If China invades, will Taiwan be on its own?

China insists that unification with Taiwan is non-negotiable. If it can’t be achieved peacefully, it’ll be done militarily

If China invades, will Taiwan be on its own?Taiwan – an island off the southern coast of China – is home to over 23 million people. It’s also a prosperous democracy, albeit one that’s become something of a diplomatic outcast. The island came into China’s political orbit during the 17th century and was formally annexed in 1683. The origins of the major Chinese…

Compassion and reform, not walls, will halt the flood of refugees

The only way to stop people from fleeing their countries is to hold their governments' culpable for their citizen's suffering

Compassion and reform, not walls, will halt the flood of refugeesEven when boundaries define arbitrary lines between territories, they embody deeper symbolic, cultural, historical and religious meaning that’s often contested for legitimacy. Our belief that borders are indisputable has at times led to remarkable efforts to establish permanent barriers as statements of sovereignty and against foreign intrusion. The Great Wall of China, built for defence…

An Irish hero for St. Patrick’s Day

Sarsfield was the de facto commander of James’s forces in Ireland. The mission failed but his reputation for gallantry was assured

An Irish hero for St. Patrick’s DayThis being the season of St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish-themed column seems appropriate. And a recent news story provides a suitable prompt. Born between 1655 and 1658, Patrick Sarsfield was a dashing Irish hero. He was brave, patriotic and charismatic. And the fact that he was mortally wounded leading a cavalry charge at the 1693…

A worldwide celebration of two centuries of Greek independence

Effective this year, the Greek government will give Greeks living abroad the right to vote in national elections

A worldwide celebration of two centuries of Greek independenceOn March 25, 2021, Greece will commemorate the 200th anniversary of its national day. This bicentenary will be marked with great pomp and ceremony in Greece and in Greek communities of the diaspora around the world. Most countries celebrate their national day at the end of a revolution or the termination of hostilities after a…

Canada needs to stand on guard in the post-Covid-19 world

Canada needs to stand on guard in the post-Covid-19 worldIn the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant dislocations to Canadian economy and society. However, as we look to the international sphere, the pandemic has accelerated a number of long-standing trends, while introducing several new challenges. Over the past decade, we have witnessed the fragmentation of political, economic and military arrangements that underpinned the…

Eisenhower was cagey but Kennedy rushed in

In 1961, as a young president prepared to take over from an aging one, their perspectives on military responsibility were starkly different

Eisenhower was cagey but Kennedy rushed inIn the third week of January 1961, two American political figures made important speeches. One was the outgoing president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. And the other was the new guy, John F. Kennedy. Eisenhower was first up with his Jan. 17 farewell address. Aged 70, he was at that time the oldest president in United States…

Fake news? Every era had its perpetrators

Early newspapers were often more interested in expressing the opinions of the owners than the facts

Fake news? Every era had its perpetratorsFake news is a popular term these days. It’s hard to imagine why. Much more inflammatory and even manufactured ‘news’ has been with us all through history. Pamphleteers of the French and American revolutions may be the most famous. Among the best was Thomas Paine. But the average person with an axe to grind and…

The building of the Atomic Bomb Part 4

Until his death in 1970, Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves never had a single regret about the lives that were lost as a result of the Manhattan Project

The building of the Atomic Bomb Part 4Right up until practically the last minute, only an elite few knew about the building, testing and ultimate plans to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the "gadget" was about to be tested, Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves – who ran the project from its inception – tried to explain it as the…

The building of the Atomic Bomb Part 3

The majority of people who worked on the Manhattan Project were only told what they needed to know to do their jobs

The building of the Atomic Bomb Part 3While Oak Ridge, Tenn., would make U-235, the fuel for the Hiroshima atomic bomb, Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves looked for a site in the West that was far from population centres. It also needed a generous supply of electricity to run the bomb factories and water to cool the reactors. Hanford, Wash., downriver from…

The building of the Atomic Bomb Part 2

The beginnings of the Manhattan Project can be traced to research into uranium-238 conducted at the University of California, Berkeley

The building of the Atomic Bomb Part 2The beginnings of the Manhattan Project can be traced to early science and technology research into uranium-238 conducted at the University of California, Berkeley. U-238 is the most common radioactive element, making up about 99 per cent of the Earth's supply of uranium. Uranium-238 does not sustain a fission chain reaction, however, and must be…

