Quotulatiousness

February 24, 2018

“Oxfam, like many large British charities, has long been a villainous organisation”

Filed under: Africa, Americas, Britain — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Theodore Dalrymple puts the boots to Oxfam:

It is very wrong, morally, to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others, but I cannot disguise from myself the intense pleasure, amounting almost to joy, with which I learned of the public exposure of the wrongdoings of Oxfam in Haiti, Chad, and elsewhere. Its workers, sent to bring relief to the acute and chronic sufferings of those countries, used the charity’s money, partly derived from voluntary contributions and partly from government subventions (the British government and the European Union are by far the largest contributors to British Oxfam), to patronise local prostitutes, some of them underage, and also to conduct orgies, no doubt at a fraction of what they would have cost to conduct at home.

Oxfam, at least in Britain, has long been one of the most Pecksniffian of organisations, much give to auto-beatification. Mr. Pecksniff, in Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, introduces his daughters, called Charity and Mercy, to Mrs. Todgers, adding ‘Not unholy names, I hope.’ It is therefore of the hypocritical Mr. Pecksniff that I think whenever I pass the Oxfam shop in my small town, with its unctuous slogan, Thank you for being humankind, posted in the window. It is only with difficulty that I resist the urge to throw a brick through it.

Of course, Oxfam, like many large British charities, has long been a villainous organisation — and the sexual exploits (or should I say exploitations?) of its workers in Haiti and elsewhere are the least of it. In the moral sense, though not the legal, it has for many years been guilty of fraud, of misleading the public.

I first realised this some years ago when I found a used book dealer of my long acquaintance poring in his shop over Oxfam’s annual accounts.

‘Look at this,’ he said, but I saw nothing until he pointed it out to me.

Oxfam, in common with many other charities in Britain, runs thrift stores in practically every British town and city. Such thrift stores are now more numerous even than Indian restaurants: they allow people to give away their unwanted belongings in the belief that, by so doing, they are furthering a good cause.

My acquaintance pointed out that, despite receiving their goods free of charge, paying practically nothing for their labour (which was voluntary), and paying much reduced local taxes, Oxfam shops made a profit on turnover of a mere 17 per cent, much less than his own, despite his incomparably greater expenses. How was such a thing possible, by what miracle of disorganisation (or malversation of funds)?

Until then, I had carelessly assumed that the great majority of any money that I gave to a large charity went to serve its ostensible end, say the relief of avoidable suffering. I was not alone in this, of course. When I asked the volunteer ladies in a local shop run on behalf of the British Red Cross what percentage of the money I paid for a book there went to the Red Cross, they looked at me as if I were mad.

‘Why, all of it of course,’ piped up one of the ladies.

The real average figure at the time for Red Cross thrift stores was 8 per cent; but the volunteer ladies supposed, because the goods they sold were free to the Red Cross and they themselves were not paid, that (apart from a small amount for unavoidable expenses) all the money raised went directly to victims of earthquakes and the like.

February 19, 2018

Why the Pith Helmet?

Filed under: Africa, Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Major Sven Gaming
Published on 14 Apr 2017

Anyone love the old Zulu movie staring Michael Caine?

I do, but why did the British wear these awesome hats? Well watch and you will find out…

And a link to more info on these wonderful Helmets. http://www.throughouthistory.com/?p=3153

January 9, 2018

The Seven Years War: Crash Course World History #26

Filed under: Africa, Americas, Britain, France, History, India, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

CrashCourse
Published on 19 Jul 2012

In which John teaches you about the Seven Years War, which may have lasted nine years. Or as many as 23. It was a very confusing war. The Seven Years War was a global war, fought on five continents, which is kind of a lot. John focuses on the war as it happened in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. the “great” European powers were the primary combatants, but they fought just about everywhere. Of course, this being a history course, the outcomes of this war still resonate in our lives today. The Seven Years War determined the direction of the British Empire, and led pretty directly to the subject of Episode 28, the American Revolution.

December 1, 2017

All Quiet On The Eastern Front – Action in East Africa I THE GREAT WAR Week 175

Filed under: Africa, Germany, History, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 30 Nov 2017

This week in the Great War, the Battle of the Ngomano was fought in East Africa between the Germans and Portuguese, which was a decisive win for Lettow-Vorbeck’s men. On the Eastern Front, the fighting stops and Trotsky published the secret treaties that Russia and the other Allies had signed. The Battle of Cambrai continued, with attacks and counterattacks from both sides, including the implementation of the new Hutier assault tactics. Armando Diaz was making changes for the better on the Italian Front, with the express aim of improving the morale among his men.

