• A woman reacts as pro-democracy protestors gather outside the government headquarters office in Hong Kong.A woman reacts as pro-democracy protestors gather outside the government headquarters office in Hong Kong.

    With the world media outside China focusing on Hong Kong’s democracy protests, it’s easy to forget that it began as a fishing village, became a British crown colony in 1841, and had Canadian soldiers help defend it until the Japanese seized it in late 1941. From 1945 to 2011, its population ballooned from 600,000 to seven million. Today, Hong Kong is a leading world financial and trade centre, enjoying the ninth-highest GDP per capita ($53,203 vs. $11,904 for China) and supporting about a third of the foreign capital flowing into China.

    Various factors have assisted Hong Kong’s development, including: The rule of law/independent courts, economic freedom, free speech/media independence, and an influx of entrepreneurial refugees from Maoist China after 1949. Despite efforts by Beijing to favour Shanghai before and since the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong still surpasses its rival as the principal financial centre in China.

    Canada’s Clive Ansley, who practised law in Shanghai

    Read More »from Hong Kong: It's a difficult battle, but the students should get their say
  • Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying toasts with Chinese commander Tan Benhong.Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying toasts with Chinese commander Tan Benhong.

    Watching events in Hong Kong play out – even from thousands of miles away left an anticipatory sick twinge in one’s stomach. Their conclusion now appears more likely to end with a whimper than a bang.

    There was a “deju vu all over again” element to what we were seeing. It was not just the quarter-century ago Tiananmen Square massacres. It is the more recent, ended badly, “democracy” surges in Tehran, Cairo, Damascus, and Tripoli. The prototype “color” revolution immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union no longer appear to be the paradigm for peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy. And February’s bloodshed in Kiev is still being played out in sanguinary exchanges on Ukraine’s eastern frontier.

    The blunt reality is governments have an overwhelming monopoly of force. If they choose to employ it against their essentially unarmed citizenry, they will prevail. Armed forces are increasingly divorced from citizens and/or their beliefs. They have a greater

    Read More »from Hong Kong: Picking a fight with China probably isn't a good idea
  • Even with Western heads severed on social media, it is difficult for anyone beyond the traumatized survivors of ISIS massacres to comprehend its mindless savagery. Earlier, its jihadists attacked the peaceful Yazidis in Iraq, killing many and forcing tens of thousands to leave their homeland. Its recent attack on Kobani and surrounding villages resulted in 130,000 terrified Syrian Kurds fleeing into Turkey.

    Muslim leaders around the world have repudiated ISIS. Iyad Madani, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, representing Muslims in 57 nations, said ISIS: “ha(s) nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.” Virtually all of the world’s Muslims reject ISIS’s claim to speak for them.

    Barack Obama was correct this week at the United Nations concerning the threat: ’’No God condones this terror … No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation with this

    Read More »from ISIS: Savage group must be confronted with care, to not do more damage in an unstable region
  • There is a crude challenge to someone engaged in protracted decision wrestling, but it employs language not appropriate for sophisticated essays. Such would be applicable to President Obama’s struggle over Middle East strategy.

    Nevertheless, perhaps this is the best Obama can do. His 15-minute, address on Sept. 10 was as uncertain a trumpet as a president has sounded when taking the United States to war. We did not see a “warrior” emerge from the closet, but rather a bewildered president beset by a metastatic foreign policy cancer that he thought had been excised.

    There was a tinge of grab-bag, “try everything; maybe something will work.”

    • Support the (good) Syrian rebels (but not the bad Assad regime);

    • Support the new Iraqi government while the old players remain on the scene waiting to re-emerge;

    • Send more trainers/intelligence specialists/weapons experts to bolster Iraqi regular forces, while insisting there will be no combat boots on the ground. Amazing disconnect of

    Read More »from ISIS: Half-measures won't work, the West needs to go all-in
  • Every country has them: Those inexplicable elements to which a society appears wedded to that, despite explanation, remain opaque to outside observers.

    For example, Americans believe the government wants to steal guns from private citizens; we cling to the Second Amendment as Holy Writ. Canadians believe Americans want to steal their water. Canadians go into ritualized frenzies of professed fear the United States, akin to an enormous vampire, will suck them dry or, in some Dr Strangelovian manner, tap their precious bodily fluids.

    The reality is Canada has the world’s greatest reserve of fresh water. It should be handled as any product – sold to the highest bidder. And, as the existential example of a renewable resource, refusing to sell water is akin to rejecting solar energy sales because the sun doesn’t shine at night.

