- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
The West's policy and behaviour towards the Middle East appears unfathomly complex, contradictory and driven by individual politicians' need for public approval. Over the last twenty years, and more, we've changed sides, armed the bad guys and stood-by sheepishly while countless atrocities have been inflicted on innocent people. Notice that I said, "appears." For, whilst being far from perfect, our foreign policy in this area is the only practical, just and economic way of dealing with a very volatile and dangerous set of affairs. I shall try to justify that statement: This debate ties in very closely with another Dooyoo Speakers' Corner topic: The Arms Trade. A lot of the arguments raised there are relevant to, and some might say have caused, the situation in Iraq that we face today. Our foreign policy, including arms sales, has one underlying priciple: the balance of power MUST be maintained. History shows that whenever there is a real or perceived vacuum of power; war follows. War brings death, misery and a disruption of trade. In the Middle East, OIL is the main trading commodity and if the supply of oil is threatened this has a very unstabilising effect on the whole world. No one will argue that Saddam Hussein is an evil and oppressive dictator who inflicts untold suffering on his own people and destabilizes the region. His removal IS the goal of our policy. This can only be done in a way that does not threaten the stability of Iraq. Hussein, like most dictators, is supremely paranoid. He has built up a system that will collapse if he is killed. His ruling Baath party caste makes up only about 10% of Iraq's population yet it has all the top jobs. Most of these posts are filled by relatives of Hussein himself. (Tariq Aziz, A Christian, is a notable exception). Saddam's untimely death (i.e. before he has named his successors) would lead to a massacre of the ruling classes and an rudderless Iraq. An Iraq in this condit
ion would be seen as easy prey to Iran, Jordan and Syria who would would all go to war for the remains. Now, I think we can all agree that a successor chosen by Saddam Hussein would be little better than he is; indeed some of his sons have shown more sadistic qualities than even he has. Therefore, the West's job is to foster a resistance movement in Iraq of sufficient stature and maturity to take over the country on their own. Whether this would be achieved by popular uprising or a putsch by a few well placed individuals with Western backing has yet to be seen. The conditions necessary for success do not exist yet. In 1990 Saddam Hussein recognised a weakness in Kuwait and her allies and invaded. It is a characteristic of the man that he seeks to increase his empire constantly. This invasion was clearly an act of war on a soveriegn, oil producing, nation and the United Nations passed a number of resolutions that allowed the Western Allies to forcably eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Why did the West not go further and finish him off? Well, after Kuwait was liberated the Allies had a number of options: 1) Asassinate Hussein. For the reasons I have stated this is not feasable. 2) Leave Hussein in power but destroy his army so that he could not use it against his own people. Iraq without an army is a vacuum of power and a prize too tempting for the other Gulf states not to fight over. 3) Occupy Iraq militarily in order to stop the other gulf states invading and enforce a leader of the West's chosing on the people. This is simmilar to the action taken in Bosnia. It would have required huge numbers of troops over a long time: we would probably still be there. Remember, we were still not too sure about the new Russian Federation and no Western government would commit large numbers of troops and materiel at this time. The financial cost would also have been prohibative. 4) Destroy Iraq's miltary capabi
lity to a point that it was no longer a threat to other states but leave enough to provide a defensive capability. (Remember the TV pictures of the burnt out tanks along the Basra road that suddenly stopped?) Make sure that Saddam stopped producing weapons of mass destruction. (The weapons inspectors) And finally, stop him commiting attrocites on his own people. (The no fly zones over northern and southern Iraq.) Hopefuly, I have explained why option four was the only practical course of action. It is the No-Fly Zones over Iraq that British and US aircraft still patrol and that caused Friday's bombing of Baghdad. These NFZs were introduced to stop Saddam persecuting his people with aerial bombardements. It is in the southern and northern areas of Iraq that his influence is weakest and resistance to his regime has traditionally come. Therefore, it is vital that these areas are protected so that this resistance can be fostered and an internal revolution can take place in Iraq. Saddam Hussein does not like these NFZs and has consistently rattled his sabre by firing surface-to-air missiles at our aircraft. These acts of hostility have been dealt with by air stikes on the SAM batteries. In January 2001 ther were more SAM firings than in the whole of 2000. Hussein has obviously got a new supply from somewhere. It is these supplies that were attacked in the recent bombings. The British and US governments would be criminally negligent if they were to put our pilots in danger by not destroying these SAMs. For this reason I believe the air stikes were justified. It would be naiive to believe that our foriegn policy is not influenced by the oil in the Middle East or even that the timing of some of our actions was not tweaked to make our opinion poll junky leaders appear strong. However, it is guided by sound moral beliefs and I think we should support it. We are in for a long haul in Iraq. There are no quick fix solutions t
hat I can think of: if you have any I will be delighted to read them in the comments section.
