• Commander in chief dismisses Netanyahu's address to CongressCommander in chief dismisses Netanyahu's address to Congress

    A metaphorical gauntlet lies in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. Thrown by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his speech to a joint session of Congress on Mar. 3, the gauntlet is the challenge of how to address the Iranian nuclear program and prevent the development of nuclear weapons.

    This is not an easy problem; indeed, it may be an impossible one to solve—short of Iranian regime change (and even that sanguine possibility may well not be a solution).

    Indeed, Iranian nukes are a legacy concern. Although not much discussed, Tehran’s interest/commitment to developing nuclear weapons dates to the Shah’s era. Iran has persisted, for nationalist, geopolitical, and military reasons, in manufacturing fissile material, developing the technical mechanical processes and designs to construct a nuclear warhead, and manufacturing missile delivery systems for such warheads.

    Moreover, Iran sees itself both as living in a dangerous neighborhood and wanting to seize leadership

    Read More »from Obama’s Israel-Iran nuclear problem: The United States has nothing but bad choices
  • In the small ocean of printer’s ink consumed since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech of March 3rd to the U.S. Congress swim four not-so-imaginary fish.

    The most frightened one is Israel. A 2012 opinion survey by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs revealed that two-thirds of Israelis believed that “if Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon it would use it against Israel.” The strongly peace-seeking Shimon Peres as Israel’s president asked in 2012 how the world could allow the Iranian leadership to “openly deny the Holocaust and threaten another Holocaust.”

    A former Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, in 2001 claimed that a single bomb would end Israel’s existence. Israelis fear both a direct strike by Tehran and one by a non-state actor with a nuclear weapon provided by it. Many also believe that the Middle East as a whole, with Iran in the lead, rejects Israel’s right to exist as a country.

    Other concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran relate to the toxic consequences

    Read More »from Obama’s Israel-Iran nuclear problem: Tough economic sanctions brought Tehran to the table

    House of Commons security guards receive a standing ovation from Members of Parliament. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)House of Commons security guards receive a standing ovation from Members of Parliament. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)
    The Parliament of Canada should initiate the most broadly acceptable model of proportional representation (PR) for electing members to our House of Commons, mostly because doing so would create a chamber where MPs are elected in proportion to votes received rather than our present winner-take-all system.

    Canada, the U.S. and U.K. are the only major Western democracies still using the first-past-the-post voting system. Our election laws should no longer prescribe that the only voters electing MPs are those favouring each riding's most popular political party. Now the votes of those supporting minority parties — about seven million in the 2011 federal election — achieve nothing in terms of post-election representation. That model was created centuries ago and is simply out-dated for modern times.

    Réal Lavergne of the Fair Vote Canada civil society adds:

    “Among the world’s 35 strongest democracies, 25 use PR and only six use winner-take-all systems of one sort or another... Comparative

    Read More »from Election reform: Canada in desperate need of proportional representation
  • A voter fills in her ballot as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections November 4, 2014. (Reuters)A voter fills in her ballot as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections November 4, 2014. (Reuters)

    There is that old maxim, “Where you stand is where you sit.”

    And the cry for election “reform” is invariably the province of losers.

    Winners are essentially satisfied with the system as it is working for them. Or, if they didn’t win the most recent election, they view the system as sufficiently congenial that they have a reasonable chance of winning. They view the day of electoral defeat as the first day of the march to victory (just as astute victors/parties recognize the day of victory is the first day in the march to defeat). And losers can be sanguine. Democrat Moe Udall was cited after the 2000 election, “the people have spoken; God damn them.”

    So despite the undeleted Udall expletive, Democrats were confident they could rebound—as they did in 2008 by electing Barack Obama as president. And, historically, there has been no significant, enduring, modern third party movement, other than ivory tower theorizing about proportional representation.

    So those that complain about the

    Read More »from Election reform: Complaints about money and electoral districts are for 'losers'
  • Members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) honour guard on Feb. 4, 2015. (Reuters)Members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) honour guard on Feb. 4, 2015. (Reuters)

    Washington is betwixt and between when it comes to constructing a strategy for dealing with Beijing.

    Over the course of my lifetime, the United States has supported Chinese Nationalists during the Chinese Civil War; fought ‘commies’ in Korea; reached a ‘Nixon goes to China’ rapprochement, playing a ‘China card’ against the Cold War USSR; and watched an incredible Chinese economic surge, making Beijing the manufacturer for the world.

    Now Chinese military construction and verbal aggression appear directed at obtaining pre-eminence in East Asia, disconcerting U.S. allies in the region and challenging the United States’ long taken-for-granted hegemony.  

    The U.S. needs a put-China-back-in-the-box foreign policy approach.

    That mentality has resulted in our much-discussed ‘pivot’ on Asia. Unfortunately, it has led us toif not drowning in Pacific complexitiesa pudding without any theme that would equate to coherent, coordinated, allied policy toward dealing with China.


