Thursday, March 5, 2009

Britain as Superpower

On page 42 of No Simple Victory, World War II In Europe, 1939-1945, Norman Davies writes, “War is not fought by guns and logistics alone. Psychological factors need to be taken into account too. Here, Britain’s superb gamble in defying the Third Reich in 1940-41, when discretion might have favoured accommodation, had significant consequences. Not only did it give heart to all opponents of Nazism, including the oppressed populations of German-occupied countries. It also did much to undermine American isolationism, and thereby to prepare the way for the entry of the USA into the war. It did little in practical terms to weaken Hitler’s grip on Europe. But it was crucial in facilitating what was to follow. Without it, the USA would have no base from which to intervene: German industry would have been free from bombing; the USSR could have been attacked in isolation; and the final outcome could have been very different.”


Davies like Bevin Alexander (How Hitler Could have Won World War II) is noting events that needed to go well for the allies for the result to have been as it turned out, that is, for the Allies rather than Hitler to have won World War II. Davies began his book by describing how each of the former allies tended in the histories that were subsequently written to thump its own chest. The truth is that all the allies needed to contribute as they did, not excluding the British-American strategic bombing, for the outcome to have resulted in allied victory in 1945.

I’m not sure that Britain has done as much chest-thumping as it is entitled to. For example, some Poles obtained the details and a mockup of the German Enigma machine. What should they do with it? Britain is holding out against the Germans. Let’s take it to Britain, and so they did. The British needed to have their own competence in the form of Alan Touring to crack the Enigma code, but they first needed to have been there defying the Germans for the Poles to have taken the trouble to get the Enigma information to them.

But getting the US into the war was among their greater coups. In a nation as large as the US you can find a great number of points of view, but “isolationism” was an extremely popular and influential one prior to World War II. George Washington urged his political descendants not to get embroiled in Foreign Wars, and that seemed like good advice to those descendants. But Churchill influenced Roosevelt who didn’t need much convincing, but he did need Churchill’s participation in the American political process; which Churchill superbly provided. Also, one of the “points of view” common in the US was a great fondness for Great Britain. A huge number of Americans could trace their ancestry back to England, Scotland, Wales, or Ireland. I am not alone in being able to trace 100% of my ancestry back to Great Britain. “Helm” in pre-Norman times (my daughter the genealogist tells me) used to be “Helme.” Could we let our “motherland” fall to the Nazis?

Great Britain is still very much an important force in the world. I must confess that it was some of the comments Michael Kuznetsov (who is 100% Russian) made on his website about Russia being a modern-day superpower that made me think of these things – or rather, what Davies wrote triggered these thoughts about Kuznetsov’s comments, but Russia, after all, has a population of only 141,000,000 with but 50,000,000 men and women fit for military service. Now consider Britain. We have not only Britain but the nations founded by Britain who feel strong ties and would, as we have seen, join with Britain in dire emergencies, regardless of how they might bicker when times are good. The following numbers are rounded off from the CIA World Factbook:

UK: pop. 61,000,000; men and women fit for military service: 23,000,000

US: pop 304,000,000; fit for military service: 119,000,000

Canada: pop 33,000,000; fit for military service: 13,000,000

Australia: pop 21,000,000; fit for military service: 8,100,000

New Zealand: pop 4,000,000; fit for military service: 1,600,000

Some argument could be made for some other additions. Would, for example, India fight on Great Britain’s side in a future hypothetical emergency. And I’m sure Russia has some non-Russian allies as well, but with just the above nations; which I would consider fairly reliable supporters, we see a total population of 423,000,000 and 164,700,000 men and women fit for military service, more than the total population of Russia. Admittedly, it would take an almost unimaginable emergency to get all these “fit for military service” people into uniform, but if Russia is a modern-day super power, why isn’t Great Britain as well?

Lest what I have written sound too warmongerish, let me hasten to add that a strong anti-war, anti-military, pacifistic point of view is very prominent in the UK and in all of the UK’s descendants not excluding the US, but I suspect something like that is true today in Russia as well. I venture to say that no nation is anxious to go to war today. Granted, several nations are hunkering down and putting out their porcupine quills (I think of North Korea and Iran here). And other nations have local conflicts that could bring them to blows (I think of India and Pakistan here), but we have no modern day Hitlers striving to take over major parts of the world. What we do have is a religious based ideology, Islamism, that would like to spread their viewpoint by military means, but they are at a severe disadvantage with all the nations of the world opposing them – at least I can’t think of a nation that is overtly Islamist today.

One more word about the concept “superpower.” America seems to have had its “unipolar moment” and didn’t fancy it much. While the exportation of Liberal Democracy was not the only reason for ousting Saddam, it was one of the reasons, and I am quite sure that no American politician is interested in doing that again anytime soon. The British Historian, Niall Ferguson in such books as Colossus, The Price of America’s Empire, has been egging us on to assume the role of Empire, and I’m sure that many in the Bush administration tried that idea on for size, but it never caught on, no more than when we actually tried empire years ago with the Philippines. Britain on the other hand is much more comfortable with being an Empire. Rather than seeing America as a “superpower,” I am inclined to see Britain engaged in Empire-lite.