It's time to tell you about my christmas pressie! After suffering months of me dropping, less than subtle, hints about how useful altimeters are, my girlfriend gave in and bought me one. Despite all my efforts at nudging her in that direction it came as the most wonderful surprise. The item in question is a Suunto ALTIMAX and basically it has three functions: WATCH: It tells the time- whoopee! It also comes with all manner of alarms, stopwatches, countdown timers etc. BAROMETER: It measures air pressure. This is very useful for weather forecasting. The memory functions will indicate long and short term trends. Why? Well, falling air pressure generally means a worsening of the weather and vice versa. This is a good planning tool if you are seperated from accurate weather forecasts. The device will tell you the pressure at your location or at sea level. Choose units in mbar or mmHg ALTIMETER: The really sexy bit! The electronics inside uses the information from the barometer to give you altitude. If you use it properly it is superbly accurate. Again, a choice of units: feet or metres. The device has a memory that will tell you accumulated ascent/descent and rates. Altimeters are very useful for position finding. If you can't see anything (in cloud, blizzards or the dark) an accurate altitude will tell you where abouts on a ridgeline you are and stop you taking the wrong spur off. Potentially life-saving. The altimeters on GPS units are unreliable (unless it's an aneroid one) and on a knife edge ridge a GPS is not accurate enough. Suunto are a Finnish company with a reputation for producing good kit. As you'd expect, from them, the watch has some good, user-friendly features: The strap is long enough to go over your climbing jacket. The buttons are big enough to be pressed by gloved hands, or teeth! The display has big numbers and a graphical function that
is very easy to read. Waterproof to 30m (although they are quick to point out that this is not a diving device). The battery life is about 1 year, depending on how often you use the backlight and memory functions. Refreshingly it is easily replaced by the user, so you can take a spare on long expeditions. Having said all this, it is fascinating- to me anyway. I've been a bit of a bore since christmas: sitting in the pub pressing buttons or walking up and down stairs grinning like an idiot. Escalators are fun now. Cost wise it compares very well to the cheaper models available. Casio make altimeter watches but they only go up to 4000m- not even as high as Mont Blanc- and they are certainly not as robust. The only drawbacks come when it its is not being used for outdoor use. The watch is very large and its big numbers make it look like a watch for simpletons who have only just learned to tell the time. Also, I find it almost impossible not to look at it when I'm driving up and down hills. I nearly had an embarassing incident at Shap on the M6. You can buy these wonderful machines from bigger outdoor shops such as, Field & Trek and Cotswolds or online at www.back-country-equipment.com If I've whetted your appetite for more info, and pictures too!, look at www.suunto.fi Right, I'm off to walk up and down the stairs a few times.
