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Canada to Darfur?

A crime against humanity is being perpetrated in Sudan.

‘Determined nations’ (as some, including Canada, were described by one journalist) are being pushed and prodded into taking some sort of action.

It is highly unlikely that the UN Security Council (where Sudan’s friends China and Russia wield a veto) will authorize a robust, Chapter VII peacemaking/peacekeeping operation which might make it possible for NATO, for example (or some sort of coalition of the willing), to take on the mission on the UN’s behalf, with some prospect of success.

It is possible that a Chapter VI operation will be approved – but Sudan likely would, as it already has, insist that the force should be composed only of (ineffective, ill equipped) African Union soldiers.

There are two questions we need to ask ourselves:

1. What should Canada do?

2. What can Canada do?

Absent a Chapter VII authorization from the UNSC Canada could propose that the UN act under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. But: to do what? If there is, indeed, a Responsibility to Protect which allows (requires?) Canada and other ‘determined nations’ to do something, then what shall it be? Shall we ask Sudan to reconsider its opposition to non-African troops? Shall we simply wring our hands and talk more and more and more? Shall we say, “to hell with the toothless, useless United Nations” and bomb Sudan, as (under NATO’s auspices) we did Yugoslavia, without any UN resolutions, in the ‘90s? Shall we invade Sudan, toss out the government in Khartoum, muck out the Janjaweed, and settle in for a long, bloody counter-insurgency campaign which, as in Afghanistan, will be necessary to allow the non-governmental aid agencies to do their good, humanitarian works with some, minimal measure of security?

The fact is that the Government of Canada doesn’t know what to do; neither does the international community and the United Nations; not even celebrity foreign policy ‘luminaries’ know what to do: they just whinge and cry that something must be done.

The government of the day in Ottawa has been reasonably clear:

1. We are in Afghanistan and we are not about to ”cut and run” – not anytime soon, anyway;

2. There are not enough troops to make any “substantial” contribution, especially of army combat forces, to Darfur; and

3. Canada will consider doing what it can, when, IF it is asked.

Darfur is a thousand miles from the sea so our Navy – fine and efficient (and even rested) as it may be will not do much good. Disbanding the Navy is not the right answer.

Our air forces have, roughly, five components:

1. Anti-submarine/maritime patrol – not too much use in Darfur;

2. Search and Rescue – probably, if we ‘re-roled’ the new big helicopters a very, very good contribution, but one which would cost the government its head when Canadians began to die in accidents at sea because there were no rescue aircraft available;

3. Fighter-bombers – which might be a good contribution if we are going to bomb someone;

4. Tactical transport – our 30 year old Hercules transports, which are stretched at, maybe beyond the breaking point sustaining our troops in Afghanistan and Search & Rescue at home; and

5. Tactical helicopters – which are nowhere near as capable as the big SAR choppers but which might be useful if Sudan, if we can sustain them there, but see point 4, above.

Any combat troops not tied down in the Afghanistan rotation cycle are needed, urgently, to be trainers as the army undergoes a vital expansion. There might be some ‘room’ to send, just for example, a tactical helicopter squadron (say 12 aircraft with several (maybe many) hundred people to support and sustain them) or, perhaps another type of unit. A key question will be: how do we get them there and how do we keep them there. Canada has no organic strategic airlift – maybe we can lease some hours on the big, old civilian transports again. Canada has very, very little organic tactical airlift – probably not sufficient to establish and maintain a reliable supply chain from a logistics base at a regional seaport (likely Mombassa) to land locked, nearly trackless Darfur. No military commander in his right mind and with a single speck of integrity would deploy troops into a logistically impossible situation. To do so would be the absolute height of military irresponsibility. For a politician to advocate it would go far beyond the abysmally low level of responsibility and knowledge we normally assign to them.

A crime against humanity is being perpetrated in Sudan. Of course, someone should do something. The questions are:

1. Who?

2. What? and

3. Is there any useful role for Canada?

The Ruxted Group agrees with an member who said, recently, ”… the primary utility of armed forces is to give the government of the day options. To do that the armed forces must be capable of doing a certain range of tasks – decades, nearly four of them, of neglect and, occasionally, actual destruction of military capabilities have deprived the Government of Canada of many of its options. Delaying the rebuilding of our military capabilities, even to help others to deal with a real crime against humanity, would a grave strategic error.” It may be that Canada will, indeed must ‘sit this one out’ while it rebuilds the military so that when the inevitable next crises arise we can respond, efficiently and effectively.


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