Monday, July 31, 2006


Babble on.

One of the first people on the left side of the political spectrum I ever linked to has come completely unhinged:

Joe, our government is complict in this act by helping to stall a ceasefire. I will let you speculate as to why they are on board with this bizzare policy, but there is no doubt they are. MacKay is Foreign Minister. This is his file. I just hope he can live with himself. I am not sure I could. I don't have to worry about Steve having bad dreams about dead babies. Sociopaths don't have that problem.
Greg | Homepage | 07.30.06 - 8:39 pm | #


I don't have to worry about Steve having bad dreams about dead babies. Sociopaths don't have that problem.

That is easily the most asinine thing I've ever seen you write.
Damian | Homepage | 07.31.06 - 9:44 am | #


That is easily the most asinine thing I've ever seen you write.

I just call em like I sees em.
Greg | Homepage | 07.31.06 - 9:57 am | #

For those who like to toss the term around indiscriminately:

Antisocial personality disorder: A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others and inability or unwillingness to conform to what are considered to be the norms of society.

The disorder involves a history of chronic antisocial behavior that begins before the age of 15 and continues into adulthood. The disorder is manifested by a pattern of irresponsible and antisocial behavior as indicated by academic failure, poor job performance, illegal activities, recklessness, and impulsive behavior. Symptoms may include dysphoria, an inability to tolerate boredom, feeling victimized, and a diminished capacity for intimacy.

Greg has officially lost it, and I'm done with him. Kinda sad, considering that until now, I had considered him one of the more reasonable guys on the other side of the fence. Now he's just another moonbat, and a dime-a-dozen one at that. What a shame.

Babble off.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Canadian-built LAV's going to Saudi Arabia, whether we like it or not

Babble on.

Speaking of Flit (see my Update to the post below), he made a sharp pickup earlier today:

Still, isn't it interesting that a sale of Canadian-built weapons to the Middle East right now is subject to U.S. Congressional ratification but has not been debated and cannot be obstructed in any way by the Canadian government, which presumably might still have an MP or two with an opinion on the matter?

Yes, Bruce, I'd say that's very interesting.

Babble off.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of feeble minds, I suppose

Babble on.

I for one, applaud PM Harper for asking why the hell UNIFIL and UNTSO weren't shut down when open hostilities began in southern Lebanon recently. It's not like they had any chance of fulfilling their mandates.

Of course - and the rest of the Blogging Tories won't be happy with me for saying it - Harper needs to answer the same damned question. If the UN was wrong to keep UNTSO observer troops in Lebanon, wasn't his government wrong to keep Canadian participation in that mission as well?

It's a lot easier to pull seven Canadians out of a UN mission than it is to shut down the whole mission from a byzantine UN headquarters. I don't have a problem with him second-guessing the UN's decision, as long as he's willing to have his own decision on the matter second-guessed.

Sauce for the goose, and all that.

Babble off.

Update: Bruce R from Flit e-mailed to tell me I was barking up the wrong tree about the UNTSO - here's the relevant part of what he said:

The four officers killed were trained military observers, the UN's independent eyes and ears on the ground: there were no UNIFIL forces anywhere near the OP when it was shelled, they just went in to recover the bodies. UNTSO's job is to get as close to the fight as they safely can and report back... they've been doing this since 1948, through four hot wars, and lots of border incidents. They're not going to leave now when their reports to New York are the most useful. Harper was wrong... I see he hasn't reiterated.

Whether UNIFIL is doing anything useful by this point is an open question, but the alternative to an UNTSO is a UN military organization entirely dependent on Israeli/Lebanese party lines, or god forbid, the press, for their military intelligence. Even if UNIFIL had been pulled out, the UNTSOs would have stayed on, almost certainly, doing exactly what they were doing.

As UNTSO, they would have had no authority to tell Hezbollah to get away from their hill... they're basically four guys in a bunker. If Hezbollah or the IDF was to drive up, their job was to smile and wave... then report back to N.Y. exactly what they were armed with. It's not peacekeeping... indeed, UNMOs existed before peacekeeping.

