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Max Hastings | we need leadership - NOT dithering, posturing and waffle

OWoN: The full realities of the NATO conference for you as it happens. Like trying to tell this Big Girls Blouse, Obama, to Man Up!

David Cameron mouths foolish nothings, proclaiming that Britain would commit ‘all the assets we have’, including our ‘military prowess’ against the Muslim extremists.

Max Hastings: We need leadership - NOT dithering, posturing and waffle

Mail Online
By Max Hastings
3 September 2014

Suddenly, the world seems a frightening place. The beheading of a second American hostage by jihadist fanatics and the threat that a British aid worker will suffer the same fate has shocked the peoples of the West, as have few events since the Cold War.

We are uncertain how the Western Powers should respond.

At such moments, we turn to our national leaders for wisdom, reassurance and decision. Instead, we get posturing, dithering and waffle.David Cameron mouths foolish nothings, proclaiming that Britain would commit ‘all the assets we have’, including our ‘military prowess’ against the Muslim extremists.

More serious, the President of the United States seems supine in the face of the gravest threats to international order in a generation.

Barack Obama boldly strides golf course fairways, while apparently washing his hands of the job the American people — and, by association, the civilised world — pay him for: to strive to lead us into the paths of righteousness.

To borrow P. G. Wodehouse’s phrase, however intelligent Obama may be, he resembles a spineless invertebrate.

None of the above means that the answers to the menace from the Islamic State or the thuggery of Russia’s Vladimir Putin are easy. Certainly, there must be no rash gestures.

Over the centuries, many Westerners have been barbarously murdered abroad, albeit not filmed to be broadcast on the internet.

The first rules of foreign policy are to say what you mean, and mean what you say. However, none of this is a good reason for the West to sit on its hands.

The President of the United States seems supine in the face of the gravest threats to international order in a generation

The Middle East is not susceptible to easy ‘solutions’. Instead, like the crisis in Ukraine, it must be managed.

But even this cannot be done without the leaders of the West strengthening their armed forces, which have shrunk dramatically since the Cold War. Germany and Italy have become almost pacifist states.

Cameron and Obama convinced themselves that, once we had escaped the Afghan and Iraqi quagmires, Britain and the U.S. need fight no more conventional wars.

They refused to heed what many wise voices warned them: events and tyrants have ways of setting the agenda for peace or war, whatever the wishes of politicians.

A critical part of the argument for having strong armed forces is to deter aggressors, making it unnecessary to fight them.

Ministers, including David Cameron, lie and lie about our residual military capability.

Britain is reduced to having a little Army, which can just about Troop The Colour; a Navy that is building two enormous carriers for which we cannot afford a credible air component; and an Air Force that can conduct strike operations only with American support.

In the long term, if we want tyrants such as Putin to take seriously not only the Western Powers, but also the whole concept of international order, we must have the military capacity to fight him, even if we do not want to use it.

If Russia is allowed to grab eastern Ukraine, the values of Saturday night city centre brawls will prevail between nations.

I am an optimist. I believe that, sooner or later, the Russian people will realise the huge deceit practised upon them and reject leaders whose policies deny them prosperity and freedom.

Meanwhile, the West must show that Putin and his gang have put themselves beyond the pale by their actions.

American journalist Steven Sotloff pictured in an ISIS video before he was executed. He was killed two weeks after James Foley died in the same way

And, meanwhile, what about the Islamic State? Most of us are even more dismayed by the existence of some support for its cause in Britain than by its deeds in Iraq and Syria.

Such fanatics have always existed. But in the late 19th century, for instance, there was no backing for the Sudanese Mahdi’s Dervishes in Solihull or Sheffield.

The intelligence services face a massive challenge in monitoring domestic Muslim extremism. We must overcome some of our past ethical scruples about electronic surveillance, because eavesdropping is by far the most effective tool for catching the fanatics bent upon attacking our society.

The threat must be met proportionately, but also with much greater firmness than in the past. There can no longer be indulgence for imams, or anyone else who preaches jihad in Britain, above all in schools.

Also, I believe it will be a good day for race relations when Muslim women living here abandon the burqa and other symbols of their own repression.

In the past, many of us have been squeamish about the use in faraway places of American drones to eliminate Muslim extremists, including the al-Qaeda leader killed last week in Somalia.

But in states where no conventional law and order exists and in the face of the jihadi threat, drones seem an important weapon.

As for our military response in Syria and Iraq, the only certainty in an immensely complex situation is that it would be madness to embark on a full-blooded U.S. and British military operation to defeat the Islamic State.

