Home Home Initiatives Comments Insight Publications Correspondence Search Resources Profiles Upcoming






Economic & Social Policy

Foreign & Military Affairs

Think Tanks

Gen. Lewis MacKenzie

Canada's Bold Voice

To view Gen. MacKenzie's profile please go to the following link:

The Real Defense Priorities

By Maj.Gen. (ret.) Lewis W. MacKenzie


Numerous times during the past four years Canadians have been promised a White Paper on Defense which would follow and respond to an updated Foreign Policy review. A Who's Who of government leaders made such a pledge in public - Manley, Axworthy, Eggelton, and yes, Prime Ministers Chrétien and Martin all added their voices to the chorus as did others.


We are now told that we did not really need a Defense White Paper with its public consultations and that an internal review by the bureaucracy was sufficient. And that's what was produced.


In other words the subject was too important to leave to the Canadian people, including any experts outside the Ottawa city limits, and a mere dusting off of the 1994 White Paper combined with a modest tinkering of the status quo would do.


Clearly, to anyone who has been paying attention to what's been happening to the world during the past decade and Canada's ever diminishing role on that stage, tinkering is not enough and a major rethink of foreign and defence policy is urgently required.



The Defence Paper produced by Mr. Graham was thousands of words long and resulted in general promises to be implemented at various times over the next five to ten years. This paper is a mere 700 words eliminating the usual filler.




Prime Minister Martin is serious about his "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine.

Credit received by Canada across the spectrum of international relationships is proportional to the risks associated with the military task(s) undertaken.


International Environment


It has changed! Peacekeeping as understood by the majority of Canadians is no more. As long as nations avoid going to war which is the current trend, the threats to world peace will continue to be posed by terrorists, thugs, goons, war lords, government forces killing their own people and easily identified nations hell-bent on producing nuclear weapons.


Recognizing the United Nations Security Council's dysfunctional decision-making dominated by narrow self-interests and rife with catastrophic failures during the past decade Canada will instead participate with multi-national organizations like NATO, OSCE, EU,OAS, G8,G20 and other like-minded coalitions as its contribution to peace and security. This decision will not preclude Canada's participation in UN security missions providing they are seen by the government of Canada to be worthy.   


Canada is on the terrorist's hit list. North American security is a primary concern to the US and we will make a viable contribution to new security initiatives in order to protect our sovereignty. To do otherwise will relegate us to spectator status as unilateral decisions are made in Washington that will impact on our future for decades to come.


Force Structure


The Canadian Forces should henceforth be referred to as The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The CAF should immediately initiate a restructuring that will permit it to be strategically mobile and capable of participating with like-minded nations in operations up to and including combat at sea, on land and in the air. Joint operational excellence will be a priority objective for the CAF.


On the domestic front the Reserves must be expanded, particularly in BC and Saskatchewan where there is currently little Regular Force Army presence, with a view to responding within a streamlined chain-of-command to the Provincial Premier's requirements at the time of any crisis, natural or otherwise.


Within a year the Navy should take delivery of two San Antonio Class assault ships, each capable of lifting a battle group of 800 to 1,000 soldiers, their vehicles, logistics, medical and helicopter support. To avoid the 10 year procurement /production period, the ships should be leased from the US. An amphibious force mounting site should be established at CFB Shearwater. Break-up and sale of this invaluable facility must cease immediately. A second site must be established on the West coast in due course.


Two of the Navy's four destroyers should be replaced and the current fleet of frigates should be retained along with the four Upholder class submarines. This structure will provide interoperability capabilities with our allies and security for the assault ships when they are underway.


The announced plan to purchase three Joint Supply Ships to support the Navy underway and to be delivered in 10 years must be amended to two ships to be operational within 5 years. The Army personnel strength should be increased bringing all units to 110% manning levels. Units will not require augmentation prior to deployment. Balanced units with proven structures will deploy on operation - not mission - specific temporary organizations which is now the case.


The Army must convert one of its three existing brigades into a Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) with three balanced battle groups. Two will be organized, equipped and trained to deploy by sea and the third by air with parachute and air landed capabilities. The remaining two brigades will rotate between training and reinforcement to the RRF and homeland security tasks.


The Air Force should continue with the upgrading of its F-18 fleet and the replacement of its smart weapons inventory. The C-130 tactical lift fleet must be replaced cognizant of the needs of the airborne/landing requirements of the RRF. The Maritime patrol aircraft fleet's capabilities should be maintained. Ship borne helicopters capable of lifting RRF tactical elements from the assault ships mentioned above must be purchased. Negotiations should continue with commercial airlines to provide guaranteed strategic lift when called upon by the Canadian Armed Forces.


National Defence Headquarters must be restructured and de-integrated. The majority of civilian and military staff can be separated. Those that are not will comprise a tiny Department of National Defence Staff. The remaining civilian staff will respond to the Deputy Minister of Defence. The military staff must create a joint operational Canadian Armed Forces Headquarters.


Overall strength of the civilian and military staff could be reduced by 50% by January 2006 and in achieving this goal tasks and functions will not be relocated outside of Ottawa. The resulting 3 thousand freed-up positions will be assigned to operational units.




