There are, in most allied military doctrines, 10 principles of war:
The first, selection and maintenance of the aim, is often called the master principle: it means that you must understand what it is that you need to do if you don’t know what you are meant to accomplish it is damned difficult to figure out if you’ve succeeded, or failed.
I see a report in the Toronto Star in which Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says that “Canada has committed to a three-year deployment [in Africa] that will be reassessed each year to ensure it has an “enduring” impact … It will be spread among a number of unspecified African countries, have a major focus on training and increasing “capacity” of the host nation as well as other countries’ troops, and build on existing social, economic and deradicalization programs on the ground.“
It sounds, to me, as if the reassessment to ensure “enduring impact” is some sort of recognition that we have to have an aim against which we can, presumably, “assess impact.” But that smacks more of a “feedback loop” in a system than an analysis of how well we are (or are not) doing at achieving our aim. In fact the closest Minister Sajjan gets to enunciating an aim is when “Sajjan stressed that a big part of the federal analysis underway — as he, two other federal ministers, and military and civilian fact-finders have travelled to Africa — is examining how Canada’s contribution of some 600 soldiers and up to 150 police can have a maximum impact, whether it’s through military training, building on economic development programs and opportunities like on the “agriculture side” in Mali, or combating sexual violence, including by UN peacekeeping troops.” What that says, to me, is that we have “situated the appreciation,” made a plan, in other words, before we even knew what it was we wanted to do. We’re sending “600 soldiers and up to 150 police” to Africa … we’ll figure out why later.
Defence Minister Sajjan did say that Canada’s contribution “will be spread among a number of unspecified African countries, have a major focus on training and increasing “capacity” of the host nation as well as other countries’ troops, and build on existing social, economic and deradicalization programs on the ground.” In other words we will ignore one aspect of the 6th principle, concentration of force, and commit our resources in penny packets. Now, it is important to understand that “concentration of force” does not mean that one must, always, mass forces in one place … one can “concentrate” in space, in time and in effort and, ideally, in elements of all three. One explanation of the process, adapted for business, is: “Prioritising effort in time and space to seek local advantage provides the best path to overall success. Resources always need to be prioritised and their deployment sequenced to achieve maximum effect against the competition, matching weakness with strength.“
Are we, can we “concentrate” by dispersing?
We can if the aim is, simply, to be seen in as many places as possible and, perhaps, to bee seen as “different” from in next US administration,
If the aim is just to secure a second class seat on the worthless UN Security Council then perhaps dispersing our troops in penny packets, as we, in the army, used to describe the process, maybe the best way to be seen to be doing something.
Leaving aside the risks to soldiers lives, which the Toronto Star treats as a major problem, and whether or not we should be trying counter-insurgency in Africa, a matter of considerable debate in military circles, the issue comes back to the aim: why are we sending troops to Africa? Are we really interested in doing something useful or is this all just an exercise in keeping an election promise at the lowest possible cost?