Daily Archives: January 8, 2014

♦ Borzou Daragahi on how the excesses of the extremist group Isis – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – have sparked an armed rebellion against it in its northern Syria stronghold.

♦ Jamil Anderlini argues that modern China needs to set up its own House of Lords to improve governance.

♦ In a world with more inherited riches, it makes no sense to cut estate taxes, writes Robin Harding.

♦ A handwritten poster at a Seoul university has struck a nerve, prompting a wave of copycat banners airing grievances across South Korea. Young-Ha Kim explains the craze in The New York Times.

♦ Bangladesh’s leaders must deliver on the most basic promises of democracy – or they will prove Henry Kissinger right, says Tahmima Anam in The Guardian. 

Gideon Rachman

President Barack Obama applauds Robert Gates at a ceremony to mark the latter's retirement as US defence secretary in 2011

Robert Gates, the former US defence secretary, is unusual in that he has a reputation both for being loyal – and for being outspoken. He has pulled off this feat by being a model of sober discretion in office, while throwing verbal bombs on his way out – or from retirement. In speeches given in 2011, shortly before stepping down from the Pentagon, Gates came up with two memorable zingers. He told European leaders that, unless they spent more on defence, Nato would become a “military irrelevance.” And he told West Point cadets that any future defence secretary who advised the president to send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined.”

Now Gates is at it again. Extracts just-released from his memoirs include some tough criticism of President Barack Obama - including the suggestion that the president did not believe in his own Afghanistan strategy, and as a result was constantly looking for the exit. He recalls, sitting in the White House, watching President Obama discussing Afghanistan, and thinking “For him it’s all about getting out.”