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Peace, kept and not

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Re PM Defends Canada's Peacekeeping Plan (Nov. 16): Canada's "traditional military role" is not peacekeeping, it's war-fighting. The role of peacekeeping involved a relatively small percentage of Canada's armed forces from the mid-1950s through to the end of the 1980s, a time when Canada maintained a mechanized infantry brigade group and an air force fighter division in Europe, and naval forces in the North Atlantic in an anti-submarine role, all armed and prepared to fight a high intensity battle against potential aggressors.

Because these troops were professionally trained for war, they were highly effective in the decidedly secondary role of peacekeeping, a good thing when peacekeeping morphed into a much different task during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Politicians, of course, favour peacekeeping as a role for the forces, as the costs are significantly less than the ever-more expensive weaponry that forces need if they are to play an effective part in maintaining peace in the world.

Some Canadians still get misty-eyed over the concept of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and police officers wearing blue or orange berets and standing bravely between warring sides while diplomats and politicians work out peace agreements.

Canadians are rightly proud of what our armed forces have achieved, in war and in peacekeeping, but they shouldn't be misled as to what the traditional role of the military is and always has been.

John de Chastelain, chief of the defence staff (1989-93, 1994-95); Ottawa

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The Globe and Mail should stop telling us traditional peacekeeping is a thing of the past (Promise Fudged, And A Good Thing Too – editorial, Nov. 16). We know most missions aren't like Cyprus, but we also know that the demands for UN peacekeeping/peace operations are at an all-time high. There are more missions, and more troops and police in the field. These missions are more robust, more complex and more multidimensional, and require multipurposed resources.

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The "emotional attachment to the idea" of peacekeeping by Canadians that your editorial seems to disparage is neither naive nor misplaced. It includes broad support for UN peace operations (80 per cent approval, according to a Nanos poll) – including those operations that are riskier (70 per cent approval) but necessary, and that need to be deployed more quickly to save more lives and prevent escalation.

Robin Collins, Ottawa

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I beg to differ with your editorial on peacekeeping, A Bad Liberal Idea, Topped By The Tories (Nov. 13). First, modern peacekeeping includes peacemaking, which includes the use of force. Second, the Liberal pledge to get back into peacekeeping was aimed at the full spectrum of UN peace operations. The UN should be the front line of Canada's efforts to boost world security; we can't do it alone. Third, there was no pledge to "refocus Canada's military" on peacekeeping. All that is being proposed is that Canada use a part of its defence efforts to support the UN with its 100,000-plus peacekeepers in some 16 countries. Fourth, modern peacekeeping includes logistics – transport, equipment and communications – and new technologies such as drones, GPS equipment, engineering and medical units.

This is where Canada can help most, but living up to the promise of 750 uniformed personnel is also important, and overdue.

John Trent, Chelsea, Que.

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Dressed for court

Re Ottawa Unlikely To Send Bill 62 To Top Court (Nov. 16): To paraphrase the Prime Minister's father, it should be clear to one and all that there is no place for the state in the wardrobes of the nation.

Barbara Campbell, Vancouver

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Zimbabwe's choices

Re Zimbabwe's New Reality (Nov. 16): For the first decade after Zimbabwe's independence in April, 1980, hopes were high of recovery from a gruesome guerilla war. But the deaths of men like finance minister Bernard Chidzero, and the impact of the Structural Adjustment policy of the International Monetary Fund set off a downward spiral.

Robert Mugabe has shown personal weakness and ugly vengeance in equal parts, dividing and destroying what could have been a capable team, allowing uncontrolled land grabs. Thousands of villagers who had not voted for his ZANU-PF party were massacred.

So what now? The generals must be wary of helping back to power Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has his own brutal record. But there are other voices and choices. Tendai Biti, a promising minister in a brief coalition government, has called for a new transitional government.

As for Canada's role, Bob Rae may be better employed here than in Myanmar. One small, simple thing we can do: Immigration Minister Ahmed D. Hussen could welcome back to Canada the 40 or so Zimbabweans deported in the last days of Stephen Harper's government on the pretense that it was safe to return to Mugabeland.

Clyde Sanger, Ottawa

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My wife and I were in Zimbabwe before Robert Mugabe decided to "give the land back to the people," meaning his people, in the 1980s. This was when he kicked out the foreign owners of farms and turned Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of Africa into a country that couldn't feed its people. After the downhill spiral after his land "appropriation," the only thing that surprises me is that the uprising didn't come sooner.

Dan Petryk, Calgary

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The Trust Project

When Donald Trump and his legions of minions get caught in the latest attempt to undermine democracy and the rule of law, they decry the "fake news," which is actually reporting and exposing the truth.

The real "fake news" is mostly out there trolling on the many social media platforms. For the past 10 years, an ever-increasing number of people have become addicted to smartphones. This devotion, based on constant adoration of the sacred screen, is unfortunately mostly devoid of accuracy-confirming or truth-discerning, while consuming large dollops of poison. The result is the proliferation of real "fake news." The future of truth in reporting has appeared to be in great peril.

So Thursday's story, Globe Joins Global Consortium To Strengthen Digital Journalism, was a long overdue bit of good news, perhaps one could say "real news."

Dubbed the "Trust Project," it will establish the first system of industry standards for digital news publishing around the world. Congratulations, Globe and Mail, on being a leader in this much-needed initiative.

Steve Sanderson, Quispamsis, N.B.

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The scarier one is …

Re Handcrafted Power (Nov. 16): In your article about a new Mercedes, we are told that "the infotainment system is a bit complicated and distracting to use. Simple functions take multiple steps and require focus and attention."

If you're sitting in a parking lot in a vehicle waiting for someone while keeping yourself entertained, this won't be a problem. However, most of the time when a driver is going through these exercises, he or she is driving. Other lives, as well as the driver's, could well be in the balance. Some makes and models of vehicles now come with not one, but two screens to look at while selecting a channel or following directions.

I don't know what scares me most – cars that encourage drivers to be distracted, or the prospect of vehicles that don't even need a distracted driver.

Dave Ashby, Toronto

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