“In February,” the CBC News article says, “the United Nations formally declared famine in parts of the country, calling the conflict-driven crisis in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria the “largest humanitarian crises since the end of the Second World War … [but] … it warned at the time that “there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in absence of meaningful peace and security.”” Ambassador Hamson told CBC News that “The Trudeau government should consider increasing its contribution to the ongoing peacekeeping operation in the world’s youngest nation as it faces catastrophic famine … [because] … “It’s a very important mission and something worth considering,” Alan Hamson told CBC News in an interview in Ottawa on Tuesday … [and] … Hamson also said the famine that is expected to threaten the lives of 5.5 million South Sudanese by July is “man-made.”“
This is one of the reasons that so many young Canadians voted for Justin Trudeau in 2015. They want to put a stop to “man made” famines that can kill millions. It, to “restore” Canada to the status of a primary peacekeeping nation, with the implicit promise that we would send troops to Africa, where many say they are most needed, resonated with many Canadians who know little of Africa or of “man made” famines or a peacekeeping in the 21st century, but who want to see Canadians helping the least fortunate in the world … and it’s hard to argue that Africa isn’t home to that (too large) group. It seems pretty clear to me that a very, vert large minority, if not an absolute majority of Canadians wants a “defence” force that keeps the peace and feeds starving babies … even if most soldiers know that UN peacekeeping is a dangerous, thankless and, indeed, hopeless task that will induce more mental stress in our soldiers than did combat in Afghanistan.
“Aid groups,” the CBC says, “calling the situation in South Sudan “unprecedented,” say Canada must do more immediately … [they says that] … Canada should not only ramp up funding, but use the upcoming G7 meeting in Italy as an opportunity to press other world leaders to commit to greater humanitarian funding for the region … [and] … In addition, Canada should consider playing a greater role in conflict resolution in South Sudan, including possibly more peacekeepers on the ground … [because] … “Ultimately, the only thing that will allow South Sudanese people to go home and resume their lives is peace. We need to see an end to the conflict,” said Melanie Gallant, head of media for Oxfam Canada … [and] … More troops would be especially welcome, Gallant said, given the scale of the conflict and the horrendous level of rape and sexual violence women and girls are facing in camps for internally displaced people within South Sudan.“
I have no doubt the aid groups and the UN are both right:
- “There is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in absence of meaningful peace and security;” and
- “Ultimately, the only thing that will allow South Sudanese people to go home and resume their lives is peace.”
The problem is that I believe that the worst possible agency to try to make and keep the peace in South Sudan is the United Nations. It is inept and corrupt and is a tool in the hands of those who want to exploit South Sudan, not help it. But, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is quoted, in the Globe and Mail, as saying that ““Canada … has been a significant donor in terms of international aid to South Sudan over a number of years and we’re always looking for ways to do more,” he told a news conference Friday.“
I agree with Ambassador Hamson that South Sudan is a major humanitarian crisis; I even agree that Canada should “do something.” But what? Aid without security is, both the UN and the aid agencies say, a band aid when major surgery is required. Should we send troops? No, not if it is a United Nations mission.
Could we form a “coalition of the willing” with, say, Australian, Canadian, British, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, German, Indian and South African troops ~ the sort of force that could make peace and then keep the peace, for a decade or so, while the global aid organizations helped the poor country get on its feet? We could do that but I doubt that this government has either the will or the global muscle to put together such a coalition. Assembling, organizing and leading such a coalition would require a country with real global stature, with real soft power (which must, always, be backed by real, measurable hard power) and real leadership. We no longer have the “hard power” to be an effective leader.
The loss of our hard power began circa 1970 when the first Prime Minister Trudeau actually wanted to disarms Canada. It progressed, steadily, as Canadians grew pleased with the notions that the “fat of the land” should be shared with them, not “wasted” on the military … not when the USA had an overarching need to defend us in order to defend itself. Some governments (Mulroney’s and Harper’s) probably wanted to reverse that decline but the perceived “end of the cold war” and the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession tied their hands. But politicians were not the only ones to blame: many military commanders were content to sleep-walk into the Potemkin Village situation in which the Canadian Armed Forces exist today.
If Canada wants to play a leadership role in the world it must turn about on several different policy front and become, again, an active, forceful “player” on the world stage … it needs an efficient (properly organized and managed) and operationally effective military as a first step down that road.