A terrorist incident, taking place at a time when empires are in decline and new powers rising – that is something everybody can understand.
In our cover story, James de Waal examines another enduring political link across the century: the blame game for the poor prosecution of war. In the aftermath of the Great War, it was the generals who were derided as ‘donkeys’. In the era of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the politicians who are pilloried. So far British generals, enjoying higher standing with the public and press than the politicians, have had an easy ride, but that may not last.
Nicholas Bird, a Great War ‘swot’ since the 1960s, looks at why people are still drawn to the battlefields of the Somme. There are many good reasons – and some spurious ones.
If total war in Europe is now out of the question, it is not in the Middle East, where the gear wheels of history are grinding loudest today. In our interview, Zbigniew Brzezinski makes clear what President Obama has to do to force his suspicious allies, including Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, to get onside: to state clearly what he wants in the Middle East and stand by it.
It is easy to forget how backward the interior of China was only a decade ago. Michael Sheridan tells the story of the Three Gorges Dam. It seemed impossible to achieve when work started but is now the template for an even more grandiose – and perhaps unnecessary project.