Everyone must be familiar with the Sharpe series of books by Bernard Cornwell. They follow the exploits of Richard Sharpe on his way through the Peninsular Wars, Indian Campaigns, and Napoleonic Wars. Every book has become a best seller and many have been made into superb television dramas starring Sean Bean. There is more to Sharpe than meets the eye though. Each book is centred on a famous or important battle. Cornwell's love of history is obvious, as is the depth of research that goes into each story. As the series progresses Sharpe gets pushed more and more into the sidelines and the real star of the show is the battle itself. Sharpe is just an excuse for Cornwell to write about the event. Indeed, in the author's note at the end of Sharpe's Trafalgar, Cornwell is apologetic for the unbelievable set of circumstances that led to an army ensign fighting at Trafalgar and even taking breakfast with Nelson on the morning of the battle. The format works well though. It is not a new concept. George MacDonald Fraser's superb Flashman series of stories uses the same idea. Flashman is a hilarious, cowardly figure who always seems to come out on top despite his efforts to flee from danger. Flashman, like Sharpe, is present at many important historical events but does not confine himself solely to battles. MacDonald Fraser gets his historical points across by using footnotes. As the series went on the footnotes got longer and more involved, with the result that they spoiled the flow of the story. Cornwell has a much better solution. He leaves any clarification of artistic license to the author's note at the end of the book. The genius of his writing is the empathy the reader gets with the characters. One can truly imagine the squalor that soldiers lived in. The fear and tension of battle is put across in a way that no purely non-fiction history book could hope to. Sharpe's character is cleverly placed too. As an off
icer commissioned from the ranks, he is in the unfortunate position of not fitting fully in with either the officers and their wives or his men. This is to our benefit though as the barriers to social climbing in that era are clearly laid out for us to see. Sharpe is invariably taken under the wing of the senior officer present at the battle. The commander treats Sharpe as a willing and able pupil, so the tactics and reasoning behind every decision is explained for him, and us, to understand. Sharpe is promoted between every battle so we get to live the lifestyle of just about every rank in the British Army at this time. Bernard Cornwell is a superb thriller writer. His stories stand on their own merits without the historical aspect. There are enough twists in the fast paced tales to keep you gripped, even if napoleonic warfare is not your thing. If you have never read a Sharpe novel then I strongly recommend that you try one. If you have, then go back and re-read them as historical accounts of some vital turning points in our history. Sharpe truly is a man of many talents.
Those of you who have read my ramblings in the Speakers Corner section of Dooyoo probably have a good idea of my politics. Conservative with a smallish C, traditionalist, patriotic (not nationalistic), Daily Telegraph reading and pro-hunting. So, you would expect me to tug my forelock and mumble, "God Save The Queen" whenever this argument is raised. And you would be correct. However, this reaction is not simply an unthinking product of my background. I am fiercely proud that the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. This pride is based on a good understanding of the role of the Royal family and their historical and contemporary impact on our lives. As a constitutional monarchy, the UK is in the enviable position of being able to have our cake and eat it: and very tasty it is too. You see, the Queen has practically no executive power. We elect our politicians, let them get on with running the country and if they make a hash of it we can swap them for a new set in a few years time. The problem with this, especially nowadays, is that politicians tend to be self serving, image mad, and relatively short on experience. British politicians have a huge advantage over their foreign colleagues and that comes in the form of Her Majesty. As Queen, she has no opportunity to be anything else; this removes any shred of ambition or greed and means she is very neutral. She has been on the world stage all her life and been exposed to the country's affairs almost for as long as she has been able to read. She is privy to all government information and is the most well travelled statesman in the world. Having lived through just about any political and diplomatic situation imaginable she has been a fantastic source of advice to every Prime Minister who has been wise enough to seek it. The Royal Family's sense of public duty is beyond criticism. They are incredibly hard working in a huge range of organisations. Their patronage provides
continuity, credibility and aid to any charity fortunate enough to bear it. We under-estimate the role of ceremony at our peril. To some, the goings-on at the State Opening of Parliament, for example, are farcical. In fact, they are vital: the ceremonies re-inforce the importance of the ROLES carried out by politicians and that it is not the personalities themselves who are important. The ceremonies carried out in many areas of public life are no less vital. The Police, Fire Brigade, Armed Forces, Scouts, Girls' Brigade, many professional societies etc all have ceremonies involving the Queen. To some of these organisations, the ceremonies just provide a focus for others they are the foundation upon which discipline is built. Imagine if we had an elected personality as our figurehead in these ceremonies. Who would it be? A Spice Girl? A footballer? Or a politician who has prostituted himself before us for votes all his life? No thank you! Economically the Royal Family is no burden to us. The Royal estates are self-sufficient now, they pay tax, and the civil list has been drastically reduced. Public money is spent largely on the infrastructure that allows the Royally to carry out their duties such as, transport and security. The revenue created by them as tourist attractions far exceeds that spent on the civil list anyway. The Queen gives us a prominent link with our history. British history is, largely, a story of increasing prosperity, freedom and justice; monarchs have overseen this process and evolved with it. The road has been a bumpy one. A few monarchs lost their heads along the way and we were a republic briefly but the result is a workable one that benefits us all. Yes, I am a monarchist. Yes, I am proud to sing God Save the Queen when appropriate. Those who mock such actions as outdated forelock tugging are welcome to. I am secure in the knowledge that our constitutional monarchy is the very thing th
at protects all our rights to hold differing views. There have always been republicans and there always will be. I just hope that sense prevails and that we keep our Royal Family. God Save the Queen.
