French President Emmanuel Macron is quoted, in an article in the Globe and Mail, as saying that ““Very clearly, it’s France that has been attacked .. [and] … If we are under attack, it’s because of our values, our taste for freedom, the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief,” Mr. Macron said in Nice. “And I say it with clarity again today: We will not give any ground.”“
He’s correct. The evidence gathered to date seems to suggest that the killer was not a deranged “lone-wolf,” rather he seems to have been selected, trained and then smuggled into France where accomplices helped him. That all points to a guiding hand and a coordinated plan, which means a planner and, ultimately a leader who has a “force” under her or his control. We know that there are many groups in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East …
… that have claimed, at least, to have declared “war” on all or parts of the (generally) liberal US-led West. They all have grievances, some are historical, going back nearly 1,000 years, others are much more recent, rooted in 21st century conflicts. Some have a fairly firm religious base, others are more concerned with territory. The common ground is that they use terrorism as their primary tactic because it is cheap, relatively easy and somewhat effective ~ if only in provoking a violent reaction which, in turn, provokes more anti-Western sentiment amongst the affected peoples.
There is some merit in President Macron’s thesis that the enemy ~ and that is the right word ~ attacks us because of “our values, our taste for freedom, the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief.” Some enemy, terrorist organizations want to impose a foreign, very illiberal, social system on the whole world. Some of those enemy, terrorist organizations profess one, medieval, religious belief.
This is the right time for the regular affirmation, made by most world leaders in this century …
… that Islam is NOT the enemy; Muslims are NOT the problem. We know that, in our minds, even if sometimes ~ when we face horrible murders like the ones in France ~ our hearts get it wrong. Many of us have Muslim colleagues, neighbours, friends and even family members.
We know that the overwhelming majority of Muslims, and there about 1.8 Billion of them in the world (compared to about 2.4 Billion Christians and 1.2 Billion Hindus) are ordinary people, just like us, trying to make better lives for themselves and their families.
But, just as there are some Christians whose beliefs are well beyond the mainstream and are sometimes violent and often abhorrent to all decent people …
… so there are some Islamist groups that are unfit to be in the civilized world and should be eradicated. There are a few who believe that they have a “right” to be offended by e.g. some cartoons ~ and they do, everyone can be offended. But, there is no “right,” no matter what the imbecilic (that’s the right word) and illiberal Justin Trudeau might say, to murder people just for offending you.
How to respond is the question. France has been closing mosques that have a reputation for radicalism. In earlier years the British took what I think is the better course: they focused on radical religious leaders and arrested, tried and imprisoned some.
The attack on France is, I believe, part of a global insurgency … one which has touched Canada, too …
… Canadians have been murdered at home and abroad.
Counter-insurgency is a complex topic; one which is beyond the scope of this blog, but, speaking very generally, these are good, effective counter-insurgency tools …
… including computers, because counter-insurgency is an information intensive form of warfare and insurgents are just a vulnerable as anyone else cyber attacks.
There are other tools that can be effective in certain situations but, generally, they are not a big part of the counter-insurgency force:
In some (tragically in many) cases, a successful counter-insurgency campaign might require the killing of a lot of people. Insurgents are often emotionally committed to their cause and will want to fight to the death. But the key is to change people’s minds and, once again, these are some of the tools we need:
And, yes, peacekeepers, including civil police peacekeepers, can be a useful force to damp down insurgencies before they get violent and go global.
But, President Macron is right: “we are under attack” and that “we” is not just France. Canada is part of that bigger “we,” too. And “we” have to respond. In my opinion closing mosques and in other ways “punishing” many Muslims for the actions of a very, very few, is a very short term, local response which might backfire. The better way is to engage the enemy in both cyberspace and on his own ground.
Engaging the enemy is a good job for special forces. There are about 2,500 people in the Canadian Forces Special Operations Command. There are also other agencies, including civilian ones, that have major roles in special operations of all sorts …
… but special operations forces people are special and it is not easy to recruit and train them. The government cannot just tell the CDS to train another two thousand special forces soldiers and specialists. Doubling the size if the elite Joint Task Force 2 and the Special Operations Regiment and increasing the size of our specialist Signals Intelligence units might not require that the size of the full time Canadian Forces be doubled from 72,000 to 140,000+ but it likely would require at least a full time, regular force of 100,000 men and women. But, IF counter-insurgency is going to be the major task for the Canadian Forces for a generation, having a higher priority than the defence of North America, deterring aggression by major powers (e.g. Russia, Iran and China) and keeping the peace around the world, then major changes are likely required.
In my opinion, counter-insurgent will grow in importance, but it will not eclipse the other roles. The Canadian Armed Forces are, already, too small, to do the “big three” tasks ~ continental defence, which includes the protection of our own sovereignty, contributing, effectively, to deterrence, and helping to keep the peace. I don’t think many analysts think that a full time, regular force of anything less than about 80,000 men and women in the RCN, Canadian Army and RCAF is sufficient. My guess us that 90,000 is adequate but if counter-insurgency grows in importance and more and more special forces members are needed then 100,000 full time regulars seems, to me, to be about the bare minimum. My guess is that (almost a 50% increase in regular force numbers) requires a concomitantly large budget increase ~ defence spending needs to grow to something above $30 Billion, edging past 1.6% of today’s GDP.
If, as predicted, Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland are poised to add more than $20 Billion in permanent spending to the federal budget then a very large slice of it, growing, soon, to and then beyond $10 Billion more, year-after-year and decade-after-decade, needs to be added to the defence budget because the attack on France is an attack on Canada, too, and more is coming.