Perspectives

Deceptive Narratives

Filed in Perspectives by on 25th August 2017 4 Comments
Deceptive Narratives

In politics, and especially in international relations, what you see is not always what you get. Recently, in a televised address from a US military base in Fort Myer, Virginia, President Donald Trump announced that he would send more troops to Afghanistan. Even though Trump called for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan during his election campaign for the presidency, he said that he had changed his mind and planned to step up the war against Islamic terrorism. Trump said that Afghanistan would come under greater pressure to reform its military, and root out corruption in its bureaucracy. “Our support is not a blank cheque. Our patience is not unlimited.” He also said that Pakistan had to stop providing a haven for terrorists, warning that Islamabad would have “much to lose” if it didn’t comply. Citing “principled realism”, Trump said his approach was different from the Obama administration because it allowed military commanders to make key decisions based on “conditions on the ground and not arbitrary timetables”. There were few details about how many troops would be sent, or how long they would stay in Afghanistan. However, in June 2017 Trump agreed to increase the current US force of 4800 soldiers in Afghanistan by 3900. The Pentagon delayed the extra deployment while awaiting a strategy. The US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, said in addition to the extra deployment, several NATO allies have also “committed to increasing their troop numbers” above the current thirteen-thousand NATO troops in Afghanistan. Continue Reading »

Washington Manoeuvres

Filed in Perspectives by on 17th August 2017 3 Comments
Washington Manoeuvres

Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang appear to have gone down a notch from boil to simmer as diplomatic efforts continue in an effort to prevent full-scale conflict. After days of incendiary comments from the leaders of the United States and North Korea, both seem to be stepping back a step. After receiving plans from his generals to launch missiles into waters off the US territory of Guam, North Korea’s state news agency says Pyongyang will monitor what the United States does next before deciding whether to launch the missiles. Kim Jong Un says he will go through with the launch if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity.” Less than a week earlier, Kim Jong Un threatened to fire missiles at Guam after President Donald Trump warned North Korea that it would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it makes more threats against the United States. Days after his warning President Trump played down tensions with North Korea by announcing an investigation into China’s trade practices. With what seems a deliberate distraction caused by Trump’s ambiguous statements on violence at a Unite-the-Right rally in Virginia, the public seems to have forgotten the situation in North Korea. Continue Reading »

High stakes

Filed in Perspectives by on 29th July 2017 4 Comments
High stakes

Russia acted swiftly in late July 2017 in retaliating against a decision by the US Senate to impose sanctions against Moscow. Russia’s foreign ministry gave the United States a month to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people. That’s the same number of Russian diplomats left in the United States at the end of 2016 when the outgoing Obama administration expelled 35 Russians, and seized two Russian compounds. Moscow also announced the seizure of a recreational compound and a US diplomatic warehouse. Moscow’s action gives the US little choice but to cut hundreds of personnel. Most of the US diplomatic staff is based in Moscow. Others are in consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. A day before Moscow’s announcement, the US Senate voted 98 to 2 to strengthen existing sanctions as a further punishment against Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. The vote also gave Congress the power to block President Donald Trump from using his veto against the sanctions. The US action and Russia’s reaction have brought relations between Moscow and Washington to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Diplomatic ties between the two superpowers have been on a downward spiral because of allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia tried to influence last year’s presidential election in favour of Donald Trump. Moscow denies the allegation. Continue Reading »

The Shimmering Illusion

Filed in Perspectives by on 15th November 2015 7 Comments
The Shimmering Illusion

Based on presentation to the Thomas More Institute in Montreal, Canada in November 2015.

Wouldn’t it be nice if political leaders actually served their citizens? However, despite noble words of taking office to serve people, over time consensus, negotiation and agreement tend to give way to such sentiments as ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ One compromise leads to another and democracy slowly shifts from serving the people to serving those in power. In extreme cases, violence replaces dialogue. The Fragile States Index for 2015 assigns countries a score based on such social, economic and political criteria as mounting demographic pressures, massive displacement of refugees, uneven economic development, severe economic decline, and wide spread human rights abuses. Countries such as the United States have a score of 35.3, Canada 25.7, Germany 28.1, the United Kingdom 33.5 and France 33.7. The lower the score, the better political leaders serve their citizens. However, if we choose four countries in Africa in various states of development, we see a marked difference in the score. Mali, for example, comes in at 93.1, Malawi 86.9, Togo 86.8 and Côte d’Ivoire 100. Continue Reading »

Seeds of Division

Filed in Perspectives by on 1st September 2015 5 Comments
Seeds of Division

Conflict, dictatorships, instability and religious extremism in the Middle East, in the Horn of Africa, and in Central Africa plus the siren call of a better life has resulted in Europe’s worst immigration crisis since the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of desperate people continue to crowd onto unseaworthy boats in hopes of crossing the Mediterranean, while thousands of Syrian refugees stream along railway tracks in the Balkans in hopes of finding asylum in Europe.

The number of dead continues to climb as overcrowded vessels flounder and sink, taking hundreds to a watery grave. More than 2500 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in the first nine months of this year. As in each of the ten years prior to 2015, the number of people who lose their lives in 2016 while looking for a better place to live will most likely surpass that. On the last week-end in August 2015, “the Italian coastguard plucked 4,400 people from the Mediterranean coast off Libya in 22 different operations…. Meanwhile the Greek coast guard picked up 877 people in 30 search and rescue operations.” (1)

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