Wednesday, April 04, 2012

CBC's Brian Stewart Casts Bones & Reads Entrails - Stephen Harper's Bones and Peter MacKay's Entrails

It seems Brian Stewart has been a CBC defence wonk since the days of muzzle loaders and black powder.   That makes his take on the F-35 fiasco all the more notable.

"The who-knew-what about the real costs of the F-35 fighter jet Canada wants to purchase is worrisome enough. But at the heart of the fiasco is a far more serious concern about what public honesty means to this government.

"... we need to see if this current mess is part of a pattern of official "misstatements" on defence matters. If so, we've got a serious national problem.

" ...Remember when the prime minister was never going to "cut and run" but then suddenly switched 180 degree to launch the 2008 election with the promise of a full pullout in 2011.

"The defence department was stunned, and so was his minister Peter MacKay.  "I don't know," MacKay told reporter Murray Brewster when asked how the historic shift came about. "I heard about it the same time you did."

...Throughout the war, inquiring journalists found our military to have become increasingly secretive and at times even untrustworthy, as National Defence and PMO communications staff snatched control of information away from officers in the field.

For long periods Canadians were denied information on the number of Afghan detainees that Canadian soldiers handled, the tally of fire-fights our soldiers were involved in, the number of attacks on Canada's main base in Kandahar, even the full number of our wounded.

What's more, they were constantly assured the Taliban was being battered into weakness, despite quite contrary evidence.
As for the total cost of the Afghanistan adventure? That was, and remains, as murky as the cost overruns of the F-35 program.

...We see layer after layer of weak political leadership, jealous bureaucratic infighting, and a complete lack of strategic insight from the top on down.

The prime minister's office has not only rigorously controlled every aspect of government communications, muting the military's own voice, but it seemed determined to give Canadians as little information as possible on the war, the study said.

In the historians' words: "The prime minister may have concluded that the war could not be won, was politically costly and, therefore, the less said of aims and objectives the better."

The same attitude, of saying as little as possible, seems to have been at play again during this long process over the F-35 purchase, with the government simply refusing to retreat from its predictions that these next-generation jets would cost only $15 billion over a 20-year period.

That is quite a gap from the $25 billion lifetime cost that others, including the parliamentary budget officer (and even some DND officials, the auditor general has now revealed) felt was reasonable.

...I'd like to think our top soldiers would refuse to go along with misleading Parliament. However the public relations domination of National Defence has been eating away at even some core ethics of our military for some years now. The way it did in the RCMP.

Think of the number of events where misleading stories are put out there. Defence Minister Peter MacKay uses a search-and-rescue training flight to prolong a fishing trip. Any waste is denied, until the media shakes out the details.

Then, as payback, military officials tamely sent over information on opposition members' flights to the minister's office, so he could throw these back at his opponents in Question Period.

The lack of "strategic insight" Stewart finds in the Harper government is chronic and is certainly not limited to Canada's military either.  It pervades virtually every aspect of Harper's authoritarian rule and betrays the person Stephen Harper trusts least, himself.  It's a crippling lack of self-confidence compounded by an acute awareness of just how facile is his grasp of even mildly-complex realities that drives Harper to padlock the doors that separate the public from their government.  He is out of his depth, unfit to govern, incapable of leading.  Parliament is Harper's Emerald City that he manipulates from behind a curtain.

Stephen Harper is of the-faith based world of religious superstition and gut instincts trying to rule a government of a reality-based world of knowledge and facts.  He is a fish out of water forced to rule with an iron fist and compelled to cloak himself in a curtain of secrecy to conceal his true nature.

Did Stephen Harper not know the true cost of the F-35?   How could he not have known unless he chose not to know or, worse, chose to be fed fantasies suiting his superstitious bent.

And what does this say of Peter MacKay and the other munchkins in Stephen Harper's court?   They must have known the true nature of their master all along.  They had to have known he was intent, constantly intent, on betraying the Canadian people by feeding them a rich diet of falsehood and nonsense.  Yet we heard not a peep from any of them.

In more honourable times past these people would have thrown themselves on their swords in disgrace, the lot of them.  But these aren't honourable times and these aren't honourable people wielding the levers of power.


Anonymous said...

While I have much difficulty with the Federal Conservative Government and their ideological approach to virtually everything, what is the cost of the alternative in this case?

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not sure what you're getting at, Anon. The cost of the alternative? Does that mean an alternative aircraft or an alternative government? If we're talking strictly aircraft the answer is relatively straightforward.

Eliminating the potentially limited circumstances in which the F-35's already dodgy stealth advantage would come into play, virtually every one of its several, lower cost rivals can outperform the 35 on the core abilities that make an effective jet fighter including speed, agility, climb rate, fuel and weapons payload and range.

You give up all of these core abilities for a supposed stealth advantage (not to mention a lot more money and a lot fewer aircraft) in opting for the F-35. The most indefensible part is that, to make this purchase sensible, you need to expect the F-35 stealth technology advantage to remain dominant for several decades.

Ask yourself this. When in the history of warfare has a technological breakthrough survived for even a few years much less the 50-year lifespan predicted for the F-35? The easy and obvious answer is "never."

In fact, given the loss of the RQ-170 stealth drone to Iran just before Christmas, a lot of Lockheed Martin's stealth secrets may and probably are already in the hands of the very people this aircraft is designed to fight. Not surprisingly, no one wants to mention that.

Were I a Russian or Chinese leader I would be absolutely delighted to see Western rivals cripple their military capability well into future decades by impoverishing themselves with this turkey. Once they neutralize its brittle stealth technology we're done.

Anonymous said...

Aircraft that would suit our "stated" needs. It seems that the alternatives, while at least proven and not piles of crap, still cost well in excess of $75mm each. The lack of transparency and the commitment to a problem, unproven aircraft should be the main issue (along with it being a total waste of money). However, alternative suitable aircraft cost as much, or more, than the "current" price of the F-35.

kootcoot said...

I think the fact that the JSF-35 isn't really suited for defending or patrolling Canada and is instead a single purpose bomb delivery platform designed to participate in future shock and awe exercises with the gang of imperialists isn't mentioned enough by anyone, the media, the opposition and of course not the DND or illegitimate Harper Government©. Basically the fact that it lacks "... the core abilities that make an effective jet fighter including speed, agility, climb rate, fuel and weapons payload and range."

Stealth technology even if not obsolete already or soon, is not necessary for any of the duties a Canadian "fighter" should be capable of performing. If Canadian planes are say patrolling in the Arctic, to defend sovereignty, it doesn't matter who knows it, indeed the more folks/countries that know we are looking after our interests, the better!

Actually I get kinda upset when folks refer to it as a fighter, kinda the same way I get upset when folks mis-speak by calling the HarperCons - Tories!