from The Great Debate:
Earlier this month, the British Broadcasting Corporation, which sees itself as still the best broadcaster in the world, gave a well-bred expression of fear. Peter Horrocks, who has just stepped down as head of the BBC World Service, said “we are being financially outgunned by Russia and the Chinese (broadcasters) … the role we need to play is an even handed one. We shouldn’t be pro one side or the other, we need to provide something people can trust.”
Israel had grown accustomed to an absence of terrorist attacks in its cities: so the bloody murder of four worshippers and wounding of eight more at a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday was a shock. It illuminates the fragile, fractious state of the country, including the fact that the cabinet is riven, and may collapse soon.
On Sunday, June 22, 1941, Winston Churchill’s private secretary, John Colville, woke him with the news that Nazi Germany had invaded the Soviet Union. In a radio address that same evening, the British prime minister repeated his “consistent” opposition to communism, but said that “all this flashes away … the Russian danger is therefore our danger.” In a later House of Commons debate, Churchill quipped — “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”
In his original and argumentative history of the Anglo-American domination of the past three or more centuries, Walter Russell Mead writes that both the UK and the United States believed their imposition of a world order served the highest interests of humanity. From Oliver Cromwell’s denunciation of Spanish cruelty in the 1650s to Ronald Reagan’s characterisation of the Soviet Union as an evil empire in the 1980s, the two main Anglophone states have seen their global expansionism as a blessing for the world: what’s good for us is good for everyone.
One of the themes that Russian President Vladimir Putin tried out to besmirch the Ukrainian revolt against pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich earlier this year was that fascists and anti-Semites were behind the uprising. The protesters, he proclaimed, were revolting in both senses of the word: They had chased out an elected president (true) and their actions had allowed “anti-Semitic forces [to go] on a rampage” (not true).
This month, Pope Francis had to come clean.
Time’s Man of the Year for 2013, the object of seemingly universal affection, is a liberal: and that means a season – perhaps a papacy – of struggle. His honeymoon as the Amiable Argentinian is over.
The most important and tragic speech of these times was given earlier this week, though the author was too busy to voice it herself. Dr. Margaret Chan, who leads the World Health Organization, sent her chief of staff to a WHO regional conference in Manila to spotlight something we rarely keep in our conscious mind and don’t, collectively, do much about: Inequalities can be a matter of ever-longer life, or a most miserable death.
It’s often said that Russia’s Vladimir Putin, along with the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, owe their popularity and the relative stability of their nations to their success in giving their people not so much bread and circuses but McDonald’s hamburgers and satellite TV. If the burgers and entertainment dry up, the foundations of the two regimes are supposed to tremble.
The word “imperialism” is still bandied about a good deal. Sometimes its meaning is traditional, as in the charge that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is seeking to reassemble some part of the Russian imperium. Sometimes the meaning is flakier, as in the claim of Scots nationalists that England is a neo-imperial state on the lookout for wars in which to flex its flabby military muscles.