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How to Lose an Empire and Shrink your Significance in the World

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A tragedy in three acts. 1. Act One: Declare war on Germany, 1914 Why did we do this? The most widely-held reason today, is that we did it to support " gallant little " Belgium, which was thought to be under threat of German invasion and
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  How to Lose an Empire and Shrink your Significance. A tragedy in three acts. 1.Act One: Declare war on Germany, 1914Why did we do this? The most widely-held reason today, is that we did it to s!!ort "gallant little# $elgim, which was thoght to %e nder threat o& German in'asion and anne(ation. $t let)s go %ac* a moment. Did Germany want to in'ade $elgim? Did it want to sei+e any $elgian territory? The answer, to %oth o& corse, is "no#. We need to go %ac* e'en &rther to disco'er why Germany wanted to enter $elgian territory at all. t was, o& corse, %ecase Germany was s!!orting a 'ictim o& terrorism - Astria- ngary - at a time when it *new that it &aced an e(istential threat &rom rance, which was waiting to ta*e ad'antage o& any !ro%lems Germany might s&&er. Germany *new that rance was dying to gain re'enge &or 1/01, and to reco'er the two !ro'inces Alsace and orraine. And Germany *new that the crrent rench state was a !ower&l ad'ersary, re-armed and waiting &or a chance and e(cse to attac*. 2oreo'er, Germany *new that toattac* rance &rontally, wold most li*ely ha'e reslted in a stalemate, and ths a costly war o& attrition which cold drag on &or years. The %est way to attac* rance wold %e to stri*e throgh $elgim, to attac* rance at its wea*est !oint in &act. There was nothing new in this a!!roach. Good generals ha'e attac*ed the enemy at its wea*est !oint &or centries. t ma*es good strategic sense to do this, so there was nothing new in Germany)s idea. 3o, why did it rile $ritain to the e(tent that it did? irstly, let me say Germany)s mo'e wold not necessarily ha'e led to $ritain declaring war on her - in my 'iew. ndeed, Gray, the $ritish oreign 2inister, when as*ed %y ing George i& he saw a reason &or $ritain to go to war with Germany 5this was re!orted a &ew years ago in  The Guardian , i&  remem%er correctly, and was hitherto not *nown to historians,  %elie'e6, he said: "7o.# 5And  shall retrn to this e'ent later.6 3o, there was a 'ery good chance that $ritain wold not declare war on Germany at the time. 3o, why did   $ritain declare war on Germany, and do itsel& immense damage in the !rocess? irst o& all,  wold say there were a co!le o& reasons why sch a mo'e wold ha'e s!!ort. wold mention the ! and coming German o'erseas em!ire. There was some concern that this might %e a threat to the $ritish 8m!ire in a way the more matre rench 8m!ire was not. $ritain and rance, des!ite the occasional !oint o& &riction, had grown to acce!t the other)s o'erseas  !ossessions, and so the chance o& one or other o& them mscling in on a !art o& the world the other o& them owned or controlled was 'ery remote. On the other hand, Germany, with its com!arati'ely &ew &oreign !ossessions, and gi'ing the im!ression it was loo*ing &or more, wold, in the eyes o& many 8nglishmen, %e at least a !ossi%le threat to $ritain)s &oreign !ossessions. This idea was gi'en more credence %y Germany)s em%ar*ing on the %ilding o& a maor na'al &orce. owe'er, $ritain was ha'ing no di&&iclty maintaining its na'al s!eriority, and so Germany)s na'al constrction  !rogram was not really a case o& war. 7either, when yo loo* at it closely, was Germany)s threat to in'ade $elgim. Germany had gi'en a an assrance that it wold res!ect the netrality o& The  7etherlands, and it honored that !ledge. t had also gi'en an assrance that, once the war was o'er,it wold remo'e its &orces &rom $elgian territory, and restore the smaller nation)s so'ereignty. Thereis no reason to do%t that it wold honor that !ledge too. 3o, why did $ritain lay sch store on s!!orting $elgim against Germany)s in'asion? The answer is: it was an e(cse to declare war on Germany. Germany)s action, which was, as  ha'e already e(!lained, a mo'e against the e(istential threat it &aced &rom rance, and not %ecase it wanted $elgian territory. n other words, the threat Germany &aced &rom rance was greater than the one $elgim &aced &rom