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For All Nails, pt. 168:  Pound Diplomacy

By Henrik Kiertzner

3 January 1975 
1400 hours GMT 
The Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street
London, England 

The Secretary to the Cabinet walked into the Prime Minister's office, his 
demeanour grave.

"Prime Minister, we have received a response from the CNA via the M.A. at 
the High Commission."

"Excellent. In what form?"

"A verbal message, passed through General O Cellaigh."

"And it says...?"

"Um. It is curt to the point of outright rudeness. The text, as dictated, 
is: 'The Governor General of the CNA is grateful for the advance warning 
of the aggressive intent of the United Empire and its associates, counsels 
these Powers against intervention in a Hemisphere not their own and urges 
His Majesty's Government to reflect upon the historical links between our 
great nation and the United Empire, the enormous debt of gratitude which 
Britain, in particular, should feel towards the CNA for its assistance 
during the late conflict and, finally, the extent to which the Imperial 
Monetary Fund is maintained in credit by direct subvention from the CNA.' 
Not altogether a helpful message, one fears."

Sir Geoffrey Gold leaned back in his chair, tapping his fingertips 
together in an unconscious mannerism. He shut his eyes briefly, his 
expression impassive. He remained perfectly still for thirty seconds or so 
before leaning forward again and opening his eyes.

"Call a full Cabinet for four o'clock. Full attendance, no excuses. I need 
you, the Foreign Secretary, the Minister for War, the Chief of the 
Imperial General Staff and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at three 
o'clock, here."

"As you wish, Prime Minister."

Gold nodded abstractedly and turned to look out into the bleak back garden 
of Number 10 Downing Street. There was a bedraggled pigeon perched on the 
leafless branch of one of the elm trees, he noticed, its silhouette black 
against the pale oyster grey of the winter sky.

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1510 hours GMT - The Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street

"So, we can stipulate that the CNA is in a position to do some harm to our 
economy. We depend to a limited extent upon the confidence which the 
backing of the IMF gives us as an element of collateral in international 
trade, to a slightly lesser extent upon the shared revenue from joint 
military projects and to a minimal extent upon the limited range of 
imports of luxury and consumer goods we allow from the CNA?"

"Precisely so, Prime Minister."

"So, in an ideal world, had we some alternative source of financial 
support for our economy, we should be effectively isolated from any 
potential ill effects of a CNA embargo?"

"Oh, assuredly. In fact, such an embargo, involving as it would have to, a 
withdrawal of both our overt cooperation and our covert support for the 
CNA Armed Forces' retraining programme, would certainly annoy the CNA more 
than us. However, in the absence of such a fairy godmother...."

"Mmmm. Mmmmm. What of the military balance? Jock?

Field Marshall the Viscount Cawdor GCB ("Jock" to his friends), the Chief 
of the Imperial General Staff, was not a voluble man. He raised an eyebrow 
and lit his pipe before replying.

"Well, Prime Minister. The correlation of forces is at first sight not 
reasonable. The CNA is a large continental power in the Western 
hemisphere, with an effective air arm and an efficient Navy. Its Army is 
numerous and well-equipped. That said, its staff techniques are primitive, 
its cadre of commanders lacks experience, polish and sophistication, its 
Ground Forces are large but poorly-led and not trained in anything larger 
than unit-level operations and its combat experience is entirely in 
peacekeeping against its own or in the debacle in Porto Rico. [1]  Our 
Navy, in conjunction with our Scandinavian friends and our ... unexpected 
new friends from across the Channel, can certainly clear the Caribbean and 
the North Atlantic of their major combat units, our air arm, again with 
our friends, can sweep the skies over our forces clean of their aviation 
and we can certainly deal with any land forces they chose to project 
outside the North American continent with all despatch. We can not 
invade North America, of course."

"Nor would we ever want to. This is in the nature of a row in the nursery, 
rather than a fight, I think. Would the CNA military be aware of this?"

"Most certainly. We have been telling them ever since Porto Rico what is 
wrong and have only just begun teaching them how to what is right."

"Thank you, Jock."

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1625 hours GMT - The Cabinet Room, 10 Downing Street

"....so, ladies and gentlemen, that is the position. I will now ask you 
all, individually, to endorse my request for 24 hours' breathing space to 
consult elsewhere before we reconvene to take a final view of our 
circumstances."

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1707 hours GMT - The Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street

"Pray connect me with the Embassy of the Republic of Taiwan. I wish to 
speak in confidence with the Commercial Attache."

"Certainly, Sir Geoffrey. One moment."

[1]  The island officially known as "Boricua."