Richard Dowden

A regular blog from RAS Director, Nicholas Westcott.


Tuesday, 14 January 2014
Written by Richard Dowden
I took a complete break over Christmas and New Year but instead of going somewhere sensible like Scotland or Sri Lanka I went to South Africa and Lesotho. Sunshine everyday and magnificent scenery with lots of Braais, Boerewors and wine, but it was impossible to switch off completely. South Africa reminds me of the line in Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s great novel The Leopard when the Risorgimento hits Sicily and the old order is under threat: “If we want things to stay as they are,... more
Friday, 6 December 2013
Written by Richard Dowden
Almost no one in the late 1980s believed apartheid would end peacefully. The government was in trouble but the core of its system that kept the whites in power looked solid. It was under attack on the streets of townships – but children with stones and burning tyres, though persistent, were no match for a brutal well-armed police force. And the government was becoming more and more aggressive in killing or imprisoning opponents at home and attacking its enemies abroad. As the country... more
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Written by Richard Dowden
“In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” Was Harry Lime, the evil anti-hero of Graham Greene’s novel The Third Man, right? Does human progress require violence and cruelty to drive it? Some argue that the two world wars... more
Friday, 27 September 2013
Written by Richard Dowden
What does the appalling attack on people at the Westgate Shopping Centre signify? Does it mean that Al Shabaab is getting stronger or weaker? Was it a show of strength, striking at a multinational target in the heart of Nairobi, or a desperate if spectacular attack on civilians at an easy, poorly-protected target? Is this the new Shabaab or was it an Al Qaeda operation using the Shabaab brand name? Some of these questions may be answered if the Israeli Mossad interrogators get the surviving... more
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
Written by Richard Dowden
The way in which the Government’s defeat in the House of Commons last week was reported, one would think that Britain had vowed never to send troops further than Dover again. Cameron’s rather petulant reaction to losing the vote: “I get that and the government will act accordingly” suggested that he was so confident of winning and had no plan B. That may be why people are calling it the end of an era. It isn’t. What is clear from the vote is that the ‘NOs... more