Monday, May 15, 2006

The big, important question - *yawn*

Babble on.

I'm not going to nitpick.

OK, I'm going to nitpick a bit: why is CBC's "Reality Check" an opinion piece strewn with factual errors and assertions of opinion dressed up prettily like facts?

That's it, I promise.

I'm actually here to applaud the article, since it asks the one big question upon which our entire defence policy revolves: what the hell do we want our military to do?

Eventually the questions lead back to the fundamentals? Why does Canada have a military? Who are Canada's enemies: terrorists such as Osama bin Laden? Expansionist Chinese who want Canada's energy? Rogue states like North Korea? Or rogue Americans who want Canada's water?
The fault lies not with the military that Canada does know where its military fits in a changing world. That task is not for Hillier or any other general.

Nor does the fault lie only with the Harper government, but with the succession of governments that went before it. The reality is that until this government or the next figures out Canada's place in the world, nobody will know where to spend that $5.3 billion.

This question is the elephant in the military bunker, and I suspect that the Darfur vs. Afghanistan debate will provide a focal point for two visions that need not necessarily compete, but surely will.

That is, the debate might spark some introspection if Canadians bother to pay attention to the issue for longer than it takes them to finish their morning coffee. I'm not holding my breath.

Cross-posted to The Torch

Babble off.

Update: And what is up with the crown-behind-the-head photo-fetish at CP? OK, I'm really done nitpicking now.


At 4:14 p.m., Blogger wonderdog said...

Damn you, Damian, I was going to post that one to the Torch!

I don't have to tell you I've been honking that horn for some time. And the question is not Afghanistan vs. Darfur, but how many Afghanistan/Darfurs we want to be able to do, in what kind of force, for how long ... and knowing that, how are we going to decide, when faced with Afghanistan or Darfur or the next one, whether we should commit -- bearing in mind the "how long" bit.

At 5:03 p.m., Blogger PGP said...

Without the ability to defend yourself you must rely on the will of others to defend you.

There are ALLWAYS forces at work to undermine a nations wellbeing. Not all of them ideological and few of them militaristic.

BUT "And this is the big important thing!" If you are going to be respected in this world you have to be able to rise to whatever challenge is thrown in your face.
The world sees what we do and what we do not do and make no mistake about, there are forces out there that see our weakness and wish to exploit it.
The mere fact that we can or cannot act effectively in places such as Afghanistan or Africa or anywhere else for that matter is "A big Important Question" !

At 5:08 p.m., Blogger arctic_front said...

What is Canada's military purpose??
hmmmm, lets just ask ourselves that question pre-dated to 1914, or 1939?

In both those years, Canada didn't have an identifiable enemy prior to the out-break of war. We hadn't been overtly threatened, nor attacked.

Now, fast-forward to today. We have been overtly threatened, and although not attacked, yet, it could come at any time. We are ill-prepared on the home front to deal with a terrorist attack, and the overwhelming attitude of the general population is that Canadians are peacekeepers, not warriors.

In both cases, 1914 and 1939, war was declared, and Canada was there to do our part to fight oppression and tyrany. We fought above our weight and distinguished ourselves on the battle field, and on the home front in both cases. We mustered an all-volunteer army far larger than our small population could reasonably be expected. We also have never lost a war, never been invaded except by the USA in 1812, and never ran from a fight. Yes we lost a battle or two, and had to retreat on occasion when all was lost, but we never quit, and never failed to stick with it.

fast forward to today. We lose a dozen soldiers fighting for freedom in Afghganistan, and immeadiately there is a call from the left to cut and run and resort back to the 'traditional' role of peackeeping that has somehow become the only thing our military is capable of, or, what we have collectively determined, what we should be doing.

I have no quarrel with Canada's role in the world as a major player in the role as peace keeping, heck, we invented it. But to assume that our role in this world is reduced to just that, is frankly, rediculous.

Past, current and future conflicts around the world are ever-changing. The future conflicts we face are un-known to us now, but anybody that is forward looking will realize that the massive natural resources and land we inhabit is going to become ever more valuable and be ever more desirable by others.

In the last 4 decades we have shifted our defenses more and more on the Americans, and as we have done so, we have abdicated our sovereignty. this stance will come back to haunt us.

As we cower behind the USA, and further shirk our responsibility to maintain peace and democracy in the world, we further reduce our nation's relevancy and influence.

We have come to a point where we have been threatened, and have to chose if we will fight the next war on our soil or that of the forces that threaten us.

Our population has become insulated from the reality of death from an enemy that is determined to bring the fight to us. We have our head in the sand and can't believe anybody would want to harm us. We are setting ourselves up for a big fall. The fight ahead is coming, and we cannot avoid it.

So, back to the question of the purpose and mission of Canada's military. Do we deny and ignore the threats we face in hope that we will be over-looked by our ememies, hoping that our good-will is enough? Or do we wait to have our own 9/11? Did Spain or England and of course the USA not feel the sting of complacentcy?

How shockingly and quickly will attitudes change after we are attacked? Will it come? Will we be spared? Should we sit on our hands and wait to find out?

Canada has a history, not of peace keeping, but of valour and duty. We have always proved ourselves in a time of battle and always brought honour to our country. Are we so soft now that we will ignore the obvious? Deny our responsibility to freedom and defending freedom for others?

We cannot defer our respnsibilities around the world to maintain our own way of life at the expense of others who strive to achieve the very values we hold so dear.

So, what is the purpose of our military? I ask you to answer that, as I have given my interpretation. What's yours?

At 5:58 p.m., Blogger PGP said...

I would rather see a significant improvement in our capabilities as a standing force than see a need for the kind of reaction 1914 or 1939.
Well said A.F......

At 10:57 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Both PGP and Arctic Front have said we need to step it up. But again, what does that mean? Who will we be fighting? Overseas or at home? Offensive operations, or defensive only?

Our mix of forces, our training, our doctrine all flow from this educated guess.

Get it wrong and you end up taking a knife to a gun fight, or a MGS to a MBT battle.

As far as the idea that we should just improve our 'all around' capability, that just isn't a workable option these days. A country our size can't afford to make mistakes in procurement or training - we haven't the budget or the manpower for it.

At 5:59 a.m., Blogger arctic_front said...

Right you are Mr. Brooks.

We have to equip our forces to fight a war like every other army. The wars are much better off being fought 'over there' than on our home ice. We don't need to equip for an amphibious assault, but we need our troops to hve the finest, and most modern equipment available. Our CF-18's are 20 years out of date now, and we aren't even asked to send them anymore because they are so obsolete electronically, and the weapons inferior to our enemies.

Our navy is to small to even look after our own coasts, the submarines are a disgrace, and the navy can't even sail our equipment to New Jersey let alone the Persian Gulf. Our strategic airlift is non-exsistant and our tactical airlift is so long in the tooth the wings will start falling off the CC-130's before we see new aircraft.

I know we don't have the budgets needed to fix it all at once, but by god! we better get the political will and the support of the people to do what needs to be done before we rank lower than Haiti in military might.

But seriously, the military has to be able to fight, and fight to win in whatever theatre we may be asked to go. We aren't fighting the cold war anymore. We know the enemy is going to be Islamo-fascist and terrorist. urban, desert and hostage rescue are the places our soldiers will be fighting and they will need high-tech to defeat the guerilla fighters we will be up against.

Intelligence gathering, UAV's and stand-off weapons are the new tools of the trade, and boots on the ground to make it stick. Fighter-bombers overhead to drop precision ordinance, and forward air support to aid our soldiers on the ground. We need tactical helicopters to move out men and equipment to the fight, and to airlift our wounded to hospital. The Navy needs reliable, read NEW, submarines with true under-ice capability, read nuclear, and the coastal patrol and anti-submarine and anti-ship defenses.

Last but not least, we need soldiers, sailors and aircrew to be able to get the job done. I believe we will get those only after the morale and dignity so long-lost to the CAF returns with the arrival of the equipment and tools to make the career of soldiering respectable again.

All the above is going to seem pretty cheap in cost right after somebody decides we are a soft target. It will be too late then to fluff up our feathers and demand that somebody "DO something!" about it. Who is going to rush to our defenses? we just assume that NATO will do our bidding for us....or the USA? I think we kinda blew it with the Yanks over Iraq, so we might be left holding the bag. A sad display for any country as rich as ours is.

At 3:02 p.m., Blogger wonderdog said...

There is no need to equip Canada to fight a war "like any other army."

