Simon Leitch

Dr Simon Leitch is a former university lecturer. His PhD focused on Chinese foreign policy. His current interests are authoritarianism, free speech and Asia-Pacific politics.

Do Elites Learn?  The Evidence is Worrying

“They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing!” was Talleyrand’s alleged description of French elites as they returned home in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the Revolution. Unable to conceive that their own actions might have cast France into chaos, these elites oscillated between pretending the Revolution never happened and taking revenge on participants. …

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Pegasus Spyware and the Globalisation of the Security State

In July 2021, in what is likely to be the spy scandal of the year, Amnesty International released a list of 50,000 phone numbers they claimed had been hacked by an advanced spyware program known as “Pegasus.”  Many of the numbers belonged to journalists, activists, government officials, and even heads of state. Independent verification of …

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A Monument to Terrorism —The Irish “Sea Border”

When is the use of violence legitimate, and how much violence can be used?  Unless you’re an absolutist pacifist, it is likely that you believe violence can be legitimate. For instance, in cases of self-defence, criminal arrests or the protection of loved ones, you might think a measure of physical force is acceptable, even necessary. …

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Cuba in Focus

On July 12, 2021, international media began to report on the protests breaking out in Cuba.  The cause, it seemed, was the long-term failure of the Cuban economy, import shortages triggered by COVID-19, and the extra pressures of the Trump-era sanctions targeting both the tourist industry and foreign remittances to Cuba, among other things. Although …

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The USA Departs but the War Continues

At long last, Bagram Airfield lies abandoned, but the war in Afghanistan isn’t over.  Rather, it is entering a new phase.  From now on, forces loyal to the central government will battle the Taliban without large numbers of foreign fighters armed with NATO’s best weapons.  Having failed to defeat the Taliban with thousands of foreign …

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Euphemisms, deception, and East Asian Security

In general, to be a master politician is to be a master of the euphemism, of roundabout speech, of deception and spin.  Speech is designed to conceal thought, at least according to Talleyrand’s dictum, and the successful politician’s intentions are generally hidden behind veils of wordy explanations, jargon, and truths told with bad intent.  Hence, …

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Genocide – The Ultimate “Whataboutism”

Observing the use of “whataboutism” has become of a speciality of mine, given it is so common in diplomacy and in general argument on university campuses.  Whataboutism refers to the practice of responding to an accusation by making a counter-accusation.  It amounts to charging someone with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their allegation or …

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Farce Amid Bloodshed — Myanmar and the International Response

Throughout February and March of 2021, a running battle was being fought on the streets of Yangon between Myanmar’s new military government and its opponents. The coup of February 1 was proving to be a less than peaceful power transition, and hundreds were killed in clashes in which police or the army used live ammunition. …

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After Taiwan

What comes after a change in international order?  How can we even conceptualise this question?  Rather than debate the language and meaning like a post-modernist, it is better to use recent anecdotes like a historian.  To begin to answer the question, to hone our thinking, to establish something about the range of possibilities, I like …

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The Xinjiang Distraction, Genocide, and the Low Tide of Human Solidarity

Is genocide taking place in Xinjiang?  Are there really concentration camps, re-education centres, torture chambers and forced sterilisation?  Or can we take the Chinese government at its word and accept that China has done nothing but take the necessary security measures to combat terrorism? On the surface, the opening question appears to hold great moral …

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Freedom of Speech – The Case for Pessimism

Freedom of Speech – The Case for Pessimism

Today, freedom of speech is under threat. In truth, the freedom to express one’s views has never been either absolute or uncontested. Laws against insulting religion have been weaponised against free-thinkers since ancient times. Libel suits constantly pit activists and journalists against corporations, governments and their armies of lawyers throughout the liberal-democratic world. Terrorist campaigns, …

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