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Letters



 



Letters to the editor

Thu, 19 April 2018 14:48:14 GMT

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A peace process

Your briefing on Northern Ireland mentioned the importance of grants from the European Union (“Past and future collide”, March 31st). The EU’s PEACE programmes have been substantial, distributing approximately €1.5bn ($1.9bn) in order to support Northern Ireland’s peace process at the grassroots. They are one of the largest EU peacebuilding interventions ever and one of the largest in Europe since the Marshall Plan. Alas, scale does not imply effectiveness.

We looked at the second wave of PEACE programmes and found no measurable effect on indicators of peacefulness in the communities where spending was targeted. The communities that bore the brunt of the violence, to this day, lag behind the rest of the province on the usual range of socioeconomic indicators.

Perhaps this is a case of...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 12 April 2018 14:54:45 GMT

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A party of the people

Although your briefing on Russia’s young post-Gorbachev generation offered optimism for the future, it fell into the trap of relying on elites for change (“Gorbachev’s grandchildren”, March 24th). Elites can spearhead social and political reform, but it is mass behaviour that ultimately entrenches norms, values and practices. Previous generations of Russian reformers, from the Bolsheviks to the post-Soviet New Russians, ignored this at their peril. Boris Yeltsin’s young technocrats never managed to cultivate popular support for their reforms. As a result, change was driven from above, resulting in a preponderant presidency counter-balanced not by a strong parliament or civil society but by a fractious coalition of oligarchs. This created the conditions for Vladimir Putin’s autocracy.

If Russia...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 05 April 2018 14:51:14 GMT

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The beautiful briny sea

Race to the bottom” discussed the new technologies behind the push to mine the ocean floor (Technology Quarterly, March 10th). The article was aptly titled, as there is no such thing as an “environmentally sensitive way” to mine the deep seabed. The deep sea is the largest source of species and ecosystem diversity on Earth. Mining is likely to cause irrevocable loss of biodiversity, the world’s natural inheritance. In the area where the dredging company you mentioned plans to work, a typical 30-year operation would cover about 10,000 square kilometres of ocean bottom. And sediment plumes will extend the damage over many thousands of square kilometres beyond the mining area.

At last month’s session of the International Seabed Authority, an MIT researcher tasked with creating a financial model...




Letters to the editor

Wed, 28 March 2018 15:36:08 GMT

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Understanding China

The problem with the analysis offered in “What the West got wrong” about China (March 3rd) is that Western countries never bothered thinking much about China until it became so economically huge that they had to. The sad truth is that, beginning in the 1980s, when China started to open up, Americans and Europeans made a number of lazy assumptions about how economic engagement was going to lead to inevitable change in social and political areas, without thinking much about the country they were applying this to.

Even the most cursory attention to China’s imperial and modern histories would show that it was unlikely to conform neatly to such a simplistic approach. After all, China has form as a disrupter. It took Marxism-Leninism from the Soviets and completely changed it to a template that suited itself. The West in the 1980s might have...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 22 March 2018 15:47:54 GMT

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The American-heart land

We read Lexington’s column on Emmanuel Makender, one of the first “Lost Boys” from Sudan to come to America in 2000, with great interest (March 3rd). We are Emmanuel’s “American parents”. Our family will never forget the day we picked up Emmanuel at the airport. Our overwhelmed hearts imbued with fear, wondering what in the world were we thinking when we said we would welcome a refugee into our already child-filled home?

I am not sure who was the most scared. The Lost Boys huddled in the middle of the circle, or the group of host families surrounding them. Our fears were quickly dispelled when Emmanuel came home. Our kids showed their new “brother” how light switches work, how to turn on a faucet and a host of other amazing inventions, including the telephone, hot-water heater, a computer, and Emmanuel’s favourite, a hot shower.

We helped Emmanuel through school,...




Letters

Thu, 15 March 2018 15:50:09 GMT

Ata Mohammad Noor

I want to respond to your article on the attempt by the president of Afghanistan to dismiss me as governor of the province of Balkh (“Power-shedding”, March 3rd). President Ashraf Ghani derives his legitimacy from a power-sharing agreement with Abdullah Abdullah, the Jamiat-e Islami party’s candidate for the presidential election in 2014, to form a national unity government. Under this agreement President Ghani is bound to consult Jamiat-e Islami’s leadership council on all key government appointments, but he unilaterally attempted to sack me as governor, triggering a stand-off between Jamiat-e Islami and the presidency.

Under my leadership over the past decade, Balkh has turned into an oasis of peace, security and development, despite receiving less foreign aid per person than the rest of the country. Balkh stands out as a successful case of development in the post-Taliban era where every dollar of aid has improved the delivery of services, basic infrastructure, good governance, the rule of law and has attracted private-sector investment.

