Iraq: A lost cause?

A US Marine in Anbar, conducting a security patrol around combat outpost Viking, Iraq, in 2009

As Hegel famously observed: “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” Perhaps anyone involved in Western foreign policy in the Middle East should recite this every morning before they go to work, because right now we are sleepwalking into the mistakes of the past. On 16 March, the… Continue Reading ➤

Mockingbird: Harper Lee’s expression of American change

Harper Lee in 1962, , two years after Mockingbird was published (Source: Jbarta)

The news that Harper Lee was publishing a second novel was greeted by a roar of ecstasy in the literary world and beyond. The BBC described it as launching a ‘‘trade frenzy’’, while the Bookseller magazine anticipates Go Set a Watchman to be ‘‘as big as it gets for new fiction’’, and was told by… Continue Reading ➤

Fawning over the Saudis is weak. But a working relationship is necessary

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah in January 2014 [Source: US Department of State]

When King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died of pneumonia last week at a ripe 90, the Western response was ridiculously gushing. Barack Obama cut short a visit to India of enormous geopolitical significance (especially for a President who has made pivoting towards the Asia-Pacific region – and away from the Middle East – the supposed… Continue Reading ➤

King Charles III

Prince Charles arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in the United States, 1981 [source: Wikimedia]

The great West End blockbuster of the moment is Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III. It portrays a chain of events after the unthinkable but inevitable moment when Queen Elizabeth dies. Bartlett’s story contains all the tragic drama of Shakespeare’s portrayals of hollow crowns, complete with an array of allusions to Richard II, King Lear, Macbeth… Continue Reading ➤

Oman’s Precarious Future

Qaboos in Oman, 1998 [source: Wikimedia]

Oman is an oasis of stability and moderation in the Middle East. Perhaps problematically for Western liberal democrats, this is thanks to Sheikh Qaboos bin Said al Said, Oman’s absolute monarch. He took power in 1970 in a British-supported coup against his father, the previous Sultan. It was a country only in name: a collection… Continue Reading ➤

What next for the Union?

[source: Wikipedia]

How fitting that last week, just when the Yes campaign looked like it might win and Westminster burst into flames of panic, J.M. W. Turner’s ‘The Burning of Parliament’ took centre stage in the Tate Britain’s new exhibition of our greatest artist’s late masterpieces. Turner witnessed the blaze at first hand in 1834, and it… Continue Reading ➤