Quotulatiousness

March 15, 2017

Sensible reasons to reject a Canadian peacekeeping mission in Africa

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ted Campbell explains why it would not be a good thing for Canada to send a peacekeeping force to Mali (or to anywhere else in Africa right now):

The Globe and Mail, in an editorial, asks the key question:

“Is there a Canadian national interest in sending troops to Mali?”

I suggest that unless and until the Trudeau government can say, “yes,” and can explain that vital interest to most Canadians that sending Canadian soldiers off to Africa on a United Nations operation is problematical. “The Canadian Armed Forces shed blood and lost lives during the decade-long mission in Afghanistan,” the Globe‘s editorial says, “Sending them into a similar campaign in Mali may further Liberal political interests. But does it serve the national interest?

Now, I believe that I can make a sensible, mid to long term case for Canada to be “engaged,” politically, economically and militarily in Africa:

  • Africa will be, after Asia, the “next big deal” for economic growth, trade and, therefore, profits;
  • Canada will want to be involved as a trusted friend when Africa is ready to “blossom” and have an economic “boom” of its own; and
  • Despite Chinese and French incursions there are still plenty of opportunities for Canadian engagement.

In other words, we have interests in Africa; even, perhaps, in the mid to long term, we have vital interests, at that.

I cannot make a case for getting involved in any United Nations mission in Africa. I cannot, even with rose coloured glasses, see one single United Nations mission in Africa that is working, much less succeeding and doing some good.

I’m not opposed to the UN. In fact, I’m one of those who says that if it didn’t exist we’d have to invent it. The current UN is better than the old League of Nations, and some UN agencies, like the International Telecommunications Union, for example, do good work for the whole world and are, alone, worth our entire UN contribution, but we ask too much of the UN and it is neither well enough designed or led or organized or funded to do even a small percentage of what is asked of it. Peacekeeping is one of the things that the UN cannot do well in the 21st century. Peacekeeping was fine when it was ‘invented’ (circa 1948, by Ralph Bunche, and American and Brian Urquhart, a Brit, not by Lester Pearson in 1957, no matter what your ill-educated professors may have told you) but it could not be adapted to situations in which there is:

  • No peace to be kept;
  • A plethora of non-state actors who are not amenable to UN sanctions.

A few days ago I wrote about the risks involved in sending soldiers to Africa. The Globe and Mail‘s editorial just adds some more fuel to that fire.

February 25, 2017

Updating the junior rank structure of the Canadian Army

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Earlier this week, Ted Campbell offered his suggestions on how to address some issues he notes in the lower ranks of the Canadian Army, based on both Canadian and allied armies’ experiences:

There was always a problem with the old (1850s to 1960s) Army rank structure: there was some need to tie rank to trade, but not as tightly, many military people believe, as […] in the Canadian Armed Forces today. Some branches (corps) used to have fairly strict rules; in the old (1960s) Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, for example, the technicians, amongst the very highest paid soldiers in the whole army, could not attend the long, difficult and expensive, advanced (3rd of 4 levels) technician course until they had passed the junior leadership course and they could not attempt the senior leadership course until they had passed the advanced technician’s course, and so on. But that system always excluded some good people. There were, and still are today, many people who can be excellent, even outstanding technicians but cannot lead or manage soldiers. The United States Army addressed this same issue by creating the “specialist” grouping which allowed soldiers to “advance” through part of the pay system ~ higher salaries for technical skills ~ but not the other ~ even higher salaries for leadership. In past years there were many different (paid) grades of specialist but now it is a “rank” equivalent to the US Army corporal for soldiers who have not yet or cannot pass the first level junior leader course. The British Royal Air Force has a similar and, in my opinion, better system …

… which recognizes both technical skill and leadership requirements.

