The Chatham House Paper

This paper from the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) is causing an awful lot of fuss at the moment.

What it doesn’t say

The question you have to pose is: what is this report suggesting we should have done? It is suggesting we should simply have put our heads down and hoped that we weren’t going to be attacked?
Tony Blair

The report does not say anywhere ‘we should simply have put our heads down’. Blair obviously hasn’t either read it or been well briefed.

“I’m astonished that Chatham House is now saying that we should not have stood shoulder to shoulder with our long-standing allies in the United States,”
Jack Straw

The report says the UK shouldn’t have of been “working shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States as a back seat passenger rather than an equal decision maker.” This is not the same thing as not standing shoulder to shoulder. Our voice was not (eg) listened to over Fallujah.

What the report does say:

The Royal Institute of International Affairs, known as Chatham House, said that Britain’s support for the US did not mean it was an equal partner but a “pillion passenger compelled to leave the steering to the ally in the driving seat”.

The think-tank concluded that “the UK is at particular risk because it is the closest ally of the United States, has deployed armed forces in the military campaigns … in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and has taken a leading role in international intelligence, police and judicial co-operation against al-Qa’ida and in efforts to suppress its finances,” it said.

Chatham House warned that Iraq had created difficulties for the UK and the coalition. “It gave a boost to the al-Qa’ida network’s propaganda, recruitment and fundraising, caused a major split in the coalition, provided an ideal targeting and training area for al-Qa’ida-linked terrorists, and deflected resources that could have been deployed to assist the Karzai government [in Afghanistan] and bring Bin Laden to justice,”

Now go read, and let’s discuss (btw the thread on this starts in the last Turkish Bombing post).

Tour de Lance. Final Commentary.

Alright, that’s not a particularly clever headline. I know you have probably read it a couple of hundred times in the course of the last years if you at all opened the sports section of your newspaper of choice in the month of July. But with only days left to the official retirement of Lance Armstrong from professional cycling, this year – despite the terror in London – the Tour, its most successful rider in history, as well as all alleged challengers are getting the additional amount of public attention only available in years without Olympics or a major international football competition.
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More Theories

Very hard to interpret the information we are receiving right now. Much of it may well be aimed at the terrorists themselves so it is also perhaps better not to dig too deeply.

There are, however, a number of rival (but possibly) compatible theories. One of these, and it is the one I am following most closely (possibly for obvious reasons) is that of the Spanish connection. Now following this along the road a little (and just in a kind of ‘what if’ sense) it may not be entirely without relevance that raids were carried out in Italy on Saturday. (The FT today also also has a piece on the Italian raids. What stands out is the ‘cover’ provided by mass illegal immigration for such groups. I am in favour of increasing economic migration to meet demographic needs, but this process needs to be regulated and orderly, here we can see one more reason why). It is just me speculating, but the rapidity of the raids in Italy may relate more to the fact that there are ties between the Spain-based Jihadists and the Italian-based ones than to the immediate threat of an attack in Italy. This article contains the following information sourced from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra:

In 2003, the Italian Police and the carabinieri from the Special Operations Unit uncovered a link between the alleged Italian cell and its extremist associates in a number of European countries, primarily Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. The Milan probe revealed that “young North Africans were ?trawled for’ in the European mosques, given money, and supplied with a visa?” to travel to Iraq to conduct suicide operations.”

This connection is loose, but is one possible route. Those who feel there might be an Iraq connection (and the lack of any explicit information about the explosives might point to this: this origin would be politically sensitive) would do well to note that the Italian net appears to have close links with Ansar Al-Islam which is based in the Kurdish zone, and was once host to none other than Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. As I say, I wouldn’t even call this a conjecture, just some isolated pieces of information which are worth keeping track on, irrespective of whether or not the people mentioned were implicated last Thursday.

Finally, the NYT highlights the way in which the kind of terror we are seeing is in fact bringing Europe closer together:
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No Answers Only Questions

One person who could rightly claim to know more about global ageing and its possible consequences than anyone else in the business is the German Director of the Manheim Research Institute for the Economics of Ageing Axel B?rsch-Supan. If there’s a conference being organised, he seems to be there. Actually his comments at both these meet-ups are well worth reading in and of themselves (here, and here).

