Friday 30 November 2018

May's Machine and the Doctrine of Frontal Attack

Ten days ago I wrote, under the heading Powering Brexit Through The Grid:
Some things in life are decided by the better-prepared and more pig-headed
Droid Army:  quite a spectacle
As a spectator sport, watching May's machine grind into action is quite a sight - like the deployment of a droid army in a Star Wars episode.  Predictably, the Beeb falls immediately in to line; and the MSM lap it up - see the Grauniad's summary of how Project Hysteria plays in the press. This is quite a preliminary bombardment we are watching.

Now many of us, myself included, much prefer the inventive flanking maneouvre, the pulling of a bold stroke, the deployment of a knock-down argument to score a point; but the fact remains that some great enterprises are won by just grinding away, frontal assault, wave upon wave, trench by trench, 'defeating in detail' the opposition, one at a time if necessary.  "Hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle" as they say in the US Marine Corps.

It's OK, perhaps, when you have the numbers.  The 'Indirect Approach' (© B Liddell Hart), by contrast, has particular appeal to those who can't take the casualties, who've sickened of attritional warfare, who like the sound of Sun Tzu's prescriptions for defeating the enemy even before battle has been joined.  But if you have a preponderance of resources, there's always that siren argument: we can slog this out.  And some people are born sloggers.

(A case-study I use when explaining different strategic approaches is the Ford Sierra: when first launched, as the successor to the all-conquering Cortina, it was greeted with universal derision - the "jelly-mould" would surely never sell.  But did Ford change tack?  Nope: they ploughed on, with redoubled commitment, ever more advertising, ever more dealer incentives, ever more fleet deals, ever more special offers & 0% finance packages - slogging it out until the Sierra was as ubiquitous as its predecessor.) 

And thus we come to May's winter offensive.  She's made the maximum use of tactical surprise (quite effectively, it must be said) but that's over now and she is carpet-bombing her way towards the Commons vote.  No strokes, no subtlety.  It's not difficult to predict abject failure and many do: it's a scenario we have entertained here.  

Salamanca:  No slogger, Wellington.  No Wellington, McDonnell
But.  As also noted here before, no-one else shows any sign of having another plan.  God alone knows what the ERG thinks it is up to, or the SNP.  McDonnell, though, is a bit easier to read.  He is clearly hoping he'll be sufficiently nimble and decisive to spot an opportunity to pull a stroke, in the manner of Wellesley at Salamanca.   I have to say, though, this seems unlikely:  McDonnell's *army* doesn't obey orders in quite the same way as the Iron Duke's.  Nor does McD look like a tactical genius to me.    

In truth, his and all of the other opposing forces hope - at best- to defeat May's droid hordes in a ten-second miracle per the Star Wars script, by suddenly blowing up the communications satellite.  With one neatly-placed missile they will triumph at a stroke, and the reins of government will fall into their hands.  Deus ex machina.

Yeah, right.  This is lazy-man strategy - a million miles from Wellington's perennial practice of "taking trouble".

May can lose: but can McDonnell win?  Meanwhile the grid-script grinds on - with the Daily Mail onside! - and some of those scare stories really are commendably lurid ...



John in Cheshire said...

What about Dr. Richard North and his Flexcit document; produced by someone who knows how the EU works, how Mr Farage works and what we need to do to extricate ourselves from the evil EU.
And let's not overlook the Harrogate agenda as a basis for how we employ our management post-EU exit.

Nick Drew said...

We've often discussed Dr North's output. Looking past his severely self-limiting, nay, destructive personal conduct, it turns out that his carefully-researched plans are for a project of immense, multi-phase complexity.

This is rarely good strategy - there are just too many dependencies, and too many opportunities for the other side to derail the plan simply by moving a goalpost or two.

Summarising considerably: first, we would move into a Norway-like holding position, and exploit several loopholes in EU rules to our advantage. (As if the EU wouldn't close them in a trice.) Then, we transition to some complicated Phase 2 position that requires a few more leaps of faith. Then we move to Phases 3 & 4 etc, at the end of which we are free!

Of course, it transpires that only Dr North (and his son) know the route-map, and so they would need to be in charge of the whole process.

Anyone who doesn't grasp the force of all this is an idiot, to be ridiculed and caustically abused.

- - - -

Amazingly, the whole world has not fallen at his feet to be given its marching orders.

E-K said...

I've a horrid feeling she's going to win. A second referendum during the transitional period.

If not then a second referendum anyway.

Why do you think the tour of the country ? Why do you think the almost complete buy out of the MSM ? That's not to get at the MPs. That's to get The People softened up for R2 (R3 if we're being pedantic.)

It is vitally important to the EU that The People are seen through the prism of history to be supplicants.

Project Fear is so last war.

This is now Project Make The People Think Changing their Minds is Their Idea which is why it's called The People's Vote.

We've lost The Mail. That's like losing Gibralta in this campaign. I just hope The People hold fast like I have but most of them only listen to news as background music and right now those tones are very Darth Vaderish.

tolkein said...

What's wrong with the deal?
We leave customs union at end 2020, maybe end 2021, by which time we've found technical solution -having seen some demos of stuff the City is actively looking at (lots of the City, custody banks, asset managers, transfer agents are doing pilots tests of blockchain and they're going to work, and seen real life stuff in tracking goods shipments) I'm pretty sure we'll have a technical solution to get rid of the backstop.

We've been in Common Market since Jan 1973. It'll be 48 years at end 2020 - and City and business think transition is very good deal, no need for lots of high value added jobs to go now - so what if it's 49 years. After then we can go for real growth and free trade deals, not just US, but TTP, India, Korea, China and Japan.

No deal is perfect.

This deal gets us out of the EU, ends free movement, get access to cheaper world food, develop better Fin Services regulation.

Have you got a better deal?

One that's in the art of the possible, not just fevered dreams.

Norway keeps free movement, UK becomes a rule taker and still pays in £10bn a year to EU.

If there was a better one, why didn't Boris and David Davis negotiate one?

andrew said...

Ek you may be on to something
Once you have removed no deal as a possible path the referendum will be stay or mays deal.

Bill Quango MP said...

Scare stories are commendably lurid.

My kids refer to something terrifying being so over the top unbelievabley hyoed as terror that it becomes comedy, as a
“sharknado event.”

From the film(s) of same name.

Very apt description.

Sharknado is a 2013 American made-for-television sci-fi disaster film about a waterspout that lifts sharks out of the ocean and deposits them in Los Angeles.

DJK said...

tolkein: Free movement? So what. There are 200000 non-EU nationals coming every year. EU nationals are a minor issue compared to that.

Elby the Beserk said...

tolkein said...
What's wrong with the deal?
We leave customs union at end 2020, maybe end 2021, by which time we've found technical solution

What's wrong? We leave when the EU says we can leave. There's no A50 for the backstop. Indeed, once March 19th is done, we have no traction on the EU whatsoever, indeed, they can pretty much do what they want to us/extract whatever they want in matters of £££££££££££ and fish. The deal as it stands is a total disaster.

andrew said...

... and the sunday times pretty much confirms may's deal is stay but we lose our vote.


well that was 2 years wisely spent.

E-K said...


What's that film about then ?

CityUnslicker said...

very astute piece ND. I hope she wins, I really do.

As I find in business, the charlatans who spit from the side and carp about how they could do better always go missing when needed. Sadly ERG and Boris are firmly in this camp. Labour are a disaster, the one good thing about watching them currently is it is instructive to see just how venal and rubbish they will be in Government; solutions will always be offered as some fantastical alternative reality rather than anything gritty like doing shit in the real world.