There have been concerted efforts to discredit me and my legacy, as was the case with the allegations made against...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 08 March 2018 15:54:54 GMT

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Chinese society

Banyan” accused China of racism based on a misinterpretation of a sketch in a televised Chinese New Year gala (February 24th). The criticisms of China’s policies towards Africa and ethnic minorities, and the use of the labels “social Darwinism” and “neocolonialism”, are unfounded, biased and lack respect for historical facts.

China has the longest continuous history of all ancient civilisations in the world. The standard writing of Chinese characters was already in place as early as the Qin dynasty in 221BC. Those who claim that “no standard Chinese existed” in the 19th century should have at least heard of the terracotta warriors.

China is firmly opposed to racism in all forms. Chinese culture values the harmonious coexistence between different ethnic groups and cultures. The Chinese nation itself is proudly born out of thousands of years...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 01 March 2018 15:44:17 GMT

Keeping Kabila to his word

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One crucial aspect about the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo received short shrift in your otherwise comprehensive coverage (“Waiting to erupt”, February 17th). That is that under the St Sylvester accord which was accepted by all key Congolese, opposition leaders should be allowed to return safely and campaign in national elections.

President Joseph Kabila’s legitimacy derives directly from the St Sylvester agreement brokered in December 2016 by Catholic bishops in Kinshasa. The agreement allowed him to remain in office past the end of his second term, but only as part of a package of other crucial steps necessary to ensure a peaceful democratic transition. In particular, since the bishops were entrusted with examining charges that have in effect exiled...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 22 February 2018 15:47:12 GMT

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Digital doctors

Sir William Osler, arguably the greatest physician of the 20th century, said this about being one’s own doctor: “A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.” The idea that the digital revolution in medicine will allow patients to manage their own medical care is naive (“Doctor You”, February 3rd).

Doctors and surgeons devote seven or more years of their lives acquiring the knowledge, judgment and experience that allows them to be qualified to care for patients. In fact it takes all these years to be able to do just three things: make a correct diagnosis, arrive at a prognosis and apply the correct treatment. Your presumption that, without medical training and experience, anyone can play app roulette, surf the net and become his own doctor, is folly.

FREDERICK HOLMES
Professor...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 15 February 2018 15:48:16 GMT

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Vanishing massed ranks

Your special report on the future of war (January 27th) noted the prevalence of urban warfare in the 21st century. It identified rapid urbanisation and the asymmetric advantages that cities offer opponents as the two principal causes of this shift. There is a third reason: the smaller size of the armed forces today. As armies have contracted they have become simply too small to form the large fronts that characterised so much inter-state warfare in the 20th century. Instead of surrounding cities, downsized armies are forced to fight inside them.

ANTHONY KING
Chair of war studies
University of Warwick
Coventry

Concerns about malfunctioning autonomous military systems reminded me of this (probably apocryphal) story...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 08 February 2018 15:45:55 GMT

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The election in Honduras

Your article on the contested inauguration of the president of Honduras includes some interpretations that I feel compelled to clarify (“A tarnished presidency”, January 27th). I do appreciate your characterisation of the position of the Organisation of American States, which clearly explained the irregularities and deficiencies of the electoral process and therefore the impossibility of establishing a clear winner.

However, I disagree with the view that starting a negotiation with the government and all institutional actors leaves democracy defenceless. In fact, I found this to be the most useful way ahead in order to keep working on the strong recommendations of the three reports of the mission that observed the election. Defending democracy and human rights doesn’t mean that the most forceful measure has to be the...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 01 February 2018 15:43:16 GMT

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More public scrutiny, please

The collapse of Carillion raises questions about how Britain can get better at contracting public services to the private sector (“Cleaned out”, January 20th). The scramble across government to understand its exposure to the company shows that Britain needs much better data that is open to the public on the full procurement process, from the planning of contracts to their fulfilment.

The existing data are surprisingly poor. An analysis of publicly available information by my organisation and by Open Opps, an open-data startup, found deals with 208 buyers across the public sector since 2011. But we could only confirm the details of less than half of the 450 contracts reported by the government. Compare that with other countries, where a single register of...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 25 January 2018 15:58:49 GMT

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Unhappy anniversary

I fundamentally disagree with the conclusion of your leader reviewing Donald Trump’s first year in office. You let him off too lightly (“One year old”, January 13th). The critical point comes in the final line of your argument: “He and his administration need to be held properly to account for what they actually do.” Yet you reject what you describe as an “obsession” of Mr Trump’s opponents with his character, and suggest that his lack of principles actually creates an opportunity for making deals.