In a sense B?rsch-Supan is almost uniquely qualified to express opinions on the topic since he has both devoted a large part of his professional career to studying the question, and he lives and works in a society which is already reeling under the impact. As he says:

“Today?s Germany has essentially the demographic structure that the United States will reach in a quarter of a century. The dependency ratio (the ratio of persons aged 65 and over to those aged from 20 to 59) is at 28 percent, and it will reach 75 percent in 2075, if we dare project that far. Almost one-fifth of the German population today are aged 65 and over. One quarter are aged 60 and over, which is relevant because the average retirement age in Germany is 59.5 years. Thus, in this sense the United States is not ?entering largely uncharted territory,? …. Rather, they can look to Europe?in particular to Germany and Italy?to see what will happen in the United States.”

I mention B?rsch-Supan because he serves as a good pretext for going over where we are to date with the issue. As he says himself. watching demography change is rather like watching a glacier melt, on a day-to-day basis it’s hard to see that anything is happening, but over time the impact is important.

One of his recent papers has the intriguing title: “Global Ageing: Issues, Answers, More Questions“. It is a good up-to-date review of the ‘state of the art’, and a quick examination of the points he makes probably serves as a good starting point, since I can’t help thinking, in the case of global ageing, it isn’t so much what we know that matters, it’s what we don’t know.

So here we go, a review of what we “know”, what we think we know, and what we don’t know:
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From Salvador to Rio.

Having missed my flight from Salvador back to Rio de Janeiro, I find myself in the airport?s cyber-caf? with a little extra time to spend. Alas, not enough to finish and type the lengthy post commenting on Amitai Etzioni?s thoughts about guilt and responsibility ? I began hand-writing it on another flight, but finding the right words usually takes time, and in this matter evidently more than with respect to most others. But I found something else sufficiently interesting to bring to your attention – browsing through online news I found some articles highlighting the ever increasing collateral damage caused when you let a US president crash on your couch.
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Turkey and the EU: Poles apart?

Like most numbers of the Spectator, the festive, XL-sized holiday edition is marred by the presence of Mark Steyn. But don’t let that put you off, there’s some good stuff there as well. And one of the better bits is an essay by Prof. Norman Stone on Turkey (Potential EU Accession of) (reg. req.).

For the most part Stone paints a picture of the old Ottoman Empire as something much less uniformly Islamic than some think. You should already be aware, of course, that what would later (in truncated form) become Turkey was a multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious state, but if you weren’t, Stone gives you a quick background. (By the time it fell apart, the Ottoman Empire had become the ‘Sick Man of Europe’; but for centuries it was a success.) What you might not have known, though, was that the orthodox Christians of the Ottoman realms were only too happy to be part of a nominally Islamic polity. The orthodox patriarchs and the Muslim sultans saw in the latinate West a common foe. Indeed my own suspicion is that the Greeks felt a keener enmity than the Turks. The sultan, understandably, might well have seen the theological differences between orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism as obscure and uninteresting (how many of us in the post-Christian lands of the west are aware of, let alone take much interest in, the distinctions between the theravada and mahayana strains of Buddhism?) To the bishops of the orthodox world, though, the sultan served (whether he cared about this or not) as a bulwark against the centralising domination of their brother-bishop at Rome.

But what set Stone off was a recent article in Die Zeit by Prof. Hans-Ulrich Wehler. The title of Wehler’s article, which formed part of the contra side in a Zeit-sponsored debate on Turkish accession to the EU, has some unfortunate historical echoes: “Das T?rkenproblem“.
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Halfway There

This spring, the German newspaper whose web site isn?t quite as bad as another?s began publishing a series of 50 Great Novels from the Twentieth Century. It?s an admirable project in many ways — not least a cover price of EUR 4.90 per hardback. Thirty-seven books have been published so far, and I?ve now read about half of the whole list. Which is as good a point as any for taking stock.

I haven?t quite read 25 of the 50, but let?s face it, with Deutschstunde (German Hour, Siegfried Lenz, no. 28) clocking in at nearly 800 pages, and hefty volumes such as Jorge Semprun?s What a Beautiful Sunday! (Was f?r einen sch?nen Sonntag, no. 17) and Juan C. Onetti?s The Short Life (Das kurze Leben, no. 11), it?s going to be quite a while before I manage all of them.
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News About The Rift.

David at Dialog International has an interesting review of a new book by Anrei S. Markovits, Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, The book is called “Amerika, Dich hasst sich’s besser” (America, it’s easier to hate you) and tries to give the popular recent Bush-related European “anti-americanism” (and anti-semitism) some historical context. Apparently, the core arguments of Mr Markovits’ book are available to English readers in this Harvard European Studies working paper.
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