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The Way We Wage War, We Never See This Coming and Probably Never Will.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 10:20

We absolutely luuuuv our air wars, whether it's over Serbia or Libya or Iraq. Load up those underwing hard points and let's go drop some bombs.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

We like air war because it's cheap and dirty.  It eliminates the need for benchmarks to distinguish victory from defeat.  It's like going on a big family picnic.  You send a six-pack of CF-18s and everyone else chips in with a handful of whatever they have that's still airworthy and the party's on.

Take Kosovo, remember that place?  In 2008 we bombed Milosevic's Serbia for weeks until old Slobodan agreed to let 'our' people go.  We liberated Kosovo for its Albanian Muslim population.  It must be blissful today, eh?  Not so much. Even the Kosovars don't like the place and they're beating feet for Europe, Germany in particular.  Why would they not when its economy is largely based on cigarette and cement smuggling and organized crime?

Then we had Libya in 2011, a dandy air war against the holdout forces of Muammar Gaddafi.  Some, such as this blogger, called for an Egyptian invasion to quickly topple Gaddafi and restore order to make way for a new, civilian government.  The Egyptians next door had masses of late-build American F-16 fighters and M-1A1 Abrams tanks and could have taken Tripoli in a matter of days.

Why did I advocate an Egyptian campaign against Gaddafi in February, 2011? Because al Qaeda announced - quite openly announced - that they intended to get into the Libyan civil war in order to establish a toe hold to spread throughout North Africa.  They were candid about having missed their opportunity to get established in Egypt during the uprising against Mubarak and were determined not to repeat that blunder in Libya.

Egypt, only Egypt, had the means to get to Tripoli fast and keep al Qaeda out.  It would have been a matter of a few days and it would have saved thousands of lives and years of utter chaos.

Gwynne Dyer also came out in favour of Egyptian intervention on March 15:

...What is actually needed is active military intervention on the ground and in the air by disciplined, well-trained Arab forces, sent by a revolutionary Arab government that is in sympathy with the Libyan rebels. So where is the Egyptian army when the Libyans need it?

Egypt has an open border with the rebel-controlled east of Libya, and just one brigade of the Egyptian army would be enough to stop Gaddafy’s ground forces in their tracks. The Egyptian air force could easily shoot down any of Gaddafy’s aircraft that dared to take off, especially if it had early warning from European or American AWACS aircraft

Then on March 23, Parliament unanimously endorsed Canadian participation in maintaining a "no fly zone" over Libya which led me to note:

Approval wasn't automatic. Questions were asked. According to the G&M, the opposition asked when the mission would end, what would constitute success and what the whole thing would cost. Apparently satisfied when the government couldn't answer even one of those questions, they all stood up on their hind legs, let out a manly "Hurrah" and voted to endorse the mission that, plainly, no one understands.

And so we wound up going through a NATO-centric bombing campaign against Gaddafi forces that dragged on for 160-days.  Gaddafi was captured, summarily executed and Harper staged a victory fly-past over Parliament Hill even as al Qaeda was consolidating its own victory back in Libya.
Flash forward from 2011 to 2015 and where are we?  Libya hovers on the cusp of becoming a failed state.  It is incapable of forming a democratic government as no one is really in effective control.  ISIS has followed al Qaeda in setting up shop in Libya.
Today's National Post (via Britain's Telegraph) reports that ISIS is planning to use its presence in Libya as a springboard for attacking into Europe.  
The group has already established Libyan-based cells, who on Sunday released a video showing a mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Christian guest workers. The video, which prompted Egypt to launch retaliatory bombing raids on ISIS positions in Libya, included footage of a khaki-clad militant pointing a bloodstained finger northward, declaring, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”

The ISIS propagandist [Abu al-Libim] describes Libya as having “immense potential” for the group. He points out with relish it is awash with weapons from the country’s civil war, when large quantities of Gadhafi’s arsenals were appropriated by rebels. Some of those weapons came from Britain, which supplied the Gaddafi regime with machine guns, sniper rifles and ammunition during his final years in power, when he was seen as an ally against Islamist terrorism.

Libim also points out Libya is less than 490 kilometres from parts of the nearest European mainland.

