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Tom Friedman gushes over the Chinese dictatorship.
Thomas Friedman has been to China again, and seems to have experienced another Lincoln Steffens moment. More than one such, in fact. In his January 10 New York Times column Tom was swooning over the new high-speed rail link between Peking and Shanghai — five hours to cover 700 miles. "By comparison, Amtrak trains require... Read More
A wasted century?
When, thirty years ago, Deng Xiaoping authorized a retreat from the Maoist command economy, he called his plan "Socialism with Chinese characteristics." After a spell of cautious experimentation, Deng's schema blossomed into the export-led, double-digit-growth Chinese economy we have become familiar with this past couple of decades. Now, with thedeepening world-wide recession, China watchers are... Read More
Those little pork pies.
The various petty deceptions that have come to light at the Beijing Olympics — the computer-generated "fireworks", the bogus "ethnic minority" dancers, the little girl who lip-synced because the kid with the voice wasn't cute enough, thesuspiciously preteen look of some of the "16-year-olds" on the gals' gymnastics squad … What's going on here? Or,... Read More
At the end of The Pickwick Papers, Samuel Pickwick decides to retire. He had founded the Pickwick Club in order to mix "with different varieties and shades of human character … Nearly the whole of my previous life having been devoted to business and the pursuit of wealth." His curiosity satisfied at last, he declares... Read More
Don't feel Chinese, don't feel American.
Two big news stories of the past few days, from places far apart, and as different as two places could possibly be, tell us useful things about the age we live in. In Lhasa, the capital city of Chinese-occupied Tibet, there were demonstrations on March 10. The Chinese authorities responded clumsily, Tibetans reacted with riots,... Read More
Thus George W. Bush, speaking to the Greater Cleveland Partnership in Ohio the other day. I groaned inwardly, reading that. It's not the first time we've heard the Japan-1945 analogy, of course. It was a favorite of Donald Rumsfeld's (remember him?) My inner reaction to it now, as then, is: "Oh, so Japan in 1945... Read More
Two cheers for the Celtic Tiger.
Ireland is midway between two elections. March 7 saw an election for the new Northern Ireland Assembly in the six counties under British rule. In the Republic of Ireland — the southern twenty-six counties, self-governing since 1922 — there is a constitutional requirement for an election this spring. The precise date will be announced by... Read More
But not the way Sir Francis Galton wanted.
To modern sensibilities there can be few documents more shocking than Sir Francis Galton's "Africa for the Chinese" letter published in the London Times of June 5, 1873. Sir Francis, a polymath and explorer, and a member of the great Darwin-Wedgwood clan, held Africans in low esteem, believing that they could not "sustain the burden... Read More
Readers of The Corner will have noticed some to-ing and fro-ing about whether we are currently in the middle of World War IV, with Norman Podhoretz's August 2004 essay on this subject much in play. Well, you know how I hate to be a party pooper, but I think this is all nuts. I do... Read More
My son is passing through that very annoying stage of development in which a child discovers that language is not so much like a solid landscape of rocks and trees, but much more like a well-equipped theater stage, fitted out with screens, doors to nowhere, trick lighting, turntables, trapdoors, and wires to lift you up... Read More
I got some pretty ill-tempered emails the other day when I pooh-poohed Ralph Peters' reporting from Iraq. Peters is a retired military man who has written a shelf-full of books about military strategy and geopolitics. I took issue with him over a column in which he sneered at U.S. reporters in Baghdad for lurking in... Read More
Just kidding there — actually, making the point that "The 'To Hell With Them' hawks" is a really clunky way of identifying a faction. It used to be said of the mathematician Camille Jordan, whose papers were famously unreadable, that if he wished to introduce four variables on the same footing, such as the average... Read More
Hey, it's an idea.
Pretty much everyone by now agrees that Iraq is a mess. The lefties and the paleos have been saying so for ages, of course. It's all the fault of Bush/Wolfie/Chalabi/Sharon. It's all about oil/revenge (i.e. on behalf of Bush Sr.)/Israel/Halliburton. You know the lines. We have now reached the stage, though, where the dank, smelly... Read More
Britain will cut a deal with the terrorists.
————————— The Britain of July 2005 is not the Spain of March 2004, either. To say the least of it, there is no general election due in Britain this weekend. There is, in fact, none to be expected for at least three years. Nor did a weak, distracted and incompetent Prime Minister immediately try to... Read More
China's present and future.
Watching the recent proceedings of China's National People's Congress — the country's legislature, if you believe China's constitution, which of course you should not — I got that sinking feeling I always get nowadays when I pay attention to Chinese affairs. Hearing the Communist Party hacks droning on about "safeguarding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity"... Read More
About the Middle East.