In my opinion we should undo much of what Mr Hellyer did, while thanking him for addressing the pay problem, and restore the junior leadership positions, especially the tank and rifle section commanders, to the real, and younger, junior leaders: those in the rank of master corporal. This will restore the senior leaders to their traditional roles as “guides” and mentors to the junior leaders: both to the corporals and the lieutenants. The ranks of sergeant ~ in several “grades” and warrant officer are often, and very correctly, referred to as the backbone or even the “heart and soul” of the army. That is partly because, traditionally, they stood ever so slightly “aloof” from the rank and file. The lieutenants gave orders, advised, coached and mentored by the sergeants, to the corporals who, then, directly led the riflemen but were also mentored by the sergeants. It was, to repeat the words I used to describe the US constitution, “a fine and finely balanced system;” we upset the balance 50 years ago to solve a pay problem. We should, also, adapt the RAF’s aircraftman/technician to our own needs to allow some soldiers to advance “up” in their technical field (and be paid more) without becoming leaders (and being paid more for that, too).

To do that the Army will have to reform itself.

First, it will have to repose trust in its junior leaders; that’s something that will be hard to do, even after the Army, of absolute necessity, makes junior leader training ~ making privates into corporals and civilians into second lieutenants ~ its highest priority and the job it assigns to its very, very best senior leaders.

Second, it will have to restore the “sergeant’s mess” to its traditional pride of place in the Army by giving the sergeants and warrant officers back the senior supervisory and management duties that have, in far too many cases, migrated “upwards” until they are now done by captains and even majors. Once again, it is a trust issue and we live in a world where many of the most senior leaders are timid because they have been “burned” too often, by their own superiors, when a subordinate makes a mistake. Mistakes are part of human nature; they have to be corrected, forgiven, in most cases, and, very often, used as teaching aids.

Third, the government will need to revise the pay system so that junior leaders are paid more and, meanwhile, the gap between corporal and master corporal and sergeant is maintained.

Fourth, promotions, in the Army, at least, to corporal and to captain must not be automatic. Promotion to corporal must require that one pass a very tough junior leaders course; promotion from lieutenant to captain should be by examination.

But, doing these four things will, in my opinion, give the Army a firm foundation upon which to build and fight.

January 17, 2017

Vice Chief of the Defence Staff relieved of duty

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Vice Admiral Mark Norman, former head of the Royal Canadian Navy, was relieved of duty as Vice Chief of the Defence Staff on Monday. Details are sketchy, but Robert Fife and Steven Chase report on the highly unusual activity for the Globe and Mail:

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was relieved of his duties as the Canadian military’s second-highest-ranking officer over alleged leaks of highly classified information, The Globe and Mail has learned.

A source said General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, ordered Mr. Norman’s removal after an investigation of “pretty high-level secret documents” that had allegedly been leaked.

The source would not provide further information on the nature of the sensitive leaks. It is unknown whether the alleged leaks were to journalists, business interests or another country.

The military is offering no explanation for this extreme measure which took place Monday morning.

Vice-Adm. Norman has served in the Forces for 36 years and was previously in charge of the Royal Canadian Navy. He commanded the Royal Canadian Navy for more than four-and-a-half years until General Vance appointed him as vice-chief in January 2016.

The use of the term “temporary” to describe Admiral Norman’s relief may indicate that further investigation is required (my speculation), but no official explanation has been provided yet.

November 26, 2016

Using anecdata to paint a picture of PTSD-plagued veterans

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh on the way Canadian Forces veterans have been portrayed in the media:

Yesterday the Surgeon General of Canada issued the latest in a series of annual technical reports on Canada’s great soldier suicide crisis. If you occasionally read the newspapers, and particularly if you ever pick up the Globe and Mail, you have probably been left with the impression that it is astonishing anyone who fought in Afghanistan in a Canadian uniform is still alive and sane. There is a tradition in newspapering, admittedly a recent one, of being very cautious and elliptical in reporting on suicides for fear of encouraging imitators. The Globe observed the run-up to Remembrance Day this year by blowing out the sphincter of that tradition, offering intimate details of suicides by a sequence of Canadian Armed Forces veterans left to struggle with the psychic aftereffects of witnessing combat.