In a country still torn by racial divisions, Mr Trump’s comments after Charlottesville matter a great deal. In a country whose constitution enshrines free speech, labelling the press as “the enemy of the people” matters a great deal. Blatant disregard for the truth matters a great deal, as does encouraging...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 18 January 2018 15:48:14 GMT

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The turn to nationalism

Regarding the rise of nationalism (“Vladimir’s choice”, December 23rd), the middle class is not angry because it demands respect, but because the liberal elite has run out of ideas about how to create good jobs in the face of rapidly increasing populations. For many people, nationalism holds the promise of a higher morality compared with the debauchery of the elite, which is out of touch with middle-class aspirations. The middle class in India latches on to nationalism as it promises better infrastructure and jobs. Politicians on the right have channelled this anger by blaming the liberal elite, migrants (internal, in India’s case) and religious minorities.

The global liberal order represents the status quo. The rise of nationalism gives it an opportunity to set its...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 11 January 2018 15:50:35 GMT

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Russia today

Sir Tony Brenton’s letter on engaging with Russia is a classic demonstration of ivory-tower wishful thinking (December 23rd). To even try to blame the Western media for the poor state of British-Russian relations has no basis whatever in reality. What Sir Tony seems to advocate is that we (the British, the West) ignore Russian provocations (too many to list here) at the expense of any foreign-policy values and principles that we may have (for example, over the Litvinenko murder or the Magnitsky case) in order to co-operate with Moscow over such things as countering Islamist extremism or strategic weapons control. Only a diplomat would argue that these are either/or choices.

Russia will engage with the West if it suits Russian goals, otherwise, based on the historical record, it...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 04 January 2018 15:55:36 GMT

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China’s diplomatic approach

Your article on China’s “Sharp power” (December 16th) was based on the outdated belief that international relations is a zero-sum game. By describing China’s normal economic co-operation and cultural exchanges with other countries as “subversion, bullying and pressure” you turned a blind eye to the abundant opportunities brought about by China’s pursuit of peaceful development. This sheer prejudice is utterly unacceptable.

In the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, China has increased the options for developing countries to achieve modernisation. Nevertheless, China will always respect other nations’ choice of development model and will never impose its will upon others. President Xi Jinping declared solemnly in the report of the 19th National Congress that...




Letters to the editor

Tue, 19 December 2017 16:50:48 GMT

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What fuels Yemen’s war

You are right to point out that the West is complicit in the barbarous destruction of Yemen by providing warplanes, munitions and technical support to the Saudis (“The war the world ignores”, December 2nd). Britain has sold Saudi Arabia weapons worth billions of pounds, but now that the Saudis have imposed a blockade of Yemen’s key ports the British government appears to recognise that its wholehearted support for the war is toxic.

On a recent visit to Riyadh Theresa May, the prime minister, called on the Saudis to end the blockade. Her pleas fell on deaf ears. Amid renewed fighting, and as the country responsible for drafting UN Security Council resolutions on Yemen, Britain should put forward a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and a lifting of the blockade to allow...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 14 December 2017 15:50:08 GMT

Populist attributes

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I don’t agree that Britain is populism’s “most surprising victim” (Bagehot, November 18th). Britain is a country with a carefully disguised, utter disdain for education, where a government minister can say that people “have had enough of experts”; where the editors of the ubiquitous gutter press (the original masterminds of the post-truth era) are invited onto respectable radio and television news programmes as if to imply they had genuinely informed views to contribute; where there is not one single serious public intellectual; where arguing the point is seen as impolite; and where an insistence on trying to be right is often met with patronising giggles. Britain’s disrespect for education is inflicted on its students, who pay extortionate amounts for the self-professed...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 07 December 2017 15:57:30 GMT

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Democracy in Zimbabwe

Thank you for finding a “sliver of hope” in the prospects for Zimbabwe (“Fall of the dictator”, November 18th). As Zimbabwean citizens and democracy campaigners, we are also permitting ourselves a moment of optimism. Where we differ from The Economist is in the imperative to hold an election based on the current timetable or at the earliest opportunity. There is more to having a free and fair election than holding a ballot.

Before an election in Zimbabwe can pass as free and fair, substantial reforms are required to align electoral law properly with the constitution; scrub the voters’ roll of political bias; make the Electoral Commission truly independent; develop a conducive politics free from violence, intimidation,...




Letters to the editor

Thu, 30 November 2017 15:56:07 GMT

The TPPing point

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The rebirth of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal without the participation of America (“Repair job”, November 18th) will have large consequences for the country. America is now excluded from a vital process for renewing the rules of international trade. For example, the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the TPP has suspended several measures that were a priority for America.

It has left a pact that is bound to grow. We estimate, in the paper referenced in your article and published by the Peterson Institute, that adding the five countries that have expressed interest in joining would triple benefits and produce larger gains than the old TPP did. America’s exit leaves a leadership void that China is already beginning to fill through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Belt and...