Here's some of my response:

I guess it comes down to a question of utility: is UN military intelligence valuable enough to justify the way the UNMO's and their position were being abused - Hezbollah setting up all around them in order to deter IDF fire, and eventually four dying, apparently from a PGM? Besides, if the UN is that concerned about military intelligence in conflict areas, why is UNTSO's mandate only on Israel's borders? Surely there are truces other places to supervise. I have great reservations about the UN's work in this area of the world, so I'll have to think on your point about whether they should have been left in place or taken out instead a bit more.

The main thrust of my post was that if Harper's going to point fingers at the UN, he also needs to be prepared to have them pointed his way as well, since he has as much control over where Cdn soldiers go as the UN does.

It's always good to have different points of view provided to open up one's eyes to a different possibility. And with his e-mail, Bruce did just that for me. I'm not sure yet if I agree with his perspective, but he's got me considering it.

Bruce's useful primer on the subject of UN military missions in the area can be found here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How very shrewd

Babble on.

It looks like Syria is playing their 'hearts and minds' cards very cleverly, given their recent setbacks in Lebanon. Following is an excerpt of an e-mail from someone evacuating through Syria to the U.S.

We cleared Lebanese customs by 11.45 and headed toward Syria. As we drove between the Lebanese and Syrian border control points, a throng of smiling Syrians, representing different groups like the Syrian Red Crescent Society, greeted us. Their welcome was kind, and they thanked God (hamdillah aal salameh) for our safety. We were handed free cups of Nescafe, bottles of water, and chocolate biscuits. We were all surprised by the warm reception, and considering our collective state of shock, appreciated the gesture.

The lines at Syrian immigration and border control were long. But, the number of Lebanese was far greater than the foreigners, so some of us got through rather quickly. Monica and I got our visas with no problem, and no bribes. Hers was $16 and mine was a scandalous $56, which I had to pay even though I wasn’t actually staying in Syria, only transiting. The Jordanian border was only two hours away.

By some accounts, Syria has taken in up to 200,000 Lebanese refugees in the recent crisis. That sort of expensive political decision isn't taken lightly:

It may seem an unsustainable level of charity from a country edging toward economic collapse, but the government here expects a big return on the investment. Every child fed, every family housed, aids Syria's chosen image as protector of the Lebanese people. Officials here, and even some Lebanese refugees I spoke with, say the current crisis points to the need for a continued Syrian presence in Lebanon. Only a strong hand like Syria's can control Hezbollah; only Syria can keep Lebanese society from unraveling completely.

I think Syria may well get the return on investment it's looking for; it's difficult to turn your back on a helping hand when you're in need, no matter if there are strings attached. And it goes against decency to rebuke those who have been generous to you in the past.

I sincerely hope the Lebanese can see through this tactic, thank the Syrians for coming to their aid, and follow their own course when the time comes to make that choice once again.

Babble off.

The wrong way to ask a very important question

Babble on.

RightGirl has put the blogosphere in a bit of a tizzy, and rightly so. And no, I couldn't find a way to say that without making a cheap pun. For those few who haven't yet read her original call to action, here's a sample:

If everything from smoking to lead paint to pitbulls can be banned because they are dangerous and deadly, why can't Islam? At what point is a death cult afforded the status of legitimate religion, and why? What makes Mohammed any better than Jim Jones?

Islam must be labelled for what it truly represents: wholesale slaughter and a corrupt ideology of sex and death. It must be stopped.

While her post is clearly bigoted - it castigates all of Islam when her real beef is with the extremist element within it - I don't believe she is bigoted, given the fact that she was engaged to be married to a 'moderate Muslim' at one point. Perhaps that is a distinction without a diffence, but I choose to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, I think that her overly-broad and poorly worded original post has been somewhat mitigated by her clarifying comments (scroll down to RightGirl | Jul 25, 2006 8:15:39 AM, and RightGirl | Jul 25, 2006 9:27:46 PM) - she doesn't count moderate Muslims like those she grew up with, the one she was engaged to marry, and those she works with as Muslims at all, as they are considered apostates by fundamentalists anyhow.

