The opening of a CTV News story says that “The man who led Canada’s troops in Afghanistan said the Canadian peacekeeping mission in Mali has “no prospect of immediate success” … [and, he added] … “The political overtones and what’s going on in this country and this mission are ugly,” retired major-general David Fraser told CTV’s Power Play host Don Martin on Monday.“
Let me say, off the top, that I agree with Major General (ret’d) Fraser about the overall situation in Mali. But that does not mean that the one year Canadian mission to provide heavy lift helicopter support, primarily to fly medical evacuation missions but also for general logistic support will fail. Notwithstanding the overall (dreadful) situation in Mali that mission should succeed IF we are properly relieved, by another capable nation, in the summer of 2019. I sincerely hope that Foreign Minister Freeland and Defence Minister Sajjan and, above all, Prime Minister Trudeau have nailed down our replacement … it will be hard to just pull out in June 2019, leaving the UN mission high and dry, and still have any hope of getting that second class, temporary seat on the UN Security Council that matters so much to Team Trudeau and the Laurentian Elites. But I’m not sure that Canada, under the Trudeau regime, has enough international clout to arm twist a suitable nation into taking our place and, since, as I have said before, our military is, essentially, a Potemkin Village … we still have a few of most of the bits and pieces of kit that real armies need but everything we have is, as we used to say, “in the shop window,” and I doubt that we can sustain a two or three year mission in Mali without wearing out our small helicopter fleets.
The problem in Mali is not about the Canadian helicopters ~ I am confident that they will do yeoman service for a year or 18 months or even longer because we have first class air and ground crews. There are, in fact, as General Fraser suggests, several parallel problems in Mali:
- The first is that the insurgents are winning because the Mali government is inept and corrupt;
- The second is that France is running its own mission in Mali, and in neighbouring states, for its own, selfish, national purposes and this complicates life for Mali’s government and for the United Nations; and
- The third is the United Nations itself which, as I have also said before, is quite simply incapable of organizing, mounting, leading and/or conducting ‘peace support operations‘ in anything like a hostile environment.
We, Canadians, most of us, anyway, and many people in many other countries, too, suffer from a serious delusion: we, too many of us, ignoring all the evidence, believe that the United Nations is fully able to conduct the whole range of
peacekeeping peace support missions … it isn’t, it can’t; it can manage to keep the peace where there is, already, a peace to be kept and where the side (usually more than just two) actually want some traditional, baby-blue beret style peacekeeping to happen while they look for alternative ways to secure their objectives. But when that situation does not obtain, and it does not in Mali or in most of the UN’s African missions areas, then a different solution is required … a new solution that sees first class, battle hardened, combat troops making peace, by defeating bands of armed thugs in battle, and then enforcing peace so that, eventually, second and third rate armies can, under the UN’s banner, keep that peace. The French in Africa are doing some of that but they are not doing it for the reasons that most Canadians (and Australians and the British, and Chileans and Danes and, indeed most Africans) want it done … they are doing it for France’s own selfish, national interests in the region. Canada can be, and in my opinion, should be part of that new solution but it seems, to me, to go against Team Trudeau’s instincts.
Eventually, sooner rather than later, Canadians ~ politicians, bureaucrats, military officers, academics and opinion makers (journalists and commentators, and so on, the chattering classes) ~ need to have an open, public, discussion about how to contribute, to do our fair share, towards making and keeping the peace around the interconnected, interdependent world. That must include discussing the capabilities and limitations of the United Nations as the lead agency for all these peace support operations. Now, I have expressed my own views, over and over again, but they are, very clearly, not shared by our political leadership or by the national commentariat who continue to focus only on the poor, inept UN … that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong, although I may be, it might just mean that the subject has not been raised often enough by enough of the ‘right’ people.
I think Major General (ret’d) Fraser is right: the Mali mission will, ultimately, fail and most likely for the reasons he gave: no strong, popular, civilian leadership and a lack of ‘engagement’ by the people. For a whole host of reasons neither the UN nor the parallel, independent French mission is doing the right things to support civil leadership or to engage the people in the peace making process. My guess is that the year long Canadian tactical aviation mission will succeed in narrow military terms … IF we can keep it to one year.