November 17, 2017

Canada is back in peacekeeping … sorta

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell is not happy with the government’s “decision” on peacekeeping:

It appears that today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced just about the “best thing” for him and his Liberals in the long, long, long run up to the 2019 election campaign; but it’s pretty much the worst thing he could do for Canada and the Canadian Forces and the UN. In fact: it appears to involve a handful of “penny packet” commitments ~ a “grab bag” one journalist said, none of which will do much good ~ being too small to even been noticed amongst the 75,000+ UN soldiers in Africa ~ and none of which will contribute materially to the Trudeau Liberal’s quest for a second class, temporary, powerless seat on the worthless UN Security Council.

Let’s be very clear: Canada is not “back” ~ this is a far cry from the sort of traditional UN peacekeeping that Canada did in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and that Justin Trudeau and many, many Canadians imagined in 2015, and it is a far cry from what Canada could do if the government really wanted to help.

[…] I suspect that too many non-military voices in too many special interest groups argued for the “penny packet” and “let the UN help decide” approach. My suspicion is that the UN simply doesn’t know how to organize or manage a complex, logistical and/or air transport mission, and the “civil society” special interests that want Canada “back” in UN peacekeeping have no idea at all about military matters or how to get the most bang for the buck.

The good news for the Liberals is that it will the autumn of 2018, at the earliest, when “negotiations” with the UN come to some sort of conclusion and, probably, early 2019 before Canada actually sends anyone into anything like harm’s way … just in time for a campaign photo-op with the PM waving good-by to some female RCAF members in baby blue berets as they board a plane bound for somewhere. And, so long as the UN doesn’t send any home in caskets the Trudeau government campaign team will be happy. But it will give Team Trudeau another chance to smugly proclaim that “Canada’s back,” and that’s all that really matters in official Ottawa late in this decade.

October 26, 2017

Bonus quote-of-the-day

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Media, Military, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In an article in the Globe and Mail, Lee Berthiaume (Canadian Press) reports that “The Trudeau Liberals may have promised to ramp up Canada’s role in peacekeeping, but new UN figures show there were fewer Canadian peacekeepers in the field last month than at any point in recent memory … [and] … The revelation comes as Canada prepares to host a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver next month, raising fears the country will be badly embarrassed unless the numbers start rising – and fast … [because] … The intervening year [since the Liberals promised 600+ blue beret wearing peacekeepers] has instead seen a steady decrease in the number of Canadian blue helmets and blue berets deployed around the world, from 112 peacekeepers in August 2016 to 68 last month.

This is risky for Canadian soldiers because the Trudeau regime is not exactly famous for making sound, well though out, carefully crafted plans ~ witness the small business tax fiasco and democratic reform, just for examples. It is possible, even probable, that rather than be embarrassed in public the Liberals will react, as cornered rats often do, and commit troops to a dangerous, hopeless, worthless mission just to avoid yet another political humiliation. Canadian soldiers may soon find themselves in some rotten hellhole with orders to not, under any circumstances, shoot at a child soldier, not even in self defence, or do any harm to a person of colour … because the Liberals know that the media will be watching ~ platoons of journalists will be deployed, each more anxious than the next to win some prize by being the first to report on a Canadian killing a black child.

Ted Campbell, “Cornered?”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2017-10-25.

October 23, 2017

Today I learned a new word: Pigmentocracy

Filed under: Africa, Business, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, Afua Hirsch writes about the recent Nivea skin cream video to explain why the ad is so controversial:

“Now I have visibly fairer skin, making me feel younger,” declares the Nigerian actor Omowunmi Akinnifesi in an advert for a new face cream. The ad, for the global skincare brand Nivea, was only ever intended to reach a west African audience, but predictably – has Nivea heard of the internet? – it has been watched and shared millions of times around the world including in the UK, where most of us live in blissful ignorance of the fact that some of our most popular brands openly promote the idea in other markets that white is right.

