Mr Mugabe's World Tour (read)

Mr Mugabe, I wonder would you please accompany me on a brief world tour? Yes, yes, please do bring some of your generals. And bring a few of your senior police officers. I would very much like them to see what I have to show you.

Our first stop doesn’t take us very far. This, as I am sure you know, is South Africa. And this is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I am sure you remember him: one of the heroes of liberation from white supremacist rule in southern Africa. I know you would like to see yourself in the same category but, let’s be honest, you replaced rule by one set of gangsters for rule by a different gang. Not the same thing at all.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto (read)

Dateline: 09 January 2008

The Bush administration is now at odds with the government of General Musharraf in Pakistan. Musharraf’s security services claim that Benazir Bhutto, the murdered opposition leader was killed by a suicide bomber – the blast knocked her against the car she had been traveling in and broke her neck. Bhutto’s party, the Pakistani Peoples’ Party (PPP), believes she was shot in the neck and US intelligence services have information which tends to confirm that.

Musharraf’s second coup (read)

Dateline: 07 November 2007

When Pervez Musharraf came to power in a military coup in 1999 it was warily welcomed in the west. Military coups are not, in general (no pun intended) a good thing. But Pakistan under Nawaz Sharif was corrupt and chaotic. Also Musharraf did not seem likely to bring back the Islamic fundamentalism of General Zia ul Haq, the previous military dictator from the 1980s.

So it proved. Musharraf struggled to lead Pakistan in an increasingly secular and pro-western direction. His government has been more secular than Sharif’s, himself only a moderate Islamist.

The Nobel Committee got it wrong (read)

Dateline: 17 October 2007

So, the inventor of the internet wins a Nobel peace prize. Not a bad call. A very good one in fact. Except that Al Gore never did invent the internet, he just made few speeches in Congress about it. And he won the prize for a rather bad film with quite a few inconvenient untruths in it.

An open letter to the Kingdom of Belgium (read)

Dear Belgium

I understand you are without a government, and have been for some months now. I understand that most of the Flemish majority in your country expect – and almost half want – to see the Belgian state disbanded. After years of alliance and friendship between Britain and Belgium it pains me to say this but, good. Belgium, I am fed up with you. I’ll be glad to see the back of you. You have lived too long for any good that you might have done. It’s time to end this charade of a country and stop pretending.

The news from Iraq worsens (read)

Dateline: 15 August 2007

As the news from Iraq worsens, panic starts to set in.

A major paper conducts a poll which shows a dramatic shift of opinion. The shift is so big that the paper doesn’t publish the results and commissions a new poll instead. When the new poll confirms the results they publish, but bury the story on an inside page and describe the shift as “modest”.

Attacking your allies: it’s just not done (read)

Dateline: 07 August 2007

Britain’s new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, recently made his first visit to the US since assuming power. I want you to imagine that a candidate for President said that we all know there are terrorists in London and “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and Gordon Brown won’t act, we will.”

The battle for Africa (read)

Dateline: 25 July 2007

It is a little over 200 years since Malthus predicted that the world was on the point of running out of food. Population grows geometrically, he pointed out, but food production just arithmetically. Starvation and poverty were around the corner.

When Malthus developed his theories the world was home to just under one billion people. Today it is more than six billion, and they are better fed, better clothed and better housed than ever before. Malthus was more comprehensively wrong than almost anyone else in history, and yet he still has his admirers today.

On the rights of small countries (read)

Dateline 06 June 2007

Imagine you live in a small country of 1.3 million people – the same as Maine or New Hampshire. Imagine that next door (to the east) is a country 100 times larger. Further south and west, another country some 60 times your size. Almost 300 years ago, your country was conquered by your eastern neighbor, though it had previously been under the control of a maritime country lying to your west. There followed over 200 years of occupation. Between the end of the first world war and the beginning of the second your country was independent. This was followed by another 50 years of brutal occupation.

France: old or new? (read)

Dateline 30 May 2007

It was Donald Rumsfeld who divided Europe into “old Europe” and “new Europe”. Old Europe means the hardcore of countries which comprise the European Union. Of those, France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg were hardline opponents of the Iraq war. New Europe incorporated the swathe of ex-communist countries which entered the European Union in 2005 and 2007. Where Britain, and Spain – longstanding EU nations which joined the Iraq War Coalition – or Italy and Holland, founder members which did the same, fit on this analysis is unclear.

If I could travel in time (read)

Dateline: 27 April 2007

It would be to August 1991. I would want a word in the ear of one of the century's most important politicians.

Boris Yeltsin was at the height of his powers, both politically and personally. The Soviet Union was still intact, just. Yeltsin was its only elected politician. He was drinking, not to excess, and the heart operation was in the future.

So what is the UN for? (read)

Dateline 06 April 2007

British Foreign Secretaries like to boast that the country ‘punches above its weight’ in matters of foreign affairs. Britain sits at the intersection of some powerful international organizations. My country is one of the largest, and wealthiest, members of the European Union with a permanent (veto-wielding) seat on the UN Security Council. It is the spiritual home of the 53-member Commonwealth of Nations. Britain has a global influence that far exceeds what might be expected of so small a country.