Listen to Gordan Brown, for example, speaking to our American congress a few days ago as quoted in a Chinese web site: ( ): ‘Britain would work tirelessly with U.S. on anti-terror, Mideast peace and Iran's nuclear issue. I know that there is no power on Earth that can ever drive us apart," said Brown. Obama said Britain is one of the closest and strongest allies of the United States.

“. . . Highlighting the special Anglo-American relationship, Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday told U.S. lawmakers that his country would work "tirelessly" with the United States on anti-terror war, Mideast peace and Iran's nuclear issue.

"’Alliances can wither or be destroyed, but partnerships of purpose are indestructible. Friendships can be shaken, but our friendship is unshakable. Treaties can be broken, but our partnership is unbreakable,’ said the prime minister in a formal address to U.S. Congress in Washington.

‘I know that there is no power on Earth that can ever drive us apart,’ he added, after President Barack Obama promised the special relationship between the United States and Britain ‘will not break.’

“During his meeting with Brown on Tuesday, President Obama said the special relationship with Britain is important to the American people, and that Britain is one of the closest and strongest allies of the United States.

"’And let me, therefore, promise you our continued support to ensure that there is no hiding place for terrorists, no safe haven for terrorism," Brown told the lawmakers.

"’We will work tirelessly with you as partners for peace in the Middle East, for a two-state solution, ... that provides for nothing less than a secure Israel safe within its borders existing side by side with a viable Palestinian state,’ said Brown.

"’We will work tirelessly with you to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons," he said.

"’Our shared message to Iran, it is simple. We are ready for you to rejoin the international community but, first, you must cease your threats and suspend your nuclear programs,’ Brown stressed.

“Britain is one of the United States' closest allies, and its foreign policy emphasizes close coordination with the United States.’”

Well said, Mr. Prime Minister!


Colin Murphy said...

Hey Lawrence-

Completely off topic but in a previous blog you mention a grandfather William Leander Sparks from Adams County, Illinois. I'm related to WLS through his second wife, Elizabeth Elwood. Would be interested in corresponding with you.

Anonymous said...


I offer here a few quotes from William Engdahl, and some of my thoughts, for your possible interest:

“While still ostensible allies, during the World War II the United States started to prepare for war with the Soviet Union. In the summer of 1945, at the time of the Conference in Potsdam, the United States had secretly adopted a policy of ’striking the first blow’ in a nuclear war against the Soviet Union. To that effect a secret document JCS 1496 was drafted on July 19, 1945. The first plan for nuclear attack was drafted soon afterwards by General Dwight Eisenhower at the order of President Truman.

The plan, called TOTALITY (JIC 329/1), envisioned a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union with 20 to 30 Atomic-bombs. It earmarked 20 Soviet cities for obliteration in a first strike: Moscow, Gorki, Kuibyshev, Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk , Omsk, Saratov, Kazan, Leningrad , Baku, Tashkent, Chelyabinsk, Nizhni Tagil, Magnitogorsk, Molotov, Tbilisi, Stalinsk, Grozny, Irkutsk, and Jaroslavl. Detailed in Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod, To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon's Secret War Plans, Boston, South End Press, 1987, pp. 30-31. The secret Pentagon strategy since the end of the Cold War to use modernization of its nuclear strike force and deployment of missile defense technology is but a modern update of a policy established in 1945 — Full Spectrum Dominance of the world, via the destruction of the only power capable of resisting that dominance — Russia.”

“The pressures of an increasingly desperate US foreign policy are forcing an unlikely ‘coalition of the unwilling’ across Eurasia. The potentials of such Eurasian cooperation between China, Kazakhstan, Iran are real enough and obvious. The missing link, however, is the military security that could make it invulnerable or nearly, to the sabre-rattling from Washington and NATO. Only one power on the face of the earth has the nuclear and military base and know-how able to provide that — Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The Russian Bear sharpens its nuclear teeth . . .”

End of quotation.

Which is why I call my country Russia a Superpower.

As to the numbers of soldiers . . . I am convinced that what matters is not the QUANTITY but QUALITY.

For example, Israel has been successfully pitting against the innumerable Arab enemies surrounding it with the ratio 1 to 40. Imagine: ONE to FORTY! Nevertheless, the Arabs can never defeat the Jews. This is because of the Israeli soldiers' very high QUALITY. They are made of “different stuff” than their Arab adversaries.

The Russian soldier is the best in the world. We are made of different stuff than that of our potential adversaries. By my calculations we can gather an army of 30 million Russian MEN. Not women, of course! It is sheer misogyny to send women overseas to kill and be killed!