“It has a long coast and looks upon the southern Crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat,” he writes

“The number of trips known as ’illegal immigration’ from this coast, which are huge in number … if this was even partially exploited and developed strategically, pandemonium could be wrought in the southern European states and it is even possible that there could be a closure of shipping lines and targeting of Crusader ships and tankers.”

Harper will need a lot more than a six-pack of aging CF-18s to deal with this bunch.  Wait, I forgot, we've already had our triumphalist flypast to commemorate our amazing victory over Libya.  That file is closed.
Fortunately our current air war over Iraq will be a rousing success where our previous air wars flopped.  Or, maybe not.  Oh well it keeps a lot of people, especially the Liberal Loudmouth (TM), happy and, at a paltry million dollars a day, it's peanuts.

You don't win a war without a winning strategy and the necessary commitment and perseverence.  You need a clearly understood objective and a plan of what you need to achieve it.  If you choose to skip on the strategy and duck the planning business, you're setting out to avoid failure which pretty much ensures you'll fail.  We're already well into our second decade of whack-a-mole warfare and it has failed us at every turn.  

On Egregious Stupidity And Willful Ignorance

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 09:20

I readily admit to being intolerant of people at times. Not for me are the excuses that others may make for their shortcomings, such as the limitations of their upbringing, their education, or their natural abilities.

At the top of my list are those who either embrace or promote egregious stupidity and willful ignorance. And while no part of the political spectrum is exempt from such offenders, they do seem to be disproportionately represented by the right. Anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, and ardent supporters of the Harper regime readily come to mind.

Lazy thinking is no substitute for critical thinking, and while the latter, I am convinced, cannot happen without a a good education, whether formal or acquired through wide reading, there is no assurance that those who call themselves educated are in fact able to think critically. Bias, tunnel vision, and a myriad of other factors can militate against that capacity.

Given how much the Harper regime has invested in promoting and exploiting ignorance and stupidity (a look at some of its convoluted rhetoric around Bill C-51 offers ample illustration), now seems to be a propitious time to examine a few basic guidelines that can help promote better thinking.

My first source is an article from The Hamilton Spectator whose purpose was to help people think more rigorously about the science around vaccinations, but most are readily transferable to other topics as well:
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when you read a piece about science and medicine:

1. Who's saying it and what's their reputation?

2. Where and how are the results being presented?

3. Who paid for the work and who pays the researcher?

4. Are you reading anecdotes or evidence?

5. Are there comments from an arm's length unbiased expert? How does that fit in to the picture?

6. What do the numbers really tell me?

7. How large was the study? (Generally, the bigger, the better.)

8. How was the study carried out? A test tube? Mouse? Dying patient? Healthy patient? (The closer the results are to the general population, the more important they are.)

9. How substantial are the benefits and how big are the risks?

10. Are opposing viewpoints included? If so, what's their reputation?
An even better and more comprehensive set of guidelines is taken from a university website:
1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder. (Re. research problems)

To think critically you must be willing to think creatively - to be
curious about the puzzles of human behavior, to wonder why
people act the way they do, and to question received wisdom and
examine new explanations of why things are as they are.

2. Define your terms. (Re. operational definitions)

Identify the problem in clear and concrete terms, rather than vague ones like "happiness," "potential," or "self-esteem."

3. Examine the evidence. (Re. data: empiricism, reliability, and

Consider the nature of the evidence supporting various
approaches to the problems under examination. Is there good
evidence one way or another? Is it reliable? Valid? Is the
"evidence" merely someone's personal assertion or speculation,
or is it based on replicated empirical data?

4. Analyze assumptions and biases - your own and those of others. (Re. empirical/objective observations: biases and

What prejudices, deeply held values, and other
biases do you bring to your evaluation of a problem? Are you
willing to consider evidence that contradicts your beliefs? Can
you identify the assumptions and biases that others bring to their

5. Avoid emotional reasoning. (Re. empirical observations)

The fact that you feel strongly about something doesn’t make you
right! Remember that everyone holds convictions about how the
world operates (or how it should operate), and your opponents
are probably as serious about their convictions as you are about
yours. Feelings are important, but they should not be substitutes
for careful appraisal of arguments and evidence.

6. Don't oversimplify. (Re. Generalizations)

Look beyond the obvious; reject simplistic thinking ("All the evil in the world is due to that group of loathsome people") and either-or thinking ("Either genes determine everything about personality and behavior or they count for virtually nothing"). Be wary of "argument by anecdote," taking a single case as evidence of a larger
phenomenon. For example, reading about one chilling case of a man who murders while on parole should not be the basis on
which you assess parole programs in general.

