At last, it has dawned on the U.S.A. and N.A.T.O. that the old strategy was not working and that something new has to be tried. Pres. Obama has sent his Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke to discuss and review strategy, which must include an exit strategy and a greater emphasis on economic development, a need for a regional approach to the Afghan problem, including Pakistan, and stepping up both civilian and military efforts. " I found a very encouraging symmetry of views between our NATO allies and other troop contributing countries and the United States", he told reporters after the meeting in Brussels. He also mentioned that a heavy emphasis on increasing the the size of the Afghan police force was supported.
Pres. Obama has announced that an additional 4,000 troops ( on top of the 17,000) will sent to Afghanistan and be embedded as trainers with soldiers of the Afghan army. He called on " others to join us in doing their part". Canada welcomed this " clarion call", says Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, noting that there are "many elements", that jibe with Canada's strategy, such as calls for an integrated military-civilian strategy and an emphasis on training Afghan army and police faster and sending more troops "to secure and hold areas, thereby facilitating development and reconstruction efforts". Now is the time for NATO countries such as France , Germany, Italy the Poles, the Czechs and others to ante up.
The Taliban of Pakistan and Afghanistan have decided to combine their forces with al Qaeda, to meet this latest increase of combat forces. The Taliban control large areas of the border and al Qaeda have safe havens in the rugged, lawless tribal areas. The weather is changing and it is exspected to bring about a rash of attacks. The poppy crops are blooming and harvesting is on full swing. Last Sunday (March 22), Iranian authorities seized 4.5 tonnes of opium, hashish and other drugs from smugglers around Teheran and two days later, in eastern Iran near the border with Afghanistan another bust of a quarter ton was seized, and another quarter ton was seized in the border town of Zabol. Iranian authorities are very concerned over this increase in drug dealing and also human trafficking and violence seeping across its border and are very interested stopping it before it becomes unmanageable. This is a good opportunity for America and Iran to come together and deal with this common threat. The Iranians may be somewhat hesitant , given their past experience with the Bush in 2001 and 2002 when they quietly co-operated in the defeat of the Taliban but then were include in "the axis of evil". This time, they may be willing to work with Pres. Obama, not only because of the co-incidence of interests but also because of the approach that Pres. Obama has taken in trying to begin a dialogue with Iran. There is another very important reason why Iran will be willing to see the defeat of the Taliban again. They are Sunni, while the Iranians are Shia ( there has been a war between these two factions of Islam for centuries).
Elections are to be held in Afghanistan in August. It is important that this election take place and is seen as legitimate. The ineffective Karzai must be replaced legally. Elections are also coming soon to Iran. It is possible that a new president will be elected ( we must remember that real power in Iran rest with the religious leaders, especially Ayatollah Kameini).
American and Iranian interests overlap in Afghanistan. Here is a great opportunity to work together. If they can get over their mutual suspicion, then the possibility of working in other areas.......Lebanon, Palestine etc. may mean that some of the more intractable problems that have plagued the world over the past 30 years may be closer to a solution. They can begin mending fences at two conferences that they will be attending on Afghanistan, one in the Netherlands ( the Americans have welcomed Iran's presence), and another one, the Shanghai Co-operation Organization conference in Moscow. The United States will be sending Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Moon and Iran will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Madhi Akhundzadeh. Also, it is interesting to note that even some Iranian hardliners are begining to welcome the idea of co-operation between the two countries, to secure Afghanistan, where they have been steadfast in their opposition to the Sunni Taliban. On a practical note, the drug war has cost Iran $600 million in the last two years. Also some 3,700 Iranian security officials have killed, 11,000 injured and there have thousands of clashes between traffickers and police according to a UN report.
CARPE DIEM..... The time is now. This a great opportunity. It must not be missed. It must not be messed up.
Ehud Barak has decided to provide Bibi Netanyahu with a fig leaf of legitimacy. The projected new government with Netanyahu as Prime Minister and Barak as Defence minister and supported by the fascist Lieberman is now possible. Kadima has so far resisted the temptation, and Livni has at least maintained a modicum of decency.
