Monday, May 31, 2010

Conduct Unbecoming

The top Canadian general in Afghanistan, BG Menard, was relieved of duty and sent home this weekend because he apparently engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer--having sex with someone in a battlezone and also engaged in adultery. 

To some, this may sound somewhat strange since restricting folks from having sex for a ten month tour seems extreme.  However, given that this guy was supposed to be the leader and model for the 2,800 Canadians on the ground in Afghanistan and also leading thousands more troops from other countries, high expectations are not unreasonable. 

What is the pattern here?  Well, two possible ones.  Menard is the second senior leader in the past year to embarrass the Canadian Forces. Colonel Russell was arrested for multiple murders--a far more serious set of crimes.
Military historian Jack Granatstein said it is important to note that the allegations against Gen. Ménard are “infinitely less serious” than those against Col. Williams. If proven, they will primarily demonstrate “stupidity on the part of a commanding officer who’s job it is to set an example.”[G&M]
The second pattern is one of Menard's own stupidity.  Aside from lacking the self-control to keep his pants zipped, he also gained attention for accidentally discharging his rifle during a visit by the Chief of the Defence Staff. I don't know if the new allegations would have been enough without the prior incident, but clearly he was on thin ice.

To be fair, we do not know what Menard did, as all we have are allegations.  But the general in charge of all CF operations abroad, Lt. General Lessard, acted immediately upon hearing about the allegations and conferring with the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Minister of Defence.  This suggests that the allegations have some serious weight, especially given the timing of events in Afghanistan.

Because this all happened quickly, Lessard has sent BG Vance to take Menard's place, as Vance held this post before Menard and is the best prepared to replace him.  This might cause some challenges since he has little experience with the CF units in theatre and the staff mostly were those appointed to those positions by Menard.  However, most of these people are professionals (unlike, apparently, Menard) so it should work out.  But the Canadian Forces certainly didn't need this controversy. 

Nor did I, as it means that BG Vance will not be participating in an event at which I am speaking next month, so I will not have the chance to interview him  And interviewing Menard sometime down the wrong just got a bit harder.  Reality can often be inconvenient for research.

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