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Date archive for: February 2017

Copeland byelection: Historic win for the Conservatives puts them on course for a long period in office

Written by Ben Williams.

The Copeland and Stoke Central byelections have delivered dramatic political developments for Britain. Both previously Labour-held seats, the byelections were triggered by two sitting MPs who took jobs outside politics.

The Cumbrian semi-rural seat of Copeland was seized by the Conservatives – the first time the main opposition party has lost a seat it was defending in a byelection since 1982. Continue reading Copeland byelection: Historic win for the Conservatives puts them on course for a long period in office

Where did the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ come from?

Written by Malcolm M Craig.

The heavily freighted idea of an “Islamic bomb” has been around for some decades now. The notion behind it is that a nuclear weapon developed by an “Islamic” nation would automatically become the Islamic world’s shared property – and more than that, a “nuclear sword” with which to wage jihad. But as with many terms applied to the “Islamic world”, it says more about Western attitudes than about why and how nuclear technology has spread.

The concept as we know it emerged from anxieties about proliferation, globalisation, resurgent Islam, and conspiracies real and imagined, a fearful idea that could be applied to the atomic ambitions of any Muslim nation or non-state group. It looked at Pakistan’s nuclear programme and extrapolated it to encompass everything between the mountains of South Asia and the deserts of North Africa. And ever since it appeared it has retained its power to shock, eliding terrorism, jihadism, the perceived ambitions of “Islamic” states, and state-private proliferation networks into one fearsome term. Continue reading Where did the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ come from?

Artificially inflating the threat from Russia does nobody any good

Written by Sumantra Maitra.

Much has been written lately about Russia “hacking” the US presidential elections, and how Vladimir Putin’s government is in a new Cold War with the West.

Molly Mckew, who advised Mikhail Saakashvili when he was president of Georgia, writes that the West is already fighting a war in defence of the values on which its liberal order is based. Like many others, she never attempts to define what exactly “The West” is, or what its contradictory state interests add up to. In the Financial Times, meanwhile, Lilia Shevtsova is even more pessimistic. She claims the current situation is without historical precedent, and that current Western strategy “requires ideological clarity, but the ambiguity of the post-Cold War world made the strategy irrelevant”. Continue reading Artificially inflating the threat from Russia does nobody any good

Should we really be so afraid of a nuclear North Korea?

Written by Markus Bell and Marco Milani.

The common thinking is that North Korea’s nuclear programme poses a threat to global peace and diverts economic resources from an impoverished population. North Korean leaders are depicted in the Western media as a cabal of madmen who won’t be satisfied until Washington, Seoul, or some other enemy city is turned into a “sea of fire”.

Successive US governments have used a range of carrots and sticks to entice or pressure the North Korean leadership to give up its nuclear programme. The North’s missile launches and nuclear tests in 2016 make plain that these efforts have failed; in short, the West has to accept that it is now a nuclear power and focus instead on limiting the risks a nuclear North Korea presents. Continue reading Should we really be so afraid of a nuclear North Korea?