Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:18 | SYDNEY


Lowy staff talk about the year in books (part 3)

I’ve just finished Christopher Koch’s new novel The Memory Room.  It is a powerful story, with surprisingly evocative descriptions of Canberra’s (not to mention pre-prosperity Beijing’s) peculiar charms. But what makes this book even more special is its sustained, if sometimes slightly

A time for hope in Melanesia

By the end of last week, a glimmer of hope had emerged in Australia’s hitherto difficult relationships with its two most significant Melanesian neighbours. New Prime Minister Kevin Rudd enjoyed a constructive first meeting with Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare in Bali on

The strangeness of America

My post on The West Wing yesterday mentioned Barack Obama's poll surge but didn't note that Hillary Clinton maintains a twenty point opinion poll lead nationally. That is a formidable advantage and still entitles her to strong favouritism, though it would concern her that, in the early

Lowy staff talk about the year in books (part 2)

The war in Iraq is being accompanied by an equally vicious intellectual battle to lay the blame for the multiple disasters of the Bush Administration.  Last year, the heavy artillery was all one way from the representatives of the permanent government – Defense, the CIA and the State Department

Projector: The West Wing

The NY Times reports that Barack Obama has a head of steam: The campaign of Mr. Obama, which slogged uncertainly through a period in the late summer and fall, alarming contributors who feared that he might have missed his moment, is now brimming with confidence as he delivers a closing

Lowy staff talk about the year in books

EDITOR'S NOTE: This week we'll publish a series of posts by Lowy Institute staff on their picks for best books of the year, and what they will be reading over summer. We start today with our Executive Director, Allan Gyngell.  The Dutch journalist Geert Mak’s In Europe: Travels

Climate change: Is there much low-hanging fruit?

University of Queensland economist John Quiggin (who blogs for Crooked Timber and for himself) clearly thinks the Bali climate change declaration was a triumph. And his optimism extends beyond the politics of climate change, arguing that reducing carbon emissions doesn't have to come at the

More on 'blogging world politics'

The Sydney Morning Herald has today published an op-ed version of a talk I gave at the Lowy Institute on Wednesday, on 'Blogging World Politics'. Stephen Hutcheon from SMH Online has also written an accompanying piece on his blog about yours truly. I see the discussion in the comments

Another view on the role of intelligence agencies

In response to my post about what intelligence agencies are for, Paul Monk writes: The track record of the US intelligence system is not impressive when it comes to predicting major future developments. (I say 'system', because 'community' is too kind a word, as Robert

Blogging world politics

I gave a Wednesday Lowy Lunch presentation yesterday on 'Blogging world politics'. You can listen to the mp3 here

A reminder about the email digest

The Interpreter now has an Email Digest feature (in the column to the right, just below the RSS button). Enter your email address, and you can receive a daily or weekly email that lists all the items that have been posted on The Interpreter in the previous day/week. The emails will contain the

Coral Bell on the future world order

One thing I forgot to mention in reply to Peter Hodge's email (below) is that although it is important to look ten or even fifty years into the future, you don't necessarily need intelligence agencies to do that kind of work, because classified information has a very limited role to play

More on the role of intelligence agencies

Reader Peter Hodge responds to my post of yesterday on the proper role of intelligence agencies: Good post, and I agree that the aim of intelligence analysis is to help political leaders cope with uncertainty. Having worked in an intelligence assessments agency, I’m not convinced that

Email digest now live

As you can see on the right-hand sidebar, The Interpreter now has an Email Digest feature (it's just below the RSS button). Enter your email address, and you can receive a daily or weekly email listing all the items that have been posted on The Interpreter in the previous day/week. The emails

Projector: The Hollywood writers' strike

This is the second installment in an occasional series called 'International Policy Projector' (here's the first), which looks at how aspects of international policy are portrayed in film and TV. Via the outstanding economics blog Marginal Revolution, I found this Financial

Climate scientists too optimistic?

Guest blogger:  Dr Sarah Potter, a post-doctoral fellow working on infectious disease policy for The George Institute for International Health. She is currently preparing a Policy Brief on global climate change and infectious disease for the Lowy Institute. Thursday’s Bali Climate

Chavez watching back, front, sides

How disconcerting, after devoting one's life to one's country, to find one is living among Brutuses. After telling Venezualans just a fortnight ago that voting against the referendum that could have enshrined him as lifelong president would be the act of a traitor, Hugo Chavez today found

International policy projector: Transformers

This is the first post in an occasional series I'm calling 'International Policy Projector', on how elements of international policy are portrayed on the cinema and television. Michael Bay’s Transformers might seem an unusual subject for this sober blog. It is essentially an

Things looking up worldwide

Foreign Policy magazine lists five ways the world is improving: air travel is safer than ever, fewer kids are dying of disease, there are fewer wars, poverty is down, and life expectancy is up. The air travel thing is true but seems a little out of place, given how many people never step on a

The dirty bomb threat

Overnight reporting that Slovakian police have made arrests in relation to the smuggling of weapons-grade uranium is a concern, though we probably don't have to duck and cover just yet. The amount of material found (less than 0.5kg) is about 1/50th of what would be needed to make a 

Boeing takes the plunge

If you've ever flown in a commercial aircraft, chances are it was either a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320 short-haul passenger jet. These aren't aviation's glamour children, but they are the two most produced commercial jet classes in the world. Now Gulf News reports that Boeing

Don't write off diplomats yet

William Langewiesche's new essay for Vanity Fair makes the reasonable argument that the safer US embassies become, the less useful they are, in that safety restrictions prevent diplomats from really knowing the country they're in. Unfortunately, the article contains some snide asides that

What we build

Herewith, thanks to Flickr, a short photo essay on a few interesting new (and in one case refurbished) buildings around the globe, each of which says something about the world's direction. They certainly all reflect ambition and hope for the future, but maybe also a slightly arrogant disregard

Airport security: The nightmare continues

The Age reports that the US Homeland Security Department is introducing new fingerprinting technology at airports, with a quote from an official saying the new measures will not create further delays. Those who have travelled to the US since 9/11 may chuckle somewhat derisively at such assurances

UNAIDS should be commended, not scolded

UNAIDS has published revised estimates of the size of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The new UNAIDS figures for 2007 put the number of annual new HIV infections at 2.5 million, a reduction of more than 40% from last year’s estimate. The worldwide total of people infected with HIV is now reported

Kissinger on sacrifice

 The Wall Street Journal's interview with Henry Kissinger includes this passage: But today, fundamental philosophical differences divide the U.S and Europe across a range of key foreign policy issues. Europeans and Americans, I suggested, disagree as to both means and ends--

Message in a rocket

We've been misinterpreting China's 11 January test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon, according to two China experts. The conventional wisdom has been that the test, in which a ground-based missile destroyed an orbiting but decommisioned Chinese weather satellite, was intended to send a

Lord May to deliver annual Lowy Lecture today

This evening Lord Robert May, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and Head of the UK Office of Science and Technology, will deliver the annual Lowy Lecture, the highlight of the institute’s calendar. His topic will be relations among nations on a finite planet. Last

War deaths in recent history

Sam Roggeveen writes, 'it is clear that Western militaries and their political leaderships have cast aside the idea that it is acceptable to deliberately kill innocents in service of the greater good.' The move towards less deadly modes of warfare appears to be part of a global

How we fight

In his reply to my defence of Tony Coady's op-ed on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt says:  That democracies now try so hard to avoid civilian casualties (when did they not?) is what any utilitarian applauds. But as we saw with the liberation

The TLA crisis

I have posted a new paper to the international economy section of the Lowy Institute website.  The piece is based on a couple of presentations I gave last month and takes a look at the subprime crisis that has been roiling financial markets this year. We could call this latest financial

Crunched: Lessons from the 2007 TLA crisis

In a paper in the Lowy Institute Perspectives series, Mark Thirlwell looks at the current turmoil in international financial markets. While this is often named after the US subprime sector in which it originated, he suggests that an alternative description could be the TLA crisis, given the

Africa on the rise

The World Bank’s latest report on African Development Indicators is refreshingly upbeat and makes for interesting reading.  None of this will be news to those who listened to a speech by Philip Green OAM, Australia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, at the Lowy Institute last September.  

The great convergence

Along with globalisation, the onset of sustained, rapid catch-up growth in the developing world is one of the most important forces shaping the world economy. This development can be described as a Great Convergence that is unwinding the consequences of a previous Great Divergence that divided the

Bush in perspective

The Lowy Institute is delighted to host a roundtable today with Dr Steven Casey of the London School of Economics, an emerging star in US diplomatic history, on 'The Bush presidency in historical perspective'. Today's Sydney Morning Herald contains an op-ed based on his remarks and the

Hiroshima and Nagasaki still debated

Tony Coady's op-ed in The Age today, which argues that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were acts of terrorism, got a strong response from Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt, who makes the familiar utilitarian argument that by sacrificing Japanese civilians in those two cities, the US

Tracking the great convergence

In my previous post I argued that the idea of The Great Convergence was a useful way of thinking about many of the developments in today’s international economy, and so provided a helpful story within which to fit some of the themes of the Lowy Institute's International Economy Program.  In

The great convergence

The Lowy Institute’s International Economy Program has to cover a lot of ground.  The program’s mandate is to ‘monitor and analyse trends that are contributing to fundamental changes in the international economic environment within which Australian businesses and policymakers operate.’ 

The times we live in

Andrew Sullivan's case for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama (the cover story in the latest Atlantic Monthly) relies heavily on the argument that we are living in particularly dangerous times. Here's how Sullivan describes those times, and why the political divisions caused

The best of politics on YouTube

This Gideon Rachman blog post is about a week old now - ancient in blogging terms - but is worth sharing. Rachman, chief foreign affairs correspondent for the Financial Times and a very lively and interesting blogger, lists his top five (which turns into seven) political YouTube moments. It

FDR and GWB compared

Today is the 75th anniversary of the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House. The Financial Times has marked the anniversary by publishing an op-ed of mine (you must subscribe to view, but it's free) which contains some thoughts on the strengths that FDR brought to his conduct of US

American exceptionalism

The current edition of the Atlantic Monthly, my favourite magazine, marks its 150th anniversary with a special edition on the American Idea.  Novelist and journalist Tom Wolfe surely wins the laurel wreath for American Exceptionalist of the Year for this superb example of the genre:

Global environmental policy

The Lowy Institute Voters' Guide to International Policy addresses the sort of questions we should be putting to our political leaders.Section 9 of the Guide, 'Global Environmental Policy', by Professorial Fellow Warwick McKibbin, is available here