Even if this achieved short-term success, we would be back in the quagmire into which President Bush and Tony Blair plunged us a decade ago, responsible for a vast alien region, many of whose people hate us.

We should sustain humanitarian relief for the victims of the jihadists and provide limited military support for the Kurds and, possibly, also to the Baghdad government.

An outright triumph by the Islamic State would be a disaster, but we cannot do for the peoples of the region what they cannot or will not do for themselves.

Challenge to Obama: The ISIS executioner taunts the President before he kills US journalist Steven Sotloff. He is thought to be the same militant who killed James Foley and tells the President 'I'm back'

Nor can we become the saviour of Syria’s mass-murdering President Assad.

If these suggestions sound incomplete and inconclusive, so they are.

But I believe they are probably the best we can do, especially until our political leaders articulate a clear and credible narrative about what is going on in the world.

Neither the Islamic State nor Putin poses an existential threat to our societies and way of life, as did Hitler and the old Soviet Union. We, and our values, are incomparably stronger than our enemies and theirs.

We should never doubt that against Islamic fanatics and Putin, our nations represent the good guys.

Biblical quotations seldom seem appropriate in the context of global politics, but St Paul’s words to the Thessalonians — ‘Hold fast that which is good’ — seem just in this context.

The peoples of the Middle East and, ultimately, those of Russia and Ukraine, must decide the fates of their respective regions.

But we can, at least, offer some succour to the relatively innocent and impose penalties on the most guilty. We can hold fast to that which seems reasonably good.

However, it is the proper duty of our political rulers to explain all this to us, as thus far they have not.

David Cameron sounded no more convincing in the Commons yesterday than he looked on a surfboard in Cornwall last month.

At this weekend’s Nato summit in South Wales, Obama, Cameron, Hollande, Merkel and their peers have a chance to show the world — our friends, as well as our enemies — that they understand the meaning of leadership in times of crisis.

Alas, it is likely that, once again, they will flunk the test.

The era of statesmen has been supplanted by the age of government by management consultancy. Nato was created by the generation of Churchill, Truman, Marshall, Eisenhower and Adenauer.

Their successors, on their showing thus far, can scarcely touch such men's knees when standing on tiptoe.



  1. The hard truth is that their plan is the NWO...but we are more and they cannot seem to get it much indecisiveness...their plan falling apart as we are becoming more conscious of their deception.

    Our leaders have failed us! This is a lesson for mankind!

  2. The US should not be tasked with shouldering this burden alone. Where is the military of European nations? Europe should be doing air strikes, preparing massive tank blitz-krieg with support from US and other nations. ISIS or ISIL or whatever they call themselves will not be deterred. They are the epitome of that line in Terminator

    "that thing is out there. It cannot be bargained cannot be reasoned with. It does not feel pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, EVER..UNTIL YOU ARE DEAD!"
    This is ISIS.

    1. More fear porn, they created ISIS; they trained them; they also supplied the war weapons to else could they steal planes that have satellite devices etc...These are not leaders, they are all in this deception together, every nation..

      They are in a quest to take over the world...they are confronting every front in this time. They are crippling US and taking money from everything not tied down, they are fighting Syria, Russia, and trying to take over Iraq, and then they are trying to set up a Caliphate surrounding Israel with the Levant ISIL. Israel is angry at US and supporting war against Arab nations, as well as killing Palestinians...

      We can't forget about Argentina, Mexico, and they want to tear the borders down with Canada. Saudi Arabia has gone rogue against US plans, and Ecuador is trading away from US dollar and using electronic money. Europe (EU) is basically bankrupt because of the economic connection to US with sanctions against Russia. Germany need open markets and leaning towards Russia with little support for Ukraine.

      So many dynamics going on at one time, who can do all of this and succeed? US is over saturated at home and abroad...while people and lives and economies stand in limbo...

      And we have an Iranian and Muslim in the Whitehouse...this is a recipe for not only economic destruction, but the end of their rule...It's time to begin to write the history of American 1776-2014...

      Arrest all the bankers, all the heads of state, close all the states borders, initiate the new republic...get rid of all involved...there are too many good people who want to do the right thing. We don't need this...
      Also, activate the 13th Amendment...

    2. Agreed. Well said FedUp

  3. The beheadings of Foley and Sotloff were staged, like Sandy Hook. They even had the same second-rate actress playing the role of Adam Lanza's girlfriend and Foley's sister:

    Sotloff's mother was another crisis actress, looking like she'd just come out of the Air Force One presidential drug-den.

    ISIS is a Langley/Mossad/MI6 co-production; an army of mercenaries who massacre Christians and Moslems alike but never seem to target Israelis.

    Max Hastings article reinforces the propaganda.


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