The government must undertake to provide long-term guaranteed funding for this comprehensive restructuring and reorientation of the Canadian Armed Forces. Specific amounts should be announced only once estimates have been completed. Grants in lieu of taxes, military pensions, and government - directed programs such as bilingual education and gender sensitivity training can continue, however they should not be paid from DND's budget, thereby freeing up some 3 billion additional dollars for operations and equipment.




This reorganization and reorientation of the Canadian Armed Forces will provide for enhanced North American security and will permit Canada to play a more meaningful role in the quest for international peace and security. As a leading exponent of the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine, it is about time that Canada put up, not shut up.


OK, so I lied. My paper is 901 words long not 700 as promised; however, I saved the taxpayers of Canada at least three million dollars and it didn't take two years to produce.



Go big, go bold and get it done

Tip-toeing won't work. We need another 30,000 NATO troops to protect Afghans while they get their country on its feet

Nov.22, 2006

In 1999, I was an outspoken critic of NATO's ill-conceived bombing campaign against Serbia/Kosovo. For anyone playing close attention to the events leading up to the campaign, it was pretty obvious that the independence-seeking Kosovo Liberation Army -- which, according to the CIA, was a terrorist organization -- and its retained U.S.-based, public-relations support had played the West like a Stradivarius. This culminated with NATO volunteering to be the KLA's air force.

A few months after the negotiated end to the bombing, my branding as an opponent to NATO's intervention got me invited to a debate in the U.S. with General Wesley Clark, the NATO commander in charge of the campaign, regarding the wisdom of NATO's actions.

Following the debate, Gen. Clarke shared a story that still resonates today regarding our mission in Afghanistan. He recalled that mid-way through the bombing campaign, he was exchanging small talk with Greece's ambassador to NATO. Gen. Clark opined to the ambassador, "This must be quite difficult for you, as I understand there is a good deal of controversy in your country regarding our bombing of Serbia." Without hesitation, the ambassador replied, "No, Gen. Clarke, there is no controversy. We are all against the bombing!" He could have gone on to say (unnecessary, considering his audience): "But we are a member of NATO and that means you can rely on us even if we don't agree with the mission."

Fast forward to today and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's first operation involving combat inside or outside of Europe. No one has rewritten Article 5 of NATO's Charter since April 4, 1949. It still reads, in part: "The parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force . . ."

Article 5 was invoked by NATO's leadership following the attacks of 9/11, and as required by the same article, the decision to use armed force was reported to and endorsed by the United Nation's Security Council.

NATO now finds itself fighting a major counterinsurgency campaign in three of the 34 Afghanistan provinces, one of which, Kandahar, is the responsibility of our Canadian battle group. With an area half the size of Nova Scotia, an all-too-modest number of Canadian troops are not just trying to keep the lid on the insurgency, they are trying to defeat it.

To make matters worse, they have a porous border with Pakistan staring them in the face. Replacements for Taliban killed in Afghanistan don't even need to sneak across the border through the mountain passes. They drive across in the backs of trucks with their kit in broad daylight.

General David Richards, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, expressed his dismay with the resources at his disposal shortly after taking command in August. He quite rightly indicated he had no reserve capacity to exploit or secure successes on the battlefield and requested an additional 2,500 NATO troops be provided at the earliest opportunity.

As someone who has watched each and every UN mission since the end of the Cold War -- in Croatia, Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, East Timor etc. -- stumble, and in all too many cases, fail due to overly optimistic best-case scenarios and subsequent undermanning and underbudgeting of the UN force, followed by hesitant and inadequate reinforcement as the mission became mired, I am surprised Gen. Richard's request was so modest. Perhaps he hoped that once the reinforcement flow was kick started, it could be increased. Other than Poland, no NATO member raised its hand to help in any significant way. On the contrary, some nations ignored the example mentioned above that was set by Greece and treated the requirements of Article 5 as if they were multiple choice. Select what you feel like, ignore the rest.

"Sure, we will come to Afghanistan but don't ask us to leave our comfortable [and safe] firm base after the sun goes down."

Or, "Sure, our troops will be there shoulder to shoulder with the rest of you, just don't ask us to participate in any combat actions!"

Mind you, at least the countries that insist on the so-called caveats are actually in Afghanistan, which is more than you can say for the NATO leaders with at least three-quarters of a billion troops at their disposal who refuse to respond to the Alliance's pleas for help while troops from across the Atlantic Ocean and English Channel bear the brunt of a fight with inadequate resources.

In my opinion, based on a recent visit to Afghanistan and too many years operating with chronically undermanned UN forces, Gen. Richards does not need 2,500 more soldiers. He needs to double his force with 30,000 more front-line troops. Adequate headquarters are already on the ground to look after a massive infusion of combat power "outside the wire." If we want to protect the local Afghans while they reconstruct their country and create their army and local and national police forces, we can't tip-toe toward a solution.

The time has come to be bold. With NATO's future hanging in the balance, fence-sitting NATO partners have to be convinced, coerced, intimidated to live up to their end of the contract they signed when they joined during more peaceful times. Failure to do so will signal the end of a 57-year-old alliance that failed when faced with its first real test in the field.