The idea was to point an accusing finger at an unfeeling, ignorant state and to awaken the consciences of those who elect representatives to it. We are all to blame, you see: Canadian soldiers come home with nerves shattered by conflicts to which we have dispatched them, and yet at election time we overlook a lengthening trail of dead and a choir of the emotionally tormented. Veterans scarcely ever turn up in the newspaper, as veterans, without the words “suicide” or “PTSD” nipping at their heels. They are stalked by drink, painkillers, nightmares, uncontrollable outbursts of violence, homelessness. Only by the wildest of chances will one turn up in the news as a successful, well-adjusted individual.

So it is with trepidation and nausea that one turns to the Surgeon General’s report, hoping for a careful epidemiological documentation of the crisis. What one quickly finds is that when the overwhelmingly male Canadian Forces are compared to the ordinary male population… there is no crisis. Until very recently, CAF members have had significantly lower rates of suicide than male civilians in the same age brackets. The rates are statistically indistinguishable for the most recent time period in the table, 2010-12, owing to a transitory spike in CAF suicides in 2011.

Soldiers are, by this measure, healthier if anything than the average chap. This is not really surprising if you do not read the newspaper, and you merely hold to the old-fashioned idea that the military is pretty good at taking man-children and giving them purpose, abilities, structure, and a social network.

September 25, 2016

The Lorne Scots 150th anniversary

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Personal — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Yesterday I drove out to the wilds of Brampton to attend the Trooping of the Colours for the Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment). Given how hot this summer has been, they had a great day for the event. I’m sporting a bit of a sunburn on the right side of my head, but the temperatures were much more comfortable than they’d have been on pretty much any weekend since June. Elizabeth and I sat in the second row of seats, which meant that a lot of my photos were constrained (or even bookended) by the heads and shoulders of the folks sitting immediately in front of us. It was still a great trip down memory lane.

lorne-scots-trooping-of-the-colours-2016

If you’re on Facebook, you can see a selection of photos from the event here (unless Facebook is making it awkward for non-members to see albums posted as “public”, which is always a consideration). If you can’t see ’em, let me know in the comments and I’ll repost at least a few of them here.

August 13, 2016

Harjit Sajjan: “Even using the terminology of peacekeeping is not valid at this time”

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Our minister of national defence is on a tour of several African countries, looking at potential deployments for Canadian troops in troubled areas. A positive sign that the government is moving away from their long-standing infatuation with 70s-style “blue beret” peacekeeping missions is the message the minister communicated at the first stop of his tour, as reported in the Globe and Mail by Steven Chase:

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says what Canada will ask its soldiers to do in Africa can no longer be called peacekeeping because the term doesn’t reflect modern demands of stabilizing a conflict zone – something experts say could run the gamut from training other countries’ troops to counterterrorism.

Mr. Sajjan spoke from Ethiopia, the first stop in an eight-day fact-finding mission to Africa, as Ottawa tries to narrow where to deploy soldiers in what it promises will be a return to a major peacekeeping role for Canada.

The Defence Minister acknowledges the job in conflict-ravaged countries is potentially more dangerous these days and said he prefers the phrase “peace support operations” to describe the task Canada is preparing to embrace in one or more places in Africa.

“I think we can definitely say what we used to have as peacekeeping, before, is no longer. We don’t have two parties that have agreed on peace and there’s a peacekeeping force in between,” he told The Globe and Mail in an interview.

“Even using the terminology of peacekeeping is not valid at this time,” he said. “Those peacekeeping days, those realities, do not exist now and we need to understand the reality of today.”

Mr. Sajjan has been directed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peace operations” – a campaign pledge made by the Liberals, who had accused the Harper government of turning its back on peacekeeping.

