Commentary Magazine


Topic: British Army

Our Greatest Generation, in Afghanistan

The New York Times has a harrowing if heartening report from the front lines in Afghanistan — specifically from Sangin in Helmand Province, which is the most dangerous district in the entire country. Times reporter Michael Kamber deserves some kind of journalistic medal for going on foot patrol with the Marines in an area where a single false step can lead to the loss of life or limbs. The Marines have been in a hard, costly fight since taking over the area from the British. The insurgents’ IEDS, many of them cunningly camouflaged, have taken a terrible toll. But the Marines have kept pushing back, and they are having an impact. Kamber writes:

Hemmed in at nearby Forward Operating Base Jackson at the beginning of their tour, the Marines of Company I fought fierce, almost daily battles through the months of October and November.

On Dec. 6, they fought their way up Route 611, blowing up scores of I.E.D.’s along the way and taking over an abandoned and booby-trapped British Army base, Patrol Base Bariolai, on a barren hilltop here. …

The Marines can now patrol throughout the surrounding village every day, Sergeant Beckett said. And he has been encouraged by the increasing trust that local villagers are showing, sometimes offering the Marines information that has tipped them off to I.E.D.’s or potential ambushes.

That is the way good counterinsurgency works. It is a slow, agonizing, costly process, but if skillful soldiers or Marines stick to their mission, they will gradually drive the insurgents away, as the Marines are doing in Sangin.

It is impossible to offer enough praise or admiration for the grueling, dangerous patrols that these leathernecks are undertaking day in, day out. The Greatest Generation had nothing on them in terms of heroism — especially when one considers that all the Marines in Sangin are volunteers.

The New York Times has a harrowing if heartening report from the front lines in Afghanistan — specifically from Sangin in Helmand Province, which is the most dangerous district in the entire country. Times reporter Michael Kamber deserves some kind of journalistic medal for going on foot patrol with the Marines in an area where a single false step can lead to the loss of life or limbs. The Marines have been in a hard, costly fight since taking over the area from the British. The insurgents’ IEDS, many of them cunningly camouflaged, have taken a terrible toll. But the Marines have kept pushing back, and they are having an impact. Kamber writes:

Hemmed in at nearby Forward Operating Base Jackson at the beginning of their tour, the Marines of Company I fought fierce, almost daily battles through the months of October and November.

On Dec. 6, they fought their way up Route 611, blowing up scores of I.E.D.’s along the way and taking over an abandoned and booby-trapped British Army base, Patrol Base Bariolai, on a barren hilltop here. …

The Marines can now patrol throughout the surrounding village every day, Sergeant Beckett said. And he has been encouraged by the increasing trust that local villagers are showing, sometimes offering the Marines information that has tipped them off to I.E.D.’s or potential ambushes.

That is the way good counterinsurgency works. It is a slow, agonizing, costly process, but if skillful soldiers or Marines stick to their mission, they will gradually drive the insurgents away, as the Marines are doing in Sangin.

It is impossible to offer enough praise or admiration for the grueling, dangerous patrols that these leathernecks are undertaking day in, day out. The Greatest Generation had nothing on them in terms of heroism — especially when one considers that all the Marines in Sangin are volunteers.

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Sexual Orientation and the Military

Supporters of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are finding it hard to make persuasive arguments in its favor. At least that’s the only conclusion I can draw from the bizarre suggestion put forward at a Senate hearing by John Sheehan, a retired four-star Marine general who once ran NATO’s Atlantic Command. He suggested that Dutch soldiers failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 because there were too many gays in the ranks! The Dutch reaction is on-target:

“It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense,” Dutch defense-ministry spokesman Roger van de Wetering said in response.

“The Srebrenica massacre and the involvement of UN soldiers was extensively investigated by the Netherlands, international organizations and the United Nations.

“Never was there in any way concluded that the sexual orientation of soldiers played a role.”

