Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:16 | SYDNEY


Friday funny: Cats

FT foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman makes the case on his blog that 'dictators like dogs because they are obedient pack animals. Democrats like cats, because they are free spirits.' But although Rachman cites some good examples to back up his argument, he seems to forget the single

Humanitarian intervention and the Genovese Syndrome

If you saw any TV news last week you might have been shocked to see footage of a hit-and-run incident in America. After a 78-year old man is knocked down, cars just continue to pass by and pedestrians walk on. Nobody stops to help the seriously injured man until the police arrive. Charlie

Reader riposte: The HIV/AIDS pandemic

Daily Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman writes about the error Bill Bowtell spotted yesterday in Akerman's column: I welcome Bill Bowtell’s comment; unfortunately the qualifications in my original article were cut for space. They were that the predicted pandemic would affect the

Trust the science, not Piers Akerman

Commentator Piers Akerman inveighs against the usual gang of suspects on climate change in today's Sydney Daily Telegraph. The idea that the planet is heating up is 'anthropogenic global warming madness' dreamt up by Al Gore, who is 'making it up as he goes along'. Ross

Is there a globalisation paradox?

I don't share Judah Grunstein's concern that there is a mismatch between underfunded defence forces and growing demand for military interventions in far flung places. First, I reckon many of these interventions, actual and proposed, are pretty discretionary. They are often justified by

Wednesday linkage

Following up our recent air transport thread, a reader suggests this George Monbiot piece on airships might offer a possible answer. Autopia is sceptical. Steve Clemons says the Cheney forces are gathering behind a push to strike Iran. James Fallows, on the other hand, damps down recent

Reader riposte: Air travel and carbon footprints

Andrew responds to my post about the surprising inefficiency of air transport. My response follows: Reading the report and your comments again, the question that came to me was, 'are we able to improve fuel usage efficiencies by moving back to piston power systems and aiming to

Sageman vs Hoffman: The new war of ideas

For months now an intense debate has taken place amongst jihadists over the future strategy and tactics of international jihad. Now that debate has an important Western echo in a heated disagreement between two leading terrorism scholars, Bruce Hoffman and Marc Sageman. It was sparked by a

Friday funny: Human Tetris

This from Japan (where else?). Monday is a public holiday in Australia, so normal blogging will resume on Tuesday. Enjoy your weekend

Transport: Input costs matter

Sam’s post on global transport costs caught my eye, specifically his thoughts on the relationship between transport costs, technology and oil prices.  It brought to mind this fascinating 2007 paper by David Hummels in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, which looks at the evolution of

The surprising inefficiency of air transport

The Economist's Free Exchange blog carries a post on rising global transport costs. It ends with this: The extent to which the product content of trade and trade volumes shift is dependent on how high transportation costs go, and how well technologies can make up the slack. It could

Friday linkage

The Copenhagen Consensus ranks its top 30 global priorities. Note global warming is way down the list, and terrorism does not appear. India will soon have 16 shiny new MiGs for its aircraft carrier. The carrier, meanwhile, is due to arrive around 2012. Useful note of caution about Obama'

We could learn from the House of Commons

How come the Brits are seen as stuffy and priggish, while we think of ourselves as the knockabout types? The unfairness of this is apparent on the cricket field: not only are our players far more dour and joyless, but so are our umpires, compared to the English. And what of the parliament? Our

Bahasa doesn't count

Americans get a lot of stick for their cultural arrogance, but nobody does it like the French. Check out this line about Barack Obama from Le Monde, as translated by Passport: ...he doesn't speak any foreign languages (except Indonesian)... See here for our previous

'Don't speak, Hillary, just go'

Ezra Klein from The American Prospect blogs about a scene from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, to illustrate how far America has come: Towards the end of the 1967 movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," Dr. John Wane Prentice, played by Sydney Poitier, sits down with his fiance'

'Mah fellah merkins'

Good news. The ABC (that is, the Australian Broadcasting Corp) is screening Dr Strangelove on Saturday night. I know one bit of trivia about this film, which I'm not looking up to confirm, because if it's not true, I don't want to know. And it's this: the president in the movie,

