Posts from our progressive community

BREAKING: Stephen Harper Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize !!!!

Montreal Simon - 2 hours 52 min ago


OK. I realize you are staring at that headline in disbelief. And wondering whether I've finally lost it.

But then so am I eh?

And I wrote it.

Because as bizarre, or as horrible, or as insane, or as obscene as it may be, it's true.
Read more »

Mount Polley Update

Sister Sages Musings - 5 hours 1 min ago

Thanks to Laila Yuile, here.

This brings us the first glimpse into life on the ground in Likely, BC. The initial report is here.

Gary E. over at How Bad is the Record also has some thoughts on this, here.

We will not forgive. We will not forget.

Expect us.

And a Happy Labour Day Weekend to You, Mr. Harper

The Disaffected Lib - 7 hours 58 min ago
The Times Colonist got the Labour Day weekend off to an early start with two op-eds this morning.  Both of them concerned our prime minister, Stephen J. Harper.

Mike Robinson provided a piece exploring Harper's performance as Canada's CEO.  Robinson, who has spent 28-years as CEO of various science and cultural NGOs, concludes that Harper's executive tenure has been a flop.

...in Canada, say the last eight years, corporate dominance has so overshadowed our federal political scene that many question the independence of thought in the Conservative party, and especially the Prime Minister’s Office.On economic policy and foreign affairs files, Canada now speaks increasingly with the voice of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers — the industry’s lobby group — and seems to draw its economic policy from the Fraser Institute, both western organizations with great empathy for profit, small government and tax breaks for corporations....What becomes problematic is advancing these causes as the primary purpose of democratic government in a civil society. A majority government, even a plurality majority, has the duty to govern in the best interests of all the citizens and to promote the public good.These duties require leadership that is comfortable with nuances, that listens and reflects, and has a searching eye for the middle ground. It is not well served by a leader in the thrall of dogmatism, who bases decisions on how they will serve his corporate base. To paraphrase former prime minister Jean Chrétien, Canada’s PM cannot be headwaiter to the oil patch.Robinson goes on to evaluate Harper on several CEO criteria before concluding:LOverall, our CEO PM has never looked comfortable in the position. If the economy stays flat and the pipelines fizzle; if the PM stays out of the gym; if more stupid mistakes occur; if the vision remains more of the same — this CEO is cruising towards a deserved involuntary dismissal.Next up is a tale of triumphalism misplaced by our prime ministerial Chicken Hawk by Charlotte Gray, author of nine, non-fiction best sellers and former chairwoman of Canada's History Society.  Without mentioning Harper by name, Gray excoriates those who want to "celebrate" Canada's role in WWI.Am I the only person feeling increasingly uncomfortable in the tidal wave of articles, ceremonies, television programs and speeches triggered by the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War?Obviously there is a lot to remember. The extraordinary myopia of kings, emperors and prime ministers who let their countries roll inexorably toward conflict. The helplessness of those caught up in events beyond their control — both the troops and the families they left behind. The terrifying new weapons that ensured that this war would be slaughter on an industrial scale, rather than a limited engagement between professional armies.And most of all, the bravery of those young men who endured the nightmare of mud, poison gas, rats, disease, hunger, lice, cold, fear and homesickness in the trenches.Gray writes that there was precious little to celebrate in the outcome of WWI.As early as October 1914, Maclean’s magazine called the bloody conflict in Europe “the Great War.” But it wasn’t a great war, let alone “the war to end all wars,” as British writer H.G. Wells suggested. It was a failed war. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was supposed to ensure that the major European powers would never go to war again.In fact, the Versailles Treaty turned out to be the peace to end all peace. Within 20 years of the treaty being signed, brutal conflict had erupted again in Europe.The boundaries that the victorious powers slapped onto their maps of the Middle East reflected their own self-interest, rather than the religious and ethnic realities on the ground. The current turmoil in the Arab world can be traced back, in part, to decisions taken in the Hall of Mirrors and subsequent diplomatic get-togethers.The second reason for my increasing unease is a disturbing thread in some of the First World War commemorations. Military battles are being presented to Canadians as significant moments in our coming of age as a country.But you only have to read about the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge (see historian Tim Cook’s wonderful Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918) to know that this coming of age was the result of poor military planning by British generals, and involved hundreds of needless deaths.Among those Canadians who returned, there was an undercurrent of resentment that they had been embroiled in a British imperial crusade.This is a funny place to start the national mythology.How much is our past being manipulated for nationalist reasons? Many of the citizens in today’s multicultural Canada have their roots in countries that were either defeated in 1918 or played no part in the conflict. What should the killing fields of Europe mean to them?Gray has little time for people like Harper who appropriate to themselves the sacrifice made by so many and sully that sacrifice by transforming it into mythical narratives to suit their own purposes.So, happy Labour Day weekend to you, Mr. Harper, and thank you, Times Colonist, for giving us so much to mull over this holiday.

