James Gray - Pulling up a drawbridge at Dover is not answer

James Gray - Pulling up a drawbridge at Dover is not answer

James Gray - Pulling up a drawbridge at Dover is not answer

First published in

I do love the natural cycle of the year – in weather, nature and human activities terms. ‘Blazing June’ has lived up to its name this year, yet the promise of showers for Glastonbury and, no doubt, the Wimbledon final, is very traditional.

The glories of the English countryside are in full bloom, and we are not yet anticipating the dried-out look which arrives in August. We have trooping the colour, the Lords vs Commons tug of war, state opening of Parliament, garden parties, Ascot, Henley for the grandees; fetes, barbecues and trips to the seaside for we ordinary folk. Who could want for more?

The summer of 1914 was probably not dissimilar in many ways. The English enjoyed their traditional summer activities blissfully unaware of the ‘little local difficulty’ which was blowing up across the Channel.

Today events in Iraq are chilling in the extreme; Syria has collapsed, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi are all under threat, Iran only tentatively pulling back from threatening Israel with nuclear weapons, but there is a decreasing likelihood of any kind of settlement to the Palestinian/Israeli question.

ISIS, Al Qaeda and other extreme Jihadist organisations whose ambition is to destroy the West are busy, amongst many other things, recruiting innocent young boys from Cardiff. They poison their minds and send them back to the UK with bomb-making instructions and capabilities.

Behind all of that sits Russia, whose Ukrainian adventure may well not be over, and who have fingers in most international pies.

So what do we do about it? The two extremes are both incorrect. Those who say we should stay at home, enjoy the village fete and hope that it will all go away merely echo the complacency of 1913. Those who seem to think that using military force around the world apparently without a second thought for the consequences are gravely mistaken.

Yet we must also never forget that we are one of the richest countries in the world, that we do offer a stable, sensible, democratic, free liberal economy approach to life which so many parts of the world would benefit from. And we do also have a moral and historic duty to do what we can for good in the world.

Retreating behind a portcullis at Dover and pulling up the drawbridge is not the answer.

So let us enter into the spirit of the English summer, but never lose sight of the chill winter which may lie a few months away.

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