Netanyahu had opposed the Oslo Agreement negotiated by Yitzak Rabin in the mid-nineties and even celebrated the assissination of Rabin by a religious fanatic, that saw the end of that attempt at peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu is opposed to the two-state policy and he favors the continued building of settlements on Palestinian land on the West Bank.Without Barak and the Labor party, Netanyahu would have difficulty dealing with the Obama administration, which supports the two-state policy and a freeze on new settlement buildings. Barak seems to think that he can control Netanyahu and Lieberman and in this he is sadly mistaken. The support to Likud and Lieberman come from those on the religious right and the settlers. Not only are they against the two-atate policy and any restrictions on continued building of settlements, they want expansion of present settlements, and in the case of Lieberman and some on the religious right, they want to issue special identity cards and even deport Palestinian-Israelis from their ancestral homes. Recently ( March 23) Jewish ultra-nationalist had a provocative march in Northern Israel where the Palesinian-Israelis who make up 1/5 of the population of Israel live. The Israeli police as they are wont to do in such circumstances gave protection to these provacateurs and instead attacked the Palestinians who came out to protest this provocation.
What has been concocted is a broad, illogical coalition. It won't work. The Labor party is already split, with only 57% supporting Barak's move. Netanyahu, Lieberman, Barak, the relgious right, the ultra-nationalsits and the settlers make for a very acerbic, divisive and chaotic 42nd government. It will be fun watching these prima donnas at work/play. Get ready for another hiccup in the governance of Israeli.
Four more young Canadians have given their life in this never-ending and vicious war. This is not war in the traditional sense, with regular armies facing each each other. This is guerilla warfare fought on the one side...the Afghan/Taliban/ al Qaeda, while NATO is fighting a traditional war or at best a semi-traditional war. One side is fighting a total war, using all means at their disposal, (hit and run, IEDs, hiding amongst the civilian population, using them as shields, (inviting attacks and then blaming NATO for civilian casualties when they occur, as happens frequently),while NATO is fighting a limited war with limited means, which it cannot win militarily and for which Canadian soldiers stationed in the South are paying a heavy price.
It is time to change tactics or leave. Nothing is gained from what is being done. Ground that is taken one day is lost another day. Villages that are cleansed one day are festered soon after withdrawal. This is not action but activity...digging a hole and filling it back over and over again . The mistake that was made initially has been compounded. Afghanistan with its terrain and its tribal division and its history, culture and religion has been the bane of many occupiers over the centuries...from Alexander to Ghengis Khan to the British and the Russians and now U.S.A and NATO. The Afghanis come together against a common enemy and use their terrain to their advantage and they have persisted. Money, as the British discovered too late, is the means to rent allies, if only for a while. The Pasthuns do not like or get along with the Tajiks or the Uzbecks and especially with the Hazarras and each of them do not like or get along with the others. It was the alliance with the Nothern tribes that led to the ouster of the Taliban, who are mostly Pasthuns, now supported by al Qaeda and foreign jihadists/islamists. You have to separate the Pashtuns/ Talibans from the al Qaeda/ihadists/ islamists. If there are moderates, they are amongst the Pashtuns/Talibans. The others are religious extremists/ fanatics....the Islamists/ Jihadists.
Now you can take the war directly to the al Qaeda/ Islamists/ Jihadists and pursue them across the Pakistani border, working with the Pakistani military, if they agree or without them if they do not. The safe havens must be made unsafe. Already the U.S. is using its drones to attack suspected sites. More need to be done. Special Forces, heavily backed must be used. The war, if it is to be won, must be done on the ground. The 17,000 additional troops that the Americans are sending must be bolstered by troops from other NATO countries...France, Germany Italy and the Poles, the Czechs etc. Now that France is back in NATO command, it can utilise its African experience in a positive sense, rather than training Hutu killers and involving in other mischief making among its former colonies.