Germany. That is, assming Germany honored its !romises, and, as we ha'e seen with its assrances to The  7etherlands, there is little do%t that it wold. This, o& corse, is no di&&erent to what $ritain wold ha'e done i& too had &aced an e(istential threat. The im!ortance o& dealing sccess&lly with that  threat wold ha'e come &irst, and treaties, other nations) so'ereignty, and, indeed, almost e'erythingelse wold ha'e %een disregarded. We wold, in short, ha'e done e(actly what Germany was doing,and yet, %ecase Germany was doing it, it was now a reason &or war. 7o? We woldn)t ha'e done what Germany did? )m a&raid we did e(actly that  in World War Two  when, in order to com%at the German s%marine cam!aign we in'aded celand against the wishes o& the celandic !eo!le and the celandic go'ernment in order to %ild an air&ield &rom which to o!erate anti-s%marine !lanes. 3o, yes, we too wold ha'e done it. 3o, why did $ritain declare war on Germany. The answer is: %ecase ing George wanted $ritain to do st that. n a recently re!orted con'ersation %etween the *ing and Grey 5which  ha'e re&erred to already6, the *ing as*ed the &oreign secretary i& he had a reason to declare war on Germany. Grey said that he did not. The *ing then said: "Oh, %t yo must   &ind a way, 2ister Grey. & yo do not, Germany will ta*e o'er the channel coast and we will %e dangerosly threatened.# 57ot really, considering the !re-eminence o& The ;oyal 7a'y.6 Grey did as he was told. That, is why we declared war on Germany. 3o, i& it had %een le&t to Grey, we wold not ha'e declared war on Germany and we wold not ha'e s&&ered the damage we did, which was the &irst %low to $ritain)s !re'iosly n!aralleled !osition in the world, casing the &irst crac*s to a!!ear in the edi&ice that was the $ritish em!ire. <.Act Two: Declare war on 7a+i Germany3o, what wold ha'e ha!!ened i& $ritain and, %ecase o& her in'ol'ement, later, The =nited 3tates, had not entered the war against Germany? Germany wold ha'e %eaten rance again, and got, most li*ely, in the ensing !eace treaty, some rench colonies as !art o& the settlement. 3he wold also, as she did in any case, ha'e %eaten ;ssia. ;ssia almost certainly wold ha'e %een ta*en o'er %y the $olshe'i*s, as she e'entally was, and Germany wold ha'e *e!t her word and withdrawn &rom $elgim. And that, wold ha'e %een that.;ssia wold ha'e remained commnist, %t wold not ha'e %een a threat to western 8ro!e in the way she later %ecame a&ter World War <, %ecase Germany, which wold ha'e remained a monarchy, in the way that Denmar*, 7orway, and 3weden did, wold ha'e %een a mch more  !ower&l contry than she s%se>ently %ecame ha'ing not s&&ered the loss o& yong men in the way that she actally did. 3he wold ha'e %een the sto!!er in the %ottle, the eastern %lwar* againstany threat &rom the east. And itler, o& corse, wold ne'er ha'e come to !ower. ;o%%ed o& the threat o& commnism, and not %eing a%le to se the hmiliation o& The Treaty o& ersailles 5which, o& corse, %lamed Germany wrongly - it was one o& the last contries to mo%ilise - &or the holocastthat was World War One6 to garner s!!ort, the 7a+i !arty wold ha'e remained, e'en assming it had come into e(istence in the &irst !lace, a &ringe gro! withot any real !ower. 3o The @old War wold ne'er ha'e occrred. 2oreo'er, the =nited 3tates, ha'ing not gained the !ower and in&lencethat it did &rom its in'ol'ement in the war, wold ha'e remained an eastern !ower. 3o another war in 8ro!e %etween the maor !owers wold ha'e %een nli*ely.$t we were where we were. 3o, how shold we ha'e res!onded to itler? 2y 'iew, is that we shold ha'e res!onded in a way we did not. As  ha'e already said, itler made mch o& The Treatyo& ersailles when calling &or s!!ort &rom the electorate, %t he ne'er wanted to re'erse the territorial changes made %y that treaty in the west. e did not, he made clear, want to reco'er Alsaceand orraine. ndeed, he went to great lengths to ma*e clear to $ritain and rance that he %ore no enmity towards them, e'en i& they had !layed a maor !art in the ersailles settlement. is main o%ecti'es were in the east: a correction o& the territorial losses and %order changes Germany had s&&ered in the !re'ios war and, o& corse, to see* lebensraum. 