The building of the Atomic Bomb Part 1

Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves and the Manhattan Project

The building of the Atomic Bomb Part 1On July 16, 1945, the world's first nuclear device was tested at a remote location in New Mexico, the Alamogordo Test Range, the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death). The word "bomb" was never used. Instead, it was referred to as the "gadget" or the "thing." The Manhattan Project was named after the Manhattan Engineer…

Global conflict never far away: Iranian student

New U of A graduate Asal Andarzipour found herself in a leadership role in the wake of the Flight 752 disaster

Global conflict never far away: Iranian studentIn the days following the tragedy of Flight 752, Asal Andarzipour desperately held things together. Two missiles struck the Ukraine International Airlines flight on Jan. 8, killing 13 Iranians with connections to the University of Alberta among the 176 victims. As president of the Iranian Students’ Association, Andarzipour was suddenly thrown into crisis management, fielding…

Finding new value – and a great back story – in an old film

D-Day the Sixth of June was based on an award-winning novel by Canadian journalist Lionel Shapiro

Finding new value – and a great back story – in an old filmTurner Classic Movies marked the American Memorial Day weekend by showing a string of war films, one of which was D-Day the Sixth of June. Released in 1956 and based on a novel published the previous year, I’d seen it at the local cinema in Dublin, Ireland, more than 60 years ago. Back then, I’d…

Labels just hurtful in search for Middle East peace

Trudeau insinuated that if you support the rights of Palestinians, you must be anti-Semitic

Labels just hurtful in search for Middle East peaceI like to think I’m not easily offended, but a recent speech by Justin Trudeau at the Yom Hashoah Virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration pierced my spirit. In this ceremony, Holocaust survivors and their descendants not only remembered the crimes committed against the Jewish people, they celebrated who they are and the beautiful traditions that…

The unlucky end of an American war deserter

Private Eddie Slovik, executed 75 years ago, didn't deserve his fate

The unlucky end of an American war deserterIf you’re rewatching Downton Abbey on PBS, you’ll know the plotline about the cook’s nephew who was shot for desertion during the First World War. And such things did occur. For instance, the British and Commonwealth military executed 306 men in those circumstances. They were, as the stark phrase put it, shot at dawn. The…

Through crisis we can find a common humanity

After things settle and we look back on COVID-19, we need to recognize the lesson it taught us about looking after one another

Through crisis we can find a common humanityI always believe that life has something to teach us. We just need to listen. Experts in many fields have been warning about a global pandemic for years. Prof. Frank Chalk, the director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, for example, has pointed out that when we help the most vulnerable…

Are Canadians prepared if the power grid fails?

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could devastate modern society and result in massive casualties

Are Canadians prepared if the power grid fails?On Feb. 2, thousands of Canadians lost by a landslide – and most weren’t even in politics! Ordinary citizens found normal life interrupted for days after a landslide near North Bend, B.C., cut fibre optic cables. Phone and Internet service was disrupted all weekend. Vancouver parking meters stopped working. Calgary security alarms started malfunctioning. But…

Is the world on the verge of a nuclear winter?

As Trump upsets the world order, many countries may feel they have no choice but to develop nuclear weapons

Is the world on the verge of a nuclear winter?What will the world look like in 50 years – or even 10? One of the rather unsettling possibilities is that the future will have to accommodate a Germany with nuclear arms. For the short period after the Second World War that the United States was the only nuclear power, the world was stable. But…

Pack up you troubles in your old kit-bag

Our perspective in marking Remembrance Day is definitely at odds with views of the day, but that doesn't mean the sacrifices weren't worthy

As rhetorical formulations go, ”the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” packs a formidable punch. Signifying the coming into effect of the armistice that ended the First World War, the words have a striking resonance: eliciting solemnity, dignity and the sense of something very important. Much more so than VE Day or…

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?