Remember the Taliban, and stay the course

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Oct.10, 2006

'Do you support Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan?" asks a typical Canadian poll. The response comes in with 50-plus per cent responding "No!" and those of us who support the soldiers and the mission get even more frustrated. If none of the professional polling firms are prepared to ask the less misleading and more relevant questions, then let me give it a try.

"Do you support letting the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan?" If your answer is Yes, please go on to the next questions.

"Do you support beheading teachers in front of their class if they permit even one girl to attend?" "Do you support denying all Afghan women the right to visit a doctor, as there are no female doctors permitted by the Taliban and male doctors are not allowed to inspect female patients?" "Do you support the government's right to execute women by blowing out their brains in front of thousands of cheering onlookers in a football stadium because the victims were seen in the company of men other than their husbands?" "Do you support the actions of a suicide bomber who, just before he blows himself up beside elderly Muslims waiting to obtain papers for a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca, picks up a child and presses her against his explosive vest before detonating himself?"

I assume most Canadians would answer No to these questions -- which means they probably don't remember the history of the Taliban regime before the United Nations-authorized intervention that followed 9/11. Or they are prepared to remove Canadian troops from the conflict and let others do the dirty work and, yes, to "cut and run."

Speaking of doing the dirty work, the very survival of NATO -- as the most capable multinational military alliance in the world and a potential force for good as the UN stumbles from one security crisis to another, leaving a string of apologies in its wake -- is at stake in Afghanistan.

All too many countries have decided not to show up, while some who have dared to send contingents have added caveats regarding the employment of their troops by the NATO commander. Restrictions such as "no night operations" and "no combat" make a joke of the NATO article that states that an attack against one member is an attack against all. The after-action report once the Afghan mission is over will not be kind to the alliance in general and many of its members in particular. Canada will not be included in the criticism.

Has anyone noticed that the category of Canadians expected to be critical of the mission and call for our troops to come home is by far the most supportive? The most compelling and convincing support for the Afghan mission has come from the families of the killed and seriously injured soldiers.

Consider how much more dangerous the world would be if we had done nothing after 9/11 and joined the pathetic chorus that said it was all our fault. Al-Qaeda would be freely operating in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia and God knows how many other countries. Transnational terrorism would be much better financed, and sleeper cells would be under little scrutiny even in Canada.

With a free rein to proceed, ingenious attacks on us, the infidels, would make 9/11 seem like a pinprick.

Hyperbole? I wish -- it's reality.

The Afghan mission is not a failure

There's 'tradition' and then there's getting the job done.


As the leader of a party that has little chance of governing the country, the NDP's Jack Layton can accept the political risk of holding up a mirror to the government's decisions and occasionally acting as our national conscience. On the subject of Canada's role in Afghanistan, however, I fear he is dead wrong and am left to wonder if he is following the polls and playing domestic politics on the backs of our soldiers.

Mr. Layton says that he and the NDP support our soldiers but question the wisdom and achievability of NATO's mission in Afghanistan. And, having said that, he goes on to say the mission is the wrong mission for Canada and is, at the very least, unclear. I can only assume Mr. Layton's call for a withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2007, to pursue more traditional Canadian roles involving mediation and negotiation, is based on a widely held myth that we are better than the rest of the 192 nations in the United Nations at the dated concept of "peacekeeping."

Peacekeeping between states that went to war and needed an excuse to stop fighting worked relatively well during the Cold War and Canada played a role in each and every mission. Mind you, at the height of our participation in UN missions during the 1970s and '80s we had a maximum of 2,000 soldiers wearing the blue beret deployed abroad in places such as Cyprus and the Golan Heights. At the same time, we had 10,000 personnel serving with NATO on the Central Front in Germany, armed with nuclear weapons, ready and waiting for the Soviet hoards to attack across the East German border. Peacekeeping was a sideline activity. We did it well, along with others such as Sweden, India,

Norway, Brazil -- but it was

never even close to being our top priority.

The other Canadian myth that might have influenced Mr. Layton's ill-timed call for our withdrawal is the oft-quoted description of Canada's policies being "even-handed," "neutral" or "impartial." We never take a stand for fear of upsetting someone. But the facts surrounding even our exaggerated peacekeeping role explode this troubling myth. For example, in the approval process preceding the very first UN lightly armed peacekeeping mission -- stick-handled by Lester Pearson through a hesitant Security Council in 1956 -- Canada voted against the British and French and, by default, sided with Egypt. We took a stand.

To suggest, as Mr. Layton does, that we should pull out of the Afghan mission next year and return to our more "traditional" roles ignores one compelling fact. There will be no significant capability for any nation to carry out those "traditional" roles of nation-building in southern Afghanistan until those who are committed to stopping such undertakings are removed from the equation.

In other words, by leaving, we would be saying to the remaining 36 nations on the ground in Afghanistan, "Hey guys, this is getting pretty difficult. We have decided to leave and go home, but don't worry, when the rest of you have put down this insurrection and things are peaceful, we will return and offer our vastly superior skills in putting countries back together. So please, call us as soon as the shooting stops -- for good."

