Friday, April 21, 2017
What Britain Learned and What Britain Forgot
The American War for Independence also proved to be an educational opportunity for the British. King George III had unleashed the largest military campaign his country had ever undertaken in order to bring the colonies to heel and ultimately, due to European enemies uniting against him and a loss of public will at home, Britain was forced to admit defeat after eight long years of costly warfare. As a result, the British would not undertaken such a thing again. Rather, there was cooperation with the colonies to mature toward viable self-government, countries like Canada and Australia became independent peacefully and while maintaining close ties and friendly relations with the United Kingdom. This was best illustrated by the outbreak of the two world wars. In World War I, the British Empire went to war when Britain declared war. In World War II, the British Empire went to war when Britain declared war but the Commonwealths declared war on their own, despite being in no danger themselves, because the mother country was under threat. Likewise, on the military front, the British learned from World War I how to improve for World War II. While the French were building bigger defensive lines, the British were pioneering the coordination of tanks, artillery and aircraft as well as improving their naval forces for anti-submarine warfare. The German U-Boats would not come so close to victory in World War II as they had in World War I because they faced a much more advanced and capable enemy. Likewise, the German success with the blitzkrieg, largely came from adopting and adapting the concepts developed by British Major General J.F.C. Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO, who often ignored due to his fascist politics and view that the world would have been better off if the Axis powers had won.
Unfortunately, the past lessons learned now being forgotten are beginning to accumulate. The British sense of themselves is being forgotten. It is worth remembering that one of the reasons for the War of 1812, cited by the United States, was the conscription of U.S. citizens into the Royal Navy. In fact, most of these were men who had been British sailors who had 'jumped ship' for the peace and better wages of the American merchant marine and who had then taken U.S. citizenship. However, in those days, the British government did not recognize the right of any British subject to renounce their nationality. You were British by virtue of the blood in your veins and some piece of paper from the American republic could not change that or absolve you of your allegiance to your lawful king. Today, Britain is in the absurd position of regarding a Pashtun immigrant from Afghanistan as "British" and a Scotsman from Nova Scotia as a foreigner simply because of a collection of paperwork. Staying aloof from the continent has given way to an entangling alliance that would compel the British people to go to war on behalf of President Erdogan in Turkey (a government which is still occupying northern Cyprus).
I have often been told that, "you cannot turn back the clock" and that is certainly true. However, that reminds me of the words of David Niven in the title role of the British cinematic bomb "Bonnie Prince Charlie" when, upon being told exactly that by a highland chief, the Prince replied, "I have not come to turn back the clock, I have come to wind the clock". Exactly so, I would say. We cannot turn back the clock but we can wind the clock so that it runs properly as it did in days past. The victorious allies could not "turn back the clock" after the French Revolution, they could not make it so that it had never happened, they could not bring the butchered Bourbons back from the dead but they could, and did, see the traditional Kingdom of France restored under the rightful King Louis XVIII. Britain today needs only to learn from its mistakes as it used to do to great effect. Allow the monarch to exercise those powers which rightfully belong to the monarch, bring back the actual (hereditary) peers to the House of Lords and give that chamber its traditional powers back. Stop all this egalitarian, internationalist nonsense and get back to basic common sense of people who recognized the difference between a prince and a pauper, a peer and a peasant, a Welshman and a Kenyan. These are not difficult distinctions to make, nor is the difference between a fragmented European province and the greatest empire the world had seen since ancient Rome. The difference between success and failure.