Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Living La Vida Montreal

This morning, I attended a talk by a Canadian colonel who had recently been second in command during a recent rotation in Afghanistan.  These are fairly regular events--that the Department of National Defence (yes, acronym is DND!) Public Relations folks organize talks, large and small, throughout the country to explain what has been going on and so forth. 

The talk I attended was of the small kind--mostly military analysts and academic types.  The fun thing about today's talk was that it was almost entirely in French.  This made sense since most of the attendees were native Quebecers and were quite bilingual.  I usually consider myself the most unilingual person in town, but while I missed some of the subtleties, I caught most of the gist of the talk.  It was pretty much the standard "Whole of government" discussion, but I cannot get into the details since the talk was held under Chatham House rules. 

I ended up focusing a bit less on the substance (since I was missing much of it) and more on the English expressions that snuck into the talk, like driving force.  I have noted previously that the standard term for the small units of outsider military folks embedded in Afghan battalions are known as Omelets, which refers to OMLT's--Observer, Mentor Liaison Teams.  And during my trip in Dec 07, I was most amused when officers would say that they need more Omelets in Afghanistan.  Well, what could be sillier?  Well, since the french for team is equipe, the French acronym for the same thing is ELMO, so "we need more ELMOs" is just about the silliest thing I can imagine a NATO official saying. 

The real downside of the talk was its mostly canned slide variety.  Of course, I certainly missed heaps of nuance due to my French-lessness, but the most interesting pieces of information were in response to my question about coordination between the higher ups and the other players in the Kandahar area, which is increasingly complicated by increasingly larger (and varied) American presence. 

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