For all those who, like Mr. Layton, say the mission is imprecise, unclear, without an exit strategy, etc., let me disagree and say that to a NATO military commander the mission is crystal clear.

It is to leave Afghanistan as quickly as humanly possible -- having turned the security of the country over to competent Afghan military and police forces controlled in their efforts by a democratically elected national government. Sounds pretty clear to me.

Kofi Annan's hasty rush to judgment

On hearing the news that a United Nations observation post manned by four unarmed peacekeepers at the nexus of the Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian borders was struck by an Israeli bomb, an uncharacteristically forceful Kofi Annan bolted out of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to proclaim his shock at the "apparently deliberate targeting" by Israel Defence Forces of the post. The UN Secretary-General went on to say the UN would conduct a full investigation. A curious statement, considering his comment that the IDF intentionally targeted the observers. Case closed, n'est-ce pas? Not quite.

The blast on Tuesday claimed the lives of Major Paeta Derek Hess-von Kruedener, a Canadian serving with the UN Truce Supervision Organization mission in southern Lebanon, and three other UN soldiers. On July 18, Major Hess-von Kruedener had sent a number of his colleagues, including regimental officers such as myself, an e-mail describing what the situation was like at his location since the Israeli attacks began against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"Based on the intensity and volatility of this current situation and the unpredictability of both sides (Hezbollah and Israel), and given the operational tempo of the Hezbollah and the IDF, we are not safe to venture out to conduct our normal patrol activities. We have now switched to Observation Post Duties and are observing any and all violations as they occur."

UNTSO was established in 1948 and is the UN's oldest mission. Canada has participated since its inception, and one of its current roles has been to monitor the ceasefire in the Golan Heights after the 1967 Six-Day War. When there had been a semblance of peace, UN monitoring made considerable sense, so minor violations could be dealt with quickly. But to leave the observers in place with a war under way stretches the credibility of the UN's operational judgment close to the breaking point.

The penultimate paragraph of Major Hess-von Kruedener's e-mail is prophetic, to say the least: "The closest artillery has landed within two metres of our position and the closest 1,000-pound aerial bomb has landed 100 metres from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity."

This is what we call "veiled speech" in military jargon. It means hiding the truth in lingo that outsiders would not necessarily understand. What he is saying translates roughly as: "We have Hezbollah fighters all over our position engaging the IDF and using us as shields. They will probably stay, hoping that the IDF won't target them for fear of hitting us."

Surprising? Not really.

I have served in another mission where one side constantly set up its weapon systems, including mortars, in and around hospitals, medical clinics, mosques and, yes, UN positions, knowing full well that, when it engaged its enemies and received return fire, it would make for compelling TV as the networks covered the civilian carnage. (When they took up positions around my soldiers, I advised their leaders that I would authorize my soldiers to kill them within the hour if they didn't withdraw. Fortunately, as I was not an unarmed observer, I was in a position to do that.) In many cases, the weapon systems were moved immediately after firing, and their positions around civilians were abandoned before innocents paid the price for their despicable techniques. You have to admit this technique helps to win the PR war, which often is as important as the fighting one.

Certainly, the Secretary-General is familiar with this technique, having been the UN undersecretary of peacekeeping in the horrific 1990s, when the UN was floundering in the Balkans, Somalia and Rwanda.

For that reason alone -- and despite his soft-pedalling yesterday that the Israeli Prime Minister "definitely believes [the bombing was] a mistake" -- Mr. Annan should not have been so quick to pass judgment on an event that quite likely was not as it seemed in the hours following the tragedy.

United Nations

Forget a UN army

June 26, 2006

A collection of well-meaning academics and security experts recently proposed the creation of an international rapid reaction force that could be deployed within 48 hours of a green light from the United Nations. It's a bad idea.

In 1945, at the founding conference for the UN in San Francisco, it was agreed that the military resources of the self-appointed permanent five members of the Security Council - the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China and, shortly thereafter, France - would be available as required by the UN.

The original film produced by the UN to sell the concept of the new world body to the public shows the military commanders of the Perm 5 in an art deco headquarters on a hill discussing an emerging international threat in a faraway country. Within days, a UN force of 200,000 soldiers, 4,000 aircraft, 1,000 ships and one atomic bomb are launched in the direction of the threat, returning a few weeks later having sorted out the bad guys in the interests of mankind.

The military commanders of the Perm 5 were to regularly meet under the title Military Staff Committee. That was 61 years ago, and the committee has yet to have its first meeting at the commander-in-chief level.

That brings us to this month, when academics and security experts raised the idea of a standing professional UN army numbering 15,000 military, police and civilian staff, including logistics and nation-building specialists. Details of the concept are found in the book A United Nations Emergency Peace Service: To Prevent Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, which was presented at the UN.

The authors opine that such a force would accelerate the UN's glacial response to the myriad of peace and security problems that cry out for intervention, and they cite Rwanda and Darfur as prime examples. They suggest that the UN force could be on its way to a trouble spot within 48 hours and perhaps even be pre-deployed to nip an emerging crisis in the bud before it blossoms.

