A new cold war

On Stephen Kotkin, ‘Myth of the new Cold War’, Prospect First Drafts, March 28, 2008

I am sorry to inject a bit of confusion, but, actually, both Kotkin and Edward Lucas (an ex-colleague many years ago in the BBC World Service) could be right in whether there is a new cold war. It depends on perceptions. And the central players in the new cold war may not be America and Russia. More


Understanding suicide bombers

On The American Prospect Magazine – Ezra Klein Blog, ‘Mr AQI and US’, March 24, 2008

One thing that frequently strikes me is poor knowledge of history when experts discuss suicide bombers. If they are to be believed, people who are prepared to die as they launch attacks are ‘weird’, even ‘deranged’. For us in western countries, it does seem strange that anybody would want to blow themselves up to kill others. Al-Qaeda tactics are seen as new by terrorism pundits of today. More

The tragedy of Tibet

On John Kelly, ‘Gordon Brown agrees to meet Dalai Lama in May’, Prospect Magazine – First Drafts, March 20, 2008

When a powerful nation is rattled, its leaders usually resort to brute force and intemperate language. This is what we see in the recent conduct of the Chinese authorities in Tibet. Terms of abuse like ‘the Dalai clique’ and unproven accusations that the Dalai Lama has orchestrated the recent riots in Tibet illustrate this. Few people outside China find such allegations credible.

Repression and rebellion are frequent companions. Violence cannot be condoned, but equally a repressed people can take only so much. The Dalai Lama’s sadness and frustration were all too obvious when he described the Chinese crackdown in Tibet as a ‘cultural genocide’. Restrictions on the teaching of Tibetan, freedom to practice religion and way of life over half a century are a deliberate campaign against Tibetan culture. Despite all this, Tibetans have shown extraordinary resilience over the last 50 years. More

Iraq: Taking stock five years on

On Seumas Milne, ‘Blowback all over again’, Guardian Comment, March 21, 2008  

The architects of the war in Iraq are congratulating themselves, equipped with new ‘public opinion surveys’ and ‘figures’ demonstrating that the ‘surge’ has reduced violence in the country. Seumas Milne’s excellent article brings a much-needed perspective to the debate.

As Milne points out, behind the surge, in large part, are the Sunni militiamen in the Awakening Council, an American creation, which is showing signs of falling apart. The militia was as big as 80,000 strong I did not know and I thank Milne for bringing the size to my notice. A disaffected parallel army of this size is a time bomb. What can be expected of a militia consisting of hired gunmen, on daily wages, who have not been paid?

Future threats aside, and there are many, Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution in Washington presents a noteworthy analysis today of the Iraq war. Someone with a critical mind, instead of buying the propaganda, would do well to put Riedel’s analysis alongside President Bush’s claim that the war has been a strategic victory for America. More