7. Consider other interpretations. (Re. alternative explanations,or hypotheses; mutual exclusiveness and exhaustiveness)

Before you draw a conclusion from the evidence, think creatively
about other possible explanations. When you learn that two
events are statistically correlated, for example, be sure to think
carefully about which one is the cause and which the result - or
whether a third factor might be causing both of them.

8. Tolerate uncertainty. (Re. Theories and data: testing and

This is probably the hardest step in becoming a critical
thinker, for it requires that we hold our beliefs "lightly" and be
willing to give them up when better evidence comes along. It
requires us to live with the realization that we may not have the
perfect answer to a problem at the moment, and may never have
it. Many people want "the" answers, and thy want science to
provide them: "Just tell me what to do!" they demand.
Pseudoscience promises answers, which is why it is so popular;
science gives us probabilities that suggest one answer is better
than another - for now - and warns us that one day we may have
to change our minds.Recommend this Post

Tom Mulcair Weighs In on Bill C-51 Today - At Last, Finally, Maybe We Hope.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 08:37
They're both trained lawyers, Tom Mulcair and Elizabeth May.  One of them knows right from wrong, the other waits awhile to see which way the wind's blowing.

Elizabeth May only had to read the Harper Cons bill C-51 to realize it was an assault on Canadian democracy.  The man who tells us he's fit to be prime minister of Canada wasn't so sure.  At first he was sort of for it, then he was sort of hesitant about it.  He needed time, a lot of time for someone who claims to be prime ministerial material, but - at long last - Mulcair has formulated a New Democrat position on this widely denounced legislation.

Oh please, Tom, what's it going to be?

UPDATE -  this just in.

Well, that's that then.  The NDP has given it much careful thought and concluded that it's probably safe enough to stand up against Bill C-51.   Why, Tom even called it "dangerous, vague and ineffective."  Good for you, Tom.  That didn't take long at all.  Very prime ministerial, very.

What's Stopping Them?

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 06:45

Compelling reasons exist for putting a price on carbon. Three Star readers offer theirs:
Re: Ontario carbon price policy in the works, Feb. 13

I was struck by the total disconnect between two of your news articles on Friday.

One was on the Wynne government’s decision to put a price on carbon, which is clearly essential given the urgent need to reduce our emission of greenhouse gases. In this article, the Conservative leader, Jim Wilson, is quoted as saying that a price on carbon will “hurt the economy and kill jobs” even though both claims have been disproven by the B.C. carbon tax.

The second article reported the scientific study that shows that climate change will bring decades-long droughts to the American Midwest that will devastate its agricultural economy by mid-century. We can expect similar disruptions in Canada.

How can the Conservatives, both provincial and federal, continue to claim fiscal responsibility and yet totally ignore the future costs of climate change by opposing action to reduce greenhouse gases?

Alan Slavin, Peterborough

Environment Minister Glen Murray notes in a strategy paper that, “Climate change is already costing Ontarians by threatening our communities, businesses and way of life. While Ontario is showing leadership in fighting climate change, we know we need to do more and we need to act fast.”

We agree. The time to place a fee on carbon is now. A fully refunded greenhouse gas pollution fee can be used to fund tax reductions on jobs and income, and levels the playing field, encouraging all players to reduce their pollution.

We win by reducing pollution at least cost, by having more money in our pockets and by encouraging clean technology business with price signals, not subsidies.
As citizens of Ontario we should advocate growing the economy by implementing a greenhouse pollution fee that is: fully refunded, simple, competitive, transparent, predictable and priced right. It’s a win, win, win.

Andreas Kyprianou, Canadians for Clean Prosperity, Toronto

What if world governments put a rising fee on carbon, and gave the revenue to their people? The rising fee would improve industrial productivity and drive innovation in clean technologies. It would produce quality jobs and help clean the air and water, improving people’s health.

The money returned to citizens would help take the edge off the rising cost of living and stimulate spending. It will also help reduce carbon pollution that is disrupting the global climate.

The World Bank and IMF are calling for a fee on carbon. It’s time the G20 do the same.

Cheryl McNamara, TorontoRecommend this Post


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