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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Maybe they don't allow reading inside......?

Just Finished Reading: The General Strike by Margaret Morris (FP: 1976)

May 1926. With Government subsidies about to come to an end and a Miner’s strike in the offing something just had to give. Either the Miners would accept a pay cut and, in humiliation, return to work or the Mine owners would capitulate and agree to pay a living wage which would cut into their profits. The idea that investment in new machinery and new work practices would improve efficiency and therefore, eventually, profits was dismissed as a pipedream. The miners would just have to be paid less and work longer hours and be damned grateful they had a job at all. Immovable object meet irresistible force. With nine months to run the subsidy allowed the Tory Government of the day and the leaders of industry (often the same people or close friends) had time to prepare stockpiles and contingency plans. The Unions and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) who held them together distrusted each other and far fewer and far less detailed plans were drawn up when the inevitable conflict between Capital and Labour came to a head. So, when the subsidy lapsed, the miners refused to accept the cuts and the Mine owners locked them out it was up to the TUC to back the Miners in their strike effort. Many is the unions saw their support as a natural defensive response and were eager to come out in sympathy. Some indeed, individuals, factories or towns spontaneously came out in support of the Miners struggle and had to be told to go back. But other unions – the heavy hitters in power generation, railways and heavy industry already had their orders, downed tools and walked out. On Tuesday 4th May almost 2 million workers where idle and more had voted to come out too. In the early days of the General Strike far more energy was expended in restraining the strike from growing than in keeping men (it was mostly men) out. Naturally the Governments contingency plans went into effect. Key points of the economy where secured by the Army and Navy. Thousands of volunteers drove buses, unloaded ships (under armed guard) and provided other hard pressed services.

No one really knew what would happen next. Was this the first stage in a Communist revolution? Some parts of the far-left certainly thought or hoped so. But for the most part it was seen as a political strike in defence of the Working Class rather than any attempt to overthrow a government no matter their attitude to Labour in general. Of course some of the more extreme elements in government, Winston Churchill in particular, wanted tanks on the streets and to some extent he got it – along with Fascist bully boys paid as ‘Special constables’ to cause trouble and break picket lines. But eventually, after a rather shaky start, the unions got their act together and became a more co-ordinated organisation which kept food moving, strikers paid, and everyone kept busy making the Strike as effective as possible and with any violence kept to the absolute minimum. Then, in the second week, a day after the next batch of strikers walked out the TUC called the strike off and ordered everyone back to work. Initially thinking that they had won a great victory a cheer went up. Only on realising that nothing had in fact been achieved did disbelief turn into dismay and anger. Just as things were getting into their stride the TUC had thrown in the towel and had abandoned the Miners to their fate. The Strike had lasted 9 days and the like of it would never be seen again.

This was another of those events in British history where I knew the event had happened but I had little idea of the background or the details. I certainly know a LOT more now thanks to this highly detailed study of the General Strike. A good part of my motivation on seeking this out was my self-labelling as a Socialist. If I’m going to call myself as such and identify as such then I’d damned well understand what it is I’m supposed to believe in and know my way around both Labour and Union history. This book is a significant step in that direction and, not surprisingly, after reading of the suffering of the labouring classes at the time my politics has continued its steady drift to the Left. There’s much more to come from this rich well of Socialist thought and action and I have some reading already set up, not only in the R4 category but also in (straight) Politics, Biography and history. I definitely intend to become a well-educated and well-read Socialist in good Working Class fashion. Recommended for anyone interested in such things as well as those who like to find out more about a very odd, and very short, slice of English political history.     

Saturday, December 09, 2017

...or hi-hacked robot delivery vehicles.

San Francisco to restrict goods delivery robots.

From The BBC

7 December 2017

San Francisco officials have voted to restrict where delivery robots can go in the city, in a blow for the burgeoning industry. Start-ups will have to get permits to use such bots, which will be restricted to less crowded urban areas. Opponents are concerned about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children. Walk San Francisco, a group that campaigns for pedestrian safety, wanted a complete ban. A range of companies have begun trialling small robots that can deliver food and other goods. They use sensors and lasers in a similar way to self-driving cars in order to navigate their routes.

