Friday, October 29, 2010

Canadians and The Future of the Military, part 2 (or 6)

"An undersized force, comprised almost entirely of under-equipped soldiers from developing countries, can't do everything," writes Laura Seay, a political scientist and Africa specialist at Morehouse College in Atlanta. "The UN in Congo is burdened with an almost impossible task." 
 This quote reveals the contradictions in thinking about UN peacekeeping effort.  Is it that the resources are insufficient or is that the task is "almost impossible."  This article, which posits Congo, as the potential next mission for the Canadian Forces, ignores my quote earlier in the week--that this kind of effort would involve significant combat.  Peacekeeping can work, as the article names a bunch of successful examples, but there are many reasons why the more powerful countries have largely stayed out of the Congo.  Of course, part of it is that these countries are already over-stretched by Afghanistan (and Iraq) and other missions.  But part of it is that Congo is a very, very difficult terrain with very little government capacity.

There are good reasons to intervene there:

Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and former UN special envoy in Africa, believes that Canada could provide crucial assets for the Congo mission.
"The Congo is just desperate for peacekeepers, and Canada is well-suited to make a significant contribution in what is possibly the worst place in the world for women, and one of the worst conflict areas on the planet. It would restore us to the international position that we should hold."
Making a contribution.  Hmmm.  Where have I heard that before?  Possibly the worst place for women?  Sounds familiar?  Worst conflict areas?  Sounds like Afghanistan to me. 

I really don't expect the Harper government to send significant numbers of troops to Congo:
  • it would be expensive at a time of budget cutting;
  • he has learned that it is easier to control what the military says than what it does, so having it do more goes against Harper's control freak-ness;
  • such a mission could become unpopular quite quickly as the CF starts taking casualties and has to kill people;
  • none of the big allies will be joining Canada, and despite the article's claims that Canada has heaps of stuff that it can add to the mixture, Canadian Forces are too small and have other limitations that require them to deploy with other capable countries.
Once again, the imagined use of a military seems much more attractive than the current effort.  

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