As attractive as the concept might sound, it will not improve the UN's record of untimely and inadequate crisis intervention.

The popular myth and chronic excuse offered when the UN fails to respond to an obvious security crisis is a lack of resources. In reality, this is merely a convenient way to let the Security Council's Perm 5 off the hook and mask the dominant role played by their own national self-interests.

When the Security Council authorizes interventions, it might not be easy finding the necessary soldiers. But the $150 (U.S.) per soldier per day paid by the UN to the governments of the contributing countries has certainly helped find a good many of the 80,000 troops currently deployed around the world. In the vast majority of cases, the soldiers actually stand by for months waiting to deploy on a particular mission while the Security Council "is seized of the crisis" but can't get an authorizing resolution watered down enough to satisfy all of the Perm 5 members.

In 1945, when the Perm 5 gave themselves a veto whereby any one of them could thwart approval of any resolution dealing with peace and security issues, they didn't stop there. It is a little advertised fact that their vetoes also apply to the procedures that govern the conduct of the Security Council - in other words, the rules dealing with membership, voting and the use of the veto.

To suggest that the existence of a UN army would have helped stop the genocide in Rwanda or could be used to take on the current genocide in Darfur is naive. The stumbling block for both was and is not a lack of resources but rather a lack of commitment beyond national self-interests by some of the Perm 5 members. In the case of Rwanda, there were no self-interests strong enough to authorize intervention; in Darfur, the self-interests of at least two members (related to oil production) mean their vetoes stand in the way of any forceful action. If a UN army did exist, it would still be sitting on its hands far away from Darfur.

I would not be the least bit surprised if the Security Council itself would veto any attempt to create a UN army. If one exists, there would be pressure to use it - and the Perm 5 wouldn't like being backed into a decision-making corner.

If the international community is serious about dealing with security crises as they develop, forget the overworked idea of creating a UN army and concentrate on changing the rules governing the self-appointed 1945 "superpower" club. Adding more members, permanent without the veto and rotating, would just extend debate time. Until the veto is jettisoned and majority rules - as in all other Security Council issues except peace and security and procedure - nothing will change.

Respect needs more than a flag

For an old soldier it has been heart-warming, to say the least, to witness the outpouring of sympathy across Canada for the recent loss of four young Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan. By coincidence -- because these types of policy decisions take time to prepare -- Ottawa's concurrent announcement that flags would no longer be lowered on the Peace Tower and across the country each time a soldier is killed was the victim of really bad timing. Nevertheless, it was the right decision.

The break from the federal government's own clearly stated, long-standing protocol governing the lowering of the flag on the Peace Tower came in 2002, following the so-called "friendly-fire" incident outside of Kandahar when a U.S. pilot mistakenly bombed a live-fire exercise being conducted by members of 3PPCLI, killing four and injuring a number of others.

The resulting overwhelming media coverage of the incident, due to its unusual nature and the involvement of our next-door neighbour, stimulated politicians to pay much more attention than usual to the deaths of Canadian soldiers on operations. Note that little, if any, attention was paid to our 26 soldiers who were killed on duty in the Balkans during the 1990s.

Nevertheless, a precedent was set and for the past four years the prime minister and senior officials have met the returning soldiers'

remains as they arrived in Canada and the Canadian flag has been flown at half-mast on Parliament's Peace Tower and across the nation.

The federal government's return to the flag protocol that saw this nation through two world wars,

Korea, and more than 120 fatalities on numerous peacekeeping missions will once again result in the Canadian flag being lowered at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa and at each base across the country where a deceased soldier was stationed.

Here is the reality: There will continue to be casualties in Afghanistan, it is the nature of counterinsurgency operations.

In Afghanistan, a proportionally small number of Canadian soldiers are conducting the nation-building part of the mission. This job, under normal circumstances, is better done by civilians with NGOs and government agencies, but for now it is too dangerous for them to be there. Hence, the soldiers, taking on this task by default, need a relatively secure environment in which to operate. That security, in turn, is provided by the larger number of soldiers who must take on those who would use deadly force to thwart our nation-building efforts. Such confrontations will result in casualties and, in the worst case scenario, seeing the Canadian flag continuously at half-mast could easily become a symbol of defeat rather than respect.

While public expressions of sympathy are greatly appreciated, they can also be seen as somewhat late in coming, and in the case of political decision-makers, also hypocritical, given the severe cuts to the defence budget and personnel in the '90s.

The Canadian military has begun a long overdue rebuilding process. There is no guarantee that process will succeed. Sympathy for the fallen is gratefully appreciated, but our young men and women abroad and at home need the public behind them in more ways than one.

I leave it to a Canadian soldier to have the final word. Having served in Afghanistan, he called in to a Toronto talk show on Sunday just after I had finished my interview. I wish I had recorded his name. To paraphrase, he said, "We wear the Canadian flag on the sleeve of our uniform, we salute it every day in theatre and if we are killed, it drapes our coffin. That is how the flag respects us. If the public wants to show its respect for us, give us the funding, the equipment, the training and the support to do the job you order us to do."

