Monthly Archives: August 2005

Reservists get gritty look at realities of 21st-century military operations

PETAWAWA – As dawn broke over the misty rivers and forests of CFB Petawawa Friday, two platoons of Cameron Highlanders boarded Griffon helicopters for a simulated attack on a rebel-held bridge. It was the high point of a massive week-long exercise, literally and figuratively, for nearly 100 reservists from Ottawa.

These soldiers, part of a company under the command of Maj. Derek Cheff of Ottawa’s Governor General’s Foot Guard, were among more than 3,000 reservists taking part in Operation Stalwart Guardian. The culmination of three years of planning and field exercises, this brigade-level exercise brought together soldiers from every reserve unit in Ontario, as well as several dozen from Canada’s NATO allies, for a hard week of drills and blank ammunition exercises, ranging from raiding a terrorist camp to seizing trenches.

In addition to basic military skills, the reservists were given a good look at the difficulties of 21st-century military operations by more than 300 members of the Royal Canadian Regiment (1st Battalion). Continue reading

Why the left shouldn’t hope for U.S. failure in Iraq

To suggest that liberals ought to be careful what they wish for may amount to locking the door of a stable that never contained a horse. Let me nevertheless try to explain to them the concept of “unintended consequences” with regard to Iraq.

A lot of people on the left seem to desire an American defeat there for a variety of reasons. One, like Mick Jagger, they find George Bush insufferable. Two, they are frightened of American hegemony — both military and cultural. Three, they consider western civilization arrogant and want to see it taught a lesson.

Each proposition can be attacked on its supposed merits. But for now I want instead to attack them on the basis of their consequences. Continue reading

Sitting by the lake, with nary a keyboard in sight

Even as you read this, I will not be looking at a computer screen. I will be looking at a lake. And thinking about Jews.

Not because I anticipate a rousing chorus of Hava Nagila from the campsite across the way. Because of Paul Johnson’s observation in A History of the Jews that “The day of rest is one of the great Jewish contributions to the comfort and joy of mankind.”

We take this weekly rhythm of work and rest so much for granted that it is hard as well as horrible to imagine a life consisting of days of toil in endless dreary procession. You’d feel like you were working on a pyramid. Or for a modern corporation. Continue reading

Ancient beauty: Why Jerusalem is not just a famous city, but a nice one

Jerusalem is not just a city on a hill. It is also a light unto the nations. Thanks to wise municipal ordinances, especially a requirement inherited from its British colonial administrators that resulted in most buildings being made of, or at least clad in, tasteful Jerusalem stone.

I know, I know, you’re not meant to go there and have realizations about the new urbanism. But people do live in Jerusalem, mostly in quite ordinarily life-like ways. As a result, they rightly care as much that their city is nice, as well as that it is famous. As I learned on my Canada-Israel Committee sponsored trip, Jerusalem is both.

The city has enjoyed some good luck in this respect. First, being on a hill rather improves the climate, especially in summer. Second, as you may vaguely have heard, Jerusalem is a bit old and revered. (According to senior archaeologist Dan Bahat, the “salem” is not a cognate with shalom/salaam but is the Canaanite god of night, though an Internet search reveals controversy even over that; in addition to one site saying Jerusalem has more than 100 names and another that it has just 70, a third flatly contradicts Mr. Bahat about the origin of the one the city is normally known by. Brockville was never like that.) Continue reading

Maxims for Michaëlle

It is not immediately obvious that Michaëlle Jean is a poor choice for governor general. But there are certainly pitfalls she will have to avoid to confound the cynics.

Let me first confess that I was a little dismayed the last time our new governor general was a child refugee CBC broadcaster woman of colour of left-wing elitist leanings. It seemed a divisive rather than unifying choice. Instead, Adrienne Clarkson proved an excellent governor general, which surely obliges me to exercise charity here. Also, while I am no Abraham Lincoln, he once wrote in a letter “I shall do nothing of malice, what I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.” Which cannot safely be said of journalism but can, and I think should, be said about our Constitution.

Hence my first point on how Ms. Jean can conduct herself with the dignity owed to her office and Canadians is to avoid anything smacking of malice. Which may be harder than it sounds if you have tended to move in intellectual circles that mistake narrowness for elevation of thought. She must especially avoid any hint of contempt for English Canadians, Canada’s traditions, or Americans. Continue reading

Those ‘brilliant’ terrorists

Why isn’t the “war on terror” going better, people ask? I’m not convinced things are that bad, even in Iraq. What were they expecting? But one problem I have recently discovered is that the terrorists are way smarter than us. I learned by reading newspapers that, especially in the London bombings, those plotting mayhem against us are so brilliant we need a special word to describe it. They are “masterminds.”

Hang on. Aren’t these the clowns who couldn’t set off the second series of bombs, and from the heart of dawkness made cellphone calls that gave them away? Weren’t some in the first wave apparently duped into believing there’d be time to escape, only to set the “timer” and go boom? Never mind.

You see, in reading the newspapers I encountered headlines like “Police seek terror mastermind” and “Police on hunt for mastermind of bombings” “Suspected bomb mastermind arrested” said another. “Bombing mastermind probably long gone before attack began” warned a fourth. And “Suspected mastermind held in Zambia,” about how 20 careless cellphone calls got this particular genius nabbed. An earlier Citizen story said an Indonesian “who the U.S. says is a terror mastermind in Southeast Asia, has been in prison since 2002.” Doesn’t it lower the bar a bit if you end up behind a set of them? Continue reading