31 October 2006

The End of NATO?

John Manley ruminates in today's Post that the NATO mission in Afghanistan may spell the end of the Atlantic Alliance as an effective international organization if the Europeans don't get their act together (Poland notwithstanding, as it's the only European NATO member to front a significant contingency--1000 troops--without any conditions).

I'll post a snippet from my M.A. thesis* to represent my thoughts:

Sadly, the Atlantic Alliance’s utility (or lack thereof) was made painfully obvious during the Balkans crises, where “the absence of an abiding Western interest in the future of Kosovo was reflected in the qualified nature of NATO’s action at every level, from diplomacy to its restricted bombing.”[1] Europe’s inability to police the Old Continent and stop even a third-rate dictator like Slobodan Milosevic made plain that American engagement there was no less required than it was when the Iron Curtain existed. Simply put, Europe lacks its former √©lan to assume even regional, much less global, leadership; France’s desire to “interpose” the Western European Union—the EU’s little-used and largely-irrelevant military arm—into Bosnia to demonstrate Europe’s ability to clean up its own backyard failed, compelling a reluctant America to intervene half-heartedly under the NATO banner.[2] The United States thus could not in good conscience delegate military responsibilities to its traditional European allies even before 9/11; it surely will not do so now.
The post-9/11 security milieu had an even greater impact on NATO’s relevance. Though NATO had invoked Article V—the collective security clause—for the first time in its history, requiring all of its members to rally to America’s defence, it was nevertheless the United States that established early on that it would do the heavy lifting in Afghanistan and set the mission’s objectives. Like the Korean War half a century earlier, the Bush Administration demanded of its allies autonomy in establishing goals and parameters for the initial front of the War on Terror. So successful and stunning was Operation Enduring Freedom that it caused many to re-think their appraisal of the global order. Paul Kennedy, who had long predicted America’s “inevitable” decline in his 1989 work The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, changed his tune after being left in awe of American might, writing, “Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power, nothing…No other nation comes close.”[3] Given the debates raging within NATO member countries whether to continue their efforts at reconstruction and democratization in Afghanistan, it is apparent that their commitment is waning, and this is a development that highlights NATO’s unreliability to policymakers in the United States. The continued reliance on this Cold War relic is an affront to, and a lack of recognition of, the other ninety or so democracies of the world that wish to contribute to the improvement of the global condition. That Bush has sought to keep NATO relevant is admirable. But his will to do so is not matched by his European allies, who are as ambivalent today regarding “out of area” operations as they were during the Cold War. Europe is no longer the centerpiece of the American interest, and thus it is time to expand the sphere of democracy-exclusive participation in formal multilateralism.

[1] Carl Cavanagh Hodge, “Woodrow Wilson in Our Time: NATO’s Goals in Kosovo,” Parameters 31.1 (2001), 129. To be fair to the Europeans, Bill Clinton’s own actions were distinctly non-Wilsonian in almost every way and his foreign policy commitment was often lacking.
[2] Joshua Muravchik, The Imperative of American Leadership: A Challenge to Neo-Isolationism, (Washington: AEI Press, 1996), 62, 120.
[3] Charles Krauthammer, Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World, Address to the AEI Annual Dinner. Washington, DC, 10 Feb. 2004. , 1-2.

*More likely than not unnecessary fine print stuff: this excerpt from my Master's thesis is not to be reprinted, distributed, or utilized without my express permission. It's got a copyright on it, y'know.
Because 70 cents on the dollar is NOT equality

Good. Do it. Maybe they read the SWC's latest report and didn't like this either:

Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s
Full-year full-time workers -- 1999: 69.9%*

It may be odd that a Government which opposes Big Government is contemplating adding a new layer of regulation, but sometimes it's a Very Good Thing to have a few extra folks (and to really drive the point home, make sure that a great majority of the "enforcers" are women) around to make sure that employers aren't treating female employees like they merit 70% of what a man makes. Heaven knows I've seen a lot of guys do a fraction of the work that women do but still get paid more. I won't name names, but Anna Lou may have an idea of some examples.

Here's to hoping that they can resolve whatever internal disputes they're having and make this happen. It's long overdue.

*Yes I realize that's a figure almost 7 years old. It's the most recent available information I could find from an official source. If you've got something more current, share it. Oh yeah, check p.52 (Appendix I) of Assessing Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006. There is almost no limit to the utility of this document. Why do the Tories want to cut their ability to deliver such fantastic work?

