• Oh What a Lovely War! Is history about to repeat itself?

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    Above, a theatre with the musical Oh What a Lovely War! Playing.

    It is an oft forgotten historical FACT that the British Prime Minister HH Asquith, ironically the last leader of the Liberal Party to have a majority in Parliament, greeted the onset of war between the British Empire with the German Empire Tuesday 4th August 1914. We use the term British Empire because in August 1914 the UK’s declaration of war de-facto caused what were then the British Dominions of Canada (1867) Australia (1901) New Zealand (1907) and South Africa (1910) to declare also. Thus it was Britain’s declaration of war which turned a European War into a World War.

    It seems fantastic and grotesque that a British Prime Minister – especially a Liberal Prime Minister – should greet the outbreak of war with anything other than dread and horror! But that is to committee a very common mistake of viewing past evens through present day spectacles.

    Thus it is we see the ridiculous campaigns of numerous snowflake students shouting the odds and demanding that statues of Imperial luminaries as Rhodes and Kipling are taken down.

    Today, the excellent Doctor North again delivers a most authoritative commentary upon the long running farce currently playing at the Palace of Westminster that is Brexit.
    GOTO: http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86959
    With an increasing prospect of a NDB (No Deal Brexit) some business people are understandably getting worried. However, if we raise our eyes and look around to events other than Brexit we see very worrying parallels between the run up to Brexit Day 2019 and that fateful August 1914.

    Firstly, let us examine the circumstances that caused HH Asquith to greet the outbreak of war with almost a sense of relief: Whilst today (since 2016) “Brexit” has dominated British politics, Ireland, or more specifically, “Irish Home Rule” dominated British politics between 1911 and 1914.

    The December 1910 General Election had required Asquith to form an electoral pact with the Irish Parliamentary Party led by John Redmond. The price of Redmond’s support was Irish Home Rule. We will not debate these issues here but suffice it to say the sectarian politics of Ireland dominated the politics of mainland Britain. The Irish Home Rule Bill became an Act and it was in the summer of 1914 that a British government was faced with implementing that act in Ireland that autumn.

    In their different ways, this was a situation as serious as the one faced by Prime Minister Theresa May of a NDB “No Deal Brexit”.

    The summer of 1914 looked very, very bleak for the Asquith government. They faced the real prospect of civil war in Ireland and a British Army whose officer corps were not going to be impartial and who would side with Carson’s Ulster Volunteers – who were heavily armed.

    Then on Sunday 28th June 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and the repercussions led to the events of August 1914. It must be noted that this terrorist act is still a political topic today with Nenad Samardzija, governor of East Sarajevo, stating that Princip’s act was part of: “…..a movement of young people who wanted to liberate themselves from colonial slavery…..”

    Today we have a situation that Theresa May’s freedom of action in the Brexit negotiations has effectively been stymied by the need to have the support of Arlene Foster and the DUP. Not to mention Jacob Rees Mogg.

    Remember, the reason why Asquith was relieved was that in August 1914 all those thousands of Protestant Ulstermen who had rallied to Carson’s banner at once volunteered to join the British Army and thus most were killed fighting the Germans and not the fellow Irishmen they would have fought.

    So whilst Mrs May faces the prospect of the chaos of a NDB in the Spring of 2019 are there events that could overtake this?

    The answer is yes. Look around you!

    We have an erratic, narcissistic, inexperienced and bombastic President of the USA in office. The founding fathers of the Great American Republic drew up the Constitution of the United States to have as their ruler an effective elected monarch – but without the title and Royal appanage. The parallels between this situation and the situation in Imperial German and the equally erratic, narcissistic, inexperienced and bombastic Kaiser Wilhelm II are frightening!

    “The Donald” for his part has decided to pick a diplomatic fight with Iran over it’s nuclear weapons programme. NB: Iran’s claims that it is a only a civil nuclear programme are bullshit. Then we have “The Donald’s” determination to “denuclearise” North Korea. For this to have any possibility of success at all this HAS to be done with the support and complaisance of China. But then “The Donald” has decided to embark on a trade war with China!

    Now, a normal man would have though that these serious issues were conflicts enough, but that is to underestimate “The Donald’s” prodigious appetite for controversy and tension!

    Not satisfied with these difficulties, “The Donald” has decided to take on Canada, Mexico and just for good measure, the EU! However, there is another power that “The Donald” has decided to take on which is altogether more dangerous: Turkey and it’s equally erratic, narcissistic and bombastic leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “The Donald” has imposed tough tariffs on Turkey and these could increase – in goods affected.

    Whereas “The Donald” is constrained by the US Constitution, Erdogan who is rapidly evolving from elected politician to despot is not. There appears to be a Turkey-Russia axis under development over Syria. Turkey is of course a NATO ally – along with it’s traditional enemy, Greece. At this point, Turkey’s NATO commitment must be viewed as theoretical.

    This of course brings us to the question of Russia!

    Again the parallels with 1914 are becoming terrifying!

    On 4th March 2018, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury with a Novichok nerve agent.

    At the time, this dispute appeared to be confined to a spat largely between Britain and Russia – in a way vaguely similar to the spat between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. As in 1914 so it appears in 2018, other powers, allies of the protagonists have joined in. In 1914, Russia weighed in on Serbia’s side. Austria of course was pressured strongly by Germany.

    The USA’s sanctions against Russia however is paradoxically something relatively out of “The Donald’s” direct control as the sanctions are the result of an Act of Congress dating from the 1990s.

    All these sanctions (there are serious sanctions against Russia due later this year) must be viewed against a precarious economic backdrop. Banks in the Eurozone – who were already overstretched – are now adversely exposed to Turkey defaulting on her debts.

    Thus it is the case that in 231 days (or 7 months, 19 days) time when Brexit is supposed to happen all bets must be said to be off!

    On a personal note, I cannot help thinking that my grandfather lived in Cornwall at the outbreak of the Great War. The family moved to Devon in 1917 and Yorkshire after WW2. I moved from Yorkshire back to Cornwall in 2014.