    Read More »from Working with China: U.S. needs to push back against China's growing dominance
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) listend during a meeting with Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez. Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) listend during a meeting with Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez.

    Diplomats, politicians and business leaders sometimes overlook that China is its peoples, cultures and history far more than its unelected government. The criticisms many of us at home and abroad make are of the party-state governance, not the long-suffering citizens.

    Mao remains the overarching governance icon. Jung Chang and Jon Holliday end their biography, Mao, The Unknown Story: “Today (2005), Mao‘s portrait and corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square .... The current Communist regime declares itself to be Mao’s heir and fiercely perpetuates (his) myth.” Many historians today include him with Stalin and Hitler as the three worst mass murderers of the 20th century.  Chang-Holliday notes, "...over 70 million Chinese perished under Mao’s rule in peacetime."

    Many governance problems today stem from the conflation of Mao's totalitarianism and his successor Deng Xiaoping's reforms after 1978 into a system of 'Leninist governance/crony capitalism.' Corruption and violence are so

    Read More »from Working with China: World’s democrats must continue to engage with the party-state
  • Pearl Harbor survivors salute during ceremonies honoring the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Reuters)Pearl Harbor survivors salute during ceremonies honoring the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Reuters)

    “… let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan…” … Extract from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865.

    From these few words have grown the gigantic U.S. veterans’ affairs industry. Veterans’ benefits have become one of the “third rails” of U.S. federal/social spending that is untouchable with expenditures beyond criticism and budgets always rising. But when personnel costs are now over half of the defense budget and veterans pensions/benefits a significant portion of these, enough is enough.

    Today’s 21st-century “Total Army” is in no way comparable to the 1960s draftee armed forces and associated military reserves. Today mobilized reservists are expected to have (roughly) comparable competence to active duty forces. And our active duty forces have no match in the armed forces of any other nation.

    For over a generation, we have not drafted a single U.S.

    Read More »from Support our troops: America's veterans expect the best, but it comes at a steep price
  • Members of the Winnipeg Rifles stand at attention at a Remembrance Day service in Winnipeg. (The Canadian Press)Members of the Winnipeg Rifles stand at attention at a Remembrance Day service in Winnipeg. (The Canadian Press)

    The removal of Julian Fantino as Minister of Veterans Affairs in early 2015 by Prime Minister Harper is one of countless indications that Canadians hold strong views about how our veterans should be treated.

    Another is the widespread public opposition to the federal Justice Department spending to date almost $700,000 in legal fees to fight a class action by injured veterans in B.C. seeking lifelong disability payments rather than lump sum settlements. The lump sum approach was an all-party decision under the Martin government that has proven to have disastrous impacts on Canadian soldiers returning from the battlefield. The lifelong monthly payments model should be restored immediately as an option. The crux of the legal case is whether there is a binding social contract on governments for the care of veterans and their families.

    Those who serve in our armed forces, who are wounded while in combat or in training for such missions, should be given assistance to return to military

    Read More »from Support our troops: Canadian veterans shouldn't have to fight for benefits and services
  • Once again alarm bells are ringing throughout the West.

    The terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the subsequent huntdown and elimination of the perpetrators indeed gets attention – especially media attention.

    Conservatives are saying the equivalent of “I told you so.” Bluntly, their concerns have proved valid, not racist Islamaphobia.

    Liberals are offering dithering equivalents of “Don’t overreact.” And, as always, there is an undertone intimation that Charlie Hebdo was playing Russian-roulette with its satirical-style provocation of Islamic fanatics with its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The same platitudes are burbled: “Islam is a religion of peace”, poverty/social deprivation has caused these attacks; etc.

    Enough already.

    The time for fibrillation has passed; the time for action is at hand.

    Opposing viewpoint: David Kilgour

    Different cultures are best served by more understanding, not hatred

    First, we must accept that we are at war. A long, brutal war is in

    Read More »from After Paris: No more politeness, the time for action is at hand
  • The world can be proud of France for hosting the largest protest in its history last Sunday for the 17 victims of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket massacres. Reportedly, more than 3.7 million people across the country and 1.2-1.6 million in Paris joined the demonstration. Paris was the world’s capital that day.

    Marchers, including representatives from 50 nations, came from many parts of France, Europe and beyond. They were not protesting any religion; they were protesting terrorists pretending to be affiliated to a religion. ‘We stand together’ could have been the banner for all, walking arm-in-arm.

    The New York Times columnist David Brooks asserts that healthy societies allow “room for those creative and challenging (satirists) who are uninhibited by good manners and taste ... those who are funny, uncivil and offensive … don’t suppress speech, but … grant different standing to different sorts of people ... (S)cholars are heard with high respect. Satirists with bemused

    Read More »from After Paris: Effort should be spent on understanding faith communities, not hatred


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