Next, perhaps, General Sheehan will suggest that Israel’s failure to more decisively defeat Hezbollah in 2006 was also due to the presence of openly gay service people. That might also explain Britain’s failure to pacify Basra. And the Spartans’ failure to defeat the Persians at Thermopylae. Or not.

Bizarre as this argument is, a rejoinder from British journalist Toby Young was just as weird. He writes, “Isn’t the General aware that some of the finest soldiers in the history of warfare have been ‘openly homosexual’?” Actually, while the sexuality of various generals such as Bernard Law Montgomery and Lord Kitchener has been much gossiped about, it is hard to think of any prominent commanders who were openly gay since the days of antiquity. The example Young cites is truly off-the-wall: Orde Wingate.

I happen to know a fair amount about Wingate, an unconventional British army officer who rose to fame commanding the Chindit special force in Japanese-held Burma in World War II. Previously he had served with distinction in Palestine and Abyssinia. He is still remembered in Israel for his strong Zionism. I’m writing about Wingate in my history of guerrilla warfare, and, having read pretty much everything that has been published about him, I have not found a single suggestion that he was homosexual. Until now.

Admittedly, Wingate was very odd; for instance, he received visitors to his quarters in the nude. But gay? If Young has any actual evidence to support this allegation, he doesn’t present it. Actually Wingate was devoted to his wife Lorna, an intelligent beauty whom he met in 1933 when she was just 16 years old and he was 31. He immediately dumped his fiancée and married her. His letters to her were full of longing and devotion. Young is making up history as he goes along by suggesting that there was something sexual about Wingate’s relationship with his aide Abraham Akavia, who worked with him in Palestine and Abyssinia.

The general point remains valid. There have undoubtedly been many brave, successful gay soldiers. But I object to the modern habit, especially common among trendy academics, of attributing homosexuality to random historical figures based on scant evidence — a trend that has even encompassed Abraham Lincoln. This is projecting our own obsession with sex into the past.

Supporters of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are finding it hard to make persuasive arguments in its favor. At least that’s the only conclusion I can draw from the bizarre suggestion put forward at a Senate hearing by John Sheehan, a retired four-star Marine general who once ran NATO’s Atlantic Command. He suggested that Dutch soldiers failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 because there were too many gays in the ranks! The Dutch reaction is on-target:

“It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense,” Dutch defense-ministry spokesman Roger van de Wetering said in response.

“The Srebrenica massacre and the involvement of UN soldiers was extensively investigated by the Netherlands, international organizations and the United Nations.

“Never was there in any way concluded that the sexual orientation of soldiers played a role.”

Next, perhaps, General Sheehan will suggest that Israel’s failure to more decisively defeat Hezbollah in 2006 was also due to the presence of openly gay service people. That might also explain Britain’s failure to pacify Basra. And the Spartans’ failure to defeat the Persians at Thermopylae. Or not.

Bizarre as this argument is, a rejoinder from British journalist Toby Young was just as weird. He writes, “Isn’t the General aware that some of the finest soldiers in the history of warfare have been ‘openly homosexual’?” Actually, while the sexuality of various generals such as Bernard Law Montgomery and Lord Kitchener has been much gossiped about, it is hard to think of any prominent commanders who were openly gay since the days of antiquity. The example Young cites is truly off-the-wall: Orde Wingate.

I happen to know a fair amount about Wingate, an unconventional British army officer who rose to fame commanding the Chindit special force in Japanese-held Burma in World War II. Previously he had served with distinction in Palestine and Abyssinia. He is still remembered in Israel for his strong Zionism. I’m writing about Wingate in my history of guerrilla warfare, and, having read pretty much everything that has been published about him, I have not found a single suggestion that he was homosexual. Until now.

