Quotulatiousness

November 17, 2017

Canada is back in peacekeeping … sorta

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

Ted Campbell is not happy with the government’s “decision” on peacekeeping:

It appears that today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced just about the “best thing” for him and his Liberals in the long, long, long run up to the 2019 election campaign; but it’s pretty much the worst thing he could do for Canada and the Canadian Forces and the UN. In fact: it appears to involve a handful of “penny packet” commitments ~ a “grab bag” one journalist said, none of which will do much good ~ being too small to even been noticed amongst the 75,000+ UN soldiers in Africa ~ and none of which will contribute materially to the Trudeau Liberal’s quest for a second class, temporary, powerless seat on the worthless UN Security Council.

Let’s be very clear: Canada is not “back” ~ this is a far cry from the sort of traditional UN peacekeeping that Canada did in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and that Justin Trudeau and many, many Canadians imagined in 2015, and it is a far cry from what Canada could do if the government really wanted to help.

[…] I suspect that too many non-military voices in too many special interest groups argued for the “penny packet” and “let the UN help decide” approach. My suspicion is that the UN simply doesn’t know how to organize or manage a complex, logistical and/or air transport mission, and the “civil society” special interests that want Canada “back” in UN peacekeeping have no idea at all about military matters or how to get the most bang for the buck.

The good news for the Liberals is that it will the autumn of 2018, at the earliest, when “negotiations” with the UN come to some sort of conclusion and, probably, early 2019 before Canada actually sends anyone into anything like harm’s way … just in time for a campaign photo-op with the PM waving good-by to some female RCAF members in baby blue berets as they board a plane bound for somewhere. And, so long as the UN doesn’t send any home in caskets the Trudeau government campaign team will be happy. But it will give Team Trudeau another chance to smugly proclaim that “Canada’s back,” and that’s all that really matters in official Ottawa late in this decade.

October 26, 2017

Bonus quote-of-the-day

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Media, Military, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In an article in the Globe and Mail, Lee Berthiaume (Canadian Press) reports that “The Trudeau Liberals may have promised to ramp up Canada’s role in peacekeeping, but new UN figures show there were fewer Canadian peacekeepers in the field last month than at any point in recent memory … [and] … The revelation comes as Canada prepares to host a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver next month, raising fears the country will be badly embarrassed unless the numbers start rising – and fast … [because] … The intervening year [since the Liberals promised 600+ blue beret wearing peacekeepers] has instead seen a steady decrease in the number of Canadian blue helmets and blue berets deployed around the world, from 112 peacekeepers in August 2016 to 68 last month.

This is risky for Canadian soldiers because the Trudeau regime is not exactly famous for making sound, well though out, carefully crafted plans ~ witness the small business tax fiasco and democratic reform, just for examples. It is possible, even probable, that rather than be embarrassed in public the Liberals will react, as cornered rats often do, and commit troops to a dangerous, hopeless, worthless mission just to avoid yet another political humiliation. Canadian soldiers may soon find themselves in some rotten hellhole with orders to not, under any circumstances, shoot at a child soldier, not even in self defence, or do any harm to a person of colour … because the Liberals know that the media will be watching ~ platoons of journalists will be deployed, each more anxious than the next to win some prize by being the first to report on a Canadian killing a black child.

Ted Campbell, “Cornered?”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2017-10-25.

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.

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.

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.

October 14, 2015

Canadian defence … a still-relevant view from ten years ago

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

Instapundit linked to a ten-year-old post at Albion’s Seedlings, and I noticed that the next post there is still pretty much dead-on in describing why Canada’s military is in the state we still see today. Spoiler: the post is titled “Was Canada Ever Serious? Militia and Military Since Confederation“:

Initial chapters [of Canadian Brass: The Making of a Professional Army 1860-1939 by Stephen Harris, 1988] consolidate the early periods of Canadian military history as the British military staff digested the new geopolitical realities demonstrated during the American Civil War. Canada was to be spun loose politically in 1867 but its foreign policy and defense were to remain a very strange hybrid well into the 20th century. The WW1 period in Canadian Brass is divided into pre-war, a Sam Hughes [Militia Minister] WW1 period, and a post-Hughes WW1 period. An interbellum period gets thorough coverage and then WW2 is broken out into separate Military Planning, and Training & Education chapters.

The rather shocking message of this book is that the Canadian military has been the constant butt of political interference during the last 150 years except for two brief periods: WW2 proper, and 1951-1964. During virtually all other periods of Canadian history, the permanent (professional) military forces have been starved of funds, denigrated in public by all and sundry, and then ignored completely during mobilization for wartime. The only time in Canadian history that professional pre-mobilization plans were actually used was WW2. In all other eras, professional plans were ignored and politicians turned to various militia cronies to assemble, train, lead, and transport Canadian troops.

