Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A variety of fascinating links

1. Elif Batuman in the New Yorker on wearing a headscarf in Turkey. Much much more interesting than that sounds.

2. When did NATO begin to think it might be able to hold back the Red Army? "Let’s be utterly clear on this point; from the creation of NATO until the 1970s, Western military planners expected the Warsaw Pact to easily win a conventional war in Europe. Conventional warfighting plans by the major NATO powers often amounted, almost literally, to efforts to reach the English Channel just ahead of the tanks of the Red Army." More here. What struck me about this was its alignment with British strategic theory. All possible existential threats to Britain come from the Continent. Since at least the Seven Years War (and perhaps since the Hundred Years' War), Britain has known that it cannot hold ground on the Continent. Its allies might be able to, but you can't count on that. Once there is a power which is so dominant on the Continent that our allies cannot withstand it, then what? (Obviously the aim to prevent there being such a power, but from time to time - Napoleonic Wars, WWI, WWII, the Cold War - it happens.) The aim is to win the resulting siege, which requires allies or territory overseas, and then hope to turn the besieger into the besieged by a global surrounding of the Continental power and attacks on its peripheries. That was Napoleon and WWII (with the twist of the Normandy landings - but only when it was tolerably safe) and WWI (with the twist of the Continent not falling). Read this and you'd think that NATO was a British strategic instrument. It's less clear what was in it for the US.

3. A couple of things about Brexit. This, on the pro-ish side, from Simon Jenkins, and this, on the anti side, from Anatole Kaletsky. One way of looking at the debate is this: how much do you think tomorrow looks like yesterday? My guess is that a lot of people have changed their minds on that question since 9/11, the 2008 financial crash and the rise of outside political movements (from Syriza to Donald Trump). If you think the past is going to be very like the future then Kaletsky is the man for you. (Oh, and here's the IEA on jobs.)

4. Congratulations on the birth of Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius! I hope Peter, Mary, Thomas and Anselm are pleased with their new little brother.

5. Successful women who are married to successful men. Sarah Vine here; Justine Thornton and Marina Wheeler in conversation here. (Their family situation is highly relevant in each case.)

6. Bill Bryson has become so British that he thinks the country is going to the dogs. No doubt he's right.

7. Hmm. This one is, well, er, quite a story.

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