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Posts Tagged ‘military

[LINK] “Why Canada’s military risks returning to a decade of darkness”

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At MacLean’s, Evan Solomon looks at the consequences of sustained underfunding of the Canadian military, and looking future underfunding.

Who would have guessed that, at the time of his most critical decision, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would be doing a military sample of the 1976 Genesis prog-rock song, Ripples?

“If we want to understand the ripples we are creating, we have to understand the environment we are creating them in,” Sajjan said last week. He was being asked—as he is on an almost daily basis—when he will reveal details about the long promised Liberal plan to pull out CF-18 jets from the mission in Iraq and Syria. Apparently this “ripple effect” theory is the “genesis” of the long delay. “We may not be able to control all the ripples that are out there, but we can control the ripples that we create,” Sajjan said, adding something or other about “negative ripples.”

As there is no formal military theory about “ripple effects,” it’s hard to tell exactly what the minister is talking about. But we get the gist: The decisions he makes now will have an impact on the future. The problem is, the future is already here. The Conservative mandate for the mission is up by the end of March. If the Liberals were not ready with an alternative plan—and clearly they weren’t—why didn’t they just say they would complete the original mandate and then end it? Pulling out now, after more than 100 days of post-election bombing, looks disorganized at best—at worst, it smacks of cheap politics.

But as politically charged as the bombing mission is, it is really nothing compared to the deeper funding crisis facing the military. “There is simply not enough money to buy the military hardware that we need,” says Dave Perry, senior analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Perry is to military procurement what Nate Silver is to polling, so when he crunches the numbers on the military budget you tend to listen. “There’s three times more demand for procurement dollars than there is budgeted fiscally, which means the Canada First Defence Strategy—the plan to maintain Canada’s military capabilities to protect our interests—is now, essentially dead.”

That’s a big problem. It would cost the government another $2 billion a year for 20 years, on top of what we’re already spending, just to maintain the Air Force, the Army, the Navy—and upgrade our technology for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (the NORAD commander comes to Canada later in February to demand those upgrades). Meanwhile, NATO is asking Canada to fulfill its commitment to contribute two per cent of our GDP to military spending. That would mean another $20 billion this year alone. Not happening, NATO. Because it’s 2016. And we’re still broke.

Fulfilling the military promises Trudeau made in the campaign looks equally unlikely. “The biggest one from the campaign in terms of the budget is the idea of savings tens of billions on the acquisition of new aircraft to devote to ships,” Perry says. “The $9-billion fighter budget was set when the Canadian dollar was worth 100 cents American—and now it’s 70 cents.” We’ve lost close to 30 per cent of our purchasing power. There’s no way to save on planes and still have a viable air force.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 4, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Canada, Economics, Politics

Tagged with , , ,

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Anthropology.net notes the study of ice man Otzi’s gut flora.
  • blogTO shares photos of different Toronto intersections a century ago.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly considers the virtues of rest.
  • Centauri Dreams considers how we date stars.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze considers the fates of exoplanets in untable circumbinary orbits.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes China’s construction of a second, indigenous, aircraft carrier.
  • Geocurrents maps real estate prices in California.
  • Kieran Healy notes an odd checkerboard of land ownership in Nevada.
  • Languages of the World notes a study suggesting that one never truly completely forgets one’s first language.
  • Language Log notes the snark directed at the Oregon militiamen.
  • The Map Room maps thawing in the global Arctic.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests one way in which religion is good for the poor.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes an exciting proposal for a Europa lander.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer does not think the 2016 American presidential election will necessarily change much, not compared to 2012.
  • Peter Rukavina shares the results of his family’s use of a water metre.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog maps the distribution of Germans in Soviet Ukraine circa 1926.
  • Towleroad looks at syphilis in the male gay/bi community.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the alienation of Donbas, looks at the decline of Russia-linked churches in Ukraine and a proposal to shift the date of Christmas, and wonders about Tatarstan.

[LINK] “At least 2,250 veterans are homeless: analysis”

MacLean’s hosts Murray Brewster’s The Canadian Press noting something that really doesn’t surprise me, given what we know about the stresses on military people. The numbers are the only thing surprising me.

For what’s believed to be the first time, the federal government has estimated how many of Canada’s homeless are former soldiers — but the department that compiled the report warns the data is far from complete.

The March 2015 study by Employment and Social Development Canada estimates that 2,250 former soldiers use shelters on regular basis, about 2.7 per cent of the total homeless population that uses temporary lodging.

The information in the report, released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, comes from a database that tracks 60 emergency shelters across the country and added veterans as an identifiable category in 2014.

“It’s shocking in Canada that we would have any veteran who is homeless, but it is a sad reality,” Gen. Jonathan Vance, the country’s top military commander, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

The report noted that the data still has some holes in it and does not capture the number of veterans who do not use shelters. The national findings contradict counts being done in individual cities, which analysts suggest means that “veterans are more likely to be found outside shelters.”

Researchers also found that veterans who end up homeless tend to be older than non-veterans in the same circumstances and that ex-soldiers are more prone to so-called episodic homelessness — meaning they are individuals with disabling conditions who’ve been on and off the street three or more times in one year.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 7, 2016 at 10:07 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO shares photos of Yonge Street going back a century.
  • Centauri Dreams talks about some vintage science fictions set at Alpha Centauri.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes a simulation suggesting that, in solar systems like ours with massive outer gas giants, impacts like those which formed the Moon are common.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes Russia’s interests in roboticizing its military.
  • Far Outliers shares Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan’s concern about the new gatedness of the Internet.
  • Language Log notes the death of John Holm, a linguist who studied creoles.
  • Marginal Revolution notes Sweden’s imposition of border controls.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw speculates about Australia’s prospects in the coming year.
  • Torontoist shares its list of local heroes and villains.