This has been a bad few weeks for us pessimists. I can say this with more equanimity than most, having supported the Iraq War. (After first opining that we didn't really have the guts to do it — What do you want? I'm a p-e-s-s-i-m-i-s-t.) I supported the war only as a punitive expedition, though,... Read More
There is something I want to say to my NR/NRO colleagues. Also, come to think of it, to the President of the United States and his cabinet. Have you all taken leave of your senses? Sorry, sorry. Let me back up a little and calm down. For nearly two years my paleocon friends have been... Read More
The Turks, that is, into the EU.
Should Turkey be admitted to the European Union? This month has seen some fine arguments both pro (from the London Spectator) and con (from Steve Sailer). Read 'em and ponder. Personally, I hadn't been giving the matter more than idle thought until I recently heard from my brother in England that his son, my nephew,... Read More
People of Iraq! I am George W. Bush, President and also President-Elect of the United States of America. In last week's elections, the citizens of my country asked me to continue as Chief Executive of our federal government, according to our Constitution and laws, and I shall hold this position, God willing, until January of... Read More
Fareed Zakaria had a piece in last week's Newsweek arguing that, in his own words: Zakaria then goes on to suggest that: "Perhaps Iraq would have been a disaster no matter what. But there's a thinly veiled racism behind such views, implying that Iraqis are savages genetically disposed to produce chaos and anarchy." This smacks... Read More
The show trial of Saddam Hussein.
The appearance of Saddam Hussein before an Iraqi judge the other day illustrated a number of things. It illustrated, for example, the truth that a bully is not always a coward. Also that the new Iraqi government (or perhaps some U.S. adviser) has savvy presentational skills: letting Saddam come to the court cleaned up and... Read More
Can Arab democracy happen?
Following the victory-but-fiasco that the British eked out in the Boer War of 1899-1902, Rudyard Kipling wrote: Now, I am not going to present an argument that Iraq is America's Boer War. I don't believe it is, even in potential. Not that there aren't some resemblances, mainly centered around the verb "to underestimate"; but we... Read More
Anybody remember Eurocommunism? It was a fad of the 1970s, in which the Communist Parties of Italy, Spain, and (though with much internal dissent) France sought to overhaul their images to appeal to a middle-class electorate. There were breaks with the USSR, reconciliations with the Catholic Church, and much talk of partnerships and coalitions. It... Read More
Saturday's presidential election in Taiwan has led to an unseemly Florida-200-type wrangle, with the losing candidate demanding the result be annulled. Incumbent President Chen Shui-bian's margin of victory was 30,000 votes out of 13 million cast; the number of spoilt ballots was nearly 340,000. There are no hanging chads in this case — the voters... Read More
That would be the folk of the Middle East
We all know, and have known since 9/11, that our country faces a threat. What kind of threat is it, though, that has brought us this War on Terror? I doubt there are many of us who think that it is the kind of threat that Britain faced from Hitler, or the Roman Republic from... Read More
President Bush's remarks about Taiwan, following his meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, have set off a spate of hyperventilating in both Taipei and Washington. Typical was The Weekly Standard: This needs a little deconstruction. Taiwan is a small country with a large and hostile neighbor. She has the good fortune to possess what... Read More
A demonstration in China.
Looking at the picture of those Chinese students demonstrating in Xi'an last weekend, a half-forgotten literary reference came to mind. I went to my books and found the reference. It's in Chapter Eight of Ba Jin's novel The Family, written around 1930. Ba Jin (old spelling: Pa Chin**) was the most prominent Chinese novelist of... Read More
Recalling Bruce Lee.
For web column topics I have an "Ideas" file that I dip into when I can't be bothered with the actual news — a state of mind that I find comes upon me more and more often lately. A lot of these ideas have been suggested by kind readers. This is one such. None of... Read More
I met the Dalai Lama once. This was at Central Hall, Westminster, close to the Abbey, in the summer of 1984. I was doing freelance hack work for the London newspapers, and had reviewed Heinrich Harrer's recent book Return to Tibet for theDaily Telegraph a few weeks before. My review had been sympathetic to the... Read More
Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land, by Patrick French
I met the Dalai Lama once. This was at Central Hall, Westminster, close to the Abbey, in the summer of 1984. I was doing freelance hack work for the London newspapers, and had reviewed Heinrich Harrer's recent book Return to Tibet for the Daily Telegraph a few weeks before. My review had been sympathetic to... Read More
On this site two years ago, watching with one eye as the World Trade Center burned on my living-room TV screen, I wrote the following thing: A lot has happened in this past two years, including — whoops — some great troop movements and massed charges. Most surprising, though, in a way, is what has... Read More
Amritsar, Londonderry, … Mosul?
I have been reading about our troops in Iraq, and the work they are doing there. This is not a very cheering pastime. "US troops are facing a classic guerilla war in Iraq" (Washington Post). "These men [i.e. US troops in Iraq] are exhausted … [Quoting a US soldier:] 'Our morale is not high or... Read More
Once upon a time, a great commercial seafaring nation established a trading colony on the shores of a moribund, despotic eastern empire. The colony flourished for a century and more while the empire slowly crumbled around it. It kept its vitality even when the power and wealth of its founding nation declined. Then at last... Read More
Worst place for Mesopotamian antiquities? Iraq.
