May 24th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Rudd Budget targets 'middle-class' welfare

EDITORIAL: 'Whom the gods wish to destroy...'

LABOUR MARKET: Post-school education and training: a national crisis

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Oil imports threaten to blow out foreign debt

ENERGY: Germany's rapid development of renewable energy

SCHOOLS: Dubious deal offered to pupils' parents / Faith schools' autonomy defended

CIVIL LIBERTIES: Political correctness suppresses free speech

ABORTION: Why abortion should remain a crime

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: The indispensable role of government

DEFENCE: Lest we forget our duty of care to servicemen

OLYMPIC GAMES: Clean-up or purges? Beijing prepares for the Games

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: Is the United Nations beyond repair?

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Westerners acquiescing to creeping sharia / Oil fuelling world's conflicts

OPINION: Why we should encourage creation of new Australian states

Plight of young home-buyers (letter)

In defence of global warming (letter)

Wrong way to tackle inflation (letter)

US presidential elections (letter)

Life, not euthanasia (letter)

BOOKS: THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD: Essays Catholic and Contemporary, by John Haldane

Books promotion page

Westerners acquiescing to creeping sharia / Oil fuelling world's conflicts

News Weekly, May 24, 2008
Westerners acquiescing to creeping sharia

What has not been widely recognized is that the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie introduced a new kind of jihad.

Instead of assaulting Western ships or buildings, Khomeini took aim at a fundamental Western freedom: freedom of speech.

In recent years, other Islamists have joined this crusade, seeking to undermine Western societies' basic liberties and extend sharia within those societies.

The cultural jihadists have enjoyed disturbing success....

Motivated variously, and doubtless sometimes simultaneously, by fear, misguided sympathy, and multicultural ideology — which teaches us to belittle our freedoms and to genuflect to non-Western cultures, however repressive — people at every level of Western society, but especially elites, have allowed concerns about what fundamentalist Muslims will feel, think, or do to influence their actions and expressions.

These Westerners have begun, in other words, to internalise the strictures of sharia, and thus implicitly to accept the deferential status of dhimmis — infidels living in Muslim societies....

The key question for Westerners is: Do we love our freedoms as much as the cultural jihadists hate them?

Many free people, alas, have become so accustomed to freedom, and to the comfortable position of not having to stand up for it, that they're incapable of defending it when it's imperilled — or even, in many cases, of recognising that it is imperilled.

— from Bruce Bawer, "An anatomy of surrender", City Journal (New York), Vol.18., No.2, Spring 2008.


Don't write off America yet

The fashionable view is that the American economy is a busted flush, a hollowed-out, de-industrialised shell housed in decaying infrastructure that delivers McJobs and has survived courtesy only of a ramped-up housing market and the willingness of foreigners to hold trillions of dollars of American debts.

(But) of the world's top 100 universities, 37 are American. The country spends more proportionately on research and design, universities and software than any other, including Sweden and Japan. Of the world's top 50 companies ranked by R&D, 20 are American. Fifty-two of the world's top 100 brands are American. Half the world's new patents are registered by American companies.

This year, American exports have grown by 13 per cent, helped by the falling dollar, so that the US has reclaimed its position as the world's number one exporter. Moreover, and little remarked on, two-thirds of America's imports come from affiliates of American companies that determinedly keep most of the value added in the US. The US certainly has a trade deficit, but importantly it is largely with itself....

Despite its size, (China) has only three universities in the top 100, not one brand in the top 100, not one company in the world top 50 ranked by R&D and it registers virtually no patents.

China has no tradition of public argument, nor independent judiciary. India, a democracy with the right institutions, is much better placed — but with income per head 2 or 3 per cent of that in the US, a challenge will take centuries rather than decades.

It is the maligned EU that has the institutions and economic prowess to emerge as a genuine knowledge economy counterweight to America.

Anybody who would prefer China's communists needs to see their doctor. The greatest danger is that we start believing the pessimism. The United States is — and remains — formidable. Which is just as well for all of us.

— from Will Hutton, "Forget the naysayers — America remains an inspiration to us all", The Observer (London), May 11, 2008.


Oil fuelling world's conflicts

The world is far more peaceful today than it was 15 years ago. There were 17 major civil wars — with "major" meaning the kind that kill more than a thousand people a year — going on at the end of the Cold War; by 2006, there were just five. During that period, the number of smaller conflicts also fell, from 33 to 27.

Despite this trend, there has been no drop in the number of wars in countries that produce oil. The main reason is that oil wealth often wreaks havoc on a country's economy and politics, makes it easier for insurgents to fund their rebellions, and aggravates ethnic grievances.

Today, with violence falling in general, oil-producing states make up a growing fraction of the world's conflict-ridden countries. They now host about a third of the world's civil wars, both large and small, up from one-fifth in 1992.

According to some, the US-led invasion of Iraq shows that oil breeds conflict between countries, but the more widespread problem is that it breeds conflict within them.

The number of oil-producer-based conflicts is likely to grow in the future as stratospheric prices of crude oil push more countries in the developing world to produce oil and gas.

— from Michael L. Ross, "Blood barrels: why oil wealth fuels conflict", Foreign Affairs, Vol.87, No.3, May/June 2008.

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