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The Manley Report

The Manley Report

The Report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (hereafter the Manley Report or just the Report) has been published, and Ruxted is, generally, pleased with the results.  In particular, we are happy to see endorsement of our recent message that combat is necessary in Afghanistan1 and we agree that more soldiers are definitely required.

With one possible small exception, Ruxted fully supports the five recommendations on pages 37 and 38.  Our concern is that some may see a binding obligation in the comment that Canada should “secure medium helicopter lift capacity and high-performance unmanned Aerial Vehicles … before February 2009.” This is an excellent recommendation, and we take comfort that the report says “should” as opposed to “must.”  As long as these equipments do not become a prerequisite for remaining in Afghanistan, then Ruxted will give its support to this recommendation.

We were also very pleased to see the call for another nation to provide a battle group to join our forces in Kandahar.  The whole ISAF mission is plagued by a lack of troops, and there was an unhelpful naivety in previous opposition recommendations that Canadian forces leave whether they are replaced or not.  In an area comparable in size to New Brunswick the presence of a much larger two-nation task force will go a long way to improving security and the safety of all persons, military and civilian, in Kandahar.  Ruxted hopes that the invitation of come join us in Kandahar is better received by NATO allies than the invitation of come replace us in Kandahar.

While the Manley Report completely knocked the intellectual and moral props out from under Gilles Duceppe, Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton, it does little to address Stephen Harper’s main problem.  It fails to provide him with a simple “make it go away” strategy that would appeal to the solid majority of Canadians who, in this case, believes “doing the right thing” is just too difficult and too expensive. That aside, there are, perhaps, two points from the recently released Manley Report that matter most:

First: The blood of hundreds of Canadians, dead and wounded, mostly young men and women who are, simultaneously ordinary, as the NDP loves to define ‘ordinary Canadians,’ and extraordinary, in bravery and commitment, has earned us a place of honour in the councils of nations, a place we abandoned in 1970 with then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s misbegotten foreign policy, published in that year; and

Second: It is now, clearly and as agreed by the leaders of Her Majesty's Official Loyal Opposition, the duty of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to tell Canadians why we are there – something he has, thus far, failed to do. We would prefer to think that this failure results from Prime Minister Harper being unable to get the message out through the static. In the absence of a clear message other alternatives are allowed to present themselves.  Unpleasant alternatives, such as being afraid to alienate voters, or being genuinely unable to grasp the complexities of fighting a modern counter-insurgency, are preferable to the most heinous of all: that he is using the mission and the soldiers as props in a small, partisan, domestic political squabble.  It is imperative that the Prime Minister present his message clearly and that he be permitted to present his message fairly by the opposition parties.  Whatever the reasons for the confusion in the minds of Canadians, the blood which has earned us a higher place in the world is also on his hands, as it is on the hands of all of us who support or previously supported this mission. Canadians need to know, need to be convinced, that he (and his predecessors) sent young Canadians to be maimed and killed for something greater than a short term political advantage.

Shortly after taking office Prime Minister Harper demonstrated that he understood one of the reasons Canadians are fighting and dying in Afghanistan: to burnish our badly tarnished leadership credentials. He said, in a 5 July 2006 speech, that one (but only one) of the reasons Canadians are fighting and dying in Afghanistan is  “that is the price of leadership in the world," and “It is also the price of moving the world forward."

Some might have thought the comment calculating, even cold, but Prime Minister Harper understood then that the only reason we maintain a tough, superbly disciplined professional army is to protect and promote our vital interests in the world, including here in Canada.

Improving our international leadership position is one of our vital interests: enhancing our reputation in global security matters pays dividends in trade and commerce, too. “Moving the world forward” is a domestic vital interest – the “world” of 2000 was unstable and the failed state of Afghanistan provided al Qaeda with a firm base from which it could manage dastardly attacks on New York and Washington D.C. Helping the people of Afghanistan to rebuild a nation-state that is strong enough to avoid failing and falling into the grasp of terrorists is “moving the world forward” and it is one of Canada’s vital interests.

Therefore: We are in Afghanistan in order to protect and promote our vital interests, Canadian interests. Happily they are also the world’s interests as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon explained when, in a recent Globe and Mail article, he too knocked the stuffing out of the Duceppe/Dion/Layton positions. Our interests also coincide with the interests of the Afghan people and their lawfully elected government. We are fighting a counterinsurgency campaign and “winning hearts and minds” is still the sine qua non of victory in such campaigns. Everything we do to win hearts and minds helps the legitimate government of Afghanistan to extend its reach and helps the ‘ordinary Afghans’ (the ones we would like to hope are in the thoughts and prayers of Jack Layton and the NDP) resist the Taliban terror.