That is a weak line of argument, since I believe it's up to the individual to determine his or her own religious status - who is RG to determine who is a true Muslim and who isn't?

So yes, she takes her point way too far, into the realm of bigotry. And in so doing, she brings every kill-the-ragheads-and-pakis-before-they-kill-us hateful nutjob out of the woodwork to rally to her cause (read the rest of the comments at The Shotgun link above). I would gently remind her of the maxim about being judged by the company one keeps.

But her intemperate and ill-advised post does raise a more reasonable question: if extremists are hijacking a cause (religion, political movement, organization, etc), at what point does the identity of the cause become reasonably conflated with the hijackers' agenda? Remember the tired coffee-house cliche that Communism isn't bad, it was just corrupted by the Russians and the Chinese?

It is a statement of fact that there are moderate Muslims. It is a statement of fact that there are Muslim extremists. I have no idea what the proportion between the two groups, or more accurately, the spectrum between these two cardinal points looks like worldwide. But if the adherents to Islam should at some point become overwhelmingly immoderate, assuming they haven't already, then will we be free to label Islam itself an extremist ideology? At what point will that be acceptable? At 51% extremist? Three quarters? 99.99% pure hatred? Or will we forever cling to an idealized definition that does not exist in reality?

Hopefully we'll not have cause to find out; hopefully Islam will be rescued by the moderates, and the extremists will be marginalized as they are in other major religions the world over. The sad fact is that this entire question is of far less importance to me and the vast majority of my audience than it should be to Muslims everywhere. The character of their system of belief is at stake.

Babble off.

Update: James Bow, as usual, has an exceptionally clear-headed and reasonable post up on this same topic.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Building a case on fiction

Babble on.

For clipping and mailing to Bill Graham:

Critics of the Harper government's position argue that by supporting Israel, Canada is forsaking its traditional role as "honest broker" in the Middle East -- that by taking a side, our country risks being discredited as an international mediator, and will not be able to contribute to a solution to the crisis.

Their argument has little historical basis. The idea that Canada has been asked to participate in peacekeeping missions in the past because of its neutrality, or that Canadians have been successful international mediators because they have not taken sides, is simply untrue.

You can argue against the Harper government's position on the crisis in the Levant, but arguing it based on historical illiteracy isn't particularly helpful or persuasive. Either is screaming "George Bush" and "Israel kills babies" until you pop a blood vessel, although it sure plays well to the core constituency. Time to find a more credible line of attack, folks.

Babble off.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

People in glass houses, and all that

Babble on.

In anticipation of knickers beginning to knot later in this piece, let me say right off the bat that I think Paul Wells is one of the best writers in Canada. Period. Very clever, very dry, willing to dig into somewhat obscure but undeniably important topics in detail (R&D, education policy, Belarus, etc). He also once did both me and the CF a good turn by shining a spotlight where the Liberals desperately wanted the truth kept in darkness under their spin. So credit must be given where it's due.

But having now fawned so embarrassingly all over Mr. Wells, I have to say he made me chuckle this morning. Not with him, mind you, but at him.

Of all people, I thought he would have forsaken this common line of criticism of Prime Minister Harper:

Quite by coincidence, this week's print column, on newsstands in much of the country tomorrow, is, in part, about the prime minister's extraordinary ability to feel sorry for himself.

Yes, yes, Paul, Mr. Harper is indeed thin-skinned in some ways. Some might even go so far as to call him petty when he feels unjustly wronged or set-upon.

In that, he's not unlike some journalists of our acquaintance:

I've never read a book that answered all my questions about the topic. The last time I expected a book to answer all my questions, I was five. Is this the first long article you've read without a crayon in your hand? If so, congratulations.

Seeing as I'm not nearly as sharp-witted or talented a writer as Wells, I'll just finish off with a hoary old chestnut.

Actually, I'm not sure which one works best: physician heal something-or-other; pot, meet kettle; people in glass houses...take your pick.

Babble off.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pithy he's not writing more

Babble on.

Alan of Occam's Carbuncle fame calls for balance in the Middle East:

If we ask [the Israelis] nicely, perhaps they'll assist us with other problems in the region. I hear there's a desperate shortage of leaflets and a surfeit of long range missiles in Teheran.

Well, a balance between leaflets and missiles, at least.

Maybe if we ask Alan nicely, he'll assist us with other problems in the blogosphere. I hear we need more Occam's Carbuncle, and less flitting in and out of comments on other sites.

Babble off.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Unintentionally funny

Babble on.

So it seems Blender has put together a list of what they think are "the most awesomely wimpy musicians of all time." Pat Boone, Air Supply, Christopher Cross - you get the picture.

But they put James Blunt on the list for his song You're Beautiful. Wimpy? Look, you might not like the music, and after hearing him interviewed, you might not even like the guy (he comes off a bit of a prick), but in the interests of credibility, you've got to give him his due:

Take "No Bravery", the song that closes his debut album, "Back to Bedlam", for instance: It was written in Kosovo in 1999, while James was a reconnaissance officer in the British army. On patrol around Pristina, he kept his guitar bolted to the outside of his tank.
From birth in a military hospital in Tidworth, to Harrow School, to Aerospace Manufacturing Engineering, to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, to The Household Cavalry, to Kosovo, to Buckingham Palace, to a recording studio in Los Angeles.

I know Blender was trying to be funny, and as it turns out, they were. By calling one of the few military veterans in the entertainment business one of "the 25 biggest wusses...ever!", they've showed just how little a bunch of music-industry hangers-on know about wussiness, despite their overwhelming daily exposure to it.

Way to caricature yourselves, boys. It takes a lot of guts to go for the laugh by shoving a foot that far down your own throat in front of an international audience of hundreds of thousands. You really pulled it off, though - funny, funny stuff, that.

Babble off.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"We weren’t great friends, but buddies. Other soldiers know what I mean."

Babble on.

A reservist in Afghanistan has opened up online about Cpl Boneca, the mission, bitching and morale, and the media.

Normal soldier stuff. There is nothing in his first and last letters as published in the newspapers to suggest he was any more miserable than any other soldier, in any army, in any theatre in the world. It is our right to ***** and complain. A soldier who is not doing either, is upset or distressed and needs attention.

If you don't read anything else today, read this.

Babble off.

"we have sold the stumps, plus a long-term support contract"

Babble on.

In the comments to this post, Deaner lays out the best argument I've yet seen justifying low Canadian stumpage fees. It really deserved its own post:

...there is a given value in standing timber (or oil, gas, gold in the ground, etc). The province, deliberately or otherwise, said: "whoever develops this resource has to do so under these conditions" - and set an industry structure that emphasised continued employment, high levels of unionization and high tax rates. These are all policy choices that governments are free to make - whether we like them or not, I think we agree that they are within the purview of a sovereign government. In respnse, the industry placed a low cash value on the standing timber - the government had already extracted the value in the conditions of development. How is that a subsidy? - the owner of the resource extracts the same value (in their mind) - it just comes in the form of high wage employment and a high tax rate - and the buyer gets no more value; they just write the cheques to different people.

If you quote a customer for a job and don't extract immediate top dollar because you insist on value (for you) in other ways, like relaxed delivery schedules or an extended support contract that you and the customer know is inflated, you have not subsidized the customer - you have just structured the deal in a way that meets your needs, and presumably those of your customer. That's what the Province and the industry have done - we have sold the stumps, plus a long-term support contract, because the Province saw more value in that long-term cash flow (via mill employment) than in a higher stumpage fee. We are free to argue whether that is the right trade-off for the province. The Yankees are not free to argue that the Privince is not entitled to make that trade-off; but that is exactly the Coalition's line of attack.

