Thursday, February 21, 2008

Politics vs. constitutional authority

I saw Prime Minister Harper speak at the Conference of Defence Associations meeting today (more here and here). Besides the 2011 Kandahar (and Kandahar only) mission end date, which a subsequent Parliament can easily change under the apparent new derogation of the authority to deploy military forces from the Crown (Governor-in-Council, i.e. Cabinet, maybe these days PM) to Parliament (quite a constitutional innovation), the prime minister also said the government would
...leave operational decisions to commanders on the ground.
This appears an attempt to find common ground with the Liberal position, as I have put it--but still leave room for "combat":
M. Dion also said it would be up to the Canadian military actually to devise the detailed rules of engagement to implement the operational constraints [no "pro-active" combat] the Liberals would place on the mission.
But the government's new position would put an impossible burden on commanders on the ground. It is up to the government to define what type of operations the CF should conduct in the broad sense that is meant by both the PM and M. Dion. It is not up to the CF to make those types of "operational decisions"; hell, a commander might think it a good military ("operational") move to strike into Pakistan.

Mr Harper is trying, in order to win a political victory, to muddy the fundamental responsibilities for the conduct of military operations between the civil and military authorities. I do not like, nor respect, that approach.


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