Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Silly Season in Ottawa Regarding the Military Mission

Apparently, post-election, post-honeymoon Ottawa is the silly season.  How so?  Lots of silly commentary about the Liberal Party and its various stances.  Because not much has happened yet, people have to find stories where none exist or stretch things.  My favorite examples from yesterday and my reactions:

  • Folks noticed that Roland Paris, who is now Senior Adviser on International Affairs to the Prime Minister, wrote a blog post last winter critical of the Conservatives' stance on the Iraq mission, and much of that post still applies to the Liberals today: that we are not doing combat in Iraq but combat-ish stuff. 
    • First, I noted that Trudeau picking an adviser that does not always agree with him might just be a good thing.
    • Second, yes, the Liberals have the same stance that was criticized earlier because the joy of Westminster politics is to gainsay rather than focus on real issues.  The clear line that both the Liberals and Conservatives have chosen: no Canadian conventional operations on the ground.  That is what we tend to conceive as combat, but obviously combat is a fuzzier term--does it include the trainers returning fire if they are fired upon?  
    • Third, the piece notes (and in my issue of the paper highlights) Roland's support for the air mission that Trudeau opposed.  Again, one picks the smartest folks who can help out, not the most like-minded, unless one wants group think.
    • Now, admittedly, Roland is a friend, but I am not so much defending him as pondering how silly the coverage is.  Of course, Trudeau will have advisers who might have said something that disagrees with the current stance.  The only way to insure complete message management would be to either only pick people either have always agreed completely or have never written or said anything... or engage in time travel to shut them up and force convergence.  One of the big boons of the new government is precisely that they are not engaged in strict message management--that they will engage folks on twitter and actually talk about stuff in public without being highly scripted.
  • Andrew Potter, of the Ottawa Citizen, tweeted out "That's embarrassing" in response to the statement by Chief of Defence Staff Jon Vance saying that Canadian troops doing the training would have air cover provided by other countries.  
    • Not really.  I posed a question on twitter: other than the past year plus in Iraq, when was the last time Canadian troops on the ground relied on the Royal Canadian Air Force for air support--planes, not helicopters.  The answer: World War II.  In Afghanistan, Canada always had air support provided by other allies--the US, the British, the Dutch, whoever was flying fighter-bombers were there to help out allies.
    • Thus, this is not just nothing new, but the norm.
So, yeah, not a great day for commentary on all things Canadian military stuff.

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