Friday, July 20, 2012

Not Now, Not Yet

Canada's military brass seem intent on blundering their way, make that their soldiers' way, back into combat without first explaining what went so wrong with their performance in Afghanistan.

Make no mistake about this.   The miserable performance we achieved in Kandahar wasn't the fault of the rank and file troops Canada deployed.   They did a terrific job only the odds were stacked against them from the start by incompetent political and military leadership at home.   And it's those same incompetents who now are so keen to simply turn the page and jump into the next shooting war.

We wasted a lot of lives in Afghanistan, far too many for what little we accomplished.   Lives lost, lives broken, in Afghanistan and across Canada.   Yet not one Canadian general, not one cabinet minister nor, it goes without saying, our formerly gung-ho prime minister has answered for this debacle.   They engineered the fiasco and, by all indications, they're keen as hell to engineer the next one too.  Not now, not yet.

As the linked article warns reveals, our cowboys at National Defence headquarters have been busy these past two years establishing a network of forward bases from the Caribbean to East Africa, Europe and even Southeast Asia.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk authorized the establishment of the operational support hubs in up to seven locations around the world on May 13, 2010.

A directive signed by Natynczyk and obtained by Postmedia News says the initiative was launched to improve the Canadian Forces' "ability to project combat power/security assistance and Canadian influence rapidly and flexibly anywhere in the world."

It adds that the ability to deploy and sustain combat forces is not only contingent on strong logistical networks, but is also "an essential instrument of national power and should continue to be exploited to attain national objectives."

Excuse me but since when does Canada need "to project combat power ...rapidly and flexibly anywhere in the world"?  How does this help us "attain national objectives"?  For Christ's sake, Walt, what national objectives do we have in Southeast Asia or East Africa?   And how will you, of all people, do the job?

Remember, General Walt, we had "national objectives" for your combat gig in Kandahar.   They were clearly, boisterously stated, proclaimed even, shouted from the ramparts at the outset.   Need to refresh your memory, Walt?   You were to crush the Taliban and establish a Western democracy that would ensure civil and human rights for the Afghan people, especially Afghan women.   Those were the national objectives you were given and said you would accomplish.   And on those scores you failed, miserably.

For a host of what should have been obvious reasons, you and your peckerheaded political boss failed - your country, your soldiers and Afghanistan.   And so you began to water down your objectives to cloak your failure and, aided by a naive and complicit media, proclaimed success where no such thing existed.

Jesus, Walt.   You and your predecessor Hillier took on the responsibility for a major counter-insurgency campaign in the nastiest province in Afghanistan, Kandahar.   On most days you were barely able to keep between 600 and 800 combat troops in the field even though counterinsurgency doctrine prescribes anywhere between 15,000 to 25,000 for that job in a territory with the population of Kandahar (over 900,000).   The Americans were shocked to discover that you weren't even securing the provincial capital, Kandahar city.  And you want to claim success and talk about deploying Canadian combat forces "anywhere in the world"?  By the way, Walt, you're not fooling the Americans or the Brits.  Your Big Brothers have your numbers and they're giving you a D minus at best.

Besides, Walt, if Canadian soldiers are getting into a shooting war anywhere it will be as a contingent in America's Foreign Legion.  It's Washington's "national objectives" that will matter, not ours.   Your actual combat capability, as demonstrated in Afghanistan, is so goddamned miniscule that you can't operate independently any distance from home.  You can't "project combat power" anywhere without first getting your marching orders from Washington.   It's the Pentagon that projects combat power, not Ottawa, not NDHQ.

This shit has gone to your head, Walt.   You've got a bad case of megalomania.   As a parting gift I'd like to pass along a bit of wisdom from a commander long departed, one who knew the difference between victory in battle and defeat, Oliver Cromwell, who said,  “you have been sat to long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, i say, and let us have done with you. In the name of god, go!.”



crf said...

We preferentially now seem to engage in wars in which we are, in some ways, prepared to lose.

Somalia (lost), Afghanistan (mostly lost), Libya (maybe won). We appear to have "won" Libya, for now. But would a different outcome have been a disaster? Is Afghanistan a disaster if there's no democracy?

How prepared are we for wars we cannot afford to lose? Are Canadians avoiding that question? What about issues arguably analogous to wars that cannot be lost?

The Mound of Sound said...

We had better hope, given the degraded state of our military and political(all parties) leadership, that we're past fighting wars we cannot afford to lose.

I suspect the greatest danger to Canada is America's post 9/11 hyper-militarism. The U.S., to whom we bend our knee, has evolved into a true warfare state. Andrew Bacevich chronicles this evolution in his book "The New American Militarism." It's like a geopolitical black hole that is irresistible to lightweights like Canada.

As for Canadians avoiding issues, Chris, you need only go back to the Harper minority government days when the Commons supposedly debated extending Canada's mission to Kandahar. The opposition ranks, Liberals in particular, staunchly avoided asking any of the questions that debate required. In derogating that responsibility they became complicit in the extension of this hapless war and rendered themselves incapable of taking the government to task for its failures.

We need a post-mortem on Afghanistan. We need to explore how we got involved, how that mission was radically expanded, what objectives we set for our war, how those objectives were first compromised and then diluted to near nothingness, and the devastating impact of the failure of our political and military leadership. If we don't really take this mess apart, we stand a very good chance of getting a "Groundhog Day" foreign and military policy.

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