I strongly suspect that the Canadian Forces do not currently have the ability to engage in a significant role in Africa, given existing commitments to our NATO allies and the long list of equipment that needs to be replaced to maintain the Forces’ current capabilities. Aside from the big-ticket items for the RCN (replacing the current frigates, destroyers, and logistical support ships), the RCAF (the CF-18 is coming to the end of its service life so a new fighter aircraft is needed soon and we are still flying 1960s-era Sea King helicopters on our ships), there is a long list of boring, everyday equipment that also needs to be budgeted and ordered. The federal government is looking for economies in the defence budget, rather than looking to spend more. Foreign expeditions are very expensive, and Canadians are particularly sensitive to the risk of casualties in distant lands. Minister Sajjan may find a role that Canada can fill that would satisfy the PM’s desire to be seen to be doing more, yet does not run the risk of higher military spending and disproportional danger to our troops, but I don’t expect it to happen.

August 1, 2016

A new flag for the Canadian Army

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Chris Banks posted a link to this article in the Lorne Scots Facebook group:

Canadian Army flags

The Canadian Army (CA) will advance into the future under a new flag that nods to its proud past.

The flag was unveiled July 14, 2016, during a ceremony on Parliament Hill in which CA members welcomed their new Commander, Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk.

The new design features the Canadian flag and a white, stylized maple leaf against a red background. Superimposed on the white maple leaf is the badge that members used during the Second World War and the Korean conflict, consisting of three maple leaves over a pair of crossed swords. Sitting atop the centre leaf is an image of St. Edward’s Crown, a symbol that has been used in coronation ceremonies for over 300 years.

The maple leaf was worn on the collars of Canadian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War, and was included on the new flag to honour the 100th anniversary of the battle, which will be marked in 2017. The same maple leaf flew on the Headquarters flags of the fighting Divisions during the Second World War and still flies across Canada at the CA’s various Division Headquarters.

July 17, 2016

Peacekeeping today is not like the peacekeeping Canadians remember

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell is not in favour of the federal government’s nostalgic view of peacekeeping:

Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS wants us to follow France into the peacekeeping business because modern, 21st century UN peacekeeping can be, in some respects, seen as unwarranted Western interference in the internal affairs of Islamic states. Many Islamic leaders believe and teach that Islam is a complete socio-economic-political ‘package’: all that on needs to live a good life in this world and achieve paradise in the next is to obey the holy Quran. There is no need for laws or courts or institutions or banks or schools or anything else … just obedience, submission, to Islam.

[…]

Let us understand that the United Nations, as currently constituted and managed, is a failure at peacekeeping. It wasn’t always this way … there were times and places ~ Kashmir and Palestine in the 1940s, the Egypt-Israeli borders in 1956 when there was a peace to be kept between belligerents who actually wanted peace, albeit, in the case of Egypt’s Nasser, only until one felt ready for war again in 1967. It began to go wrong in 1960 … with the first UN mission to the Congo. There was no peace to be kept … a UN Force was inserted into a failed state and left to its own devices while a civil war raged around it. The UN used second rate troops (Irish, Malaysian and Swedish) where first rate ones might have done some good and the civil and military leadership, from Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld on down was somewhere between inept and ignored. In fact the UN peacekeeping effort was being used (misused) as a proxy for the larger Cold War. Canada and a few others became proxies for the Western allies; Poland a a few others stood in for the Warsaw Pact members and Sweden and India represented the non-aligned nations. It got worse in Cyprus, although a few lessons about the quality of troops were learned, as the mission devolved into a semi-permanent “holding action” that recognizes the de facto partition of the country. The UN has, literally, become a significant component of the (failing) Greek Cypriot state and the UN force because part of the status quo, making peace even more elusive.

