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Historically, democracy doesn't last long: Athens, Rome and now the USA have only sustained it for a few hundred years at most.  By contrast, China's rule by a, theoretically, impartial bureaucracy has done pretty well for two millenia.  For most of that time China was economically, socially, intellectually and technologically the world leader and may well be again.  Legitimacy in a democracy comes from the ballot but in a bureaucratic system it comes from proven performance in examination to enter the system and on the job to progress through it.  Looking at the USA today, who is to say which is better?

11 months, 3 weeks ago on Access denied | Foreign Policy

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 @thereals0beit Funnily enough, homicide, and suicide, rates in the US are very high by comparison with other developed nations.  By a strange coincidence the difference in both categories between the USA and the UK is accounted for by the fact that there are very few firearms killings, either murder or suicide, in the latter.  But then, it is obviously just a coincidence.

 

Personally I am a great admirer of the American gun lobby and your commitment to the second ammendment; you should be especially proud of the price that you are prepared to pay for holding to your principles.

12 months ago on Access denied | Foreign Policy

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He was, probably, the model for Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook in Evelyn Waugh's "Sword of  Honour" trilogy.

1 year, 2 months ago on Access denied | FP Passport

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Oh well, some American or other in the last century famously commented that "The sun never sets on the British Empire because even God wouldn't trust an Englishman in the Dark."

1 year, 2 months ago on Access denied | Killer Apps

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 @bubble burster  @vickmichele Oh dear, you do have a lot of time on your hands.  I have taught statistics at a reasonably high level and the main point that you can take from UK firearms homicides is that the numbers are too low to detect any statistically significant trends.  As "massacres" make a relatively small proportion of the total (in both the UK and USA) you would not expect to see them reflected there so your comments on Dunblane miss the point.  Dunblane followed relatively soon after Hungerford; there has not been a repeat.  Your original quote made statements about "soaring" rates of violent and firearms crime in the UK - those statements were completely incorrect.  BTW, I didn't "cherry pick" I just used the most recent data that was readily available.  As a second BTW, lest you think that I am an ignorant liberal, as a youth I had extensive weapons training including both semi and fully automatic rifles and machine guns by courtesy of the British Army.  I have rarely touched a gun since.

 

Finally, it is quite clear that you find that the lives of children and the tears of their parents are an acceptable price for your freedom to play with your toys.  That is your democratic right along with your fellow citizens.  We just disagree with you. 

1 year, 8 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/12/21/tomorrows_weapons_today

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 @bubble burster  @vickmichele These are statistics that have to be treated with great care.  In the UK you are guilty of a firearms offence if you even pretend to have a gun; putting your hand in your pocket is sufficient.  Only a tiny percentage of firearms offences actually involve something that can fire and these are almost all badly converted replicas.  As far as violent crime is concerned it has fallen by 28% over the last ten years (not soared!); BTW using agressive language can count as an assault.  Murders have almost halved (down 47%) since 2003 and those using firearms are fewer than one hundred a year.  Overall murders are falling pretty much in the same way that they are in all developed countries and from a much lower base than in the US.  So, you see, you're just wrong on all counts.

1 year, 8 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/12/21/tomorrows_weapons_today

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 @vickmichele Well, yes any competent engineering technician can turn out a gun.  More easily they can convert a replica or a blank firing pistol into the real thing.  The way it works here in Britain is that if you do that and your product is used to kill someone you are an accessory to murder and you get life.  There's about a 90% clear up rate for murders here, higher for gun crime, so it's a pretty high risk way to make a living.  Even if the weapon is never used but you're caught you will get a long prison sentence.  Just have the right laws, enforce them and you don't have gun crime; we like it like that.

1 year, 8 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/12/21/tomorrows_weapons_today

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For two thousand years China was the economic, social and technological world leader by a huge margin over any other nation.  During this time it had a system of bureacracy where entry to the ruling structure was controlled by examination and progress in it by performance.  The longest lived democracies have barely exceeded one tenth of that span usually falling to a mix of wealth concentration, as in ancient Rome and Athens or to the power of vested interests or both.  China seems to be making a pretty good job of reinstating its traditional system with the Party and the collective leadership providing a more robust keystone than a quasi hereditory emperor.  Within a bureaucratic system the rulers are legitimate because they have demonstrated through examination and performance that they are best able to rule.  Despite Winston Churchill's oft quoted remark, it is far from clear that democracy is the least bad system.

