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Here we go again

Rory Stewart: The Libyan Intervention, 31 March 2011

... Until yesterday, I thought we were at the end of the age of intervention. The complacency that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union had been shattered by the Balkan wars; despair was followed by the successful interventions in Bosnia and then Kosovo; then triumphal pride led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan. Midway through the period, in 2000, it seemed we could intervene anywhere ...

Degrees of Not Knowing

Rory Stewart: Does anyone know how to govern Iraq?, 31 March 2005

What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building 
by Noah Feldman.
Princeton, 154 pp., £12.95, November 2004, 0 691 12179 6
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Blinded by the Sunlight: Surviving Abu Ghraib and Saddam’s Iraq 
by Matthew McAllester.
Harper Perennial, 304 pp., $13.95, February 2005, 0 06 058820 9
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The Fall of Baghdad 
by Jon Lee Anderson.
Little, Brown, 389 pp., £20, February 2005, 0 316 72990 6
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The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq 
by Christian Parenti.
New Press, 211 pp., £12.99, December 2004, 1 56584 948 5
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... hamdullilah’ (‘God be praised’). ‘Ahlan wa sahlan’ (‘Welcome’). ‘And I you, Mr Rory,’ he says, in a rare phrase of English, and giggles. His English is probably good but he prefers to use interpreters. ‘I am so sorry to hear about your accident.’ ‘Shukran’ (‘Thank you’). ‘Are you feeling recovered?’ ‘Al ...

How to Serve Coffee

Rory Stewart: Aleppan Manners, 16 February 2017

Aleppo Observed: Ottoman Syria through the Eyes of Two Scottish Doctors, Alexander and Patrick Russell 
by Maurits H. van den Boogert.
Arcadian Library, 254 pp., £120, September 2015, 978 0 19 958856 5
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... The fighting​ that began in Aleppo on 19 July 2012 lasted four years, five months and three days, killing more than thirty thousand people – almost three times the number killed in the siege of Sarajevo twenty years earlier. Most of the tens of thousands of buildings and apartments which were destroyed lay in the modern residential areas in the east of the city, but fighting in the winter of 2012-13 and a bomb in 2014 destroyed almost every shop in the historic souk, damaged the ancient citadel, eviscerated the city’s largest ‘khan’ or trading courtyard, blew up two medieval seminaries, and brought down the 11th-century minaret of the great mosque ...

Because we weren’t there?

Rory Stewart: In Tripoli, 22 September 2011

... Entering Libya four days after the fall of Tripoli did not seem, at first, very different from trips I had made to Kosovo, Baghdad and Kabul shortly after those interventions. There were as yet no formalities, still less visas, at the Libyan border. The dusty office chairs at the checkpoints in the Nafusa hills, crookedly propped on their remaining castors, were those favoured by militias in Afghanistan ...


Rory Stewart: In Afghanistan, 11 July 2002

... When Ali brought out his Koran I thought of Tony Blair. It was February 2002. The Taliban had retreated, having burned Ali’s village to the ground. Four feet of snow had closed the passes into Bamiyan and all the roads were laid with anti-vehicle mines. Ali opened the carved wooden box, kissed the bundle, unwrapped it carefully, said a prayer and opened the book ...


Rory Stewart: In Papua, 20 July 2000

... Caleb held a bundle of arrows in his left hand and a bow and single arrow in his right. His mother was holding her torn ears between her thumbs and forefingers. Her chin was on her bare chest. Her legs were coated with grey mud. She was shivering as she watched me and behind her the smoke, seeping out of the hut walls, mingled with the fog and cold rain ...


Rory Stewart: Walking across Iran, 6 September 2001

... All afternoon I watched three shadows moving beneath us. Mine in front, Akbar’s at the rear and between us the mule’s: its shadow legs, twenty feet long, jerking like a spider’s over the glowing thorn scrub. I felt happiest in the afternoons. The flat glare of noon had gone but the day was not yet over. Staring at that shadow image of our motion and our isolation on the 7000-foot ridgeline, I said: ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ ‘Not for me ...

The Irresistible Illusion

Rory Stewart: Why Are We in Afghanistan?, 9 July 2009

... We are accustomed to seeing Afghans through bars, or smeared windows, or the sight of a rifle: turbaned men carrying rockets, praying in unison, or lying in pools of blood; boys squabbling in an empty swimming-pool; women in burn wards, or begging in burqas. Kabul is a South Asian city of millions. Bollywood music blares out in its crowded spice markets and flower gardens, but it seems that images conveying colour and humour are reserved for Rajasthan ...

Not Very Permeable

Colin Kidd: Rory Stewart’s Borderlands, 19 January 2017

The Marches: Border Walks with My Father 
by Rory Stewart.
Cape, 351 pp., £18.99, October 2016, 978 0 224 09768 0
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... EU, running from the Solway to the Tweed, the western part of which would abut the constituency of Rory Stewart, the Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border. Born in Hong Kong the son of a post-imperial Scottish troubleshooter, Stewart, who is still only in his early forties, has had a vivid and varied career, as a ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The Confidence Trick, 4 July 2019

... wasn’t a smart move.’ No shit, Sherlock. In the BBC television debate of 18 June, Rory Stewart was the only candidate not to promise a round of new tax cuts. Why? Because ‘we need to invest in our public services.’ It’s not just those at the top of the party who’ve gone off piste. Recently I’ve been dipping into Britain beyond ...

Consider the Hedgehog

Katherine Rundell, 24 October 2019

... clad in their felt bonnets, did not look as though they found the situation ideal. In 2015 the MP Rory Stewart gave an impassioned 13-minute speech about hedgehogs to a largely empty House of Commons. It was the first time hedgehogs had been discussed by Parliament, he said, since 1566. (In fact, Stewart wasn’t quite ...

One Enduring Trace of Our Presence

Maya Jasanoff: Governing Iraq, 5 April 2007

Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq 
by Rory Stewart.
Picador, 422 pp., £17.99, June 2006, 0 330 44049 7
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... A basic classroom lesson of history is that things look different depending on where you stand. Rory Stewart’s Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq explores the history in progress of the Iraqi occupation from an unusual and illuminating vantage point. The book describes nine months Stewart spent in ...


Chris Mullin, 19 March 2020

... to international development has been, to say the least, suspect. Of the most recent only Rory Stewart (2016-18) had any serious track record of interest in ‘Abroad’ and he is no longer a member of the Tory Party, having been expelled in the purge of Brexit dissidents. What to do about overseas aid has long been a problem for the ...

Grumpy in October

Jonathan Parry: The Anglo-French Project, 21 April 2022

Entente Imperial: British and French Power in the Age of Empire 
by Edward J. Gillin.
Amberley, 288 pp., £20, February, 978 1 3981 0289 7
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... Party’s foreign policy experts: Ken Clarke, David Gauke, Oliver Letwin, David Lidington and Rory Stewart. With them went the liberal Tory realist tradition of foreign policy which had been a constant of British statecraft since it became a world power. Instead we are in the hands of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities, who told ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... our own time, Patrick Leigh Fermor walked from the Hook of Holland to the Balkans in the 1930s and Rory Stewart (and dog) walked through Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Macfarlane is a member of this group of walkers, with the extra strand that he knows he is going to write about his journeys. It’s at this point that a precarious balance ...

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