30 October 2006

Sick and Tired of This

Why is that whenever someone denigrates Canada, it always has the adjective "second-rate"? We're content to be a "second-rate socialist country," according to a past incarnation of Stephen Harper. When Margaret Atwood attended Harvard, she was shocked to discover that Canadian literature was "second-rate and not worth studying," according to their standards (I'm sure someone's resourceful enough to come up with an Ignatieff joke here). The Canadian Football League is regularly perceived as second-rate compared to the much-glitzier and more polished NFL. The NY Times once said that Canadian music is second-rate, and that for every Sarah McLachlan and Celine Dion (why the hell didn't they say Bryan Adams?) we put out 10 Rita McNeils or Roch Voisines (why the hell didn't they say the Barenaked Ladies?). The list goes on and on...

And now the story going around al Qaeda watercoolers is that we're "second-rate Crusaders."

Well that's just going too far.

Granted, we're not actually on a crusade. Unless you count promoting universal values such as human rights, the rule of law, women's equality, liberal democracy, and freedom of religion/conscience/expression as a crusade. Which I don't. I just consider it to be fulfilling our Responsibility to Protect. This idea that Canadians are "obsessed" with Christianity is also malarkey, but I'm sure that if I were to be sent packing to live in a cave for five years while the entire justice-seeking world was hunting for me, I'd probably say some pretty dumb things too.

So with that in mind, I call on the Canadian Government to prove Ayman al-Zawahiri wrong. Show to him, his jerk of a best friend, and all the others out there that Canada isn't second-rate. Prove to us, and to them, that we're first-rate when it comes to fulfilling our pledges and honouring our commitments. Explain why this mission in Afghanistan is so important to establishing a viable paradigm for the 21st century, one that says that Canada and its friends will not stand idly by while populations are enslaved by armed or foreign insurgencies that seek to deny populations of their rights.

29 October 2006

Same Old Story, Same Old Song & Dance

Accusations by the opposition parties of a do-nothing Government. The Government claiming that the opposition parties are obstructing their agenda and thus the democratically-expressed will of the people. Ruminations of a spring-time election. Doesn't it sound a lot like October 2005?

I haven't commented a whole lot on the proceedings of the fall parliamentary session because, frankly, there hasn't been much worthy of discussion. Plus with me working now, I don't get to see QP, the funnest part of the day. Of course I'm still keeping up with the news and I know what's going on, but I just haven't felt compelled to discuss much of what's happening. There have been, however, a couple things of note in the past week or so that I would like to mention.

The Senate's running wild. The Tories are accusing the Liberal-dominated Senate of gutting the Federal Accountability Act and removing some of its most forceful provisions. I can't recall something similar happening in history without there being major repercussions to go along with it. This is the type of thing that gets Senate-haters and Tory supporters in a real fury, because you've got an unelected body significantly altering the legislation passed by the elected House of Commons, and that unelected body happens to be packed with Liberals. Obviously the FAA was one of the cornerstone pieces of the Conservatives' election strategy and was hoped to be held up as a significant achievement heading into the next election campaign. That's in jeopardy, and a neutered version of the Act will not make the Government or many Canadians all too happy. It's the type of thing that Harper, should he get himself a good communications team (I readily agree with Jason Bo Green that he hasn't done a spectacular job of getting the message across), can exploit and suggest that this is why he needs a majority from Canadians.

The Liberals are seeking to undo one of Jean Chretien's finest achievements. On his way out, Chretien passed legislation limiting individual campaign donations to $5400 per year. In the wake of Adscam, the Conservatives are hoping to limit that even further, to $1000 per year. But the Liberal-dominated Senate wants to double that, up to $2000 annually. Chretien's original idea was a great concept, seeking to limit the extent to which large corporations and wealthy individuals could gain influence in Ottawa. It was seen as a peculiar move by many, given the Liberals' predilection for getting large amounts of money from a few wealthy donors, but also one of principle and an attempt to force all parties to be more active in seeking grassroots support from regular Joe and Jane Canadian. The Conservatives have done a fantastic job working within this new framework, building up a very large war chest relying on small donations from a large number of people. The Liberals have struggled, however, and their war chest--once a feared and vaunted element in their election campaign strategy--is much smaller and still relies on a small number of people making the maximum donation (not necessarily living people or adults, mind you). The motive behind raising the maximum contribution runs counter to the spirit of Chretien's policy, and highlights the lack of ingenuity by the party mandarins to get themselves back on track and adapt to new frameworks. If they do force the issue, it will give Harper further ammunition in an election campaign.

27 October 2006

Common Sense Advice

From Angry for a Reason. She said if I agree with it, post it at my blog. If you agree, re-post it at yours. Men, this is something we can stop.

