What? You couldn’t pick up the phone?

Afghan leader President Karzai, at a recent meeting with President Musharraf of Pakistan, handed over the telephone number, address and GPS number of a Mullah Omar.  An intelligence coup?

Not according to Musharraf, who was not impressed:

“Intelligence, to be effective, should be immediate. Nobody, no target sits there waiting for you (for) three months. If you give telephone numbers, which are three to six months old, this becomes ridiculous. And this is exactly what happened,” Musharraf said. “He gave these numbers to me when he came with his intelligence boss on a presidential visit.

“I said, ‘Is this your sense of intelligence that you were waiting for a presidential visit to hand over this file of numbers to me? That you couldn’t pick up the telephone and tell me there is this man on this number, and we get word of it?'”

Ouch.  Musharraf’s autobiography, by the way, is out on Monday.  Expect more embarrasing revelations of his dealing with world leaders. 

Realism explains everything

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Hans Morgenthau quoted.  Nitin Pai, over at Winds of Change thinks his classic realism can explain what’s really behind international Islamic terrorism

First, Morgenthau:

The nation that dispensed with ideologies and frankly stated that it wanted power would…at once find itself at a great and perhaps decisive disadvantage in the struggle for power. [Hans J Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations pp98-99]

Next Pai:

Nazi Germany’s quest for lebensraum that set off World War II, the Communist bloc’s anti-imperialist cry and the West’s banner of feedom during the Cold War are in this sense similar to the contemporary Islamist agenda. Hitler’s grouch was that the German people were denied the “living space” that they were entitled to, the Islamists’ bone is that the West is denying them their rightful place in the global power structure.

I don’t think I’d disagree with the basic thesis, although little things like ideology tend to have a habit of overheating things, leading events to run out of the control of their supposed puppetmasters – the state.


The blogosphere boldly visits its newest frontier – blogging from space:

The launch was very smooth. The trip to the station felt long but it was worth it. I cannot keep my eyes off the windows. Earth is magnificent and peaceful from up here. You don’t see any of those awful things you hear on the news, from up here.

Written by Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist.  Admittedly, she had to blog via email – I don’t think WordPress works properly outside the earth’s atmosphere – but it’s still pretty cool.

Coup in Thailand

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shiniwatra thought he’d take a trip to make a speech to the UN General Assembley.  Instead, his military have taken the opportunity presented by his absence to overthrow him in a coup.

The dramatic timing is perfect – this coup could have been made for Hollywood.

Pajamas Media have a great roundup, and a number of bloggers are liveblogging from within Thailand as events unfold.

The UN General Assembley have re-arranged their agenda for today to allow the newly exiled Thai PM to speak sometime during the next few hours. 

It will be interesting to hear how he reacts, and whether he can rally any significant support – either international or domestic – from this unique pulpit. 

Has anyone ever addressed the UN mid-coup before, I wonder?

Riots in Budapest and the Middle East

Riots have broken out in Budapest, following the Hungarian Prime Minister’s admission that his government had consistently lied to the country since their election. 

The BBC reports that more that 50 people have been injured in the riots, and protestors smashed their way into the state television headquarters, causing the station to go off the air overnight.

The people of Hungary have every right to be furious at their government, which has betrayed them.  It’s right that they are able to take to the streets to express their anger.  But recourse to violence by some elements of the crowd is unacceptable when so many other options are open to them.

I see a parallel here to the Islamic world’s violent response to the perceived offenses of the Pope last week, and those Danish cartoons of a few months ago.  Many in the blogosphere were quick (and correct) to condemn this violent reaction, but some went further, saying that such riots were not a part of European and US political discourse. 

It’s difficult to condemn people for rioting over their religious beliefs, when the citizens of one of Europe’s capital cities are smashing their way into TV stations because their belief in the power of democracy has been betrayed.

I wonder how bloggers will react to yesterday’s riots in Budapest, and whether any will see any similarities to Islamic riots?

