Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel Declares War on the Internet

Electronic information war may be history's first

Remember the late 80s/early 90s? Good times.

Most people remember them well. The Internet was still in its infancy, and every other movie in theatres, or perhaps even on video (Betamax, even?) had some sort of computer genius who could do absolutely anything with a computer. They're magic, you see.

So then it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that there was a time when people believed that future wars would be fought by computers, with computers, against computers. Computerishly.

But those days may be closer than we think. In a way.

In the midst of its current conflict in Lebanon, Israel's Foreign Ministry has made the future now. Concerned that the information superhighway (or cyberspace, if you will) is becoming plugged up with anti-Israel propaganda, Israeli diplomats have begun tracking message boards and websites featuring anti-Israel messages via a "megaphone" program, that has been distributed by download to supporters.

Just this past week, nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students have downloaded this program, and have taken Israel's war to some of the places where it's most unpopular.

Simply put, this megaphone software allows members of the WUJS to troll on unsympathetic websites, posting supportive opinions and participating in the debate.

This puts Israel at the head of the pack when it comes to using the internet to fight what may well be history's first organized "electronic information war". Certainly, other countries have used the internet to their advantage -- mostly to either disseminate outright propaganda, or have censored the internet to keep information out of their citizens' hands.

Perhaps Israel is the only state to fully recognize the Internet's potential as an organizing/mobilizing tool. " The Internet's become a leading tool for news, shaping the world view of millions," says Amir Gissin, the public relations officer of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. " Our problem is the foreign media shows Lebanese suffering, but not Israeli. We're bypassing that filter by distributing pictures showing how northern Israelis suffer from Katyusha rocket attacks."

Certainly, the topic of the rocket attacks is contentious on many internet message boards. Reports of them are often dismissed as "propaganda", or "false flag operations" concocted to justify what many see as an Israeli war of aggression.
This is part of the problem with much of the "debate" that is taking place on this issue. When confronted with information that does not support their opinions (perhaps if you're an Israeli supporter being told about the civilian casualties being caused by Israeli airstrikes, or a Lebanese supporter being told that Hezbollah are hiding amongst civilians), it is simply dismissed as "propaganda", and is ultimately discarded. What quickly develops is a debate that is rhetorically charged, and fuelled by disinformation (disinformation in the sense that new on either side consent to being fully informed).

Israel's internet campaign may change all that. Often, these debates are being waged between people who may be entirely too embroiled in a conflict that they are ultimately detached from. But Israel's megaphone software allows those who are in the middle of the conflict -- Israeli citizens under fire from rocket attacks, perhaps -- to share their experiences directly with some people who otherwise would not have had the benefit. That could make all the difference in the world.

Certainly, some will object to the presence of Israeli supporters on their sites. Some will object simply because they cannot stand to defend their opinions against people who do not agree with them. Some will object because of the online etiquette considerations of Israel's actions (and this is actually quite fair).

But in the end, Israel is only doing what smart nations do: they are adapting to the world's new realities -- in this case, the effectiveness of the internet -- and using them to thrive. And, god willing, the debate over the war in Lebanon will only benefit from the influx of new participants, regardless of whether or not they are pro-Israel.

If Israel has any amount of success waging this electronic information war, it can be expected that other states -- such as the United States -- will seek to emulate it.

The future is now. Internet warfare is probably here to stay.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Harper Must Learn his Lessons in Order to Adjust to Middle Power Status

Room remains for Canada to act as an intermediary... But it is slim

As a world leader, there is no question that one has a lot less control over world events than they would like. Often, crises can develop quite quickly, with few if any warning signs, or can start as something smaller, then escalate out of control.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has certainly learned this the hard way over the past two weeks, as what began essentially as a hostage situation, boiling over a period of months, exploded into a full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah this week. There is no doubt that Harper has learned many hard lessons in the days since.

Despite criticism regarding command-and-control from the Prime Minister's Office hampering efforts, the evacuation of Canadian citizens from Lebanon proceeded fairly efficiently. Even the Prime Minister himself lent a hand, as he diverted his Airbus flight home from France to Turkey in order to pick up a planeload of evacuees. Many evacuees complained about poor conditions on board the ships chartered to bring them to safety, while others complained about lax treatment by officials at the Canadian consulate in Cyprus. On top of all this, the operation was far from perfect, as a Canadian family of eight from Montreal was confirmed dead in an Israeli airstrike. There was also a report of an Israeli aircraft opening fire on a ship bearing Canadian refugees (however, the small explosion was ultimately traced to a faulty fire extinguisher).

Considering that this was the largest civilian evacuation in Canadian history, the operation went as well as could be hoped.

But Harper learned one other harsh lesson this week: as he has little control over international crises, he also has very little control over the public perception of his response.

When conflict began in earnest, Harper responded quickly by calling the Israeli actions a "measured response" to the actions of Hezbollah, who were not only holding two captured Israeli soldiers, but were also launching rocket attacks into Israel from southern Lebanon.

