All posts filed under: Society

Boots on the Ground and the Policymaking Process

  I hate the phrase “boots on the ground”. The way it is frequently used seems to imply that if we simply keep our problems 30,000 feet below us we will never have to come face to face with the hard underlying realities that brought us there in the first place. This thinking is easy to fall into, but ultimately flawed. It is not hard to see why many policymakers grasp at the power of laser-guided bombs whenever domestic morale, outrage, or multilateral consensus demands “something” must be done. It is relatively cheap, fairly low risk, and above all, adjustable to conditions at a moments notice. Rarely, however, are those conditions military in nature. Instead policymakers can moderate involvement, cost, and risk to suit domestic opinion towards the mission, ongoing negotiations, and other political concerns. Unlike a ground campaign, which requires a somewhat reliable local partner, complex logistics, occasionally reserve mobilization, and – of course – the dreaded “Exit Plan”, an air campaign only requires a half decent airfield, some surplus Cold War munitions and …

The Folly of Libertarianism

By Patrick Langille There is an ideology that is sweeping through right-of-centre political parties throughout the Western world. Historically, ideologies have almost always proven to be dangerous, regardless of whether they emerge from the political Left, Right, or Centre; as Eisenhower once said: “Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong”, a warning as true then as it is now. The folly of ideology is establishing a set archetype to solve any issue which emerges, rather than simply responding to issues as they arise. A radical form of libertarianism is sweeping through right-wing parties, especially among the youth wings of these organizations. In this article, I will explain, adopting the perspectives of both Left and Right, why libertarianism is not only false, but also extremely dangerous, and threatens to undo much of the progress made by the Left and the Right in the previous century. What is libertarianism? Libertarianism is a radical free-market ideology that emerged from a group of primarily Eastern and Central European economists and philosophers …

Your Guide to Understanding the Hong Kong Protests

By Yasmine Kherfi In September, Beijing announced its decision to nominate future chief executive candidates of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Subsequently, citizens of Hong Kong have taken to the streets, demanding their freedom to elect their own leaders without mainland China’s intervention. The protests began through the civil disobedience campaign known as Occupy Central with Love and Peace, which was initiated by a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. Eventually, the SAR government made the decision to confront the protesters and clashes erupted between them and the police. Hong Kong’s Basic Law, A Source of Controversy Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which serves as a constitution, is the essential issue of contention in the current situation. Protesters believe that Beijing violated its promise to grant the former British colony universal suffrage, a goal stipulated in Article 45 of the Basic Law. The Hong Kong protests are yet another example that reflects how history shapes present day politics. When the British handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, both sovereign countries had …

In Defense of Defense: This Crisis Might Make My Head Explode

Jeffrey Schulman expresses his frustration at the banality of a crisis surrounding a movie. The North Koreans hacked into a major western company, and caused an estimated $200 million in damage. They did this in response to the production of a film they didn’t like. In a fairer world, an attack on private property by a hostile state would be an act of war. Given the circumstances it looks like we have no choice but to tolerate this outrage. Justice is not worth a full scale land war in Asia. Even so, it is an important moral victory that the movie was eventually released to the public. Had Sony failed to do so, the US government should have stepped in. Allowing freedom of speech to be curtailed by a foreign state is unacceptable. What if China threatened US trade if we did not ban a documentary about pollution in Beijing? Imagine Russia threatening mass killing in Ukraine if a book chronicling Vladimir Putin’s dirty work for the KGB were published? As best I can tell, …

In Defense of Defense: Now Replacing Ghomeshi, The CIA

The CIA tortured people. Just this past week Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Diane Feinstein felt the need to remind us of that fact.  Be assured- there is no doubt that what went on was torture. As best I can tell, Dick Cheney and his cronies contend that causing a prisoner extreme pain to obtain information is not torture if done with certain techniques. Would Cheney have any hope of getting answers if the pain were not significant? This is torture. What’s most striking about the current report isn’t even the barbaric techniques, but the degree to which low-level CIA officials covered up their actions from their superiors. Both Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfield were only briefed on the matter in 2003, with President Bush receiving a briefing as late as 2006! At one point Dick Cheney got into a diplomatic spat when the CIA didn’t inform a covert facility in a country Cheney was visiting. Torture, whatever its efficacy, is morally wrong. However, it is understandable that statesmen faced with a crisis might neglect their …

Legacy of the Cambodian Genocide: A Walk through the Killing Fields

Benjamin Jakabek visits the Killing Fields of Cambodia to reflect on the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge nearly 40 years later. Reader discretion is advised.  After just a short drive outside of the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, I was standing in front of the killing tree at Choeung Ek killing field. Cynicism, depression, and humility hung in the air as tourists hobbled from site to site in florescent pink and yellow tank-tops at the request of an audio-guide handed out at the entrance. The cruelty that took place here accelerated in the late-1970s as the administration sought ever-more efficient ways to kill their innocent victims. Blunt objects, bamboo sticks, and confiscated farmers’ tools became the makeshift instruments of death. The killing tree was just an extension of this madness. Nature gave the tree its spikes to protect its fruit until they ripened and fell to the ground. Now, these spikes were being used to mercilessly and efficiently bludgeon children and babies to death. Today, the tree is covered in memorial bracelets placed there by …

Terror in Canada: How Will We Change?

Following the shooting in Ottawa, questions have arisen regarding the future of security and notions of safety in the face of escalating fundamentalist Islamic activity in Canada and abroad. Canada is still in the throes of recovering from the terror attacks of October. On Monday, October 20th, two soldiers were hit by a vehicle in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu in what is now known to be a targeted hit-and-run. The radicalized Martin Couture-Rouleau, 25, killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and injured another soldier by driving into them. After being engaged in a high-speed chase, Couture-Rouleau was shot dead by police . While Canadians were still reeling from this brazen attack on one of our own, two days later, on Wednesday, October 22nd, came yet another. This time, another radical, Michael Joseph Paul Zehaf Bibeau, 32 years of age, “fatally shot an honour guard [Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier on ceremonial guard duty at the Canadian National War Memorial] at point blank range at the National War Memorial”. He then proceeded to Parliament Hill. Upon his arrival, Zehaf Bibeau entered …

The Anti-Racism Social Justice Movement Needs Help

  The Anti-Racism “Social Justice” movement needs saving from itself, or it risks utter failure in their cause. In his work The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell discusses working class culture in Britain in the 1930’s, and attempts to discern why Socialism and socialist-inspired policies were so viscerally unpopular amongst those whom they would most benefit. Two criticisms Orwell cites were the use of heavy handed language peppered with Marxist vocabulary (often using words only one familiar with theoretical Marxism would understand), and a charge of personal eccentricities which made many active Far-Leftists unpopular in conventional society. These included vegetarianism, odd dress and nudists, as these habits were alienating to the general populace. Self-proclaimed activists, grandly describing themselves as the “social justice movement,”  have emerged largely on the internet and university campuses across North America and Europe. They are predominantly middle class and white, and purport to speak for those who oppose “racism”, “sexism”, “Islamophobia”, “Anti-semitism”, and any other “ism” they can point to. These words have been used so often that they no …

Burmese Days

On a recent trip to Burma, Benjamin Jakabek checks out the country’s troubled history and shaky forays into modernization. The Physics Professor I was walking down the streets of Mandalay when I ran into the most interesting person I would meet in Burma. He was a former physics professor at the University of Mandalay. He was a slightly pudgy short man in his mid-forties, with a thick black mustache, and a patchy, salt and pepper beard. Everywhere he went he carried a small notebook in the left breast pocket of his worn-out dress shirt, and an unlit green Burmese cigar in his right hand; the type that smelled more like burning corn husks rather than tobacco when smoked. His anti-government views became apparent within moments. With the ell-tale trademark of a professional defect, he criticized the regime by using mangled physics equations as his examples. He pulled out his little notepad and wrote down, “Work = Force x Time.” He then went on to say that because of the government, physics do not apply in …

Moldova: A Country at a Crossroads

  In Eastern Europe, wedged between Ukraine and Romania, is the Republic of Moldova. It is a small state with a population of approximately 3.5 million people. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe with a seven billion dollar economy that is based largely on agriculture, wine production and remittances. Today, Moldova finds itself in a conundrum—whether to seek closer ties with Russia or the European Union. While the Moldovan government has been guiding the country towards European integration, Gagauzia and Transnistria, two of its regions, have been critical of the government’s direction.They are in favor of remaining in Russia’s sphere of influence. In light of the current crisis in Ukraine and the divisions that exist there, this dilemma has the potential of yielding consequences that could alter the balance of power in the region.   Moldova’s Stance The central government in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova, supports fostering greater ties with the European Union. In fact, European Integration is an important policy objective in the government’s agenda. According to the Moldovan government, “European …