Nivea says the ad was not intended to offend, but offence is not the point. The global market for skin lightening products, of which west Africa is a significant part, is worth $10bn (£7.6bn). Advertising has a long and unbroken history of promoting and normalising white beauty standards, and if Britain built its empire as a geopolitical and ideological project, the advertising industry commodified it. Soap brands such as Pears built a narrative that cast Africa as dark and its people as dirty, the solution to which – conveniently – was soap. Cleansing, lightening and civilising in one handy bar.

These days the marketing has become much more sophisticated. Ads speak of “toning” as code for whitening. Lancôme, which a few years ago got in trouble for using Emma Watson’s image to market its Blanc Expert line in Asia, emphasised that it does not lighten, but rather “evens skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion … an essential part of Asian women’s beauty routines”.

[…]

Shadism, pigmentocracy – the idea of privilege accruing to lighter-skinned black people – and other hierarchies of beauty are a complex picture in which ads such as Nivea’s are only the obvious tip of an insidious iceberg. Celebrities with darker complexions, such as the Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech – nicknamed Queen of the Dark – and actors such as Lupita Nyong’o, are so often discussed in the context of having achieved the seemingly impossible by being both dark and beautiful, that they become the exceptions that prove the rule.

It is often observed that light-skinned black women are more likely to become global superstars, the Beyoncé-Rihanna effect. They are, however, still black women and therefore not immune from the pressure to lighten – most recently by fans following a new Photoshopping trend of posting pictures of whitened versions of their faces and remarking upon the improvement.

In countries such as Ghana, the intended audience for the Nivea ad, and Nigeria – where an estimated 77% of women use skin-lightening products – the debate has so far, understandably, focused on health. The most toxic skin-lightening ingredients, still freely available, include ingredients such as hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroid. It’s not unusual for these to be mixed with caustic agents ranging from automotive battery acid, washing power, toothpaste and cloth bleaching agents, with serious and irreversible health consequences.

September 23, 2017

The Very First Troop Trials SMLE Rifles

Filed under: Africa, Britain, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 4 Apr 2017

1902 A Pattern: Sold for $31,625 – http://jamesdjulia.com/item/1647-396/
1902 B Pattern: Sold for $31,625 – http://jamesdjulia.com/item/1648-396/

One of the British lessons from the Boer War was that the distinction between infantry rifles and cavalry carbines was becoming obsolete. In 1902, they would initiate troop trials on a new short rifle pattern, intermediate in length between the old rifles and carbines, and intended to be issued universally to all troops. This would become the much-loved SMLE – Short, Magazine, Lee Enfield rifle – but first a few choices had to be made.

The 1902 trials rifles were a bit remarkable in being widely liked by the different troops that used them – only a few changes were to be made before formal adoption took place. However, there were two different patterns of the trials rifles, with different models of rear sight. The B pattern used a friction-locked range adjuster, which was found to migrate during firing (not good). The A pattern had a much more secure set of spring loaded locking notched, and would be chosen as the better of the two.

Despite a thousand of these rifles being produced for the trials, these two are the only known surviving examples. The remainder were converted to .22 caliber training guns around 1907, as their non-standard nature made them unsuitable for issue after the formal adoption of the SMLE MkI (later to be retroactively redesignated the Rifle No1 MkI.

September 10, 2017

In search of silphium, the lost herb of the Roman empire

Filed under: Africa, Environment, History, Middle East — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Zaria Gorvett recounts the story of a Roman-era herb that was at one point literally worth its weight in gold:

Long ago, in the ancient city of Cyrene, there was a herb called silphium. It didn’t look like much – with stout roots, stumpy leaves and bunches of small yellow flowers – but it oozed with an odiferous sap that was so delicious and useful, the plant was eventually worth its weight in gold.

To list its uses would be an endless task. Its crunchable stalks were roasted, sauteed or boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Its roots were eaten fresh, dipped in vinegar. It was an excellent preservative for lentils and when it was fed to sheep, their flesh became delectably tender.

Perfume was coaxed from its delicate blooms, while its sap was dried and grated liberally over dishes from brains to braised flamingo. Known as “laser”, the condiment was as fundamental to Roman haute cuisine as eating your food horizontally in a toga.