Robotics company Marble - which describes its machines as "friendly, neighbourhood robots" - began testing in San Francisco earlier this year. Other companies, such as Starship and Postmates, are also keen to use pavements for robot deliveries. San Francisco supervisor Norman Yee, who originally proposed a ban on such robots, has previously said that the city's streets "are for people, not robots". Despite its proximity to Silicon Valley, San Francisco is falling behind other states such as Virginia and Idaho where there are already laws permitting delivery robots to operate. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce lobbied against an all-out ban of such robots, saying that "could create a massive barrier to future innovation in the industry". In October the legislation was reframed to look at regulation rather than a ban.

[OK, this is the first I’d heard of this although it seems pretty much like a no-brainer with the development of driverless cars forging ahead. I guess that driverless ‘street robots’ (like that pictured above) would be a lot easier to develop and distribute than the road version. Of course they’re also easier to mess with – you can easily imagine kids building obstacles on known robot routes – and they’re going to be very easy to rob or hi-hack {I may have just created a new word there (an updated version of hi-jack but using computers to gain access to autonomous vehicles) so you saw it here first OK!} so I’m not 100% sure of their utility in the real world. Plus you can imagine faux robots made up to look like legit ones delivering drugs or, being the world we unfortunately live in, bombs to locations in the city. With potentially thousands of these things even in a medium sized city how are they going to be controlled, regulated or monitored. It’s, to be honest, a security nightmare – so good luck with that!]

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Good Advice.................. 

Just Finished Reading: Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (FP: 1933)

In the late 1920’s George Orwell, then known by his real name Eric Blair, found himself close to abject poverty after having the majority of his money stolen from his room. Forced to look for any kind of paying work before his rent ran out and he was cast on to the streets of Paris he finally got lucky by gaining a position of a plongeur – the lowest of the low in a hotel hierarchy: a washer of dishes, a chopper of vegetables, someone who does any task that no one else will do, do it quickly, for 15-16 hours a day and for a subsistence wage. Already familiar with a strange host of characters from all over the Continent he found himself surrounded by Russian emigres, Italian thieves, and Romanian Communists. Everyone had a tragic story to tell, a reason for ending up and the bottom of the heap and some of them were even true – at least a little. With almost no disposable income, little prospect (but a lot of hope) for promotion and a deep fatigue caused by the long arduous hours of work followed by little sleep the only release was in cheap wine, loud company, bar fights and, very occasionally, a cheap prostitute. Orwell lasted several months in the position – briefly graduating to working flat out in a new restaurant – before returning to England. He was horrified to learn that other plongeurs do the job for decades just to keep their heads above water.

Aided by a friendly loan and the prospect of an easy job Orwell returned to London only to discover that his new post – looking after an invalid – had been delayed by a month. Once again flat bloke, only this time in London, he needed to adapt swiftly to his new circumstances and he did so by falling in with a series of tramps shuffling between hostels in the South East of England. Again each tramp had his story of how he fell on hard times and each showed, in their own way, a fortitude to continue when practically everything was taken from them. What made the experience that much worse was the way the Authorities made even straightforward things – like getting a bed for the night or some decent food – unnecessarily hard and, more to the point, demeaning. In the years before the Welfare State this was how the State treated the poor – as a burden to be shifted elsewhere rather than being dealt with at source.

Despite being well written I did start to struggle with this slim book (a mere 216 pages in my edition) thinking that it was all very well describing the lives of the poor in both London and Paris but where was the analysis – and then, after just over 100 pages, there it was, a devastating critique of not only the hotel system in France but the use of semi-literate workers to produce shoddy goods at minimum wage (practically starvation wages) in order to keep them ‘occupied and exhausted’ in order to prevent them raising up against their oppressors. Whereas, if the frightened ‘masters’ had spent any time actually talking to them they would have discovered that all most people want is a roof over their head, food in their bellies, a bed to sleep in and something to look forward to in their leisure time. Violent revolution hardly enters a single head – exhausted and poorly educated or not. Clearly, he repeatedly pointed out, the poor and the tramps are not different people from the rich (or simply the employed) they are essentially the same – just with vastly different resources.