This is the only way to pay respect to those who have valiantly given their lives to make Afghanistan and by extension the rest of the world safe from the viciousness of the al Qaeda/ Islamists/Jihadists. Make it too hot for them to operate in the rugged tribal/border areas. Use massive force to drive them out and then use the Special Forces to hunt them down and make sure that their passage is blocked. It will take a lot of manpower and you need the Afghanis and the Pakistanis, but it has to be done. Anything else is a betrayal not only to those who have paid the ultimate price but also to those who will pay in the future... the hopes of the ordinary Afghani who want peace and stability and our young men and women who have to bear the brunt of a failed policy that drinks their blood and waste their youth
No more half- measures. Do it right or get out now. Not another life lost, because of the lack of leadership and courage. War is sometimes a necessary evil. It should be the last resort but if it cannot be avoided, then you have to do what is necessary to win. The Bush administration decided that Iraq with its oil was more important to control and thus neglected Afghanistan, when it should have been the focus. Now Obama has to make the hard choice as to how to end it. It is not going to be easy or pretty.
The appointment of Michael Sabia to head the Caisse de depot et placement has stirred the nastiness that is so endemic of the Parti Quebecois. Shortyly after the announcement was made, Bernard Landry, the keeper of the ethnic purity flame, lashed out, whining that the choice was " more than an error...it is a fault. It is almost a provocation...It has nothing to do with where he was born...It is his national culture, which is Canadian." This would be laughable, if it was not so fascistic, but Landry is noted for his frothing at anything that is not"pur laine". This from a man whio ,still cherishes his Canadian passport, who was a member of the Canadian reserve and who I am certain, will not reject his Canadian Old Age Pension. "I don't care if it is a white cat or a black cat, so long as it catches mice".( Deng Ziao Ping, 1961)
He could have criticised the manner in which the appointment was made. Here was an opportunity to go after Charest, who made the selection, bypassing the board of directors at the Caisse.He could have pointed to the fiasco at BCE when Sabia was president. He could have pointed out Sabia's lack of high-finance and investment expertise. Instead Landry chose to play the ethnic nationalist card, this coming just after one his former cabinet colleague, Louise Harel's pronouncement on "ethnic boroughs"( and let's not forget the many others including Jaques Parizeau's " money and ethnic" quip). Sabia may have been born in Ontario, but he has lived for many years in Quebec, and he speaks French, but according to Landry, "he is not one of us". Can you imagine what would happen if someone in Ontario or Alberta or Newfoundland were to complain about the many high-placed Quebeckers/Quebecoises who hold or have held positions from Governor-General to Prime Minister to leader of the Opposition to so many other high-profiled positions in Ottawa and eleswhere in the country of Canada?
Ethnic nationalism is a cancer in the body politic. It has no place in any society/ country, especially one that is democratic. It excludes and penalises "les autres". It is the slippery slope to fascism and ethnic cleansing... witness the former Yugoslavia, Darfur, Rwanda. It is time that Landry and his cohorts be called to task. They are ethnic haters and they must be exposed as such and held accountable.
African Americans' performance on verbal test improved to equal that of white Americans after Obama's nomination and then election but in 1996 when Obama said he supported gay marriage, only 27% of Americans did but by 2008 when Obama said he opposed gay marriage, fully 39% supported it. The St.Petersberg Times is tracking the 510 campaign promises that Obama made in its "Obameter". So far he has kept 11 and broken 2. Now the Republicans are looking to Newt Gringrich to save them, after the bug-eyed Jindal imploded and Limbaugh balloned.
Moody's has estimated that the U.S. GDP increased by $1.03 for every dollar of tax cut but by $1.59 for every dollar spent on infrastructure and $1.73 for every dollar of food stamp given out. A Univ. of Maryland study has shown that economic growth begin anew about 2 years after a recession begins and that unemployment reaches its peak in about 5 years and the National Nurses Organising Committee( Oakland), estimates that 2,600,000 jobs would be created under a single-payer health-care system. Dietitians say that the recession is making it harder for their patients to lose weight.
