For once, it came to London on time. The parks and gardens are in glorious blossom. In Austria, on the other hand, it snowed over the weekend. And in the skies over Libya, UN Security Council resolution No. 1973 (2011) is in force.
A lot of diplomats in Brussels, Washington, and other capitals will miss the blossoming, working into the night to hammer out the details of the international operation mandated by the resolution. The air is so fragrant, and the language so vague. Is a “no-fly zone” primarily a mandate for the use of force, as seems to be the case here, or primarily a mandate for the threat of using force, as was the case for long periods of time in former Yugoslavia and in Iraq after the Gulf War? Obviously much depends on how the other party behaves. Does “protection of civilians” entail simply a no-fly zone or does it also imply going after Colonel Qaddafi? Assassinations and forced regime changes from the outside are prohibited by the international law, the non-interventionists warn. On the other hand, it seems to be primarily Colonel Qaddafi that the civilians need to be protected against.
We have all been horrified and moved by the pictures from Japan. In some countries, especially those where it snowed over the weekend, the coverage focused almost entirely on the Fukushima nuclear plant and the impending nuclear catastrophe, which luckily failed to materialize so far. In fact, some people would argue that given the 9.0 score on the Richter scale and the tsunami that followed, the plant has acquitted itself rather well. On the other hand, no one would deny that it was an uncomfortably close call. No doubt it will lead to a heated discussion about nuclear energy. The two likely outcomes of the debate, one positive and one negative, are that future nuclear power stations will be considerably safer and much more expensive. The unlikely outcome is that they will cease being built. The environmentalists will find themselves in a particularly tough spot. On the one hand, most of them hate nuclear power and would be happy to see it off. On the other hand, nuclear, which unlike coal, oil, and gas does not significantly contribute to CO2 emissions, which unlike solar and wind does produce considerable amounts of energy at a reasonable price, and which unlike biomass does not drive the prices of food up, may be the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels.
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced his first budget to the House of Parliament. The good news is that the fuel tax is not going to go up by 4p a liter as expected. The bad news is that the price of beer will go up by 4p a pint.
Vaclav Havel’s movie Leaving has opened in Prague to a standing ovation and mixed reviews. Some critics praised the director for staying faithful to his theater play of the same name. Others criticized him for staying too faithful to the play. Some accused him of a highbrow intellectual disdain for the audience. Others deplored his stooping to the lowbrow taste of the audience. Havel declared he was not overly troubled by the reviews. He was trying to focus on his next play, which he says will be called The Nursing Home, although he has no idea what it will be about. [Read the author's recent journal article about Leaving.]
Tough choices abound. What should Kate Middleton wear for the royal wedding on April 29th? You can go to a website and vote there for your favorite design. Whether the bride will heed the vox populi is another question. After all, which bride would? You would think that happily, there are moments when men are spared such difficult choices, and you would be wrong. Prince William will wear a military uniform, but since at different times he served in the Army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force, he faces a choice which will inevitably please a few and disappoint many. Spring is here.