I suppose that I shouldn’t have really but I was both surprised and a little disappointed that Orwell didn’t propose some kind of Welfare State to deal with the issue and consequences of widespread unemployment. Of course this is doing him a huge disservice. The Welfare State in its early incarnation was a consequence of decades of experience accumulated in the decades after Orwell’s time in Paris and London. He could hardly look 20 years ahead and pluck such ideas even partially formed out of thin air. This was an interesting read and a welcome reminder of what the poor had to suffer before the late 1940’s. No doubt there are those in the so-called higher echelons of society who would like to bring these days back when the poor where motivated by fear to ‘behave themselves’. With first-hand accounts of what that policy meant to the men and women at the bottom of society such as this still in circulation maybe we won’t have to fight those battles again any time soon. Recommended for all social and political historians.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Just Finished Reading: Self by Barry Dainton (FP: 2014)

Who Are You? It’s a big question. What makes you…. You? Is it an immortal soul housed in your meat body somehow with a connection between the two or are you essentially a meat machine driven by instinct and deep seated biological drives? What, and where, is the essential ‘I’ that makes up the Self? These are all questions posed in this intriguing, if sometime difficult to understand, slim volume.

Opening with some history of the idea – inevitably involving Descartes’s idea of a dualistic mind/body separation – the author delves into the structure of the brain (once thought to be a mere radiator who’s purpose was to cool the blood) and the physicality of how memory works. For memory is, it seems, the essence of who you are. The persistence of memory, from second to second, and year to year, informs you as to who you are. It is the narrative, the life story that we tell ourselves, that defines us and it is the memory of that story that tells us who we are. When physical brain injury or debilitating disease (or simple age) takes this away from us we lose all (or some) sense of who we actually are. The Self, it would appear emerges from the whirlwind dance of experience, thought and memory that is to a significant extent hardwired into the physical structure of our brains by our life experiences and our reactions to them. Continuity is key here. If each morning, after a period of unconsciousness, you awoke without any clear memory of the previous day your Self would be fragmented and your consciousness episodic. The fact that you wake up as you shows that the existence of mere consciousness is not enough to guarantee the development of a Self. Consciousness, the fact of being aware and, indeed, of being aware that you are aware is only one element in the story of the Self.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any decent philosophy and it showed as I, occasionally at least, struggled with parts of this book. Far from being badly written I lay any fault at my doorstep rather than the authors. The arguments regarding the existence of the Self – the author is not one of those philosophers who consider the whole idea a quaint illusion – are complicated and deserve intellectual effort to fully comprehend. So be prepared to put some effort in here. Fortunately the author often has a light and playful touch which helps, as does his use of astute thought experiments from deep within my comfort zone – Science Fiction. Debates on the effects of matter transmission on the brain/body tease out the details of continuity of consciousness help as does discussion of intelligent machines. If you have any background in the wondrous world of SF you’ll find all of this an entertaining breeze.

The final chapter did seem a little out of place though. Again deep in the realm of SF speculation the author discussed the idea that we might not be ‘real’ in the sense that we all, no doubt, think we are. He indeed made a strong argument for the proposition that our selves may indeed be virtual constructs living inside a vast computer simulation. Indeed he proposes that the likelihood of this being so, given the apparent age of the Universe and the probability that future (or present!) civilisations would be expected to be both curious and have practically infinite computer power at their disposal, it is almost certain that you (reading this) and I (writing it) are both virtual people. That’s quite a mind job when you sit down and think about it. All in all this was fascinating (and deep) stuff. If you do fancy reading such things I do recommend putting some quality time aside in order to have the opportunity to ponder, re-read if required, and walk around the garden before tackling the next bit. A rewarding if, sometimes challenging, read. Recommended and more philosophy to come.           

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Terrorists 'certain' to get killer robots, says defence giant

By Brian Wheeler, BBC Political reporter

30 November 2017

Rogue states and terrorists will get their hands on lethal artificial intelligence "in the very near future", a House of Lords committee has been told. Alvin Wilby, vice-president of research at French defence giant Thales, which supplies reconnaissance drones to the British Army, said the "genie is out of the bottle" with smart technology. And he raised the prospect of attacks by "swarms" of small drones that move around and select targets with only limited input from humans. "The technological challenge of scaling it up to swarms and things like that doesn't need any inventive step," he told the Lords Artificial Intelligence committee. "It's just a question of time and scale and I think that's an absolute certainty that we should worry about."

