Home > Commentary > Do as the Romans did

Do as the Romans did

Sherard Cowper-Coles, former British Ambassador to Afghanistan, has an interesting plan to achieve longlasting stability in that country.

Image of Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s In Defence of Bureaucracy, introduced by Gus O’Donnell, he declared that the real problem in Afghanistan is one of politics and civil administration. ‘It’s not a military problem, it’s not even fundamentally a security problem.’ Rather, ‘It’s a problem of a new political settlement underpinned by decent civil administration.’

Cowper-Coles recommends we emulate the Roman Empire in the way that the Romans dealt with much of Western Europe and the Middle East, leaving behind them on their withdrawal a decent infrastructure of public administration. ‘Bureaucracy at its best is a public good of immense value to any society, however sophisticated or unsophisticated [that society might be].’

I think he has a point.

  1. March 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    It certainly makes sense to me, although, at times, I think I’d prefer a good fight rather than the continual battle that I have with French bureaucracy:)

    • March 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      Well, I know what you mean about French bureaucracy, having been on the wrong side of it too.

      This might have seemed rather an odd post, being as it is out of my usual zone of comment. But I had read a piece by Cowper-Coles in a newspaper a couple of years ago. It impressed me at the time, and I decided to keep it for a blog topic, but then lost sight of it. I’m going to post it now, unedited. (It has been scanned with OCR software, so it might not be a hundred per cent accurate, for which you’ll have to forgive me.)

  1. March 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm

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