A Tale of Three Speeches

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We mere citizens of the world who once upon a time looked to the President of the United States to be both a strong leader and a bold representative of important moral principles sit aghast at the horror of #USElections2016. Still, it may soon be over, or not as the case may be.

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The Wisdom of Young Speechwriters


The problem with anyone young is that they have all sorts of positive qualities: energy, fresh thinking, ambition, confidence and so on. But they (necessarily) don’t have the experience that comes from knowing lots of things. From seeing how things play out over time. For grasping the deeper dynamics of any negotiation. From understanding relationships in all their baffling complexity. From grasping what the Serbs call duh situaciji – the spirit of the situation.

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Obama v Putin – a New Realism?

Barack_Obama_addresses_the_United_Nations_General_AssemblyThe prospect of Russia fighter jets and special forces setting about ISIL with gusto and no mercy whatsoever warms the cockles of Western leaders’ hearts. And maybe some grimy deal that keeps Assad afloat for the time being is better than Syria collapsing completely and all those refugees banging on the door. Plus shared progress here might lead to shared progress over Ukraine. Continue reading Obama v Putin – a New Realism?

Borders and Identity

LE_Eithne_Operation_TritonGermany is now realising that it cannot make such an apparently open-ended offer, so is pressing hard for other EU countries to share the burden through some sort of mandatory quota system. Poland, Hungary and some other states are resisting. They have spent long decades if not centuries grappling to assert their national and linguistic identity under different imperial powers, and are determined not to see their hard-won independence eroded. Continue reading Borders and Identity

Clinton and Corbyn: The Fine Old Art of Dissembling

At the No More War event at Parliament Square in August. A Creative Commons stock photo. You don’t hear the verb ‘to dissemble’ so much these days, although Edgar Allan Poe knew just when to use it. Its synonyms include pretend, deceive, feign, masquerade, sham, bluff, pose, and counterfeit. It’s all about projecting a false if not dishonest impression, with a view to misleading.

Dissembling may have drifted towards desuetude, giving way to the more robust idea of ‘lying’, but the practice is alive and well. This week sees momentous examples from two ambitious politicians on either side of the Atlantic, both with a problem. How to deflect public attention from what they have really been doing, as their doings look embarrassing when subjected to closer scrutiny? Continue reading Clinton and Corbyn: The Fine Old Art of Dissembling