Mali, a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon.

The situation in Mali has been getting worse over a period of time now. However, the recent influx of Tuareg fighters bent on establishing a sovereign state within Mali was the trigger point for Mali’s current downward spiral. This spiral downwards began in March this year and is on-going.

The crisis there is not being addressed by the greater international community presumably because of the current conflict in Syria. However due to a severe case of ‘factionalisation’ (coming to a dictionary near you) Mali could become a catalyst for further conflict in the region. Uneasy alliances currently make up the self-proclaimed freedom fighters that have entered into Mali uninvited.

This process has witnessed a politicisation of ethnic difference as seen in Yugoslavia. Even in this article I have already addressed the rebels as being Tuareg which are a collective. In reality these rebels’ people are a minority within their own society. What I am saying is not all Tuareg are seeking an independent state. This particular group is a heavily armed group of young men.

There are two reasons the West should care about Mali. Firstly because it’s a good ol’ fashioned humanitarian shit storm and many more people are set to suffer, secondly because this is a threat to global security. People tend to choose one and not the other so take your pick as to what is important but, understand they are interrelated on a level rarely explored by the mass media. If the West is truly interested in upholding the human rights it has institutionalised in the Western world then it has a moral obligation to assist the people of Mali. Onto security there are historic examples of states abounded by the world that have now become somewhat dysfunctional countries.  

Firstly the politicising of ethnic values must not be made apparent. To create further differences between people who have lived together for centuries will only create more long-term issues i.e. Belgians in Rwanda, Milosevic in Serbia. The world needs to understand that Mali is in a bad situation they may not get worse but, most probably will. It may just be written off as a case of more ethnic violence in Africa. However it is important to remember that it is not simple, it is a complex situation with many key players. Whoever refuses to help this state now does so at the cost of future generations.

A simple military intervention is not the answer. Mali will require structural development which will be a long-term process backed by military support. The same mistake that was made in Libya must not be made here. What mistake in Libya? The UN backed intervention of course that saw many former pro Gaddafi fighters flee into nneighbouring states unhindered. One group of those fighters that fled when Gaddafi fell was this very same group of heavily armed militiamen causing trouble in northern Mali today. For all the wisdom in the west someone forgot to think about that one. Future humanitarian actions need plans in place to prevent this happening in the future and they require a combination of both dedication to the cause and resources. No half-assed attempts should be made in Mali. It needs real support.Image

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Tony Abbot struggles to remember his lines

Tony Abbot for president!

For anyone that missed it this is the wanna-be Prime Minister of Australia. Even devout liberals aren’t confident in his leadership and that is perfectly understandable.

Can competition be healthy? Look at our economies.

From our first class in school we are taught to be competitive, the smartest kid gets a gold star or a candy. Our sporting games only reward the winners. Society idolises and paints a heroic aura around the lone wolf figure in pop-culture. However, what effect does this have on us as human beings? More specifically what effect is this having on our economies? Think about how many times in a day, week, month or even a year that you look at a random person and smile. How often do you recognise a fellow human being while they lead their life? Then think about how often you choose not to acknowledge another person. How many times you make a conscious effort to avoid someone seeing you, avoid eye contact with a stranger or don’t help a person in need. All while justifying it in your mind through a sort of paranoia based on mistrust.

When will we decide that this individualism which is common in many western nations has gone too far? Today we are recognising that Neo-Liberal capitalism isn’t working like it was intended to. If you don’t agree then you don’t know anything about economies or market systems and international political economy. The world’s economy has changed dramatically since the 1950’s and what may have once worked doesn’t anymore. Capitalism under neo-liberalism encourages market competition. It’s good in theory however application is an entirely different game. Without some form of government supervision or democratically elected watchdog organisation competition leads to hegemony.  Competition in markets is a healthy way to encourage better, prices, products and so on. However if a market is unsupervised then the leading competitor gains a position of invulnerability and creates an indestructible behemoth that rules a market. Survival of the fittest sounds good but, what happens when the fittest is all that has survived? In Australia over 70% of the food retail industry is controlled by two multinational corporations. Where is the competition in that? Now because these two corporations have one the initial battle they reap the spoils of war for eternity? The competition is over and they won. Free market capitalism under the auspices of neo-liberalism doesn’t work in real life only in theory.

