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Aug. 28: Lining up against Syria, and other letters to the editor (Vahid Salemi/AP)
Aug. 28: Lining up against Syria, and other letters to the editor (Vahid Salemi/AP)


Aug. 28: Lining up against Syria, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Assad, allies, R2P

Re Western Allies Line Up Against Assad Regime (Aug. 27): At one point, the toppling of Bashar al-Assad seemed a foregone conclusion. But he offered concessions. He proved hard to demonize. He seemed willing to go down with his ship. Worse, the rebels first proved incapable of winning – and then, despite weapons, cash and volunteer Islamist fighters from abroad, all too capable of losing.

But now, with victory in sight, Mr. Assad does the one thing that can turn success into disaster. The one thing that will open the door to assault by the mightiest air force in the world. He launches a chemical attack on his own people and does it in a suburb of Damascus, just a few minutes’ drive from the hotel where United Nations weapons inspectors are living. How unbelievably dumb is that?

Michael Poulton, Halifax


Here we go again. An atrocity is rashly and prematurely blamed on a sovereign government, forming the pretext for a “humanitarian” intervention, violating international law, so the West can illegally and one-sidedly intervene in a civil war to replace the “rogue” government with a more “Western-friendly” one. Do Western leaders honestly think we are this naive?

Michael Pravica, Henderson, Nev.


Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock only remember Responsiblity to Protect when it seems likely to contribute to regime change desired by the Western powers, and when UN-supported intervention is unlikely (Intervene In Syria? Look To The Kosovo Model – Aug. 27). To the credit of our own government, Canada has not supplied arms to either side. The goal should be a negotiated peace, not exacerbation of the bloodletting.

Edwin Daniel, Victoria


The use of R2P requires UN Security Council agreement before military intervention can be authorized. Mr. Axworthy and Mr. Rock dismiss this requirement by suggesting that UN member states “did not intend” that urgent humanitarian responses be held hostage to vetoes by a member of the Security Council. But, of course, this is precisely what the UN’s founders did want, otherwise there would not have been a UN.

They go on to argue that the bombing of Serbia in 1999 is the model to be followed for resolving the Syrian dilemma. Yet NATO’s unilateral intervention in Serbia was done in clear violation of the UN Charter and a violation of international law. It is now clear that intervention had little to do with humanitarian concerns and everything to do with giving NATO a reason to exist.

James Bissett, Ottawa, former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia


Full account

The attention (Ignore The Scare Tactics. Canadians Can Afford Retirement – online, Aug. 27) given to my recent study for the IRPP on the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans is appreciated, but it is most disappointing that the authors did not read the study very carefully.

They claim that, “The most significant error of Prof. Wolfson’s and similar studies is they all ignore the wealth of individuals.” Had they actually read the details, they would know that I have taken full account of detailed amounts and distributions of most of the wealth that lower- and middle-income Canadians 40 and over already have, and are likely to accumulate over the coming years until they reach retirement age.

Specifically, I did include owner-occupied housing in the projections, based on detailed analysis not only of the 2006 population census data, but also Ontario property tax data. Also included was wealth in the forms of RRSPs, and money purchase and defined benefit pension plans.

Michael Wolfson, Canada Research Chair in population health modelling/populomics, University of Ottawa


Least cost

In response to my statement that it has never been easier, financially, to raise a child in Canada, Paul Kershaw claims that I offer no evidence (What’s Really Needed To Raise Children: More Time, Higher Incomes – online, Aug. 26). In fact, the paper clearly states that real household incomes are higher than a generation ago, families have fewer children than before (i.e., fewer people to support) and government benefits to families with children are higher than ever.

He further argues that wages have fallen compared to a generation ago, stating that “two earners bring in little more today than what one breadwinner often did in the 1970s.” However, average earnings of full-time, full-year jobs increased from $53,200 in 1976 to $57,600 in 2011 (both in 2011 constant dollars).

He also states that I calculated the cost (of raising a child) to be between $3,000 and $4,500. That misses the point of the paper. That estimate is clearly identified as the “base,” or least cost, that parents must spend to cover the necessities.

Chris Sarlo, professor of economics, Nipissing University


Senate buffet

Your article Harb Drops Fight, Quits Senate (Aug. 27) refers to Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, who will continue to “serve.” A more appropriate wording might be “self-serve.”

Kathryn Hamer Edwards, Sackville, N.B.



Andrea Harden-Donahue of the Council of Canadians believes that we should say no to fracking because it “depletes and contaminates water” (Fracking Flood – letters, Aug. 26).

You know what else depletes and contaminates water? Drinking it. Until “energy and climate campaigners” can do more than simply say no, and they have a scientifically supportable alternative, the public should carefully consider the opinions they provide.

Rod Shaver, PGeo, Toronto



Re The Nudgeniks Can’t Save Us From Ourselves (Aug. 24):

Konrad Yakabuski doesn’t acknowledge the most successful nudgeniks of all – those who treat us to yesterday’s medium-sized cup, calling it the new small and charging a large price. I would prefer to be manipulated by someone interested in my health than by someone interested in their profits.

Kathryn Mikoski, Ottawa


The use of behavioural research is a complex topic and there are a number of legitimate concerns to be raised. But looking only at the negatives hardly facilitates the conversation. Scientists are learning how to solve behavioural problems in order to promote the public good. Some of their interventions are effective and some are not. The scientific process is about figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Karim Kassam, assistant professor, department of social and decision sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh


Incomplete resumé

While in no way am I an apologist for terrorists of any stripe, I was rather struck by what was omitted from the short biography offered of Louis Mountbatten on the 34th anniversary of his death at the hands of the Irish Republican Army (A Moment In Time – Aug. 27).

To most Canadians (and likely Britons) of a certain age, he will forever be remembered for his role in the planning and execution of the disastrous raid on Dieppe.

Rick McCloy, Orillia, Ont.

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