Davos Newbies Home

Better late than… 

Reuters reports on Colin Powell’s planned visit to Ankara and Brussels. “It will be Powell’s first trip to Europe since a short visit to the Swiss mountain resort of Davos in January.”

Pump price 

Trust the Financial Times to get stuck into the numbers. “The fuel cost numbers are startling. A gallon of modified jet fuel, which is used in tanks as well as aircraft, costs only 84 cents when bought wholesale from multinational oil companies such as Shell and ExxonMobil. By the time the cost of transporting the fuel to the battlefield is added, that sum can rise to hundreds of dollars per gallon… The US army estimates it costs about $150 per gallon for fuel used in Iraq. The fuel comes from 23 US military dumps scattered across the Middle East, a number that was doubled in preparation for the current conflict.”

Foresight  

Christopher Lydon lists writers who anticipated the current crisis, from Tolstoy to Graham Greene.

Age of impatience  

Yale historian Paul Kennedy reflects on the roots of American impatience in The Guardian (not on the website, presumably because of syndication restrictions). “There is the impatient character of the American sports culture, which is so ingrained and taken for granted that few citizens appreciate how it looks from the outside — the quasi-military language, the impatience with low scoring, the stress upon offensive play, the sheer overwhelming size and power of most basketball and football players, the commerically driven system of frequent ‘time-outs’ which heightens the atmosphere of urgency and racing against the clock.”

Cultural differences  

Felix Salmon has a lengthy post on the differences between British Airways and American Airlines, but he extends it to a broader cultural point. “The Americans seem to be good at blowing things up, but very bad at getting any kind of dialogue going with the Iraqis, let alone any goodwill. The Brits, on the other hand, seem to understand that Iraqis aren’t simply going to welcome them with flowers and open arms: that they have to do something to earn the locals’ trust, and that hiding behind a tank turret is a bad way of going about that. The Brits are just as good at killing the enemy as the Americans are, but they’re much better at relating with the vast majority of the population that isn’t the enemy.”

Along with other thinking webloggers, I’m steering clear of being an armchair general (leaving that to those who actually know something), but to my untutored eye, it seems the British army’s long experience in Northern Ireland is proving extraordinarily relevant in Iraq. I wonder whether this telling — and at times amusing — account of the Phrasealator could be written about the British troops as well.

Knowledge reversal 

Michael Wolff at the coalition media centre in Qatar: “It takes about 48 hours to understand that information is probably more freely available at any other place in the world than it is here. Eventually you realise that you know significantly less than when you arrived, and that you are losing more sense of the larger picture by the hour. At some point you will know nothing.”

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