3o, how shold $ritain and rance ha'e   res!onded? n my 'iew, they shold ha'e re-armed. And then, ha'e done a%soltely nothing. They shold ha'e made clear to itler that, i& he did not mo'e west, they wold not attac* him. A little sel&ish, !erha!s. $t, in my 'iew, we shold not go a%ot de&ending contries that wold ne'er  !t their own interests at sta*e to de&end us.  What wold ha'e ha!!ened ne(t is, o& corse, de%ata%le. 2y own 'iew is that itler, nencm%ered %y ha'ing to &ight $ritain and rance, and with ;ssia not recei'ing the massi'e shi!ments o& aid that it later recei'ed &rom America, wold ha'e %eaten the 3o'iets. And, one mightas*, what wold he ha'e done ne(t. e wold ha'e %een occ!ied, !ro%a%ly ntil the end o& his li&e in a%sor%ing his new con>ests and organising his new em!ire. t wold ha'e %een a 'ery !ower&l em!ire e'entally, no do%t, %t in my 'iew less o& a world encom!assing one that the American em!ire is now, e(ce!t when !rotecting its interests. 2oreo'er, that em!ire wold not ha'e remainedas !otent as it was at the time and nder itler)s leadershi!, sim!ly %ecase itler was not going to li'e &or e'er. What generally ha!!ens in dictatorshi!s when the strong man dies, is that there is a strggle &or !ower %etween the second ran*ers. These tend to loo* &or s!!ort when ma*ing their  %id &or !ower. To increase their attracti'eness and increase their s!!ort,they generally water down the regime)s ideology. Ths, 7a+ism wold almost ha'e ine'ita%ly so&tened and %ecome less e(treme a&ter itler)s death. 3o the 7a+i agenda wold ha'e &aded and the rnning o& a large em!ire %ecome the main occ!ation o& the ;eich. 3o, there wold ha'e %een no @old War, no commnist agents ndermining $ritish indstry &or se'eral decades, no American %ases on $ritish soil, and indeed %ased on $ritish !ossessions o'erseas, the traditional occ!ants o& those !ossessions ha'ing %een mo'ed &rom their homes to allow American military !ersonnel to mo'e in. O&ten against great !rotest, their generally island homes ha'ing now to all intents and !r!oses %ecome !art o& the American em!ire, their retrn nowalmost certainly ne'er e'er coming a%ot, the American "leases# o& those %ases now %eing renewed at the sim!le re>est o& the entagon. n addition, $ritain wold ha'e %een s!ared the de%ts it rac*ed ! &ighting &or...what? 3o the &orties and the &i&ties wold ha'e %een a time o& !lenty instead o& one o& rationing. 2oreo'er, there wold not ha'e %een sch a hea'y American in&lence on or cltre, althogh there wold ha'e ine'ita%ly %een someB the !o!larity o& the ot!t o& ollywood wold ha'e seen to that. And, almost certainly, the $ritish 8m!ire wold ha'e %een slower to %rea* !, althogh $ritain wold !ro%a%ly ha'e %een in'ol'ed in the aci&ic war, and the sin*ing o& the  Repulse and  Prince of Wales,  had that war &ollowed the corse that it did, wold ha'e signalled - as it did - to $ritain)s colonial s%ects that $ritannia was not as in'inci%le as was generally thoght.C.Act C. ea'e the 8ro!ean =nion.$t we were where we were. And with the leadershi! o& a co-o!erating 8ro!e, i& not a nited 8ro!e, ors &or the ta*ing. ad we done that, we cold ha'e made certain the nion o& the 8ro!ean nations de'elo!ed in the way we wanted, which, in my 'iew, wold ha'e %een somewhat  !re&era%le to the way it actally did.  say this as a !ro-8ro!ean, e'en a s!!orter o& a &ederal 8ro!e, the latter %eing !ro'ided it de'elo!ed the way  thin* it shold. That is, withot %ecoming too "socialist#, socialism, in my 'iew  i& it is !rsed too enthsiastically  %eing detrimental to the !er&ormance o& the state. One needs to ha'e com!assion  !eo!le who are %orn with maor disad'antages, sch as serios de&ormities, shold %e s!!orted and hel!ed %y those more &ortnate,and , &or one, wold not o%ect to that, %t to hand ot ta(!ayer)s money in order to %y 'otes is nota wise corse o& action. Anyway, we  did not assme the leadershi! o& a co-o!erating 8ro!e, and  %ecase o& this, a nm%er o& nwise de'elo!ments too* !lace. One o& these, was gi'ing 3tras%org the signi&icance that it has, a so! to rance, althogh rance needs to %e gi'en credit &or %eing a  !rime mo'er in the de'elo!ment o& the nion. Others inclde some silly laws  many the reslt o& commissioners trying to show that they are actally doing something &or their considera%le money -althogh the one a%ot re>iring %ananas to %e straight is a!ocry!hal. These, together with ridiclos le'els o& remneration cold well ha'e %een sto!!ed %y $ritish leadershi! o& the 8= witha conse>ent sa'ing &or the 8ro!ean ta(!ayer. Althogh )m not too sre a%ot this gi'en that mem%ers o& the = ose o& ords are !aid CEE5?6 a day sim!ly &or trning !. We did go in at a later date, o& corse. 