A lot has been said about how to prevent rape. Women should learn self-defense. Women should lock themselves in their houses after dark. Women shouldn't have long hair and women shouldn't wear short skirts. Women shouldn't leave drinks unattended. Hell, they shouldn't dare to get drunk at all. Instead of that bullshit, how about:
If a woman is drunk, don't rape her.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don't rape her.
If a woman is drugged and unconscious, don't rape her.
If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don't rape her.If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don't rape her.
If a woman looks like your ex-girlfriend you're still hung up on, don't rape her.
If a woman is asleep in her bed, don't rape her.
If a woman is asleep in your bed, don't rape her.
If a woman is doing her laundry, don't rape her.
If a woman is in a coma, don't rape her.
If a woman changes her mind in the middle of or about a particular activity, don't rape her.
If a woman has repeatedly refused a certain activity, don't rape her.
If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don't rape her.
If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don't rape her.
If your step-daughter is watching TV, don't rape her.
If you break into a house and find a woman there, don't rape her.
If your friend thinks it's okay to rape someone, tell him it's not, and that he's not your friend.
If your "friend" tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there's an unconscious woman upstairs and it's your turn, don't rape her, call the police and tell the guy he's a rapist.
Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it's not okay to rape someone.
Don't tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.
Don't imply that she could have avoided it if she'd only done/not done x.
Don't imply that it's in any way her fault.
Don't let silence imply agreement when someone tells you he "got some" with the drunk girl.
Don't perpetuate a culture that tells you that you have no control over or responsibility for your actions. You can, too, help yourself.

If you agree, re-post it. It's that important.

-Author unknown.

24 October 2006

Where RGM talks about the vision thing, part two

Yesterday I focused on Canada's role and capacity to do good in the world abroad, today I would like to focus on issues closer to home. Picking up on the "imagine" theme, try and imagine a world in which feminism has achieved but one or two of its larger objectives. I'll save the concept of a pornography-free world for another time, perhaps later in the week, and instead discuss a more modest, but no less important, goal: a world in which women and men are treated, and treat each other, as equals. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Sounds easy, may be easy to say that such a set of circumstances already exists, but the basic reality is far from that. In the past three months alone, there have been more tabloid-level stories of Belinda Stronach's life than we ever got to see from, say, Jean Chretien. Women in the political realm are treated differently from their male counterparts. A saying I often hear/read is that they have to work twice as hard to earn the same measure of respect. People are quick to write off a Belinda Stronach as "daddy's little rich girl" or a "blond bimbo," often completely ignoring their political acumen and/or notable achievements, which in Ms. Stronach's case are not insubstantial: #2 in Fortune's rankings of the most powerful women in business, leading the campaign within the Liberal Party to make the transition to a "one member, one vote" system of electing leaders, and working hard to promote female involvement in political life in Canada. All very laudable goals, and virtually all are forced to take a back seat to issues in her personal life.

The treatment Belinda receives is similar, if a little more harsh, to that of several of her female colleagues in Parliament. Rona Ambrose, Ruby Dhalla, and other female MPs receive more comments on their appearance than their political acumen, and are "rated" on that basis rather than their speeches or policy ideas, and subject to sexist remarks by the likes of Denis Coderre. Women in Parliament who don't fit a certain body image are treated derisively, such as the time Deborah Grey was referred to as "more than a slab of bacon" by a male MP.

The notion that politics is a "man's business" is far outdated, and indeed has been since long before Nellie McClung sparked a revolution in Canadian political thought. Hearing the elected leaders of our country behaving so inappropriately and negatively towards women does have a negative effect on women's involvement in politics. Further, it enhances many negative perceptions that both men and women have about politics, the "old boys club" that acts as a glass ceiling for young aspirants of both genders. This latest row in Parliament involving Stronach and Peter MacKay is contemptible, distracting from real debate and real issues in this country. It is to the benefit of nobody, especially not the vaunted national interest that both major parties seek to lay claim to upholding.

If women at the very peak of Canadian political life face problems, it is far worse for the average woman just trying to live her life. Subjected to ogling and other uninvited sexual advances, unequal pay, sexist jokes and comments, and a plethora of other things and pressures that men don't even have to consider in their daily lives, the ideal of gender equality is far from actual realization. Just consider: if a woman raises her voice, she's a nagging bitch; the perception that if a woman is raped or beaten, it's their fault or they provoked it or they shouldn't have dressed that way or they're making it up; if a woman doesn't shave her legs, she's "unfeminine;" that, despite 87% of reported* domestic abuse is husbands abusing their wives, people will rush to claim that men can be victims too; prostituted women in Canada are forty times more likely to be murdered than the average woman and 92% of prostituted women state that they want to get out, yet people claim that they willingly "choose" prostitution and readily claim that men can be prostitutes too; and, women earn only 70 cents on the dollar of what a man earns for similar work.

