Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Geopolitics

Obama must strike now

Friday, 30 August, 2013 6 Comments

The spineless stance of the 285 British MPs who hid behind the tainted skirts of the UN last night does not change reality. To let the Syrian tyrant go unpunished now would assure him, and like-minded barbarians, that the proliferation and use of chemical weapons will be tolerated. And that cannot be. If the UK is unwilling to uphold this prohibition, it is even more important that the US does. In the words of The Economist:

The Economist “Because doing nothing carries risks that are even bigger. If the West tolerates such a blatant war crime, Mr Assad will feel even freer to use chemical weapons. He had after all stepped across Mr Obama’s ‘red line’ several times by using these weapons on a smaller scale — and found that Mr Obama and his allies blinked. An American threat, especially over WMD, must count for something: it is hard to see how Mr Obama can eat his words without the superpower losing credibility with the likes of Iran and North Korea.”

Obama must now proceed with a “punishment of such severity that Mr Assad is deterred from ever using WMD again. Hitting the chemical stockpiles themselves runs the risk both of poisoning more civilians and of the chemicals falling into the wrong hands. Far better for a week of missiles to rain down on the dictator’s ‘command-and-control’ centres, including his palaces. By doing this, Mr Obama would certainly help the rebels, though probably not enough to overturn the regime. With luck, well-calibrated strikes might scare Mr Assad towards the negotiating table.”

It’s time to hit Assad. Hard. Otherwise we can abandon civilization to the wolves. In his third year of wavering, two years after stating Assad had to go, one year after drawing — then redrawing — that red line, Barack Obama must act. Alone, if necessary.


The horror of Putin’s realm

Friday, 19 July, 2013 1 Comment

While the American traitor Edward Snowden eagerly seeks political asylum in Russia, the real face of Vladimir Putin’s police state has been exposed by the show-trial of protest leader Alexei Navalny. Yesterday, thousands took to the streets following his conviction on embezzlement charges. Navalny — a vocal critic of Putin — had denied the charges, saying the trial was politically motivated.

Scuffles broke in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities in protests that continued late into the evening. Reports said dozens were detained by police.

That most useful site, The Interpreter, which translates important articles from Russian, offers Navalny’s last and very emotional blog post before yesterday’s sentencing. In it, he appeals to every single person in the country, with the exception, perhaps, of Edward Snowden. From “Before the sentence…“, a snippet: “No one is in a position to resist stronger than you. It is your duty to the rest, if you realize it; it is the sort of thing that it is impossible to delegate to someone else. There is no one else, except you. If you are reading this, then you are in fact the resistance.”


Google ideas

Monday, 4 February, 2013 1 Comment

It’s time to get familiar with the name Jared Cohen. The 31-year old former US State Department hot shot founded and runs Google Ideas, the search engine’s think tank, and he’s co-written what may well be the most important book of 2013, The New Digital Age. The other name on the cover is that of Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.

The New Digital Age will be strong on the dangers represented by the “illicit networks” run by Chinese and Russian cyber authoritarians. Quote:

“The increasing ubiquity of connection technologies will both empower those driving illicit networks as well as the citizens seeking to curb them. These networks have been around for centuries, but one thing has changed — the vast majority of people now have a mobile device, empowering citizens with the potential to disrupt the secrecy, discretion, and fear that allow illicit networks to persist. As illicit networks grow in scope and complexity, society’s strategy to reduce their negative impact must draw on the tremendous power of technology.”

Yes, Google is a hard-headed business, and it is determined to dominate the search industry, but the company is far more idealistic than its rivals and Schmidt and Cohen are to be applauded for their determination to defend the cause of democracy from its enemies. More about this on Wednesday here.


When Churchill flirted with Basic English

Monday, 7 May, 2012

In the early 1920s, a rather eccentric Cambridge academic named C.K. Ogden came up with the idea of “Basic English“, which reduced the language to 850 words. One can imagine Winston Churchill, then in his mid-forties, having been shocked by such an idea, but circumstances change cases and, astonishingly, the great orator and author of […]

Continue Reading »

Communist control and capitalist cake

Friday, 4 May, 2012

Until the authorities told him to leave in 2008, Bill Hayton reported for the BBC from Hanoi. The things that made Vietnam, with its almost 92 million inhabitants, so intriguing for him were: “The contradictions inherent in simultaneously having communist control and eating capitalist cake.” The paradoxes of the place, its people, its history and […]

Continue Reading »

Choppy waters in the South China Sea

Monday, 30 April, 2012

The standoff earlier this month — “Philippines Warns China in Naval Crisis” — between a Filipino warship and two Chinese surveillance vessels was ostensibly about disputed fishing rights in an area of the South China Sea where both countries claim sovereignty. This is about something more controversial than shark fin soup, though. China wants to […]

Continue Reading »

Patacombos for the PIIGS!

Thursday, 16 February, 2012

Because the PIIGS are prevented from getting their grubby trotters on the printing presses by the European Central Bank, all they can do is stand idly, impotently by as money flows out of their economies and into more stable havens. This is exactly how it was in Argentina a decade ago except that Buenos Aires proved more imaginative when faced with this dilemma. The Argentine treasury began issuing a raft of IOUs with exotic names: lecops, porteños, quebrachos and patacones, for example. These were greeted with disdain by the global money markets, but McDonald’s, that beacon of capitalism and proletarian cuisine, was more humane:

“The Buenos Aires outlet of burger behemoth McDonald’s is preparing to accept one-year bonds in payment for food, as a cash crisis grips the Argentine economy tighter with the continued lack of conclusion to talks between the country and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bonds, nicknamed patacones after a currency that became defunct 120 years ago, will be issued as part-payment of wages for the 150,000 state workers in Buenos Aires who earn more than US$740 a month… McDonald’s has launched a special new meal deal called the ‘Patacombo’, consisting of two cheeseburgers, French fries and a drink.”

In the end, the patacones didn’t do the business and at the beginning of 2002 Argentina defaulted on its international debt. The peso’s 11 year-old tie to the US dollar was rescinded and the country was plunged into an enormous financial and socio-economic crisis. Unemployment rose to 25 per cent and wages dropped to their lowest level in 60 years. Moral of story: PIIGS should think carefully about how they intend to pay for their Patacombos, or else change their diet.