Spoiled by Vendetta

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘This book’, Boutros Boutros-Ghali intones in its closing pages, ‘has been about the loss of an opportunity to construct an agreed-upon post-Cold War structure for international peace and security.’ Rarely, even in memoirs, do authors fall quite so foul of the Trades Descriptions Act. Boutros-Ghali was United Nations Secretary-General from 1992 to 1996; and it […]

A Talent For Shrouds

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the late 1970s, I had a colleague in the World Service of the BBC by the name of Feyyaz Fergar. We all loved him, especially in the basement bar of Bush House on Aldwych, but alas many of us did not discover until too late that, as well as being an uplifting companion, he […]

When the Time came to send for a Novelist

Posted on by David Gelber

In April 1996, a group called Dignity for Colombia abducted the brother of a former president and demanded that García Márquez be installed as head of state. The Nobel Laureate begged them to release the hostage, insisting he would be ‘the worst president ever’. The episode is as surreal as anything in his novels. Imagine […]

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Priests And Mullahs

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A DECADE OR so ago, I was invited by the Foreign Office to a seminar at Ditchley Park, a grand mansion in the country, to promote understanding between the West and the world of Islam. There were, as expected, the usual senior diplomats (the Foreign Office ‘Arabists’), becoming dewy-eyed whenever they heard the names of […]

The View From the Ground

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A ‘JARHEAD’ IS a US Marine, so named because his head looks like a jar, with his scalp completely shaved on the back and sides, leaving only a flat, no 1 buzz-cut circle on top. Anthony Swofford was a jarhead, a lance corporal in a Marine sniper platoon, a third-generation soldler, and at the age […]

Mercy Mission

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

WE ARE NOW familiar with the horrors of the two world wars and of the breakup of Yugoslavia; but the two Chechen wars of the mid-to-late 1990s, std continuing into the twenty-first century, are truly a foreign country to us, despite some excellent books by journalists who covered the conflicts. They are important for various […]

Lines In The Sand

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

HISTORY IS ARGUABLY the most pernicious weapon in the hands of the protagonists in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It can be unsheathed at any moment to lop the head off a promising peace initiative when one side feels, as invariably happens, that the deal falls short of expectations. So it is a brave man or woman […]

The Long War

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Words assume an enormous significance in warfare. The First and Second World Wars or the Cold War each got right what was at stake, in a way that ‘war on terror’ doesn’t. At present, many policymakers are desperately searching for an alternative since ‘terror’ is a tactic, and many of the activities we routinely place […]

An Occupation in Pieces

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Ali Allawi’s credentials for writing The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace are unimpeachable. Born an Iraqi Shi’a, Allawi spent most of his life in exile from his native country, pursuing careers in banking and academia (paralleled by his role as a leader of the Iraqi exile community), before his return to […]

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