[…]

A coin of Cyrene depicting the stalk of a Silphium plant. (Source: 1889 edition of Principal Coins of the Ancients, plate 35, via Wikimedia)

Indeed, the Romans loved it so much, they referenced their darling herb in poems and songs, and wrote it into great works of literature. For centuries, local kings held a monopoly on the plant, which made the city of Cyrene, at modern Shahhat, Libya, the richest in Africa. Before they gave it away to the Romans, the Greek inhabitants even put it on their money. Julius Caesar went so far as to store a cache (1,500lbs or 680kg) in the official treasury.

But today, silphium has vanished – possibly just from the region, possibly from our planet altogether. Pliny wrote that within his lifetime, only a single stalk was discovered. It was plucked and sent to the emperor Nero as a curiosity sometime around 54-68AD.
With just a handful of stylised images and the accounts of ancient naturalists to go on, the true identity of the Romans’ favourite herb is a mystery. Some think it was driven to extinction, others that it’s still hiding in plain sight as a Mediterranean weed. How did this happen? And could we bring it back?

June 25, 2017

South Africa’s new hate speech laws may carry Apartheid-era legacies

Filed under: Africa, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Martin van Staden reports on post-Apartheid South Africa’s drift back toward repressive rules, veiled by political correctness:

After the end of Apartheid in 1994, nobody would have guessed that South Africa would be making many of the same mistakes as the Apartheid regime only two decades later, from censoring speech to violating agricultural property rights.

In our process of transformation, we were supposed to move away from the Apartheid mentality. Instead, we have doubled down on many of the same policies: the so-called Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill of 2016 is perhaps the gravest threat to freedom of expression which South Africans have ever faced; at least since the Suppression of Communism Act was repealed.

The Hate Speech Bill of 2016

The bill, which is still being debated in Parliament, provides that someone guilty of hate speech can be imprisoned for up to three years, and, if they are convicted of it again, up to 10 years. Given the serious punitive nature of this sanction, you would imagine the bill has a strict definition of “hate speech.” But you would be wrong.

Hate speech is defined as any communication which is insulting toward any person or group, and which demonstrates a clear intention to bring contempt or ridicule based on 17 protected grounds. Such grounds include race, gender, sex, belief, culture, language, gender identity, and occupation or trade. But insult is an extremely low threshold of offense, especially if it is considered with protected characteristics like belief and occupation. In other words, someone can theoretically be imprisoned for saying, “Politicians are thieving liars!”

Recently, the former leader of the opposition tweeted that “not all” of the legacies of colonialism have had detrimental results in South Africa. The ruling party subsequently called on Parliament to fast-track the Hate Speech Bill so instances like that can be dealt with. This signifies that political persecution is not off the table, and that the ruling party has shown its interest in using the proposed law against opponents.

[…]

Apartheid was fundamentally an anti-property rights system masquerading as a Western democracy fighting against Soviet communism. American economist Walter Williams wrote in 1990 that “South Africa’s history has been a centuries-long war on capitalism, private property, and individual rights.”

Duncan Reekie of the University of the Witwatersrand agreed that “Protestations from Pretoria notwithstanding, the South African regime has been one of national socialism.” Indeed, wage boards, price control boards, and spatial planning boards were commonplace in the effort to suppress black South Africans’ desire to engage in the economy on the same terms as whites.

The Suppression of Communism Act was used exclusively for political persecution by the previous regime. Anyone of significance who opposed racist policies in public could be branded as “communists” who wanted to overthrow the government. The Hate Speech Bill will have the same effect, but it will be shielded by the veneer of political correctness. With the new Bill, the government claims to give effect to a democratic mandate – a privilege the Apartheid regime did not enjoy – but the consequences will be substantially the same: a chilling effect throughout the country for anyone who dares to oppose the political class.

June 2, 2017

Ethiopia goes offline

Filed under: Africa, Education, Government, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Cory Doctorow on Ethiopia’s decision to shut down access to the internet “to prevent exam cheating”:

The entire nation of Ethiopia — a corrupt, oligarchic state with the distinction of being “the world’s first turnkey surveillance state” where spy technology from the “free world” is used to spy on the whole country — just dropped off the internet.

The ruling clique says it turned off the country’s internet to prevent Ethiopian students from accessing final exam questions via Facebook groups run by the global Ethiopian diaspora, and indeed, last year’s exams were spoiled by early-circulated exam questions.

But Ethiopia routinely disappears from the world’s internet in response to dissent and protest, and these are never far from the surface in Ethiopia, so the exams might just be a convenient excuse.

