It's up to Parliament to tell the Air Force what Canada needs from the RCAF, not the other way around. What the Air Force wants and what the country needs are not one and the same. That's especially true for today's "Americanized" military that may be losing sight of the limits of its role in democratic government.
The military's guidance is invaluable but rarely infallible. Don't forget how the Big Cod hooked prime minister Martin into approving the combat gig in Kandahar. In recent decades Canada's military has shown itself to be less than - oh, what's the word - honest in its dealings with the political types.
They're particularly adept at shaving the truth when they're after new kit. Our current and previous Auditors General have erased any doubt on that score. At times they can resemble nothing so much as a cadre of manipulative little children trying to get one over on Parliament and the Canadian people and that's squarely on them.
Whether it's helicopters or stealth fighters, giving their political masters false data and fudged numbers is fraud and it's fraud on the country they are sworn to serve. That should be a court martial offence, a quick and absolute career-ender.
The same goes for political meddling. A classic case was when DefMin MacKay got into hot water over using a military helicopter as a taxi to ferry him from a fishing lodge. That sent Air Force officers into a frenzy trying to dig up dirt on MacKay's opposition critics. Again that is breaking faith with Canada and violating their oath to serve the country. Again that should be an immediate career-ender.
The military Canada needs for the 21st century is not the military we have today. It's the military we have today with the snot kicked out of it. Canada's military can't serve the country according to what it thinks it can get away with or on the basis of which particular political party is in power. That sort of behaviour crosses too many lines that must never be crossed in a free and democratic society.
In the United States the military has captured a disturbing measure of political, even diplomatic power and has a real influence in what remains of America's industrial economy. There is a discernible degree of idol worship that has permeated Canada's military. Our military leaders seem too drawn to America, too eager to please. If America wants us to buy this plane or that, our military tells us we need this plane - or that. Long ago, eagerness to please the Americans was identified as a big factor in our Air Force planners' preference for the F-35.
Enough. The Americans aren't "all that." There were powerful reasons why All the King's Horses and All the King's Men made such a botch up of their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, before that, Viet Nam. We played their game in Afghanistan and accomplished precious little for it. It's time to find a new game, one that is patterned to Canada's needs and interests, not America's.
We need both political and military reformation. Our political leadership can no longer abrogate their responsibility to define what we want from our military, what they must do. When we yield that control to the military we wind up in hapless combat missions like Afghanistan or buying equipment, not based on need or suitability but on the military's preferences, staring at doctored numbers.
We don't need the Air Force to tell us again that Canada needs the aircraft it doesn't need.