Freedom House, has noted that whereas democracies increased 71% between 1989 and 1996 ( the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of right-wing military dictatorships in Latin America etc.), there has been little change...Kosovo?, since. There has also been a noticeable drop of successful military coups in Africa.... 24 in 1960's and 21 in 1980's but only 5 since 2000. The average number of people who have died in the Congo each month from war-realated causes, since August 1998 is estimated to be about 51,400, according to the International Rescue Committee.
Vicks Vapo Rub may harm children; zinc supplements reduce alcohol-related birth defects; high temperatures and low air pressure can trigger migraines, according to the journal Neurology. Some other well-known triggers are red wine,chocolate,soft cheese and the begining of menstrual cycle. Also according to a study published by the British Medical Journal , migraines in pregnancy could be a clue that a woman is at risk of a stroke,heart disease and blood clots. In a paper published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, by Hyon Choi and colleagues at the University of British Columbia, " vitamin C intake may prpvide a useful option in the prevention of gout". Gout victims are typically men 40 and older ( some women can be affected too). Every 500-milligram increase of daily vitaminC intake produced a 17% decrease in the risk for gout. Gout can lead to permanent joint damage and is linked to alcohol abuse, obesity, high blood pressure and a diet heavy in meat and cheese, the study pointed out.
On the local front, Louise Harel, the former P.Q. minister of municipal affairs has created a firestorm by suggesting that "quasi-municipalities" with an ethnic, religiousand/or linguistic base will spring up,( because of the number of boroughs) " we will end up in the worst of situations because we'll have .. an Italian city, a Haitian city, an anglophone city, an Arab city-Ville St. Laurent, a Jewish city etc". This was in answer to a suggestion that the number of boroughs be reduced from 19 to 10. Quick condemnation came from all quarters....charges of "stereotypes", "caricature", "divisiveness", "racist", "unacceptable,inadmissable", " frightening, especially coming from her", " sowing seeds of xenophobia".
In 1949 Mao proclaimed that " China has arisen " and in 1990's Deng declared that " To get rich is glorious" and China which became the " manufacturer to the world " under Deng's pragmatic "socialist market economy", is now looked upon as the hope of the world..... the engine of global economic growth.
It was the forward looking Dend Xiaoping, who is responsible for this " great leap forward". As early as 1961, he signaled his pragmatic approach when he was quoted as saying, that " I do not care if it is a white cat or a black cat so long as it catches mice" in response to those who wanted to emphasise the communist approach. Being productive is more important than whether you follow communism or capitalism is what he meant. He and his family would be persecuted and imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution, but when he was brought back to the Party by Zhou Enlai, he continued his progressive thinking. After the death of Mao in 1976, he defeated the Gang of Four and their choice to succeed Mao, Hua Goofeng.
Transition began slowly in 1978 and picked up steam in the 1990's, when China opened up to joint ventures and attracted major western corporations and foreign capital poured into the country. The large population created a huge cheap labor market, which allowed these ventures to flourish and China to become the manufacturer to the world.
Deng's political flexibility... " we must not fear to adopt the advanced management methods applied in capitalist countries. The very essence of socialism is the liberation and development of the productive systems. Socialism and market economy are not incompatible" he declared. His "Socialist market economy"( socialism with Chinese characteristics), combines substantial state ownership of large industries with private enterprise. In this system major state-owned industries compete with each other. It differs from market socialism because the government does not intervene in the setting of prices, nor does it attempt to favour state-owned enterprises over private ones. Also by 2004, 50% of state-owned enterprises were transformed into joint stock companies, which generated one-third of the nation'S GDP.
