Rohingya on the Edge

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At the time of writing, over 500,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State in a period of just over six weeks, most of them heading for the Bangladeshi border. It is the most rapid exodus of a people from anywhere in the world since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Considering there were […]

Who Do You Think You Are?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Over a century ago, Charles Booth’s surveyors were colouring in large-scale maps of London according to their estimate of each street’s level of poverty and moral standing. Booth came up with seven classes, but by then the British had grown used to thinking of themselves as having three – working, middle and upper – as […]

Just Giving?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A ‘free gift’ can be a morally complex thing. To give £5 to a rough sleeper, without specifying how it should be spent, with or without thanks in return, is a simple act of kindness or charity. To give £50,000 towards a new rough sleepers’ hostel is an act of philanthropy, though you might be accused […]

Migrant Metropolis

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Each night Roma beggars wheel their belongings in trollies into the pedestrian underpasses beneath the busy roads at Hyde Park Corner and set up camp. Each encampment corresponds to a different village in Romania. As one explains, ‘Our village is down at the bottom of Park Lane. At the edge of the streets of the […]

Unobtainium

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Books on resource wars are ten a penny and usually focus on oil or water conflicts. David Abraham’s attractively written book is unusual because it deals with commodities lurking in plain sight within cars, planes, fibre-optic cables, structural steels, LED lights, cameras, computers, televisions, MRI scanners, military night-vision goggles

The Great Sell-Off

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Private Island is a fierce left-wing polemic against the core principles of what is easiest encapsulated as ‘Thatcherism’: the credo that the private sector can deliver most public services more cost-effectively than the state; that it’s better for families to be homeowners in command of their own circumstances than permanent tenants and clients of the […]

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Green Shoots

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It would be easy to suggest that, the title of her book notwithstanding, nothing much has changed in Naomi Klein’s analysis of world affairs. As in her two previous books, Klein identifies neoliberalism and the restructuring of global business and finance initiated in the Thatcher and Reagan era as the forces exacerbating the problems of […]

Fifty-Year War?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This January, few experts took much notice of the Iraqi army’s difficulties in retaking Falluja from Islamist terrorists. But when Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), as these jihadis called themselves, captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, on 10 June after just three days of fighting, the world did notice and it was […]

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A Dig at Ditchkins

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins invoked 9/11 and suggested worse was to come as the price of the continued existence of religion. According to Dawkins, faith means a step into barbarism: the irrationality of the suicide bomber, the unreasoning cruelty of the fundamentalist.  There is surely no denying that religionists have caused much misery […]

Buyer’s Remorse

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

One minor grouping on my bookshelves consists of laments for the Islamisation of Europe. Such titles include Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept, Walter Laqueur’s The Last Days of Europe and, most provocatively, Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. The latest addition to this genre comes from Christopher Caldwell, a Washington DC-based FT columnist who ‘travels […]

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Pouring on Cold Water

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

It was Harry S Truman who famously demanded to talk only to one-handed economists: he was fed-up with what he saw as ‘on the one hand … but on the other’ non-answers. In the same way, politicians and an impatient media seek excessive certainty and simplicity from natural scientists; they have little time for nuance […]

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The former Swiss schoolmaster Tariq Ramadan is the latest minor intellectual celebrity whom Western academics have embraced in a pattern of misplaced enthusiasm stretching from Antonio Negri to Michel Foucault. After a few televised run-ins with the then French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, had conferred notoriety on Ramadan, liberal American Catholics offered him a chair […]

Counting the Cost

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

It would be difficult, in recent history, to find a better illustration of the law of unintended consequences than President George W Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. The underlying fantasy was that a swift and decisive military campaign would be followed by a rapid reconstruction effort, spearheaded by some of America’s finest and most overtly […]

The Case for Intervention

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

When I went to Sandhurst in 1985, there was a palpable feeling among us officer cadets that we had missed out on the only chance we would ever have to fight in a real war with shooting. The Falklands conflict had taken place three years earlier and many of the training staff at the Academy […]

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Lawyers, Guns and Money

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Of all the terrible things I have witnessed during my years as a war reporter, the human suffering caused by Operation No Living Thing in Sierra Leone was the worst. Tooled up to the nines with AK-47s supplied by a Ukrainian arms dealer called Leonid Minin and funded by Muammar Gaddafi, rebels loyal to a […]

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The End in Sight?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The assassination of Osama bin Laden on 2 May 2011 has brought an unhappy chapter in US history to a close. It may be too soon to say that the killing of the Saudi dissident by an elite team of US Navy SEALs, in the compound at Abbottabad where he had been hiding with his […]

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Arming the Little Platoons

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘What leads people to spoil their environment, and what leads them to protect it?’ According to Roger Scruton, this is ‘the real question, that of human motivation’, that environmentalists have failed to address. The answer, he believes, is that people act to protect the environment to the extent that they can think of it as […]

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Splitting Atoms

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Despite the disasters at Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and latterly Fukushima, we seem to be witnessing a global nuclear revival. The Chinese recently increased estimated new-build reactor capacity targets by a third, implying a concerted worldwide renaissance in uranium demand. As Gabrielle Hecht reveals in her exhaustive Being Nuclear: Africans and […]

Value for Money

Posted on by Tom Fleming

At the Plough and Stars in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I once heard an Irish banjo-player fly into a rage at someone’s refusal to stand him a ninth drink. ‘I play me music for nothin’,’ he explained. ‘And what do I get for it? Fock all!’ Maybe Michael Sandel, who teaches government at Harvard, just down the […]

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