18 December 2007

The Mounties: reform the symbols?

While Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day deals with the much-needed administrative and structural reforms of the RCMP recommended by the Brown report (the Task Force Report on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP), he might also give a thought to reforming the force's symbols. Consider the name: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Mounted police? In the 21st century? The "Royal" might also be given some thought.

And does a modern police force need a dress uniform? Isn't this a symbol of the paramilitary nature of the Mounties that's at the root of many of their problems? At the very least, drop the riding boots (with spurs yet?) and the pseudo-cowboy hat. And do something about those breeches -- didn't they go out of style with Mussolini?

The first step in becoming a modern police force might just be looking like one.

17 December 2007

"Star Wars" catches on

While the West has obsessed, needlessly as it turns out, with Iran developing nuclear weapons, nuclear activity elsewhere heats up. In addition to supplementing its armoury with a nuclear-capable missile with a range of 6,000 kilometres, India has announced it is developing a missile shield, capable of tracking and shooting down incoming missiles, which it hopes to have in place by 2010.

It isn't alone. Japan's parliament has authorized spending $2.5-billion to develop a missile defence system. Meanwhile, the United States continues to spend half a trillion dollars a year on its system.

Pakistani response to the Indian announcement was indicated by defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqa who observed,
"The first impulse is to ask how does Pakistan get [a missile defence system]. The next will be to increase the number of missiles to make sure it has enough to evade the shield." Pakistan is rapidly building up its stock of short- and medium-range missiles and recently tested a cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

According to K. Subrahmanyan, an Indian who writes on defence issues, India has to raise the "uncertainty levels for Pakistan." It's doing a pretty damn good job of raising the uncertainty levels for the rest of us as well.

13 December 2007

China and the U.S.: the peaceful dictatorship vs. the belligerent democracy

The announcement this week that the Chinese had signed a multi-billion dollar deal to develop a giant oil field in Iran contrasts yet again the Chinese and American approaches to securing their supplies of natural resources, indeed if not in their approaches to international relationships generally. While the Americans threaten and bully Iran, and wage wars on that country's borders, the Chinese quietly and peacefully make a mutually beneficial oil deal.

Even though they are a great power with one of the world's fastest growing economies and an attendant need for raw materials, the Chinese have no military bases outside their country. They aren't waging war anywhere in the world, nor are they threatening to. Nor do they constantly interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

The United States does all these things. It has a military presence on every continent, is currently waging wars in two countries while threatening to attack a third, invades another country at least once a generation if not once a decade, and constantly interferes in the affairs of other peoples around the globe.

China is accused of coddling bad guys like Iran and the Sudan, and it does. But then the U.S. counts among its close friends brutal regimes such as the Sauds of Arabia. The behaviour of both simply illustrates that in the world of realpolitik, trade tends to trump morality. On this, the Chinese are no different from the rest of us.

The whole thing is rather embarrassing for democrats. It would be nice to perceive the world's principal democracy as the paragon of progressive international relations. Yet it is totally outshone by a dictatorship. Embarrassing.