Industries need to be controlled to prevent businesses and corporations from gaining an insurmountable lead in any industry. Competition is healthy but, when it leads to suffering and poverty it is no longer healthy. So smile at those strangers and stop seeing people as competition but, fellow human beings.  This is not unrealistic. What’s unrealistic is believing that wealth trickles downwards. Today 12,000 households in the US earn more than 25% of all the incomes in the United States combined, that has steadily increased in the US since the 1980’s.  So far they are yet to share it with the greater US population let alone the world.

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Traditional voting

While at a bar recently I was involved in a conversation concerning politics (not unusual). I asked a woman of her mid 20’s which way she will be voting in the coming election.  Suddenly I was surrounded by screams of terror as women fled the immediate area only to be hindered by their ridiculous high heels and men shielded their female counterparts while staring at me as if I had murdered their family. My mate then proceeded to remind me that “Dude you can’t ask people that!”. Left with a confused look on my face I was abandoned by those I had addressed the question to and left with my friend. Not two minutes before had I asked the question to a young man and received a very open and honest response. Then I realised….that girl who was shocked by my bluntness was a conservative.

Why do people have traditional voting patterns? Why vote for the same political party your great grandparents voted for? Why would someone be concerned about discussing their political preferences? To uphold tradition? Really people? Really? Why support someone or something based on another person’s preference or their historical performance? It’s stupid and here’s why.

During the age of enlightenment which started arguably with the American civil war/French revolution we as people were granted reasoning. Well we always had it but, few knew how to use it because of monarchies, religion etc. With great thinkers such as Kant, Locke and Mill who helped the western world (The Middle East and Asia have had their own great thinkers) to realise its own potential. The point is that now we could make up our own minds and think for ourselves. Obviously this didn’t occur equally across the globe but, the idea is there.  People died for these rights and ideas. They were so passionate about liberty and they effectively changed the world for the better. Why is the world better? Because now the greater population know that it’s ok to think and to argue! So why do people still refrain from openly discussing politics? Seriously WTF! No threat of retribution exists for discussing political preference for many people (while many do still have reason to fear retribution they persist!). So why shy away from your opinion?

Two reasons, A; you don’t know shit about the Political party your supporting or B; Your supporting the party that looks to shit on everyone else while you benefit and you wish to hide that fact.  Basically it’s quite obvious that a liberal thinker will generally be open to discussion and debate whereas a conservative thinker will be far less interested in sharing their beliefs and values unless they know you already share them as well.

This brings me to my conclusion. Politics is not a taboo subject. These issues concern everyone. Open debate and argument are central to any liberal democracy yet some people are refusing to effectively participate. Politicians change, Political policies change, the world changes…get used to it because chances are change is coming to a town near you. Damn change you scary!

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Australia couldn’t win a conventional war if the nation depended on it.

As a nation Australia has some astounding records of heroism, honour and compassion surrounding its Military. By no means does this piece detract from the people who serve in the military or their abilities but, rather this concerns policies decided by a handful of politicians and some of Australia’s top brass.

Since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan only Special Forces (1st and 2nd Commando formerly 4th RAR and the SASR) units and soldiers attached to those units have been used in offensive operations and the remainder of the forces have been used as security elements. An example in Afghanistan is combat engineers and infantry units are combined on rebuilding operations. The infantry units are deployed as security elements in extremely high risk situations and are involved in combat on a regular basis.  However their mission is generally orientated around reconnaissance and providing overwatch security. It is obvious that senior military commanders would be pleased to see more Australian infantry units fulfil their job description “to close with and eliminate the enemy”. With these units not being used in the ways they are intended and trained then they are just costly expenses.

Within Australia’s Defence Force a certain pride persists. An unhealthy one.  It takes no Military genius to recognise that Australia would struggle to commit to a conventional war with any number of its neighbours on its own. So why then insist on procuring a handful of Main Battle Tanks that the US has had in service for over a decade or a sprinkle of top of the line jet fighters?  Its stupid. Australia lacks the numbers and the funding to obtain and maintain a capable conventional military. Our units have proven exceptionally good at unconventional warfare and at peacekeeping operations (East Timor, Bourganville, and Solomon Islands etc.). The military should play to its strengths and save time and money. The new budget has crippled the Defence capabilities but, why not? Australia should no doubt maintain a small group of offensive capabilities but, firstly it would have to construct a joint operations command to enable the Army, Navy and Air Force to work together more efficiently. Then reform the military into a peacekeeping force and concentrate less on offensive capabilities. In the reformation a new offensive battle group should be created jointly comprised of the Army, Navy and Air Force while the remainder should be tasked as a security force. One that specialises in human security and not offence. As the world is witnessing a shift from conventional warfare to unconventional warfare instability will become even more prominent in areas. The offensive battle group will be used for operational security (seizures, raids and security)  for a destabilised region while the security force will provide structural security including; Rebuilding, Policing and Law enforcement and providing humanitarian aid.