1 year, 8 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/12/19/nothing_is_written

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Unfortunately the only kind of gun control that prevents this kind of event is the kind that operates in Japan and the United Kingdom, that is, no guns.  Even if you could legislate towards that, the Supreme Court would rule against it.  The sad truth is that things can only get worse as 24 hour news and social media continue to educate copycats into further atrocities.

1 year, 9 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/12/17/a_president_we_can_believe_in

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It is quite interesting to ponder the fact that most models show that Europe will suffer relatively minor impacts from even quite severe climate change.  On the other hand,  India will be seriously stuffed by changes to the monsoon, etc., China may be saved from the worst impacts only if the combination of its one child policy and male preference leads to a population crash and the good old US of A is going to have to get used to even more massive droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.  Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing!

1 year, 9 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/12/07/the_climate_scofflaw?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full

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The idea seems to be growing that Israel can exist indefinitely as a latter day Crac des Chevaliers.  After 130 years the original "impregnable" Crac fell after a siege of just over a month.  That gives Israel about another 75 years; enjoy!

1 year, 9 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/21/after_the_rockets

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Don't you realise that the whole climate change scam is a global conspiracy got up by a bunch of left wing scientists to create a world government with Al Gore as the first "World President for Life" ;D

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/02/adapt_or_die

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OMG - don't you Americans learn any history?  "British Navy" "British Artillery" - there were no such things in 1588.  Scotland and England were separate countries with Scotland strictly neutral.  The Spanish Armada was an attack on England and was seen off by English seamen of the English Navy.

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/29/winds_of_change

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 @TklShriram Like most Americans, you seem to have skipped your history classes.  In the high middle ages all science, medicine and mathematics was Islamic and this provided the foundation for the revival of learning in Europe.  This did go into a decline after the European Renaissance and there are many theories about why this happened.  However, you only have to look at any University science or engineering department to find Muslims to be well represented.  BTW, I am not a muslim or from a muslim country; I'm a Scot!

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/30/tk

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 @CR112 The point about GMOs is that, as far as I am aware, nobody has been able to show harm that would stand up even in front of a US jury.  Once someone tries Geo-eng the victims of every extreme weather event on the planet will be lining up to sue.  Say, you dumped a lot of iron into the South Atlantic and the next year the monsoon failed in India.  The potential size of the claim would be in billions.

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/22/tk

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According to the BBC two days ago Huawei has offered Australia full access to its source code so that it can be checked by the security services.  Huawei  has already made the source code available to the UK government where it has been subjected to scrutiny by the security services.  On the other side of the argument I confess to being baffled at why the Chinese would want to use pirated copies of Windows when they can have Linux perfectly legally for nothing.

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/25/the_cyber_trade_war

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Firstly humans have, inadvertently, done a bit of geo-engineering.  It is now generally accepted that sulphate particles in the atmosphere reduced the effects of warming during the fifties and sixties.  They also, may have, contributed to desertification in Africa.  Anyone attempting geo-engineering had better have deep pockets and good lawyers as those who believe that they have suffered negative consequences are going to be very quick about getting into court.  It is the threat of litigation that will prevent any serious attempt at this.

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/22/tk

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A good source on this is Prof N A M Rodger's two volume, so far,  "Naval History of Britain".  The second volume "The Command of the Ocean" deals with this period.

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/10/24/could_we_learn_more_about_grand_strategy_from_the_frenchies_than_from_the_english

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 @babarien  @AaronJA There's a really good book "How the Scots invented the Modern World" by Arthur Herman.  It's quite a serious history, definitely not light reading and should be compulsory for all Scots Nats!  It's more to do with politics, law and economics than science and technology.  On the latter it's worth noting that James Watt had such a low opinion of his fellow Scots that he wouldn't employ them!  William Murdoch only got a job because Watt was out of town and Boulton liked him.

 

BTW - I am a Scot and proud to be both Scots and British.

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/22/the_battle_for_britain

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The British Army are still adept at using their bayonets. The Daily Telegraph reported on 28 September this year that Corporal Sean Jones, 25, of 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Regiment, "reversed a potentially dire situation" when his patrol came under attack in a carefully planned ambush in October last year.  He has been awarded the Military Cross.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/9571522/Soldier-who-led-Afghanistan-bayonet-charge-into-hail-of-bullets-honoured.html

1 year, 10 months ago on Does the military still have horses and bayonets? | FP Passport

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 @AaronJA Actually over the past ten years the population of England has grown by about the same amount as the total population of Scotland.  Though Scotland is about a third the land area it is a very small proportion of the total UK population and economy.  Independence will make very little difference to the remainder of the country.

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/22/the_battle_for_britain

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Salmond has now moved on from simply continuing to "use sterling" to remaining part of a "Sterling Zone".  The reason is, almost certainly, that he recognises that for multiple reasons Scotland will need a "lender of last resort" and the only one around is the Bank of England.  Assuming that such an agreement were on offer it would clearly have some conditions.  A fiscal pact is an obvious starting point but common regulation and control of financial services would also be in there.  It is unlikely that England and the rest of the UK would want predatory tax competition so VAT and corporate taxation would have to be aligned.  This would pretty much leave Scotland where it is now with little real control of either fiscal or monetary policy.  The big difference is that decisions would be made in London with even less regard to Scotland's interest than there is at present.  This latest move means that he has taken the blue from the Saltire and turned it into a white flag.  A Scotland in the Euro, part of a Northern Arc of Prosperity (with Iceland and Ireland!) was at least a vision.  It's gone, just at the time when he has little choice but to have his referendum.  Even if he wins, Scotland will be bound hand and foot to the English economy and he has now accepted this.

1 year, 10 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/22/the_battle_for_britain

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When visiting the United States I am always left wondering how any member of the general public could possibly know anything at all about what is happening in the rest of the world.  Not only that, but what little coverage world affairs get in the MSM almost certainly means that anything they do know "just ain't so".

1 year, 11 months ago on Conversation @ http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/10/16/8_crazy_things_americans_believe_about_foreign_policy

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During the battle of Mirbat, Oman 1972, Sgt Talaiasi Labalaba of the British SAS single handedly manned a 25 pdr field gun, normally requiring a team of six men, holding off 300 communist insurgents until he was killed in action.  He was a giant of a man with a BMI well in excess of the obesity limit.  He was also very fit and very, very strong as well as very brave.  Tall strong men frequently have very high values of BMI as it only works well around average heights.  As the sergeant proved, they can be excellent soldiers.

1 year, 11 months ago on Conversation @ http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/10/09/super_sizing_the_soldier_is_obesity_going_to_pose_a_huge_recruiting_problem

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The result of such a strike would not be to put back Iran's programme by "many years" most estimates are that it would put it back by at most two or three  years.  It would also entrench the current regime make absolutely certain that Iran would then go ahead and develop a weapon.  What we over here would call "a cunning plan" (Google "Blackadder" to find the meaning of that phrase in British English!).

1 year, 11 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/08/wanted_a_truly_credible_military_threat_to_iran

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Look at what the USA did to Iraq and the way it treats North Korea.  Now why on earth would Iran not want to get a bomb as soon as possible?

1 year, 11 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/03/inside_bibi_s_bunker

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At the start of the twentieth century Argentina was the sixth richest country in the world, ahead of Canada, and had excellent prospects with great natural resources and no serious outside threats.  The country has an almost unequalled record in throwing away its opportunities.  Kirchner is only the latest in a long line of populist leaders who seemed determined to prove that poor government can trump every other factor that drives economic development.

