The British Empire was founded by accident, run by brilliant amateurs and wrecked by professionals. The United States was founded by design, run by the people and wrecked by professionals.
The terrible decline in the conduct of the professional classes (think lawyers or climate “scientists,” for instance) certainly leaves room for the gifted amateur. But it does not leave room for the ungifted amateur. Yet in the two most important seats of power on the planet – the White House and 10 Downing Street – sit two ungifted, inept amateurs.
World War III could be the result.
In the days of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, both of them tough and decisive, few thought it a good idea to attack U.S. or British interests or territories. When Mr. Leopoldo Galtieri tried it on, he got an unpleasant surprise: Britain, despite having slashed its defense forces to the bone, was still able to mount a courageous campaign half across the world, utterly defeating his tyrannous regime, recovering the Falkland Islands and restoring something like democracy to Argentina.
The hand-wringers and professional-outrage merchants of the far left, of course, whined that the “militarism” of Reagan and Thatcher was a threat to world peace. It wasn’t. In fact, it led to the toppling of Soviet Communism, which was then the single greatest menace to the stability and prosperity of the planet.
The totalitarian regimes of the world, still in a majority, alas, knew full well that while Reagan and Thatcher were in charge there would be no nonsense. Si vis pacem, said the Romans, para bellum: If you want peace, be ready for war.
Not anymore. These two colossi are merry in heaven. And just look at the dismal track record of their current successors in keeping the peace.
For Obama, there was the Romneyesque flip-flopping over Guantanamo, Benghazi and the failure to do anything about the slaughter of Christians in Syria, and the capitulation to China over so-called “global warming” last December, and the recent capitulation to Iran over nuclear weapons development, and the relentless reduction of American’s military strength, and the failure to act against illegal immigrants (for they vote left).
For Cameron, there was Libya, the scrapping of Britain’s last aircraft-carrier a decade before replacements would be available, the “sharing” of aircraft carriers with France, the relentless reduction of Britain’s military strength, and the failure to act against illegal immigrants (for they come from Europe, and the European Union is sacred to Cameron, for it is the only entity other than himself that he worships with unreserved devotion).
In Britain, at any rate, the armed forces have had enough of Cameron’s notorious shilly-shallying. A fascinating biography of Cameron by Sir Anthony Seldon, official biographer du jour on this side of the Atlantic, records that Gen. Sir David Richards, while head of Britain’s armed forces, blames Cameron for the rise of the fanatical Islamic State, saying he “lacked the balls” to crush them with armed force in 2012 when they first became a threat in Syria.
Sir David bluntly told Sir Anthony: “If they had the balls, they would have gone through with it… If they’d done what I’d argued, they wouldn’t be where they are with ISIS.”
Sir David also attacks Cameron over his botched attack on Libya and his failure to take effective action to prevent Russia re-annexing the Ukraine. His overall verdict on Cameron’s approach to foreign and defense policy: “a lack of strategy and statesmanship.” Sir David says: “The problem is the inability to think things through. Too often it seems to be more about the Notting Hill liberal agenda rather than statecraft.”
The book also reveals that the “special relationship” between Cameron and Obama is not all it is cracked up to be. Obama is not often prompt in answering Cameron’s telephone calls. The Foreign Office calls Mr. Obama “Dr Spock” after the humorless character in Star Trek.
The overriding impression left by Sir Anthony’s book is that the West is not in safe hands at present. Obama and Cameron are both criticized for amateurishness and inability to reach rational decisions, as well as a lack of grasp of foreign affairs and of defense.
In my experience, it is rare for the chiefs of staff in Britain to call upon the prime minister to initiate a military campaign. It is nearly always the other way around, as it was when Galtieri invaded the Falklands. Our senior officers are not of the “nuke ‘em till they fry” cast of mind. Sir David Richards’ advice to Cameron that he should move militarily against ISIS from the outset should, therefore, have been very carefully heeded.
Cameron, however, cut and ran. Not the least of his reasons, no doubt, was that this allegedly “Conservative” government has so cut back the armed forces that they are already scandalously overstretched.
Underlying the under-funding of the military on both sides of the Atlantic is the scandalous indifference to the rapidly-mounting national debt. This perceptive book really marks the moment when it became clear to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that the hegemony of the West, which was a blessing to humanity, is now at an end. Obama and Cameron have handed away their nations’ economic and military strength because kicking the can down the road always seems easier in the short term than picking it up.
Which brings me to the present election campaign. None of the candidates, on either side, is giving enough attention either to the national debt or to the extinction of America’s military might. The two ungifted amateurs, Obama and Cameron, have conspired to leave a dangerous economic and military vacuum, which many ambitious nations will scramble to fill. When Britain and America were strong because Thatcher and Reagan were strong, the world was by and large a less dangerous place than it is now.
World War III will not begin through the alleged aggression of a Reagan or a Thatcher. It will begin, just as World War II did, because for too long fashionable, easy appeasement was a substitute for a considered and determined foreign-policy stance.
I do not feel safe under the “leadership” of Obama and Cameron. The politics of the pre-emptive cringe have always led to disaster in the past, and may do so again in the future unless we can find leaders less fearful of actually leading.