The Manley Report said that, “Canadian objectives in Afghanistan are both honourable and achievable.”  The panel members went on to say that, “The aim there is not to create some fanciful model of prosperous democracy. Canadian objectives are more realistic: to contribute, with others, to a better governed, stable and developing Afghanistan whose government can protect the security of the country and its people.” (Report, p. 33) This is very close to what Ruxted has been saying2 for more than a year. To get there – to those honourable and achievable objectives - we must continue to fight the good fight and finish the assignment, even if, as several very senior military officers have suggested, it is the work of a generation.

It is true that many Canadians may object to any military mission which does not serve an immediate humanitarian purpose, but Ruxted would remind these Canadians that there is such a purpose.  The war in Afghanistan has at least the same moral integrity as traditional UN peacekeeping as our soldiers are fighting for the same peace, security, civil-safety and humanitarian standards.  We continue to hope that the Prime Minister will state in no uncertain terms that turning our back on the Afghan people would be hypocritical of a nation that self-indulges in a vision of itself as a peacekeeper.  Canadians must come to accept this because the reality is that peacekeeping has forever changed.

The Report stated that Afghanistan “is not the same UN peacekeeping that Canadians have known and supported ... there is not yet a peace to keep, no truce to supervise or “green line” to watch. This is a peace-enforcement operation, as provided for under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. It is a collective use of force, under international law, to address a threat to international peace and security posed by continuing disorder in Afghanistan. It reflects as well the changing nature of UN mandated peace missions, which have become more robust in the use of force to protect civilians since the harsh lessons learned in the murderous disasters of Bosnia and Rwanda. Similar ... missions have served in Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ... these are the kinds of force the UN might be called upon to apply more often in future, where the human rights and human security of ordinary people are threatened. When the UN and its members authorize such a mission, Canadians have a choice: Canada can participate ... or we can leave the mission to others.” (Report, p. 21) This puts paid to the simplistic “let’s go back to traditional UN peacekeeping” nonsense put about by ill informed, anti-military academics, busybodies and commentators.

Canadian economist Robert Calderisi said3 “As international terrorists search for alternative safe havens, as new diseases like SARS and avian flu spread beyond their countries of origin, and as mass human migration begins to rival nuclear proliferation as the dominant challenge in the early twenty-first century there will be rising interest in ... containing the international ripple effects of failed states. Most of those states are in Africa.” The next time, and the many times after that the UN asks NATO and a few others to organize and manage “peace-enforcement operations” they will likely be in Africa. Canada will participate. Canadians will kill and die. Other Canadians will weep and still others wail but there is no alternative – not if we have any worthwhile values at all.

The Manley Report has provided an elegantly simple, tightly reasoned and ultimately persuasive analysis of the state of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan and the Report makes useful and sensible recommendations for the future of that mission. The onus is, now, on Prime Minister Harper to make the mission his own and to bring Canadians onside with him. There is, equally, an opportunity for M. Stéphane Dion to encourage the Canadians he aspires to lead in our vital task of “moving the world forward.”


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1. See: http://ruxted.ca/index.php?/archives/104-No-Security-Without-Combat.html
2. See: http://ruxted.ca/index.php?/archives/24-The-Afghanistan-Debate.html et seq
3. Calderisi, Robert, The Trouble with Africa, New York, 2006, p. 2

No Security Without Combat

No Security Without Combat

The debate on Canada's role in Afghanistan rages on.  Ruxted would be prepared to accept arguments that Canada needs to wind down its battle group between November 2009 and August 2010 in order to ensure forces are available for the February Olympics. So far, we have not heard that.  Sadly, it still seems the debate revolves around fantastic misconceptions about the provision of security and the reality of the threat in Afghanistan.

"The military forces of Canada have a role to play after February 2009 — even though it's not combat, it will be for security," Dion told reporters Sunday the 13th of January 2008.  Ruxted finds this position particularly worrisome as it suggests a continued naivety despite Mr. Dion's visit to Afghanistan.  Even the classical peacekeeping, of which Canadians take as a source of pride, required Canadian troops to engage in combat in places such as Cyprus and Bosnia.  Combat aversion is the sort of half-measure that was responsible for the atrocity of Rwanda.

Fortunately, Mr Dion may be on to the right idea but it is not what he thinks.  Three days after his first comment, Mr.Dion observed, "The war against terrorism is mainly a police matter."  Here in Canada, people would not accept if police only arrested criminals that they caught in the act.  There is an expectation that, in the provision of public security, the police will conduct investigations and go after the "evil doers."  At the same time, police have tactical units capable of responding to the armed and aggressive threat.  So, how do we provide security in Afghanistan without doing the same?

Here in Canada, organized crime does not make a business of hunting the police but in Afghanistan that is what the threat does.  In Canada, organized crime does not attempt to seize political control (even local control of municipalities) by armed force but the threat in Afghanistan does.  In Afghanistan, the armed and aggressive threat is insurgent militias.  In this environment, the “typical police patrol car” might look like an infantry platoon and the emergency response team may resemble a combat team or special forces.

