By Scott Taylor, editor/publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine
The Canadian Armed Forces are currently committed and deployed on five overseas missions, none of which have a clear-cut or achievable objective.
Of course, the old Cold War warhorses will claim that our battle group stationed in Latvia has been successfully deterring Russian aggression into the Baltic States. One could similarly argue that a tinfoil cap is proper protection against alien brain removal, proven by the fact that you still have your brain.
I would think that Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania’s membership in NATO, with that alliance’s pledge of collective defence, coupled with the nuclear arsenals of the U.S., U.K. and France would serve as ample deterrent to even the most ambitious of Russian dictators.
Canadian officers who have served in Latvia know that it was nothing like our decade-long experience in Afghanistan. There will be no letters to the next-of-kin to inform them of a soldier’s death in combat. If the Russians don’t attack, nobody gets killed, and if Russia does trigger nuclear conflagration with NATO in the Baltic, there will be no one left alive to write the letters.
Keeping a battalion of Canadian soldiers in Latvia is an unnecessary waste of $400 million per year, and an added strain on the family lives of those personnel deployed abroad, unaccompanied, for either six months or one year.
We also have about 200 Canadian soldiers deployed in Ukraine as trainers. This is a bit of a sticky wicket (as the cricketers say) in that Ukraine is not a NATO member. Since 2014 Ukraine has been embroiled in a simmering civil war between the Western-backed regime in Kiev and the largely ethnic Russian breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been soundly demonized for supplying military personnel, weapons and equipment to the ethnic Russian separatists. If Putin is evil for interfering militarily in a civil war in a neighbouring country in support of rebels of Russian ethnicity, how can we paint ourselves as angels for training and equipping more young Ukrainian men to kill in that same civil war?
Then we have not one, but two separate missions committed to the mess that once was the nation of Iraq.
One group of special forces operatives and helicopters remain in support of the U.S.-led alliance to defeat Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL) while the second mission will be a Canadian-led, NATO effort to train more young Iraqi men how to kill. These Iraqis will, in turn, prop the corrupt regime in Baghdad.
For the record, and to silence those who prattle on about how the West is democratizing Iraq, the last round of elections failed to produce a verifiable result. A recount was ordered, but before that could happen, somehow, the warehouse containing the ballots burned down. You could not make this stuff up. As a result, the next regime will be headed up by a Shiite cleric and warlord named Muqtada Al-Sadr.
In 2004, this guy was considered public enemy No. 1 by the U.S. when he mobilized his militia to combat the American occupation.
Canada has no seat at the big boy table that will eventually seek to resolve the multifaceted conflict that engulfs Syria, Iraq and eastern Turkey. It will probably require a redrawing of existing maps and perhaps even the creation of new states, but none of that will be concluded with any Canadian say in the matter. In the meantime, we somehow justify the fact that our elite soldiers are teaching more young Iraqi men to kill more effectively.
In Mali, we can at least boast that we are under the UN banner, wearing blue berets, and using our helicopters for medical evacuation missions.
Unfortunately, there is also no end game objective in Mali. Canada’s present commitment of one year will expire long before the fundamental causes of the Malian conflict have been resolved. In other words, our Canadian troops are doing a lot all around the world but achieving very little.