The Globe and Mail, a newspaper which did not endorse Prime Minister Trudeau but which has treated him, generally, favourably, has come out, in an editorial, very sensibly, against Canada joining any UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
“Political party election platforms are not a good place to formulate foreign policy,” the Globe and Mail says by way of introduction “But ever since the 2015 election, the Liberal Party has tied itself in knots over its vow to restore Canada as a leading practitioner of peacekeeping … [and] … What the Liberals only seemed to have discovered when they returned to power was that, in an era of stateless terrorism, contemporary “peacekeeping” is no longer as simple as supervising a ceasefire line, in the tradition of former prime minister Lester Pearson. They quickly rebranded “peacekeeping” as “peace support operations,” and included in it the possibility of Canadians serving as ground troops in trouble spots … [then] … The Trudeau government then set about looking for a suitably troubled nation, and the unstable African country of Mali kept coming up.“
The Liberals appear to have learned that they “sold” Canadians on the sizzle in 2015 but the steak ~ in so far a peacekeeping in Africa circa 2017 goes ~ is too tough to chew. Peace support operations are now hard and dirty, thankless tasks with precious few “good guys” and many, many risks. Peace support operations are not what the Liberal campaign team, or most Canadians, thought, I daresay … it’s not what we did, or, really what most people imagined we did, in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
The Globe and Mail concludes by saying: “Last Friday, the Liberal government finally acknowledged that Mali is indeed a candidate for Canada’s first peace-support mission, the one that Ottawa has been thinking about for months, and the country that most people expect to be chosen for the role … [and, while] … That is progress. It would be even better, though, if the Trudeau government were to be honest with itself and admit that going into Mali would be a terrible idea … [because] … Supporting peace implies that there is peace to be supported. But Mali and similarly troubled countries are really in complex civil wars. Canadian military personnel might find themselves in terrain they are untrained for, fighting child soldiers … [and] … In terms of Canadian experience, it would be more like the Afghanistan War than the nostalgic ideal of Pearsonian peacekeeping. That is definitely not what the Liberals promised in the election, and they shouldn’t pretend otherwise.“
A good policy is to stay out of Africa unless and until we are able and willing to participate in a proper, long term, well led (i.e. not by the UN) peacemaking and nation building effort ~ preferable playing a lead role.