It took far more than our efforts during the Great War to nudge Canada out of its subordinate role in the British Empire

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?If you turn left upon entering the main gate of Toronto’s St. James Cemetery, you’ll soon come to a tall, imposing Celtic cross made of stone and inscribed with the family name Hagarty. There are three people buried there, but pride of place is given to someone whose earthly remains repose thousands of miles away…

Our world forged in the trenches of the Great War

The battle for the values it was fought for – the defense of justice, rights and freedoms – never ceases

Our world forged in the trenches of the Great WarIn Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row. It was at the funeral of his close friend and comrade Alexis Helmer that Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was first moved to write his (now famous) poem. At the time of writing he was physically and mentally exhausted, resting in the back of…

Canada goes to war: 80 years ago, there was no hesitation

Ultimately, though, disagreement surfaced. The trigger was conscription and the division was between Quebec and English Canada

Canada goes to war: 80 years ago, there was no hesitationCanada went to war 80 years ago this September. The formal declaration came on Sept. 10, a week after the United Kingdom and France had declared war in response to the German invasion of Poland. In taking the United Kingdom’s side, Canada joined three other dominions – Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Canada was…

With war on the doorstep, The Singing Cowboy came calling

His tour of the U.K. and Ireland just before the Second World War was a huge success. But prudence meant his entourage came home early to avoid any danger

With war on the doorstep, The Singing Cowboy came callingThe summer of 1939 was nerve-wracking for Europe. As July slid into August, it became increasingly clear that – barring a miracle – war was on its way. And there were no miracles to be had. There was, however, a distraction that delighted tens of thousands. Gene Autry, The Singing Cowboy, came calling across the…

The essential values of having courage and being kind

Instinct says to fight or flee, yet often neither is possible. Examining the story of Cinderella shows us that being kind and having courage can be enough

The essential values of having courage and being kindThough The Walt Disney Co. has been criticized for changing traditional fairy tales to make them palatable for modern audiences, sometimes it simply brings the lesson of the legend into very clear focus. A good example is the 2015 live action version of Cinderella starring Lily James, of Downton Abby fame. Cinderella’s birth mother gives…

How Ireland stayed neutral in a world at war

Under the leader ship of Eamon de Valera and with a very small army, virtually no aerial capability and little naval service, Ireland was a sitting duck in the Second World War

How Ireland stayed neutral in a world at warAs we approach the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, it’s worth remembering that many of the countries caught up in it were unwilling participants. Rather than enlisting in a universal crusade against the evils of Nazi Germany, they wanted nothing more than to stay out of the conflict. For instance,…

Did Canada just dodge a war with the Philippines?

The garbage at the centre of an international dispute was to arrive in Vancouver on the weekend

Did Canada just dodge a war with the Philippines?Canadians have fought a lot of tough characters over the years. Sudanese warriors of the Mahdi, Boer guerrillas, armies of the German, Austrian and Japanese empires, Nazi SS, Red Chinese, North Koreans, Serbs, Croats and Taliban all came to rue the day they messed with the boys under the Maple Leaf banner. Heck, our navy…

Canada can end the China crisis in one simple move

Since we’re in an economic and moral conflict with China, why not do the entirely virtuous thing and withdraw our recognition of Beijing?

Canada can end the China crisis in one simple moveIn 1970, Pierre Trudeau’s Canadian government cut diplomatic ties with one government claiming to rule China and recognized another. It’s time to reverse that decision. Out went a longtime ally, the quasi-democratic Republic of China, based on the island of Taiwan, and in came the nasty tyranny known as the People’s Republic of China under…

The unsung heroes of Waterloo

The Longest Afternoon, by historian Brendan Simms, provides depth, nuance and new insight

The unsung heroes of WaterlooAlthough I considered myself reasonably well informed about the June 1815 Battle of Waterloo, the critical role of the King’s German Legion (KGL) and La Haye Sainte slipped below my radar. That’s been rectified by The Longest Afternoon, a slim volume from historian Brendan Simms. Simms, born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, is…

If we’re laughing together, perhaps we can bridge the gap

I have to do all I can for peace and truth, even posting my Middle-Aged Middle Eastern Guy rap on YouTube

If we’re laughing together, perhaps we can bridge the gapSometimes you need to risk appearing foolish to speak a very deep truth. As a person of Middle Eastern ethnicity, I’ve long felt a tie to all peoples of that area of the world. As I watch the news, I see a horrible conflict between the Christians, Muslims and Jews of this region. Perhaps it’s…

If we’re laughing together, perhaps we can bridge the gap

I have to do all I can for peace and truth, even posting my Middle-Aged Middle Eastern Guy rap on YouTube

If we’re laughing together, perhaps we can bridge the gapSometimes you need to risk appearing foolish to speak a very deep truth. As a person of Middle Eastern ethnicity, I’ve long felt a tie to all peoples of that area of the world. As I watch the news, I see a horrible conflict between the Christians, Muslims and Jews of this region. Perhaps it’s…