The Coalition's position (which is common for Americans in trade deals) is that any deal structure that doesn't match the structures used in the USofA is prima facie a "subsidy." After all, the US does things perfectly, so the only reason to deviate would be to cheat somehow. (Babbler's bold)

As regular readers (enough to field two competitive curling teams!) already know, I'm no expert on the softwood lumber file. But the idea that the provinces extract full value from producers for the resource by means other than stumpage fees is the first argument for the Canadian position that makes sense to me.

Babble off.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Don't go there

Babble on.

I golfed with some good friends this weekend. Sitting around the fire at my Dad's cottage afterwards, with port and rusty nails in everyone's hands, and cigars smouldering between our fingers, I heard something very interesting.

One of the fellows had popped in from the Vancouver area. He's a business owner and not unfriendly to the Conservatives, although he's not particularly political. He shared his thoughts on the softwood lumber debate. Granted it's only one man's view, but you'll have to trust me that he's quite a shrewd observer. Not only are his in-laws loggers, but deals with the public every day, and his livelihood depends in large part upon reading their emotional state.

In his opinion, the dynamic surrounding the proposed softwood lumber deal in BC is changing from concern over the deal itself, to concern that Ottawa is going to put it to the West Coast yet again.

Think about that for a moment.

If he's right, and the major issue in BC has shifted from the policy itself to the fact that nobody in the Conservative government seems to be even listening to the concerns about it, then Harper and Emerson are on the verge of opening up a whole different can of worms. Regionalism will complicate this to no end, and the poisonous fallout from a province disregarded will seep into other federal-provincial issues for years to come. True or not, BC sees this as a BC issue.

Whether or not the softwood lumber deal with the U.S. is the best we can do or it isn't, the Conservative PR strategy isn't working. This risks becoming a touchstone of Western Alienation.

Remember, nobody even talks about the underlying issues surrounding the NEP anymore. It's simply cited as Central Canada sticking it to Alberta. It has become an emotional issue more than a policy one, a still-sore point of reference in the provincial psyche.

The federal government needs to rethink its handling of this file, before the softwood lumber deal becomes BC's NEP.

Babble off.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The two are not mutually exclusive

Babble on.

Max Boot is concerned about troop comfort: he thinks American troops are too comfortable.

Yet there is a danger of professional soldiers becoming so focused on supply lines that they lose sight of larger strategic imperatives. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we may already have crossed that threshold.

In the past few months, I have traveled across U.S. Central Command's area of operations — a vast domain stretching from the deserts of Arabia to the mountains of the Hindu Kush. Everywhere, I have found massive bases fortified with endless rows of concrete barriers and stocked with every convenience known to 21st century Americans.

Some front-line units continue to operate out of spartan outposts where a hot meal is a luxury and flush toilets unknown. But growing numbers of troops live on giant installations complete with Wal-Mart-style post exchanges, movie theaters, swimming pools, gyms, fast-food eateries (Subway, Burger King, Cinnabon) and vast chow halls offering fresh-baked pies and multiple flavors of ice cream. Troops increasingly live in dorm-style quarters (called "chews," for "containerized housing units") complete with TVs, mini-refrigerators, air conditioning/heating units and other luxuries unimaginable to previous generations of GIs.

Mark at Daimnation! seems to agree with Boot's assessment.

The enormous logistical tail of US forces hardly helps counter-insurgency effectiveness - nor do all those lattes...

John at Castle Argghhh!!! does not. John, unlike both Boot and Mark, contributes some context to back up his perspective: first, that American troops have always fought with more amenities than the other guys, and have generally won while doing it, and second, that the supposed 'luxuries' aren't as much of a burden on the warfighting effort as one might initially suppose.