The US and Chinese military are testing swarming drones - dozens of cheap unmanned aircraft that can be used to overwhelm enemy targets or defend humans from attack. Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at University of Sheffield, said he feared "very bad copies" of such weapons - without safeguards built-in to prevent indiscriminate killing - would fall into the hands of terrorist groups such as so-called Islamic State. This was as big a concern as "authoritarian dictators getting a hold of these, who won't be held back by their soldiers not wanting to kill the population," he told the Lords Artificial Intelligence committee. He said IS was already using drones as offensive weapons, although they were currently remote-controlled by human operators.

But the "arms race" in battlefield artificial intelligence meant smart drones and other systems that roamed around firing at will could soon be a reality. "I don't want to live in a world where war can happen in a few seconds accidentally and a lot of people die before anybody stops it", said Prof Sharkey, who is a spokesman for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. The only way to prevent this new arms race, he argued, was to "put new international restraints on it", something he was promoting at the United Nations as a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. But Prof Wilby, whose company markets technology to combat drone attacks, said such a ban would be "misguided" and difficult to enforce.

He said there was already an international law of armed conflict, which was designed to ensure armed forces "use the minimum force necessary to achieve your objective, while creating the minimum risk of unintended consequences, civilian losses". The Lords committee, which is investigating the impact of artificial intelligence on business and society, was told that developments in AI were being driven by the private sector, in contrast to previous eras, when the military led the way in cutting edge technology. And this meant that it was more difficult to stop it falling into the wrong hands. Britain's armed forces do not use AI in offensive weapons, the committee was told, and the Ministry of Defence has said it has no intention of developing fully autonomous systems. But critics, such as Prof Sharkey, say the UK needs to spell out its commitment to banning AI weapons in law.

[Here I was thinking that such things are obvious – technology, especially that with military applications, will inevitably fall into the hands of bad guys and those who would do us harm. I mean, it’s not like it’s never happened before. Technology is the great leveller and the even greater enabler. Modern IT technology is even more of both. It is more easily dispersible (imagine for a moment how difficult it is to obtain the materials for a working nuke, now imagine how easy it would be to build your very own killer robot) and more easily usable by the average carrier of an AK-47 (no PhD required). The knowledge is already out there. The technology is already out there, either commercially available or steal-able, and the know-how is available in universities across the world or (naturally) on-line. Theirs is no going back. That Genie is out there and is having far too much fun to go back inside the bottle. A world-wide ban on such weapons would simply not work and is, frankly, already too late. Presently the West and other nation-states have the advantage given to all early adopters. No such advantage lasts forever. In-coming drone strikes and killer robot attacks are in our future. We need to know how to deal with them – Now.] 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

No one's gonna mess with her!
Just Finished Reading: Revolutions – A Very Short Introduction by Jack A Goldstone (FP: 2014)

Of course with my interest in all things revolutionary this was a must read for me. With so much ground to cover I hoped that it could provide me with some much needed perspective. Interestingly, and before moving on to various categories of revolution, once definitions had largely been put to bed the author concentrated on the process of revolution – their causes, their leaders and their outcomes. It became very clear that although the underlying causes of revolution seem, at first sight, to be essentially straight forward the fact that revolutions are rare events – never mind successful revolutions which are even rarer – illustrates the case that it is the complex interactions between these ‘simple’ elements that enable revolutions to periodically disrupt everything they touch.

The historical examples outlined in the book are categorised to illustrate the authors recurring themes: there are the Constitutional Revolutions in America, France, Europe (1830 and 1848) as well as Meiji Japan. There are the ideologically driven Communist Revolutions in Russia, China and Cuba. There are Revolutions dedicated to the overthrow of tyrants and dictators as in Mexico, Nicaragua and Iran (more of which later), the so-called ‘Colour’ Revolutions in the Philippines, Eastern Europe, the USSR and Ukraine and the recent Arab Revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Revolution, as we can see on our television screens, is still very much with us. It is a present phenomenon not an historical phenomena. Revolutions are most certainly not over and we can expect more to erupt in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Where people are oppressed, where economies are failing, where dictators rule, where ideology grows and where foreign interests encourage it the possibility, indeed the likelihood of Revolution – violent or otherwise – exists in its infant form right now. Revolutions come as a surprise, sometimes to the revolutionaries themselves, because no one, either inside or outside the country can see all of its elements in enough detail simultaneously. Only generally in retrospect can we see all of the elements working together to produce the final surprising outcome. That’s one reason why Revolutions are so fascinating.

