The defence of tyranny is becoming almost fashionable. Once unimaginable, at least outside certain circles, it has become almost the mark of self-described ‘realists’ to advocate tactical co-operation with individuals and regimes that have perpetrated atrocities. The threat of other forces – perhaps religiously inspired terrorists, or additional dictators with more expansionist tendencies – is deemed to merit these instances of dealing with the devil. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: March 2016
Henry Kissinger: The Idealist?
Review – Kissinger 1923–1968: The Idealist by Niall Ferguson
Henry Kissinger remains one of the world’s most controversial statesmen. He is a man who is, as Niall Ferguson states at the beginning of this new biography, covering the first 45 years of his subject’s life, both revered and reviled in equal measure. Kissinger is held up by some as a kind of seer, an intellectual without parallel in recent times; others declare – just as fiercely – that he has exercised an entirely corrosive influence on world affairs, that he is a war criminal – and, perhaps most oddly, that he is an agent of the shadowy forces which operate behind supposedly democratic nations to control the way the world really works. (The latter position is obviously ridiculous, but it is worth mentioning – not least because the risible imaginings of David Icke and his ilk can sometimes reflect the more vigorous denunciations of Kissinger which exist in significantly more acceptable circles.) There is one thing, however, on which both sides of this particular debate – which seeks to decide whether Kissinger is a hero or villain, a saint or sinner – appear to agree: that Kissinger was a realist, and a realist par excellence. Ferguson, however, takes a dramatically divergent view, one which is contained within his provocative subtitle. For him, Kissinger is (or at least was) an idealist, which represents the exact opposite of much of the popular and scholarly perception of Kissinger’s life and his work. It appears that everyone else has got the man entirely wrong. Continue reading
Right as Rain
Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extoll the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.
Caesar’s double bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.
W. H. Auden, “The Fall of Rome”
Though the current trouble affecting the Conservative party in no way resembles the malaise affecting its Labour equivalent, there is certainly a sense – one which is reinforced by media coverage and the proclamations of opposition politicians – that the party is in trouble, even crisis, ahead of the upcoming referendum on the European Union. Continue reading
Writing, Except for Money
‘[H]e uniformly adhered to that strange opinion, which his indolent disposition made him utter: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money”.’
James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson
When I was about 16, inspired largely by swashbuckling journalists of the recent past, I decided to start writing.
My interest didn’t manifest itself in stories or poetry; and it was not intended for private amusement. I wanted an audience, which would make the laborious construction of sentences worthwhile. Continue reading
The Failure of Obama’s ‘Liberal Realism’
The world owes a great debt to Jeffrey Goldberg. His new contribution to the understanding of foreign policy is a vast and wide-ranging interview, published in The Atlantic, with US President Barack Obama. It is an undertaking which allows the president, soon to be out of office, to explain at length his views on foreign affairs and his programme for the world at large. This setting out of the ‘Obama Doctrine’ is both fascinating and salutary. Continue reading
Europe’s Perception Problem
Security forces gunning down peaceful protesters on the streets of Homs. Regime helicopters bombarding whole neighbourhoods of Aleppo with indiscriminate barrel bombs. The Islamic State storming through the desert, executing all those who don’t adhere to their radical ideology along the way. Massive car bombs ripping through the heart of Damascus. A toddler lying dead on a Mediterranean beach. These are the images that have become both iconic and all too commonplace during five years of war in Syria. Continue reading
Britain’s Labour Party and Its Anti-American Friends
The political systems of Britain and the United States have borne witness to many surprises in recent months. With Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump achieving surprising success in their parties’ primaries ahead of the 2016 general election, it can be forgotten that Britain has already seen a similar upset: the election of Jeremy Corbyn, an avowed ideologue of the far-Left, as leader of the Labour party, one of Britain’s three major parties. In the aftermath of his election as leader, that party has seen an abrupt divergence from the internationalism of much of its long history. Continue reading
Calculated Brutality in Syria’s Civil War
Charles Lister’s book The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency, contains many calculated uses of brutality by both the Assad regime and other actors, most notably ISIS and other Salafi-jihadist organisations such as the Nusra Front. What is surprising is not the nature of the violence itself – which is to be expected in a civil war of this nature – but rather the fact of its careful cultivation. Continue reading
I Was BuzzFeed for a Couple of Days (and It Was Perfect)
I have always had an instinctive dislike of BuzzFeed, the new, sparky website seemingly entirely powered by faddish political opinions and years-old posts on Instagram which is more or less eviscerating traditional publishing and giving jobs to almost every journalist I can name.
Because this dislike was instinctive – because it was automatic – I decided I had better investigate the whole thing a little more. Continue reading