Sunday, January 27, 2008

This is so cool

Here is a little something I found on Youtube.

I am not in any of the scenes but I certainly would like to be. Except for maybe the shot where the guy is flying just off the surface of the lake. Yikes you would regret sneezing in that situation.


Of Bali and Afghanistan

The key recommendation of the Manley report is for the government to demand NATO send 1000 more troops to the Khandahar region or Canada will pick up its ball and go home.

Well good luck. The Europeans would be unwilling to do so because of domestic public opinion. However, even it they could somehow convince their domestic audiences that it is in their interests they would not be really inclined to do so because of Canada's recent actions with regard to climate change.

Officially, diplomats will tell you that there is never any "linkage" between issues in international relations. Afganistan and climate change are different issues and no government would ever consider making an action in one a condition for a consession in the other.

However, we are not just dealing with diplomats here. We are dealing with politicians and governments and the European governments are not all that pleased with the Canadian government right now because of its actions in Bali last year. So there is absolutely no incentive on the part of the European governments to stick their necks out at home to assist Canada in southern Afghanistan.

So do not expect any real assistance from the Europeans to be forthcoming at the NATO summit in April.

Of course the same cannot be said of the US. As several others have pointed out there are already plans to send 3200 marines to the Khandahar region in the coming weeks and some or all of them will eventually be made "permanent". So Stephen Harper will get his 1000 troops and he will use it as an excuse extend the mission.

Again as other have said, it is curious as to why the Manley Report did not mention this.

It could not be because this whole exercise is just to give Mr. Harper political cover when he proposes extending the combat mission to 2011 and beyond is it?

So, a 1000 more troops increases the chances of success

Whew, am I ever happy Mr. Manley has pointed that out.

Here I thought we needed to worry about increased poppy production, a resurgent Taliban, which is now carrying out attacks in heretofore "secure" parts of Afghanistan, a porous Pakistan/Afghan border and extreme political unrest in Pakistan.

Mr. Manley states all of these are certainly concerns but they can be compensated for by adding a 1000 NATO troops, with some helicoptors and unmanned drones, in the South of Afganistan.

Who knew?

Kind of makes me wonder why the Soviets lost their war in Afghanistan. They had over 100 thousand Soviet troops, with armour, artillery, air support and honking big helicoptor gunships. They were supported by an Afghan army numbering in the 10s of thousands and unlike NATO the Soviets actually gave these Afghan army troops real equipment with which to fight. They still lost.

NATO only has around 60 thousand troops in Afghanistan, of which about 15 thousand are in the Khandahar region and they have yet to create a viable Afghan army. I guess that does not really matter to Mr. Manley however since he believes that only another 1000 NATO troops in Khandahar will be enough to overcome all of those other issues that are interfering with NATO's inevitable triumph.

Mr. Manley's report is very much a political document. He described the complex, interdependent challenges facing the NATO forces in Afghanistan very well but in the true fashion of all politicians everywhere he came up with a simple, easy to digest "solution" to those problems.

He does pay some lip-service to greater diplomacy but he focuses on greater diplomacy with Pakistan to prevent the Taliban from using its territory as a safe haven. He of course does not say how the world is to deal with a Pakistani government that is so riven with competing factions and with no real hope of being united in the near to medium term.

And he certainly does not mention that a military victory against the Taliban is now out of the question so real peace in that country is only going to come about by talking to the less bloody minding elements of the Taliban.

The Afghan mission has gone off the rails and the world has a choice. Either invest the time, money, lives and effort to reshape the mission or abandon it. Neither choice will be as easily accomplished with the simple bromides that Mr. Manley and his panel gave us last week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wow, the government fired Linda Keen

You may not believe it but I was genuinely shocked when I read that story this morning. I was equally surprised at how it happened.

The reason why I was shocked is because this firing and the way it happened indicates the Conservatives are panicking a little bit over this affair. I will give Mr. Harper his due. Most of the time he is able to keep a level head about him but the actions of his government in the last 24 hours indicates he lost it this time.

You may all remember that just before Christmas the Conservatives dropped significantly in the polls after this story broke. Fortunately for them the Chistmas holidays intervened and people forgot about it for awhile. However, this story was poised to burst back on the scene with the testimonial of Ms. Keen today, which was coming on the heels of Mr. Lunn's leaked letter and Ms. Keen's rebuttal. That is bad news because it is these kinds of events that cost governments support more the big issues, such as Afghanistan and the Environment. Many Canadians would ask: "If the government is unable to keep medical isotopes flowing and maintain nuclear safety at the same time can it be trusted on the bigger issues?"

It is the nature of politics that people do not believe politicians when they are given the choice of believing a politician's word over that of a bureaucrat, particularly one with Ms. Keens record of service. Witness the Auditor General over pretty well every Liberal politician during Adscam.

So, Ms Keen's testimony would have probably been extremely damaging to the government and it would have provided its critics with all sorts of ammunition going forward with which to beat the government with. It had to be stopped.

The interesting thing about this is the government has only bought themselves a temporary reprieve and they created another controversy by how they fired Ms. Keen. Having a staffer do it in the middle of the night is not a classy way of doing things and people are going to notice that.

The firing itself gained the government a couple of weeks. At that point Ms. Keen will probably appear before the Commons Committee regarding this affair. The only saving grace for the government on that will be she will not be as free to answer questions as she would have been today because of the lawsuit she will have probably launched by then.

As with all political strategies born of panic and desparation their shelf-life and efficacy are extremely short-lived so the Conservatives are still going to wear this affair in the coming weeks. Depending on how they handle that, today could be marking the beginning of the end of this government.