[…]

The author suggests, therefore, that lack of professionalism in the organization of the military led to unnecessary political crises (specifically the split between Quebec and English-speaking Canada), and, in the case of the First World War, the needless slaughter of the initial Canadian divisions (because they were led by totally unqualified militia officers with political connections). The WW1 crisis created by Minister of Militia Sam Hughes was the result of a totally mythical and exaggerated memory of militia superiority in the War of 1812 and the Fenian raids of 1866, and careful news management out of the Boer War. Militia were held to be a superior in all ways to a professional force, moral and martial. Government money for militias (urban and especially rural) was a traditional source of political patronage in Canada, frustrating British military advisers and Governor-Generals for literally generations (and ruining many Brit careers in the process). Such patronage methodically starved the professional units in a nascent professional Canadian Army of training, equipment, facilities, pensions, wages and prestige. The result was a professional army that wasn’t and an oblivious overconfident citizen-soldier militia that was destined for a horrific introduction to modern war.

The casualty situation got so bad by the late fall of 1916 that Hughes was dismissed, and a new generation of Canadian officers (all political appointees but survivors of the savage Darwinian selection at the front) began to lead, and promote their junior officers out of the ranks. The impact on morale and military success from early 1917 to the end of the First World War were dramatic. Canadian reputations for combat effectiveness essentially came out of this period.

[…]

It’s clear, in retrospect, that Canadian politicians and the Canadian public have had a long-standing expectation that the British (and then the US) were going to bail them out in any serious military situation. As a result, the professional Canadian military was seen as simply another source of political largesse for the party in power. It never had to be effective, and post-1964, it actually was designed not to be used at all … unification of the three services (Army, Navy, Air Force), and endless UN peace-keeping missions were an effective way to strip combat effectiveness and combat equipment out of the Canadian military. Harris provides all the necessary context and information for that conclusion but is politic enough to avoid much further commentary.

He does writes an interesting epilogue that delicately skirts around those post-1939 issues … and avoids touching the “third rail” of military bilingualism introduced in the 60s, which further degraded esprit de corps and combat effectiveness. After all, Mr. Harris was essentially writing about his own Cold War employer at the time of publication (1988), and probably wanted to keep his job. Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear that the Liberal dismantlement of the conventional Canadian military (after tactical nukes appeared in Europe in the 60s) was yet another iteration of the political manipulation of the permanent military and a return of the good old days of “jobs for the boys.” The sorry state of today’s Canadian military (a small but excellent antiterrorist force [JTF2] to protect the elite in Ottawa, and a sprinkle of blue helmet cannon fodder without adequate air transport) is therefore very much part of a proud Canadian political tradition stretching back 135 years. It’s not a mistake. It’s on purpose.

Ten years on, we don’t do the UN peacekeeping stuff to any great extent, but even with a “pro-military” government in power for most of that time, the Canadian Armed Forces are still starved for resources and up-to-date equipment (and procurement is still seen as a way to spread government money around to “deserving” regions rather than a way of getting the best tools for the money). Thanks to our unique strategic situation, Canada can still be a military free-loader — and glories in it.

October 26, 2013

NATO after the cold war

Filed under: Europe, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:15

Austin Bay looks at the latest re-invention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO):

As the Cold War faded in the early 1990s, “end of NATO” prognosticators argued that the collapse of the Soviet Union would lead to the collapse of the military alliance forged to defeat it. They maintained that intra-alliance political frictions, no longer checked by the threat of Soviet tanks and nuclear weapons, would inevitably fracture the complex organization.

Moreover, Western Europe, re-cast as the European Economic Community and preparing for life as the European Union, could do it alone, militarily and economically. According to these seers, the outbreak of peace in Europe meant Europeans no longer needed to fret with those overbearing Americans.

However, European peace didn’t break out, not quite. Instead, Yugoslavia broke up, a USSR in Balkan miniature, its dissolution sparking a series of dirty wars on European soil.

U.N. peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans failed to prevent massacres like Bosnia’s Srebrenica genocide. When Kosovo exploded, the Clinton Administration, Britain and France sidestepped the U.N. To fight the Kosovo War, they used a democratic political alliance capable of waging war on behalf of a better peace: NATO. By doing so, they reinvented NATO as a global actor for the North Atlantic democracies.

Balkan troubles still plague Europe, but NATO’s Kosovo intervention staunched the bloodshed. European diplomats also quickly learned that (excepting Serbia) the ex-Yugoslav Balkan states regarded NATO and the European Union as classy clubs. Diplomatic clout is one of NATO’s continuing utilities. Membership has prestige. Dangling NATO and European Union membership still encourages better, if not quite good, Balkan behavior.

[…]

The “deep goal” of this new round of reinvention is to insure that the alliance can fulfill its NATO treaty Article 5 obligation to current members. Article 5 commits every NATO nation to the defense of a member suffering attack by a non-NATO member. NATO invoked Article 5 after the 9-11 terror attacks on the U.S. The 9-11 Article 5 invocation and the Kosovo War were predicates to NATO’s “beyond Europe” involvement in Afghanistan and in Libya 2011.

NATO’s demise is anything but imminent. Evolving threats have seeded closer cooperation.