Admittedly, Wingate was very odd; for instance, he received visitors to his quarters in the nude. But gay? If Young has any actual evidence to support this allegation, he doesn’t present it. Actually Wingate was devoted to his wife Lorna, an intelligent beauty whom he met in 1933 when she was just 16 years old and he was 31. He immediately dumped his fiancée and married her. His letters to her were full of longing and devotion. Young is making up history as he goes along by suggesting that there was something sexual about Wingate’s relationship with his aide Abraham Akavia, who worked with him in Palestine and Abyssinia.

The general point remains valid. There have undoubtedly been many brave, successful gay soldiers. But I object to the modern habit, especially common among trendy academics, of attributing homosexuality to random historical figures based on scant evidence — a trend that has even encompassed Abraham Lincoln. This is projecting our own obsession with sex into the past.

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Don’t Blame the Tools

Stuart Koehl has an excellent piece up at the Weekly Standard on a Washington Post article that characterized the Army’s Stryker combat vehicle as a “kevlar coffin.” Koehl’s not an unmitigated supporter of the Stryker, but his main point is that criticism of the Stryker’s ability to protect infantry in Afghanistan is misinformed in ways both obvious and subtle.

The first and more obvious point is that the Post provides no information about the number of injuries and fatalities sustained by troops in Strykers as compared with  past alternatives, and appears to proceed on the assumption that every Stryker “lost” is a Stryker that has been totally destroyed instead of one sent to the shop. Without this, it’s hard to know just how well or poorly the Stryker is actually doing.

The second and more subtle point is that some of the destroyed Strykers hit IEDs that were as large as 2,000 pounds. At that size, even a main battle tank would not protect its occupants. As Koehl notes, if it becomes a pure race between the armor makers –- who  have to design vehicles that are actually useable –- and an undisturbed network of bomb makers with access to unlimited quantities of explosives, the bomb makers will win every time.

The U.S. has seen this kind of criticism before: it’s reminiscent of the up-armored Humvee “scandal” of 2004-05. As with that incident, the brief burst of criticism of the Stryker combines a bit of commonsense — yes, of course the U.S. and its allies should seek to provide their forces with ample quantities of the best equipment — with a lot of disguised criticism of the administration.

Now this administration deserves to be criticized. As Con Coughlin and Fraser Nelson point out in the latest Spectator, the Obama administration’s dithering isn’t just hurting the U.S. cause; it’s treating its allies — especially Britain – with “astonishing disregard.” But in the U.S., and especially in Britain, the criticism has tended to focus too much on equipment. In the U.S., it’s the Stryker and the Humvee; in Britain, it’s the British Army’s
shortage of helicopters and mine-resistant vehicles.

It’s certainly true that the British Army could use more of both. But as Koehl points out, “the solution to the IED problem is not technical, but rather tactical and operational.” In other words, since you can’t win the battle with the bomb makers by building an invulnerable vehicle, you have to win it by fighting a counterinsurgency campaign. If you control the ground, protect the people, and gather intelligence, you win not by beefing up your armor, but by making it impossible for the bomb makers to make and plant bombs.

Criticizing the supposed failures of the equipment is an easy way to make the correct point that the government is getting it wrong.  But it has a serious cost: it encourages administrations on both sides of the Atlantic to respond to the criticism as a short-term political issue simply by rush-ordering more equipment, while neglecting the more serious problem of how to fight the war effectively. By all means, criticize the Obama and Brown administrations on Afghanistan. but if the criticism is to serve anything more than a political purpose, it needs to proceed from a realization that even the best equipment can’t rescue bad strategy.

Stuart Koehl has an excellent piece up at the Weekly Standard on a Washington Post article that characterized the Army’s Stryker combat vehicle as a “kevlar coffin.” Koehl’s not an unmitigated supporter of the Stryker, but his main point is that criticism of the Stryker’s ability to protect infantry in Afghanistan is misinformed in ways both obvious and subtle.

The first and more obvious point is that the Post provides no information about the number of injuries and fatalities sustained by troops in Strykers as compared with  past alternatives, and appears to proceed on the assumption that every Stryker “lost” is a Stryker that has been totally destroyed instead of one sent to the shop. Without this, it’s hard to know just how well or poorly the Stryker is actually doing.

The second and more subtle point is that some of the destroyed Strykers hit IEDs that were as large as 2,000 pounds. At that size, even a main battle tank would not protect its occupants. As Koehl notes, if it becomes a pure race between the armor makers –- who  have to design vehicles that are actually useable –- and an undisturbed network of bomb makers with access to unlimited quantities of explosives, the bomb makers will win every time.

The U.S. has seen this kind of criticism before: it’s reminiscent of the up-armored Humvee “scandal” of 2004-05. As with that incident, the brief burst of criticism of the Stryker combines a bit of commonsense — yes, of course the U.S. and its allies should seek to provide their forces with ample quantities of the best equipment — with a lot of disguised criticism of the administration.

Now this administration deserves to be criticized. As Con Coughlin and Fraser Nelson point out in the latest Spectator, the Obama administration’s dithering isn’t just hurting the U.S. cause; it’s treating its allies — especially Britain – with “astonishing disregard.” But in the U.S., and especially in Britain, the criticism has tended to focus too much on equipment. In the U.S., it’s the Stryker and the Humvee; in Britain, it’s the British Army’s
shortage of helicopters and mine-resistant vehicles.

It’s certainly true that the British Army could use more of both. But as Koehl points out, “the solution to the IED problem is not technical, but rather tactical and operational.” In other words, since you can’t win the battle with the bomb makers by building an invulnerable vehicle, you have to win it by fighting a counterinsurgency campaign. If you control the ground, protect the people, and gather intelligence, you win not by beefing up your armor, but by making it impossible for the bomb makers to make and plant bombs.

Criticizing the supposed failures of the equipment is an easy way to make the correct point that the government is getting it wrong.  But it has a serious cost: it encourages administrations on both sides of the Atlantic to respond to the criticism as a short-term political issue simply by rush-ordering more equipment, while neglecting the more serious problem of how to fight the war effectively. By all means, criticize the Obama and Brown administrations on Afghanistan. but if the criticism is to serve anything more than a political purpose, it needs to proceed from a realization that even the best equipment can’t rescue bad strategy.

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Rearmament or Appeasement?

General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the British Army, has warned in a leaked memo that military capabilities are stretched to the breaking point. Due to the commitment of all available troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, there are no reserves left for emergencies.

The conclusion drawn by the entire liberal establishment in Britain is that the troops should be brought home. On the BBC, a retired Major General was telling anyone who would listen that the army is stretched so thin it might break apart.

Yet nobody is making the obvious point that British armed forces are at historically low levels of manpower. Just as the Crimean War in the 1850′s shocked a nation still basking in the glory of Nelson’s and Wellington’s victories, so the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a shock to the system. The disturbance could also have certain salutary effects, however, if only politicians were willing to respond correctly to the challenges the wars present.

The fact is that the number of British troops now committed to these two wars is smaller than that of Wellington’s forces at Waterloo. Now, numbers aren’t everything, but it is noticeable that the low level of manpower is precisely one of General Dannatt’s main complaints.

Unless countries like Britain can find new ways to recruit many more soldiers, the time will come when the jihadi enemy will only need to threaten to get what it wants. In the horrific scenes at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, there is a clear image of what awaits our allies if the West beats a premature retreat from either Iraq or Afghanistan.

The choice that General Dannatt presents is clear enough, though he does not spell it out. It is the choice between rearmament and appeasement.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the British Army, has warned in a leaked memo that military capabilities are stretched to the breaking point. Due to the commitment of all available troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, there are no reserves left for emergencies.

The conclusion drawn by the entire liberal establishment in Britain is that the troops should be brought home. On the BBC, a retired Major General was telling anyone who would listen that the army is stretched so thin it might break apart.