For this remedy you will need: 1 pair of stout boots 1 good sized mountain (3000' is best but a smaller one will suffice) 1 packed lunch (left over turkey is fine) At least 1 friend equipped with an equally horredous hangover. Plenty of tea and water. A good helping of British weather. Scottish snow is best but Welsh wind or English rain will do. 1 cosy, country pub with an open fire. METHOD Upon rising ignore your initial desire to stay in bed groaning. Put boots on ASAP, this reduces the likelyhood of you returning to bed: girlfriends hate you wearing boots in bed. Kick your fellow sufferers out of their pits. Be firm, use all means necessary, ear pulling and water pistols are effective. Cram as many bacon sandwiches and tea down your necks as possible whilst simultaneously assembling the parafanalia of the mountaineer. Upon arrival at the mountain, fight apathy and get out of the warm car. Assemble your party and plod up the mountain. Indulge yourselves with profuse swearing. Here are some useful phrases: "Whose bloody idea was this?" "We must be mad" "Ooh mah head is sore" "My mouth tastes like a mujahadeen's armpit." On no account utter a phrase such as, "Sod this for a game of soldiers!" As you are all thinking it and it only takes one person to say it for the day to be abandonded. Whinge about every subject imaginable; from the weather to the body odour of the chap ahead of you. After 25 minutes your head will stop throbbing and the alcohol in your breath will reduce to a level that it no longer thaws the snow on the track ahead. Chat will turn to the events of the previous evening and less will be said about imminent head explosions. Attain the summit and pose for smug photos. Think of lesser people still rotting in their pit
s and feel superior. At best speed, make for the country pub. Fight for who will drive home, then begin working earnestly on tomorrow's hangover. Repeat as often as holidays and/or girlfriend allows. Enjoy!
There are so many pretend sports shops around now. You know the sort of place? They aren't really sports shops at all. They sell fashion and the occasional football. They are staffed by spotty teenagers who look at you as if you were from Mars when asked for anything other than a replica football shirt. God forbid that anyone is interested in any other sport. In a city such as Glasgow, where football is a religion and teenagers are incorrectly dressed if they aren't wearing £100 trainers and tracksuit bottoms, finding a real sports shop is difficult. I have managed it though. Greaves Sports have two branches: Gordon Street and Sauchiehall Street. Their shops are a breath of fresh air. On entering you are greeted not by pumping dance music and the smell of grubby youths but by well dressed and identifyable assistants. The store is well laid out and caters for such minority sports as rugby, hockey, running and the rest. Football is represented, but not to the exclusion of other sports. If they don't have an item they will order it and phone you when it has arrived. Their biggest asset is the attitude of their staff. They are very knowledgeable and active sportsmen and women. Greaves appear to recruit from a variety of sports so their will usually be someone who plays your sport and can offer advice based on experience. They are efficient without being pushy. The clientele look as though they participate in sport, rather than just mindlessly follow a team because their mates do. Everyone is very polite and communication is carried out in sentences, not grunts. Price wise, Greaves are not the cheapest. However, you are unlikely to find most of their stock elsewhere and their returns policy is reassuring. Rebel against the aseptic corporate giants. Give independant, local shops a go.