Comparisons to 1914 and 1939 are specious. In those cases, we found ourselves insulated from the war by a nice, big ocean, which gave us lots of time to ramp up and prepare to fight. What we are talking about now is what troop levels and equipment we require to tackle our immediate tasks.

Those tasks do not include refighting WWII, or fighting the kind of war that we envisioned in Europe during the Cold War. That kind of warfare is obsolete; a major global conflagration involving advanced forces will quickly develop into a nuclear exchange. Quite apart from which, Canada simply cannot afford to maintain armed forces on the level required to fight that kind of conflict.

The fact is, most Canadians can't even articulate the range of tasks that the CF might be expected to perform. Instead of a rational examination of those tasks, we get calls to have a big, proud army that can fight wars, or a huggy-feely peacekeeping force (from those with no idea of what peacekeeping actually involves).

At 10:49 p.m., Blogger lance said...

Wonderdog sums it up wonderfully. Comparisons to the WW's is useless at best. To be blunt, the military in general was in worse shape immediately prior to both of those wars than it is now.

Personally, I'm of the belief that we should be able to support and supply approximately 5k troops (shooters) in one remote conflict and about a thousand troops in at least one other conflict. I'm not sure if tactical or strategic airlift is more important, I'll leave that to others with more knowledge.

As far as the Navy goes, AF, you're off the mark. Yes the subs are dead-weight, with the demise of the Soviets the single purpose for them (subs in general) is sovereignty in the north, which our boats are useless for.

The skimmers are _definitely_ above grade. Between surface, air force and acoustical capabilities, our coasts are well defended, have no fear from that. The CDN Navy is probably one of the more advanced navies in the world.

Fully funded (there being the caveat), the Navy's capabilities are actually quite astounding.


At 11:39 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Lance, don't you feel subs do an excellent job of surveillance and deterrance for the money and manpower they use? What about clandestine insertion and recovery of special ops troops?

Personally, I think subs are generally a very cost-effective weapon, and one that provides unique capabilities to boot. I'm just disappointed that we didn't see fit to purchase a better sub for our needs.

At 3:42 p.m., Blogger wonderdog said...

I'm not really a big fan of submarines for Canada.

Frankly, when we talk about inserting special ops forces, we're getting to the point of wanting a ship and then seeking reasons to use it, rather than having a reason in the first place. Or at least, that's how I see it. That kind of mission is pretty low on the list of Canadian requirements.

Arctic sovereignty is a thorny problem. Because of the vast size of the area, it could consume a lot of resources. And subs aren't really the answer there -- the amount of ocean a sub can monitor at any time is pretty small.

At 2:36 a.m., Blogger lance said...

ESM, I'll grant you, but you still have to be pretty close to a coast-line to do that succesfully. We certainly don't have the capabilities of a 688 or similar. Plus, all that data has to be lag-timed to Blackrock unless we're sharing.

Regarding deterrance, that isn't the purpose of a sub. Subs don't project influence, they react to it. You can't be a deterrent unless you're projecting power. Traditionally (which means it'll be wrong in the next war) subs are for the most part a defensive platform utilizing offensive tactics.

As far as special-ops, I'm with Wonderdog . . . that isn't what we do and so using that as an excuse for a platform isn't really being accurate to the needs of the forces.

Granted, the cost ration of a half decent surveillance submarine is much better then a manouverable satelite system, if ESM wasn't a CDN specialty I'd dismiss it like the special ops . . . but it is one of our "no problem" missions.

Me personally, I'm more worried about N.Korean moving to SSGN/BN's and then we have the cold war all over again and no pieces to play with.

I think the NK's only have older SSK's at the moment, and bad ones at that, Romeo's and Whiskeys. You can hear them from a long ways away, so I don't know how realistic that threat is.

Their ballistics are now good for 5k km's and that puts an arctic attack back on the burner. I don't believe they have cruise missiles, at least according to the experts, but that doesn't mean they aren't developing them.

That's why I think the artic front is the only real excuse to have them, but as Wonderdog also states, ice flows really degrade sonar performance.

Chances are there's already an acoustical line or two strung up there so we would probably only need about four SSN's to hunt down anything that twigged.

I think I've said on your site before that I'm in favour of nuclear subs. I completely agree w/ you regarding the "deal" we got on the boat anchors.



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