Yet nobody is making the obvious point that British armed forces are at historically low levels of manpower. Just as the Crimean War in the 1850′s shocked a nation still basking in the glory of Nelson’s and Wellington’s victories, so the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a shock to the system. The disturbance could also have certain salutary effects, however, if only politicians were willing to respond correctly to the challenges the wars present.

The fact is that the number of British troops now committed to these two wars is smaller than that of Wellington’s forces at Waterloo. Now, numbers aren’t everything, but it is noticeable that the low level of manpower is precisely one of General Dannatt’s main complaints.

Unless countries like Britain can find new ways to recruit many more soldiers, the time will come when the jihadi enemy will only need to threaten to get what it wants. In the horrific scenes at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, there is a clear image of what awaits our allies if the West beats a premature retreat from either Iraq or Afghanistan.

The choice that General Dannatt presents is clear enough, though he does not spell it out. It is the choice between rearmament and appeasement.

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Cry for Harry, England, and Saint George

The British Army’s decision last week not to send Prince Harry to Iraq is unfortunate on at least three counts. It is a personal blow for the prince himself, who despite his off-duty antics is by all accounts a highly professional young officer eager to share the perils faced by his comrades. It will do nothing for British morale, already damaged by the humiliation of their naval hostages by Iran. Most importantly, the decision is a propaganda coup for the Islamist terrorists. Britain’s reluctance to commit the third-in-line to its throne to battle makes the West in general look weak. In doing so it places all coalition troops at greater risk.

Why, then, did General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the British general staff, reverse his announcement only three weeks ago that the prince would be deployed? The answer is: Iran. British forces in Basra and the provinces bordering Iran lost twelve soldier in April—a higher casualty rate in proportion to their numbers (about 7,000) than those suffered by the much larger American forces. These heavier losses are attributed by the British to Iranian agents, who are supplying sophisticated weaponry and intelligence to the local insurgency. According to American Special Forces, they are doing the same for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Islamist websites have been threatening to target Prince Harry ever since his deployment was—most unwisely—made public in February. The kidnapping of three U.S. soldiers two weeks ago will have added to the credibility of these threats.

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The British Army’s decision last week not to send Prince Harry to Iraq is unfortunate on at least three counts. It is a personal blow for the prince himself, who despite his off-duty antics is by all accounts a highly professional young officer eager to share the perils faced by his comrades. It will do nothing for British morale, already damaged by the humiliation of their naval hostages by Iran. Most importantly, the decision is a propaganda coup for the Islamist terrorists. Britain’s reluctance to commit the third-in-line to its throne to battle makes the West in general look weak. In doing so it places all coalition troops at greater risk.

Why, then, did General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the British general staff, reverse his announcement only three weeks ago that the prince would be deployed? The answer is: Iran. British forces in Basra and the provinces bordering Iran lost twelve soldier in April—a higher casualty rate in proportion to their numbers (about 7,000) than those suffered by the much larger American forces. These heavier losses are attributed by the British to Iranian agents, who are supplying sophisticated weaponry and intelligence to the local insurgency. According to American Special Forces, they are doing the same for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Islamist websites have been threatening to target Prince Harry ever since his deployment was—most unwisely—made public in February. The kidnapping of three U.S. soldiers two weeks ago will have added to the credibility of these threats.

In the light of new intelligence about ever-bolder Iranian activity in Iraq, General Dannatt found himself between a rock and a hard place. If he had stuck to his guns and sent Harry into action, not only the prince but those under his command would be vulnerable. Thanks to ubiquitous media coverage, which the British authorities had initially encouraged, the terrorists knew both where the prince could be found and even what type of vehicle he would use. Iran would almost certainly have put a price on his head to encourage assassins to try their luck. To kill such a high-profile “crusader” would be portrayed as a great victory by Islamists everywhere. To capture him would create the mother of all hostage crises. Militarily, Harry would be more trouble than he was worth. (Politically, too, his deployment had become a liability for the incoming administration of Gordon Brown.)