It can be argued that Australia needs to maintain a military presence at this time as the Asia-Pacific is currently experiencing tension in the South China Sea, newly deployed US forces and North Korea. With these security dilemmas as an argument a conventional military can be justified in the minds of some. However in reality these issues have been stabilised through diplomacy in the past and there is no reason why it cannot be done today. Also, Australia is not a prime target for an invasion by another country as it would require a vast military force with huge logistics capabilities to successfully occupy the country. Even so there is no reason to believe that an invasion is likely considering the current political environment. It would also prove extremely difficult for a country to invade and maintain sustained military operations on Australian soil due to our isolation and position on the map.

In summary Australia is not threatened by any conventional military forces but, rather unconventional forces which is the domain of the Intelligence agencies and the Australia Federal Police. The world has changed since the Australian Defence Force was created and it need to keep up. Australians are bloody good peace keepers and fighters but, we’re a small nation and we’re peaceful so why not look to provide a military that assists in providing security to the new world instead of continuously trying to be one of the big boys.

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Bringing back the draft would help prevent war…dafuq?

Recently retired four star General Stanley McChrystal the former commander of ISAF forces in Afghanistan (The guy who Obama “asked” to retire after an interview with Rolling Stone) stated he believed that all citizens need to feel involved in War to force Governments to make decisions closer to the interests of their people and not for other reasons. The best way to make this happen is to reimpose the draft or conscription. Sounds crazy right? Well his point is actually very valid.

Professional Militaries have only been around for several hundred years whereas armies were formerly comprised of the “people” or citizen armies. Even the famous Roman legions returned to farming in times of peace. This concept of the absence of the citizen is new and this lack of a connection between the citizen and the military has become even greater in the last century. After the U.S. lost the war in Vietnam (Yes the US lost) the Pentagon decided to remove the draft and resort to an entirely volunteer only Military. This was in response to the massive public outcry against people being drafted to go and fight in a war that many viewed as unjust. Other western countries including Australia that hadn’t already removed the draft followed suit. Now with the removal of the draft and people free from being forcibly taken from their lives and placed into a battlefield everyone was happy. Especially the Militaries. But, why?

Now for the first time in history the public had no connection with a conflict that its country was involved in. With this lack of interest people now have less interest in War. Ever since the removal of the draft people have become disconnected from war to an extent possibly never seen before in history. It sounds good. As long as nothing changes in their world the greater public is content and as long as the TV doesn’t show any nasty pictures of children covered in napalm then war is much easier to handle and Government’s know this. It is no conspiracy, it simply is what it is. If people aren’t involved and don’t see then they don’t care. This allows for wars to be declared and fought in the interest of State Governments regardless of the interests of the people whom it represents.

McChrystal is right. Although being drafted into service to fight in a war I don’t believe in sounds like a nightmare it definitely makes me appreciate the gravity of war. Why? Because it makes me involved and I realise that if getting shot or blown up sucks for me then it probably sucks for other people as well (to put it simply). Therefore with people more interested in what their Governments are doing they are more likely to have an influence and make their voices heard on the big issues such as war.

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Sudan…Sudan who???

Currently the Sudanese Government is using overtly heavy handed tactics to quell protests over increased living costs. There are reports of widespread arrests and detentions occurring. These events are being documented by media agencies across the world however there are more pressing issues currently existing which are shared by both of the Sudanese states north and south. With South Sudan’s independence last year came great responsibility (had to be said). South Sudan possesses 75% of the discovered oil reserves in Sudan. And upon its independence it agreed to share half with the north to keep the peace. However there is not peace. So why is there still fighting occurring and why isn’t anything being done?