While whether or not the Israeli military expidition can be considered a "measured response" (especially in the face of many civilian casualties) is entirely open for debate, these key facts of the issue really are not. Which may be what made the criticism that quickly followed all the more absurd.

Liberal Party interim leader Bill Graham complained about Harper's lack of initiative as a peacemaker. "Canada has always been able to serve as an intermediary," he explained, "but we can only serve in that useful role if in both our comportment and our actions we take steps and stances which enable us to play that role."

Graham didn't deny that Israel has the right to defend itself.

Deputy Prime Minister and current Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay responded fairly simply: "A ceasefire and return to the status quo is a victory for Hezbollah," MacKay told CTV's Canada AM. "Let's not forget that this was an unprovoked attack by a terrorist organiztion. Missiles were being fired into Israel."
Harper was also accused of "parroting" the American position on Israel. "He's almost at the forefront of a very small group of nations who say whatever Israel does is right," said Axworthy. "We're becoming part of the problem, not part of the solution."

However, as a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Axeworthy knows full well that support is Israel is a traditional tenet of Canadian foreign policy. In 1997, Axworthy himself closed an investigation on wether or not Israeli intelligence operatives were using Canadian passports (although Axworthy did offer Israel his fair share of criticism).

In the end, MacKay argued that Harper's stance actually served the interests of establishing long-term peace. " The Prime Minister has taken a very independent sovereign decision to participate in world events in a way that we feel is cognizant of all the circumstances including the history and the ongoing struggles in the region," he noted. " It is very much in keeping with an effort to find a long-term peaceful solution, not one that is going to be just a quick fix."

He also insisted that no peace will ultimately come of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal.

Many pro-peace activists also took to treating Harper's stance in a manner comparable to that given to U.S. President George Bush. On Saturday, in protests in Montreal and Toronto, anti-war activists carried banners of Harper emblazoned with the words "war monger" -- despite the absence of Canadian troops in the war zone.
Ultimately, the trouble with the debate on this crises is that each side seems to enjoy ignoring the key facts that make the issue so complex. Bill Graham, Lloyd Axworthy and (portions of) the Liberal party seem to subscribe to some sort of bizarre belief that peace talks are practical in an environment where a terrorist organization is launching continuous rocket attacks against a soveriegn country. Many of the most extreme anti-war groups are ignoring the matter of these attacks althogether.

Yet it seems that the Conservative party is largely ignoring the issue of civilian casualties -- even after the deaths of Canadians in the crosshairs. Not to mention claiming that Israel's actions serve the interest of long-term peace, when the Israeli Defense Force's actions will almost certainly spawn the next generation of Hezbollah members.

There certainly do need to be peace talks -- there is no question about that. But Hezbollah has already proven itself to be a terrorist organization with absolutely no interest in peacefully coexisting with Israel. As such, any such peace talks would have to take place exclusively between Israel and Lebanon. As part of the price for peace, Lebanon will have to agree to work together with Israel do deal with Hezbollah once and for all.

This is where Stephen Harper comes in. If he has left himself any room to function as an intermediary (as the Liberals so desire), it would be under such a framework. Similarily, the Liberals will also have to recognize that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and will need to be treated as such.

However, before he can even begin to do so, Harper will have to learn the lessons this crises is teaching him -- and learn them quickly.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Will the War in Lebanon Become World War Three?

Probably not... but what if it were?

If you've had the unfortunate experience of waching CNN recently, or even coming within twenty feet of a FOX news broadcast (not recommended by physicians), you've probably heard all the frantic talk about the "Third World War".

That's right, kids, get your party hats: the Third World War is upon us. Even Stephen Colbert has proclaimed it so.Even Stephen Colbert has proclaimed it so.

Certainly, the armed conflict currently taking place in Lebanon (like Iraq, without the benefit of a declaration of war) has brought the world's alarmists and wingnuts to a state of absolute frenzy.

On a recent installment of Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich, for one, made his views on the matter clear. " is absolutely a question of the survival of Israel, but it's also a question of what is really a world war," he said. " ...I mean, we, we are in the early stages of what I would describe as the third world war, and frankly, our bureaucracies aren't responding fast enough, we don't have the right attitude about this, and this is the 58th year of the war to destroy Israel."

He quickly drew allusions to the war in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and the situation regarding North Korea. " I believe if you take all the countries I just listed, that you've been covering, put them on a map, look at all the different connectivity, you'd have to say to yourself this is, in fact, World War III."

Wow. That's heavy stuff. It's downright biblical, in fact.

Speaking of biblical, the most famous World War III prophecy comes, in fact, from the bible. The famous "Revelations" prophecy, which many people have interpreted and endorsed as a prophecy of a third global-spanning conflict, which will eventually bring about the endtimes.

