Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Video: Former CDS Gen. (ret'd) Hillier on TVO's The Agenda

Interviewed by Steve Paikin extensively (35 minutes), Nov. 2, about his memoirs, lots on Afstan:
Particularly telling, concerning the lack of public understanding of the mission, is Gen. Hillier's recounting (26:30) meeting with Canadian six or seven journalists at Kandahar Air Field (only one TV camera). The general asked how many had been outside the wire; only one hand went up (after all, most of our cheapskate news organizations only have one person there, mainly for the death watch - MC). He does commend by name certain journalists who have been in Afstan.

He's also very supportive of US and ISAF commander Gen. McChrystal ("Stan"). Pity there's no transcript for the show. And Gen. Hillier will not run for public office. More on the General's memoirs here, here and here.

Update: In response to Jim's comment, my own views from a previous post (I cannot say if Gen. Hillier unfairly "did only promote the land force") but at that time, and I think for the forseeable future, the Army will be the primary instrument of any likely government's major use of the CF for foreign policy purposes):
...Money, equipments and personnel for the military are important. What is more important is what a country expects the military to be prepared to do with that money, equipments and personnel. That is what this [Conservative] government is unwilling to try to specify.

Note the proportion of money devoted to maintaining a blue water Navy, as opposed to one focussed on coastal defence and sovereignty protection. Why does our Navy need to be engaged in the Arabian Sea interdicting rum-runners (see Update)? Or hash smugglers?

The answer: jobs building and repairing ships in Canada, and the hoped-for attendant votes. Western countries have a surplus of frigates/destroyers for any likely multilateral blue water operations requiring such vessels. Canadian ones are not essential for the West as a whole; we are exceedingly unlikely to operate on the blue waters on our own.

Then there's the Air Force. Does Canada really require fighters with top-end aerial combat abilities (as opposed to interception and patrol in defence of Canada and North America) and ground-attack capabilities [this Conservative government is completely unwilling so to use them in Afstan]?

Trying to maintain "combat-capable, flexible, multi-role" Canadian Forces for all three services is, to my mind, simply impossible for those services all to be effective and efficient, given the limited funding that our governments (both stripes) are willing to provide.

So a true "defence strategy" would attempt to:

1) Outline how the government thinks the CF should be employed for national, and then international, purposes;

2) Outline what mix of service capabilities are required to fulfill those roles.

But that would require serious decisions with political and service consequences this government is not willing to make--nor are, I am sure, most Canadians. Will any Canadian government ever be so ready?

More at the comment thread here (I'm for a mini-Marine Corps plus national sovereignty protection)...


Blogger Jim said...

And 'lo they were correct as per the first quote from the book in the video. He did only promote the land force.

6:54 p.m., November 04, 2009  
Blogger George said...

Given that his career saw its flowering in that lost decade of darkness, you have to admire him for rejecting the careerist safety net that so many others gladly accepted. That he repudiated that course of action meant the difference ... definitely to the army but the Canadian Forces in general.

Much as people want him in politics, do you think a man of honour such as Rick Hillier could tolerate the sleaze and amorality of being a politician. (I agree he would not long be a political hack.)

If we had a presidential system in reality ... as opposed to the PMO aggrandizement we now endure, General Hillier's political contribution could be meaningful.

I would hope that some millionaire would finance such a strategic discussion as General Hillier quite rightly identifies as a necessity for Canada. To my mind, something like that is much more valuable a contribution to Canada and Canadians than purchasing a car company in Europe.


7:34 p.m., November 04, 2009  
Blogger Anand said...

Nice post. Was surprised that Canadians have so little interest in Afghanistan (ratings for shows on Afghanistan are very low.)

Given that the Canadian elections just happened in 2008, could Canada have another midterm election next year? After the election could the Canadians commit to a long term advising mission for the Kandahar AUP?

9:10 p.m., November 06, 2009  
Blogger George said...

Anand ... Canada does not have mid-terms in the same sense as the US does. In theory, our federal system shoudl have general elections on a fixed term basis ... every four years. All members of parliament thus have the same term. (Our other house is an appointed Senate without elections.)

Secondly, there is a House resolution, agreed to by all parties, that the Canadian participation in the NATO force in Afghanistan will end 31 Dec 2010. Failing a new act revoking this, I cannot see how the CF could remain in a combat role. As everyone else has already said, if any reconstruction, reconciliation, etc. troops don't also go outside the wire and participate in combat activites, they will have absolutely no credibility with the Afghans and thus no chance at success.

I agree with General Hillier. To revoke the existing time-limited act will require a significant examination of Canada's strategic stance both world-wide and as it applies to our role in Afghanistan.

I hope this helps, Anand.


3:50 p.m., November 07, 2009  

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