02.14.11 | I was recently asked by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons to submit thoughts about the Foreign Office, whose role in the world the Committee is considering.  This is what I sent them last week:   I am a former British diplomat who resigned after giving evidence to the Butler Inquiry in 2004 (my last posting had been as Britain’s Middle East and particularly Iraq specialist at the UN Security Council in New York).  I then founded and now head... more
02.11.11 | Letter in the Financial Times, 8 February 2011:   Sir, In citing the arguments of Paul Romer, Sebastian Mallaby suggests that we can dispense with democracy in order to provide “good governance” and thus promote development (“Future cities need to hand over the keys”, February 4). While no one can dispute that good government – clear enforceable rules, property rights, credible dispute resolution and so on – fosters development, it is taking the argument too far to suggest that in... more
02.04.11 | This was the question that occurred to me after listening to Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times, and Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, last night at a discussion at Columbia University (well reported by Micah Sifry here). There were several striking revelations from the discussion, though I am not sure that they were those intended by Rusbridger and Keller.   Rusbridger said that the Guardian had now completed its reporting of the cables, but it was clear from what... more
01.07.11 | Published by HuffPo today:   Amid the sound and fury of the reaction to WikiLeaks, something is missing. Whether hostile or supportive, politicians and commentators on all sides have managed to miss the real point. The contents of the leaked cables should demand a deep reflection on our foreign policy. That this has not happened tells a sorry story about our very democracy. On the right, and indeed center, the reaction has been hysteria. Politicians have lined up to decry the threat... more
01.02.11 | As the airwaves and Internet fill with loud voices proclaiming certain truths, it’s worth taking a quiet moment to remember two men who proved, mathematically, that there was no such thing as absolute and complete truth.  Kurt Gödel (pictured) and Ludwig Wittgenstein are rightly renowned in the esoteric worlds of logic and philosophy.  But although their intent was never overtly political, their work has a deep political significance.  In a way, these two logicians proved the... more
12.29.10 | The following appeared in the Financial Times, which I have long treasured as the most truly subversive of newspapers.  This short article provides a rare pleasure - a profound, concise and it appears wholly unintended yet devastating insight into the true nature of the current economic and cultural system (a similar insight is to be found in the revelation that a toothbrush I recently bought came with a CD-rom with which to programme the device).  Such signs are perhaps faint signals... more
12.29.10 | I have been pondering the news that George Clooney and the Enough Project are deploying a surveillance satellite in an attempt to deter genocide in Sudan.  The satellite, whose capability has been rented at considerable cost, will apparently be deployed above "trouble spots" on the border dividing North and South Sudan, looking out for troop movements and other indicators of imminent mass killing.  The data will be interpreted at Harvard University and will also be available online.... more
12.15.10 | Micah Sifry, one of the two political-tech gurus behind the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) (the other is Andrew Rasiej), has kindly posted my remarks to the #PDFLeaks "flash" conference last Saturday in New York City.  It was a great discussion, with a lot of smart people, including Arianna Huffington and Charles Ferguson, trying to grapple with the implications of the Wiki-drama.  You can see it all here. One striking thing about the discussion, and indeed about WikiLeaks, is that it... more
12.01.10 | Posted in Huffington Post today.   It will take a long time, perhaps many years, for the full impact of the WikiLeaks disclosure of thousands of US diplomatic cables to become known. Make no mistake: this is an event of historic importance -- for all governments, and not only the US. As politicians of all sides bellow their condemnation of WikiLeaks, governments are with some desperation trying to pretend that it's business as usual. But the truth is that something very dramatic in the... more
11.30.10 | I did an interview on the BBC yesterday on Wikileaks, along with Bill Keller, the Executive Editor of the venerable New York Times, which has published a few of the leaked diplomatic cables.  Keller made a startling admission - the New York Times took all the cables it intended to publish to the US government to get their permission and edits before the Times published.  Extraordinary!  I replied that one conclusion from Keller's remarkable confession was that one should not turn... more