8dward eath too* s in in the 190Es. Those who claim eath lied to the $ritish electorate %y saying that the 8= was a trading %ody only, whereas in &act  that it was a 8ro!ean s!er-state in the ma*ing, are sim!ly not correct. The 8= in the se'enties was still to all intents and !r!oses what eath said it was. t only %ecame what it later %ecame throgh the series o& treaties and changes that &ollowed. And the =nited ingdom go'ernment o& the time agreed to each o& those changes. i*ewise, with the oining o& certain eastern 8ro!ean nations more recently. The =nited ingdom, in e'ery case, and in common with e'ery other mem%er o& the 8ro!ean =nion had the !ower o& 'eto and cold ha'e %loc*ed each or e'ery one o& the new a!!licants &rom oining had it wished. As  ha'e already e(!lained,  s!!orted, and still s!!ort $ritish mem%ershi! o& the 8ro!ean =nion. 8'en i& it %ecomes a s!er state. The &act that Germany will, sim!ly %ecase o& its economic !ower, %e s!!osedly the most in&lential mem%er state is really o& no concern to me, since  am a s!!orter and admirer o& that contry. This does not mean, as  ha'e already hinted, that  thin* the 8= does not ha'e &laws. Germany allowing in &oreign immigrants on the scale it has, will case,  thin* maor !ro%lems in the &tre. We, and %y we,  mean all decent !eo!le, need to ha'e com!assion. This means s!!orting those cased to &lee &rom their lands, o&ten %ecase o& the actions o& 7ATO. $t we shold do this %y hel!ing them stay at home, where many o& them, es!ecially the yong men, are more needed, rather than welcoming them into mem%er states where many will li'e o&& %ene&its.And so we are going to lea'e the 8ro!ean =nion. A %ig mista*e in my 'iew. As  ha'e already said,  don)t agree with many as!ects o& the 8ro!ean =nion in its crrent &orm. $t there is nothing,  thin*, that cannot %e changed &rom within. $ritain had already negotiated many ni>e conditions not enoyed %y other states and srely cold ha'e contined to do this as well as wor* &or more general changes in the way the commnity wor*ed. $eing !art o& the larger gro! ga'e $ritain more in&lence that it can !ossi%ly ha'e on its own. 3ch as in &oreign trade negotiations, a greater a%ility to resist &oreign trade sanctions, and easier in'ol'ement in !roects sch as Air%s, which can com!ete alongside maor American and &oreign ri'alsB something $ritain can no longer do on its own. 3o, why did !eo!le 'ote to lea'e the nion? ;easons )'e heard inclde the &ollowing. "We don)t own many o& or indstries any more.# $t why %lame the 8= &or that? oreign com!anies %y com!anies in other contries %ecase they thin* they will ma*e money &rom them. And the %est way o& doing that with a &oreign ac>isition is to ma*e that ac>isition scceed. n any case, whose &alt is it that a &oreign com!any is allowed to ta*e o'er a com!any in yor contry? The 8ro!ean =nion)s? 7o, o& corse not. t is the &alt o& the owners o& the %sinessB either its !ri'ate owners or its shareholders. 3o why %lame the 8ro!ean =nion &or that? Another reason why many !eo!le seemed to ha'e 'oted &or $ritain to lea'e, was that $ritain was a net contri%tor to the 8ro!ean =nion)s %dget. This was so, %t the %elie& that when that money is sa'ed it will %e s!ent on increasing their %ene&its is a !retty nai'e a!!roach to ta*e, and e'en it its s!ent on the 73, the  %ene&its are li*ely to %e tem!orary, %ecase that %ottomless !it swallowed Gordon $rown)s massi'e handots li*e an enormos o!en-moth chic* and, within a &ew years, was coming %ac* &or more. twill always  come %ac* &or more. Then there is the "We don)t own or &isheries any more# argment.What  wold say to that is that &rom what )'e seen, many = &ishermen are still &ishing sccess&lly, and in the cases where they sold ot to 3!anish &ishermen, why %lame the 8=? & &ishermen !re&erred to sell their licences rather than contine wor*ing their gronds, isn)t it they  who shold %e %lamed &or that decision? And, &inally, there ha'e %een many com!laints a%ot the decisions o& 8ro!ean corts. 2any o& these stri*e me as %on*ers too. $t, once again, my 'iew is that the %ene&its $ritain accres &rom the 8= &ar otweigh the draw%ac*s.F Dic* 2orris <E1/
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