I wish I had said it that well.

Responsibility to protect: a great idea that can't work

Sixty years ago in San Francisco, 50 nations reached agreement on the wording of a charter that would guide the United Nations' activities and interests until the present day. Its opening sentence, "We the people of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind," clearly indicated the UN's primary responsibility: to avoid a Third World War.

Last week in New York, some 160 world leaders came together at the United Nations to endorse a litany of watered-down reforms that were aimed at enhancing the UN's ability to live up to the expectations of its founders. What an irony that all but a tiny number of the hundreds of recommendations dealt with everything but saving the world from "the scourge of war." Ironic, but clearly a recognition that the original role of the UN has been displaced by a number of important tasks where the UN does some really good work: poverty, AIDS, human rights, illiteracy, refugees and peace building.

With regard to the UN's role in preserving international peace and security, Canada claims, and deserves, credit for rescuing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) plank in the document from deletion by a number of countries who felt threatened by its wording. The Canadian proposal, dating back to 1999, would oblige international intervention by force if a nation was not protecting its own citizens from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. In the worst of cases, the target country would be carrying out these crimes against its own citizens. Some leaders saw the R2P concept as a direct threat to their sovereignty and wanted it removed from the document. Successful lobbying by Canadian officials, including personal interventions by Prime Minister Paul Martin and UN Ambassador Allan Rock, led to its survival.

Great news, right? Well, not really, because nothing in the proposed reforms addresses the brick wall that stands between a country "qualifying" for R2P intervention and robust action by the UN. Any decision to intervene will be the sole prerogative of the Security Council, and ultimately determined by the five veto-holding members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In 1945, these same five countries were assigned the only permanent seats on the Security Council, along with the ability to thwart any resolution regarding peace and security by the use of a single veto. Much less well known is their authorized use of the veto regarding matters of Security Council procedures. Every one of the five permanent members must approve any change to the composition of the Council, its voting rules and the use of the veto -- a classic Catch 22. There are as many ideas for removing this procedural roadblock as there are non-veto-holding members of the UN, but none of them will see the light of day since one or more of the Permanent Five will veto any proposed change that suggests modifying the procedural rules that govern the use of their veto.

For the past year, Brazil, India, Germany and Japan lobbied for permanent seats on the council, including veto status. A month ago, they became so frustrated with the negative response by the Permanent Five that they announced the subject would be revisited in 15 years!

When the well-intentioned R2P principle is ultimately dropped into the procedural cul-de-sac of the Security Council, decision making will be instantly subordinated to the presence or absence of the Permanent Five's national self-interests. Recent comments indicating that Rwanda would not have happened if R2P had been on the books are naive. There were no national self-interests of the Permanent Five at stake in Rwanda, thus the tepid UN response. Today, there are national self-interests involving oil investments of at least two Permanent Five members in Sudan, thus the guaranteed use of the veto if the obligations under R2P to intervene in Darfur were put to a vote.

To further make the point, prior to the Iraq war, the UN inspectors could have found a 10-kiloton nuclear WMD in the basement of one of Saddam's castles in Baghdad, and there would have been no resolution for forceful UN intervention. Once again, oil interests of at least two veto-holding members would have seen to that.

The R2P is a good concept and badly needed by the many suffering victims of today's world. It's too bad that it will be implemented by a tiny clique of five nations created in 1945 to save us from the Third World War.

Rick Hillier's right, so back off

Now that we have a chief of the defence staff who calls a spade a spade rather than a pitchfork, and a terrorist a "scumbag" rather than a disenfranchised youth who had a rough childhood, and confirms that our military's role is to kill as efficiently as possible once the political order has been given rather than participate in "peacekeeping" missions that rarely meet the criteria for success, the critics have come out of the woodwork.

The problem, if there is one for General Rick Hillier, has been the absence of unfettered military advice from the top soldier in the land since the integration of the Defence Department's military and civilian staff in the early 1970s. For years, I blamed defence minister Paul Hellyer, who had unified the Canadian Forces (same uniform, common services for the navy, army and air force etc.) for the tragedy of integration.

That is, until he asked me to stop identifying him as the culprit, reminding me that it was his successor, Donald Macdonald, who had carried out Pierre Trudeau's bidding to emasculate the military by putting our soldiers in bed with their civilian counterparts in the Defence Department as "co-equals." During the conversation, Mr. Hellyer assured me he would have "fallen on his sword" if Mr. Trudeau had ordered him to integrate the Forces' headquarters with the Defence Department's civilians. What followed was, by necessity in the interests of survival, a new military culture at the top that, more times than not, publicly repeated and reinforced the opinions of the political and bureaucratic masters.

Lest the reader erroneously conclude that I am proposing some sort of Canadian military dictatorship as the answer, let me stress that I am talking about the importance of unfettered military advice, not decision-making. The chief of the defence staff should not be in the business of making foreign policy decisions, but he certainly should be at liberty to comment on them. In the most recent case involving Gen. Hillier's thoughts regarding our redeployment in Afghanistan to Kandahar to rejoin the war against the Taliban/al-Qaeda coalition, critics found fault with comments that merely reinforced our government's appropriate policy decision. Go figure.