America the Beautiful: Deluxe Ferguson Edition

Dawg's Blawg - 12 hours 52 min ago
Nothing, repeat, nothing, has been resolved in Ferguson—or in the America for which Ferguson stands as icon. A grand jury, of three Blacks and nine whites, is presently deciding whether the cop who gunned down unarmed teenager Michael Brown... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

With Climate Change Sometimes There are Winners and Losers.

The Disaffected Lib - 13 hours 59 min ago


Washington State has a water problem.  It's a warm water problem.  A report in The Seattle Times says warmer Pacific waters off Washington are diverting salmon runs to Canada.

Unusually warm water off the Washington coast is sending the vast majority of the sockeye-salmon run to Canadian waters, leaving Puget Sound fishermen with nearly empty nets.
According to data from the Pacific Salmon Commission, nearly 2.9 million sockeye have been caught in Canadian waters, while only about 98,000 have been netted in Washington through Aug. 19.That means 99 percent of sockeye have gone through the Johnstone Strait around the northern part of Vancouver Island into Canadian waters.During a typical sockeye-salmon run, about 50 percent of the run goes around the south end of Vancouver Island through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, putting them in U.S. waters, The Bellingham Herald reported.This year's Fraser River run has been spectacular for B.C. commercial and sports fisherman.

Oh, Crap! Sorry, I Meant the Ukraine.

The Disaffected Lib - 14 hours 24 min ago


Vlad Putin, it seems, has a response to the hectoring recently from the likes of Sideshow Steve Harper and John Baird and others - "meet me in the Arctic."

The Guardian reports that Putin has had enough of Western criticism of Russian involvement in the Ukraine whose government he likens to Nazis.

Hours after Barack Obama accused Russia of sending troops into Ukraine and fuelling and upsurge in the separatist war, Putin retorted that the Ukrainian army was the villain of peace, targeting residential areas of towns and cities like German troops did in the former Soviet Union.

...And he made a pointed reference to the Arctic, which with its bounteous energy reserves and thawing waterways is emerging as a new potential conflict between Russia and its western rivals.  "Our interests are concentrated in the Arctic.  And of course we should pay moire attention to issues of development of the Arctic and the strengthening of our position," Putin told a youth camp outside Moscow.

Ukraine's prime minister, Arseny Yetseniuk, meanwhile says he'll try to bring Ukraine into NATO.  Oh no you won't, Arseny.  The "run to NATO" gambit was already tried by Georgia and it failed.  We're not going to fight your war.  Obama has already said America won't be going to war with Russia over Ukraine. Harper/Baird, both classic chicken hawks, love to talk tough but have so defunded Canada's armed forces that we won't be much help beyond hot air.  Besides, we just got put on notice that our problems with Putin aren't in Ukraine.  They're in our own backyard, the Arctic.

How the Right-Wing Media Machine Slimed Michael Brown

The Disaffected Lib - 14 hours 59 min ago
Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter - not an ounce, not one ounce of integrity among them.

In the wake of the execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, America's right-wing slime machine struggled to get control of the story.

It's hard to know whether it came from Drudge's brain or Hannity's ass or Coulter's mouth - who can tell them apart - but a couple of weeks after the shooting they came up with another story, this one in which the young black man viciously attacked the cop and tried to get the officer's gun.

This was proven, Fox News reported with an unnamed source, because “the officer had sustained a fractured eye socket in the incident.” Ann Coulter even suggested, incorrectly,that she’d seen X-rays of the fracture. Fox went on to claim “solid proof” of a battle between Wilson and Brown for the officer’s handgun.
It was not long, of course, before CNN and others disproved such bogus claims. But how did such fiction make it all the way to an outlet as major, if intellectually challenged, as Fox News?It was obviously a total fabrication.  Had anything remotely like a struggle, much less a vicious attack on an officer, occurred that would have been the first thing out of the Ferguson police department chief's mouth at his initial press conferences.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 15 hours 27 min ago
Assorted content to end your week.