As long ago as in October 2007, as you may remember, our President said: “Why worsen the situation and bring it to a dead end by threatening sanctions or military action?" Putin asked. “Running around like a madman with a razor blade, waving it around, is not the best way to resolve the situation.”

We Russians do absolutely agree with our President. To stop the madman who is approaching our throat with a razor blade we need a very good, big and reliable nuclear club.

So, I regret to say that soon all of us, the Russians and the Westerners are most likely to see with our own eyes “who is made of what stuff”, including each nation’s resilience and the capability to arise from the ashes after the all-out thermonuclear devastation.

We believe that with the Lord God’s help we Russians shall arise again as it happened always in our long history.
We the Russian people are like a stone, like a single monolith, like one colossal organism. At the same time the West is made of individuals separated like grains of sand. Moreover, we Russians trust in God and rely upon His Divine mercy towards us, while the Westerners have sunk in their godless sins and abominations like sodomy, etc., etc., etc.

God seeth everything. We fear no one on earth but only the Lord God in heaven. Which is why Holy Russia is invincible.

Anonymous said...

Lawrence, Britain IS a superpower. It is one of 2 superpowers left in the world, the other being NOT United States. US is being controlled through various "international" organizations such as United Nations, CFR, and various sects of Freemasonry - like Skull and Bones. None of what's been going on in America is actually benefiting american people, so I don't think it is a superpower - it is a SUPERCONSUMER. And that's about to change.

Now, about Russia. Russia since 1917 has been controlled by 2 most powerful organizations in the world, control going from one to the other. Russia has no its own production base, most factories need western production lines and tools to do its job. Military research and technology is often being "shared" between the power nations. After Perestroyka, Russia basically destroyed its productional and educational base, and now is a third-world country with nuclear veapons that depends on natural resources to survive - which is what western communists and socialists need.

As far as Michael Kuznetsov's comments - there's way more than 1 country that can resist nuclear strike - Britain and China, for instance. But there won't be a full-size nuclear war, ever. As far as "Pentagon's secret policy to destruct Russia"...He-he my tovarish, you should stoup listening to russian propaganda and start using your brain. US has been secretly spending BILLIONS financing various Russian projects since revolution. West is buying russian resources, which it needs to continue its "consummerism" strategy. God will help Russia indeed, if it'll stop paying tribute to various masonic and financial cliques that are controlling its destiny. Think you have what it takes? Well then, I am all for russian ruble being the part of the world's top currency. But what I see now is Russia submitting to EURO, and that is not a superpower's move.

Michael Kuznetsov said...


I struggled to comprehend which country (apart from Britain) the Anonymous considered to be a second superpower, but I failed.
Indeed, mostly he sounds rather inadequate.
So, I do not feel like having a discussion with him.

I have re-read my older comments on your blog and found that, actually, I have already expressed all what I could.

From time to time I visit your blog and continue to consider it interesting.
Sometimes your materials sound funny, e.g. the childish thesis about how General Frost defeated both Napoleon and Hitler.
It's very funny ha-ha!

Some other materials sound extremely revelatory and explicitly self-exposing.
For example, I quote your words:
"So, yes we are hard-wired for war, as the anthropologists tell us, but not in a blind way. We calculate, and if the odds are against us, or if there is no advantage in moving ahead with an attack, then we refrain. We don’t do it. And we see that we don’t have to do it . . . [although, when attacking Iraq] The risks of retaliation were low."

For us Russians, the American idea, expressed by you, to attack only those weak who could not strike back sounds unexpectedly too much self-disgraceful.

If, some fifteen or so years ago, I had read (but I had not) such phrases anywhere in our Russian press, I would have immediately concluded it to be a dirty piece of sheer anti-American commie's propaganda.

But I do strongly believe that you personally are neither a Communist, nor an anti-American activist.
Hence, Lawrence, I feel very much amazed with your revelations.



Anonymous said...

Britain's military is as well trained and equipped as either the United States, Russia, or China.

Yes our armed forces are smaller, as is our population, but in a crisis, Britain has many friends. If Britain was in peril you can practically guarantee the support of much of the commonwealth, many of whom share equipment and routinely conduct shared military exercises. Even today the British Army draws a significant proportion of its recruits from the commonwealth, and even Ireland.

Britain has fought for or alongside many countries in the past and these may also offer it military support, Poland and France(though Sarkosy seems to have forgot about Britains role in WW2, and the United States may feel obliged to repay the debt of support we have given them.

Few countries in Eurasia, China or Iran would willingly support Russia against any significant threat unless they themselves were directly threatened. Eurasia makes all the right noises to Russia at the moment, but they would all gain from a weaker Russia. Chinas policy of growing economically without rocking the boat is working to well to get involved in Russian sabre rattling.

All that said I would rather the world powers competed in space and for the future rather than compete over old territorities and historical disputes.

Lawrence Helm said...


See response at