Friday, November 4, 2011

So Soon They Forget

I have been slow in catching up on the coverage of the Canadian effort over the skies of Libya.  But I just had to react when I saw this piece.  It addresses a key theme--the influence Canada gets when it "punches above its weight" in NATO missions (yes, do drink). 

But the authors, John Ibbitson and Daniel Leblanc, then make a big mistake:
With a Canadian general in charge, Canada couldn’t have red-carded missions even if it wanted to, which is why Canadian CF-18 pilots often found themselves in the most dangerous skies.
Ask Rick Hillier about this.  I am sure he would be steamed.  In 2004, Hillier, then a Lieutenant General, was the Canadian who commanded the entire NATO effort in Afghanistan as COMISAF (commander of ISAF).  He did not control the Canadian contingent that was deployed at the same time.  He would have to ask a Canadian colonel if he wanted the Canadians to do anything, and, frequently the Colonel would say no.  At the time, the ground forces deployed from Canada to Bosnia and Afghanistan had very restrictive rules--caveats--and so Canadians earned the nickname "CANTBATs" (as opposed to CANBAT for Canadian Battalion) for saying no frequently.

When I interviewed Major General Pete Devlin (now Lt.General Devlin, head of the Canadian army) about his experience as the NATO commander of the forces in Kabul, he rated the Canadians as being in the middle tier when ranking countries by reliability.  Again, this was when Hillier was commanding ISAF.

So, to be clear, just having a command role does not mean that a country has less restrictions (um, ask the Germans about that).

This is your media error correction piece of the day.

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