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How can Davos 2002 reflect the changed world?

That’s a question that is very much on my mind. At the end of this week, I’m going to Geneva to participate in the biannual Davos Global Issues Group brainstorming session. It’s a gathering of about 15 good thinkers to help raise issues for Davos, and to hone the work of the Forum’s own programme team.

It’s inevitable that last week’s terrorist attacks and the consequences will dominate our discussions, perhaps to the exclusion of everything else. The difficulty for Davos is that the terrain is likely to shift considerably in the next few months. Preparing a Davos programme is always like navigating a ship through the fog, with a destination coming into view and vanishing without warning. This year, that will be the case in unprecedented fashion.

One issue we won’t discuss formally this week will be the risks for Davos itself (that’s not what DGIG is about). Davos is a very secure place, but if military action is continuing, I think the sad truth is that a good number of executives and politicians will be scared away. And this will be at a time when the world needs to come together and discuss issues of profound mutual concern.

Love/hate relationship

Tom Friedman: “For all that Middle Easterners get enraged with America, many others value it, envy it and want their kids there. They envy the sense of ownership that Americans have over their own government, they envy its naïve optimism, its celebration of individual freedom and its abiding faith that the past won’t always bury the future. For a brief, terrifying moment last week people out here got a glimpse of what the world could be like without America, and many did not like it.”

And Tom interviewed Jordan’s King Abdullah. “He had three wise messages: We can win if you Americans don’t forget who you are, if you don’t forget who your friends are and if we work together.”

Not sensitive

Slate reports that Clear Channel, which owns and programmes over 1,000 US radio stations, has circulated a list of 162 songs that should not be played in the aftermath of last week’s terrorist attack. They include Mack the Knife, Imagine, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Blowin’ in the Wind.

The messiness of central Asia

Uzbekistan may allow the US access to its military facilities for strikes against Afghanistan. The FT quotes one expert saying, “This puts the US in bed with some pretty nasty people.”

When I was running World Link in the early ’90s, and countries like Uzbekistan were new and little known, we ran a who’s who of key figures in all the “stans”. Islam Karimov, president of Uzbekistan, claimed at the time that his hobby was water skiing. We considered (but decided against) listing his hobbies as “water skiing and tyranny”.

As an aside, it’s a sign of some of the transformations of the last decade that less than 10 years ago, the only sure way to contact a place like Uzbekistan was by telex (I still bizarrely come across people with telex addresses on their business cards). We had a bunch of phone numbers, but they hardly ever worked. Now, of course, “Cyber Uzbekistan” can serve you a profile of their president.

After one week

Martin Amis: “Thinking of the victims, the perpetrators, and the near future, I felt species grief, then species shame, then species fear.”

There’s an excellent analysis of Pakistan’s choice in today’s Financial Times. There’s an irony that General Musharraf is one of the leaders president Bush failed to name when he was a candidate for the presidency last year.

And Slate has a good, brief summary of the situation in Afghanistan. Incidentally, Ahmed Rashid’s so-far definitive book, Taliban, is number 15 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list.

Martin Wolf: “The terrorists wish to destroy open societies. We must ensure that they fail.”

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