Wednesday linkage

Wired magazine surveys the world's top ten subways. It does not include the new Eurocrat-only train service between Brussels and Strasbourg. (h/t Passport.) The positive trajectory of Sino-Japanese relations continues: a Japanese warship will visit China, the first to do so since World War

General Motors sees the future

This seems like a pretty big deal. The world's biggest car maker, General Motors, has just announced a major shift away from large car production (it's closing four truck plants and reviewing its super SUV Hummer brand) and towards what Americans call 'compacts' (hatchbacks to us

Tuesday linkage

The age of the mercenary has not passed: A Russian fighter pilot shot down over Sudan. How Sunday night's Australia vs. Iraq World Cup qualifier looked from Baghdad. If you're interested in US politics and you don't know who Matt Drudge is, time to catch up. Former German

Friday linkage

The US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney hosted Francis Fukuyama on Wednesday. Here's the mp3. This is a promising new find: Fairer Globalization. Gobsmacking China fact of the day, from Marginal Revolution: In 1996 China had less than 1 million

Climate change: The cost of our convictions

Andrew Norton long ago put his finger on the real greenhouse denialism, which is again evident in our latest domestic phony war about petrol prices. Andrew cites public opinion research that, while showing record levels of awareness and concern about climate change, also shows low tolerance for

Reader riposte: Eurotrash

Susan responds to Rory's post about geopolitical influence in Eurovision song contest voting: You could not be more wrong. You made, I think, the mistake of paying attention to Terry Wogan. Dima is a superstar across Eastern Europe and even beyond. He was joined on stage by two

Iron Man

There's a respectable view that, for reasons of political correctness, Hollywood resists making movies in which radical Islamists are the enemy. So I was encouraged that in the opening of Iron Man, which I caught last night, the film unambiguously makes bad guys of the Taliban-like force

Thursday linkage

Two blogs point out what Sam did not mention in his post about yesterday's McCain op-ed on Asia policy: he's much tougher on North Korea than the Bush Administration. The Huffington Post puts it nicely: Scott McClellan's soul exfoliation is all a little late in the piece. Some

Diplomacy: Melanesian style

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders’ summit kicks off today in Port Vila, Vanuatu where the leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu will meet for two days. New Caledonia’s pro-independence FLNKS leaders also attend MSG meetings but represent their party rather

Chinese aid 'very transparent'

The latest riposte (see here for the earlier one) to an op-ed I wrote on China’s aid to Fiji has come from the Chinese Embassy (to be completely accurate the response is directed at the South Asian Post who re-reported the op-ed). Talking to Fijilive, Director of Political Affairs at the

Reader riposte: Space policy

Jo-Anne writes (my response follows): While the article you quoted in your post does dwell on the issue of national pride, the use of pride as a rationale for investment in space belongs in the history of the Cold War. Sadly the perception that space is primarily about prestige prevails

Japan continuing commitment to the Global Fund

On 23 and 24 May, I attended a Symposium in Tokyo on the linkages between communicable diseases and human security, organized by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Friends of the Global Fund Japan. It is one of two important meetings leading up to the forthcoming G8 meeting to be

Origins of The Interpreter

The passing of Hollywood royalty would not ordinarily rate a mention here, but since the death in question is of Sydney Pollack, who directed the thriller, The Interpreter, this is as good a time as any to explain that the film did not inspire the naming of this blog. Myself and several other Lowy


I used to love the Eurovision song contest: the mix of Eurotrash kitsch and international electoral politics was addictive stuff. Glad I missed it this year, though. It seems Russia’s win takes the blatant bloc politics of the contest’s voting system (not to mention the taste and musical

Tuesday linkage

Quite a flattering profile of US senior North Korea negotiator Christopher Hill. All Roads Lead to China has a good post about the logistics of the earthquake relief effort. Via a new ANU-based blog, East Asia Forum, I found this interesting John Garnaut column about what's really going

Taking the I.E.D. fight to Massachusetts

I'm heading to a wedding in Massachusetts later this year, so you bet I am pleased with the news the US Federal government will be compelling Massachusetts to come up with a plan to protect the state against the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (or I.E.D.s). 'I.E.D.’s? As in

Strange days in Suva

Consider what is becoming credible under Fiji's increasingly incredible military regime. Australia's Foreign Minister says two death threats directed against Australia's top diplomat and his staff in Fiji are 'serious and credible'. And Stephen Smith was not prepared to deny

Who informing the US Congress?

