- Afghanistan (1) “Upon arriving in Mazar-e-Sharif, we met the U.S. Army team that we would be replacing. It didn’t take much time for a U.S. Army sergeant to tell me, “I hope you have thick skin because we haven’t had a female adviser down at Camp Shaheen, so I don’t know how they will act toward you.” My first reaction was to shake my head, throw my hands up and say, “Really? Aren’t we past this – females in the military — by now!” In Canada perhaps we are, but welcome to Afghanistan ….”
- Afghanistan (2) Another interpreter told, “no, thanks” to moving here.
- Afghanistan (3) Canadian Press straightens out their lead sentence in this story on the Kandahar Air Field cenotaph being dismantled and brought back to Canada – way to respond to a suggestion, CP!
- Afghanistan (4) Minister of Defence plus others come back from Afghanistan (via CF Info-Machine).
- “Defence Minister Peter MacKay says he plans to ask his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak about reports that Israel’s leaders have discussed plans to attack Iran’s nuclear sites. Barak, who along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a tough line on Iran, is due to visit Canada next week. Speaking to reporters in Kandahar after a day trip to Kabul, MacKay said Saturday that the “dynamics have changed and will continue to change” as tensions escalate between nuclear-armed Israel and Iran ….”
- DND allowed to keep some money it didn’t spend (but don’t get used to it). “…. up to $11 billion in approved funding remained in public coffers. In 2009, the government approved $6.3 billion, $9.4 billion in 2010 and $11.2 billion in 2011. When pressed on why the funding was never spent, Flaherty said rebuilding the Canadian Forces was a factor. “We have a very large program to rebuild the Canadian Armed Forces and found repeatedly that they cannot get as much done in a given year as they perhaps thought they were going to,” said Flaherty, who was in Honolulu, Hawaii for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. “At the end of the year, we look at what is happening within the departments. We let them carry over some cash from year to year, but it’s limited because we don’t want to create that kind of expectation that if you don’t use the money that is allocated to it, you get to use it the next year,” he added ….”
- Federal politicians join the CFL in honouring vets – an MP in Edmonton and a Senator in Montreal.
- Again with the “end of the beginning” messaging on the Victoria-class subs (previous occurances here and here)! “Canada’s navy is promising its Victoria-class submarines will by fully operational by 2013 — nearly 15 years after the boats were purchased from the United Kingdom. Speaking with W5’s Lloyd Robertson on Oct. 28, navy commander Vice Admiral Paul Maddison said he understands Canadians’ frustration with the submarine program. “I understand why they would feel impatient. I ask all Canadians for patience. We are at the end of a long beginning,” Maddison said ….”
- “Lockheed Martin, builder of the controversial F-35 stealth fighter, is lining up to make a bid on the Harper government’s planned purchase of fixed-wing search-and-rescue (FWSAR) planes — an idea that’s apparently being warmly received in deficit-minded Ottawa. The giant U.S. manufacturer, the world’s largest defence contractor, is preparing a bid to build more Hercules transports for the air force, say several defence and industry sources. A spokesman confirmed the interest, but was coy on the details. “We look forward to seeing the detailed statement of requirements and look forward to offering a cost-effective, affordable solution,” Peter Simmons, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, told The Canadian Press ….” More on the FWSAR program here.
- Canadian Troubles in Egypt (1) “A Montreal man teaching in Egypt has died of his wounds after being caught in the crossfire of a gun battle in the country’s south, local media reports said Saturday. The Egyptian news service Bikya Masr said Jean-Francois Pelland lived in Cairo, where he was a teacher and football coach. The news service said Pelland was touring southern Egypt with a friend when members of a feuding family opened fire on his car on Wednesday. The service said armed men fired when the car refused to stop, thinking that those inside the vehicle were from a rival tribe ….” More here and here.
- Canadian Troubles in Egypt (2) “One person was killed and at least 11 wounded on Sunday in clashes between the army and protesters sparked by concerns about pollution from a fertilizer plant in northern Egypt, security officials said. Egypt’s ruling military council later closed down the plant, jointly owned by state-owned Misr Oil Processing Company (Mopco) and Canada’s Agrium, state media reported, after days of demonstrations. Residents first took to the streets on Tuesday demanding the relocation of the nitrogen plant in the city of Damietta. Protesters closed off the city’s port on the Mediterranean coast and roads next to it on Sunday, state news agency MENA said ….”
You’ve seen the tea leaf reading here and elsewhere about how Canadian politicians have been weasel-wording their way around what the task will be in Afghanistan post-2011.
I chalk it up to two things:
1) Nobody knows exactly what the new, improved mission will look like.
2) Poor communications about what little is known.
E.R. Campbell over at Milnet.ca has an interesting, maybe more elegant theory (emphasis his):
I’m guessing we are watching, in all these contradictory statements from official Ottawa, a few of the symptoms of a very intense battle for the foreign policy soul of the Conservative Party of Canada.
On one side, on what I will call the activist/internationalist (or, maybe, the Liberal St Laurent/Martin) side are, I think, Peter MacKay and a few Alberta and Ontario MPs including e.g. Jim Prentice, Jim Flaherty and Peter Kent. On the other side, on what I will call the domestic/isolationist side are Stephen Harper and his closest political advisors.
The activist/internationalist position is fairly easy to describe, and Paul Martin did so, quite well, in the link above.
The domestic/isolationist view is a bit more complex: at its roots it says, “Trudeau was on the right track; we have too many problems of our own; we cannot afford to go swaning about, all over the world, helping or fighting all and sundry. We are not going to back away, completely, but we are going to focus on our own backyard, basically the Caribbean. And we will be joining with the Americans, in military mission, now and again, when helping them advances our national interests. Our strengths are economic and we must play to that strength by leading in e.g. the G-20. We are not a significant military power and Canadians do not want to be a military power. We recognize the need for small, but very flexible and effective armed forces and we will spend what is necessary to have them. We will, occasionally, use our military ‘tools,’ but only when other means of advancing our national interests fail.”
It is not clear to me that either side has the political capital to win its position. This war, which has, from day one, been seen as an American war, into which we were dragged – how soon we forget the national mood in the late summer of 2001 – has damaged the activist/internationalist side, but it has done so without strengthening Harper’s position. Canadians remain, very broadly but not too deeply, wedded to a variant of the St Laurent/Martin, Liberal position, but they want to be Pearsonian “helpful fixers” without paying the price in lives or treasure that Mike Pearson so clearly foresaw.
Political food for thought.