Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lessons Unlearned: Ottawa Distracted by Squirrels Again

This captures the gist of many defence/foreign policy debates.  The latest one: are the Canadian Forces doing combat in Iraq?  I got sucked into this discussion last year, and probably didn't help it much.

To say that the CF is or is not doing combat is a distraction.  It can be fun to play word games, but having permission to shoot first or second is really not the most important question these days.

This is interesting:
“The rules of engagement allow Canadian Forces to defend themselves, [to] anticipate their defence so that they can engage a hostile act or ... intent before it materializes,” Gen. Vance told the Commons defence committee.
But it ain't that important.  What would be important is if the Canadian Special Operations Forces were engaging in raids (not that we can tell).  Or that the trainers we are deploying might be embedded and engaged in significant offensive operations alongside Kurdish/Iraqi Security Forces.  But they are not.  This is not Afghanistan where Omelets (Observer Mentor Liaison Teams) were fairly standard procedure (although countries varied in the rules they operated under). 

So, what would be the important questions?
  • How does training the Kurds help kick ISIS out of Iraq if the Kurds are not likely to be willing to fight very far beyond the territories they claim (Kurdistan)?
  • How does training the Iraqi Security Forces work?  Will we be training those that work alongside the Iranian militias?  Will folks we train be better able to engage in ethnic cleansing?
  • How do we know that the Iraqi military forces will be used well or poorly by the Iraqi government?
  • All this training might not mean that much unless the Iraqi government finds some way to credibly assure the Sunnis and Kurds that the government will not abuse its power .... again.  What role can Canada play in that?
I am having flashbacks to Afghanistan and the detainee issue.  Yes, being accused of war crimes was significant but should not have dominated the parliamentary discussions the way it did (see the handy figures in Adapting in the Dust).  The questions should have been focused on whether the effort was adapting sufficiently to changes on the ground (nope), the challenges of working with those who abused power (the Karzai family), the relationship between Canada's objectives in Kandahar and the larger war effort, etc.

But, no, tis easier to look and see SQUIRREL!

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