Islam and Israel (read)

The state of Israel is almost sixty years old. It has been in a formal state of war every day since then. Formal states of war often exist when there is no actual fighting. But in the case of Israel, there has been a permanent fighting war too. Some periods have been quieter than others. Many have been quieter than the past week. None has been without bloodshed.

Why has the violence flared up now? What is different about July 2006 that did not also apply in June 2006, or even the summer of 2005.

Are there limits to growth? (read)

Dateline 03 May 2006

When writing recently about India, I pointed out that economic growth in the country is around 6% per annum, almost double the usual rate for the US and around treble what is common in continental Europe. Poorer countries often grow faster than richer ones. It closes the international gap. Indeed when the US was first industrializing, its growth rate too was much higher.

Wanted: a mighty manager (read)

Qualifications:

 Political sensitivity is a must, especially with regard to the USA, China, the UK, France and Russia. No-one who has offended any of these countries need apply.

 Financial integrity is also key. Due to a recent embarrassment involving at least $1.8 billion (and probably a great deal more), we are especially vulnerable to claims of financial incompetence or, worse, corruption. People with family members who want to do business with the organisation should not apply.

The noble cause, 21 years on (read)

Dateline 21 April, 2006

Looking back from 2024, it seems surprising that the Iraqi liberation was ever controversial. But records show that half the Democrats in Congress voted against it. Among the general population the war became increasingly controversial until mid-2006, when the “insurgency” finally collapsed.

The Hillaire Belloc fallacy (read)

Dateline 17 April 2006

For decades, western countries have propped up 'strongmen' in the Middle East. Some proponents of 'realpolitik' believe that this is still a viable and desirable policy. The only alternative to secular dictatorships is theocratic dictatorships committed to jihad. But where is the evidence for this proposition?

The importance of India (read)

Dateline 08 March 2006

There will come a time when, for both good and ill, India is America’s most important trading partner. The trade paranoids, who currently rail against China and in the 80s attacked Japan, will see India as the overriding enemy. Businesspeople will see India as their greatest opportunity and their greatest rival.

Regime change and self defence (read)

The case for regime change falls within self-defence - provided it is done without cowardice

How much support do Iraqi terrorists actually have? (read)

Is it possible to measure the support for Iraqi terrorism?

Koizumi and Merkel – the next Reagan and Thatcher? (read)

Could the economies that missed out on the last wave of market reforms lead the world into a new market led boom?

The second iron lady? (read)

Is Angela Merkel Europe’s second iron lady? Here are some questions and answers that may help to clarify.

Countdown to Build a Real Society — A Manual in Eight Steps (read)

Published in the Globalist, 30 March 2005. This article sets out eight steps which reforming countries like Iraq and Lebanon can adopt to build funcitioning civic societies.

Tumbling Dominoes in the Middle East? (read)

Published in The Globalist
Supporters of the Iraq War argued that there is the potential in the Middle East for a benign domino effect. Ironically, some of the same people warned against a Communist domino effect — which never materialized. Quentin Langley examines whether the wave of democracy that swept Latin America and Eastern Europe in the past two decades could be repeated in the Middle East.

The case for nation building (read)

George W Bush was first elected as an opponent of nation building. Was he wrong?

Ten reasons the elections in Iraq will be successful (read)

Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and the Manchester Union Leader, this article also lead to interviews on American radio stations from Washington to Texas

Does Al-Qaeda plan to influence elections? (read)

Following its success in Spain, does Iraq have a policy of influencing elections?

Operation Iraqi Freedom (read)

Published in Lake Champlain Weekly on 20 July 2004 - the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Did Al Qaeda achieve regime change? (read)

George Bush's stalwart ally, Jose Maria Aznar is out of power. Did Osama bin Laden claim his scalp?

Botswana: Africa’s Development Star (read)

From the Globalist, July 2003: Little step by little crisis, Africa is finally back on the global agenda. Questions of aid and of confronting failed states have become key priorities. But contrary to the public perception in much of the world, Africa does have its success stories. The question is: will the developed world reward Africa’s successful states? Quentin Langley explores one possibility.

Will the UN support action on Iraq? (read)

Experience of living in Tbilisi gave me an interesting perspective on the UN and Iraq

An alternative to war (read)

In the Summer of 2002 a war of enormous proportions seemed a real possibility: relations between India and Pakistan were at their worst for decades. While the immediate crisis has passed, this call for long term solutions still has real merit.

As two of the most populous countries in the world move to the brink of war, how about an alternative?

From the poppy fields of Flanders to the poppies of Kabul (read)

Written just after the Al Qaeda attack on the twin towers and Pentagon, this article examines how Al Qaeda raised the money for its attacks.

Who funds the Taleban and Al Qaeda? Why, you do, of course.

Dear Belgium (read)

An open letter from the editor to the Kingdom of Belgium. Originally written in 2001 two paragraphs have been adapted to take account of Belgium's attitude to the Iraq war.

“All that is necessary . . . (read)

Written in 1999, this article, very sadly, still stands today.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing", Edmund Burke.

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