- Ralph Surette suggests that Nova Scotia's tax and regulatory review pay close attention to the fact that it can do more than simply slash both:
Nova Scotia already has relatively low corporate taxes and lower than average taxes for the highest earners. Yet none of this can seem to get into the conversation that has us as high-tax, anti-business and anti-everything. I invite the review committee to pin down where we actually stand on the comparative tax scale.

I also invite it to take note of what's going on next door. New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant, who's 25 per cent ahead of the governing Conservatives in the polls as the election campaign opens, has vowed to create a new tax bracket for those making over $150,000 and to rescind a 2012 cut of the business property tax, raising $63 million a year in all.

What's more, the New Brunswick Business Council supports him -- president Susan Holt having stated that, with regard to the property tax cut, business didn't ask for it and the province would have been better off putting the money on its deficit.

Indeed, if not in Nova Scotia, here, there and elsewhere you find business-people acknowledging that governments have to pay their bills and it can't all be done by cutting. - Meanwhile, Alessandro Demaio comments on the growth of economic and social inequality in Australia. David Dayen points out that tax giveaways to private corporations tend to be an utter waste of public resources. And Paul Krugman highlights the need for a far stronger European challenge to austerity and other right-wing policies which are failing miserably even on their own terms.

- Andrea Rexer notes that there are glaring unanswered questions about the CETA which by design won't be dealt with until it's too late (and then only in an unaccountable special commission). 

- Gregory Beatty talks to Charles Smith and Andrew Stevens about the state of labour. And even Tasha Kheiriddin discusses the increasing importance of the labour movement in federal politics - though of course she can't do so without prominently featuring plenty of easily-debunked anti-worker propaganda.

- Finally, Clare Demerse makes the case for a national clean energy strategy to both boost our economy and protect Canada's environment:
While Canada’s fossil fuel and large hydro resources are not evenly distributed, all of Canada’s jurisdictions have opportunities to develop clean technologies like wind and solar power. As highlighted by the National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy in its 2012 report, Framing the Future, Canada’s low-carbon strengths and opportunities truly run from coast to coast to coast.

But to seize these opportunities in a coherent and coordinated way, we need a national vision and strategy.
...
The Canadian energy strategy should become the home for clean energy initiatives that premiers work together to deliver—ideally with more partnership from Ottawa. Here are three areas that would make a difference for tackling climate change and speeding up the deployment of clean energy in Canada:
  • New investment in transmission lines and smart grids to supply clean energy across Canada, and allow for increased clean power exports to the United States 
  • Stronger policies, and incentives, along with infrastructure investment, to spur the use of electric vehicles in Canada, and 
  • A more coherent approach to pricing carbon pollution. Some provinces are already among North America’s leaders in carbon pricing, while others are still thinking about how to start charging for pollution. With Ottawa missing in action on carbon pricing, provincial coordination is currently our best shot at laying the foundation for a national approach to making polluters pay.

Floods Come and Go But Drought Likes to Climb Onto Your Back and Stay There

The Disaffected Lib - 15 hours 50 min ago


We hear lots about California and it's three-year-running drought that has left the State in severe water stress.  Wells are running dry, emergency bottled water has to be brought in to help the poor survive, orchards are being bulldozed as the trees die off, Nestle keeps plundering the state to bottle water for other places, municipalities are finally preparing to recycle waste water, etc., etc.

The "exceptional" drought zone is spreading ever northward, nearing the Oregon border.  Officials from Humboldt County say the Eel River levels are at unprecedented lows and people along the coast are not ready for what's coming.

Coastal areas of Humboldt County have not see the impacts of the drought as directly as inland portions, leading many residents to be unaware of the critical situation, said Dan Ehresman, director of the North Coast Environmental Center."People are disconnected from where our water comes from," Ehresman said. "It is easy not to think about the conditions in the rest of the county."In the wine country, growers have cut back on drip irrigation but still hope their vines will make it through the summer.  It's next year that's on their mind.  They need relief in the form of rainfall over the winter.

Bad as a 3-year drought may be, a report from Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey concludes that America's southwest is at risk of a 10-year drought this century.

