Rediscovering Our Commonwealth Strength

by Rob Martin (October 2010)

Anyone who is not a complete fool, and we in the West now have more than our fair share of those, should be able to see that we are at war. Islam, at least as recently as 11 September 2001, has declared war on what is commonly referred to as da Vess. Many, far too many, in the West would seem to prefer being killed to running the risk of ever offending anyone who is Muslim.

The West now appears to be deeply committed to losing this war. In far too many Western countries both the state and the media are firmly on the side of Islam. Has there ever been such a bizarre situation in human history, that the government of a country at war would punish its own people whenever they might dare to say unpleasant things about the enemy. Three important books published in 2010 – Theodore Dalrymple’s The New Vichy Syndrome, Melanie Phillips’ The World Turned Upside Down  and Pascal Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt provide convincing evidence that the West has largely succeeded in defeating itself. In this context, it might be useful to reflect on the situation in the UK in 1939 and 1940. Churchill came into office at the head of a party and a government, both of which had accepted the inevitability of defeat. By May of 1940 the situation had become much worse. There were many, and compelling, reasons to give up. The UK did not give up and was able, eventually, to achieve victory. This happened largely because of leadership, because of Churchill’s stubborn and implacable refusal to submit to that which many believed to be inevitable. The West desperately needs leadership if it is to defend itself against Islam’s assault. 
My own deepest instincts tell me that, when someone declares war on me and on everything that matters to me, I must respond and press on to victory. This essay sets out my Canadian perspective on this war, along with some ideas as to how we might go about winning it.  

The struggle between civilisation and Islam will be, it now seems clear, the definitive historical process of the 21st century. Since Islam is international, the forces of civilisation must be international and have international leadership. President Bush’s Global War on Terror has fizzled largely because it was, and was seen to be, a manifestation of American unilateralism.

Since its entry to the Second World War, the United States provided leadership for the West. It should now be apparent that, under the rule of Hussein Obama, the United States has no interest in leading, let alone being a part of, the West. If we are to avoid defeat, some new thinking is essential. This essay aims to provide some of that thinking.

The Commonwealth can, and should, as it did in the struggle of 1939-1945, provide leadership in the struggle against Islam.
The Commonwealth is a wonderful international organisation. The 53 states which make up  the Commonwealth are found in every part of this planet and include cultures and societies covering the entire range of human possibility.
Canadians’ knowledge of the Commonwealth ranges from low to non-existent. There is a widespread tendency to see the Commonwealth as the British Empire in drag or as the warmed-over corpse of Empire. Decades of being immersed in Trudeauian ideology have left Canadians hostile to anything that reminds us  we once had a connection with the United Kingdom. Our media pundits are as ignorant of the Commonwealth as they are of most things on this planet. Sneering condescension is an easy substitute for knowledge.
Canadian ignorance of the Commonwealth is doubly unforgivable since Canada was largely responsible for giving the modern Commonwealth its shape. In 1926, the U.K. government, largely at the insistence of Canada and the Irish Free State, issued a statement called the Balfour Declaration. It set out a definition of the Commonwealth which continues to apply. The Commonwealth, the Declaration said, is a “voluntary association of free and equal states, in no way subordinate one to another.” For the next two decades the Commonwealth was a settler club. That changed on 15 August 1947. That date, which should be familiar to every educated person, represented a profound turning point in human history. India gained its independence and there was, thenceforth, a brown face at Commonwealth meetings. In 1957, the West African colony, the Gold Coast, became independent. The new state, Ghana, immediately joined the Commonwealth. A crucial change occurred in 1961. A convention had developed that when a Commonwealth member decided, as India had done in 1950, to become a republic, it was obliged to leave the Commonwealth and to apply for readmission as a republic. In 1961, the Union of South Africa made itself into a republic. The country left the Commonwealth and its application for readmission was rejected, largely because of Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s opposition to South Africa’s policy called apartheid. Since then, hostility towards racism has been a fundamental Commonwealth principle. The Commonwealth’s finest hour was found in its opposition to settler rule in Zimbabwe and to apartheid in South Africa. Consequently, when South Africa’s first democratically-elected government, headed by President Mandela, took office, it applied for, and was granted, readmission to the Commonwealth. Until it won its independence in 1975, Mo?ambique had been a Portuguese colony. In 1995, impelled by its admiration for the role played by the Commonwealth in the liberation of southern Africa, Mo?ambique joined the organisation. It is instructive to look at the African states which now belong to the Commonwealth. Not all these states are former British colonies. None of Cameroun,  Mo?ambique, Namibia or Rwanda was ever ruled by the United Kingdom. Yet each of these states voluntarily sought, and was granted, membership in the Commonwealth. 
In 1949, the London Declaration removed the adjective “British” from the organisation’s name, so that today it is, simply, “the Commonwealth.”
The year 1965 saw a major structural reorganisation. The Commonwealth had grown to the point where a formal structure was required. The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) sets policy and direction for the organisation. A Secretariat manages the organisation and carries out the decisions made by CHOGM. At the helm of the Secretariat is the Secretary General, of whom there have been five, as follows:

