Tag: highlight

First Principles

August 8, 2006


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The biggest cost (in the widest sense) of any political system is that which it expends in preventing its overthrow.

Attempting to “design” a political system without paying attention to how it will protect itself is like designing a building without paying attention to how it will stay up – architecture without gravity, castles in the air.

To our current system – the family of political structures labelled “Western Democracy”, the cost is high. It saves costs, compared to traditional autocracy, on direct counter-subversion, but spends instead on bribery and waste to pacify potential opponents. The total cost of government is comparable to, but probably lower than, that of an outright dictatorship.

This is why I am not a revolutionary. I can draw up a political system enormously superior to any currently existing – minimising waste and maximising progress and prosperity for all – but my plans do not include mechanisms for maintaining the system itself. Such mechanisms would have to be improvised – and would in all probability be improvised much as Lenin’s were.

My ideal government being smaller and lighter than Lenin’s, the ad-hoc instruments of “state security” would have an even easier job of coming to dominate the whole.

So here I sit, in the midst of waste and ignorance, attempting to chip away here and there at the very worst of what Western Democracy is producing. It is a depressing vision, as the more succesful our society is, the more waste it can afford, so the cost of politics trends ever upwards. But our lives are improving, and will continue to do so. The brakes on progress are enormously frustrating, but the best we can do is spread the ideas – the key idea that goverment is mainly waste and the less of it the better – to reduce the cost of maintaining the political system.

Three cheers for democracy

February 1, 2006


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Yesterday the House of Commons unexpectedly upheld freedom of speech by voting to accept the amendments made by the House of Lords to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. Very good news. We will continue to be able legally to be rude about religions, as long as we are not threatening (in which case there is plenty existing law, anyway). And three boos for my MP Margaret Moron, who has a 100% record of voting for oppression.

Of course, while it is good to see our elected representatives voting for freedom, it must be remembered that the Commons previously approved the bill in all its horrible glory, and only after the rejection by the unelected house of Lords did it agree to gut it. What conclusions can we draw from that?

Well, one is that the Commons’ view when there is time for both a public and an internal debate is not the same as its view in normal circumstances. This is because legislative productivity is too high: laws are being passed without getting adequate consideration.

Why did the Lords get it right when the Commons initially got it wrong? Possibly, the Lords, while unrepresentative of the population just happens to be more representative of me. That doesn’t lead anywhere useful. Alternatively, I have often thought that the Lords show a greater sense of responsibility, brought on by the knowledge that their powers are illegitimate. An MP says to himself “I have gone through a long struggle of politicking and elections to obtain the power to vote on these matters – I shall now vote according to whatever suits my purpose at this moment”. A Lord says “I have undeservedly been given power to change the law of my country – I must take care not to use that power in a harmful way”. This explanation seems weaker now that most voting Lords are appointed ex-MPs – it seems unlikely that they would suddenly aquire an unfamiliar humility along with their silly robes.

I cannot justify the existence of the House of Lords, and I have in the past argued for unicameralism, but there is a pressing need to reduce legislative productivity, and the brake that is the Lords, eccentric as it is, cannot be discarded at this stage.

A claim by Charles Clarke was that the defeat was “a purely political act”. A bizarre statement for a politician to make, but I suppose he meant that those opposing the bill were not really opposed to it, they just wanted to see the government defeated on something. (Of course it is unheard of for a Labour MP to vote for a bill he does not really support, just because he wants the government to win a vote). That may be true of some Tories, but I am sure that those who voted against their own party were sincere in their opposition.

A prominent feature of the debate was its dishonesty. The original text of the bill said things like “an offense is committed if someone says things that stir up racial or religious hatred”. In response to criticism, the government proposed amendments along the lines: “you may express criticism of religion (provided you don’t stir up hatred)”. Such amendments obviously have no effect whatever on the meaning of the bill: see here

I am impressed by the Hansard web site. Full text of yesterday’s debate and votes is available this morning for examination. Obviously, this is how it should be, but it is slightly surprising nonetheless.

Two kinds of rules

December 21, 2005


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I’m trying to make sense of this piece by Ed Felten, on what he calls a “weapon of mass virtual destruction” in an online game. (You will probably have to read it first to understand the rest of this.)
The problem isn’t that I think he’s wrong – I’m pretty sure he’s right. The problem is I’m not sure why he’s right.
He says:

Should the FBI get involved in this mess?
It seems to me that they should. A WMVD of this sort is just a fancy denial of service attack, and a deliberate denial of service attack against a large network service looks to me like a crime. It’s possible that the first attack wasn’t meant to crash Second Life — though even if not deliberate it was certainly reckless — but subsequent attacks could only have been intended to cause a crash.

