Connecting the Dots: The Search for Meaning in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria


What a stark reminder of how short the road is between heresy and received wisdom.

Even in the mainstream press, today the majority view is that the intervention in Iraq was a barely veiled disaster.

In excess of 100,000 civilian casualties, 4486 American soldiers dead, 32, 226 wounded, and over a trillion dollars spent. The statistics are mind numbing.

And all for what?

With the exception of a recent spate of stories concerning the US rethinking its distinctly white elephantine, imperial embassy in Bagdhad’s not-s0-green zone, memories of the painful episode in Iraq are receding fast. Although images of Shock and Awe, Abu GhraibGuantanamo Bay, and Fallujah occasionally return, spectre-like,  to haunt the popular conscience, it is clear that less than a decade after the invasion began, most people prefer forgetting to remembrance.

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Libya: Lingering Doubts

From the outset of the Libyan episode, there have been ample grounds for reservation. Both the manner in which events have unfolded, and also the longer-term implications, are troubling.

Objections to the lack of public debate, to NATO’s tendency to reach for the gun before exhausting all alternatives to the use of armed force, to the ambitious pursuit of goals well beyond those authorized  by the UN Security Council,  and to the near complete incoherence of Western policy in the region seem well-founded. Quite apart from the unknown number of people killed during the rebellion, respect for international law and for the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect have been among the more notable casualties.

The broader concern is that for NATO participants, policy has become an instrument of war.   But that, and a host of other issues remain unaddressed. With Gadhafi’s execution, these kinds of considerations have by and large been lost in the orgy of triumphalism and self-congratulation.

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Canada and the world post-9/11: What has been learned?

Looking back over decade since 9/11, what events and developments stand out globally? Among others:

  • The ongoing Global War on Terror and associated Western military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The hollowing out of the middle class, the financial crisis and the continuing Great Recession.
  • The lost opportunities to support non-violent political reform during the Arab Spring.

9/11 changed everything, and the carnage and consequences engendered by that day haunt us still.

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Libya and the World after Gadhafi: Preliminary Thoughts

It is perhaps premature to propose potential conclusions and lessons learned in the immediate wake of the rebel victory over the Gadhafi regime. On the surface, it appears that NATO support for the rebellion assisted materially in achieving the objective of ridding Libya of a widely detested dictator.

In terms of success, this would seem to represent more than can be said for Western efforts in backing one side in the Afghan civil war, or intervening under manifestly false pretences in Iraq. Both of those episodes have proven extremely costly. Still, before breaking out any more champagne, there are several issues regarding the Libyan affair which require more sober and sustained reflection than they seem to have received at the international meeting on Libya’s future held September 1st in Paris.

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