Discretion may often be the better part of valor, but this affair has been handled with indiscretion. Only a mind no longer confident of ultimate victory would have made such a hash of it. Just as the British navy mishandled the abduction of sailors and marines by the Iranians, so the British army has mishandled what ought to have been an operational decision.

And General Dannatt has a record of indiscretion. Last year he gave an interview in which he claimed that the British presence in Iraq was “exacerbating” instability. The general beat a hasty retreat, but not fast enough to dispel he impression that he was at odds with his government. Now he has again been forced to countermand his original decision. As the French military proverb has it: order, counter-order, disorder.

The vacillation over Prince Harry is all the more regrettable because British royalty has an admirable tradition of taking their places in the firing line. No British monarch has led his troops into battle since George II at Dettingen in 1743, but lesser members of the royal family have often seen combat, most recently in the Falklands war. As anyone who has seen The Queen will know, the young Princess Elizabeth served (at her own insistence) as a driver in the armed forces at the end of the Second World War. In those days, Shakespeare’s Henry V was still the model for soldiers going into battle: “Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!” Iraq may not be Agincourt, but even modern armies need their officers to set them an example of courage. Prince Harry should not have been denied the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers.

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The British Pat Buchanan

The battle has been joined for the soul of the British Conservative party in, of all places, that leading organ of the Left, the Guardian.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author of The Strange Death of Tory England, a polemic against Thatcherism, and Yo, Blair!, a diatribe against Tony Blair’s alliance with George W. Bush, has published an article in that paper taking the British Conservative party to task. According to Wheatcroft, “the Tories have been infiltrated by Anglo-neoconservatives, a species easily defined. Several of the younger MP’s are fanatical adherents of the creed with its three prongs: ardent support for the Iraq war, for the U.S., and for Israel.”

Wheatcroft wheels out the old anti-Semitic canard of “dual loyalty” by suggesting that only in Britain “is there a Conservative party, and Tory press, largely in the hands of people whose basic commitment is to the national interest of another country, or countries.” He quotes one such member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, who insists that “it is in our national interest to support Israel . . . because I believe they are a front-line ally in a war against people who wish to destroy our democratic way of life.” Wheatcroft then twists his words to ask if the Tory leader, David Cameron, shares “Carswell’s belief that the British army in Basra and Helmand is fighting on behalf of Israel.”

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The battle has been joined for the soul of the British Conservative party in, of all places, that leading organ of the Left, the Guardian.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author of The Strange Death of Tory England, a polemic against Thatcherism, and Yo, Blair!, a diatribe against Tony Blair’s alliance with George W. Bush, has published an article in that paper taking the British Conservative party to task. According to Wheatcroft, “the Tories have been infiltrated by Anglo-neoconservatives, a species easily defined. Several of the younger MP’s are fanatical adherents of the creed with its three prongs: ardent support for the Iraq war, for the U.S., and for Israel.”

Wheatcroft wheels out the old anti-Semitic canard of “dual loyalty” by suggesting that only in Britain “is there a Conservative party, and Tory press, largely in the hands of people whose basic commitment is to the national interest of another country, or countries.” He quotes one such member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, who insists that “it is in our national interest to support Israel . . . because I believe they are a front-line ally in a war against people who wish to destroy our democratic way of life.” Wheatcroft then twists his words to ask if the Tory leader, David Cameron, shares “Carswell’s belief that the British army in Basra and Helmand is fighting on behalf of Israel.”

Wheatcroft is equally hostile to the United States: “There was once a vigorous high Tory tradition of independence from—if not hostility to—America. It was found in the Morning Post before the war, and it continued down to Enoch Powell and Alan Clark.”