This was another hit for me from the most impressive VSI Series by Oxford University Press. This is actually the last VSI book I own presently so I’ll be buying more next year. I’ll see if I can push the boat out a bit and challenge myself to explore the waters outside my usual comfort zone. With VSI I doubt if I’ll be disappointed by taking the risk.       

Monday, November 27, 2017

Being a Mailman on the Mars run was never easy.........

Just Finished Reading: The Mighty Hood by Ernle Bradford (FP: 1959)

The sinking of HMS Hood in May 1941 in the Denmark Straight sent shockwaves throughout the Empire and was a huge blow to British morale. The manner of her death shocked the nation that gave her birth even more so. Hit by merely two salvoes from the German pocket battleship Bismarck she exploded with huge loss of life sinking almost immediately.

Laid down in the closing months of WW1 the Hood missing combat in the Great War and spent the 1920’s touring the Empire flying the flag and representing British naval power to ally and enemy alike. The restrictions of the Washington Treaty meant that no larger ship could be built – on the assumption that no major Power conflict would arise in the next 10 years – and she became the pride of the fleet and the pride of Britain. Everyone seemed to know her from stem to stern and could recognise her silhouette from miles away. But as the drums of war began to beat again her age and her design faults began to be noticed and, slowly, addressed. Firstly, in the age of the torpedo and dive bomber her anti-aircraft guns needed upgrading adding extra weight and slowing down her exceptional turn of speed. Next was the lessons finally learnt from the Battle of Jutland where Admiral Beatty famously stated that there was ‘something wrong with our bloody ships today’. That ‘something’ had been inherited by the Hood. At extreme range shells fired by the enemy tended to plunge towards the desk rather than impact on the heavily armoured sides of the opposing battlewagons. But as war became inevitable the Hood needed to be everywhere at once. There was no chance that she could be taken out of service long enough to have a complete refit. That would have to wait until new ships came on-line to take the strain of combat.

After a brief but eventful time in the Mediterranean the Hood returned to her home port of Scapa Flow as part of the North Sea blockading force. The German navy had several highly effective units ready to break out into the Atlantic convoys and cause untold mayhem. Everything possible needed to be arranged to stop this and alarm bells began to ring as the Bismarck and her escort Prinz Eugen left port and headed North. Designated to guard the Denmark Straight the Hood and HMS Prince of Wales met their prey on the cold and dark morning on 24th May. All too briefly the engagement was over with the Hood sunk and Prince of Wales heavily damaged and making smoke to escape a similar fate. It looked as if all of Hitler’s boasting had been correct – that the Bismarck was unsinkable and the most dangerous ship afloat. But the Royal Navy still had options. Calling in ships from all directions, dangerously stripping convoys of their vital protection they hunted the Bismarck with a revengeful intensity. Lost, found, lost and finally found again the pride of the German navy met her fate as she limped into the protective arms of the promised U-boat screen advancing on her position from their new bases on the French coast. Battered to a blazing pulp the Bismarck went to the bottom of the sea with its battle ensigns still flying. The pursuit and destruction of the Bismarck was one of the most dramatic endeavours ever undertaken by the Royal Navy. The loss of the mighty Hood added a dose of tragic poignancy to the affair which, if possible, made the event that much more memorable. The events of those few days have been woven into the mythic history of WW2 and the Hood will long be remembered. 
I actually remember building a model of HMS Hood in my teens and honestly loved that ship. I’m not sure if that was before or after watching the 1960 movie ‘Sink The Bismarck’ which still brings a lump to my throat every time I watch it. Hood was one of a kind and the last of her kind. I learnt a great deal about her history that I was unaware of from this interesting little book and I think I love her all the more because of it. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Royal Navy history. Much more on the battle with the Bismarck and other Royal Navy encounters to come.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Women have 1.9 children on average, a record low

By Katie Silver, Health reporter, BBC News

24 November 2017

Women in England and Wales are having 1.9 children on average, fewer than their mothers who had 2.2 offspring, according to the Office for National Statistics. That's a small decrease but the lowest level on record and continues the downward trend of the past few years. The decline is in part due to a growing number of women not having children, with one-fifth now childless. There has also been a fall in the number of teenage pregnancies. About 6% of women have a baby before their 20th birthday, again continuing a long-term downward trend. But "it's not just childlessness," said Emily Knipe of the Office for National Statistics. More and more women are having fewer babies. The data showed about one in 10 mothers today having four or more children, compared with one in eight of their mothers' generation.

