At Large

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Weeping for Argentina

By 3.31.15

“There are countries which are rich and countries which are poor. And there are poor countries which are growing rich. And then there is Argentina.”

This saying, attributed to the 2010 Nobel Laureate for Literature, Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, is perhaps the pithiest description of what many regard as the twentieth century textbook-case of economic decay. Fifteen years into the twenty-first century and in the run-up to national elections in October, there’s no indication that Argentina will change course anytime soon. That’s partly because the Argentine economy’s seemingly intractable problems mirror deep-set political and cultural dysfunctionalities that most of the nation’s elites—and, it should be said, many ordinary Argentines—have little interest in addressing.

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Death of a Janus-Faced Prime Minister

By 3.24.15

Malcolm Fraser, the strange, bewildering ex-Conservative Prime Minister of Australia, has died aged 84.

Fraser will be remembered favorably by the right sort of people for four things.

He rid Australia of the terrible Whitlam Labor Government, when that government had, for the first time in history, put Australia’s democracy into real danger; he reduced inflation which under Whitlam had reached 19 percent; reversed Whitlam’s wicked recognition of the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States; and his own government, particularly Immigration Minister Michael McKellar, generously and rightly accepted large numbers of Vietnamese boat refugees in the face of a disgusting campaign by the left to leave them to drown or be forcibly repatriated to Communist Vietnam’s labor camps and firing squads.

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Soul Freedom at Growing Risk

By 3.17.15

Religious persecution did not end with Nero and the Roman Empire. In fact, punishment of and hostility toward people of faith is increasing. The group Open Doors recently released its latest World Watch List, warning: “This year, the threshold was higher for a country to make the list, indicating that worldwide levels of persecution have increased.” Persecution emerged “even in places where it has not been reported in the past.” As a result, Bahrain, Morocco, and Niger fell off the list even though their mistreatment of religious believers remained largely unchanged. (Azerbaijan, Mexico, and Turkey replaced them.)

Last year the group Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, released a report which concluded that in 81 of 196 countries, or 41 percent, religious liberty was substantially impaired or in decline. Another 35 percent, or 18 percent, had issues “of concern.” Overall, conditions of religious liberty had deteriorated in 55 countries and improved in only six.

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Goodbye to Britain’s Deterrent?

By 3.11.15

I have written in a number of places about the parlous state of Britain’s defense and the present and previous governments’ culpable failure in this regard.

The Royal Air Force, for example, has gone from 17 fighter squadrons to just 7 of all types in fifteen years. Its bombers, the Nimrod long-range patrol aircraft and the Royal Navy’s Harriers which could take off from improvised flight decks (for example container-loaded ships) have been disposed of.

Famous military writer Frederick Forsyth has said, “Five years ago a Conservative-led government (of all things) stripped British armed forces to the bone in the most stupid Defense and Strategic Review we have ever had, abandoning centuries as a formidable power and treating our servicemen as criminals for the slightest misdemeanors.”

However, further cuts to the army are being forecast and a new threat has emerged that represents an unforeseen and potentially critical menace to Britain’s defense capability.

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The Church of England Beclowns Itself

By 3.9.15

If randy, bed-room-farce vicars, anti-“Zionism” and vanishing congregations were not enough to beclown the Church of England, it has reverted to its noxious habit of setting aside any nonsense about rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and resumed meddling in election politics.

Apparently blithely unaware that the Thatcher administration saved Britain from something like Greece’s fate, the church has issued a 52-page political manifesto demanding, as the Telegraph summarized, that “Thatcherism should be consigned to history because it no longer has the answers to Britain’s problems.”

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.