Much like yesterday's discussion, a world where none of these things exists is not pie-in-the-sky, wishful-it'll-never-happen thinking. But it won't change until there's a major attitude adjustment, by men who largely propagate these problems, and women who currently accept them as a "just the way it always has been" thing. It's harmful behaviour when a show like This Hour Has 22 Minutes insinuates that Lisa LaFlame maintains her position at CTV because she's sleeping with Lloyd Robinson.** Nobody would ever suggest that Kevin Newman is the #1 anchor at Global because he was in bed with the company boss, or said boss's wife. It's that type of sexism that is a barrier for all professional women to have to fight and work extra hard to overcome, and that is not even an issue for men in similar situations. I'm not asking for much here, and neither are the millions of women who consider themselves to be feminists (and even those who don't): just treat everybody equally, and accord the same measure of respect and dignity to people, regardless of gender (and race and sexual orientation and religion and any other method of "othering" that people undertake). It's amazing how easy it is to do, and how much better things can be run when that formula is applied.

* Recall also that only 10% of abused women actually report the crimes committed against them. Deterrents include a sense of shame, fear of recrimination, and of further violence.
** Yes I realize that This Hour is meant to be a satirical comedy show. So is Family Guy, which features this type of blatant misogyny that has caused a loss of many viewers, including myself. I don't need to "lighten up," as I'm sure some are thinking; rather, outright sexism and misogyny simply isn't funny.

23 October 2006

Where RGM talks about "the vision thing," part one

One of my favourite sayings is "something can only be a disappointment if it offers great hope." Life is full of disappointments for people who have high hopes for the world, their lives, and the lives of the people they know and care about. On a wide range of issues, I feel disappointment, largely because I have a conception of what a better world can and might one day look like. When I compare that with the reality around me, a letdown is inevitable.

The best example of this sense of disappointment is that I occasionally dream of a world in which every single adult--women and men over the age of 18 or whatever an individual country decides upon--has the right to choose their political leadership. Not "one person, one vote, one time," but regular exercises in democracy that occasionally result in turning over power with less outrage than an American Democrat still expresses over the 2000 presidential election (and tried to manufacture again in 2004). It's been 15 years since the Soviet Union disappeared, and the much-vaunted "end of history" has failed to materialize, as dictators still hold sway over large segments of the world. Their ideologies may be discredited and easily seen as thoroughly inferior to liberal democracy, yet they still maintain an iron grip on power throughout large segments of the world, including the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Perhaps it is inevitable that the rottenness of such regimes will be exposed, that these tyrants are living on borrowed time, and that they will ultimately rot and decay, paving the way for true democratic revolutions.
Yet we must also bear in mind the warning that backsliding is just as likely an occurrence as democratization. For young democracies still experimenting with the great project, there is still a danger: until a country has had at least three major votes and at least one major transfer of power, its institutions are not secure and are succeptible to the temptation of a popular figure--the elected leader for life. I believe that, as promoting democracy is a major pillar of Canada's foreign policy, we can, should, and must lend our support and expertise to these fledgling democracies. We should make a bigger deal out of the assistance we lent to places such as Ukraine during their Orange Revolution, sending hundreds of our people abroad to monitor and oversee the electoral process. We should trumpet our belief in democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and make such contributions on a consistent and profound basis. Jean Chretien once said that "the world needs more Canada," and this is certainly one area where we can come in particularly useful.
The disappointment that registers in my head and on my face when I see Canadians demanding that we withdraw our Canadian Forces from Afghanistan is palpable. This is because the people making those demands fail to understand the importance of our contribution to a global effort, the absolute necessity that we get Afghanistan right and build its democratic and political institutions, to say nothing of the need to develop civil society there. They are saying that the lives of Afghan women and children, of the current and future generations, are not worth the sacrifice. That so many of these protestors are, themselves, young women is a cause for concern; women here have so much opportunity for excellence, and are the key to a successful society, why would they seek to deprive women in far-away lands of such opportunity and thus consign Afghanistan to further failure?
Without our support and a global effort, we know what the future holds for Afghan women. We know because we know (a "known known," to use Rumsfeldian parlance) the recent past of Afghanistan, where women were denied access to education, denied the right to vote and run for political office, and could be murdered in public executions by stoning for violations of religious law. With half the population effectively shut out of political life and forced to remain at home, Afghanistan under the Taliban was a miserable failure of a state. All that creative energy, intelligence, and perspective was forcibly and systemically suppressed, leaving that country mired in failure, poverty, illiteracy, and stagnancy.
Imagine a world where one day a female President of Afghanistan comes to Canada to thank us for our sacrifices, for building institutions where children are taught to read and write and think critically about the world around them, for giving them security for the first time in centuries, and the people are creative and innovative and hope for a better future. This is not some utopian vision that can never happen, this is absolutely within the realm of the possible. But it will not happen if we, as Canadians, and others in the so-called international community turn our backs on Afghanistan. What a disappointment that would be if we were to take away the hope that we inspire.