American forces, since the Civil War, have *always* built huge support infrastructures as quickly as we could, consistent with the demands on shipping assets. One has only to look at the 'boring' pictures from WWI, WWII, Korea, to see that as soon as we are able, we build large camps, filled with recreational facilities and troop comforts. It has oft times caused our enemies, and allies, to call us soft, even as we were steamrollering them into the dirt and surrender - if anything, it added to their annoyance.
Nor is as much being diverted from the war effort as you might think - MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) activities are not funded using appropriated monies (though they do leverage facilities). Those activities are funded via donation, contract services, the profit from the Exchange system (on-base department stores) and revenues from MWR activities. For example, here at Castle Argghhh! the Equine Family Members live in the stables at Fort Leavenworth - a service we pay for. That activity does *not* pay for it's building (the old 1909 Quartermaster Stables) but do pay for any new construction, electricity, employee salary, etc - and, since 2001, we've been hit with a surcharge of 10% - that goes directly to fund the overseas MWR activity for deployed troops. We tax ourselves, in a sense.

Max and Mark miss the real point entirely, and John only touches upon it: living in some small degree of comfort during off-duty hours, and undertaking a successful counter-insurgency or 3D mission outside the wire aren't mutually exclusive propositions.

If U.S. forces aren't spending enough time outside the wire, then order them to. If the tactics or strategies being employed aren't effective, then change them. But how exactly will taking mini-fridges away from troops make them any more fit to stabilize Iraq or Afghanistan?

Here's your test: if you made every U.S. service member in Central Asia live in a simple hooch, eat nothing but MRE's, and forego all recreational distractions, would the mission be going any better?

Not bloody likely, I say. It would most certainly be going worse, since troops would be more exhaused, more stressed, and more unhappy. Morale affects mission capability. That's such a fundamental concept, I'm amazed it needs to be explained here.

As I understand it, U.S. forces have had a steep learning curve since 2001. They are still struggling to find a balance between interacting with the local population - with all the well-known benefits to HUMINT, credibility, cooperation, et cetera that that confers - and providing security for their forces. The more time you spend outside the wire, the more exposed you are, but the more you can accomplish. There are limits, however: every hour you spend outside the wire is an hour you're 'on' - there's no real downtime in a situation like that, and too much 'on' time will drain you to the point of ineffectiveness. There's no perfect balance point, but it's not too much of a stretch to say that the U.S. could still learn a thing or two from other countries with a bit more experience in this area.

But if troops are spending too much time sipping their morning macchiato and scarfing back their Egg McMuffin, the answer is to get them outside the wire, not to take away their Green Bean and McDonald's.

Conflating increasing troop comfort levels with decreasing mission effectiveness is a mistake.

Babble off.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stop thinking in terms of lines on a map

Babble on.

Many people who know Central Asia quite well have been pointing to Pakistan as an ongoing source of problems for Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his government certainly believe the Pakistanis need to do more. So does no less an impartial expert on the area than Chris Alexander, former Canadian Ambassador and now a top level U.N. representative. His words exemplify this school of thought:

There are three times the casualties this year than in 2005, he says.

"So we have to do things differently, and we have to think of all the factors driving the intensity of attacks this year, and that takes us instantly into a regional discussion, not just an Afghan discussion."

By regional, of course, Mr. Alexander means Pakistan, which is now home to the Taliban leadership and is coming under increasing pressure to crack down on the fighters who cross into Afghanistan every week.

"And everyone who's fighting this out, and other members of NATO, are having franker and franker discussions I think across the board, and that includes the UN. We've been to see [Pakistan's President Pervez] Musharraf, and he's agreed with us that Talibanization is a threat to his country as well as to Afghanistan, and he is, in a sense, fighting the Taliban.

"The trick will be to have them crack down on the Taliban who are fighting in Afghanistan, mostly from Quetta. . . . My sense is, Pakistanis, when accused of offering refuge to a good part of the leadership, when they're accused of training camps and so forth, put up a huge hue and cry, deny everything, ask for the evidence, accuse the Afghans of not having their own house in order.