Well first understanding the nature of the current conflict itself is important. The Southern forces currently use militias that have previously fought against them for the North. Thus Southern Sudanese forces appear to suffering from in-fighting and are not as stable as is required for the situation and chances are that a lot of brokering is required to appease the varying views. While the Northern forces appear to be employing militias that they arm and fund to carry out the fighting against the South while  providing aerial support. Both sides have been condemned for using artillery and rockets to attack areas that have civilian populations indiscriminately. They have also been blamed for theft and looting much to the dismay of the local peoples in the conflict zones.

The problem here is that if this continues then this area will continue to suffer from destabilization. The South neighbours the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s troublesome east, an area that is home to various factions that fight for power of minerals and gems.  If a conventional war were to occur and the South were to lose then the current Southern militias and remaining military personnel would likely retreat into the lawless Congo and create more trouble as was the case in the after the influx of the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya which saw heavily armed Tuareg fighters flee and then descend on northern Mali.

This conflict needs to be resolved to ease the suffering of the people of Sudan and prevent the suffering of any others in the future. Unfortunately the arms that are being used to fight this conflict and any future conflicts are being supplied or have been supplied by the three of the five permanent UN Security Council members. According to Amnesty International current weapons used by the South including main battle tanks (t-72’s) have been supplied by companies in the UK, Germany and Ukraine while China and unsurprisingly the Republic of Sudan have been arming militias fighting against southern Sudan.

The EU needs to inspect its arms embargo against Sudan and ask itself why this has occurred when such sales are banned. If they wished to help the newly formed Southern Sudanese state then why not campaign for a peacekeeping operation, or provide development assistance?   To effectively resolve this issue there needs to be greater pressure placed on both the North and South by the international community to cease fighting as well as the commencement of structural operations to assist in a peaceful transition process. However many Governments view this as an unattractive option, why? Because structural operations require long-term investment and peace doesn’t make for a good story on TV it lacks explosions, loud noises and suffering.

FACT: The majority of conflict deaths are caused by small arms (assault rifles, machine guns etc.)

FACT 2: The Majority (some estimates as high as over 90%) of small arms are manufactured and distributed by four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

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“Boat People” more conservative populism

“Boat People” a threat or just conservative populism

As election time gets closer the debate about which approach to take concerning the “boat people” has been placed in the light once again. This is an issue that has been plaguing Australian Political debate for too long and know is only being used as a Political football. For the those who are unfamiliar with Australian Politics it consists mainly of the Liberals (a conservative/populist party), Labor (Part liberal/progressive under the right leadership/currently populist) and the Greens (eco political/progressive/semi-socialist/semi-liberal/Its eco political policies sometimes hinder its ability to progress). With Labor currently in power and out of favour the Liberal party’s morale is high. So currently anyone who arrives in Australia via boat (generally an illegal form of passage taken from Indonesia) is being labelled a threat to National Security by the Liberal and it has now become an issue as to where to place these alleged threats. Basically the majority of these people are unable to gain any other form of entry to Australia, some are genuine refugees and asylum seekers (the majority) however, there may be some who pose a threat to National Security. It is absurd that so much time and money is being wasted on this issue. The Greens outlined a proposal that suggested shortening processing times of asylum seekers and refugees to save costs and uphold Human Rights. This was quickly disregarded as it lacked emotion and contained too much logic and reason. In summary the points of this article are;

  • Australia has a long history of racist government policies that have been implemented, upheld and enforced by conservative Governments. These policies do not represent modern Australian society.
  •  Since the Howard era of conservative rule, populism (draws on emotions over logic/reasoning) has played an ever increasing role in Australian politics.
  •  It is absurd that the Political arena is in its current state. The Liberal and Labor party are playing a game and its one the Liberals started and Labor mistakenly accepted the invitation to play. The Liberals are professionals at this and will most likely win unless Labor changes its own values and morals which will create further division within its own party.
  • Fortunately many Australians are able to see the issue outlined in this article.

Luckily Australia is a Democratic nation where the Politicians work for the people.  Without the people they would not have jobs therefore it is important for people to understand that they lie and generally work only to appeal to the emotional side rather than the logical. Write to your Politicians let them know your concern about the issue and don’t let them make decisions for you! They represent you! Make them earn their pay but, most importantly don’t listen to everything they say. Rather ask yourself why are they saying that? What do they want? How do they want me to react? Logic dictates that wasting time and money on this “boat people” issue is preventing other issues  from being noticed. Finally, refugees and asylum seekers pose no threat to national security however, racism and segregation under the guise of Politics has in the past.

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