At Large

At Large

At War With Whom?

By 3.3.15

In this second in the series of reports from France on the war between Islam and the West (the first, put out immediately after the January attacks, here), François d’Orcival, member of the Institut de France and president of the editorial board of the newsweekly Valeurs Actuelles, discusses a recent speech by Roger Cukierman, president of the CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, comparable to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations). The CRIF this week appealed to Americans to find a way to prevent social media from being used as a jihadist recruitment platform and spewer of anti-Semitic hate. — Roger Kaplan

At Large

U.S. Nixes Nigerian Request for Aid

By 2.16.15

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running for re-election next month, appealed to the U.S. as early as a year ago for arms and men to fight against the Islamic insurgency in the country’s northeast, according to a weekend report in the Wall Street Journal. High American officials prefer to talk about free and fair elections; originally scheduled for last week, Nigeria Independent Electoral Commission postponed them until late March due to the terrorist emergency. Top American military spokesmen say there are absolutely no plans to aid the Nigerians, let alone send advisors and even troops, as Mr. Jonathan says are needed.

At Large

Setting the Stage for a Losing Falklands War

By 2.11.15

Recent reports about British defense have an ominous, heading-for-a-cliff feel about them.

Many in the defense establishment and private think tanks were dismayed when the Cameron Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, despite international turbulence, cut Britain’s Army from 100,000 to 82,000, its smallest since before the Napoleonic wars.

The Falklands, which it cost hundreds of British lives and five front-line ships of the shrunken, bath-tub Royal Navy to recapture from Argentina in 1982, are defended by, apart from Rapier ground-to-air missiles, just four Typhoon fighters and 1,200 ground troops. A single warship makes visits. And forces must still be found for the Middle East and NATO. Not to mention calls to intervene against the massacres of Christians in Africa.

At Large

Abbott Survives an Aussie Coup—For Now

By 2.10.15

If you think American politics resembles the melodrama of a reality show, it has nothing Australian politics.

During the Labor government of 2007-2013, Kevin Rudd was ousted as Prime Minister and party leader by Julia Gillard only for Gillard to be ousted by Rudd. Here is what I wrote about this sorry state of affairs at the time:

Of course, the person who benefits the most from this row on the Labor front benches is none other than Tony Abbott. So long as there is instability as to who exactly is leading the Australian government, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition needn’t say a word. With each passing day, Abbott looks more and more like a viable alternative by default, and if an early election comes to pass it would be the Liberal Party’s to lose. Australians are longing for the sort of reliable, stable government they had under John Howard and might be eager to give Abbott a decisive mandate. With each passing day, it is clear the Labor Party cannot govern itself, never mind Australia.

At Large

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

By 2.6.15

“Don’t worry,” he said, “you’re in your own little corner of paradise now.”

The words could have been straight from the “just what I’d expect him to say” files — Jeremy is a marketing manager for the resort — yet they were strangely comforting, and proved happily accurate for our family, much in need of a respite, even if brief, from the intense stress and deep sadness of my wife’s father’s death less than a week earlier.

Our trip had been planned eight months prior and was intended to end in Australia with a celebration of Bob Baillie’s 70th birthday (please do click on that link); instead it ended with his memorial service after a brief but brutal battle with merciless pancreatic cancer. But his wife, my mother-in-law, was insistent that we go on our trip as planned because Bob (whom she more frequently calls Rob) had been so enthusiastic about it for us and particularly for our children. Indeed, he had paid for much of it; Bob was always a remarkably generous person.

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Chad to the Rescue

By 2.2.15

Gamboru has a few things going for it, and would have even more, were the Lake Chad region booming. Situated one of the trans-Africa trade routes, in the east and north of Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, it is on the road to Maiduguri, if you are coming from Chad or Cameroon, and Maiduguri is where the action is, up here in the impoverished and war-torn Sahel, the great stretch of Savannah and desert that makes a belt across the Continent below the Sahara. 

According to reports, Boko Haram fighters encircled the city last week after terrorizing the surrounding region, and launched an assault on the weekend.

Maiduguri is the capital of  Borno state, a big hub and with an airport and roads into the Nigerian interior. While it does not carry the symbolism of a town like Timbuktu in northern Mali, which Islamist insurgents seized in 2012 and held for a year before being chased out by French and African troops, its economic and political importance is greater, and it would be a big psychological and political blow to Nigeria if it were seized, even briefly, by the same kinds of bad guys who grabbed Mali’s Sahel-Sahara regions. 

At Large

Beware of Greeks Bearing Ballots

By 1.27.15

What can you say about a 23-year-old treaty born in Maastricht, the Netherlands that might die? That it was sentimental?

The victory of the Greek leftist party Syriza on Sunday is likely to test the European spirit of collectivism and continued fiscal austerity, and renew spirited debate about the merits of monetary union. Some elements within Syriza are known to favor an exit from the Eurozone.

Established by the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, the Eurozone was originally conceived out of an intellectual longing for one Europe, finally more united and economically focused after a century of war against fascism and Communism. The Eurozone and its currency, the euro, reflected an ideal, originating in some part from Brussels, Paris, and Bonn by civil servants and so-called Eurocrats who were pursuing economic engineering to achieve their vision of a united Europe. This was an emotional and socialistic concept about collectivism — to promote efficient capital movement, trade, and peace.

At Large

America Aced in Space

By 12.29.14

The Obama administration has proved its talent for inflicting both short and long-term wounds on America’s strength.

One, relatively little noted but perhaps the most serious and long-term of all in its consequences, has been the damage done to the U.S. space program, as China’s and, despite its new economic problems, Russia’s programs press steadily on.

The recent landing of an instrument package on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was not an American but a European feat — the sort of thing America used to excel in.

Where America alone has been able to land men on the Moon, and a few years ago led the world with the Space Shuttle, the first spaceship, it now depends on Russian rockets to get personnel and supplies to the International Space Station.

The American space program has become hostage to an increasingly surly and unfriendly Russia, whose commitment to supply and service the ISS only lasts to 2016, after which it will have the U.S. over a barrel.

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Winning the PM’s History Prize and Upsetting the Lefty Luvvies

By 12.19.14

My wife and I were flown to Melbourne for me to receive half of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s $80,000 Prize for History for my book Australia’s Secret War: How Unionists Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II.

The hotel we were put up at, on the south bank of the Yarra River, was a good deal more luxurious than I am accustomed to, with uniformed doormen and all. The “gala meal” at the oxymoronically named Victorian National Arts Centre, was excellent.

My publisher, Keith Windschuttle, editor of the conservative cultural magazine Quadrant, Roger Franklin, editor of Quadrant Online, and former editor Peter Coleman and his daughter shared our table.

At Large

The KGB’s Old Headquarters Lives On

By 12.11.14


Red Square is one of the world’s most iconic locales. Dominated by the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and GUM Department Store, the space looks little different from Soviet times. While Lenin’s mausoleum remains, any hint of menace is gone. Indeed, even during the worst of the USSR the square was more symbolic than threatening. For the most part no one went to the Kremlin to die.

Very different, however, is Lubyanka, just a short walk up Teatralny Proezd past the Bentley and Maserati dealerships. 

In the late nineteenth century 15 insurance companies congregated on Great Lubyanka Street, prospering as the great czarist despotism entered the industrial age. The Rossia agency, one of Russia’s largest, completed an office building in 1900. Excess space was turned into apartments and leased out to retailers selling everything from books to beds.