That sounds very promising to start with. A crashing server is a “real world” event, not a “virtual world” event, and since a real human has deliberately caused a real-world harm, we are in the domain of real-world law enforcement.

On reflection, though, the issues start to blur. The jargon term “crash” can be used to describe a large range of computer behaviours. The assumption in this case is that the game server software stopped working, and either terminated itself or had to be terminated by an operator. There are other possibilities, though. For instance, it might have continued to function “correctly”, but, since the majority of the “virtual objects” being maintained were by now copies of the “gray goo”, the actual progress of everything else might have been slowed down, possibly by 1000 or 10000 times. It’s not actually particularly likely, but it’s quite plausible, and it would actually be difficult to tell whether this was the case or not. Even the most casual computer user has been faced with the question “is it working, is it going slow, or is it dead?”

So what? If it doesn’t make any difference to any actual user, then it’s no different, right? But it’s less clear in this case that we’re talking about a “real world” event. A server rebooting is a real world event, but a program processing objects of type A not objects of type B? Not really.

And that, I think, negates Felten’s argument. He calls it a “denial of service” but it is more of a matter of opinion – if the server is servicing the allegedly malicious user rather than other users, that could be seen as a legitimate “aim” of the game. After all, if you kill the character of another player in a game (which in many games is more or less the main point), you are “denying service” to that player, but you are no more guilty of “denial of service” than you are of murder So the fact that you’re deliberately impairing the experience of other players does not make you actions illegal, any more than if you killed them with a sword in one of the more combat-oriented games.

The obvious difference is in the intention of the game, or its organisers. You’re supposed to decapitate people in Everquest, you’re not supposed to destroy the world in Second Life. But that’s weak too – the attraction of Second Life, from what I can see, is it’s open-endedness, the fact that you can do things in it that nobody else thought of doing.

In conclusion, I think that it is reasonable that this “WMVD” could be considered to be against real-world law, but it’s a matter of judgement, and of degree. Effectively, an arbitrary line would have to be drawn – how much are you imparing the service of other users, how far from the intention of the owner of the service are your actions. Many other things are like that, of course.

Two related issues, for comparison:

In sport, there are rules that you can break with purely in-game consequences, and rules that you can’t. For instance in soccer, if you are behind the last defender when the ball is played to you, you are offside, and if the match officials judge it correctly, the other side gets the ball. There is nothing immoral in being offside, even deliberately (in the hope of getting away with it). On the other hand, if you deliberately trip up another player, that also results in the ball being given to the other side, but in addition it is considered to be misbehaviour. If the foul is considered to be deliberate or reckless, you can receive extra in-game penalties, and also penalties that are within the game-system but external to the actual game being played – for example, being disqualified for another game, or being fined by the game’s governing body or your club. In extreme cases, you can be subject to out-of-game penalties, such as being charged with assault or sued. This has happened a few times. The same three levels can apply in online computer games. You can be pursued by some kind of in-game policeman – this is part of the game, like a free kick for offside. You can be excluded or restricted by the game’s organisers – this is like being suspended. Or you can be pursued through the law. The distinctions aren’t always clear. (Was a criminal fraud committed on 22 June 1986?)

Second, similar questions of proper and improper uses exist with other network services. An SMTP server can receive email messages. Some servers are configured to receive only from certain users, but to forward mail to anywhere. Some servers are configured to receive from anywhere, but deliver only to certain addresses. Servers can be, but rarely are, configured to accept mail from anyone and forward it to anywhere. Some servers are not correctly configured to enforce the restrictions intended by their owners. What uses of these servers are proper? Is it a crime to take advantage of a misconfiguration? of a software bug? Over the past 5 years or so, some arbitrary lines have been drawn.

Is the Internet a Place?

November 29, 2005


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‘ve been struck by this question a few times, lately.

First there was this article, which I already praised, insisting that the internet is not a separate place, and that activities carried on using the internet are still subject to (in this instance) the tax laws of an actual geographical place.

Then there was this piece from Eric Raymond, insisting that the internet is a place.

