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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Very busy in my real life at the moment so still no proper posts . . .

There are elections in Azerbaijan today. The Economist has a good primer on this, Katy of blogrel is there now and Eurasianet is a good source for incoming news. This is quite an important event in a region whose strategic relevance has grown due to oil and being in the neighbourhood of Iran and the Nastystans. How the elections run today will have important ramifications. Ideally the elections will run smoothly and be fair. This in turn will enable the country to reform, make Western engagement such as military bases acceptable and help a peaceful resolution of the Karabagh conflict with Armenia. If this doesn't happen, and there is a real risk of this, there are two basic scenarios that are problematic. If incumbent holds on to power illicitly and the West stays, we will be compromising our moral standing and credibility. On the other hand, if we pull out, this might heighten the propensity of the Azerbaijan regime to seek a military solution to the conflict with Armenia. Needless to say such a war would be catastrophic for all involved but that's never stopped unstable dictatorships from going down that route for their egos and to cement crumbling regimes at home. As long as there is Western engagement in the region and the country, the West will try to quell any war as this would be deeply damaging to our interests. So I think we have a bit of a dilemma to solve if the current regime hangs on to power. (As for solving the Karabagh conflict, the first rule that outsiders should lay down and enforce would be one of absolute non-violence. And whichever side violates the ceasefire should then be treated as an illegitimate aggressor.)

Remember, remember, the fifth of November . . . The 400th time this year round. Clive Davis has some disappointing observations to make. Certainly the past five years the tradition of Bonfire Night has been pretty hollowed out. While I was at uni there was not a single event, but there were countless Halloween parties. I have nothing against Halloween, seeing as it connects to warm childhood memories, but it is still a shame that it is driving out Guy Fawkes. But that's the thing you see, if you abolish or downgrade national traditions like that what you end up with is not some bold global humanist utopia but rather more you will end with the resulting vacuum being filled by the commercially most available alternative. And that will normally be American for better or for worse. (I wrote an essay on Guy Fawkes' enduring relevance yesterday, but the footnoting went awol so you'll have to wait a little for that.) On the other hand, as our penchant for turning everything into a booze-fuelled mess, we all know what any festivities in this country tend to descend to . . . ;)
By the sounds of it so far this looks like an Iraq inquiry that makes sense:

The failure to plan for the aftermath is likely to be at the heart of the committee’s inquiries now that Iraq is in the grip of a violent insurgency, says the Tory MP Douglas Hogg, one of the inquiry’s architects and who is canvassing support for the move.

For once we might actually get an investigation into the management of the war, particularly the post-invasion planning, rather than the endless and irrelevant arguments about wmd.

Sticking with Iraq, news is in that the stress levels of our troops have now reached those of World War Two. Things must have got much worse in Iraq, right? Well, not quite. It's mainly down to a fear of being prosecuted for killing an insurgent. The trial against seven Paras that collapsed this week is a good case in point. Despite no credible evidence for wrongdoing and witnesses who were allegedly being paid to make stuff up, it is fairly bizarre that the whole sordid affair could be drawn out for more than two years. DumbJohn is on form on this.

And now: quiz time! Oh dear, again? I hear you poor reader groan, but I'm having too much fun with this:
You Are 50% Boyish and 50% Girlish

You are pretty evenly split down the middle - a total eunuch.
Okay, kidding about the eunuch part. But you do get along with both sexes.
You reject traditional gender roles. However, you don't actively fight them.
You're just you. You don't try to be what people expect you to be.
How Boyish or Girlish Are You?

Although not immediately apparent fromt his blog's politics, but in my real life this is probably quite true:
Your Hidden Talent

Your natural talent is interpersonal relations and dealing with people.
You communicate well and are able to bring disparate groups together.
Your calming presence helps everything go more smoothly.
People crave your praise and complements.
What's Your Hidden Talent?

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