" A planned economy is not the definition of socialism, because there is planning under capitalism: the market economy, happens under socialism too. Planning and market forces are both ways of controlling economic activity" He dared to undeify Mao by saying that Mao was " 7 parts good, 3 parts bad" and he was influenced by the four East Asian Tigers of Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore. He travelled abroad and had amicable meetings with western leaders and was the first Chinese leader to visit U.S.A. and met with President Carter in the White House in 1979. He signed agreements with Britain and Portugal for the return of the colonies of Hong Kong and Macao and promised not to change capitalist system for 50 years ...... One coumtry, two systems. He also improved relations with historic enemy, Japan and used it as an example for China's future growth. These visits and agreements allowed previously skeptical and hesitant investors to become more confident of trusting China.
What Deng started and pushed along until his death,( Gaige Kaifang....Reforms and Openness), made it possible for his successors to carry out even further reform. It has been a phenomenal success.....tremendous growth spurred on by exports, an economy second in size only to the U.S.A.
The world now looks to China. It is still on the right side of recession and it is spending both internally and abroad. Hundred of billions of dollars are earmarked for infrastructure spending and relieving the job losses that have occured because of the drop in exports and the closing of factories. The 11th Congress is very aware of the potential for internal instability and have targeted transportation, manufacturing and the energy sector. Its internal market is huge and is crucial in weathering the 20% loss in orders from abroad. China has also gone on a buying spree abroad in order to secure its energy and resource future. It has $2 trillion in foreign reserve and have already scooped up $70 billion worth of global resourse assets.....$19,5 billion for 18% of Australia's Rio Tinto, $25 billion to Russia's largest oil producer, Rosneft, and $10 billion to Petrobas of Brazil. Billions more are being poured by Chinese investors into Australian and Mongolian iron ore mining companies and gas and pipeline deals in Turkmenistan and lead and copper in Kazhakistan. There has also been a $443 million offer for Calgary based Verenex Energy Inc. to give China National Petroleum Corp. a stake in a Libyan oil concession. It is expected that the buying spree will pick up pace. Australia with " an open attitude" to Chinese investment is expected to be a major target. North America will be next, especially Canada with its huge resources...oil, gas, potash and forestry.
"When you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas". The symbiotic/ incestuous relationship between the Pakistani Military/ Intelligence Service and Islamic terrorists, Taliban, al Qaeda and Laskar has over-reached this time. The attack on the Sri Lankans has ignited a firestorm of protests that threaten not only the cricketing future of Pakistan, but also the Pakistani state. More than 2 billion people from Australia to India to Zimbabwe and over 100 other countries follow this game with gusto and passion and while they hold the Pakistani players in high esteem, they hold the Pakistani Government and its Security forces complicit in this attack. It's not cricket!!!.
The terrorists were well trained and the attack was disciplined and highly co-ordinated. They were well armed with grenade launchers, plastic explosives, grenades, car bombs as well as automatic rifles. The place of attack was strategic, a turn-off, where the bus would be slowing down. They knew the time that the bus would arrive and they were waiting. Did they get inside information? Why were more stringent measures to protect the players not taken? Why were there not more armed escorts? Who staged the attack and what was the role of Pakistan's intelligence service? They are known to have a close working relationship with the Tamil Tigers. Were the Tigers involved? Given their recent losses this would not be surprising.
Laskar e Taiba was responsible for the November Mumbai terrorist attack, which was co-ordinated from Pakistan. All the terrorists except one were killed. Compare this to those who killed Benazir Bhutto. No one has been arreested so far. Neither have the bombers of the Karachi hotel in 2002,( where the New Zealand cricket team was staying), been caught. Is this because of incompetence? Or is it complicity? The Pakistan government is again having having problems. It has recently barred former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother from running for office in their stronghold of Punjab province. Pakistan is on the brink. As I have written before, there is a real danger of the Pakistani state breaking up.