The combat mission is essential to the success of Afghanistan.  In its absence, everything else is only a half measure.

Fight and Win

Fight and Win

In a recent Globe and Mail column Jeffrey Simpson makes a series of points, including:

1.   Canada became involved in Kandahar without, at the highest levels of government, thinking things through. Now there is no easy way out;

2.   No NATO country will replace us, but we cannot leave Kandahar: to do so invites a national defeat;

3.   Canada is fighting a counterinsurgency war – but not, necessarily, the way most experts think it ought to be fought;

4.   We must win the “hearts and minds” of a people we barely know and who barely know us;

5.   The enemy can escape into the hills and over the border to Pakistan when the fighting is not going well;

6.   The enemy has too easy access to too much money from the drug trade, extortion and sympathizers elsewhere;

7.   Time is on the enemy’s side and it works against our success – it’s a “double whammy;” and

8.   Some of our allies in the Afghan government are corrupt; some of our allies in NATO are craven.

Many Canadians, including those in government and academe, would agree with Simpson.
 
Unfortunately, Simpson goes on to repeat the nonsensical new political narrative that suggests that, starting in 2002, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Bill Graham and a platoon of other ministers, very senior bureaucrats and political operatives suddenly stopped thinking and followed Gen. Rick Hillier in mindless lock-step. That was stupid, apologist propaganda when former Liberal political insider Eugene Lang first advanced it and it is claptrap now. In fairness, in his recent book The Unexpected War (coauthored with Janice Gross-Stein) Lang makes it clear that Hillier’s vision and enthusiasm were just what Prime Ministers Chrétien and Martin wanted, and that vision was fully in line with their aspirations for Canada in the world. The fact, document by Gross-Stein and Lang, is that most politicians, bureaucrats and political operators were bereft of ideas and Gen. Hillier was pretty much the one and only “man with a plan” in Ottawa in 2005.

Another key fact is that we backed into a war for which we were, and in many respects still are quite unprepared.

After the infamous “decade of darkness” (we believe Gen. Hillier should have said “decades”) the Canadian Army was unprepared for a counterinsurgency campaign. Arguably, in fact, it was unprepared for much of anything except the sort of peacekeeping which is no longer done in the world. In Kandahar Canada has found itself obeying two foreign dicta:

1.   “...you go to war with the Army you have.  They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” - Donald Rumsfeld, 8 Dec 04; and

2.   “...established organizations and weapons systems are constantly being put to new, unforeseen uses ...” – Gen. (Ret’d) Sir Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)

There is blame aplenty for Canada’s difficulties – almost all of it must be shared by Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien. To suggest, as Simpson does, that our very real problems in Afghanistan are, in any way, related to Gen. Hillier’s desire to have us in Afghanistan as “the testing ground for [his] vision” is nonsense.

Simpson has some solutions. “Canada” he says “is fighting a counterinsurgency war – against almost all the rules of that kind of combat. Our soldiers are undoubtedly brave and skilled, but there are too few of them, as there are too few NATO forces for the entire country. The ratio of troops to insurgents needed to “win” such a conflict is too low; the ratio of military to development deployment is too large.” In other words we need to stop talking about withdrawal – we need more soldiers throughout Afghanistan, not fewer, and we may even need more Canadians – even if we are already doing more than a full and fair share of the fighting.

Canada helped create NATO, even if France, Germany and Italy are acting in a craven manner we ought to do all we can to help NATO succeed, or, at the very least, if NATO must fail, to prevent ignoble defeat.

Canada is a rich country, but Canadians are, usually, reluctant to send their hard earned money overseas to people who are, too often, ungrateful and corrupt. In a counterinsurgency campaign we need the national government to screw up its courage and face down the spendthrifts and make more and more aid money available to make the 3D (Diplomacy, Defence and Development) strategy work as designed. We will have more to say on this matter in a future article.

Jeffery Simpson says that “Canada cannot stay [in Afghanistan] with any reasonable assurance of success.” The Ruxted Group does not agree. The situation in Afghanistan is difficult; there is no question about that, but we have been in difficulties before and we have fought our way to victory. Counterinsurgency warfare is difficult and, for Canada, foreign, but counterinsurgency campaigns can be won – we know this because they have been won. Canadian soldiers are more than just “brave and skilled,” they are also smart and adaptable. They know how to learn to fight and win.

The Ruxted Group does agree fully with Jeffrey Simpson when he says: “Now there is no easy way out.” We urge Prime Minister Harper, after he is in receipt of the report from the Hon. John Manley’s commission, to commit us to fight and the long, tough, expensive and above all 3D counterinsurgency campaign. Forget about 2009; forget about 2011; focus on the victory conditions which The Ruxted Group offered to Mr. Manley and his colleagues.