It's that time of the year again. The ITV weather forecast is preceded by a fluffy, shivering girl, christmas is on everyones' mind and snow has started to fall. Snow means avalanches and, contrary to many peoples' understanding, Scotland is affected by them. The very changeable nature of Scottish weather, with frequent freeze/thaw cycles, actually makes Scottish mountains more prone to avalanche than many alpine ones. Snow acts as a powerful lure to mountaineers. Many very competent summer hillwalkers can quickly become out of their depth (pardon the pun) when faced with winter conditions. A basic course in winter skills should be a pre-requisite to any winter venture, or else make sure you are accompanied by someone skilled in the use of ice-axes and crampons. Avalanche prediction is a black art. It requires time and effort to get a good idea if a slope is safe or not. Time is very short when there are only eight hours of daylight and many people do not bother to make an assesment of the danger until it is too late. Help is at hand though. As a planning tool The Scottish Avalanche Information Service is invaluable. Sponsored by Nevisport (a superb chain of shops) and Sport Scotland, it gives a general overview of the weather conditions and then a detailed avalanche forecast for the five main climbing areas in Scotland. Detailed forecasts do not begin until December 20th but a skeleton service is available until then. Forecasts continue until the snowpack has stabilised or melted, generally towards the end of April. SAIS gives you two options for getting the information: 1) Telephone: 0870 606 6179 for a recorded message. 2) website: www.sais.gov.uk The website is hosted by Glasgow University and has good links to other useful weather sites as well as detailed avalanche information and statistics. Information from the service is also posted on notice boards and sports
shops throughout Scotland. If you are planning to go hillwalking or mountaineering this winter SAIS should be high on your list of things to check; together with the serviceability of your boots, crampons, ice-axes and skills. I don't wish to preach but a bit of common sense, planning and knowledge saves lives on the mountains- especially in the winter. Enjoy the snow, and let's hope for a long winter of crisp, stable snowpack.
If you have half a day to kill in Kathmandu you must take this trip! Buddah Air are a domestic Nepali airline operating from Kathmandu airport. Their bread and butter work is the shuttle between Kathmandu and Lukla. In addition to this they operate the best sight-seeing flight in the world. For about $150 you get a guaranteed window seat for the flight around Mount Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori and Ama Dablam (the mountain in my profile picture.) The aircraft are well maintained Dorniers and are flown by very skilled pilots. If you have experienced the landing on the airstrip at Lukla, you would trust these guys with anything. Weather conditions govern the quality of the flight. The pilots will try to get as close to the mountains as possible for the conditions. Inevitably there will be days when cloud obscures the best views and if this happens on your flight there are no refunds but the pilot will try to find a mountain that is clear; this could be Makalu to the West or Cho Oyu to the East. Steel yourself for an early morning flight as haze ruins the clarity of the mountains by about 11am. The closer to the monsoons, May and November, you are the less clear the skies are with dust being blown up from India. Kathmandu has thousands of travel agents that will book a flight for you and take you through the bureaucracy of the airport. Remember that if you book you must fly on that day regardless of the weather conditions. It is possible to pay for your ticket on the morning of the flight if there is a vacancy. This allows you to chose your weather and avoids the agent's fees but you will have to cope with Nepali officialdom. If the thought of walking for two weeks to catch a glimpse of Everest fills you with dread then Buddah Air's flight is a superb alternative. Equally, if you have returned from a trek or climb, the flight is a great way to round off your experience.
My mother has been an insulin-dependent diabetic since she was seventeen. So, if I didn't support vivisection I'd be being pretty hypocritical. However, there are many practices carried out under the name vivisection which make me uneasy. If the only way for medical science to progress is by testing new drugs on animals, then that is what must happen. With advances in technology and research techniques the need for this unpleasant testing should reduce. I firmly believe that scientists should have to justify each set of experiments before being allowed to proceed. There is a cost and a time implication to this. i.e. research budgets and timescales are finite and if animal testing is the quickest and cheapest way to proceed then this should be taken into account. As far as the testing of cosmetics go I really do not approve of the use of animals. However, many of those who complain about vivisection in the make-up industry would be the first to sue a cosmetic firm if their animal-testing-free mascara blistered their skin. In today's "no win- no fee, sue everyone" society I can see why cosmetic companies want to test every new product as much as possible. The consumer is king and it is the consumer who must accept a little more responsibility for the actions of global companies that are only reacting to our whims. The power of consumer spending is far more effective than the grubby, unshaven and uncouth groups of anti-vivisectionists that gather outside laboratories. The actions of some of these groups are far worse than those of the scientists they seek to stop. They are terrorists. The full power of the law must be brought down on people who practise such methods. Vivisection has produced many advances and miracles (me, for instance) but the need for it will reduce and the world will be a better place for this reduction.