February 26, 2013

UN mistake costs 8,000 Haitian lives, UN refuses to compensate or even apologize

Filed under: Americas, Asia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

A mind-numbing case of bureaucratic error, death, and ass-covering in Haiti:

International affairs can be complicated, but sometimes a case comes along that’s so simple it’s almost absurd. In 2010, the United Nations made a horrendous mistake that, so far, has claimed more than 8,000 lives. Its officials tried to cover it up. When the evidence came out anyway, lawyers for victims’ families petitioned the U.N. to end the crisis, pay damages, and apologize. For a year and a half, the world’s leading humanitarian organization said nothing. Then, last week, it threw out the case, saying, “The claims are not receivable.”

The background should be well-known by now. But despite the fact that American taxpayers have footed the lion’s share of the bill for the U.N. peacekeepers responsible for this disaster — to the tune of roughly $1.5 billion since 2004 — the story remains largely unknown in the United States.

The place was Haiti. The mistake: a killer combination of cholera and gross negligence. The peacekeeping mission, known by its French initials, MINUSTAH, had been in country since 2004, when it was authorized to protect an interim government installed after a coup. Six years later — thanks to a healthy dose of mission creep — the peacekeepers were still there. While rotating troops into what was now post-quake Haiti, the U.N. neglected to adequately screen a contingent of soldiers coming from an active cholera outbreak in Nepal. Upon arrival, the soldiers were sent to a rural U.N. base, outside the quake zone and long known for leaking sewage into a major river system that millions of Haitians used to drink, bathe, wash, and farm. Within days of their arrival, people downstream began to die. The epidemic then exploded, sickening more than 647,000 people, and killing in its first year more than twice the number of people who died on 9/11.

January 2, 2013

Potential hotspots for 2013

Filed under: Africa, Asia, China, India — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:37

Strategy Page has the advance listing of places around the world where peacekeeping or peace-making may be required this year:

Planning for peacekeeping works a lot better if you have a good idea of where the next crises will occur. For 2013 there are several potential hotspots where diplomats can’t handle the mess and armed peacekeepers may be needed. In some cases, there might also be a call for more peacekeepers in an existing hotspot. That might happen in the eastern Congo, where the largest force of UN peacekeepers has been trying to calm things down for nearly a decade, but the violence just keeps going. There’s increasing hostility between Sudan and newly created South Sudan. There are some peacekeepers there, but, like Darfur (western Sudan) the violence never seems to stop.

There’s always been the possibility of large scale fighting between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There’s been more and more small scale violence on the border and growing threats from both countries. There is still a lot of tension between Pakistan and India, over Pakistani support for Islamic terrorists making attacks in India. Pakistan denies any responsibility, despite a growing mountain of evidence. Neither country would be very hospitable to peacekeepers.

And then there the developing mess in the Western Pacific off China, where Chinese claims to a lot of uninhabited rocks and reefs is causing a growing outrage from the neighbors. China keeps pushing and with all those armed ships and aircraft facing off, an accidently, or deliberate, shot is possible. China will also be a major player if North Korea finally does its political collapse. The North Korean economy has already tanked as has morale and living standards. If the government loses control China and South Korea have both made claims on responsibility for taking over and dealing with the mess.

July 20, 2011

UN contemplating “Green Helmet” climate peacekeping forces

No, this isn’t taken from the pages of The Onion — the United Nations is seriously considering adding “climate change” to its peacekeeping portfolio:

A special meeting of the United Nations security council is due to consider whether to expand its mission to keep the peace in an era of climate change.

Small island states, which could disappear beneath rising seas, are pushing the security council to intervene to combat the threat to their existence.

[. . .]

Wittig seems to agree, noting that UN peacekeepers have long intervened in areas beyond traditional conflicts.

“Repainting blue helmets into green might be a strong signal — but would dealing with the consequences of climate change — say in precarious regions – be really very different from the tasks the blue helmets already perform today?” he wrote.

In an official “Concept Note” ahead of the meeting, Germany said the security council needed to draw up scenarios for dealing with the affects of extreme temperatures and rising seas. How would the UN deal with climate refugees? How would it prevent conflicts in those parts of Africa and Asia which could face food shortages?

August 10, 2010

Free flight in Indian helicopter? No, thanks, I’ll walk.

Filed under: India, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:51

Strategy Page would recommend that you think twice before climbing aboard an Indian helicopter:

The Indian Air Force is being criticized for mismanaging its fleet of over 300 helicopters. It gets worse when you realize that this is not enough helicopters for all of the needs of the Indian armed forces. But despite that, over ten percent of those helicopters are diverted to UN peacekeeping operations and for transporting VIPs (senior government officials). In addition, it’s been publicized that helicopters are often assigned to fly the wives of senior air force officials. That, and maintenance problems, mean that only about 60 percent of the helicopter fleet is available for military needs.

It gets worse. Despite needing a third more helicopters, the helicopters are dying of old age. As in 78 percent of current choppers have exceeded their design life. The aging equipment was no secret, but the navy only began obtaining new helicopters in the last three years (and for the five years before that obtained none.)

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