As it happens, I met both these colorful figures, who served in various Tory administrations, though never at the highest level. Powell is best remembered for his “Rivers of Blood” speech of 1968, in which he denounced mass immigration from the Commonwealth and warned of civil war. This speech was widely interpreted as racist; it permanently marginalized Powell in mainstream politics. A few years later he left the Tory party. Some people now see him as a prophet who foresaw the difficulty of integrating a large Muslim minority, but his concerns were about race rather than religion.

Powell was once asked whether he was anti-American. He replied: “Most people are. The only change is that it has become a term of abuse.” In answer to the question why, he said: “Well, I just don’t like America, or Americans. It’s like saying you like sugar in your tea. De gustibus non est disputandum.”

At least Enoch Powell was not an anti-Semite. Alan Clark, however, was not only anti-American, but an enthusiastic and unashamed admirer of Hitler, whose portrait he kept on his wall. Clark’s pro-Nazi views permeate Barbarossa, his well-known history of the German invasion of Russia, but they also shine through at several points in The Tories: Conservatives and the Nation State, 1922-1997. He hints that German-Jewish refugees hindered Anglo-German efforts to preserve peace. Of Chamberlain’s belated decision to declare war on Germany in 1939, he writes: “Not since the Angevin kings had responded to mystic revelations from the Divinity instructing them to call a crusade to arms can any group of national leaders have taken so momentous a decision on such tenuous assumptions.”

But it is when Clark comes to Rudolf Hess’s flight to Scotland that his agenda is clearly revealed. Not only is he convinced (against all the evidence) that Hess brought a genuine peace offer from Hitler, that Churchill turned down this “wasted opportunity” to save the British Empire, and that the entire British establishment then engaged in a conspiracy to cover it up right down to 1987, when Hess was “strangled in his cell.” Clark also believes that a fall in Wall Street stocks on the news of Hess’s flight holds the key: peace, he claims, would have hit profits, which were far more important to Americans (many of them Jewish) than “the certain fate of human beings.”

As for more recent episodes: Clark depicts the Falklands war as a behind-the-scenes struggle between the Reagan administration, determined to frustrate the British attempt to regain the islands, and a stubborn Mrs. Thatcher—which is more or less the opposite of the version she herself recalls. Clark gained notoriety by publishing his sensational diaries, but they merely reinforce the impression of a clever but twisted mind, a crashing snob and conspiracy theorist, who fantasized about his boss, Mrs. Thatcher, as a kind of female Hitler, describing the thrill he got from her proximity as “Führer-Kontakt”.

So much for Alan Clark and Enoch Powell as keepers of the Tory flame. But Wheatcroft also admires the Arabist tradition exemplified by the vehemently anti-Zionist Ian (now Lord) Gilmour. Then he goes further back, rejecting Charles Moore’s claim that Conservatives have usually supported Israel in the past: “That highest of high Tories, Lord Curzon, deplored the Balfour declaration. . . . In his day Curzon might have seemed the truer Tory than Balfour, and it’s only recently that his spirit has been stifled in his old party.”

So, in Wheatcroft’s mind, true Tories reject the existence of Israel. He ignores such Conservative heroes as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, who staunchly supported both America and Israel, or in the more remote past Edmund Burke and Benjamin Disraeli. Instead, he postulates “infiltration” of the party by “zealous Anglo-neocons” who have “encircled” the Tory leader. He does not want David Cameron to become “the Hugo Chavez of Notting Hill,” he says, but to “forge a foreign policy that, unlike Blair’s, is based on the national interest of this country and not another.”

Geoffrey Wheatcroft emerges here as a British equivalent of Pat Buchanan. It is not often that such venomous resentment of the United States and Israel from the Right is brought out into the open in Britain—and no accident that it is the Guardian that offers these views a platform. To judge from the readers’ comments on the Guardian website, he has brought quite a few extreme anti-Semites out of the woodwork, too. But the tenor of Wheatcroft’s article is not untypical of the circles in which many senior Tories move. It is not only in America that paleoconservatives exist. Britain evidently has its very own Anglo-paleocons.

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