The researchers found that when accounting for climate change, there is a 20-50 percent chance of a 35-year long megadrought in the next century, depending on the region. There is a 5-10 percent chance of a 50-year megadrought, they reported.The computer models also found that California, Arizona and New Mexico will be at increased risk for drought, but that the risk could decrease for parts of Washington, Montana and Idaho.Apparel companies are looking for alternatives to replace cotton.VF Corp. (NYSE:VFC), which makes Lee and Wrangler jeans, Timberland shoes and The North Face fleece jackets, said it started looking to diversify its raw materials several years ago, after bad weather events in China and Pakistan -- two of the world’s largest cotton growers -- hit the company’s cotton supply. While the crop grows especially well in hot climates, it is extremely sensitive to water. Not enough H20, and cotton chokes at the vine; too much, and its roots rot.In the coming decades, water scarcity spurred by climate change will likely hit cotton the most in China's Xinjian county, Pakistan, Australia and the western United States, according to the International Trade Center, a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. Extreme heat waves could also harm cotton crops, as will an abundance of insects, which are expected to adapt and thrive in new environmental conditions.It's hard to imagine how a modern society like the American southwest could endure a 10-year drought.  A 35 or a 50-year drought would likely render the area uninhabitable.







World's Largest Private Bank, UBS, Says Fossil Energy is Toast

The Disaffected Lib - 15 hours 54 min ago


The Swiss banking giant, UBS, says renewable energy is the hands down winner and conventional power generation is finished.

In a briefing paper sent to clients and investors this week, the Zurich-based UBS bank argues that large-scale centralized power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible and are "not relevant" for future electricity generation.  Instead the authors expect it to be cheAper and more efficient for households and businesses to generate their own energy to power their cars and to store any surplus energy in their own buildings even without subsidies.

"Solar is at the edge of being a competitive power generation technology.  The biggest drawback has been its intermittency.  This is where batteries and electric vehicles (EVs) come into play.  Battery costs have declined rapidly, and we expect a further decline of more than 50% by 2020. By then a mass [produced] electric vehicle will have almost the same price as a combustion engine car.  But it will save up to 2,000 euros a year on fuel cost, hence, it will begin to pay off almost immediately without any meaningful upfront "investment." This is why we expect a rapidly growing penetration with EVs, in particular in countries with high fossil fuel prices.

The expected 50% reduction in the cost of batteries by 2020 will not just spur electric car sales, but could also lead to exponential growth in demand for stationary batteries to store excess power in buildings, says UBS. "Battery storage should become financially attractive for family homes when combined with a solar system and an electric vehicle.  As a consequence, we expect transformational changes in the utility and auto sectors.  By 2020 investing in a home solar system with a 20-year life span, plus some small-scale home battery technology and an electric car, will pay for itself in six to eight years for the average consumer in Germany, Italy, Spain and much of the rest of Europe."

Australia is already going through something like this.  There, widespread adoption of rooftop solar power systems in residential and commercial properties, is savaging the bottom line of conventional power utilities.   With fossil fuel prices rising and solar costs dropping rapidly along with price breakthroughs in battery technology, the writing could be on the wall especially for high cost/high carbon fossil fuels.  Sorry, Athabasca, but you really should have seen this coming.

Performance Art - High Voltage

The Disaffected Lib - 15 hours 54 min ago
Photographer Patrick Hall reveals human emotion at 300,000 volts

What Do They Do Now?

Northern Reflections - 17 hours 6 min ago

                                                               http://www.pinterest.com/

Justin Trudeau said recently that the biggest threat to global security is "the kind of violence and misunderstandings and wars that come out of resource depletion—concerns of lack of hope for generations growing up in a world that is getting smaller and seemingly less and less fair.”

Alberta MP Michelle Rempel took to her Facebook page, writing that Trudeau's statement sent her into a "blind-rage." Justin has that effect on Harperites. Paul Wells writes that there are at least a couple of reasons for that. First, as one Tory said in an email,


That is because most Tory MPs come from very practical, real-world career backgrounds in small business (Joe Preston), policing (Rick Norlock), or farming (Gerry Ritz), to name a few. Others have track records of governing (John Baird) or legislating (Jason Kenney). They have painstakingly built their reputations and livelihoods over decades of work.”
Which is curious. Trudeau the Younger holds two Bachelors degrees -- in literature and education. It's true he lacks "real world" experience. Stephen Harper also holds two degrees -- in economics. But his only "real" job  was working in the mail room for Imperial Oil. Blind is the operative word.

The second -- and the real reason -- for Conservative rage is Trudeau's name. Harperites still rage at Trudeau the Elder. Two days after Justin delivered the eulogy at his father's funeral, the future prime minister published an op-ed in The National Post:

Harper wrote that he had passed the elder Trudeau in the street a year earlier and been struck by “a tired out, little old man” who had once “provoked both the loves and hatreds of my political passion.” The loves came first for Harper, he wrote, the hatreds as he matured. He called Trudeau “a distant leader who neither understood, nor cared to understand, a group of people over whom his actions had immense impact,” a man who “flail[ed] from one pet policy objective to another,” whose government “created huge deficits, a mammoth national debt, high taxes, bloated bureaucracy, rising unemployment, record inflation, curtailed trade and declining competitiveness.”
The op-ed always said more about Harper than it did about Trudeau. In fact, with a couple of exceptions, it's a pretty good description of Harper. But, most of all, the piece revealed that Stephen Harper was -- and is -- a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

Conservatives have done everything they can to bury PierreTrudeau. Petro Canada is a now a private corporation and they have consistently refused to recognize the Charter of Rights and  Freedoms -- in both history and in legislation. Still, the Son has risen to haunt their dreams.

What do they do now?


A Documentary Recommendation: Blackfish

Politics and its Discontents - 17 hours 14 min ago
Once again, I am writing a post that, in one sense, has nothing to do with politics but in another sense has everything to do with it and much more. If we consider political systems simply a methodology by which we engage with the our fellow human beings and the larger world, then the film I am about to recommend is a very political one.

As I have indicated in past posts, I have a real appetite for well-made documentaries. Blackfish falls into that category.

Balckfish explores the world of orcas, also known as killer whales. In fact, they are part of the dolphin family and like dolphins, they are sentient, very intelligent self-aware animals that have suffered tremendously at the hands of another animal, the human being. The film focuses on the terrible suffering, sometimes to the point of psychosis, that orcas experience in captivity. Seaworld in Orlando comes in for particular scrutiny, as does one particular captive performer, Tilikum, responsible for the deaths of three people. And yet Tilikum, as you will see, is hardly the villain of the piece.

I must confess that I watched the film in stages. Disturbing and moving, especially in scenes showing the capture of orcas in the wild and the responses of their families nearby watching and keening helplessly while their babies are taken, it is at times emotionally overpowering as we are yet again made witness to the kind of human folly that has made this world such a precarious place for all life today.

Balckfish is available on Netflix, or you can watch it below:


Blackfish Find out what really happens at... by NovaCottonRecommend this Post

Harper discovers Northwest Passage

Creekside - 17 hours 37 min ago













Harper joins Arctic search for lost ships of Franklin expedition "One day we're just going to come around the bend and there's going to be the ship and Franklin's skeleton slumped over the helm and we're going to find it.""I've never been that close to a big chunk of ice. It's huge," he said. "That was great. Really exciting."
Boris from the Beav has uncovered two of Steve the Explorer's earlier compositions on the subject ...The Arcticby Stephen HarperIn the Arctic the ice cube is really big.  Franklin died one day in the Arctic. His ship got lost. I will find the skeleton of Franklin.  I like big ships.The end
and Boss of Canadaby Stephen HarperIn the elections I got to be boss of Canada. I have a big house. You are not the boss of me. The ice cubes are really big. I got a big plane.The end. 
.

The Con Clown John Baird and the Dangerous Ukrainian Crisis

Montreal Simon - 20 hours 34 min ago


The situation in Ukraine couldn't be more ominous, with reports that some Russian troops have crossed into that country.

World leaders like Obama are calling for calm, refusing to call it an invasion, and ruling out military action. 

The need for cooler heads to prevail has never been more urgent.

So what is our ghastly Con Foreign Minister John Baird  doing?

Answer: blowing hot air out of every orifice, and fanning the flames of war.
Read more »

Is This the Ultimate Zero-Emissions Urban Transporter?

The Disaffected Lib - 21 hours 55 min ago
They can move you along at speeds upwards of 20-miles an hour for distances up to 30-miles at a stretch.  They're computer controlled and host features too numerous to list.  They're e-bikes, electrical power assist bicycles.  You still do the peddling but when the going gets harder on hills, for example, the electric motor kicks in to carry the extra load.

A recent U.S. competition was won by Seattle's Teague "Denny":



But the Denny is just one of a horde of contenders.  Motors by Yamaha, automatic gear boxes by Shimano, designs by Audi, there seems to be no limit to innovation and creativity.



So many terrific designs, so many brilliant ideas.  Now, if someone can just incorporate as many of the greatest features in one bike, we might all be lining up to get it.

The Scottish Referendum and the Patronizing NO Lady

Montreal Simon - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 21:54


With just three weeks to go before the independence referendum things are definitely heating up in Scotland.

Especially since the leader of the YES side was declared the winner of last Monday's TV debate.

