Author: Sumantra Maitra

A Summer Night, London, 2017

What might take place on a random summer Saturday night in a European capital city? It might be full of armed police rushing to a pub, barking at patrons to lie down immediately, because there’s a possibility of a bomb that might go off. There will be texting to colleagues who work in an area, to ask if they are okay. Friends will call each other advising them to avoid certain “no-go” areas. There will be a constant refreshing of one’s Twitter feed or the feeling of being glued to a news channel if you’re at home. It is BBC writing there’s a “Van incident at a bridge”, a euphemism, of course. But everyone will know what it means, what just happened, and who might be responsible. No one talks about it in civilised circles anymore, and certainly not on the BBC. It is watching a high trust society behave like a war zone. It is police tweeting and asking public to “run, hide and tell”. It is police making hundreds of late night revellers walk in a straight …

“The EU is Essentially a German Empire”: Peter Hitchens on Geopolitics and the Future of Europe

“When the bugles call, the conservative’s instinct is to rally to the tattered…” Tattered what? Was it colours or banners? I was trying to remember the end of this line as I walked towards Café Phillies on Kensington High Street. To my surprise, the venue was unusually full, the average age of the patrons around seventy. I checked my Twitter feed. Macron had won in France and the EU bourgeoisie were predictably ecstatic. I ordered a coffee, took a table next to the door, and waited for Mr. Peter Hitchens. For those too young to remember the birth of this century, the aforementioned quote is from an essay entitled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” published in The Spectator during the buildup to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. I was eighteen, an idealist, fairly radical (as people usually are at that age) and an admirer of Peter’s elder brother Christopher. In the wake of the 9/11 outrage, there was a widespread feeling that we were on the cusp of a civilisational conflict that would define a generation. It was also the first …

Review—Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India by Shashi Tharoor

A review of Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India by Shashi Tharoor.  Hurst (March 2, 2017). In November 2011, Pankaj Mishra, an Indian author, literary critic, and essayist for the Guardian and the New York Times, wrote a scathing review of Niall Ferguson’s Civilisation: The West and the Rest in the prestigious London Review of Books. Ferguson is a pop historian, and his recent polemic depicting Henry Kissinger as an idealist is a corny and ahistorical piece of work for any serious scholar of International Relations. But on one point, Ferguson has been remarkably consistent and fair—that there needs to be a more nuanced assessment of Britain’s Imperial legacy. Since the Second World War, the prevailing view in academia has been that colonialism was an unpardonable and incomparable sin that plagued the globe for over two hundred years. Any counterpoint to this view is routinely dismissed as pro-colonial and therefore, by definition, racist. Ferguson has argued in several books that colonialism is a much more complicated subject than such black-and-white rhetoric allows. For this, he has been skewered from all sides, most savagely by Mishra in the LRB, who was subsequently threatened …

Methods Behind the Campus Madness

Unless you are living under a rock, you should know that a recent talk by Charles Murray was shouted down by a group of Middlebury College Maoists and was followed by random acts of violence and assault in a carpark. As Murray was escorted out, by Professor Allison Stanger, a renowned scholar of International Relations, a lady more courageous than any of the wannabe Red Guards acting like brutes in a pack, she was pulled by her hair, which affected her neck, and she was forced to go to the hospital and wear a neck brace. Murray, a scholar known for his provocative, and hitherto unreplicated 1994 opus, The Bell Curve, was invited to the college to give a talk about his more recent book, Coming Apart. The rest, is well archived and painful. I wrote recently that the campus violence won’t stop with the violence in Berkeley against Milo. I wasn’t wrong. One look at the protesters would be enough to fathom that none of them even bothered to read Murray’s scholarship; that would …

The Hypocrisy of Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy

Sweden is apparently world’s first officially self declared “Feminist” government. The brave sisters, of the foreign affairs department, recently obliterated the patriarchy in the United States, with a staged photo onslaught. But that was before they surrendered to the dictates of an Islamist theocracy, just like all good Western feminists should. In a scenario all too painfully familiar in recent days, a bunch of privileged Western women found liberation in keeping their head down and knowing their place. Look, I have nothing against Iran, in fact, I respect them, that they are iron-spined and strong enough to make Western governments bow down in front of them and their rules, regardless of which continent they are in. I find the weakness and hypocrisy of the other side more abhorrent. In what can be termed as the most abjectly hypocritical turnaround in recent history, Sweden’s annoyingly grandstanding government, paraded (or should I say, reverse-slutwalked) with their heads covered in a visiting delegation to Iran. Why such a fuss with Sweden, you might wonder? After all, from Federica …

Artificially Inflating the Threat From Russia Does Nobody Any Good

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”. Countless pieces like these are churned out in the Anglophone media every day. They share a remarkable deficit of proportion and objectivity; they present what’s happening today as historically unprecedented, an incorrect diagnosis that simply stirs up hysteria and panic. They also overlook the pattern that Russian foreign policy has followed since the collapse …

Make Expertise Great Again

A review of  by The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, by Tom Nichols. Oxford University Press, (1 April, 2017) 272 pages.   The long-awaited book by Professor Tom Nichols, (AKA @RadioFreeTom) The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters is finally out this year. And perhaps no other topic can be as important, given the tectonic shifting year in global politics we just had. Political Scientists don’t often get credit for genuine predictions or trend recognition, although the majority of them invite flak for failed ones. Credit, therefore goes to Nichols. He identified, what is currently one of the most destructive trends in this post-truth world, a disdain towards any sort of acquired knowledge and expertise, and he identified that trend in 2013 in this famous blog post. That blog post was expanded to a full length Op-Ed for The Federalist in 2014, which came out as a complete thesis in the first month of 2017. The book, which  is soon to be …