A look at the prophecy itself foretells the third world war in a prelude and six acts. In the prelude, the stage is set as the events leading up to the third world war first begin to happen. In act one, the middle east is engulfed in more and more of that dreaded conflict. In act two, Israel finally goes on the warpath, and starts laying the smackdown. Act three brings a new element to bear: the machinations of those mischevious far-easterners. In the fourth act, confidence in "the system" is "eroded". In act five, the economies and moral systems of the western nations (including the U.S.) collapse. The whole affair wraps up with act six, and the signifcant reduction of population.

According to, the events leading up to the Third World War have already begun to take place.

The prelude, according to the site, began September 11, 2001 (quelle surprise!). Certainly, this was a date that changed the world, in almost every way that anyone can imagine. If any event of the past ten years "set the scene" for a global war, it was certainly 9/11. Fair enough.

The site kicks off act one with the invasion of Iraq 555 days later (isn't 666 more of a foreboding number? Oh, well) on March 10, 2003. According to this site, Iranian or Pakistani radicals may, in the near future, use a nuclear weapon in the region.
Act two, according to the site, is what we are seeing right now. Fed up with having their soldiers kidnapped and missiles fire at them by Hezzbollah, Israel is expected to move into southern Lebanon in a full-scale invasion later today. But after this, things start to get a little bit hazy.

Act three, as previously noted, concerns troubles in the far east. But there's been trouble in the far east for the past fifty years. Repeated problems with the South Korean missile program, as well as nuclear proliferation by India and Pakistan (mostly over the hotly-contest Kasmir region) have been significant news topics over the past five years. Suddenly, act three predates act two.

Act four, erosion of confidence in the system is nothing new, either. It's been happening in many countries (particularly the United States) ever since the 1980s, when voter turnout first started to tank. So now, act four predates act three, which already predates act two.

Act five, some warn, is currently in the process have happening. The collapse of the American economy has been forecasted by a number of economists for a little while now. Once again, nothing new, but at least this one has yet to pass.

Act six, however, could be argued to be underway. The site notes that the population reduction in question could happen by way of natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina, recent earthquakes in Indonesia, and the Tsunami that obliterated the south western Pacific basin come to mind. So, act six, predates act five (which has yet to happen), which is predated by act four, which is predated by act three, which predates act two.

Now, certainly, the chronological order of the events probably shouldn't matter much to those who subscribe to the biblical WWIII prophesy. The fact that enough of the events can be argued to have happened, or be in the course of happening should be unsettling enough for most.

But wait! There's more.

According to this site, the Illuminati is involved, too! It wouldn't be a proper prophesy if the Illuminati weren't thrown in there, somehow. In fact, according to the site the Illuminati and the New World Order have in fact planned the Third World War, and it won't begin to happen until all the necessary puzzle pieces are in place. The recent meeting of the mysterious Bilderberg group in Ottawa probably won't do much to allay those fears, either.

Is the Third World War ongoing as we speak? It may already have been for at least five years now. If anything, the War on Terror is a global war, taking place on two or more continents -- the historical definition of a world war. Regardless of whether or not Israel's campaign in Lebanon sparks a nightmarish global war, historians may one day recognize the war on terror as World War 3 -- or World War 4, if you agree with those who consider the Cold War to have been World War 3.

Certainly, much of the "news coverage" of the ongoing "World War 3" is simply alarmism. But if left untended (and no world leader has yet to make a serious peace overture), this situation could easily balloon into a world war.

While it's easy to simply throw our hands in the air in an act of exasperation over the drama, we must resist the urge to do this, and pressure our leaders to help Israel find the most peaceful resolution possible with Hezbollah and Lebanon. Certainly, Israel cannot permit Hezbollah to continue attacking them, but an all-out war is something that simply must be avoided, if at all possible.

Otherwise, what has existed for the past fifty years in the way of a small regional conflict breaking into occasional wars could become something much bigger, and much, much worse.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

July 2006 Book Club Selection : Why I Hate Canadians, Will Ferguson

Author Asks: How honest are Canadians with ourselves?

Every year, Canadians open the month of July by celebrating the birth of our country.
So perhaps it is fitting that the book club selection for July is a book that explores the assumptions we Canadians make about ourselves, and questions whether or not they are valid.

Going by title alone, Why I Hate Canadians sounds like it should be some far-right-wing book written by Pat Buchanan (of "soviet canuckistan" fame). The book is actually penned by Katimavik graduate Will Ferguson (don't worry, he explains the relevance of his participation in Katimavik), who wrote the book upon returning to Canada after nearly a decade spent abroad.

Why I Hate Canadians isn't so much a book about Canada, it's a book about Canadians. Likewise, Ferguson doesn't hate Canada -- he hates Canadians. Or, at least he wants to make Canadians face some of the unpleasant truths that come along with all the great things about being Canadian.

Ferguson attacks all the stereotypes -- the "mighty Beaver", the trademarked Canadian tolerance and niceness, and that ever-contentious multiculturalism.
Ferguson seeks first and foremost to force the reader to ask themselves questions: questions about Canada, and about what it means to be Canadian. He revels in all the things about Canada that are great, but forces Canadians to look all their historical and cultural blemishes dead in the eye.

This is a book that all Canadians should read.