20 October 2006

Quick One

Blogger is acting up, I've got family visiting, and this is going to be a busy weekend, so I will make this fairly quick.
  • Having company is awesome; we need to do this more often, especially with family members.
  • New links up on the sidebar: LaRoche's, which is long overdue to go up, as he's got me linked, and has some great insights on the North Korean situation; and A Speakout on Sexual Violence, which tracks incidents (and there are many of them) of men committing violence against women.
  • Habs game on Wednesday was the polar opposite of the game on Tuesday, which was fast-paced, exciting, and a pleasure to watch. I don't know if it's the bad mic'ing or the atmosphere in Chicago, but that wasn't three hours of well-spent TV time. Looking forward to Theo's return tomorrow.
  • Mike Tyson's latest appearance in the news is both disturbing and unsurprising. There truly is no limit to the depths this man will sink.
  • Harper's speech to the B'Nai Brith on Wednesday was one of his finest ventures into foreign policy matters. Further, this hub-bub some are creating over his remarks regarding Taiwan is based on ignorance of long-standing Canadian commitment to the "One China" policy, and only makes me shake my head.
  • Congratulations to all my Dalhousie colleagues who are celebrating their convocation this Saturday. Looking forward to seeing some of you, and best wishes to all on future endeavours.

17 October 2006

Ugh

This sums up how I feel about this idea of a Lunenburg misogynist posing as a businessman, as I posted on the G&M website:

Aren't there already enough shrines to woman-hating and objectification? With all the outrage that took place over the misogyny club in Dartmouth, why go through with yet another place to treat women as nothing more than sexual objects? This is a disturbing development that benefits nobody other than those men who hate women and feel as though they are entitled to naked women on command. It is both sad and pathetic that this venture is being contemplated, and I hope that the people of Lunenburg oppose it with considerable fury and passion. Women deserve better!

---------

Predictably, my post attracted responses from those charging me with hating sex and implying that I should just lighten up, ignore it, and forget that real women's lives are being put in jeopardy when they are forced into the prostitution business. Because, hey, putting my head in the sand and pretending something doesn't exist has always worked well before! Sadly, that's not true. I also had someone tell me that I didn't have the right to push my morality on people, which is funny because I never said anything about morality, and last I read the Charter of Rights, I do have the right to express an opinion. Oh yeah, and there was the guy who said that if had a better body he would totally choose to become a male stripper. Oy. Sometimes it's almost not worth trying to get through to the ignorant. Anyways, this is what I said in my response to the responses (still awaiting to be posted on the site by the G&M's folks):

[Responding first to a fellow who said I must have aced Feminism 101. I've taken many university courses, but sadly] I've never taken a feminism class in my life. I've read a lot of literature on the subject, though, and I find women's efforts to be treated as equal human beings deserving of our unmitigated support, not snide, glib comments from those who don't understand what feminism is really all about.
Also, Mr. Jones, notice that at no time in my post did I mention the word "morals." That's something you chose to do all on your own in a typical attempt to shout down someone who disagrees with your perspective. However, since you brought it up, your relativist position of "dont go to, work at, or support them in any way. and thats all you have a right to do" not only puts women's lives in danger by not taking a stand against their exploitation by pimps and others who would harm them, but it's also blatantly false. I have a right to express my opinion, particularly on a subject that involves the basic human security rights of "life, liberty, and security of the person" for a segment of our society that men prey upon, use, abuse, manipulate, and ultimately destroy. This isn't like a video game or a terrible television show, these are actual living, breathing human lives being jeopardized, and you want to sit here and proselytize to me about what my rights are in a discussion forum? Talk about having your priorities out of order!
Moreover, your idealized concept of having a choice as to whether or not to degrade yourself is far divorced from the reality for far too women who are forced into prostitution. Since strippers and their prostituted colleagues don't walk around with stamps on their heads saying whether or not they chose their profession, it is overwhelmingly likely that they did not choose that life with legitimate alternatives. For many, it is either strip or die. That is not a choice. The great majority of strippers would enjoy the luxury you have expressed here, because I can assure that [presented with true options] most women who strip would choose otherwise.

-----

Then I ran out of space for my comment. It's distressing for me, the blithe ignorance that I always encounter when I venture a feminist opinion in a public forum. It's to be expected that there will always be men who seek to preserve their precious pornstitution institutions, either through relativist acquiescence or outright defense of the indefensible. I think that may well be what I find most distressing: that I expect men to take a position that doesn't embrace women as equals and flippantly dismisses anyone who says that they should be equals. I don't expect everybody to agree with everything I say (that is a bridge far, far too far), but the vociferous opposition to something that, to me, seems like common sense and decency is stunning. And sad.

I hope that the folks in Lunenberg stand against this concept and stand hard against it. Not the phony, NIMBY-based, pseudo-argument used by some when Sensations opened up in Dartmouth, but a real opposition that says, "Not in my backyard, not in my town, you will not use our daughters." Get to it, Lunenbergians (Lunenbergites?)!!!

14 October 2006

Woodward's State of Denial

On Thursday I finished reading Bob Woodward's third book in his Bush at War series, State of Denial. It is much less generous towards the Bush Administration than the previous two books, and takes considerable aim at Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the Pentagon during the run-up to the Iraq War and during and after the invasion itself. Along the 500-page journey that begins in 1997 and ends in July 2006, we encounter a series of "moments" and missed opportunities to get Iraq right. Troop levels, what to do with the Iraqi military and police forces after Saddam, countering the insurgency, and many other key discussions take place in this sweeping narrative, often leaving this Bush supporter frustrated and shaking his head.

One discussion that I found particularly insightful was the debate over what to do with the muscle of the former Ba'athist regime. It was proposed that with $200 million, the US could have retained most of the Iraqi forces, from the colonel level down to get rid of the Ba'athists with the most blood on their hands, and thus maintained law and order in the country after Saddam's regime collapsed. Rumsfeld balked at the idea, and instead a couple hundred thousand men were left without a job or a purpose, or money. A lot of them thus turned to the insurgency.

That was a clear moment to put an Iraqi face on the dawn of Iraq's reconstruction, leaving Iraqis in charge of keeping civil society intact in Iraq. But the Pentagon didn't want to do it, and because the Pentagon was given legal authority (via a presidential directive) to run the show, it didn't happen. That was a big missed opportunity. There are a handful of tales very similar to that throughout the course of the book.

I have always enjoyed Woodward's writing, be it a daily in the WaPo or one of his many books. This book is a disappointment, not because of Woodward, but because of his subject. Too often key people in the Administration didn't choose the right strategy, had no strategy, or avoided making a strategy. The amount of trust and confidence I and millions of others placed in the Bush team to get Iraq right has not been returned, causing a lot of people to revoke that trust and call for a reversal of the entire Iraq policy.

I certainly do not go that far. I agree with Henry Kissinger (an important White House visitor in Woodward's narrative), who said that the only meaningful exit strategy is victory. For better or worse, the US has got to stay in Iraq until the mission is truly accomplished. I don't think that "staying the course" is the way to go, since the course thus far has had more setbacks than lasting achievements. The measurable "metrics" do not portray a path of progress. It is to be expected that when rebuilding a state there will be the occasional "two steps forward, one step back" periods. But too many steps backwards leaves you at square one, and frustrates the local and American publics that expected much better.

There is a way forward in Iraq that leads to victory, which I define as leaving behind an Iraq that is a stable democracy that heeds its constitution and the rule of law, according human rights and equal treatment to women and minorities, a neutralized insurgency that is manageable for fully-trained and competent Iraqi police and security forces, with secure borders and free of foreign influences. However, the need to "get it right this time" (something that Cheney said to Rumsfeld when they took office in 2001) cannot be fully realized until the White House and the Pentagon get out of their state of denial and begin charting a course to victory. Woodward's book serves, or should serve, as a wake-up call to policy-makers and those interested in Iraq and America's future. Hopefully that call will be answered.

------

Also, I'm now reading Ralph Peters' New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy. I've only read the first ten pages so far, but that ten pages provides a "brief tour of the world" that I find myself in hearty agreement. Fantastic stuff.

12 October 2006

A Mixed Bag of Thoughts

Yeah I haven't been posting much lately; truth be told, I'm going through one of those occasional lulls that bloggers sometimes go through where there's a combination of a lack of motivation and a lack of things to say. There may be some important stuff going on, but there's either no important story to tell from my perspective or I don't see it as being too major-league a development.

Case in point: the North Korean nuclear test. Obviously, being me, I think that it's a very bad thing for Kim Jong Il to detonate a nuclear weapon. It's the latest in a string of "unacceptable" actions on his part that, ultimately, will be accepted by the "international community." I've seen a lot of malarkey on the news lately about how this is a truly new development and will set off a domino effect of nuclear proliferation. Truth be told, as I said over at JBG's blog, this is North Korea's coming out party that confirms what many of us have known for a long time: Kim Jong Il has the bomb. A decade-long failed twin policy of containment and deterrence vis-a-vis Pyongyang has resulted in this past week's developments, which is why I don't see this as being a new development so much as it is a disturbing action by a dictator that should not have been allowed to develop a nuclear weapon in the first place. Kudos to my Dal colleague Chris for getting himself in the papers as Halifax's resident expert on the DPRK, that's pretty cool stuff.

Other than that, I'm spending a lot of time anticipating next week, when Carrie & Nathan come to visit and I get my Dal degree. It's going to be a lot of fun getting to hang out with one of my sisters, something I haven't gotten to do since February. I think that this will be the first time in months someone who doesn't live in my apartment gets to set foot in it, too, which says a lot about the status of my social life. Ha! So there's that, I'll be converting my OUC degree to a UBC degree (does anybody know what the dimensions on a UBC degree are? 8.5x11 or 11x14?), and I'll probably have that in hand before my thesis is returned to me. Oh yeah, and I've got a copy of the Stones show here in Halifax. It's good listening. If you want it, get in touch with me.

If you haven't yet, go out and get Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial. Excellent reading and a hard light is shone on Rumsfeld's conduct of the Iraq War and occupation. Everybody who knows me knows that I'm a big supporter of the grand strategy behind the War on Terror & Tyranny, but the strategy in Iraq has turned out poorly and you will encounter a series of missed opportunities to "get it right" in Iraq by reading this book. A lot of head-shaking took place as I read this, and no doubt many folks who are less supportive of this Administration than I will come away from the book with a mixed sentiment of "I told you so" and frustration at the incompetence.

Get better Anna-Banana-Loo!

08 October 2006

Thoughts on a Mixed Sports Weekend

First, the hockey stuff: my team is looking really good after their first two games. The loss to Buffalo on Friday was very disappointing, and really highlighted one of the reasons I don't always like the shootout. After 65 minutes the Habs and the Sabres were dead-even after playing a fantastic hockey game that had great pace and tons of excitement. Nobody should have to be called a loser after a performance such as that. Of course, had they not given up a two-goal lead in the final minutes they could have avoided that problem altogether. The top line--Higgins-Koviu-Ryder--was fantastic, collecting all 4 goals and 8 points in total. Captain K was tremendous out there, and it looks like Saku has overcome yet another potentially career-debilitating injury to play at an elite level in the NHL. Fantastic.
Last night's game had less pace but no less excitement. Seeing Komi smash Tucker down was great, and I was glad to see Johnson get his first goal in a Habs uniform to tie it up in the third. The game's result is one of the reasons that I sometimes do like the shootout: the Leafs always deserve to lose, and we made sure they did, thanks to a beauty shot by Ryder and a whole bunch of goal posts. It's amazing that after 2 games they've already had 2 shootouts. Hopefully we can start winning some in regulation time. Also, the second line so far has not been productive and clearly aren't gelling well together yet. There's too much individualism on the Kovalev-Plekanec-Samsonov line, and they aren't getting things done. That will change in time, I'm sure, as you can't keep down guys with that much talent indefinitely.

While the Habs are doing well, I was sad to see the Yankees get knocked out in the first round. Outside of Jeter, the bats were just shut down and nobody could get anything going. Word going 'round is that Joe Torre may get canned for yet another early playoff exit. You can't fire the millionaire players that failed to bring it, so the coach is always the scapegoat. With the Evil Empire out, my interest in baseball has also ended for the year. I've never really forgiven the MLB for the '94 lockout, and with the Jays and the Yanks being done, I have little further incentive to watch. More time for the Habs anyways.

On a more personal level, I had to take action the other day to shore up my first and favourite team: my family. I've never had to intervene on such a direct level before on something involving inappropriate behaviour towards a family member, and I'm disappointed that it got as far as it did, but it felt good to do the big brother thing. And if nothing else, it was just a further demonstration that some men are real assholes. As if I needed further proof. Problem solved, though, and now hopefully we can all move on.

Turkey tonight!!!!

02 October 2006

Absolutely Mortifying

This is one of the saddest things I've come across in recent months. The monster who did this deliberately targeted young girls for his murderous rampage because of a long-held hatred of women. There really are no words to describe the range of emotions I'm feeling over this. What happened in Pennsylvania is the latest instance of a murderous misogynist venting his hatred of females using violence to silence them forever. Only last week in Colorado a man burst into a high school, sexually assaulted a number of young women, and murdered one of them. In both cases, the females targeted did nothing to their attacker, but they were made to pay the price for his hatred, and that is truly sad.

I have to ask: WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?

01 October 2006

Happy October!

If you're at all interested in Canada-US defence relations, read this article in the latest issue of Parameters. Very interesting analysis of the past fifty years and where we're heading in the future. Key line that explains the divergence between Ottawa and Washington after 9/11:

According to senior military officers at NORAD, Canada’s sense of urgency after 9/11 was not as great as was that of the United States, even though Canadians and their government were intensely sympathetic in response to what had just happened.

This is a virtual no-brainer assessment, but still one that is important to note. While the United States responded to 9/11 by creating an entirely new grand strategy (but one still within the paramters of traditional American grand strategy), the rest of the world did not fully grasp how important an event the terrorist attacks were to the American psyche. A 200-year mythology of splendid isolation was shattered, and thus in response America acted to secure itself so that a repeat event could not occur. Another important point made involves Canada's relevance to the United States in the wake of 9/11:

Government and military officials at both the Canadian National Defence Headquarters and the Pentagon recognized that Canada had more to win or lose out of this joint venture than the United States. Why? Because the United States now had Northern Command, and Canada had nothing comparable except the existing NORAD defense and security model that after 9/11 had been rendered almost obsolete.

This is something I've been saying for quite a while now. America is always happy to have countries and allies to help with the heavy lifting in major overseas operations, but will work alone when necessary and will even occasionally prefer to do so when multilateralism waters down original intentions. Much as is the case with Europe, due to disparities of power and states' tendencies to seek to balance rather than bandwagon, cooperation between Washington and Ottawa will likely become an exception rather than the norm in the War on Terror & Tyranny. Historically, hegemons have been status quo powers that seek to preserve the conditions which give their system legitimacy. The United States, however, has become a revolutionary power in the very system that it is responsible for upholding, seeking to remove tyrannies and diminish the capability to support terrorism by other states. Europeans and Canadians were growing increasingly wary of American unipolarity during the 1990s, before the onset of the Bush Doctrine; they surely will be more skeptical of hegemonic and interventionist America that seeks to remodel the world in its own image. Further:

The events of 9/11 also brought to the forefront what many defense officials on both sides of the border knew to be true, even if it was not openly discussed. The fact was that a chasm existed between the capabilities of the US military forces and those of Canada. A less-capable Canadian military has serious ramifications not only from the perspective of interoperability, but also with regard to trust. Doubts have started to emerge on the US side whether Canada could even punch below its weight, let alone above it.

This has been the impetus behind Harper's defence initiatives, in my opinion. If Canada does not demonstrate its willingness to do its part to protect the North American continent, the United States will assume that responsibility on Canada's behalf. This would, of course, have tremendous consequences for Canadian sovereignty, a theme that is discussed throughout the article, and only heighten American unilateralism on the continent. By demonstrating to the United States that Canada can and will assume its responsibilities, Canada is seen as a reliable ally, enhances its ability to maintain and advance its sovereignty, and effects constraints on American unilateralism. Political will plays a key role in all of this; Harper will face considerable opposition in the press and in Parliament if he is seen to be cozying up to Uncle Sam, an allegation made far too regularly and casually by the Left in this country. This has a very negative effect south of the border:

Doubt has crept back into the Canada-US defense and security relationship. That doubt could drive the United States to seriously question whether its northern partner has the political will to pull its share and to do its part to secure the continent from attack.

That doubt will only further the strain in Canada-US relations. If America reads the tea leaves and decides that Canada won't play ball, America will take its ball and play by itself. If that happens, Canada will be mad at being left out in the cold and lament American unilateralism. America will read this as further Canadian intransigence and become even more determined to do what it feels is necessary. As you can see, the cycle becomes ever more downward spiralling. The United States is in the midst of a full-scale transformation of its military to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The Cold War is a time far behind in America's strategic rear-view mirror, and it is overhauling itself to tackle the challenges of counterterrorism, insurgency suppression, and other hallmark features of the generational War on Terror & Tyranny. This is a big challenge for Canada, as we must either move ahead or remain where we currently are. Bear in mind, "the opposite of transformation and growth within an organization is atrophy, stagnation, and irrelevance."

I am hopeful that the Government of Canada will prove capable of the challenge and move ahead. Our long history of bilateral relations with America highlights a simple fact: when Canada and the United States work together, good things happen. We share much in terms of values and ideals, and we can and should continue to work together to spread those values in the 21st century. We need not cowtow to every American request for cooperation, and we will surely disagree on many issues in the future. The key challenge for Canada at this time is to remain relevant enough such that when we do disagree it causes Washington to pause and consider the efficacy of its policy decisions. Defence is the number one priority in Washington at this time, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. On this issue, Canada must demonstrate its ability to carry its weight both on the continent and abroad. It will take copious amounts of political will, and probably a lot of money, but it is in Canada's interests to expend them.