    David T. Jones is a retired State Department Senior Foreign Service Career Officer who has published several hundred books, articles, columns, and reviews on U.S.
    Read More »from David Jones: Canada has water to spare and should look into selling it
  • Contrary to a long-cherished myth that Canada holds a quarter of the world’s fresh water, our country contains only about seven per cent of it, and 0.5 per cent of the earth’s total population. The myth and reality together probably explain why we are the second-largest consumers of water as a nation and often take it for granted during showers and other bad stewardship practices.

    Water charges are low across Canada; in 1999 (the most recent survey) an estimated 44 per cent of our residences nationally were not even metered for water consumption. Residential consumers use about 343 litres per person per day – about twice as much as people in other industrialized nations.

    David Kilgour is co-chair of the Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran and a director of the Washington-based Council for a Community of Democracies (CCD). He is a former MP for both the Conservative and Liberal Parties.

    Provincial and municipal governments rarely seem to get the price of water right. Expert Steven

    Read More »from David Kilgour: Canada's water sources aren't limitless, and we must keep what we have
  • U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions in the White House Press Briefing Room.U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions in the White House Press Briefing Room.

    It appears as if Washington has made a decision to confront the “Islamic State by force of arms. Although so far we have struggled to find an appropriate label for it: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS), the label is irrelevant. What we have, regardless of the nomenclature, is a terror apparatus that makes Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda operations look like malicious Boy Scouts.

    Indeed, we are still attempting to get an intelligent (and intelligence) appreciation of the Islamic State’s objectives, leadership, ideology, and prospects. What we have currently is akin to a meteorological assessment of a desert sandstorm. It has burst out of the “rebel” chaos in Syria, and even long-term experts in Iraq knew nothing about any aspects of it even while it was seizing most of northern Iraq and destroying the Iraqi army in the process. Collapsing like the proverbial house of cards, the Iraqi army’s debacle was reminiscent of South Vietnam’s inability to

    Read More »from ISIS: America's piecemeal approach won't suffice in eliminating vicious Islamic uprising
  • The Islamic State (ISIS) army was created by jihadist Sunni Muslims in Syria in the spring of 2013, partly in response to systemic discrimination and government violence directed at the mostly moderate Sunnis within Syria and Iraq.

    Local Shiites became the first targets of atrocities. ISIS insurgents – today numbering about 15,000, including foreign volunteers then stormed across northern Syria into Iraq in June, where government soldiers abandoned their equipment and fled. The ISIS goal was to transform the land it seized in both countries today an area about the size of Jordan into a caliphate with religious authority over Muslims worldwide.

    According to a just-released United Nations report on ISIS war crimes,

    Children have been present at the executions, which take the form of beheadings or shootings … Bodies are placed on public display, often on crucifixes … serving a warning to local residents.

    ISIS fighters committed so many atrocities against civilians, including

    Read More »from ISIS: Arab states must work together to accommodate all minority groups in the region
  • Graves at Sanctuary Wood Military Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.Graves at Sanctuary Wood Military Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.

    The Great War. The War to End All Wars. Not ... and not.

    Now that all who managed its politics and all that fought its battles are dead, we are left to slog through “What did it mean?” aftermath. Nobody is alive to gainsay from direct, personal experience these weighty pontifications.

    So upon the centennial of its inception, historians have spewed forth a library of thick tomes to burnish/make reputations. And the media, facing a summer dearth of activity but still needing to fill column inches/air time, have sought clever devices to engage the public.

    But enough already. The war was terrible, but obligatory. It means less today than viewer-with-alarm hypothesize and even less in the United States than Canada.

    World War I may have begun as a war of choice, but quickly morphed into a war of necessity.

    [ David Kilgour: WWI was an important event in Canadian and European history ]

    Perhaps the Austrians could have said “tish tish” when a Serbian nationalist gunned down their heir

    Read More »from WWI: An almost needless war that we hardly remember and will unlikely repeat
  • The sculpture of the 'Brooding Soldier' commemorates the Second Battle of Ypres of World War I.The sculpture of the 'Brooding Soldier' commemorates the Second Battle of Ypres of World War I.

    A century ago this month, several European powers began the eventually global conflagration that, in addition to millions of personal tragedies, ended the continent’s role as the world’s economic, cultural and political colossus. In the two decades after 1875, as one unfortunate measure of this dominance, half a dozen European countries seized more than a quarter of the earth’s land surface as colonies.

    Britain and Germany had become manufacturing workshops to much of the world. Their citizens and other Europeans were well placed to benefit from mechanizing agriculture, the internal combustion engine, trains and motor cars, and gas/oil/electricity replacing coal as features of the Industrial Revolution.

    Peace had held except for the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 since the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. In the opening years of the twentieth century, as the historian Norman Davies puts it, the “Franco-German rivalry, recurrent Balkan crises, antagonistic diplomatic blocs,

    Read More »from WWI: An important event in the establishment of Canada and the history of Europe


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