It’s an interesting counter to the idea that even authoritarian regimes struggle to turn off their national internet systems, because these are vital to maintaining the elites’ business interests, as well as extractive industries like oil, or other industries like tourism. In Burma and Egypt, totalitarian regimes have wrestled with the question of when and whether to shut down the internet, often pulling the switch after it was too late (for them).

May 15, 2017

Geography and Economic Growth

Filed under: Africa, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 9 Feb 2016

If you look at the African continent, perhaps the first word to come to mind is “enormous.” And that’s true. You could fit most of the United States, China, India, and a lot of Europe, into Africa. But if you compare Africa to Europe, Europe has two to three times the length of coastline that Africa has.

But what does coastline length have to do with anything?

Well, coasts mean access to water.

As benign as water might seem, it’s a major driver of economic growth. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, argued that access to water reduced the cost of trade, and gave merchants access to larger markets. These larger markets incentivized specialization and innovation.

These twin processes ultimately spurred trade activity, and consequently, economic growth.

As an end result, civilization tended to grow wherever trade was easiest.

If you want proof of this, think of a few major cities.

Look at Istanbul, New York, Venice, Hong Kong, London, and similar areas. What do they all have in common? They all sit near a major coast or a major river. In contrast, look at some of the poorest areas in the world—places like Kampala, or Pointe-Noire. These places are all landlocked. Since goods are easier to transport over water than over land, trade in landlocked areas is more expensive.

And what happens when trade is more expensive?

It becomes harder to spark economic growth.

What this all means is economic growth is not only affected by a country’s rules and institutions, but by a country’s natural blessings, or natural hindrances, too. The effects of geography on growth cannot be discounted.

May 7, 2017

Deadly Africa

Filed under: Africa, Environment, Health — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kim du Toit reposted something he wrote back in 2002 about the dangers to life and limb people face in Africa before you factor in dysfunctional governments, terrorists, and continuing ethnic disputes from hundreds of years ago:

When it comes to any analysis of the problems facing Africa, Western society, and particularly people from the United States, encounter a logical disconnect that makes clear analysis impossible. That disconnect is the way life is regarded in the West (it’s precious, must be protected at all costs etc.), compared to the way life, and death, are regarded in Africa. Let me try to quantify this statement.

In Africa, life is cheap. There are so many ways to die in Africa that death is far more commonplace than in the West. You can die from so many things: snakebite, insect bite, wild animal attack, disease, starvation, food poisoning… the list goes on and on. At one time, crocodiles accounted for more deaths in sub-Saharan Africa than gunfire, for example. Now add the usual human tragedy (murder, assault, warfare and the rest), and you can begin to understand why the life expectancy for an African is low — in fact, horrifyingly low, if you remove White Africans from the statistics (they tend to be more urbanized, and more Western in behavior and outlook). Finally, if you add the horrifying spread of AIDS into the equation, anyone born in sub-Saharan Africa this century will be lucky to reach age forty.

I lived in Africa for over thirty years. Growing up there, I was infused with several African traits — traits which are not common in Western civilization. The almost-casual attitude towards death was one. (Another is a morbid fear of snakes.)

So because of my African background, I am seldom moved at the sight of death, unless it’s accidental, or it affects someone close to me. (Death which strikes at total strangers, of course, is mostly ignored.) Of my circle of about eighteen or so friends with whom I grew up, and whom I would consider “close”, only about eight survive today — and not one of the survivors is over the age of fifty. Two friends died from stepping on landmines while on Army duty in Namibia. Three died in horrific car accidents (and lest one thinks that this is not confined to Africa, one was caused by a kudu flying through a windshield and impaling the guy through the chest with its hoof — not your everyday traffic accident in, say, Florida). One was bitten by a snake, and died from heart failure. Another two also died of heart failure, but they were hopeless drunkards. Two were shot by muggers. The last went out on his surfboard one day and was never seen again (did I mention that sharks are plentiful off the African coasts and in the major rivers?). My experience is not uncommon in South Africa — and north of the Limpopo River (the border with Zimbabwe), I suspect that others would show worse statistics.

The death toll wasn’t just confined to my friends. When I was still living in Johannesburg, the newspaper carried daily stories of people mauled by lions, or attacked by rival tribesmen, or dying from some unspeakable disease (and this was pre-AIDS Africa too) and in general, succumbing to some of Africa’s many answers to the population explosion. Add to that the normal death toll from rampant crime, illness, poverty, flood, famine, traffic, and the police, and you’ll begin to get the idea.