Most UN peacekeeping missions since 1960s have been failures … some abject, others only relatively so. Mostly the UN “kept the peace” as an adjunct of the cold war. There is, in the 21st century, too often, no peace to be kept, especially not anywhere in Africa nor in the Islamic crescent that stretches from the Atlantic coast of North Africa all the way through to Indonesia and the Southern Philippines. and the UN does not want a mandate to make peace. The internal politics of the UN prohibit members from interfering in the “internal” affairs of others ~ notwithstanding what advocates of R2P (Responsibility To Project) (or even more ill considered doctrines like W2I (the Will To Intervene) propose ~ unless government almost totally breaks down. Then the UN may step in, under certain very controlled conditions: in Africa, for example, a robust, useful peacemaking force will not be tolerated, the force must be from the African Union and it must, first and foremost, protect the interests of the failed states neighbours. If the failed state is in “French Africa” then the French may send in the Foreign Legion to protect French interests. And this is the situation into which Justin Trudeau wants to send Canadian soldiers ~ preferably, he suggested during the 2015 election campaign, French speaking female police officers ~ to be UN peacekeepers.

As a quick rule of thumb, you only send in peacekeepers where there is already something resembling a peace to be kept. You don’t send in peacekeepers to create peace. That’s not their role: they’re not equipped or organized (or ever in sufficient strength) to do that.

May 20, 2016

A reporter with the Lorne Scots at Meaford

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

My old regiment gets a bit of media attention, this time from the Orangeville Banner, as Chris Vernon goes along on a spring weekend exercise with the Lorne Scots:

As my handler Lorne Scot Master Corporal Christopher Banks drove through the gates of the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre, I was overcome with a familiar anxiety.

The centre, known by soldiers simply as Meaford, is approximately 17,500 acres of dense bush, limestone cliffs, open meadows, a lake and 22 kilometres of Georgian Bay shoreline. I spent two months here for basic training in the summer of 2005 and at age 35, I believe I was the second oldest recruit.

Soldiers in 32 Brigade Group complete their basic training at Meaford, other career courses and perform several weekend exercises on the base throughout the year, and every fresh-faced private in 32 Brigade knows the anxiety I felt, even now as a civilian, as Banks drove us through the gate.

You see, there is a certain “suckage factor” to Meaford.

“Welcome to the Meaford weather machine,” said Banks, an inside reference among soldiers that refers to the fact that it can be sunny on one side of the base while on the other side it can rain for hours while you are out on a foot patrol.

There’s also poison ivy, a rumoured ghost, mosquitos, and large ruts left in the ground from the 1940s when the army used the base as a tank range. These ruts have sent many recruits home with broken and sprained ankles, not to mention broken dreams, as the injured troop will have to wait till next year to complete basic training.

Headquartered in Toronto, 32 Brigade Group is mostly an infantry brigade consisting of more than 2,400 soldiers in 12 reserve units based in Toronto, Aurora, Barrie, Brampton, Georgetown, Oakville, Mississauga, Owen Sound, Brantford, Simcoe, St. Catharines and CFB Borden. It also has two reconnaissance regiments, two field artillery regiments, a field engineer regiment, six infantry battalions and a communication (signals) unit.

Banks, who did tours in Afghanistan and Bosnia, drives us down a pothole-riddled dirt road. I recognize the road. It’s where I jogged every day between seven and 10 kilometres at 5 a.m. while on basic training.

Banks is taking me to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) where approximately 266 infantry reservists are camped out.

“We are doing raids. Offensive training. When they (soldiers) arrived last night there was no rest. We pushed them across that line of departure at 5 a.m.,” said Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Mair from inside a command post tent where officers are milling about and looking over maps.

Reservists are part-time soldiers who serve generally one night a week, one weekend a month and a few weeks in the summer. Mair has been a reservist for 29 years and in the civilian world serves as a police officer.

Reserve units primarily respond to domestic situations, like ice storms or blackouts. However, they are trained for combat and many members have gone overseas to serve with the regular force in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

May 7, 2016

The Canadian Forces’ obesity problem

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The Canadian military (all branches, but especially the reserve forces) have an obesity problem that needs drastic measures to address. Ted Campbell offers his prescription to trim down the bloat:

Command of the Armed Forces should flow from the Governor General, who is, by the Letters Patent of issued by King George VI in 1947, the Commander in Chief, through the Chief of the Defence Staff who should also, for clarity, be styled “Commander Canadian Armed Forces” (COMCAF) and to four regional joint commanders: Commanders of Pacific, Western, Eastern and Atlantic Commands. Each of those commanders should have subordinate and appropriately ranked Naval, Army and Air “component commanders.” (Appropriately means according to the size and scope of the forces in their commands. The Naval Component Commander in Western Command, which has only a handful of Naval Reserve Divisions, might be a Navy Captain while the Army Component Commander in each of Pacific and Atlantic Commands might be an Army colonel or, at best, a brigadier general.)

Staffs should be lower ranked and as [a] firm, absolutely inviolable rule no staff officer in any headquarters may outrank the principal commanders who are directly subordinate to the commander that staff officer serves. In some, rare, cases principal staff officers might be equal in rank to subordinate commanders so that the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and the officer who heads the national Joint Staff might both be three star officers (vice admirals/lieutenant generals) as would be the commanders of the four Joint Commands. But in an army brigade group, which, given its size and combat power, ought to be commanded by a brigadier general (not by a colonel), where the principal subordinate commanders are lieutenant colonels, the principle operations and support staff officers ought to be majors.

In short almost every staff officer currently serving in almost every HQ, large and small, high and low, in the Canadian Armed Forces is, right now, one (in a few cases two) rank higher than (s)he needs to be. This (over-ranking) is a serious problem because it contributes to HQ bloat and it clouds what should be a very, very clear “chain of command.” It should change, soon. Change would be unpopular and moderately difficult but not, at all, impossible.

Fewer, smaller, leaner and meaner, and lower ranked HQs will, I am 99.99% certain, be more efficient and effective and they might be forced to actually understand the unique pressures that face reserve force members ~ most of whom have full time, civilian jobs (or are full time students) and who do their reserve force work after the “bankers’ hours” that almost all Canadian Armed Forces HQs work. (If I had a penny for every horror story I have heard about army staff officers who know far, far too little about the reserve force units in their areas and who give, sometimes just silly but often quite stupidly impossible orders guidance or tasks, that cannot possibly be met on time, if at all, I would be a wealthy man. Now, it may not be clear that lower ranks will solve that, but I believe that lower ranked officers are more likely to work harder (as all staff officers should) and, in an effort to impress their commanders (and his subordinate commanders, too), work smarter, too, which will alleviate many of the problems that are the result of useless HQ “busy work.”

[…]

Less money spent on useless, over-ranked staff officers in redundant HQs would mean that equipment and support personnel could be found for the Army Reserve. Minister Harjit Sajjan knows the problem … all he needs to do is to push General Jon Vance in the right (unpopular but right) direction. They are both new enough on the job and each brings to it well known sense of “operational” soldiering that they could make unpopular decisions, give unpopular orders and shake up the comfortable, somnolent, entrenched uniformed bureaucracy, especially in the Canadian Army, and, thereby, reinvigorate the Canadian Army Reserve, using the Auditor General’s damning report as a catalyst for change.

March 7, 2016

National Defense: Can You Be A Leader? – 1977 Educational Documentary – Ella73TV

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Mar 2016

A promotional and informational short produced by New Horizon Films (with support from the NFB) for the Department of National Defense. The film follows a set of new recruits through officer training at the facility in Chilliwack B.C. Directed and photographed by Robert S. Rodvik; sound recording and editing by Michael J. Collier; technical advisors: Captain Stu Harper and Captain Grant Russell; music composed by Captain John Montminy; Narrated by Chad Miller; music performed by Canadian Forces Naden Band; Esquimalt B.C. “Can you be a leader?” won a Certificate of Excellence – Training at the U.S. Industrial Film Festival.