1 year, 11 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/03/the_argentine_contagion_0

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So attack Iran and keep the Mullahs in control.  The real long term threat to Israel is democratisation of its neighbours making the continued control of the Palestinians by Israel untenable.  The best way to stop that for a generation is to attack Iran for whatever excuse Israel can find.  The Iranian bomb is irrelevant; Iranians are not irrational.  They may want a bomb of their own to deter Israel from using theirs but there is nothing to suggest that they would call down a massive Israeli nuclear strike.

1 year, 11 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/25/how_to_save_the_iranian_regime

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Diesel, compression ignition, engines work quite happily without electricity and once you get a gas turbine to light up, it doesn't need electricity either.  Where you lose out is in the very precise control that you get from digital electronics and that does affect both fuel economy and emissions but both engines worked for decades without them.  Well into the twentieth century there were urban hydraulic power networks providing high pressure water to power lifts (elevators to you!) and other machinery.  You don't need electricity to fly or navigate an aeroplane either, though air traffic control without radio would be a bit limited!

1 year, 11 months ago on As an expert in post-apocalyptic political economy.... | Daniel W. Drezner

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When every other democratic government on the planet votes at the UN for a resolution critical of Israel and the USA vetoes it, it sort of just possibly suggests that something funny might, oh so slightly, be going on somewhere - far be it from me to suggest where that might be.

1 year, 11 months ago on Conversation @ http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/09/20/how_not_to_hide_the_elephant_in_the_room

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I've sometimes talked with American acquaintences about the middle east.  On one occasion I remarked that it was not surprising that Americans were so squarely behind Israel as the Palestinian case was never put.  My colleague, from the North West, replied that this was not at all true and that there were regular contributions from moderate and intelligent Palestinians.  When asked where the answer was straightforward: on NPR; I think that that says it all.

2 years ago on Conversation @ http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/09/14/why_americans_dont_understand_the_middle_east

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"The risks to American and Israeli interests will be too great if they don't."  A view from a disinterested outside observer would be that American interests would be very well served if they don't.  That particular dog would be much better off by having its tail amputated!

2 years ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/12/tk_0

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 @alhorvath That's a very good reason why the United States Navy maintains a fleet of SSBN's capable of hitting any point on the planet.  It's cost is a very small fraction of the total budget.  For a similar reason Her Majesty's Royal Navy and the French Navy maintain smaller fleets of similar boats again making up a small proportion of our defence budgets.   Why don't we just rely on you guys? Well next time round we won't be able to wait two years for you to turn up!

2 years ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/07/a_real_national_security_agenda

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The United States is uniquely situated without even a possible adversary for thousands of miles from its shores; pace Palin and her worries about the Bering straits.  You spend as much on defence as the next fifteen countries in the world combined.  Are you really worried that everyone from China to Turkey and including the British, French and Germans are all going to gang up on you?  The reality is that the American defence budget is a risible waste of resources that could be put to much better use for the welfare of ordinary citizens.

2 years ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/07/a_real_national_security_agenda

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Of course if Iran already had a nuclear weapon neither Israel nor the US would be seriously contemplating an attack (see North Korea).  So just why is it "irrational" for the Iranians to want one?

2 years ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/17/tk

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When I was at Imperial College in the 1970s the place was full of very bright Iranians studying science and engineering.  Even if the US sent in an army to dismantle all the nuclear facilities in Iran and that's the only way it could be done, within a few years they could rebuild it.  All that attacking Iran will do is to make absolutely certain the regime survives and develops nuclear weapons unless of course the US is proposing to occupy the country for the forseeable future.

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/08/16/some_smart_advice_on_iran

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Anyone who has had to employ people in professional jobs knows that there are only two things that matter: raw intelligence and committment.  Boris has got both just wait for the moment when he quotes Prince Hal:

"Do not assume that I am what I was; for God knows, I have turned my back on my former self"

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/09/tk_0

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Here are just a couple of points from an engineer who has worked in a variety of energy generating and using industries.  Virtually all the energy infrastructure will need to be replaced over the next forty years for the simple reason that it will wear out; a lot of it will have to be replaced more than once for the same reason.  Statements about how many nuclear reactors that will have to be commissioned every day are meaningless unless you know the capacity of the global industry.  After all, we manufacture millions of cars every week (and at different times I've worked on both).  The second point is that much, probably at least half, of the reduction can be achieved by better energy efficiency.  There are existing technologies for reducing the energy demands of heating, lighting and transport that are capable of cutting energy use by around half overall and give excellent financial returns.

