Conrad Black

Diary - 7 January 2012

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It is hard for me to monitor this from my prison cell in Florida as I wait for the spurious and failed prosecution of me to flounder to an end, but it seems to me that Britain has failed adequately to recognise that Margaret Thatcher was correct in almost everything she said about Eurofederalism. She was a prophet who was sent packing because of her prescience, amid all that bunk about being ‘uncaring’. There was too much attention paid to the spivvy parvenus who most ostentatiously gained from her policies, and not enough to the millions of the unashamed bourgeois who gratefully made her the first prime minister since Lord Liverpool to earn three consecutive full terms. Surely it is time her effigy was in Parliament Square, to make George Canning less lonely in his toga.


Germany’s new status as the land of salvation and rescue is piquant, and well deserved. For over a century it was a truism that Germany was too late unified, unclear whether it should face west or east, and that whenever it tried to assure its own security it destabilised or assaulted its neighbours. Berlin is dotted with the architectural remnants of failed regimes: Hohenzollerns, Nazis, East German communists. All astute European statesmen from Richelieu to de Gaulle realised that, if unified, Germany would be pre-eminent in Europe. But the Federal Republic, led by the anti-flamboyant Angela Merkel, is faithfully enacting Helmut Kohl’s sincere vision of ‘a European Germany, not a German Europe’. My hunch is that Chancellor Merkel will not approve eurobond issues for the benefit of the most precarious eurozone countries until they have emulated the market reforms that Germany has implemented, which have reduced its unemployment rate from 9.6 to 5.5 per cent in six years. Almost a century after it started the first world war, and in the gentlest way, Germany can awaken Europe from the torpor of its socdem hammock. Der Tag is at hand, at last.

The death of the odious Kim Jong-il revives a strategic controversy. It is generally believed that we were stuck with North Korea once China intervened in the Korean war in 1950, after General Douglas MacArthur had achieved the almost complete destruction of the North Korean Army. MacArthur’s orders had been changed in October from resurrecting the 38th Parallel division between North and South Korea to completing the destruction of the North Korean army and advancing toward the Yalu. They were changed again in November after the Chinese invasion to holding the line at the 38th parallel and avoiding general war with China. MacArthur wanted to use Nationalist Chinese reinforcements, blockade the sea-coast of the People’s Republic, bomb Manchuria, absorb North Korea into the South, and destroy a Chinese army of 300,000 in the Korean Peninsula. He famously said that, for a draftee army, ‘there is no substitute for victory’. His insubordination was intolerable, but the course he recommended would probably have succeeded. Zhou Enlai confirmed to Richard Nixon 20 years later that Stalin would not have lifted a finger to help China, and if MacArthur had been listened to, China would probably have rejoined the world ten years before it did and the world would have been spared the hideous asp of the North Korean regime these 60 years. Casualties need not have been heavier than they were in the following two years of heavy skirmishing.


Barack Obama has arguably been the most inept US president since James Buchanan (1857–1861). Yet the most capable Republicans aren’t running to replace him. In the terrible year of 1968, Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan all sought the presidency. The nation is not turning to Willard M. Romney or Newton L. Gingrich. But they could produce the first hung convention since 1924 for the Democrats and 1920 for the Republicans. And the nominee could be one of the capable people who just couldn’t face the 18-month, $200 million nomination campaign. As I file, Mitt is neck-and-neck in Iowa with the loopy libertarian isolationist Ron Paul, and barely ahead of the estimable turbo-Catholic Rick Santorum. It could change but doesn’t look much like a bandwagon to me. The office is not yet seeking the man. It does get better than this.


A happy new year to all. Barbara and I will be back in June or July.

Conrad Black is a former proprietor of The Spectator.