Go to any popular mountain nowadays and you will see a peculiar sight. Walkers, climbers, hikers, ramblers; call them what you want but they all seem to click their way along paths with expensive looking sticks flailing in all directions. This is the age of the trekking pole. The latest must have gizmo will cost you around £60 for a decent pair with suspension and shock absorbers. The science behind them is impressive, if you believe the manufacturers claims. By bringing your arms into use you reduce muscle fatigue on the way up and, more importantly, reduce knee damage on the way down. They take quite a bit of getting used to, but when you do they certainly help. On more difficult terrain and certain types of snow slope they are a useful saftey aid, but no substitute for an ice axe, crampons and the knowledge of how to use them. The poles are telescopic, enabling them to be adjusted to your height and stowed easily in your pack when you need hands. Make them longer when going downhill and shorten for uphill sections. The telescopic nature means that you can fashion an improvised traction splint to treat a broken femur- hopefully something you won't have to do too often. Sounds great, but they do have their drawbacks. Their tips produce compacted, round holes in exposed earth, e.g. on footpaths. These holes create whirlpools when rainwater flows over them and this greatly increases footpath erosion. So, if you do decdide to use poles, consider the terrain you are on; rocky and level paths are OK as is open grassland and heath but try to avoid areas where water flows down an earth path. Learn when to put them away. Many people have injured themselves whilst trying to cope with poles on terrain unsuitable for them, for example boulder fields. Lekki are the original makers but there are many different manufacturers now. If you keep an eye on the equipment pages of the outdoor press you will be able to p
ick up a second-hand pair quite reasonably. Happy Trekking!
Pete Goss is becoming a household name. The media seem to delight in prophesising the failure of his latest project, Team Phillips. The sight of the revolutionary, blue catamaran limping back to Totnes is common on the evening news. Despite these setbacks, after reading Close To The Wind, I have no doubt that Team Phillips will succeed. The sub-title of Close To The Wind should read, "A Study Of Determination." Close To The Wind is the autobiography of a remarkable sailor. Pete Goss has consistently shunned a normal life in order to pursue his passion for round the world yacht racing. His relentless pursuit of sponsorship to make his projects happen are both a tutorial and an inspiration for anyone involved in similar ventures. Even if you do not intend to race single-handed around the world or climb Everest, this story has a lot to teach you. A single-minded dedication to one aim can accomplish the most remarkable results. Away from the trials of getting a yacht on the water, the story of the actual sailing is grippingly told in a down to earth and fast paced fashion. From surgery performed on himself, without anaesthetic, in heaving seas to his rescue of a fellow competitor at the expense of a good place in the Vendee Globe (the world's most challenging race) this book never stops surprising and thrilling its reader. Goss's bravery for the rescue was recognised with an MBE and France's Legion d'Honneur but it is his humility and sense of humour that shines through the book. The book moves easily from subject to subject, encompassing personal hardship, business, leadership, team building, sailing, yacht design, finance, history, weather, and relationships. Proceeds from its sale will go towards Pete Goss's latest project; an entry in The Race- a round the world yacht race with no rules except for the route. You can follow the progress of Team Phillips at www.petegoss.com Close To The Wind, P
ete Goss. Published by Headline ISBN 0-7472-5938-0 The book was a bestseller but you will be able to find it in the bargain books type of shop- seek and yee shall find!
