Three articles indicate that the Trudeau government is firm its commitment to send a forces (or forces) of a size that, in Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s words, Canada “can sustain for a long duration” to Africa. (For reference, we ‘sustained’ 2,500± (mostly) soldiers in Afghanistan for over a decade.)
- We’re going to Africa, somewhere, but Prime Minister Trudeau hasn’t decided just where, yet;
- We’re sending a force that we can “sustain” for a long period ~ that is, presumably, for years;
- The military will not be the only component ~ police and “capacity building” will also be required; and
- Minister Sajjan, at least, but perhaps he’s the only one, appreciates that ““We need to look at the areas by region because the groups we are dealing with in conflict, when war happens in a region it’s all interconnected.”
It looks like he may have read MGen (ret’d) Lewis Mackenzie’s critique of UN peacekeeping and, we can hope, will recommend a better course of action to his colleagues … but I’m not sure that Marie-Claude Bibeau, Justin Trudeau and Stéphane Dion (much less Mr Butts and Ms Telford) are likely to be convinced. Their views seem, to me, to be more closely attuned to the Canadian peacekeeping myth, which, in fact never quite was what people imagined it to be.
Let’s remember, please, that Lester B Pearson was credited with “inventing” UN peacekeeping when, in 1957, he, on Louis St Laurent’s direction, set about preventing the breakup of the Anglo-American alliance ~ which was vitally important to Canada for security, economic and social-political reasons ~ because British Prime Minister Anthony Eden had, through his intemperate actions, nearly, pushed US President Dwight Eisenhower past his point of no return by invading Egypt (with France and Israel) and, thereby, upsetting Eisenhower’s plan to woo the Arabs away from Russia and towards the West. The whole point of Pearsonian peacekeeping was to serve Canada’s vital interests which, now, it appears to me, Justin Trudeau equates with having a second class, temporary seat at the well nigh useless UN Security Council table.
I’m not opposed to going to Africa to do some good, but I doubt that a UN mission is the best or even a pretty good way to do that. If we must operate under a UN mandate then I suggest we pick up on Lewis Mackenzie’s notion and take on a whole package in one country: humanitarian relief, nation building and security all under Canadian command and control, perhaps even with a seasoned, experienced political-executive “resident-minister,”who might report to both the prime minister in Ottawa and the UN secretary general in New York, in charge of the whole affair. But the Trudeau/Liberal campaign promise was to stop fighting “Harper’s wars” and go back to the (phoney, mythological) Canadian tradition of peacekeeping. That so many Canadians, possibly including our prime minister himself, believe in the silly myth is a shocking indictment of an education system that is a miserable failure.
In an article in the National Post, Matt Gurney urges Prime Minister Trudeau: “Don’t send Canadian troops to dysfunctional UN missions.” “Peacekeeping can work,” Mr Gurney says, “When the right factors align, a properly armed and equipped neutral third party can be a critical ingredient of transforming a ceasefire into a stable peace. Canada has done honourable service on these missions in the past, and there’s nothing wrong, in theory, with seeking to do so again. But unless Canada intends to lead a mission on its own, or in partnership with like-minded nations under their own rules of engagement, Canadians have to question if this is the best use of our military resources, or even worth pursing at all.” Mr Gurney asserts, and documents, that the UN (New York and local) is not competent to lead and manage complex
peacekeeping peace support missions in places like Africa. Why on earth would Canada risk lives and our reputation by sending our troops to work in an organizational structure that consistently fails? But the answer is not to avoid the missions: rather it is to insist that Canadians (senior officials (civil servants, even politicians) and military commanders) are in charge, including of the “rules of engagement,” and that they answer to Ottawa before New York.
Just as Canada considers Africa, today, The Economist, published this …
… as part of a book review. It is germane because if Canada is going to send troops to Africa they (and by extension we, the whole country) will face two, equally sinful choices:
- Stand idly by while bandits and terrorists and uniformed thugs (government police and troops) rob, rape and murder, because that (standing about, doing nothing) is the UN way of doing things; or
- Take actions ~ and it’s hard to tell which is “necessary” until well after the dust settles, if even then ~ fire some shots, and take and inflict casualties because that will help to bring peace and safety to the ordinary people.
Neither choice will be popular with the media and most Canadians … but the chattering classes and the Laurentian Elites will push for the first option. The second option is, of course, the only honourable one.
Oh, and about the size of the force we can sustain: well, it is limited by the facts that we have naval, land and air forces committed, already, to the Middle East, to help the Kurds against Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS and to Eastern Europe to help protect against Russian opportunistic adventurism. More, larger, forces in another region may stretch our support capacity too far. But, perhaps Minister Sajjan and General Vance can use this opportunity to demonstrate to a skeptical prime ministerial inner circle and government that the Canadian Forces are an important and valuable foreign policy tool if and when they are adequately staffed, with people, equipped and funded.