[LINK] “Recruiting Mercenaries for Middle East Fuels Rancor in Colombia”

Bloomberg’s Matthew Bristow and Nafeesa Syeed report on how the habit of Middle Eastern countries of recruiting Colombian mercenaries to fight in regional wars is not playing well at all in Colombia itself.

Colombia’s government is frustrated at having its top soldiers lured to the Middle East as mercenaries for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates when they are still needed to fight insurgents and drug traffickers, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said.

A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has deployed Colombian contractors, according to a former army officer who has been involved in recruiting contractors and a senior government official, who asked not to be named because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter. Soldiers are persuaded to quit the army when their terms of enlistment end by the prospect of earning about seven times as much in the Middle East, the former officer said.

Colombia’s efforts to negotiate with Middle East governments over the hiring of mercenaries have so far failed, Villegas said in a Dec. 22 interview in Bogota. While Colombia has reached a tentative peace accord with the country’s biggest rebel group, its special forces are targeting new mafia groups seeking to fill a void left by a planned demobilization.

“My complaint is why, for instance, the U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia have not been able to negotiate a treaty with Colombia to regulate that relationship,” Villegas said. “Every time we approach those governments, the answer is no, we’re not interested in a treaty.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 2, 2016 at 5:59 pm

[LINK] “Outside the box: a Sunni endgame in Syria, Iraq?”

Fernando Betancourt at Open Democracy speculates about one scenario for the end of ISIS, pregnant with risk for everyone involved, which just so happens to be everyone now.

There are signs of previously unknown levels of cooperation and alignment between the United States and the key Sunni states in the region, which could lead to a power-sharing agreement that satisfies their strategic interests. The principal events are as follows:

In October, a group of 53 Saudi imams unaffiliated with the government called for a jihad against the Russian, Iranian and Syrian governments. The group went even further than official condemnation and likened the Russian intervention to the 1980 war in Afghanistan—which led to the birth of Al Qaeda, in case anyone has forgotten. It is significant that the Saudi government allowed or was not able to stop the communication; the former would indicate approval of the intensified message while the latter would imply weakness and the desire of the Saudis to avoid internal dissension from the more radical clergy.

On 5 November, the USAF announced the deployment of six F-15C Eagles to Incirlik AFB in Turkey. That is interesting, because unlike the F-15E Strike Eagle the F-15C is a pure air superiority fighter that has no ground attack role, yet ISIS has no air force. The mission is to protect Turkish airspace; but from what? The only planes flying over Syria belong to the Combined Joint Task Force, to Russia or to the Syrian government.

On 24 November, a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24 that had momentarily violated Turkish airspace. This act goes far beyond Turkish aspirations in Syria and involves a much wider Russo-Turkish competition encompassing the Black Sea and the Caucasus; but the fact that military action was taken in this particular theatre is significant and may indicate that Turkey is prepared to act more aggressively than previous indicated.

On 5 December, the Iraqi government officially accused the Turkish government of an “illegal incursion” of troops into northern Iraq. This was in response to the rotation of about 150 trainers to an Iraqi camp north of Mosul, which has been a largely routine occurrence until now. Yet, freakish as this protest might seem, it was serious enough for the Turkish ambassador to be summoned to Baghdad and the Turkish government to issue a warning to all of its nationals to leave Iraq.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 2, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , , ,

[LINK] “Turkey-Russia Conflict Divides South Caucasus”

Eurasianet’s Giorgi Lomsadze describes how the Turkish-Russian feud is forcing the states of the South Caucasus to pick sides, in something that is not going to be in their benefit at all. (Armenia, as expected, is aligning with Russia, while Georgia and–more reluctantly–Azerbaijan are moving towards Turkey.)

Sandwiched between Turkey and Russia, and for centuries a battleground for the erstwhile empires, the South Caucasus is bracing for fallout from the geopolitical furor sparked by the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet.

Memories of multiple Ottoman-Tsarist wars that ravaged the South Caucasus from the 17th to the 20th centuries still exert influence over public opinion in the region. But modern-day issues wield the most influence in shaping loyalties, splitting the region into pro-Turkey and pro-Russia camps. The three states in the region – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – are coming under growing pressure to choose sides following Turkey’s November 24 shoot-down of the Su-24 fighter.

Armenia, Russia’s main, if only, committed ally in the South Caucasus, has been quick in unequivocally backing the Kremlin. With no diplomatic ties with Turkey to worry about, Yerevan essentially has echoed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “stab-in-the-back” line about Turkey’s conduct.

Armenian public opinion backs Moscow’s military objectives in Syria, according to policy analyst Vahram Ter-Matevosian, a lecturer at the American University of Armenia. Prior to the outbreak of the civil war, Syria had been home to a large ethnic Armenian Diaspora. Meanwhile, Russia has long been a guarantor of Armenia’s security, a status underscored by the presence of a Russian military base in the northern Armenian town of Gyumri, not far from the Turkish border.

With Russia’s actions in Syria possibly set to expand, Moscow might look to use Gyumri as a “lily pad” facility that supports its Syrian campaign.

The “increasing military engagement of the Russian armed forces in this war [in Syria] will require huge resources,” said Ter-Matevosian. “Armenia is the closest [place] to the Syrian front where Russia has military bases. Hence, Armenia, as Russia’s strategic ally and a CSTO [Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization] member, may be asked to contribute.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 28, 2015 at 6:48 pm

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