Now there is this article by Doc Searls, “How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net down the Tubes”. He points out:

To the carriers and their regulators, the Net isn’t a world, a frontier, a marketplace or a commons. To them, the Net is a collection of pipes.

(in fact, these two are backwards: The esr piece is a reply to the Searls piece. I read them in reverse order).

In the background, there is Lawrence Lessig’s deep and subtle reasoning about the relationships between “cyberspace” and the real world, which I have referred to before.

Read the rest of this article…

7th July Narrative

Last week’s bombings were not all about me, and my precise movements are not of that much interest to many people. However, it’s emerged that it was closer to being about me than I would have guessed, so in an attempt to remember, I’m tracing things back. No-one really reads this rubbish anyway, but since I’m writing it down I’ll publish it.

I would probably have got to Luton station at 7.25 as normal, to catch the 7.29 Midland Mainline to St Pancras.

The bombers apparently got the 7.24 Thameslink to Kings Cross Thameslink, which carries on to London Bridge and down towards Brighton.

(Background: St Pancras, Kings Cross, and Kings Cross Thameslink are three separate stations close together in a row. There’s heavy building work going on currently at both St Pancras [for the new Channel Tunnel terminus] and at Kings Cross [new underground ticket hall], so moving between them is slightly awkward at busy times).

I think there were bad delays on the Thameslink that morning. The 7.24 might have been 10 or 15 minutes late coming in. Signalling problems around Elstree or somewhere? All I can remember for sure was that they were announcing delays generally, but from the screens the Mainline seemed less disrupted than the Thameslink and I took my 7.29 as normal, which came into Luton on time.

The 7.29 was however delayed on the way to St Pancras. It normally arrives around 7.50-7.55, but was about 15 or 20 minutes late, I think. I get SMS updates from London Underground at 7.50, and the update that morning said that there were delays on the Northern line due to a failed train between somewhere and Stockwell (south of Central London). The last update time on the message was around 7.35, and as I was already running late I optimistically thought the problems should have been fixed by 8:20 or so when I got to the Northern Line.

I don’t know when the Thameslink with the bombers would have got into Kings Cross Thameslink. By the timetable it should have been 8.00, but my recollection is that it was late coming into Luton, and it might well have been delayed on the line down to Kings Cross as I was. My guess is I would have been slightly ahead of the bombers getting to Kings Cross Underground.

The boards at Kings Cross Underground were reporting “Minor Delays” on the Northern Line. Again, I thought it would be pretty much fixed by this time, so I took the escalator to the Northern Line platform.

When I got there it was ridiculous. It was so packed I couldn’t even get onto the platform. I walked down towards the far end of the concourse, and stood by one of the entrances to the platform. After a few minutes a train came in, people struggled off and on and I was able to get onto the platform, just.

I stood and played with a Rubik’s Cube. I vaguely remember a blonde foreign girl with a large bag getting past me. I then decided the delays were still too bad, so I extricated myself from the platform and headed for the Victoria line (Up the first escalator, turn right).

From there my journey proceeded normally — change at Green Park to the Jubilee line and on to Canary Wharf. At 8.50 I was probably around Green Park. I got to the office around 9.15-9.20, I think.

Writing this down has brought back a few memories, but nothing useful. If suicide bombers were attractive women, I’d be in with a chance, but I never noticed any Pakistani men with rucksacks.

The Northern Line problems are interesting. It’s been suggested that the bus bomber may have intended to hit the Northern Line, but been prevented by the failure, and wandered off in confusion and indecision before detonating on the number 30 at 9.47.

In the early confusion, the Northern Line delays perhaps suggested that there had been an attack there too – my wife was called out of the class she was teaching and told there’d been a bomb on the Northern Line, leading her to leave a very scared message on my mobile’s voicemail, which of course I didn’t get for 15 minutes in the network congestion.

The #1 neoconservative

March 22, 2005


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If the term “Neoconservative” means anything, it refers to a centre-leftist who moves to embrace a more centre-right stance on economic policy, while retaining the desire to improve the world through foreign policy.

The appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank has attracted media attention to him, but to me, the politician who most perfectly exhibits neoconservatism is that ex-leftist Tony Blair.

He (more than his predecessor) is the man who took privatisation on from where Lady Thatcher left off (though in a Reagan/Bush way, without actually cutting government spending).

He is also the man who talked Clinton into attacking Yugoslavia in the name of human rights (and with an obvious byproduct of spreading Western politics at least into Slovenia and Croatia). For all we know, he is the man who talked George W Bush into attacking Iraq. Blair might not have needed to do much persuading, but if he had needed to, he would have given it his best shot.

And yet there are still those who seem to think that Britain is fighting this war “for America”. They ask what Blair has got “in exchange for British troops in Iraq”.

Tony Blair got a huge amount in exchange: he got American troops in Iraq.

Electoral Metaphysics

As General Election time rolls round again, it’s time to address the age-old question, is it really worthwhile to vote?

The case against is made most eloquently by Steven Landsburg in the context of last year’s US presidential election. The probability of one vote making a difference to the outcome is negligible — comparable to winning the lottery 1000 times in a row.

There are some objections that can be made to this, most obviously that the result of the election isn’t just who wins. The margin of victory has an effect on the actions of the government throughout their term. Indeed, in the US we have seen endless pontificating on what lessons parties should draw from the answers voters gave to pollsters on their way home.

There’s another objection, however, which attacks Landsburg’s reasoning directly:

Let’s get mathematical:

Let a be the result of the election ( candidate X votes – candidate Y votes, to be simple) if I don’t vote

Let b be the result of the election if I do vote (say for candidate X).
Now, b = a + 1, so the actual outcome of the election will only be different if a=0 or a=-1 (whatever the rules are for tied elections). This is Landsburg’s calculation.

But what is the real justification for saying b = a + 1?

We can assume that my vote doesn’t affect anyone else’s vote. After all, they’re not supposed to know.

But that’s not sufficent. For b to equal a + 1, the votes of other people have to be statistically independent from mine. Can I assume that?

Now we get philosophical. The common view of me as a mind with “free will” seems to imply the independence assumption. But it isn’t backed up by sociology or neurobiology. On the basis of either observation or a reductionist, mechanistic view of the human brain, my vote is likely to be significantly correlated with other peoples’ votes. That, after all, is the assumption behind opinion polling.

And based on that correlation, ba cannot be assumed to be 1. It might be 5, or 100, or 10000.

Imagine, as a thought experiment, that we are all identical robots. We process our various inputs, and reach our conclusions. In the simplest possible model, either we will all vote for the same candidate, or none of us will vote.

As one of those robots, my vote will not affect anyone else’s, but if I vote for X, X will win.

We are not identical, and we will not all vote the same. But the correlation, though less than one, is surely greater than zero.

The tricky question: If I use this argument, and therefore vote, will there really be more votes for my candidate? Again, the opinion pollsters believe so. I think they’re right.

Psychologically, we do not reach decisions entirely via explicit logic. In fact, we invent reasons to excuse the decisions we would have made anyway. If I am determined to vote, more other people will vote than if I am indifferent. If my candidate wins by 10 votes, I will say, “If I hadn’t voted, he wouldn’t have won.”

Of course, if you live in a safe constituency, your vote won’t alter the result. That makes the case for a better electoral system all the stronger, since it shows that many people are denied political influence in a way that other people are not.

In any case, I will vote for a fringe party, so my candidate won’t win. But the same effect will amplify the secondary effects of my vote. A good percentage will have a real impact on UK politics.

School Uniforms and Thought Crimes

March 4, 2005


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Update: Denbigh win appeal to House of Lords

As the blogosphere’s man in Luton, I suppose I should comment on the Shabina Begum case. The only “local colour” I can contribute is to confirm that one doesn’t see many jibabs around the streets of Luton.

The other point that was made when the case was originally decided in favour of the school, but not made in the press now that the appeal has gone the other way, is that Denbigh School is 80% Muslim. Various arguments I have seen do not take this into account.

That is by the way. I’m less interested in whether religious traditions should override school uniform policies, than in the bizareness of the legal argument that the Appeal Court used.

Their finding seems to be that the School erred by not considering whether their uniform policy breached the pupils’ human rights. If they had considered it, they could have decided, as the lower court did, that the uniform policy was fine, and they would have been OK. They lost because they didn’t have a piece of paper on file saying that they had taken human rights into account.

(I’m open to correction on my understanding here, as I’m working very much from secondary reports, including the Council’s own statement on the judgement.) UPDATE: I found the primary source; more details here.

This trend of legal and regulatory requirement is intensely stupid and irritating. It replaces restrictions on actions and policies with thought crimes. I mean that precisely; the fault of Denbigh School was not in its actions but in the way it decided its actions.

The result of this legal attitude is to drown all activity, in both the public and the private sectors, in a snowstorm of pointless arse-covering paperwork. Hypocrisy is made paramount, and the key managerial skill is, as Dogbert has it, “pretending to care”.

Thought crimes produce hypocrisy, because it is impossible to tell what someone is really thinking. You can act for one reason and claim to be acting for another reason, and if your reasons rather than your actions are regulated, you can get away with anything.

Time after time: employment law, money-laundering law, accounting law, human rights law, we are being required to take various principles into account, and document that we have done so, rather than being judged on results which can be objectively assessed.

This even links with yesterday’s post. I am a fanatical believer in honesty and openness. I like to tell the truth about what I’m doing and why, and prefer other people to do the same. Thought crimes mean that I am still free to act as I choose, provided that I’m prepared to lie about it. It leaves a culture of disinformation which harms everyone’s decision making.

Is Europe becoming Islamicised?

There is an idea growing in right-wing circles in the US that part of the reason for the divergence between the US and Europe over the war on Iraq and the issue of Islamicist terrorism is that Europe is subject to a gradual takeover by Islam through the mechanism of immigration from Islamic countries. The fact is that commentators who see this are being misled into overestimating the social effect in Europe of Muslim immigrants, and underestimating the long-standing differences between American and European culture. The first illusion is that there are many political battles in various European countries which appear to be between “native” Europeans and Muslim immigrants. In fact, these political issues are argued between left and right within the native political community, with the immigrants themselves as interested but largely powerless bystanders. It could be argued that it makes no difference whether the Islamic side is being advanced by its own effort or by that of native allies, if the effect is the same, but the fact is that the allies (usually on the left) are only able to hold these pro-minority positions and achieve power while the Muslims are not seen as a threat by the majority population. In fact, in Britain at least, the Muslim population as a whole is not seen as any threat at all. Though a significant percentage of the population, they come overwhelmingly from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and their culture does not include any recent history of jihad, such as can be found in North Africa and the Middle East. Those Muslims in Britain who have become prominent in the media advocating jihad, such as the infamous Abu Hamza, are of a totally different cultural background and are completely unrepresentative of the Muslim population in the country. That is not to say that there can not be any problems with Muslim immigration in Britain, but it is not of an unprecedented kind. Tensions can rise in areas with very large immigrant populations, but these are triggered the usual political issues – conflict over allocation of government resources, and so on. The Muslim immigrants to Britain are integrating slowly into British culture. Note that the Indians and British have been linked for a hundred and fifty years, and there is a lot of common ground beyond tea and curry. Europeans feel much less threatened by terrorism than Americans, having in many cases lived with it for generations. While the World Trade Centre attacks caused a larger scale of death than Europe has experienced from terrorists (but not from WWII), the sequels have been much nearer the scope that Europeans have come to accept. Also, extremist Islam is not a new or unfamiliar enemy to Europeans. France has been fighting for half a century; Britain fought a 50,000 strong jihadi army under Muhammad Ahmand at Omdurman. The battle was of course extremely one-sided, but the only thing making the handling of the enemy more difficult today is the necessity to limit civilian casualties. Carpet-bombing Fallujah from the air would be the equivalent in force ratios to Kitchener’s Maxim guns in the Sudan. The recent murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands by Islamist extremists illustrates one further point. In the days following, more than 20 Mosques or Muslim schools have been burnt down. For a European country, the prospect of a civil war against radicalised Muslim immigrants is something to be feared, but there is no need to fear losing one. At the end of the day, like any other immigrant group, Muslims in Europe live on the sufferance of the majority population. The Muslims would trigger genocidal violence against themselves long before they could become a serious threat to the host populations. This is little comfort from a humanitarian viewpoint, but it exposes talk of “Eurabia” as so much hyperbole. Another factor which has tended to mislead American observers is, I suspect, that during the period of the cold war they tended to underestimate the differences between Europeans and Americans. Confronted for the first time with these differences in the context of the war on Iraq, they are falsely attributing long-standing attitues to Islamic influence. One longstanding European position is secularism. While the trappings of Christianity survived past the middle of the twentieth century, the Northern European countries have not been Christian for a hundred years, or in the case at least of France, for two hundred. Another of these attitudes is anti-Americanism. I believe that this is pervasive across the European elite, at least at an emotional level. This emotional attitude can be suppressed for political reasons, and largely was during the cold war, but if one considers the substantial minority of Europeans who saw the USA as more of a threat than the USSR through the 60s and 70s, it is hardly surprising if a larger group is more afraid of the vastly more powerful USA of the 21st century than of the likes of Saddam Hussein. Nor is this fear of the USA as irrational as some Americans might think. Western Europe has not been in conflict with the USA since the end of the Second World War, but that was a result of Europe’s acceptance of American dominance in the face of the threat of the USSR. With that threat removed, many Europeans wish actively to prevent a single-superpower world. The rhetoric is about providing a balance or counterweight to American power, as in some quotes from an article in The Observer:

“The implications of a unipolar world are bad for everyone concerned. If America stands aloof from global problems, it is accused of isolationism. If it intervenes, it is accused of imperialism. Either way, it becomes a target of resentment and violence. For the rest it means frustration and impotence.

Complaining won’t do any good. The rest of us have to raise our game and provide America with partners they can’t ignore. For Britain, that means building a more united Europe with a more coherent foreign policy and a strong single currency. It’s either that or another American century.”

– David Clark, former special adviser to Robin Cook at the Foreign Office.

“If one country must be so dominant militarily, then it is probably better that it is the United States rather than another country. However, history suggests that such dominance leads to abuse and it is encumbent on the rest of the world to find ways of restraining the United States through international law, countervailing power and dialogue.

The European Union, which has achieved parity with the United States in trade and investment, has a major responsibility in this endeavour. Plans for a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) therefore need to be accelerated and EU governments need to commit adequate resource to it”.

-Victor Bulmer-Thomas, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

These people are not commentators or pundits, they are policy makers. Implicit in phrases like “find ways of restraining the United States through … countervailing power” is the option of at least credibly threatening the USA with military conflict. This is one of the major driving forces behind enlarging and strengthening the EU. If European politicians are already thinking in terms of fighting against the USA, then they are not going to be in any hurry to oppose the wave of Islamism which is currently the USA’s most active enemy. Just as France supported North American rebels against the British Empire in the 1770s, and Britan and France supported the Confederacy against the Union in the 1860s, these Europeans are likely to be sympathetic to any minor power that is likely to weaken the USA. I am attempting to characterise a political view that is widespread across Europe. In Britain, it is known as the “Post-War Consensus” — essentially the mainstream political othordoxy prior to the Thatcher revolution. It is a significant minority view in Britain, but is
still the dominant ideology across much of the Continent, notably France, and, equally importantly, in the institutions of the European Union. The key elements of this ideology are a highly regulated economy, protected industry, the welfare state, and international institutions such as the EU and the UN. Since 1980, some compromises have been made on the economic front, towards liberalisation of trade and deregulation of markets, but they have been strongly resisted and there is still a huge constituency for reversing them. It can be described as a left-wing but it was shared by the mainstream right until the 1980s, and is in a sense conservative — seeking to return to the status quo of the 1960s and 70s. If you ask a member of this group whether there is a “clash of civilisations”, he will probably tell you that there is. But the threat to civilisation he sees is not militant Islam, it is Hollywood, and deregulated markets, and globalised world trade. It is not the crescent moon that is overwhelming Old Europe — they’re coping with that fairly well — it is the Stars and Stripes that is the banner of the enemy. That is the real problem, as far as many Europeans are concerned, with the War on Terror. There are ways of dealing with a terrorist threat at home, other than attacking its sources abroad. These ways may be more effective or less effective, but that is not the issue. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, whatever their effect on Islamist terror, demonstrate that there is one military superpower in the world, that can act alone even beyond its traditional “sphere of influence”. This is more of a shock to them than a few airliners flying into skyscrapers. Even to moderate British, who would not align themselves with this Post-War Consensus view, there is still a tradeoff: damaging terrorism is good, but it has to be set against making the USA more powerful and confident. It must be amusing to the anti-American thinkers in France or Germany when American critics paint them as weak or effete allies, when in fact the reason they are not joining the fight alongside the USA is that their sympathies lie with the other side.

Updates: Thanks for your comments. Please look also at the follow-up post looking at Europe’s chances of actually attaining superpower status.

Professor Reynolds also linked to Transatlantic Intelligencer, by John Rosenthal. I’m concentrating on Britain, and he’s looking at US-European relations with the emphasis on France and Germany. As I would expect, he finds no evidence of “Islamisation” but a very high degree of ingrained anti-Americanism.

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