My favorite African story actually happened after I left the country. An American executive took a job over there, and on his very first day, the newspaper headlines read:
“Three Headless Bodies Found”.
The next day: “Three Heads Found”.
The third day: “Heads Don’t Match Bodies”.

You can’t make this stuff up.

April 12, 2017

QotD: Different interpretations of cause and effect

Filed under: Africa, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

On December 8, 1979 two Zairean air-force jets approached the airport in Kinshasa, the capital what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The tower radioed the pilots, telling them they couldn’t land; the air-traffic controllers were concerned about low visibility.

But when the pilots were told that they “couldn’t land,” they didn’t think, “I can’t land right now,” they thought, “I can’t land, ever.” So they ejected from their planes, letting two perfectly good Mirage jets crash into the Atlantic Ocean.

These men weren’t fools. Idiots don’t fly jets. It’s just that, for an instant, they were thinking according to an entirely different set of rules about how life works. “Can’t” means “never, ever, possible” according to these rules — not “wait an hour,” or “find a different runway.” And so they hit the eject button.

Longtime readers may recall I got this story from a great book, David Lamb’s The Africans. Lamb went on to observe that many Africans have a slightly different interpretation of cause and effect. In the West, the lesson the average person would take from a near-fatal car crash at high speeds on a hairpin turn would be “Man, that was close. I better not try that again.” But in Africa, Lamb writes, “if an oncoming car has to swerve off the road to avoid his vehicle, and there are no collisions or injuries, the African does not say, ‘Next time I’d better not do that.’”

I’ve heard similar stories about drivers throughout the developing world, particularly in Latin America, where traffic accidents and fatalities are much higher than in more advanced nations — even though the rate of car ownership is much lower.

Jonah Goldberg, “Is Trump Really the Anti-PC Warrior His Fans Make Him Out to Be?”, National Review, 2015-08-15.

March 15, 2017

Sensible reasons to reject a Canadian peacekeeping mission in Africa

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ted Campbell explains why it would not be a good thing for Canada to send a peacekeeping force to Mali (or to anywhere else in Africa right now):

The Globe and Mail, in an editorial, asks the key question:

“Is there a Canadian national interest in sending troops to Mali?”

I suggest that unless and until the Trudeau government can say, “yes,” and can explain that vital interest to most Canadians that sending Canadian soldiers off to Africa on a United Nations operation is problematical. “The Canadian Armed Forces shed blood and lost lives during the decade-long mission in Afghanistan,” the Globe‘s editorial says, “Sending them into a similar campaign in Mali may further Liberal political interests. But does it serve the national interest?

Now, I believe that I can make a sensible, mid to long term case for Canada to be “engaged,” politically, economically and militarily in Africa:

  • Africa will be, after Asia, the “next big deal” for economic growth, trade and, therefore, profits;
  • Canada will want to be involved as a trusted friend when Africa is ready to “blossom” and have an economic “boom” of its own; and
  • Despite Chinese and French incursions there are still plenty of opportunities for Canadian engagement.

In other words, we have interests in Africa; even, perhaps, in the mid to long term, we have vital interests, at that.

I cannot make a case for getting involved in any United Nations mission in Africa. I cannot, even with rose coloured glasses, see one single United Nations mission in Africa that is working, much less succeeding and doing some good.

I’m not opposed to the UN. In fact, I’m one of those who says that if it didn’t exist we’d have to invent it. The current UN is better than the old League of Nations, and some UN agencies, like the International Telecommunications Union, for example, do good work for the whole world and are, alone, worth our entire UN contribution, but we ask too much of the UN and it is neither well enough designed or led or organized or funded to do even a small percentage of what is asked of it. Peacekeeping is one of the things that the UN cannot do well in the 21st century. Peacekeeping was fine when it was ‘invented’ (circa 1948, by Ralph Bunche, and American and Brian Urquhart, a Brit, not by Lester Pearson in 1957, no matter what your ill-educated professors may have told you) but it could not be adapted to situations in which there is:

  • No peace to be kept;
  • A plethora of non-state actors who are not amenable to UN sanctions.

A few days ago I wrote about the risks involved in sending soldiers to Africa. The Globe and Mail‘s editorial just adds some more fuel to that fire.

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