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We agree, again

About six months ago The Ruxted Group was pleasantly surprised to find that we and the Senlis Council were in rough accord on the need for more development in Afghanistan, delivered in a more effective manner. Once again we find ourselves in broad accord with most of the conclusions and recommendations of The Senlis Council’s most recent (November 2007) report.

Some of The Senlis Council’s recommendations – such as extending NATO’s military mission into Pakistan – will be quite controversial and will not be well received by many in NATO’s HQ in Brussels, in Kabul or in Canada. Leaders should not, as Canada’s CDS appears to have done, discard any conclusions before reading the full report. Pakistan is, undeniably, providing a secure base (al qaeda means base) for the Taliban led insurgents; Pakistan is part of the problem. Somehow, in some way, we have to deprive the insurgents of their Pakistan support base.

Other recommendations, such as those dealing with how to manage the poppy crop, are somewhat less controversial but still difficult. US domestic political considerations drive the current poppy eradication programme which we continue to find wrong headed. Senlis calls for: “Pragmatic solutions to Afghanistan’s drug crisis: Alternative livelihoods and Poppy for Medicine. The Afghan government and the international community must deliver on their promises to create economically sustainable opportunities and thus incentives for stakeholders to move away from the illicit trade. Alternative development programmes must involve community participation at all stages of planning, implementation and evaluation.” We do not challenge their conclusion but we are certain that many will argue with their methods.

There are some statistical problems with The Senlis Council’s analysis of troop levels. The Canadian Council of Defence Associations Institute (CDAI) has explained that:

" - The comparative measures of NATO “standing armies” that are provided are misleading. For example, Canada’s army -which is about 20,000 in strength- is listed as “60,000” strong, while in reality this is the total size of the Canadian Forces. The US’ army is listed as half-a-million; however, this excludes the considerable size of the Marines, with a strength of some 200,000.

- The calculation of national troop contributions on the basis of 2.3 soldiers per billion GDP, while clear in its measurement, has an unknown lineage; it is unclear where the SENLIS Council took this measure from."

The Ruxted Group also agrees with the CDAI when it says that, “There is a major difference between the Taliban “holding” territory and the Taliban “controlling” or “administering” territory, and we believe that the two should be differentiated.”1

`NATO Plus,` as envisioned, by The Senlis Council is partially achievable. But, we cannot, must not expect or even hope that ‘old Europe’ (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc) will agree to remove the caveats that keep their troops out of harm’s way. On the other hand, the goal of adding some Muslim troops to ISAF should be manageable. There are some ‘militarily capable’2 Muslim nations beyond Turkey – Jordan and Malaysia, for example – which should be invited to join ISAF.

On balance, however, The Senlis Council has produced a worthwhile report that deserves a full reading by Canada’s leaders. The fact is that no matter what many Canadians think we should be doing in Afghanistan, what we are doing is helping the Government of Afghanistan defeat an insurgency. Counterinsurgency campaigns are all about hearts and minds, not body counts. The goal, put simply, is to make life under the lawfully elected Government of Afghanistan, with all its warts, preferable to life under the Taliban and its fellow travellers. Canada’s 3D approach is well suited to accomplish this goal. It is, as we have suggested, in our submission to Mr. Manley’s Independent Commission, not working because only the military (Defence) `D` is working.

The Senlis Council and The Ruxted Group are calling for more and better 3D – from Canada and the world.

1. CDAI circular date/time stamped November 22, 2007 2:34:56 PM
2. See Ruxted’s Changing the Guard for our use of that term – following that of the UN’s Director of Peacekeeping Operations.

Preparing for NATO’s Failure

Preparing for NATO’s Failure

Several recent reports1 indicate that efforts by Canada and others, including the NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, himself to convince NATO members to beef up their military contributions to Afghanistan or, at least, to reduce some of the restriction on the use of the troops which are already there, have fallen short.

Some commentators2 suggest that if NATO cannot succeed in its first major ‘out of area’ mission then NATO, itself, might become increasingly irrelevant. Continue reading "Preparing for NATO’s Failure"

A look to the future

The Ruxted Group has consistently pressed for a return to an old, traditional foreign policy ambition. We want Canada to be a leader amongst the so-called ‘middle powers.’

By any and all measures Canada is a middle power and it is amongst the most powerful of them. Canada is one of the world’s ‘top ten’ by any sensible measure of political and economic power. There are several competitors for the eighth, ninth and tenth positions on that list including Brazil, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia and South Korea but, even if Canada is occasionally ‘bumped’ it will be, for the duration of any reasonable policy planning period, one of the world’s top 10%. Two or three of the top ten are or might be superpowers, four or five might be major, even ‘great’ powers – the next 50 or 60 countries, on most lists, are middle powers – Canada is one of them. It is not a state we can (or want to) discard.

The question is: Being an important middle power, shall we aspire to be a leader? Continue reading "A look to the future"