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President Barack Obama has responded to the horrible actions by the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and to the sharp turn in American public opinion by promising to degrade and eventually destroy this powerful terrorist group. But, not surprisingly, Mr Obama promises to achieve this without putting any American combat troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria and without any significant increase in military spending. What is happening in this battle reflects a more broadly misguided and underfunded US defence policy.
President Barack Obama has responded to the horrible actions by the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and to the sharp turn in American public opinion by promising to degrade and eventually destroy this powerful terrorist group. But, not surprisingly, Mr Obama promises to achieve this without putting any American combat troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria and without any significant increase in military spending. What is happening in this battle reflects a more broadly misguided and underfunded US defence policy. Continue reading »
The sentencing of Chinese scholar Ilham Tohti to life imprisonment is a heinous injustice and incompatible with the rule of law on which China prides itself. Tohti, one of the best known Uighur scholars in the country, has spent a lifetime trying to build bridges between the alienated Muslim Uighur minority and the Han Chinese in order to end an escalating cycle of violence between the two communities.
In one of the harshest punishments meted out to a non-violent dissident, the court also ordered the confiscation of all of Tohti’s possessions, leaving his wife and two children with no visible means of support. Continue reading »
The world faces an unprecedented challenge: to change the high-carbon energy DNA of the global economy in the next three decades to low carbon. This requires directed technological change on a historic scale.
It could well fail, and with failure will come a planet wrecked by climate change. At Tuesday’s UN climate summit, nations began the negotiations to last through 2015 that are our last chance to change course.
The reasons we need to change course on the economy, energy and environment are diverse and interconnected. They include persistence of extreme poverty and rising inequality; human-induced climate change; the destruction of biodiversity; and, most generally, the many challenges of a large and growing world economy and population that press far too hard on the earth’s fragile ecosystems and resources. Continue reading »
The domestic foreign-policy consensus in the US that has undergirded a half-century of American activism on the international stage is coming under serious strain. Despite the appearance of unified public support for prolonged conflict in a new, twilight fight in Iraq and Syria, there are growing fissures in the foreign policy consensus that cannot be papered over. The alignment that is under threat has shaped American foreign policy for decades. We are entering a challenging period in which the most pressing debates on what to do in the world are playing out inside the two established political parties rather than between them. Continue reading »
The people of Scotland may have rejected independence but, fearing a “yes” vote, Westminster may have opened a Pandora’s Box that ultimately could lead to the creation – if that’s the right word – of a Disunited Kingdom.
The terms of Scottish “Devo-Max” are unclear. If Gordon Brown’s 12-Point Plan proves a reasonably accurate blueprint, Scotland will be able to both borrow more to fund infrastructure projects and set its own income tax. How much of this is genuinely new is unclear. The 2012 Scotland Act granted Holyrood income tax-setting powers – effective 2016 – and allowed the Scottish government to borrow up to £2bn a year via bond issuance to fund infrastructure. Continue reading »
You can almost hear the sighs of relief, not just in London but in Washington and throughout the US, over the resounding “No” vote cast in Scotland. Irony aside – the fact that Americans once put their lives on the line to break free of the British seems to have been forgotten – the sense is that one of this country’s most important friends and allies has dodged a bullet.
It did in fact. A “Yes” vote would have badly unsettled financial markets, generated a political crisis and created severe governing questions for the UK. Such an outcome also would have likely stimulated other separatist movements in Europe and beyond, in the process reinforcing the already widespread impression of a world coming apart. Continue reading »
An Israeli friend and I were awaiting returns of the Scottish referendum in an Amsterdam bar last night, when he remarked: “I never used to believe in deliberative democracy. Look at the Scots. Now I do.”
Whatever else the referendum meant for participants – a grinding disappointment for the Yes campaign, euphoric relief for the No – for those who could only watch from bars in foreign countries, it aroused deep emotions about democracy. Here was a people deliberating together, figuring out its collective destiny, making a choice it knew was historic. Popular sovereignty recovered its majesty. Continue reading »
The popular Wall Street dance known to every corporate accountant as tax inversion is under attack from those who claim to speak for Main Street. “My attitude is I don’t care if it’s legal. It’s wrong, ” says President Barack Obama. Senator Sherrod Brown is so sure that tax inversion is iniquitous that he wants a boycott of the latest US company to want to do the inversion dance: Burger King.
The company’s offence is that inversion is an act of alleged infidelity in which a US multinational with substantial overseas revenues reincorporates in a foreign jurisdiction with a lower corporate tax rate. Upwards of 49 companies have done it; some 20 others are said to be flirting with the idea. Continue reading »
The US administration is trying to convince its populace and the world that it is successfully forging a new alliance in the Middle East in order to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis). What Americans tend to forget so easily, however, is that the US is distrusted, disliked and even hated by all the regimes it is dealing with and even more so by millions in the Arab street.
Nobody has forgotten America’s failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, its abandonment of the region after the failures of the Arab uprisings and the millions of refugees and homeless those failed wars have spawned. Arab leaders and their regimes cultivate long memories as much as they do conspiracy theories. Continue reading »
It sounds like the wishful thinking of a television news editor: encounters between politicians and journalists should involve less rudeness and more candour. Perhaps, indeed, the political interview – for decades the mainstay of Newsnight, whose editor Ian Katz expressed these wishes in the Financial Times last week – has already been replaced by social media, a forum for direct debate in which interviewers are redundant.
But assuming the form is not moribund yet, both interviewers and interviewees should reflect on whether they are serving their interests (and the public’s) by continuing in the same old style. Continue reading »