Time for our leaders to stop talking about ‘justice’ in Syria if we can’t or won’t enforce it

Honesty may be the best and only realistic policy

‘It’s about chemical weapons. Their use is wrong and the world shouldn’t stand idly by.’
— David Cameron, 27 August

‘The chemical massacre in Damascus cannot and must not go unpunished.’
— François Hollande, 30 August

‘We lead with the belief that right makes might, not the other way around.’
— Barack Obama, 31 August

Continue reading “Time for our leaders to stop talking about ‘justice’ in Syria if we can’t or won’t enforce it”

Middle East violence ‘the result of generations of tyranny’

It’s not an Arab Winter: Today’s violence in the Middle East is the end result of generations of tyranny, suppression and distortion of political discussion

The Washington Post headline declared that “scores” were dead. The New York Times wrote of “mass killings.” The Telegraph, when I last checked, was claiming that “more than 623” died in fighting in Egypt over the past few days, but of course that’s an estimate. In truth, no one knows the real death toll because the violence that began with the army’s forced clearances of protest camps in Cairo on Wednesday quickly spread across the country. Angry mobs have since pushed military trucks off bridges, burned churches, torched buildings. Continue reading “Middle East violence ‘the result of generations of tyranny’”

Spies, terrorists and an undercover ham sandwich

I am trying very hard to understand why everyone is shocked — shocked! — by news that the US government helps itself to the massive data flows generated by Google, Facebook and Twitter. I have always assumed that something placed into an internet database is no more secret than something written in a letter. We all know that those pop-up advertisements — so amazingly compatible with what we searched for on Facebook ten minutes ago — aren’t there by accident. But if we aren’t bothered when ruthlessly efficient multinational corporations troll through our data in order to earn billions for their teenage CEOs, why are we bothered when the comparatively inept US government does the same while searching for terrorists? Continue reading “Spies, terrorists and an undercover ham sandwich”

How to Succeed in Business

  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
    by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell
    Knopf, 228 pp., $24.95
  • The End of Men and the Rise of Women
    by Hanna Rosin
    Riverhead, 310 pp., $27.95

To begin with, a quiz. Who wrote the following sentences: Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, or Sheryl Sandberg?

(a) When communicating hard truths, less is often more.

(b) It takes self-confidence, courage and a willingness to take the heat when you make the tough calls.

(c) Opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.

(d) Get your priorities straight and keep a hot list of what you’re trying to do.

(e) Seeking out diverse experiences is useful preparation for leadership.

(f) People used to ask me, “How could somebody as busy as you go to all those swim meets and recitals?” I just put them down on my calendar as if I were seeing a supplier or a dealer that day. Continue reading “How to Succeed in Business”

Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher

  • Margaret Thatcher, The Authorised Biography
    Volume One: Not For Turning
    by Charles Moore
    860 pp, Allen Lane, £19.20

In her first meeting with the press after defeating Edward Heath in February 1975, the new leader of the opposition modestly paid homage to her predecessors: “To me it is like a dream that the next in line after Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Edward Heath is … Margaret Thatcher.”

Accidentally, she had voiced what many other people in the room also felt. As Charles Moore explains, “The fact that her election did indeed seem like a dream was a large part of her problem.” In and out of her party and across the country, many people found the ascent of Thatcher outlandish, even bizarre: “The oldest, grandest, in many people’s eyes the stuffiest political party in the world had chosen a leader whose combination of class, inexperience and sex would previously have ruled her out. And it was not obvious that it had really meant to do so, or that it was confident of its choice,” writes Moore. Continue reading “Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher”

To Americans, Margaret Thatcher stood for free markets and free people

No transatlantic alliance since has held a candle to the potent symbolism of Reagan-Thatcher

In America, we didn’t know about the miners’ strike, and I suspect that if we had, we might not have cared. We were mystified by the poll tax riots. We were bemused by the Falklands war – where are the Falklands, anyway? – and lukewarm about Britain’s fights with Europe. We like the idea of Europe, after all; we are in favour of having European allies, as we call them, and we are under the impression that Britain is one of them. So why shouldn’t you all just get along? Continue reading “To Americans, Margaret Thatcher stood for free markets and free people”

Does Eastern Europe still exist?

In February 2009, the Economist ran a cartoon which featured caricature versions of Angela Merkel, Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown, then the leaders of their respective countries. The three were sitting at a luxuriously appointed dining table, their faces frozen in exaggerated horror. All were contemplating a giant bill, at the top of which was written, “for the rescue of Eastern Europe.” The accompanying article, just to drive home the point, was entitled “The bill that could break up Europe.” Continue reading “Does Eastern Europe still exist?”

Poland in the Darkness of World War II

  • The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War
    By Halik Kochanski
    Harvard University Press, 734 pp., $35
  • The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery
    By Witold Pilecki translated by Jarek Garliński
    Aquila Polonica, 460 pp., $34.95

ONCE, THE Allied history of the Second World War—the Anglo-American history of the Second World War, the Victors’ history of the Second World War—was the only one we thought mattered. In school, in movies, and in political speeches we learned of a war between Britain, France, and America on the one hand, and Nazi Germany and Japan on the other; of Pearl Harbor and D-Day; of Monty and Ike, Churchill and Roosevelt; of Hirohito’s surrender and the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Good triumphed over evil in the Anglo-American version of history, because our war ended happily. Hitler killed himself, De Gaulle marched into Paris, the Holocaust was over, and justice caught up with the worst perpetrators at Nuremberg. Continue reading “Poland in the Darkness of World War II”

US election 2012: Why ‘leading from behind’ might not be the best way to take American forward

Let’s be perfectly clear: this year’s American presidential election was not a referendum on American foreign policy. Nor did it involve much discussion of the subject. During most of the campaign, the words “Iraq” and “Afghanistan” were scarcely mentioned. Continue reading “US election 2012: Why ‘leading from behind’ might not be the best way to take American forward”

US election 2012: It’s time for a Republican Party clear-out

The Republican party’s sound economic policies are being drowned out by the strident voices of dubious fringe figures
President Barack Obama’s victory speech. Mitt Romney could not separate himself from a Republican Party whose public faces – in the media as well as in politics – seem to many Americans ever more extreme Continue reading “US election 2012: It’s time for a Republican Party clear-out”