“Re On Mali, Proceed With Extreme Caution (editorial, Jan. 24):
The best test of the justification for sending troops into areas of high risk is whether the people who propose to send them believe the cause is worthy of risking their own or their children’s lives. In the two world wars, Canada’s elites, like those of most allied countries, did not stint in enlisting and encouraging their children to enlist. How often does this happen today?
In Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and now perhaps Mali, the Canadian political and foreign policy establishment sent Canadian men and women into battle without risking much more than a spilled drink at the Rideau Club. Unlike the days of, say, the Spanish Civil War, sympathetic intellectuals volunteer only for CBC panel duty. If a cause isn’t worthy of risking the lives of our best and brightest, then it isn’t worthy of risking any of our lives.
To argue otherwise – isn’t risk what soldiers sign on for? – is to treat our Canadian servicemen and women as nothing more than expendable mercenaries.
Michael Bliss, historian, Toronto“
Professor Bill was writing in response to an editorial in the Globe and Mail which, after noting that: any UN mission in Mali will be fraught with danger; that Canada has few (and no vital) interests in Mali; that France is there for its own, selfish, imperialist reasons; and that the whole UN peacekeeping gambit is more about partisan politics than national policy, concludes by asking: “How many young Canadians will have to die or be injured in order to fulfill this election promise?” and then suggest that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan should exercise real caution, rather than getting too caught up in uplifting notions.“
I never expected much in the way of either intellectual or moral rigour from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and I have expressed scant regard for Harjit Sajjan, but the latter, at least, I believe must understand Professor Bliss’ last paragraph, even if it soars over the head of the former.
I, for one, think that, after they have enlisted and completed their training, the very lives and limbs and sanity of our sailors, soldiers and air force members are forfeit. They can ~ should not, but can ~ be wasted on cheap political stunts that have little or no relationship to our national interests … and that is what I believe, most firmly, that any Canadian contribution to any UN peacekeeping mission in Africa will be: a cheap, pointless, political stunt designed to accomplish nothing except to pay off some civil servants who, against all the current rules and honourable traditions of that service, actively campaigned for the Liberals in 2015.
I wonder what the Honourable Harjit Sajjan and the Honourable Andrew Leslie, and am sure they are, both, honourable men, really think about all of this … what are they saying behind the closed doors of the cabinet room and in Liberal Party caucus meetings? Are they really content to allow this government to, in Professor Bliss’ words, “treat our Canadian servicemen and women as nothing more than expendable mercenaries?” I hope, I believe that they are better men than that.