A recent report prepared by the US Congressional Research Service for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on China’s foreign policy and soft power appears to contain some pretty sloppy errors when it comes to the Pacific. It makes the unusual claim (page 35) that ‘China is likely

Friday linkage

Yay for think tanks: Now this is what I call policy influence. On top of the Middle East negotiation pandemic Rodger blogged about yesterday, Turkey and the Kurds are making progress too. See South Jerusalem blog for some good analysis of the Israel-Syria

When I read the words 'arms race', I reach for my pen

For a start, what does it mean? Everyone seems to have a preferred definition: in my view, the term accurately describes very specific circumstances in which countries are willing to devote ever-increasing proportions of their resources to armaments in repeated cycles of reaction to one another’


Weapons makers and the Pentagon come up with some amazing nomenclature for their toys. My favourite has long been the name given to the device that sits inside the nosecone of America's missile defence interceptors, and which actually hits the incoming ballistic missile warhead while still in

Reader riposte: Diplomacy

John writes in reponse to my post about a possible revival for the role of diplomacy (my response follows): Do you perhaps overstate the extent to which diplomacy has been out of fashion?  Diplomacy isn't just the kind of Head of State and Government summitry  that Obama has been

Inexplicable new low in Fiji-Australia relations

Fiji’s refusal to provide additional security or allow Australian Federal Police to provide protection to the Australian High Commission in Suva in the face of two credible death threats to Australian High Commissioner James Batley is yet another extreme step backwards by the Fiji interim

In defence of political hypocrisy

Some months ago I mounted a defence of sorts of Hillary Clinton's perceived 'authenticity deficit'. People have the impression that she is uncomfortable in her own skin, and that they never see the 'real' Hillary. This is presumed to mean that she is untrustworthy, and that the

Diplomacy: Sniffing the intellectual winds

Bloggers and media commentators are fond of spotting social and political trends where there really are none. The tell-tale sign is the reference to a 'mood' or 'feeling', followed by two or three anecdotal examples. So with that said, I don't want to suggest there is 

Reader riposte: Well done, old boys!

Rawdon Dalrymple responds to my post of last week, in which I said of the UK political scene, 'there are plenty of Tory weaknesses for Labour to exploit (including the Etonian background of much of the Opposition front bench).' Is an Etonian background really an electoral

These Olympics just keep on giving

The torch relay of the Beijing Olympics is generating surprises, both for Western public opinion and the men of the Zhongnanhai. First, on the international portion of the relay, protestors of different stripes (pro-Tibetan independence, anti-Pyongyang, etc) drew the world's attention

The Lowy Institute wants YOU!

The Lowy Institute is on the lookout for new talent in international security policy. We have just advertised this year’s Michael and Deborah Thawley Scholarship in International Security. If you are a student (preferably at PhD or MA level) at an Australian tertiary institution, with a strong

Fighting words from Fiji

An opinion piece I recently wrote for the SMH on Chinese aid in Fiji has stirred up a fighting reaction, along with some factual errors.    The Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office in Fiji, Parmesh Chand, is reported in the Fiji Times today as saying 'His figures are

Reader riposte: Events driving electoral change

John responds to Michael Fullilove's post about the 'global conservative movement' described by NY Times columnist David Brooks: David Brooks' column suffers more from the sin of reading too much theoretical significance into what could easily be interpreted as ordinary

Better wise than smart

Here's an interesting interview with Barack Obama about Zionism, Israel and the Palestinians. Obama is at his best here — highly articulate, reflective without being indecisive, and intellectually substantive. It's catnip for wonks, and its one of the reasons Obama is so popular

Still more on the emerging global order

Will Hutton supplies the inevitable contrarianism to the US declinist thesis. It's a useful corrective, though as often happens in these debates, there is a straw man element to Hutton's argument. For instance, you'd be hard pressed to find Fareed Zakaria — the most prominent of the