The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people."

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

"Keep Calm and Carry On"

Nigel Inkster, the former deputy director of MI6, issued some pointed criticism today of what he sees as the United States' continued overreaction to terrorism. Although Inkster's argument is not a new one, his previous position at MI6 makes his opinion both intriguing and significant.

Before taking up his current post at IISS, Inkster was being groomed by Sir Richard Dearlove (the former head of MI6) as his potential successor. In the end, Inkster was passed over by Tony Blair's appointment of John Scarlett, the former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Although Scarlett had previously been an MI6 officer, and Moscow station chief, his selection as head of the service was seen as a reward for providing political cover to Tony Blair's decision to join the Iraq invasion.

Some may claim this episode has left Inkster a wounded animal, but there is no evidence to support this assertion. Instead, his critique of U.S. policy should be seen as a sensible assessment from a man that previously served on the front line in the fight against terrorism.

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