————————— Twenty years ago I had a conversation with a Chinese friend in London. I had mentioned the fine collections of Chinese art and ceramics that can be seen in that city, at places like the Percival David Foundation and the British Museum. Pooh! said my friend, that stuff was all looted from China by... Read More
They are Europeans now.
There were big demonstrations in Northern Ireland on Tuesday. Around two thousand people, from both the South and the North of the divided island, converged on the fine old 18th-century manor house, rather misleadingly called a "castle," at Hillsborough in County Down. Ten miles away in Belfast city center, several hundred more took part in... Read More
Now that the Three-Week War has become a mere mopping-up operation — a matter of winkling out a few last-ditch Ba'athists, getting civil administration going, and hunting for any bits and pieces of Saddam père et fils we may be able to identify — it is time to look at the victory dividend. We have... Read More
Last Friday night on Fox News there was an interview with an Arab reporter from a TV station in Abu Dhabi. What did this well-educated, well-dressed, well-spoken (in upper-class British English) Arab professional want us to hear? "Yes, we know it's over. You will win. But we want to see you bloodied. We want to... Read More
At the time of writing, things look to be going well in Iraq. It may therefore not be out of place to take a pause for some reflection on the other two members of the Axis of Evil. About Iran, I can think of nothing useful to say. There are good signs: Iran seems to... Read More
They don't get us, we don't get them.
Interviewing Dick Cheney on Meet the Press this Sunday, Tim Russert kept coming back to the question a lot of us, on both sides of the war issue, are asking: How on earth did the United States come to be so isolated? We have the support of a handful of governments, to be sure, but... Read More
The Bottom Line. The bottom line in the current geostrategic situation is the one set out by blogger Noah Millman and our own Stanley Kurtz. In the Cold War, we (not much at risk thanks to Mutual Assured Destruction Doctrine) defended states like Germany, Turkey and South Korea (threatened with invasion). In the Terror War,... Read More
Uh-oh, is it time to bring on that dish of crow yet? In my comments on the topic of war against Iraq, I have consistently argued two points: (1) that the U.S. will not go to war against Iraq, and (2) that Tony Blair will rat on us the moment it looks as though I... Read More
China up? China down? Who knows? Me.
You can get whiplash reading commentary about which way China is going. Here was Nicholas Kristof, in the December 3 New York Times with an article titled "Will China Blindside the West?" Kristof is a capable journalist who wrote a decent book about China in the early nineties, so let's see what he has to... Read More
The news that North Korea has nuclear weapons ("At least two" — unnamed senior administration official, "A small number" — Donald Rumsfeld) brings up a question that has been hanging over the world for some decades, and to which our current Iraq policy is relevant. The question is: What do we do about nutso states... Read More
"BSD" stands for an expression I really prefer in its full form. The expression has a nice, rich, round, loud, American ring to it — notwithstanding the fact that I first picked it up from a book written by Michael Lewis. Working as a bond trader for Salomon Brothers in the early 1980s, Lewis introduced... Read More
One unpleasant little side story to the commemoration of the 9/11 attacks has been the reluctance of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to invite representatives of Taiwan to his city's ceremony. One Taiwan citizen and at least eight other Taiwan natives died in the attacks last year; five Taiwanese banks had offices in the World... Read More
The board is Central Asia. The major players are (in order by length of experience) China, Russia, and the U.S.A. Important supporting roles are filled by Pakistan, Iran, India, and Turkey. Welcome to the Great Game, 21st-century style. Can't spell "Kyrgyzstan"? Stick around — pretty soon you'll be murmuring it in your sleep, and the... Read More
My daily newspaper, the New York Post, gave over its Letters page on Saturday to readers' suggestions and declarations about the right way to spend this coming September 11 — the most appropriate way for ordinary Americans to commemorate last year's attacks. One reader thought Mayor Bloomberg should close city schools for the day. Another... Read More
Tony gets ready to weasel.
It is, of course, very obnoxious to say "I told you so." Sometimes, however, the temptation is irresistible. I shall do my best to resist it here, but I don't guarantee success. Last October I posted a piece to this site titled "TheAnglosphere Goes to War." In it, I wondered aloud just how far Tony... Read More
The first time Brent Scowcroft impinged on my consciousness was in December 1989, six months after the massacre of young Chinese patriots in Tiananmen Square. The particular way he impinged was by being photographed in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, smiling and raising a toast with Li Peng, one of the main organizers of... Read More
A survey of the Middle Kingdom.
Let's start with the bad. China continues on its road to become the Wilhelmine Germany of the early 21st century. The Pentagon report released last week shows an intensifying of the nation's military buildup, with an increase in the nation's defense budget of 18 per cent this year, from a base believed to be three... Read More
Category Classics
How America was neoconned into World War IV
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The JFK Assassination and the 9/11 Attacks?
“America’s strategic and economic interests in the Mideast and Muslim world are being threatened by the agony in...