Monday, February 07, 2005

abstracting the core

Eliza Griswold writes in the NYT Magazine, January 23, 2005, of 'The Next Islamist Revolution?' in Bangladesh (link here):
Last spring, Bangla Bhai, whose followers probably number around 10,000, decided to try an Islamist revolution in several provinces of Bangladesh that border on India. ...  He has said that he acquired this nom de guerre while waging jihad in Afghanistan and that he was now going to bring about the Talibanization of his part of Bangladesh. Men were to grow beards, women to wear burkas. This was all rather new to the area, which was religiously diverse.
Christopher Caldwell on 'The Triumph of Gesture Politics', NYT Magazine, January 23, 2005 (link here):
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who chose not to cut short his own vacation in Egypt, finds himself cast as the arch-goat. Blair's government was quite active during the days that followed the tsunami. But even though Britain has offered substantial assistance to the wave-damaged region, that is somehow insufficient. For the past month, the British news media have savaged their prime minister for his ''colossal act of disrespect.'' According to an editorial in The Independent, ''Blair has failed to grasp the essence of leadership.''

If that accusation is fair, then the essence of leadership has changed into something that is less and less about significant undertakings and more and more about dramatic stunts.
An important article in the FT Magazine (29 Jan) - 'War stories', by Carne Ross, 'from 1998 to 2002, the British “expert” on Iraq for the UK delegation to the UN Security Council'. Two extracts:
It was, of course, a complex story that we managed to divide into two distinct and opposing narratives. The atmosphere between the delegations on the Security Council was aggressive and adversarial, as it remained until - and after - the invasion. Political divisions were allowed to degenerate into personal animosities. The Council, its chambers and corridors became a diplomatic battlezone where the more we fought, the more we entrenched our positions into competing blacks and whites. Thus were we able to obscure the more complex, deeper and more important truth, perhaps even the truth
There is a tendency in government to see intelligence material as being at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of information. Awash with information, government reifies the skill of abstracting the core from the mass (indeed it is a skill tested in the entrance exams when you join, for instance, the Foreign Office). Unlike the voluminous flow of diplomatic telegrams, memos and open-source information that hits computers on desks across government every day, intelligence arrives in slim folders, adorned with colourful stickers announcing not only the secrecy of the information therein but the restricted circulation it enjoys. The impression thus given, a product of these aesthetics, is of access to the real thing, the secret core denied to all but the elite few.
The 'Chomskyan sort of conspiracy led by Big Oil' is also mentioned. Chomsky has replied in a letter in Saturday's FT (4 Feb),  which shows little more than that a) he is still alive and b) has read the article and found it interesting.

Update (8 Feb): Interesting reflections by Ceteris P concerning France's shift before the Iraq war: part1 ..... part2.


Blogger DavidP said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:58 pm, February 09, 2005  
Blogger DavidP said...

Reply from Emmanuel: 'L'article du FT est en ligne ici.' This is from a Catholic site, of sorts, one that does not agree with the Church's more recent attitudes towards democracy, protestants, the Jews...

There you have it, black on white. Now you know that Orthodox Judaism is the driving force (the "masters") behind the American Taliban and behind the plethora of heretical "christian evangelical churches" that constitute the "American Christianity" as opposed to the "European Christianity", according to this Jewish author...December 20, 2004Nonetheless, some gems can be found in its  index of so-called 'U.S. WAR CRIMES AND CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY'.

4:00 pm, February 09, 2005  

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