 

What is really needed is for climate scientists (I believe you!), greenies, right wing politicians and all other nutters to get out of the way and give engineers the right political and economic framework.  We can and will solve this if the innumerati would only let us get on with it!

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/06/tk_0?page=0,1

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"Religion makes good people better and bad people worse." — H. Richard Niebuhr

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/06/tk?page=0,1

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 @TwiMo Actually there is a very good correlation with medal count and GDP except that the largest economies tend to fall below the trend line.  There's bags of work published on this if you want to look it up.  Your comparison with India doesn't "prove" anything; I suspect that you've never done any serious research work.  India should, indeed, do much better than it does.  It's worth noting that the Indians are such fanatics for the greatest of all sports that they have little interest in anything that does not involve the crack of leather on willow.

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/01/chinas_champion_children

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 @ScottConner It's Walter, Scott - sorry I couldn't resist that !

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/31/olympic_fever_0

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Just a thought for China and the US - take a look at the medals table.  Those flacid, lazy, incompetent Europeans may be well behind both of you, but factor them to even match the US population, let alone the Chinese and it looks as if even the Italians are doing pretty well, let alone the French, Germans and Brits.  As I write this the French and Brits together match the US medal count but with a third of the USA's population.  So how is it that these countries with relatively small populations can compete at all with the behemoths of China and the USA?

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/01/chinas_champion_children

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Breathes there the man with soul so dead Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land! Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned, As home his footsteps he hath turned From wandering on a foreign strand! If such there breathe, go, mark him well; For him no minstrel raptures swell; High though his titles, proud his name, Boundless his wealth as wish can claim Despite those titles, power, and pelf, The wretch, concentred all in self,  Living, shall forfeit fair renown, And, doubly dying, shall go down  To the vile dust from whence he sprung, Unwept, unhonored , and unsung.

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/31/olympic_fever_0

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Writing as a Brit, I thought that the Chinese opening ceremony was marvelous and I also thought that ours was really rather good, if I may say so.  There is absolutely no need to put one down in favour of the other.  I was also very pleased to learn that Eric Liddell, remember Chariots of Fire, is held by the Chinese to be their first Olympian.  We don't need to fight about these things; they bring us together.

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/07/31/watching_the_london_olympics_in_beijing?page=0,1

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Don't knock the guy.  We were all getting a little bit uptight about minor hiccups with the games; never missing an excuse to put ourselves down.  Now we've got back our sense of proportion and even better we can all have a good laugh at another ignorant American from across the pond.  Thank you Mitt, you've given us all a good laugh.

2 years, 1 month ago on Romney book: Britain is a tiny island that makes stuff nobody wants | FP Passport

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 @ScottConner Turned up and told us that we were not up to running the Olympics.  This may, or may not, be true but it's no way for a guest to behave! :D

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/25/top_ten_questions_about_romneys_foreign_policy

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Well he's just arrived here in Britain and the first thing he does is to insult his hosts.  Good start.

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/25/top_ten_questions_about_romneys_foreign_policy

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This kind of development makes so much more sense than sabre rattling.  On the other hand, building pipelines is not nearly so much fun for duck-pond admirals as contemplating air strikes.  Wasn't it Norman Schwarzkopf who said that armchair generals talk strategy while real generals talk logistics?

2 years, 1 month ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/07/19/choke_point_0

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 @Freetrader2  @Forlornehope Yes, you're right, I should have checked and not relied on my ageing memory!  Nevertheless, it was quite a comic incident.  When working in the US my favourite trick question over dinner with American colleagues was to ask why the White House is white.  None of them ever knew the answer but then again, most of them were Hoosiers!

2 years, 2 months ago on Conversation @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/07/03/the_whitewashed_war

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