i    Arnold Smith, Canada, 1965-1975

ii   Shridath Ramphal, Guyana, 1975-1990

iii  Emeka Anyaoku, Nigeria, 1990-2000

iv  Don McKinnon, New Zealand, 2000-2008

v   Kamalesh Sharma, India, 2008-
The Secretariat makes its home in London in a fine Georgian building named Marlborough House. This was the town house of John and Sarah Churchill, Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother lived in the house from the time of her husband’s death in 1936 until her own death in 1963. Queen Elizabeth made the house available to the Commonwealth.
Marlborough House has, on its ground floor, one or two spectacular salons, as well as a number of very handsome meeting rooms. To go above the ground floor, one must rely on an ancient lift which struggles to rise. Leaving the lift, one enters a warren of corridors and rooms. This is definitely not the glittering, sterile setting one might expect to find as the headquarters of a major international organisation. Most of the people working in the building appear to be African and Asian. They are able to work productively and harmoniously because of the Commonwealth’s greatest asset and its cement — the English language. Just as the Commonwealth is no longer British, so too, its language is no longer the possession of the U.K. English, today, is an African language, an Asian language, and a Caribbean language. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of contemporary Canada is the fact that English has largely disappeared and been replaced by a barbarous and semi-literate pastiche. If one wishes to hear English spoken properly, one should make a visit to Harare, or Nairobi, or Singapore.
The obvious and easy question which skeptics raise about the Commonwealth is: what is the role of Queen Elizabeth II? She does have the title Head of the Commonwealth. This is a purely formal position, with no authority whatsoever. She does attend Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings, but her role at these gatherings seems  largely to be that of informal social convenor.
The vast majority of Commonwealth member states is made up of republics. There are five indigenous monarchs: the Sultan of Brunei; the King of Lesotho; the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia; the King of Swaziland; and the King of Tonga. It is only a minority of Commonwealth states that retain Queen Elizabeth II as head of state with a local Prime Minister as head of government. With two exceptions, this is the pattern in the Caribbean states that belong to the Commonwealth. The two exceptions are the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
When British India gained its independence in 1947, it was, unfortunately, partitioned between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan.

India has been a spectacular success. Its economy is booming. It is the largest  and, by now, one of the oldest democracies on this planet. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians-all live together harmoniously in India. The current Prime Minister is a Sikh. India is, after Indonesia and Pakistan, the country with the world’s third largest Muslim population. A major threat to India’s harmony came from the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), once seen by many as a party of Hindu fascists. The BJP has recently evolved into a fairly typical Indian political party.

Pakistan is the first and the oldest of the world’s failed states. Its beginnings were not auspicious. It was an artificial entity, cobbled together from the parts of British India that had Muslim majorities. Its artificial name came from those parts-Punjab, Afghania,  Kashmir, and Baluchistan. It was in two bits: West Pakistan (now Pakistan) and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory. Pakistan’s politics quickly settled into a dismal pattern of hopelessly corrupt civilian leaders alternating with military dictators.
In order to provide leadership in the struggle against Islam, the Commonwealth must, to a degree, reinvent itself. This could be done by moving the Commonwealth’s centre of gravity to India. Such a move makes sense, since 95% of the people of the Commonwealth live in India. It would be a good idea to transfer the Commonwealth Secretariat from London to New Delhi. The U.K. monarch might give up the title Head of the Commonwealth, which title could be conferred on the President of India.
The terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008 could propel India into this role. Muslims appear to be equal opportunity murderers, quite happy killing Christians, Hindus or Jews.
With leadership coming from a Commonwealth focused on India, the forces of civilisation should prevail in the struggle against Islam. The world of the 21st century is one in which there is vast hostility towards all things and all people European. Islam will attempt, and has attempted, to present its war against the West as a further stage in the process whereby African and Asian peoples have struggled to free them selves from European domination. If the war to defend civilisation against Islam were being prosecuted by the Commonwealth with Indian leadership, this fairytale would be revealed as the vicious lie which it is. It should not be imagined that all this is going to be easy. There are several Commonwealth states – Bangladesh, Brunei, Malaysia, the Maldives, Nigeria and Pakistan – which have Muslim majorities. These states might not immediately rally behind the Commonwealth’s struggle against Islam. Nor must it be imagined that India is perfect. It has its flaws and it has failings, but it also has great strengths, not least in its military.
Accepting the leadership of a Commonwealth focussed on India would not necessitate Western states surrendering their sovereignty. It would simply mean recognising that the politics of Islam’s war against the West demand such a strategy. If the war against Islam is, and is seen to be, prosecuted solely, or largely, by Europe and by the European diaspora, it will fail. Alternatively, if the war to resist Islam’s assault on civilisation were to be focussed on an international organisation made up of countries with African, Asian and European populations and led by an Asian country, its chances of success would be vastly greater.
Even with leadership coming from a Commonwealth centered on India, there is no guarantee of victory. Recognising the simple fact that Western countries are now following paths that can lead only to defeat, it should be evident that a new approach is necessary. Entering the struggle entails risk and uncertainty, but the result of the West’s current path of pre-emptive surrender is unmistakeable.


Rob Martin is Professor of Law, Emeritus, the University of Western Ontario. From 1985 to 2000 he was Secretary-Treasurer of the Commonwealth Association for Education in Journalism and Communication.

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