Illiteracy and unemployment are two force driving the radicalisation and sowing the seeds of disintegration. Islamic fundamentalism feeds on this. There are no shortages of dis-affected, disenchanted and alienated among the the people, young and old. This is a breeeding ground for recruitment for mayhem. The problems are endemic. They are deeply rooted. For too long the people have been neglected and it is easy to foment division and violence. Aristotle warned that " Poverty is the parent of revolution", and poverty combined with religious zealotry is a toxic mix. The explosion is coming and it will rival the blood-letting of Partition. Already bombings and other forms of violence are a daily occurence in Pakistan. It is not only in the Tribal Regions/ North-West, but in Lahore, in Karachi, in Islamabad between Shia and Sunna and Mohajirs, between the followers of Sharif and Bhutto, everywhere and everyone seem to be going at it.
There is no one leader who can lead Pakistan out of this mess. There is only the military. They have stepped in and remove civilian authorities on many occasions.The last time it was Musharraf ousting Nawaz Sharif, so don't be surprised when they step in again. The experiment that began so bloodily 60 years ago has run its course . The unravelling began when civil war led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, when Zia seized power and hanged Ali Bhutto. The succeeding years has swung back and forth between the military and civilian rule. The murder of Benazir Bhutto started another round of musical chairs. There was a brief hint of hope when Sharif and Zardari struck an alliance to get rid of Musharraf, but that has ended acrimoniously and now this fiasco.
European and Southeast Asians reject protectionism. An apparent unity front has been formed by European leaders to reject protectionism, in order to protect their national interest in the face of the continued economic crisis. The summit held in Brussels was called to deal with the differences over how to deal with the recession and the fears that some countries ( France and Germany) may take steps to undermine the European committment to a single market, and also to prop up the solidarity between members. There were concerns after the French President stated that the $8 billion bailout to the car industry ( Renault and Citroen etc.), must be spent in France, and the German Chancellor rejected tghe Czech/Polish bailout plan.
The Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany warned of " new Iron Curtain" between the rich West and the poor East, " We should not allow a new 'Iron Curtain' to divide Europe into two parts". The split in the Union is between countries such as France that want strong action to buoy industries, especially carmakers and the poorer Eastern countries, Poland etc, that cannot afford such bailouts. A statement was prepared that declared that " the meeting must ensure that maximum possible use is made of the single market as an engine for recovery to support growth and jobs". The prospects of this happeniong is at best questionable as political pressure mount in individual countries to put its interest first. When it comes to the crunch, France, Germany and Britain( where an election is to be held in a few months), will act in their own short term sel-interest, even though the single market and concerted action is the best for the long-term.
Meanwhile in Italy, the Mafia has become the moneylender to businesses that are not able to get loans from the banks. From flower sellers to bar owners to restaurants to grocery stores to art dealers, small and medium-size businesses are turning to loan sharks for money, paying exorbitant interest ( as much as 30% a month). " The loan sharks are growing like mushrooms and becoming bolder and more visible", according to Cardinal Severino Poletto, the archbishop of Turin. The national shopkeepers association, Confesercenti, estimate that 180,000 businesses have turned to the loan sharks in desperation, and Nino Micelli, an adviser to the Confesercenti has stated that the Mafia's goal is to take over the struggling businesses, especially when the loans are not repaid and violence is threatened and/or used and restaurants, grocery stores and bars become property of the criminal gangs. Many experts say that organised crime is already Italy's biggest business and the untaxed underground economy is growing larger and larger. The Mafia seem to be providing the same kind of financial assistance that was so useful for Italy after the end of WW11.
South-east Asian countries at their ASEAN meeting in Thailand, endorsed fiscal stimulus, monetary easing, access to credit and trade financing and other measures to stimulate domestic demand. A statement also called for " bold and urgent reform" of the international financial system. This group, which is consensus- based, has long been dismissed as nothing more than a talking forum, for leaders to make speeches full of promises and nothing else. However the continued world economic problems has focused attention on the need to act concertedly, as no single country ( even the U.S.A.) can go it alone. ASEAN, has also announced that a road map will be implemented, with the objective of creating a single economic community in six years. This will ( if successful), bring together 570 million people with a combined GDP of over $2 trillion.