Murray Brewster reports on the CBC News website that “Negotiations over the use of a Canadian military transport plane by United Nations peacekeepers in Africa are deadlocked and it now appears unlikely the Liberal government will be able to deliver on the pledge before next year — perhaps before the next election … [and] … The plan to base a C-130J cargo plane out of Entebbe, Uganda was among the first tangible proposals made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he announced a renewed commitment last year to international peace support missions … [because] … Instead of sending mass deployments of ‘boots on the ground’ to troubled regions, the federal government chose instead to offer highly specialized equipment and capabilities that would bolster under-serviced international peace missions … [and] … Offering the Hercules transport was seen as perhaps one of the easiest to deliver of the government’s so-called “smart pledges” on peacekeeping. Those pledges include separate deployments of helicopter transports, military training for peacekeepers and a quick reaction force of 200 soldiers.” The plan was, in my opinion, a good idea.
Mr Brewster explains that part of the problem is with Ugandan officials who are being asked to “allow armed Canadian troops to guard it [the C-130J Hercules aircraft] on the ground” while the other is with United Nations officials in New York.
The biggest impediment to effective and efficient United Nations military operations is … the United Nations, itself. Even when the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is well led and managed and staffed with well qualified military advisors, and there are 100 of them from 50 different states, the United Nations bureaucratic and policy systems work to subordinate military operational effectiveness to internal political concerns. (Now, I have often said that military advice must, always, in all things, be tempered by political guidance but the United Nations takes “civilian control” to ridiculous extremes.) Canada, Murray Brewster explains, wants to ensure that the expensive and in high demand C-130 Hercules aircraft is used efficiently. The United Nations, I suspect, based on a mix of experience (I commanded a Canadian unit on UN duties several years ago and I was a senior staff officer (branch head) in a UN mission HQ, also several years ago) and from reading between the lines of Mr Brewster’s reports, is, quite simply unable to make sensible plans to employ such a valuable resource over multiple mission areas. I also suspect that the UN system, such as it is, is unwilling to accept an e.g. Australian-British-Canadian-Danish air transport/logistics planning team that could have enough authority over multiple missions to ensure that a priceless resource like a dedicated Hercules is used efficiently and effectively ~ those words are, in my experience, anathema to UN bureaucrats.
It’s not that the UN is unfamiliar with the capabilities (and limitations) of the Hercules, several countries, including Canada, have provided ‘Herc‘ support to individual missions. The problem, I think, is that the UN HQ staff cannot figure out to use the aircraft in a multi-mission area, such as exists, today, in Africa. It is, really, a simple matter of military competence and when, as the UN does, you have 100 staff officers from 50 countries I will guarantee, with 100% certainty, that military operational (and, above all, logistical) competence is in short supply.
But, under the influence of the Laurentian Elites who are, in turn, influenced by people like former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy and former ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker, the Trudeau regime has put the United Nations at the top of Canada’s foreign policy agenda. Some people are now seeing that the UN is not a very good peacekeeping partner. It’s not that the UN is, in any real way, ‘bad’ ~ although some of its agencies are downright harmful to global peace and security, while others do vital, albeit largely unknown work that advances human development and understanding. The UN is OK at certain types of peacekeeping ~ where there is some peace to be kept. But it is chronically unable to organize, lead and manage “robust” peacemaking. Canada is backing the wrong horse.
I agree with Canada providing more and better support to the UN … but it must be on our terms. If we are going to commit valuable assets like tactical helicopters and strategic airlift then Canada must have a bigger, stronger role in organizing and managing the operations concerned. Canada should be willing to play a leading role in focusing the United Nations on doing achievable peacekeeping missions and it should try to form a coalition of the willing ~ including, say Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Singapore and Sweden ~ to organize, lead and manage more robust peacemaking operations and turn them over to the UN once there is some peace to be kept. It is not a matter of abandoning Canada’s historic commitment to the United Nations, it is a matter of helping the UN to do what it does best and leading others in areas where the United Nations is unable to operate efficiently or effectively. Team Trudeau will have neither interest in nor stomach for that sort of thing.
Canadian Conservatives should not denigrate or attack the United Nations, but nor should they proclaim that it is the answer to all the world’s problems. Conservatives should tell Canadians that they will support the UN where and when it is the best way to do things but that Canada will work with other coalitions when they offer better prospects for success in the world.
Right now Canada is in a military muddle because we picked the wrong partner.