"Well," he said flatly, "the evidence is overwhelming, and in fact, we're not even discussing the evidence any more. We're really discussing what to do and how to do it."

In Mr. Alexander's forthright language is proof of a change probably at least as stark as the deterioration in security here -- the open acknowledgment of Pakistan's role, which even a few months ago was being much more delicately discussed.

In his view, that is "the No. 1 risk" to Afghanistan's tentative recovery -- "that the factors contributing to this insurgency won't be addressed, and that they might get worse.

"And let's be very honest: They are not all, or even principally, within Afghanistan's control or on the territory of this country.

"The Taliban was defeated in 2001, but was not dismantled as a leadership structure. It was pushed out [to Pakistan] . . . . They moved. They picked themselves up. They were a ragtag lot, in disarray, and in the early days of 2001-2002 they were even in hiding.

"But because no one arrested them, they were not challenged in that new environment, and they put themselves back together and are much stronger three years later than they were in 2002, and therefore the punch they pack across the border in engineering this insurgency, in training bombers, launching suicide bombers into the Afghan environment for the first time in recorded history, is much larger than it was in 2003. So that's the No. 1 challenge."

I have nothing but respect for Messrs. Alexander and Karzai, but I do have a question for them: if the current security problem in Afghanistan is largely driven by Pakistani government foot-dragging, then why does a security map of Afghanistan look like this? (ht:Bill Roggio)

Given the fact that the Pakistani government is at least nominally an ally in the War on Terror and that the Iranian government is undoubtedly more hostile to Western interests in the region, if the insurgency is truly due to foreign support, shouldn't the Iranian border be coloured red instead of green?

Don't tell me the Iranians wouldn't stir things up if they could. Don't tell me they're not hoping NATO, the UN, and especially the hated Americans get their collective noses bloodied fighting a guerilla war in Afghanistan. My guess is that they're trying their damndest to capitalize on whatever Afghan discontent they can find, but the locals on the Iranian border aren't biting.

So here's my hypothesis: the tenuous security situation in southern Afghanistan isn't the result of Pakistani governmental foot-dragging, it's a direct consequence of having a population in that area that acknowledges tribal authority over national and is highly resistant to reform.

Oh, Musharraf's gang can certainly do more to crack down and assert Islamabad's authority in the border area, and they should. But I believe blaming so much of the insurgency's strength on the Pakistani government is symptomatic of a flawed perspective: to a Pashtun in Kandahar, the Pashtun in Quetta isn't foreign.

The problem isn't the Pakistani government, it's a strong element within the Pashtuns, regardless of which side of the border they live on. Because governments are constrained by borders, however, we're fighting an insurgency from the wrong ideological orientation. It remains to be seen how much that disadvantage will affect the outcome of this great endeavour.

Babble off.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Cats have been herded

Babble on.

Well, we're moved. And that's about the best I can say of the process.

In the end, we were at it for thirty hours or so. Straight. Well, interrupted twice by monsoons, and a couple more times to wolf down a slice of pizza or three.

Big thanks to my Barrie Correspondent, to my Dad, and to Chris Taylor for losing about a third of their body weight in sweat over the course of the first twelve or fourteen hours. Taylor, didn't your time in the reserves teach you anything? Never volunteer. Thanks to Grandma B (Jr.) for minding the rug-rats for a half-day longer than expected. Thanks to my Litbit for not putting me out of her misery with a well-placed two-hander to the back of my bald dome, which would have been entirely justifiable at five in the morning after an all-nighter.

And finally, a big hearty f*ckyouverymuch to the World Champion Asshats at Air 'buh-bye' Canada for cancelling a flight from Vancouver to Toronto for no discernible reason, and consequently leaving a very frustrated friend swearing and stewing in an airport instead of swearing and humping boxes for my move.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to finance my chiropractors' all-expenses-paid vacation to Bora Bora.

Babble off.