This film has been made available courtesy the City of Vancouver Archives at http://vancouver.ca/your-government/city-of-vancouver-archives.aspx Reference code: AM1553-2-S2-: MI-272

February 10, 2016

Andrew Coyne re-phrases Justin Trudeau on our Iraq commitments

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It’s all a bit confusing, so Mr. Coyne has thoughtfully straightened out and recast the Prime Minister’s statement:

Still, in any mission, you need to make choices, even false ones. We can’t do everything. Rather, in the fight against ISIL we have chosen to do everything except the one thing our allies have asked us to do: fight ISIL. While Canadians have always been prepared to fight, we believe that in this campaign there are better ways we can contribute that build upon our uniquely Canadian expertise. Thus, rather than actually fly the planes ourselves, we will rely on our uniquely Canadian expertise in refuelling planes for others to fly.

Let me be clear. There is a role for bombing — just not by Canadian pilots. After all, combat is not what Canada is all about. Rather, what Canada is all about is standing by while others engage in combat on our behalf. Think of the consequences, if in the course of an airstrike aimed at ISIL one of our brave and talented Canadian pilots were to inadvertently kill a great number of innocent civilians. Whereas merely providing the fuel for the plane that does — along with aerial surveillance, and of course the essential work of identifying targets by our special forces, er, training advisers working on the ground — leaves us wholly uninvolved.

A word about those trainers. It is true that we are tripling their number, while increasing the total number of our military personnel in the region by a fifth. Here again I would caution people not to think this meant we were somehow engaged in combat. Yes, it is true that they will be installed near the front line, and yes, training will often involve taking Iraqi and Kurdish troops out on patrol, and yes, this will sometimes mean that our troops are fired upon, and yes, they will sometimes be obliged to fire back. But merely because our troops will be firing upon the enemy in a war zone or calling in airstrikes from above does not mean they will be in combat. I mean, it says right there in the platform: “We will end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq.”

February 5, 2016

Military discipline

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Retired Colonel Ted Campbell has some thoughts on the Canadian military:

Nothing in what follows is, in any way at all, intended to minimize the importance of quantities ~ quantities of people, quantities of dollars and quantities of ships, tanks and aircraft ~ but it is intended to stress that there IS a qualitative measure to national defence: how much must, always, be balanced with how well. Indeed, sometimes, “not really well” can be offset by “lots of men (and women), money and materiel” and, equally, often “not enough people or equipment” can be offset by “able to get 100% out of every person and every bullet.”

For many years I have preached that we, Canadian sailors, soldiers and air force personnel need to be four things ~ we need to have four attributes ~ and we need to be those four things in a specific order. We They, now, need to be:

  1. Tough;
  2. Superbly disciplined;
  3. Very well trained; and
  4. Adequately equipped.

Now, a few years ago some friends suggested, and I agreed, that I needed to “bookend” those four things with two more; they also need to be:

  • Well led; and
  • Properly organized

I agreed and revised my list accordingly […]

And on the differences between a “typical” military organization and a properly disciplined one:

Discipline starts on the parade square, and Canadian military men and women take a back seat to no-one when it comes to pomp and circumstance, but “real” military discipline is self discipline and it comes from doing what needs to be done when one is near exhaustion, in the dark, in the cold, and when no one is looking … I remember, some years decades ago, when I was a junior officer, I was escorting a foreign visitor into our unit. As we drove in the main gate a trumpet call sounded over the loudspeakers; “what’s that?” our guest asked. “The lunch signal,” I replied, “we’re just in time for lunch.” As we drove past the transport lines we both observed many soldiers washing vehicles, loading stores, repairing armoured personnel carriers and so on … “why aren’t they breaking for lunch?” our guest asked. “They’re not finished yet,” I answered, “they’ll be off for their lunch as soon as they’re done their work.” “In our army,” he said, “they would have just dropped their tools and run for the lunch line.” “Oh, ” I responded, “not here. This is our army and these fellows know what has to be done and they’ll do it without being told or watched.” We were, in fact, discussing the fundamental difference between a very large, very well equipped and very average army, on the one hand, and a small, adequately equipped but very well disciplined Canadian army on the other. Discipline certainly starts with sergeants bellowing orders on the parade square, but in a good army it is exemplified by individual soldiers doing the hardest jobs, in the worst of circumstances, alone and without supervision. It doesn’t really matter if the task is “square bashing,” a lonely, dangerous, standing patrol at night, or the loneliness, even in a crowd, of command at sea; whatever the task, a tough, superbly disciplined Canadian sailor, soldier or aviator can do it, and do it right, the first time.