And polls suggest the gap between the two sides is narrowing as the momentous decision approaches. 
Read more »

Remember, It's the IPCC and It Can Never Tell the Whole Truth

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 17:10

The oft-maligned Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change is, admittedly, something of a strange bird.  It doesn't conduct climate change research.  It merely collects the research undertaken by universities, government agencies and NGOs, digests the important stuff and then issues advisory reports to governments.

The IPCC reports are usually off-mark.  They sometimes, albeit rarely, overstate conclusions.  Far more often they understate projections of the arrival, severity and duration of climate change impacts.

Contrary to what denialists claim, the IPCC is, if anything, unduly optimistic. For example, until recently the IPCC was predicting that the Arctic Ocean would be seasonally ice-free by the end of this century, about 85-years from now.  The US Navy now predicts a seasonally ice-free Arctic by 2019 at the outside, perhaps as early as 2016.  The Navy's research has the IPCC about 80-years off the mark.

The IPCC reports are the products of a team of "lead authors."  They come to their findings by consensus.  Everybody has to agree and so hold outs can extract compromises on the authors' conclusions.

It's this consensus factor that means it can be important to carefully consider the language that does find its way into the reports.  When the IPCC reports there is an "increasing likelihood" that global warming has already become "irreversible" it's using loaded words.  It's not talking about vague possibilities.  It's speaking of probabilities and it's speaking of probabilities that are increasing, approaching certainty.

When the report speaks of "irreversible" that's also a loaded word.  Irreversible means that global warming is already out of our control.  We can't turn off the tap. We have passed one or more tipping points that lead to runaway global warming, the triggering of natural feedback mechanisms of, as yet, unknown consequence.

So, if the IPCC is to be believed, it's at least somewhat probable and growing increasingly probable that we have triggered irreversible as in runaway global warming.  That's the consensus view.  That's the compromise opinion.

Does that mean we should throw in the towel?  Hardly.  There's much work to do. We need to explore what we can do to safely mitigate this warming, runaway or not.  We need to figure out how people on every corner of this world can live with each other, make common cause.  We need to work out adaptation strategies.

Above all else we need to understand that, while tackling climate change is going to be demanding, expensive and, well, hard, we can still make sure that it's worse for our kids and grandkids, much worse, and that, unfortunately, is easy - for us.

Remember, easy is what got us in this mess in the first place.  It's time to try a different strategy.

Big Summit Next Week - Maybe the Biggest in Years

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 14:38

NATO leaders gather in Wales next week for what could be the alliance's most important summit in years.  Instead of focusing on housekeeping issues to tidy up the not very successful adventure in Afghanistan, alliance members will find their plates full with developing approaches to the Ukrainian chaos and the rampaging Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Jan Techau, director of Carnegie Europe, writes that, around the world, all eyes will be on NATO and the alliance had better get it right.

...the alliance must embrace deeply uncomfortable truths. In its relationship with Russia, NATO is now in a confrontation with a country it deemed a partner (albeit a difficult one) until only a few months ago. Short-term crisis management passed off smoothly, with a surprising degree of unity among 28 member states that hold very different views on the situation’s security relevance. But now, alliance strategy must shift from crisis management to the long game.NATO needs to achieve three goals. First, it must provide credible reassurance to those allies that feel threatened by Russia. Second, it should keep the door open for a possible improvement in diplomatic relations. Third, it must make clear that the alliance’s security guarantee does not apply to Ukrainian territory while supporting the government in Kiev in its daunting security sector reforms....With respect to IS, NATO’s position is both easier and more difficult at the same time. It is easier because the turmoil in Iraq and Syria does not fall into the alliance’s immediate remit. It is more difficult because the seemingly unstoppable expansion of the jihadists’ reach confronts Europeans and Americans with a daunting question: Will the West eventually have to go to war against IS? If the West’s indirect containment strategy—propping up the Kurdish Peshmerga as the group’s opponents—fails, and if the regional powers remain largely passive, Western troops on the ground may be unavoidable. ...So far, the West fears the costs and the unintended consequences of intervening in a politically, ethnically, and religiously hypercharged part of the world more than it fears the jihadists’ further expansion. That may change. Don’t expect the Wales summit to tackle this head-on. But do expect this topic to hang over the meeting like a dark cloud....A larger-than-usual crowd will tune in when NATO leaders congregate in Wales. The summit will be followed closely not only in Europe but also around the world. It will be used as an indicator of whether the West is still alive. And it will tell audiences in Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Tel Aviv, Damascus, Cairo, and elsewhere whether Europeans are still willing to play a military role and how loyal the United States is as an ally.

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