The arms trade is an integral part of our foriegn policy and strategic defence. If we stopped selling arms to other countries, a huge part of out influence on the world would be lost. As Britain is a stabilizing force the world would become a much nastier place. History, both ancient and modern, teaches us that nature abhorrs a vacuum of power. Peace depends on the deterrent of well trained and equipped armies in all countries. As soon as any country feels it can get away with an invasion, and the economic and political advantages that go with it, that is what happens and very quickly. Take, for example, the Falklands. Argentina invaded because they were certain that Britain had neither the capability or resolve to stop them- a perceived vacuum of power led to war. Peace reigns in the Falklands today only because of a strong British military presence. The reason that Saddam Hussein is still in power in Iraq is that his fall would lead to a total collapse of Iraq's infrastucture and a vacuum of power. The other gulf states would immediately fight for Iraq and her oil. Saddam was left with the military means to defend his country and in doing so he stabilizes the middle east. The UN presence makes sure that he can do no more than defend his country. Not an ideal solution but a businesslike and practical one. Hitler did not invade the UK as we posed too great a military challenge. We declared war on him to redress the balance of power in Europe. I describe these examples to show that it is vital for all the world's countries to be armed to a sufficient level for self defence. The UK is in a fortunate position in that our Armed Forces are very well respected and experienced, and by association so is their equipment and the equipment that Britain manufactures. Foreign armies want to buy our equipment, and be trained by our troops. The Foreign Office can decide which regimes to sell to, in li
ne with current foreign policy. This has several benefits to our country: 1) Economics. This is well known and there is no doubt that if the arms trade stopped we would suffer greatly. I do not beleieve this is a sufficient reason on its own though. 2) Influence. By arming and training those regimes that are the most likely to bring stability and trade links to a region we promote peace. If the regime does not turn out to be as benevolent as we had hoped we can withdraw that support, but be in the position of knowing the capabilities of the regime. 3) Intelligence. It is very handy to know what other countries have in their arsenals, and the capabilities of these weapons. By far the best way of knowing this is to manufacture and sell the weapons in those arsenals. The British training teams that go with arms deals promote British ideals and procedures in the conduct of warfare so reducing war crimes. Greater professionalism of foreign armies increases their deterrent value. 4) Dispersion of Arms Factories. A vital strategic principle is not to put all your eggs in one basket. Alliances between arms producing nations (e.g. Eurofighter, Apache, Future Large Aircraft etc.) mean that more than one country is capable of producing the equipment used by other countries' forces. This leads to closer co-operation, less suspicion (always a good thing in world politics) and greater production capacity if it ever came to the big war. 5) Standardisation. If you sell a country your arms and then have to fight them there are good advantages that arise from having armed them. Your forces know the capabilities of their weapon systems and can use captured materiel to ease your inevitable logistical problems. The Falklands War may have had a very different outcome if the Argentinians hadn't used the same ammunition as us. There are more reasons to back our arms trade to do with technological and medical advances however the
se are beyond the scope of a DOOYOO article and I have waffled enough. Selling arms is a complicated and ethically questionable procedure. In an ideal world it would not go on. It is comparable to the drugs trade or even prostitution in that if we didn't do it somone else would. In todays world the UK performs a great service by selling arms in a sensible and ethical fashion. Wether the current government is following such a policy is questionable and I shall let somone else debate that. If you have got this far, thanks and I admire your persistence. I hope this has broadened some minds.
Train crashes have always been an emotive subject. When we get on public transport of any kind we relinquish all control over the saftey of our fragile bodies. We must trust the organisations responsible for the vehicles we are travelling in. When something goes wrong blame can rarely be assigned to individuals and almost never to passengers. Car crashes are different. Blame can usually be placed squarely and quickly on the shoulders of the driver; he was drunk, speeding, asleep etc. In the case of train crashes the lack of a scapegoat, combined with natural reactions to the scenes of carnage and weeping relatives, leads to kneejerk public outbursts against the rail authorities. The authorities predictably shrug their shoulders and say increased saftey will cost more money and we don't have enough. The government, keen to be seen to be acting positively, pledges more of our hard earned tax. Unfortunately this cash will have little effect. You see, the graph relating cash spent to improvements in saftey is not a straight line. It starts off very steeply- small amounts of money have huge effects on saftey. But the line flattens out and is almost horizontal at the stage we are at. Our railways are very safe, relatively speaking. Further spending will not greatly increase the safety record. Of course money still needs to be spent on the upkeep of everything relating to saftey, it is money beyond this figure that concerns me. Our rail network is so huge that accidents will always happen, it is a sad fact of life. The one refreshing incident to come out of the Hatfield crash was the action of the Railtrack chairman. His resignation offer was a lesson to our politicians who if they were in his shoes would have ducked and weaved and tried to pass the buck. I am glad that his offer was refused and reassured by having a man of his calibre in charge at Railtrack. Lessons can be learned from every mis
take and incindent. However, throwing money at a problem is not always the answer.
