Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A rare opportunity

I had the distinct pleasure to attend a presentation in Toronto yesterday by BGen Mike Day, commander of CANSOFCOM, and to speak with him briefly one on one after his formal remarks. While I'm still digesting some of the general's thoughts about SOF's role in the domestic security architecture, its utility in expeditionary operations, and the legal framework under which it functions, my overall impression is that this command is in extremely competent hands - as one might well expect. Day is a large individual, and could easily come across as intimidating, especially in his uniform - on the receiving end of his handshake, one gets the distinct feeling he's using a very modest fraction of his strength - but he was open, friendly, and self-deprecatingly funny in person. He was also extremely professional, articulate and obvioulsly passionate about his vocation and his country.

Given some of the gross slurs he and his special operations command have endured recently, especially regarding the detainee issue, I found one particular answer he provided to a question particularly telling. When asked whether he favoured Canada staying or leaving Afghanistan in 2011, Day said he'd served in some of the most benighted areas of the world: certain parts of the Middle East, the Balkans, parts of Africa, and obviously Afghanistan. As he put it to mild laughter in the room, none of them are on his list of choice destinations for a second honeymoon. He pointed out that one of the common elements in all of these troubled areas is that the local armed factions tend to rule the land, either directly, or through coercion of civilian leadership. As he put it - and I'm paraphrasing from memory here - he was downright grateful to live in a country where the military's marching orders are 'slaved to the civilian political will'. All of this was a long-winded way to say that while he held a personal opinion on that matter, this general that some would shamefully paint as an unaccountable rogue and war criminal wouldn't be answering the question.

The lawyers in the room seemed to have a wry appreciation for that answer.

Which brings me to my last point: this speaking engagement was organized by Borden Ladner Gervais. Sean Weir was a gracious and eloquent host, and I must thank him and his firm for their foresight and wisdom in reaching out to the Canadian military establishment in order to better understand the men and women who defend our freedoms. More in the private sector should follow their lead.


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