In the vast majority of Western nations, it is required of senior military leaders that they provide, without restriction and cognizant of security, their best professional advice regarding their responsibilities. A good example was provided by the recent disagreement between President George W. Bush and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, after the release of the report on intelligence failures that contributed to 9/11. One of the recommendations (and one approved by Mr. Bush) was the creation of a centralized intelligence co-ordination agency that would reduce some of the Pentagon's influence in intelligence matters. Gen. Myers spoke out publicly against the proposal even while the President was saying that it sounded like a pretty good idea to him.

In Canada, a similar display before such a decision was made would be grounds for the figurative beheading of the senior officer. In the U.S., when the media got to the President with what they anticipated would be the story of the day, Mr. Bush replied (and I paraphrase him): That's what Gen. Myers is paid for, to give his honest opinion; he gave it, I disagree with it and we are implementing the recommendation.

The President and Gen. Myers then went back to work. End of story.

Some critics have suggested that Gen. Hillier is not only wrong in commenting on foreign policy but that he's off base. They repeat the latest popular theory that the prime motivating influence behind suicide bombers is the desire to rid their "homeland" of foreign armies and that perverse religious interpretations and the clash of civilizations have nothing to do with their cause. If that's the case, why did fighters from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Gaza, Canada and the U.S. try to rid Afghanistan of foreigners like ourselves. Afghanistan was not their homeland. No one has a monopoly on the causes of terrorism because they aren't common, consistent or discernible. Gen. Hillier's deductions are as valid as those who write books on the subject.

When you deal with the media, the most important thing to ask yourself before opening your mouth is: "Who is my target audience?" With Gen. Hillier, it's obvious that he's frequently talking through the media to his soldiers, sailors and pilots in language they appreciate. Listening in is the Canadian public, which is being told that an appropriate foreign policy decision to dispatch as many terrorists as possible for an early reunion with their maker is a dangerous but necessary business.

UN reform takes two steps back

Three months ago on this page, I suggested there would be continuing frustration and ultimate failure for those advocating meaningful United Nations Security Council reform in their lifetime. Recent events have only reinforced that opinion.

While it's possible to reform various UN agencies (Unicef, UNESCO, WHO, UNHCR etc) -- since that can occur without the unanimous agreement of the five permanent Security Council members -- the council itself is destined to perpetuate its own irrelevance.

Mind you, there's no shortage of ideas put forward by those who still hope to pull off the impossible. There are the recommendations from the Secretary-General's Eminent Persons group that called for the council's expansion to 24 or 25 members from the current 15. This reform would increase the number of permanent members, but not give new ones the power of veto enjoyed by Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

More recently, Japan, Germany, India and Brazil, strong contenders for those new permanent seats, issued their own recommendations. The P4, as they call themselves, want the council expanded to 25, adding six new permanent members and four non-permanent, rotational ones.

At first, the P4 argued that the new permanent members should be given veto-wielding authority. But a sobering dose of reality soon set in as they lobbied the international community and, particularly, the P5 nations. Their most recent proposal calls for new permanent members to have "the same responsibilities and obligations" as the P5, but any idea of achieving veto-holding status would only be considered 15 years after the reforms took effect.

As the momentum for Security Council reform takes two steps to the rear for every tentative step forward, the U.S. itself has re-entered the debate. A bipartisan task force headed by former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former senator George Mitchell made several recommendations earlier this month on such issues as UN corruption, the abuse of local populations by UN peacekeepers, and the pathetic inclusion of human-rights abusers such as Libya on the UN's Human Rights Commission. Notable by its absence was any serious consideration of Security Council reform.

The House of Representatives then passed the Henry Hyde UN Reform Act that promotes UN reform of such matters as the voting procedure in the General Assembly to give more weight to a country's vote proportional to its financial contribution to the UN, and the allotment of the UN's budget for running conferences -- which just happens to be the largest item in the entire budget, eclipsing peacekeeping, refugees and health. Weighty items to be sure but, absent again, is any consideration of Security Council reform.

The reality is that the rules governing the voting procedures within the Security Council combined with the national self-interest of the P5 will continue to preclude any change in the use of the veto. China will never roll over and tolerate Japan as a veto-holding member. The U.S. backs Japan's bid for membership, but Japan is aligned with Germany in the P4 and the U.S. will not endorse Germany's membership. Nuclear armed Pakistan is not receptive to India's membership, and all of Brazil's neighbours would protest its membership. Add the fact that, in accordance with the UN Charter, any P5 member can veto the admission of any new member to the P5 club and you get the picture.

In the end, it all boils down to this: Should the Security Council's debating club expand to 25 from 15 nations without any changes to the rule governing the veto that ultimately dictates what actions the council will approve in the interests of international peace and security? It hardly seems worth the effort.

Meantime, Canada had better prepare to live up to its obligations in other multinational organizations such as NATO, the Organization of American States and the OSCE, as they move in to help victims where a deadlocked Security Council fears to tread. Regrettably, the list grows longer each day.