January 21, 2016

Roles for Canada’s armed forces

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Ted Campbell outlines the most likely tasks and approximate organization of the Canadian Armed Forces, regardless of the political or ideological stripe of the government of the day:

Thus far, in two posts: Establishing Some Baselines and Defence of Canada I have developed four “baseline” roles or tasks for the Canadian Department of National Defence:

  • To maintain active military forces to share in the continental defence of the North American homelands, of the maritime approaches to them and of the airspace over both.
  • To maintain a global, blue water fleet, supported by air forces, that is able to, simultaneously, maintain a constant Canadian presence in at least two different theatres.
  • To maintain trained, disciplined military units that can, on very short notice, give effective “aid to the civil power” here in Canada.
  • To maintain combat naval, land and air forces and a full range of strategic and tactical support services, able to conduct low to mid intensity operations anywhere in Canada on short notice.

Those tasks, both explicitly and implicitly, call for:

  • A surveillance and warning system ~ which, I think, to be really useful must cover all of the Canadian landmass, the maritimes approaches to it and the airspace over both and, probably, needs to have terrestrial, underwater, airborne (aircraft mounted) and space based (satellite) sensors.
  • A command and control communications (C³) system to interconnect all those sensors and the various command agencies ~ Canadian, US and combined.
  • A full fledged Navy able to operate in 9and under) coastal waters and anywhere in the world.
  • A full fledged Air Force able to conduct air and joint operations in Canada and to conduct joint naval-air operations anywhere in the world.
  • An Army for domestic, territorial defence of Canada.
  • The full fledged Navy and Air Force and limited Army also, in their turn, call for medical, logistical, administrative and financial support systems: hospitals, supply depots and warehouses, and people working away in offices, far away from the action, keeping services flowing to the people who need them.

What about forces for the next Afghanistan or UN peacekeeping mission or Korea or, heaven forbid, another world war?

That would be an Expeditionary Force.

Read the whole thing.

January 15, 2016

Defence minister Harjit Sajjan announces full defence review for 2016

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Marie-Danielle Smith on the recent DND announcement:

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says he plans to complete a thorough defence policy review by the end of 2016—and the public will be asked to participate.

In an interview with Embassy Jan. 12, Mr. Sajjan confirmed that Department of National Defence officials are already identifying how the review, or Defence White Paper, will be conducted.

Public consultation will be involved and foreign allies will be consulted, he said. The review is expected to set a road map for the next 10 to 20 years.

“I want to make sure that we get the ‘How’ part. It’s so important,” he said. “If we don’t get that right then the quality’s not going to be there at the end.”

[…]

“The British just did a defence review,” he said, referring to the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 released by the Cameron government on Nov. 23. “Australia is about to release theirs, and especially it’s important for us to be able to learn from those lessons.”

He said he recently spoke with UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in London. “It is helping me to shape how Canada can look at doing [the defence review],” he said, noting the UK had used an interactive website to get public input.

“I’ve got some really key ideas that Fallon provided, and I’m looking forward to reading the Australian review when it comes out as well,” Mr. Sajjan said.

The minister said the credibility and relevancy of the review was important. “We can do a white paper of everything on the wishlist, but if you don’t have the budget to support it it really doesn’t matter.”

Defence officials declared the previous Harper government’s military wishlist, the Canada First Defence Strategy, unaffordable in 2011, but no updated document was ever released.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress