret formations in Egypt, India and Central Asia.[16]
    “During the First World War, he worked in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where he founded the so-called “message Centre for the Middle East”, as well as at the German Embassy in Istanbul. He sought to mobilize the Islamic population of the Middle East against England during the war and can be seen thus almost as a German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia. The AA pursued a strategy of Islamic revolts in the colonial hinterland of the German enemy. The spiritual father of this double approach, the war first, by troops on the front line and secondly by people’s rebellion “in depth” was by Oppenheim.”[citation needed]
    The German adventurer met with very little success in World War I. To this day, the British see him as a “master spy” because he founded the magazine El Jihad in 1914 in an effort to incite the Arabs to wage a holy war against the British and French occupiers in the Middle East. But his adversary Lawrence of Arabia, whom he knew personally, was far more successful at fomenting revolts.[17]

    Lawrence of Arabia, aka T. E. Lawrence was successful because he didn’t appeal to religious fervor, but rather to the far more basic sentiment of ethnic solidarity against an oppressor of different ethnic origin. In other words, the Arabs cared far more about their struggle against the Turkish Empire than they did about religion, leave alone jihad.

    Posted in Britain, Christianity, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, Religion, Russia, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    History Friday: With Winston Churchill at the Front

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    I am reading Churchill: A Study in Failure (1970), by Robert Rhodes James. It is a famous book, which describes Churchill’s career up to 1939. It is an excellent book as of page 132/385. In fact, it is so good, I now want to read other things by this author.

    A relatively little-known episode in Churchill’s career was his uniformed service at the front in World War I. Following the failure of the Gallipoli campaign, which was Churchill’s brainchild, he was driven out of the cabinet, where he had been First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill volunteered for active service, and was given the command of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers battalion from January to May, 1916.

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    Posted in Anglosphere, Biography, Book Notes, Britain, History, Military Affairs, Quotations | 7 Comments »

    Appeasement, 2013

    Posted by David Foster on 9th July 2013 (All posts by )

    Appeasement, British-style:  Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have been banned from entering Britain. The reason? Fear that they might say something offensive to Muslims….especially those Muslims of the extremist and violence-prone stamp.

    Appeasement, American-style:  At the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, inmates were unhappy that the treadmills provided for exercise were “Made in America.” So they were replaced with treadmills made in Muslim countries.  And even worse: since detainees objected to the sight of the American flag, it is no longer raised at Guantanamo anywhere the inmates can see it.

    Appeasement, German-style: A female Muslim student at the University of Duisburg-Essen ripped down parts of a graphic novel exhibit, which included the work of the internationally known Israeli artist Rutu Modan. Journalist Pascal Beucker says that  the university’s management remains puzzled over the student’s conduct. Indeed, they were so puzzled that: “As a result of the student’s handiwork, school officials promptly closed the exhibit.”  What about the vandal?  ”The university management said it would conduct a conversation with the Muslim student about her conduct and reserves the right to take legal action against her, according to rector Ulrich Radtke.” (emphasis added)

    Also, see this post by Barry Rubin about some revelations concerning the Obama administration’s attitude toward the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Posted in Britain, Germany, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    My longish piece about Ken Minogue

    Posted by Helen on 5th July 2013 (All posts by )

    It was actually late on Friday evening when an American friend put up the news on Facebook: he had heard from another friend and colleague that Ken Minogue had died on the way home from the Mont Pelerin Society meeting at the Galapagos. Why has it taken me so long to write about a man I liked and admired as a thinker, a great force in politics and as a dear friend? Somehow, I feel it is appropriate to write about him on July 4, American Independence Day, when many English and, as some of us say, Anglospheric ideas were codified on the other side of the Pond, even if it meant a break with the mother country.

    ….

    Although Ken Minogue wrote for the fabled Encounter magazine at the time my father did as well, my own friendship with him is much more recent. Ken was one of the founders of the Bruges Group, chaired it for some years and retained a close interest in its doings. It was through that and other eurosceptic organizations that I knew him and through other friends became friends with him and Beverley. There are few things in my life I am more pleased and proud of than this friendship and few things I shall recall with greater pleasure than the various lunches, dinners, outings to the theatre (once to see the wonderful production of Guys and Dolls with Adam Cooper as Sky Masterson) and the cinema, and the many talks about subjects that ranged from musicals and Hollywood films to serious political ideas.

