International

VietnamHas Britain given up on foreign affairs? Many say ‘We don’t have an Empire anymore’; or that ‘We are not a rich country.’ That has been said since Indian independence in 1947, or perhaps since our economic fragility was laid bare at the end of the First World War. Some ask ‘What right have we got to tell others how to live their lives?’ That question has been gathered momentum since the 1960s. Some ask ‘What business is it of mine?’ That attitude has been going on since the Old Testament.

Meanwhile, the balance of power is shifting to the people, quickly. Parliament blocked government action on Syria. In 2017 there will probably be a referendum over our membership of the European Union. There is disquiet over our aid programmes. Some diplomats find all this worrying. They fear it is a sign that populism or domestic priorities are undermining Britain’s place in the world. They worry that people don’t know about the complexities of foreign affairs and don’t care. They are wrong.

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Iranian Girls

First Published in Prospect Magazine   They are not free because their minds are not free,” said the headmistress, introducing me to my first class. “You are not here only to teach them English, you are here to open their minds.” Ten women were seated around a table in the over-heated room. All except two […]

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Even in Iraq, all politics is local

First published in The New York Times, July 13, 2006. A great many of the failures in Afghanistan and Iraq arise from a single problem: the American-led coalitions’ lack of trust in local politicians. Repeatedly the Western powers, irritated by a lack of progress, have overruled local leaders, rejected compromises and tried to force through their […]