April 30, 2009

Showing his reach

At first when I scanned this squib by Paul Wells, I honestly thought, whaddyaknow, Peter Crouch is starting to apply his rampaging super-spider talents to political commentary! Is there nothing he cannot do?

And then I realized, no, he's still just playing for Pompey.

Posted by BruceR at 02:17 PM

They probably will. Unless they don't.

From the New York Times' Dexter Filkins, an incomprehensible paragraph:

"Like the guerrillas they are, Taliban fighters often fade away when confronted by a conventional army. But in Afghanistan, as they did in Zangabad, the Taliban will probably stand and fight."

Um... what?

"But the prospect of heavy fighting in populated areas could further alienate the Afghan population. In the firefight in Zangabad, the Americans covered their exit with a barrage of 20 155 millimeter high-explosive artillery shells necessary to shield them from the Taliban, but also enough to inflict serious damage on people and property. A local Afghan interviewed by telephone after the firefight said that four homes had been damaged by the artillery strikes."

For the record, those would have been Canadian shells, given the location.

(Hat tip: The Torch.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:09 PM

April 29, 2009

Torture != Lincoln

This piece has it absolutely right. There are no comparisons between the most recent Republican occupants of the White House and their decision to torture and the superficially comparable expediencies of previous national crises, such as Civil War habeas corpus, various Alien acts, etc. That's because the Bush Administration's actions were so uniquely without anything resembling the forethought, rigour, or... or class, that would have been shown by, say, a Lincoln in the same situation.

Posted by BruceR at 12:31 PM

Things that please me, reintegration edition

A couple kudos quiknotes as I continue to resume regularly scheduled programming here in Toronto.

On Friday I had the great pleasure of meeting someone I've been a fan of a long time, Colby Cosh, along with sundry friends. The absolutely excellent time proved something I'd suspected for a long time, that anyone who thought that clearly had to be a real mensch in person, as well. Thanks again for the invite, chief.

I'd also like to note the excellent work done for me in building a new computer last week by a local Toronto store, PC Metro. If you're like me, you like assembling your own PC from parts, but I simply didn't have the time this time around. David at the store put together a great desktop box to spec for very reasonable terms. If you're living or working downtown and need a new desktop PC, I would recommend them.

Posted by BruceR at 09:29 AM

April 19, 2009

He's baaack...

Safe and sound in Toronto. Thanks for all who've sent best wishes over the last 7.5 months. (Six month tours, yeah, I can't believe I fell for that, either).

My end-tour thoughts from my time with the Afghan army are yet to be written, at least in non-militarese or at a shareable classification level. My mid-tour thoughts, for those that missed them, made a recent issue of the U of T Magazine, here.

Update: Mark C. says I'm depressed, neglecting the past-present distinction I make above. It's fair to say halfway through my tour I was feeling a little overwhelmed. As for my feelings now, I'd say it's just as easy (and wrong) to be overly optimistic about Canada's commitment to the Afghans as it is to be overly pessimistic.

I think when the history books are written they'll say that Canadian soldiers, particularly those on my rotation, most of what we did was holding part of the line and helping keep hope alive, holding a situation in stalemate until sizable forces capable of winning the war could finally arrive. That was our country's strategic role in two world wars as well, so we shouldn't be ashamed to repeat it today. And it's no shame at all to say that in retrospect we had little chance of bringing a lasting peace with only the numbers of forces that had been committed to the security of Kandahar Province before I arrived. Now, as in 1917 and 1942, those numbers are changing in our favour, thankfully.

The lure of excessive optimism is perhaps hardest to resist in the area I learned the most about, the Afghan security forces. There is SO much still to do there: we are still years away from having an army or a police force that can fight independently alongside us, let alone in our absence. The most that should be said of what we've been able to accomplish there to date is that the signs so far are promising. In my tour, we helped keep them at their posts, and certainly some of them are alive today who wouldn't be because we were there. But the rate of loss among the police is still appalling, and there still aren't half as many soldiers as we need.

The idea we will leave in 2011, with the Afghan security forces anywhere near where we want and need them to be before that date, is... unrealistic, I'm afraid, and because of that ongoing capacity shortfall, all the other lines of progress we might wish to pursue may well remain dependent on Western military guarantees after that date, as well. What we need to decide as a nation is how we come to terms with that. And we don't get any closer to any kind of a smart decision by getting all pie-eyed about it. More on this at some later date.

Posted by BruceR at 04:35 PM

April 08, 2009

Surfacing

As my slow reintegration to the greater world begins, let me just say that you don't actually have to be an Albertan to agree with everything old friend Colby Cosh says here. Brian Knight should be lauded, not censured. Why do cops always have to be such morons about this stuff?

Speaking of morons, this, by Judith Timson, was the stupidest column I've read in a while:

"Twenty-year-old guys, it seems, have no right to be terrified into submission. And certainly no right to run for their lives."

I'm pretty sure that the right to act in accordance with the moral sense God gave an antelope is not actually enshrined in any of the many lofty rights declarations I have read over the years. (No scratch that, male antelopes fight back sometimes. Jellyfish, maybe?)

Let's try and keep the terminology straight: being terrified into submission or running for your life when others are begging you to help them are not "rights" that anyone, man or woman, can ever possess. These are profound personal failings stemming from fear, selfishness, and a lack of human empathy. They are understandable, yes, common, yes, forgiveable, maybe, but not, NOT, excusable. Ever.

Posted by BruceR at 01:16 PM