Roméo, Roméo, wherefore art thou partisan?

It's hard to watch someone whose name is linked to our failure in Rwanda argue that Canada's response in Darfur is just fine.


It's no secret that Roméo Dallaire and I have some profound differences of opinion regarding the role and capabilities -- or lack thereof -- of the United Nations when it comes to fulfilling its primary responsibility: to enhance international peace and security. After his experience in Rwanda, I wasn't prepared to debate our differences in public, lest it exacerbate his fragile state of mind. Now that he has eagerly accepted a partisan appointment as a Liberal senator, however, one can reasonably assume that he will be able to cope with deserved criticism.

In the past few days, we have witnessed the sad spectacle of Senator Dallaire arguing with his own oft-stated previous position regarding the appropriate action to be taken in the Sudanese region of Darfur. It has been widely reported that Mr. Dallaire met independent MP David Kilgour in an attempt to convince him that the government's plan to dispatch a mere 100 unarmed Canadian observers and advisers to the area would be not only adequate but the best policy for Canada. The senator opined that any attempt to dispatch thousands of white troops from NATO countries (as Mr. Kilgour wisely suggested) would exacerbate the situation in Darfur, because the Khartoum government would not be happy to see such troops cross their borders.

This flies directly in the face of Mr. Dallaire's own pronouncements made over the decade since his return from Rwanda -- namely, that a mere 2,500 well-trained NATO troops would have prevented the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans! Now that Prime Minister Paul Martin has offered up a token Canadian military contingent for Sudan, Mr. Dallaire has done an about-face: He has decided that a tough, disciplined and well-led force protecting Darfur's innocent victims would be a bad idea! Go figure.

Mr. Dallaire has suggested on numerous occasions that the West did not respond to the genocide in Rwanda because of underlying racism. This inflammatory comment is blatantly untrue. Since 1956, the United Nations has conducted more peacekeeping missions in Africa than on all the other continents combined. Further evidence that the UN has paid close attention to Africa is the fact that more UN peacekeepers have been killed in Africa than on any other continent.

Distasteful as it is to admit, the members of the UN, including Canada, turned their backs on Rwanda because there were no perceived national self-interests at stake. The Security Council has been sitting on its hands for years regarding the situation in Darfur because of the national self-interests (oil) of at least two, and perhaps three, of the Security Council's veto-holding permanent five members (France, China and Russia).

Recently, from stage left, we've seen the entrance of the Canadian Responsibility to Protect (R2P) initiative. For all intents and purposes, this initiative, recommended by a committee of eminent international statesmen reporting to the UN Secretary-General, has been accepted by the UN and will be formally adopted in September. R2P addresses the long-standing conflict between two principles: respect for a nation's sovereignty and the need to act when that nation's government is not prepared or is unwilling to protect its own citizens. After other options have been exhausted, R2P not only authorizes intervention over sovereign borders, it encourages such action to protect the innocents.

The situation in Darfur easily qualifies for such intervention. But because the Security Council chronically prefers debate over action, it behooves other multinational organizations to take the lead in stopping the genocide.

Mr. Dallaire has tried to convince Mr. Kilgour that should outside intervention (i.e., NATO) take place without the "invitation" of the Khartoum government, it will result in a bloodbath and only make Darfur's situation worse. This opinion, from someone whose only operational experience was less than a year commanding the UN's most colossal failure in its history, smacks of appeasement. To suggest, as Mr. Dallaire has done, that the African Union's modest and ill-equipped force can successfully operate in an area the size of France and bring deadly force to bear to stop the killing in Darfur -- and that a few unarmed Canadian observers and advisers will make them even more effective -- is naive in the extreme.

On my visit to the area less than a year ago, it was clear that the African Union contingents needed considerable time and much more support than has been offered to date to mature into an effective and mobile fighting force.

The situation cries out now (as it has for years) for rough, tough, professional soldiers to take on the goons, cowards, rebels and militias who are doing the raping and murder. The two sides in the conflict, the Darfur rebels and the government-supported militias, who share the blame for the chaos, don't have to be defeated -- at this time. But if they attack the innocents, the elderly, the young and the women in and around the displaced persons camps, they should be killed.

Only then, when the killing of innocents has stopped, can the diplomatic process have a chance and the NGOs return to help rebuild the society. The West could have saved Rwanda. It should move now to save what is left of Darfur's innocents. It was hard to watch Mr. Dallaire standing behind the Prime Minister during a press scrum waiting for the cue to leap to the microphone -- swallowing his pride and endorsing Canada's pathetic response to the genocide in Darfur as the "best solution." If he really believes this, I have some waterfront property by the Sydney tar ponds that I'll sell him.

David Kilgour is right. Intervention in Darfur by disciplined, well-trained troops who can stop the killing is long overdue. As for Mr. Dallaire, it can't be easy as an ex-general to become partisan when 30-plus years in the profession of arms and the screams he says he hears from Rwanda tells his conscience that Canada must do more than pontificate and send cash. 



Email Article Format for Printing
Home Initiatives Comments Insight Publications Profiles Resources Search Correspondence




Write to us