It is surprising to hear US Secretary of State publicly announcing that Palestine must be recognised if peace talks are to make progress. Surprising partly because it is the same person that provided much of the authority for invading Iraq and partly because it is against the wishes of the Israeli propaganda machine which has such a strong US lobby.
Condoleezza Rice said there was no point inviting the Israelis and the Palestinians to the upcoming Middle East peace summit, expected in November, just for show. She noted it must address substantive issues and advance the cause of a Palestinian state. Wouldn’t it be great if this is the start of real progress …?
The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged at 4% on 7 September, but it is not clear that they will not be increased to 4.25% soon.
The ECB is reacting to the increase in perceived risk in financial markets, catalysed by the sub-prime meltdown. At the same time as the hold on rates increase, the ECB provided another €42 billion to the banking system, whose liquidity has dried up as banks continue to be reluctant to lend to each other, without knowing the scale of losses in the lending markets.
Unfortunately, it will be some months before the scale and scope of the liquidity crisis might be known, and this will make interest rate decisions more difficult. However, I think it unlikely that they will be brought down this year.
Religion can be a useful guide to morality, but history has shown that it should be separate from politics. This is more so today than ever before because there is such diversity of belief and there is no majority view, even on a nominal basis, let alone a practising one.
The current US president has evangelised his own beliefs throughout the administration, even requiring official schedules to include prayer meetings. While spiritual engagement should be applauded, and is grossly neglected by most of us, it has been inappropriate to evangelise in a position supposed to represent ALL the people of a nation.
It seems that this will subside with the next administration. Of the front runners in the Republican party, none are expected to take their own religion on the campaign trail to the extent that Bush did. This will be good for America.
While we have come around to the notion that peace is an appropriate minimum standard of behaviour for developed countries it has never been an easy argument to make in our world today. The difficulty of fighting minds with armaments
George Friedman, eminent strategic analyst, offers a sobering perspective on the fall-out from the American “war on terror”, without having to reveal the awkwardness of embarking upon a virtual objective: to achieve a military victory in a psychological war. The challenge was made more difficult by the complexity and scale of the military objective: to conquer a nation in an unfamiliar part of the world and dictate a completely different social infrastructure and culture. The consequence has been a failure of the military objective, compounded by the terrorising of America by continually bombarding people through media with belligerent language and images of fear, as well as an extraordinary regression of civil liberties.
See Friedman’s piece War, Psychology and Time here. He notes as he sums up:
The effect on the United States is much more profound. The war, both in Iraq and against al Qaeda, has worn the United States down over time. The psychology of fear has been replaced by a psychology of cynicism. The psychology of confidence in war has been replaced by a psychology of helplessness. Exhaustion pervades all.