Optimism has made wars likelier and bloodier

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The Future of War: A History. By Lawrence Freedman. PublicAffairs; 400 pages; $30. Allen Lane; £25.

THIS is not really a book about the future of warfare, with all that might imply in terms of exotic technologies that will transform not only the character of war, but, some believe, even its very nature. Lawrence Freedman does indeed discuss the impact of cyber-attacks, artificial intelligence and machine learning on the conflicts of the future. But that is not his main purpose. The clue is in the title. The author, arguably Britain’s leading academic strategist, examines how ideas about how future wars could be fought have shaped the reality, with usually baleful results.

In the middle of the 19th century, a generation after Waterloo, the classical ideal of warfare, seemingly epitomised by Napoleon but derived from the ancient Greeks and the Romans, still held sway. Wars would be short and victors would achieve their (usually) limited political…Continue reading

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Visualising the careers of musicians-turned-actors

THE news of Harry Styles’s casting in “Dunkirk” (2017) was met with bemusement. It was hard to imagine the boyband heartthrob, with his Mick Jagger-esque locks and floral suits, under siege on the beaches of northern France (rather than under siege from hordes of teenage girls). Did a short comic …

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Britain could become basketball’s latest global outpost

FOR ONE night a year the O2 Arena, London’s biggest indoor stadium, belongs to basketball. On January 11th the 20,000-seat venue hosted its eighth regular-season fixture since 2011, between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, the former of whom are genuine championship contenders this season in the National Basketball …

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Is art-connoisseur yet another job threatened by technology?

THE patient is carefully positioned on a pristine rectangular table. A signal is given, and from behind a glass wall, a technician directs an X-ray machine overhead. Zapping begins. This is not a hospital. It is the conservation laboratory of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Visits here were part of the …