Letter: Assessing the risks of war

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Sir: Peter Hennessy ("The Secret Service, Open to Question", 15 October) is curiously old-fashioned in his approach to intelligence.

The most serious threats faced by this country and our allies over the next decades will almost certainly be the consequence of conflict due to rising ethnic and religious tensions and - as spelt out in your special supplement on the same day - overpopulation, poverty and breakdown of essential ecological support systems.

These are almost completely ignored as "too difficult" by the Whitehall intelligence machinery. Hence the proposal which a number of us have been making for the creation of a non-military global risk assessment unit in the Cabinet Office.

This would focus broader-based international threat assessment within government, while also publishing regular reports to inform public opinion. The cost would be very small, about pounds 1m to pounds 2m a year.

Peter Hennessy may also like to ponder Fukuyama's argument in The End of History that the best deterrent to wars in the post-Cold War world is the promotion of democracy worldwide, not better spying.

JOHN GORDON

London N6

The writer is a former member of the diplomatic service

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