    The rest of the posting is on my blog, Your Freedom and Ours.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Conservatism, Europe, Obits | 2 Comments »

    Mers-el-Kebir

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd July 2013 (All posts by )

    One of the many tragedies of the World War II era was a heartbreakingly fratricidal affair known as the Battle of Mers-el-Kebir.

    I’ve written before about the defeat of France in 1940 and the political, social, and military factors behind this disaster. Following the resignation of Paul Reynaud on June 16, the premiership was assumed by the First World War hero Philippe Petain, who immediately asked the Germans for an armistice.  With an eye toward revenge, Hitler chose the Forest of Compiegne…the same place where the armistice ending the earlier war had been executed…as the venue for the signing of the documents. Indeed, he insisted that the ceremonies take place in the very same railroad car that had been employed 22 years earlier.

    The armistice provided that Germany would occupy and directly control about 3/5 of France, while the remainder of the country, together with its colonies, would remain nominally “free” under the Petain government. (One particularly noxious provision of the agreement required that France hand over all individuals who had been granted political asylum–especially German nationals.)

    Winston Churchill and other British leaders were quite concerned about the future role of the powerful French fleet…although French admiral Darlan had assured Churchill that the fleet would not be allowed to fall into German hands, it was far from clear that it was safe to base the future of Britain–and of the world–on this assurance. Churchill resolved that the risks of  leaving the French fleet in Vichy hands were too high, and that it was necessary that this fleet join the British cause, be neutralized, be scuttled, or be destroyed.

    The strongest concentration of French warships, encompassing four battleships and six destroyers, was the squadron at Mers-el-Kebir in French Algeria. On July 3, a powerful British force under the command of Admiral James Somerville confronted the French fleet with an ultimatum. The French commander, Admiral Jean-Bruno Gensoul, was given the following alternatives:

    (a) Sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans.

    (b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment.

    If either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France at the conclusion of the war or pay full compensation if they are damaged meanwhile.

    (c) Alternatively if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans unless they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies — Martinique for instance — where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States and remain safe until the end of the war, the crews being repatriated.

    If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours.

    Finally, failing the above, I have the orders from His Majesty’s Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German hands.

    The duty of delivering this ultimatum was assigned to the French-speaking Captain Cedric Holland, commander of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal.

    Among the ordinary sailors of both fleets, few expected a battle. After all, they had been allies until a few days earlier.

    Robert Philpott, a trainee gunnery officer on the battleship Hood:  ”Really it was all very peaceful. Nobody was doing any firing; there was a fairly happy mood on board. We all firmly believed that the ships would come out and join us. We know the French sailors were just anxious to get on with the war. So we didn’t think there would be a great problem.”

    André Jaffre, an 18-year-old gunner on the battleship Bregagne:  ”Our officer scrutinizes the horizon, then looks for his binoculars and smiles.  What is it, captain?  The British have arrived!  Really?  Yes. We were happy!  We thought they’d come to get us to continue fighting against the Nazis.”

    Gensoul contacted his superior, Admiral Darlan. Both men were incensed by the British ultimatum: Gensoul was also personally offended that the British had sent a mere captain to negotiate with him, and Darlan was offended that Churchill did not trust his promise about keeping the French fleet out of German hands. Darlan sent a message–intercepted by the British–directing French reinforcements to Mers-al-Kebir, and the British could observe the French ships preparing for action.  All this was reported to Churchill, who sent a brief message: Settle matters quickly. Somerville signaled the French flagship that if agreement were not reached within 30 minutes, he would open fire.

    It appears that one of the the options in the British ultimatum–the option of removing the fleet to American waters–was not transmitted by Gensoul to Admiral Darlan. Whether or not this would have made a difference, we cannot know.

    As Captain Holland saluted the Tricolor preparatory to stepping back into his motor launch, there were tears in his eyes. Almost immediately, Admiral Somerville gave the order to fire to open fire.

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    Posted in Britain, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Last Stand on the Loire

    Posted by David Foster on 19th June 2013 (All posts by )

    By this date in 1940, the Battle of France was clearly lost. British troops had been evacuated at Dunkirk by June 4. Large numbers of French soldiers had been killed or captured, the French Air Force had been largely crippled, German armored units were marauding across wide areas of France. Columns of refugees were blocking the roads,  seriously interfering with military operations. The French government had evacuated Paris for Bordeaux, and on June 16 the combative Paul Reynaud resigned as premier, to be replaced by the aged Philippe Petain.

    And by June 18, the cadets of the French Cavalry School at Saumur, in obedience to the orders of their Commandant, had taken position to defend the bridgeheads across the Loire. It was a military operation that had been the subject of war-game exercises at the school for years, but few had imagined it would ever be carried out in earnest. The 800 cadets and instructors were joined by 200 Algerian riflemen, by various units in the vicinity, and by volunteers whose units had disintegrated but who wished to continue fighting. Arrayed against this small and ill-equipped force would be the German First Cavalry Division—more than 10,000 men, well-equipped with tanks and artillery.

    The Battle of Samaur is the subject of an excellent photo essay….there is also a Wikipedia page.

    The German attack started just before midnight on June 18. The cadets and their associated units held out until late on June 20. French casualties were 79 killed and 47 wounded–one of those killed was the composer Jehan Alain.  German casualties are estimated at 200-300.

    The German commander, General Kurt Feldt, was very impressed by the tenacity of the French defense, and so indicated in his report. On July 2, someone in the German command structure–probably Feldt–decided that out of respect for their courage and sacrifice in the battle, the cadets would be allowed to leave the school and transit into the Unoccupied Zone, rather than being interned as prisoners of war. He advised them to get going quickly, before someone in higher authority could countermand his order.

    The most comprehensive English-language source on the Battle of Saumur is the book For Honour Alone, by Roy Macnab.

     

    Posted in Britain, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Remembering

    Posted by David Foster on 6th June 2013 (All posts by )

    Today, June 6, is the 69th anniversary of the Normandy landings. See the Wikipedia article for an overview. Arthur Seltzer, who was there, describes his experiences.

    Don Sensing points out that success was by no means assured: the pivot day of history.

    Two earlier Photon Courier posts: before D-day, there was Dieppe and transmission ends.

    Pictures from Sarah’s 1999 trip to Normandy.

    Neptunus LexThe liberation of France started when each, individual man on those landing craft as the ramp came down – each paratroop in his transport when the light turned green – made the individual decision to step off with the only life he had and face the fire.

    Neptunus Lex also wrote about the Battle of Midway, which took place from June 4 through June 7, 1942. See also his post from 2010 about this battle.

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    London – Odds N’ Ends

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 6th June 2013 (All posts by )

    In London I saw this loop adjacent to the window and I assumed it was ornamentation to hold the cord for the blinds but my friend who lives in London said it was a safety feature. If you have to jump out the window you can hold this or put a rope through it and it is tested to hold someone’s body weight. Note – may not hold up in the US where people are a bit larger (just kidding).

    Beer for dogs! Not sure I get the concept but it apparently is good for their bones, as well.

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    Posted in Britain | 4 Comments »

    London Architecture

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 4th June 2013 (All posts by )

    London has some great architecture. I particularly like their habit of giving buildings funny nicknames. This one under construction with the bulge out the side is named the “Walkie Talkie” and the adjacent (smaller) building is famously called “The Gherkin“.

    The River Thames cuts London into the North and South banks and it is lovely to walk alongside the river when the weather is nice. Here is a view from the North side and you can see “The Razor” off in the distance, with the three windmills at the top looking a bit like an electric razor. Not shown – “The Shard“.

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    Posted in Architecture, Britain | 1 Comment »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 1st June 2013 (All posts by )

    Here’s some color footage of London in the 1920s

    For comparison: Bill Brandt’s photos of London from 1974 (more here)

    More old color film: New York City in 1939

    38 foreign words we could use in English

    Why so few French kids have ADHD

    Following a scary mammogram experience, a GE researcher is working on the development of high-resolution MRI technology

    Using 3-D printing to make a dress

    The trouble with taxonomies

    Posted in Britain, History, Human Behavior, Medicine, Philosophy, Photos, Tech, USA | 7 Comments »