I spend a lot of my working life on the hills and mountains of Britain. Mobile phones have become a very useful safety item. However, Vodafone is the only network that consistently offers coverage in our wild places. This is especially true in the West Coast of Scotland. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, Vodafone use GSM. The GSM frequencies propagate themselves over long distances and rolling countryside better than the PCN ones of Orange and One-2One. PCN is good for cities and built up areas, but not for outdoors. Now, I hear you muttering that BT-Cellnet is GSM too. True, that brings me to the second reason. Vodafone have a history of investing in antennas in remote places. They have a somewhat cavalier attitude to placing them in our countryside. The result is they have far more than BT-Cellnet, simple arithmetic means that Vodafone is the winner. This approach is becoming a double-edged sword though. No planning permission, in Scotland, is required to erect a mast less than 15 feet tall. An operator must simply inform the local authority of their intention and have the landowner's permission. The latter is easily obtained by the offer of large amounts of cash. Antennas are being erected everywhere and they are becoming an eyesore. The antennas themselves aren't too bad. After all nowhere in this country is truly wild, our countryside is a product of man's farming methods and industry. The problem is with the associated buildings and gravel roads that are ploughed across fields and hillsides. I am sure that with a little thought these antennas could be serviced in a more environmentally friendly way: quad bikes, helicopters, on foot, or remoting the buildings next to existing farm buildings and using longer wires. These antennas will quickly become redundant as satellite technology becomes the norm. It is also a debatable point as to whether mobile phones should be used
in outdoor recreation at all. The number of unnecessary mountain rescue call outs has increased dramatically. There are instances of people calling them out because they are tired and faking injuries. However, that is another argument and beyond the scope of this review. Conclusion: Vodafone is the network to use if you want your phone to work in remote locations. However, use it responsibly and be aware of how your use is affecting the countryside.
The account of the first conquest of an 8,000m mountain. Annapurna- Maurice Herzog ISBN 0-7126-7393-8 There have been few occasions in my life when I have honestly said, "I wish I could read French like a native." My headmaster instilled a healthy dose of francophobia which has left me with an ingrained suspicion of all things Gaul- just look at what they are doing at the moment. However, Herzog was French and he wrote his account in French- dashed inconvenient of him, what? There is only one disadvantage to this book and that is that the translation is slightly clumsy in places. DO NOT let this put you off! In a nutshell, the book follows the story of the first ascent of an 8,000m mountain. This was the days when finding the mountain was as uncertain as actually climbing it. No-one had ventured into "the death zone" above 8,000m before, so the very debilitating effects of this altitude were unknown. Techniques and equipment were primative and it was the calibre of the men involved that determined success or failure- both often resulting in death or horrible injury. Herzog dictated this from his hospital bed in Paris. He suffered terrible frostbite and fractures and the extraction march, which involved weeks of being carried on a stretcher across very rough terrain, was punctuated by several makeshift amputations and bouts of fever. Depending on the edition you read, for it has been reprinted many times, the introduction will be by any one of a myriad of famous climbers. All of whom put his achievement into context with their own, more famous, exploits. All agree that his was a far greater achievement. This then, is more an account of human determination, bravery, heroism and leadership than a simple mountaineering tale. When writing this review I found it difficult to place it in an approriate category. Annapurna is simultaneously History, Biography, Travel, Sports and many others. I put
it in Sports as this is where you will find the book in shops but it does not deserve to be nestled alongside the accounts of shallow, money grabbing footballers. I urge you to read this book. I guarantee you will feel humbled after you finish. This Frenchman has a lot to teach us all. That is praise indeed coming from me.