Wednesday, 28 October 2020
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commentary

By Stephen D King

Published by Yale (ISBN: 978 0 300 15432 0)

Reviewed by Roger Green, Principal Reviewer, UK Defence Forum

Stephen King is the global chief economist for HSBC and is a member of the European Central Bank Shadow Council.  This is his first book and it is unusual of its genre in that it looks at the Western developed markets from the perspective of the emerging markets, particularly that of China.  It is written in a forthright almost textbook style that is detailed and tightly argued with the benefit of 'trivial' examples.  The reader does not have to be an economist to understand the central message but it would help with some of the more complex ideas that King advances.

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By Opit Hop

While revelations over MPs' expenses over the last few months may have rocked Westminster and damaged public confidence in politicians, they have also prompted us to ask important questions about the rules governing the behaviour of our elected representatives.

Significantly, some MPs have been attacked as 'part-timers' for having business and other interests above and beyond their parliamentary duties. Particular ire has been heaped on those MPs who hold well-paid directorships with major companies. It is, critics argue, inappropriate for parliamentarians to have outside business interests.

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By Leila Ouardani

In 2001 a journalist covering the Afghanistan war discovered a copy of an Everyman edition of Carl Von Clausewitz's On War inside an al-Qaeda safe-house. In more ways than one this incident stands as a stark reminder of the complexity underlying the question of Clausewitz's contemporary relevance and provides a convenient conduit for further analysis. Following the end of the Cold War in 1990 and since the 11 September, 2001 attacks on the United States, Clausewitz's relevancy has been challenged by several prominent scholars, most notably John Keegan, Martin Van Creveld and Mary Kaldor. Unlike the condemnation inflicted earlier in the twentieth century, for instance by Basil Liddell Hart most famously through his description of Clausewitz as the 'Mahdi of the mass' at the core of these more recent criticisms is the belief that the essential character of war, as described by Clausewitz, is no longer valid.

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By David Hoghton-Carter, Research Associate U K Defence Forum

Nearly two weeks ago, the MOD announced that Project Belvedere, the military's scheme to consolidate helicopter basing and command and control facilities, was finally being scrapped. This truly flabbergasting event comes in spite of how patently hale and hearty the plans were.

Apologies for the brief segue into sarcasm after all, the eventual death of Project Belvedere falls under the "OK, we've got to finally fess up that this is going nowhere" approach to project management. The MOD Press Release was slipped out amidst the ongoing expenses scandal, (good day to bury bad news anyone? The old ones are the good ones...)

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By David Hoghton-Carter, Research Associate U K Defence Forum

In 1648, a new world order emerged. The Treaty of Westphalia, putting an end to decades of war in continental Europe, set out the basics of the modern idea of the co-equal sovereign nation-state, and laid the foundations for three and a half centuries of international politics. Academics have waxed lyrical about it, students have been bored to tears learning about it, statesmen and politicians have cleaved to it as the cornerstone of the right to see to the affairs of their disparate nations without anyone else arbitrarily telling them what to do.

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By George Friedman

Public discussion of potential attacks on Iran's nuclear development sites is surging again. This has happened before. On several occasions, leaks about potential airstrikes have created an atmosphere of impending war. These leaks normally coincided with diplomatic initiatives and were designed to intimidate the Iranians and facilitate a settlement favorable to the United States and Israel. These initiatives have failed in the past. It is therefore reasonable to associate the current avalanche of reports with the imposition of sanctions and view it as an attempt to increase the pressure on Iran and either force a policy shift or take advantage of divisions within the regime.

My first instinct is to dismiss the war talk as simply another round of psychological warfare against Iran, this time originating with Israel. Most of the reports indicate that Israel is on the verge of attacking Iran. From a psychological-warfare standpoint, this sets up the good-cop/bad-cop routine. The Israelis play the mad dog barely restrained by the more sober Americans, who urge the Iranians through intermediaries to make concessions and head off a war. As I said, we have been here before several times, and this hasn't worked.

The worst sin of intelligence is complacency, the belief that simply because something has happened (or has not happened) several times before it is not going to happen this time. But each episode must be considered carefully in its own light and preconceptions from previous episodes must be banished. Indeed, the previous episodes might well have been intended to lull the Iranians into complacency themselves. Paradoxically, the very existence of another round of war talk could be intended to convince the Iranians that war is distant while covert war preparations take place. An attack may be in the offing, but the public displays neither confirm nor deny that possibility.

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