The Machiavelli of Maryland

Edward Luttwak; drawing by David Levine

“People contact Edward Luttwak with unusual requests. The prime minister of Kazakhstan wants to find a way to remove ethnic Russians from a city on his northern border; a major Asian government wants a plan to train its new intelligence services; an Italian chemical company wants help settling an asbestos lawsuit with a local commune; a citizens’ group in Tonga wants to scare away Japanese dolphin poachers from its shores; the London Review of Books wants a piece on the Armenian genocide; a woman is having a custody battle over her children in Washington DC – can Luttwak “reason” with her husband? And that is just in the last 12 months.”

Military strategist, classical scholar, cattle rancher – and an adviser to presidents, prime ministers, and the Dalai Lama. Just who is Edward Luttwak? And why do very powerful people pay vast sums for his advice?

How Many Murders Can a Police Informer Get Away With?

Last year Northern Irish paramilitary Gary Haggarty pleaded guilty to hundreds of violent crimes, including five murders; five attempted murders; one count of aiding and abetting murder; 23 conspiracies to murder; four kidnappings; six charges of false imprisonment; a handful of arson attacks, including burning down a pub; five hijackings; 66 offences of possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life (the weapons included two Sten submachine guns, an Uzi, 12 Taurus pistols and two AK47s); 10 counts of possession of explosives; 18 of wounding with intent and two charges of aggravated burglary. Haggarty was a serial killer, sadist, kidnapper, drug dealer, racketeer: a one-man crime tsunami. He was also a member of a Protestant militia, the Ulster Volunteer Force, fighting against the IRA and other Irish republican forces to keep Northern Ireland under British rule.

He got away with his crimes for so long because he was, in addition to these things, a servant of the British state. He was a police informer.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Channel Island of Jersey

The Fall of Jersey: How a Tax Haven Goes Bust

Jersey bet its future on finance but since 2007 it has fallen on hard times and is heading for bankruptcy. The government is left with a “black hole” in the annual budget. “Filling it will take the equivalent of shutting down every school in the island, laying off every teacher, letting the parks turn into overgrown jungles and having our roads literally fall apart.” Who are the winners?

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

1000 Francs COMOROS

The Bizarre Scheme to Transform a Remote Island into the New Dubai

How Comoros attempted and failed to develop the market for passports and citizenship. “It was a sign of the times – before the collapse of the global financial system, or the Arab revolutions – that it did not seem entirely unlikely that a well-connected global citizen could transform a destitute archipelago into a Hawaii for Arabs.”

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Al-Shabab, which is allied to Al-Qaeda Al-Shabab which is allied to Al-Qaeda

How Isis Crippled Al-Qaida

After 9/11, al-Qaida attracted money, initiates and prestige like no other jihadi group in history. Bin Laden achieved this feat by remaining ideologically flexible. He refused to be proscriptive on small matters of faith, avoiding the kind of disputes that had ripped apart other jihadi coalitions in the past. As it stands now, Isis has not simply eclipsed al-Qaida on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, and in the competition for funding and new recruits. Isis has successfully launched “a coup” against al-Qaida to destroy it from within. Authors trace fragile alliances and betrayed loyalties within jihadi movement. Illuminating and detail-dense.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

A man-made island in South China Sea about 1,000 miles off the Chinese mainland built atop coral reefs to support airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, and other infrastructure A man-made island in South China Sea about 1,000 miles off the Chinese mainland

What’s behind Beijing’s Drive to Control the South China Sea?

Podcast on China’s idea of its rightful place in the world – which, most Chinese would say, they were robbed of first by European and then by an American imperialism. “In 10 years, our GDP will be bigger than the US, in 20 years our military spending will be equal to the US,” claims Shen Dingli, one of China’s most prominent international relations scholars, “Thirty to 40 years from now, our armed forces will be better than the US. Why would the US defend those rocks? When you have power, the world has to accept. The US is a superpower today, and it can do whatever it wants. When China is a superpower, the world will also have to accept.” The rest follows from this. As it happens, the perceived future determines the lived present. Supposedly simple logic wrapped in a carefully crafted story.
Written by Howard W French, Read by Andrew McGregor and Produced by Stuart Silver

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Annihilation of Raktabija by Goddess Durga and Kali Annihilation of demon Raktabija by Goddess Durga and Kali

The East India Company: the Original Corporate Raiders

How East India Company headquartered in one small office, in London, subjugaed and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. In many ways the EIC was a model of corporate efficiency: 100 years into its history, it had only 35 permanent employees in its head office. Nevertheless, that skeleton staff executed a corporate coup unparalleled in history.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Offshore in Central London: the Curious Case of 29 Harley Street

The house No 29 on Harley Street is currently home to 2,159 companies, for which it operates as a large, ornate and prestigiously located postbox and answerphone. A company named Formations House, which, since it was founded in 2001, has made a business out of conjuring corporate vehicles from the West End air. Why has this prestigious address been used so many times as a centre for elaborate international fraud?
Written and read by Oliver Bullough, produced by Simon Barnard.
Illustration by Michael Kirkham.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 6th May 2016

How the Nation of Luxembourg Is Racing to Privatise Space

Arkyd 6 spacecraft
Arkyd 6 spacecraft

Mining asteroids is the new old game, though no longer science fiction. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg – which has all the square footage of an asteroid and, with a population up to slightly over half a million – has earmarked €200m to fund NewSpace companies that join its new space sector. In July, the parliament passed its law – the first of its kind in Europe, and the most far-reaching in the world – asserting that if a Luxembourgish company launches a spacecraft that obtains water, silver, gold or any other valuable substance on a celestial body, the extracted materials will be considered the company’s legitimate private property by a legitimate sovereign nation.

Should space benefit “all of humankind”, as the international treaties signed in the 60s intended, or is that idealism outdated? How do you measure those benefits, anyway? Does trickle-down theory apply in zero-gravity conditions?

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

The British Hacker’s Fight for His Life

Lauri Love is charged with masterminding a 2013 attack by Anonymous on US government websites. He has not protested his innocence – he only points out that, without seeing the evidence, which the US Department of Justice refuses to reveal until he is on US soil, he cannot say one way or the other. But he had the means, motive and opportunity to carry out the crimes of which he stands accused. Even if Love is guilty, however, there are important legal and moral questions about whether he should be extradited to the US – a nation that has prosecuted hackers with unrivalled severity, and one where Love could be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. Had Love been allowed to stand trial in the UK following his initial arrest, and had he pled guilty to every charge, he would have spent a maximum of 18 months in prison. Four years after his initial arrest, Love has nearly exhausted his legal options. His extradition to the US is now perilously close. In September 2016, a district judge refused to block Love’s deportation.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads