Erdogan’s authoritarianism is fuelled by resentment

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the strongman president of Turkey, scourge of liberals and secularists, promoter of conservative Islam and Islamism throughout the Middle East, baiter of the West, and jailer of journalists and judges, has been very lucky in his enemies.

Piece by piece Erdogan has overturned a century’s worth of carefully constructed secularism in the largest and most dynamic economy in the Middle East, and he has done so with the unwitting assistance of his political opponents. Like a martial art master, Erdogan draws his enemy close. Then he turns and uses his opponent’s weight against him. Effectively, he weaves a political narrative that casts whoever opposes him as representative of a murky, secretive and privileged order …

First published on CapX: read more here

South Sudan: a lesson to the world in how not to build a nation

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There is no standard definition of what makes a country viable as a country. What are the materials, the history, the culture, the institutions that allow a territory to grow into a something more than just a geography of resources? What are the building blocks of an accountable and democratic state?

Whatever these ingredients are, we know what happens when they are not present. And nowhere is this lesson clearer than in the case of South Sudan.

Only five years ago, South Sudan was the newest and most optimistic member of the community of nations, a state-building project backed by the goodwill and expertise and cash of well-intentioned supporters around the world.

Today, the country has imploded into a fireball of violence and suffering, an off-the-radar disaster comparable in its scale to Syria (the number of refugees recently passed the one million mark). In other words, the outcome of the project has been as disastrous as its ambition was great. But why?

First published on CapX: read more here

We Are The New Georgians

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Sometimes it seems as if Britain is surrounded by existential threat. Armed extremism, financial  upheaval, cultural confusion – all can feel like they could break a brittle, uncertain society. But these are only the headline concerns of the day. Deep beneath the headlines there is another country where real change happens, sometimes slowly, and sometimes not. At this level Britain really is in a state of transformation. It is nothing to do with terrorism, or politics, or religion. It is a lot to do with new machines, new materials, new algorithms, and new patterns of behaviour. These are things that are changing the shape of minds as well as environment, and what is really striking is just how relaxed Britain is about it. To find a historical parallel for this era of peaceful redrafting of the fundamentals one has to go back at least two and a half centuries. It is Georgian Britain that offers the best guide to what is happening today, and some clues to what might happen next.

First published on CapX: read more here