Skip to main content
The Quiet American

Thirty five thousand feet above Tehran and I am attempting to wirelessly edit my journal from my seat as I watch The Quiet American.

I realised over dinner last night why the American military is so different to anyone else's army.

Listening to one of the pilots telling his companions how he had lost his best friend when the F18 he was flying skidded off the side of the carrier, it occurred to me that the young men and women enjoying their Chinese meal were not service people, they were part of a corporation, all the way down to their slacks and polo shirts.

They could have been from Microsoft or Oracle or any other hi-tech company but they were not. Instead, they were members of the greatest military power the world has ever seen but had exchanged laptops for much larger and more deadly toys.

Behind me lies Bahrain and the newspapers have picked up my comments on the future direction of Middle eastern government.

Saudi Arabia was only a stone's throw across the Causeway and one of the people I met at the conference tells me that the Saudi government have down-played the death toll from last week's bomb in Riyadh.

According to my source, whose wife was in the process of travelling to Saudi Arabia, the death toll is closer to 100 and includes one of his close friends.

His friend, he tells me, was caught by one of the blasts but survived and staggered from the compound covered in blood. What happened next in this tragedy, was that one of the Saudi security guards shot him dead, mistaking him for a surviving bomber.

For me, at least, this isn't too hard to believe. One of my own teaching colleagues was attacked and murdered by a group of men twenty years ago in Jeddah, for reasons that never became clear at the time. The story never made the papers, as after all, there is little or no crime in the Kingdom.

One final thought from my aircraft seat as the credits roll.

What struck me most from this visit was an Arab world in denial. In the Arab mind, the events of 9.11 like the Apollo Moon landings never happened in the way we imagined here and there's evidence to prove it or so I'm told. The world is clearly split between those who clearly believe that the attacks on America were part of some elaborate plot with the express purpose of framing the Arab people and those of us, who believe, with equal conviction that Al Qaeda threatens the existence of our own society and its cultural icons.

Sadly, the complete absence of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq only serves as fuel for the Arab world's conviction that they are the victims of harsh injustice and a campaign of lies. This will only strengthen the hand of the extremists and a growing collective view that Islam is once again the target of a crusade from the West.


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.

I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…