Monthly Archives: July 2011

John Paul Rathbone

Where lies the world’s biggest source of instability? For many, it is the “clash of civilizations”, an idea popularised by Samuel Huntington, whereby people’s cultural and religious identities will remain the main source of conflict in the post-Cold War World. “The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future,” the political scientist wrote in 1993.

Certainly, Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks, the rise of China and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to confirm this notion. Yet, as Moises Naim, the former editor of Foreign Policy Magazine points out in a recent article , most conflicts have lately been within civilizations than between them. Islamic terrorists have killed more innocent Moslems than anybody else. Ditto the fight between Shiites and Sunnis. And the source of the “Arab Spring” is homegrown. Indeed, the main source of global conflict, Mr Naim suggests, stems not from a clash between civilisations but  rather the changing fortunes of the world’s middle classes inside them. Read more

Beware anybody who believes that the answers to the problems of the world can be found in a single book. Marxists poring over Das Kapital, Maoists waving the Little Red Book, mullahs demanding fidelity to the Koran – it is never good news.

Gideon Rachman

The idea that Colonel Gaddafi might go into “internal exile” in Libya sounds bizarre and unworkable. But I’m afraid it really is doing the rounds. And I gather it has actually been offered to Gaddafi as an option, by intermediaries, although so far he shows little sign of biting. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Normally, it is the height of laziness for journalists to start quoting taxi-drivers. But I feel it is excusable, here in Athens. The latest manifestation of the Greek economic and social crisis is the taxi-drivers strike that has taken place here today – and which has ensured that I have had to acquaint myself with the excellent, EU-funded, Athens metro system. Read more

Gideon sent this picture from Athens, where there is a taxi strike and the city centre is blocked off.  Read more

Murdoch, Italy, India

In this week’s podcast: The Murdoch scandal goes international; the euro debt crisis reaches Italy; and, bombings in Mumbai – is the stage set for Rahul Gandhi to step up as prime minister? Read more

Gideon Rachman

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. I have no idea whether Giulio Tremonti, the Italian finance minister, will be able to save his country or the eurozone from a truly dreadful fate. But I am nominating him for a prize for communication and services to journalism. Hitherto, this most dramatic of stories has generally been talked about in the deadest of language. It either gets wrapped up in finance-prattle (CDOs, debt-to-GDP ratios, sovereign risk etc); or smothered in the suffocating nonsense that fills up European Union communiques (“With this decisive step …” etc etc)

Now, at last, we have somebody with a gift for language. Over the past week, Tremonti has given the world three splendid soundbites. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Earlier today European leaders renewed their calls for a new debt-rating agency, to challenge the current triumvarate of Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch. The Polish government, which has just taken over the presidency of the EU, has taken up the cudgels. Anger with the agencies mounted, after Moody’s downgraded Irish debt to junk status earlier this week.

But surely one should expect capricious and ill-tempered decisions from an organisation that actually calls itself Moody? As for the other two, they might as well be called Sulky and Snitch. Read more

Roula Khalaf

For a detailed account of how Syria’s uprising evolved, take a look at the twin reports of the International Crisis Group, the think-tank which has an analyst based in Damascus. The reports provide valuable insight into how the protest movement developed, with challenges to the regime starting even before the outbreak of demonstrations in the southern city of Deraa, which is usually considered the starting point of the uprising.

ICG’s analyst has been able to closely follow the conflict (most foreign journalists have been banned in Syria) and conduct wide-ranging interviews with opposition activists as well as government officials. Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Facundo Cabral

Image by AP

More tragic news from the frontline of Latin America’s “drugs war”: the murder of Argentine singer Facundo Cabral last weekend, at the hand of drugs gangs in Guatemala.

The death of the balladeer has not created much of a stir in the Anglo-Saxon world. In Latin America, however, it remains front page news. The closest equivalent is perhaps John Lennon’s murder in 1980: a man, with malice in his heart, shoots a singer known for advocating peace. Read more