Remembering 9/11

I think the 2996 project, remembering and celebrating the lives of those who were killed on 9/11, rather than their killers is a magnificent way of remembering the events of five years ago (although, sadly, as I write this, their server has crashed under the load). 

Equally important is to remember the many who have died since then in terrorist attacks.  The Guardian had an informative graphic today, showing that more than 4,000 innocent people have died in terrorist attacks around the globe in the past five years – and that’s before Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel are taken into account.

We should all stop to reflect on both of these figures, and to remember those who died.

But terrorism isn’t just a weapon of death and destruction – it is a weapon that thrives on publicity, and fear.  

One of the finest tributes that we can pay to those who have died in terorrist attacks, and perhaps the most pro-active way that most of us can fight terrorism, is to also take the time to move on with our lives and to refuse to surrender to fear. 

British MEP to be next UN Secretary General?

Nirj Deva represents South East England in the European Parliament.  But it looks like he’s decided Europe isn’t big enough for him – he wants to be boss of the world.  Or, at least, UN Secretary General.

Sadly, though, the balls up over whether Fiji had officially nominated him does seem to imply that he’s not a particularly good at managing his public image, and neither is he particularly diplomatic.  In fact, it looks like, in true British tradition, he’s a bit of a bungler.

The confusion over whether British MEP Nirj Deva has received a formal nomination from the government of Fiji continues. His campaign maintains that the July 18th letter from Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola trumps the recent letter from Ambassador Isikia Savua, which stated that any report of a nomination by Fiji was “to be disregarded.”

[…] The President of the Security Council is attempting to resolve the confusion, but the Devas campaign does not appear to be helping in that regard. Inquiries from campaign observers are met with accusatory and sarcastic remarks anonymously or from an unnamed person, often twisting provisions of the UN Charter or official communiques to defend their position.

Oh well – it’s only another decade until Britain’s next shot at installing ‘our man in New York’ comes around. 

Gordon Brown, leader or coward?

This week’s spat over who gets to be Prime Minister, and when, has revealed a lot about the character of Gordon Brown.

We’ve discovered that Gordon Brown is not a leader.  When the time comes to stand up and take charge of events, he is nowhere to be seen.

Brown is a man who supposedly has a burning ambition to be Prime Minister.  The problem is he is also the kind of man who likes to wait for the perfect moment – a moment which, as we all know, almost never arrives.  This week, he had a golden opportunity.  He could, if he chose, have forced Blair’s resignation and, in all likelihood, would have become Britain’s next Prime Minister. 

But now just wasn’t the right time for Gordon Brown, a man for whom the grass is always greener in the future.  

A series of local government elections are coming up in a year’s time, and everyone knows that Labour are going to take a bit of a beating.  Brown would much prefer to remain tucked up safely in the Treasury, while Blair takes the heat for Labour’s defeat.  Then, and only then, Gordon imagines that he can step in and offer the party a new vision for the future, allowing them to take on the next General Election with confidence.

The problem is that he has failed to understand what leadership is actually about.

Good leaders want to be in charge now – they genuinely want to lead.  They get to take all the plaudits when things go well, but equally, they must be able to stand up and be counted during the tough times – they must rally their troops, and show them the way forward when the road ahead seems difficult.

If Brown had accepted this week’s opportunity to become Prime Minister, he could have taken on the challenge of leading Labour into next year’s elections.  There would have been no guarantees of success, but he would have at least tried, and had the opportunity to show the world that he had the self-belief to lead one of the world’s most powerful countries.  Instead, by refusing to take up the challenge of being Prime Minister, he has told the world that the Labour Party has no chance of success in next year’s elections. 

The events of this week bode ill for Britain under a future Brown Premiership.  If Brown is a man who prefers to shirk a difficult challenge than accept it, how will Britain fare when faced by an international crisis?  We live in a complicated and dangerous world, and plenty of tough and often unpopular decisions will need to be taken to protect our security.

But, instead of standing up and being counted, all I can imagine is that Britain under Brown will take the cowardly option, never stepping forward out of the shadows.