International Politics

Long live the king?

It was the great 16th Century French essayist Michel de Montaigne who best expressed the idea that travel broadens the mind: “Je ne sache point meilleure école à former la vie”.* To travel, though, is not only to learn more about ourselves, but also to catch what we may be tempted to label brief glimpses of truth, glimpses that are rarely – if ever – afforded to those who live, day in and day out, in the pell-mell of our destinations. An outsider’s empiricism is often the best kind: nonpartisan, unflinching, honest. One such glimpse occurred to me as I was travelling down one of the many canals that form the veins and arteries of the Chao Phraya River, as it carves its way through the magnificent heart of Bangkok. “Long live our beloved king,” the banner read, flailing desperately in the wind that rushed across the waterway, interminably barraging …

“Friends who care are friends who criticise.”

“I can’t imagine so many people coming to see me in Tel Aviv,” Gideon Levy quips with a wry smile. Jewish Book Week is hosting a controversial interview session (some had threatened to boycott it) with one of the most hated men in Israel, one of the relatively few ‘nice Jewish boys’ gone bad, representative of an “anti-Zionism [that] has become stupid and evil” according to Irit Linur, an Israeli author. Described as a modern-day prophet by Noam Chomsky, Levy has reported from inside the Occupied Territories for nearly three decades, with the aim of “rehumanising the Palestinians”. Despite all the opprobrium his reporting has generated, including having been labelled “one of the propagandists for Hamas” by Ben Dror Yemini, editor of Maariv, he still considers himself an Israeli patriot. He sits down, unperturbed, next to interviewer Johann Hari, gazing out at the 200 or so expectant faces in the …

How I wish the prohibition addicts would go cold-turkey

“Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse – for both the addict and the rest of us.” Thus, the late Milton Friedman outlined the scourge of a generation: how we deal with the drug problem. It has become the misguided moral crusade of major global superpowers to act as noble warriors in the so-called “War on Drugs”, fighting the “good” fight in lands far and wide, myopically neglecting to respond to the bitter consequences and consistent failures. World leaders must wake up and smell the coffee; the criminalisation of drugs merely acts as the worst possible palliative. And we’re hooked. The prohibition experiment’s time is up. Quite frankly, it’s failed on every count. 280,000 heroin addicts in Britain alone, almost £500 million per year spent on keeping UK prisoners in the clink for drug charges, and countless homicide victims despondently cry out for an alternative approach. Outside of …