Women are also having babies later. By their 30th birthdays, women today are likely to have had one child. Their mothers were likely to have had 1.8. The ONS suggested this is because more women are going into higher education and are also delaying finding a partner. Ms Knipe said: "It's not just a biological factor of people leaving it too late. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests people are choosing not to have children." The data showed that the number of women having children in their teenage years, after peaking in the mid-20th Century, now matches figures for women born in the 1920s. Imogen Stephens of Marie Stopes UK said it "shows that young people are taking better control of their fertility. It is a big financial commitment to start a family and it is completely understandable that more women are choosing to complete their education, develop their careers and get on the housing ladder before having children. What is vital is that we support women's choices to have children at the age that is right for them."

[My Mum was one of six and I was one of three so, in a nutshell, you can see the trend right there. My sister with six kids kind of blows that trend out of the water but she’s unusual in that respect (and in so many other ways!) that we can’t really draw any conclusions from her. Most of the women I know who have kids only have two. But I know quite a few women who have stuck at one or have even, for a whole host of reasons, chosen to remain childless. With already far too many mouths to feed on this resource strapped planet I certainly applaud the idea of reducing the birth-rate, and it looks like it’s moving in the right direction at least here and, I suspect, all across so-called first world countries. Long may it continue.]

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Cosy..... But how do you get *out* of it!
Just Finished Reading: International Security – A Very Short Introduction by Christopher S Browning (FP: 2013)

With quite a lot of ground to cover (as you might imagine) in 117 pages this was a very short but compact introduction to a complex and important subject. International Security has never been more central to the daily business of so many government across the globe and of never more vital interest to every one of us – to the comparatively trivial aspect of helping determining where we go on holiday to understanding who our allies are, who our enemies are and why we go to war.

Many consider Security to be the primary value in a troubled world. Without an adequate level of security on the world stage other values become much more difficult to obtain or maintain. But what kind of security are we talking about? Traditionalists see it from the point of view of the (Nation) State – seeing things that affect the security of the State and security issues between States. Meanwhile Critical Theorists see security from the point of view of the individual or group where issues of food security, security of life, property and ways of life are important. Inevitably these viewpoints clash where the secure state rests on the insecurities of minorities within its borders, for example. National security also presents a paradoxical dilemma. In order to be secure a State may build up its military resources in order to defend itself against all potential attackers. It may indeed loudly state that it’s growing military might is purely for defensive purposes only. Meanwhile near-by States become more and more concerned about the growing disparities in the military spending and power so increase their defence budgets. Concerned that this might lead to future attacks the growing power increases its military budget still higher. No longer able to compete with the now global military power the smaller States make mutually binding defence pacts in an act of collective self-defence. Seeing this as an unacceptable threat the global superpower attacks the smaller States before they can overwhelm it and start a world war that results in its destruction along with those of its enemies. Increased strength and security lead to disaster and the ultimate insecurity. The question is: How Secure is Secure enough? Does the existence of Nuclear Weapons inevitably lead to more countries acquiring them in a pursuit of a balance of power (or balance of terror). Can any self-respecting country turn its back on nuclear power if their enemies or potential enemies refuse to do so? Are Nuclear States more secure than non-nuclear ones?

In a post-Cold War world can the UN finally begin to operate as it was expected to do so after WW2? Without the Soviets and Americans vetoing each other’s agendas can the UN increase global security? Not having its own military forces (or indeed its own independent budget) this seems unlikely but need this be the case? In a multipolar world what will Security look like? How much of the International Security the world is in need of be provided by Private Contractors who can, and will, tread where the UN or States fear to go? How will Ethnic Conflict continue to destabilise regions especially if Global Warming continues to impact on scarce resources as expected? Will future wars be exclusively resource wars?

Full of interesting insights this is a book that even a casual reader can probably polish off in a weekend or so. Equally divided to security theory and hard examples of both successes and failures this will give any reader much food for thought and a much greater appreciation of the international situation. What is maybe more important, and is to be expected from this series of books, is the decent bibliography in the back. This is, after all, and introduction and such things, especially this well written, need to be followed up. Recommended.