Stuart Hughes writes that the International Institute for Strategic Studies annual report reaches the following conclusions:
|Al-Qaeda has fully reconstituted and set its sights firmly on the US and its closest western allies in Europe.|
|Al-Qaeda must be expected to keep trying to develop more promising plans for terrorist operations in North America and Europe, potentially involving weapons of mass destruction.|
|There appears to be little chance in the immediate future that the security vacuum that has dominated Iraq since liberation can be filled.|
|The war against terror and the Iraq conflict has led to diplomatic underinvestment in the Middle East peace process.|
And to think that I was puzzled today as to why I was feeling a bit gloomy.
For the politically interested of a certain generation, reading Fanshen was one of the rites of passage. I haven’t a clue how William Hinton’s book would stand up to a rereading in light of what we all now know about the tyranny of the Mao years in China. But Hinton’s life story, as recounted in The Guardian’s obituary, certainly bears the telling.
Here’s Hinton in rural China in 1947: “Over the course of the next year, he gathered a thousand pages of notes, packed with earthy detail, on the struggle against landlords — and between different strata of peasants — in the village of Long Bow. Much later, he would recall ‘the lice, the fleas and all the hardships, and eating that terrible gruel out of an unwashed bowl while a young girl lay dying of tuberculosis’.”
Old age doesn’t seem to have dimmed his involvement in rural issues. “In 1995 [aged 76!], Hinton moved to Mongolia with his third wife Katherine Chiu, when she was appointed to the Unicef office in Ulan Bator. He lectured on no-till farming — the technique of leaving the soil untouched from planting to harvest, which he had developed on his own farm in Pennsylvania — and proudly announced that he had ‘grown a prolific vegetable garden for home use’.”