The Ruxted Group is aware of a recent AFP report, reproduced at Yahoo Canada News and discussed at length in Army.ca, which suggests that DND and the CF cannot, simultaneously: help provide security for the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver/Whistler; and continue the mission in Afghanistan. The article cites both Le Devoir and Colonel (ret’d) Michel Drapeau who suggest, respectively that: The dual tasking will be a “headache” for the defence department and military planners; and “It’s impossible to protect the 2010 Olympics and maintain forces elsewhere in the world, whether it’s Afghanistan or somewhere else … We’re already squeezed.” Ruxted believes the AFP article misrepresents the real situation.
The Olympics are not just a local, Vancouver, commitment. British Columbia and the Government of Canada have willingly accepted shares of the responsibility, as they must. Afghanistan is a national commitment, too. The Parliament of Canada, representing the people of Canada, has decided that the Canadian Forces will remain in Afghanistan until, at least, 2009. Many experts, including high ranking Canadian military officers, suggest that we will need to remain there or much longer.
Le Devoir is correct: doing DND’s share of 2010 Olympic support – not, necessarily, only security and not everything the organizers say they want – will be a headache. That’s why there is a headquarters: to address problems which might cause headaches. Most military problems make civilian, especially media heads, ache. For example: getting a squadron of old tanks, destined for oblivion, up to modern combat ready standards and shipping them halfway around the globe in very short order would be an impossible thought for 99% of Canadians. It was a headache for military planners in National Defence Headquarters; they solved the problem – that’s what they do.
Col (ret’d) Drapeau is partially correct: DND is stretched – see a recent Ruxted article suggesting ways to retain more trained, skilled soldiers and reform recruiting as ways to ease the overstretch.
Ruxted expects the fully stretched military’s staff will negotiate, carefully, to ensure that the Canadian Forces do all, but only, those tasks which should not or cannot be done by civilian agencies.
Col (ret’d) Drapeau is quite wrong when he suggests that doing Afghanistan, or even Afghanistan plus another mission and helping to protect the 2010 Olympics would be “impossible.” The multiple tasks might be a headache; they might even, briefly, overstretch DND’s resources but they are, most emphatically, NOT impossible!
Consider: Canada, with a very large DND component, provided security for the G8 summit at Kananaskis in 2002 while Canadian combat troops were in Afghanistan and the Balkans and ships were in operations at sea in the Persian Gulf. In security terms the threat at Kananaskis was, probably, at least as great as the one which Canada will face in 2010.
Consider, further: Olympic security is and should be largely a civil police task - with specialized military support. Military support will, likely, include coastal, air and even space based surveillance – none of which are currently over-tasked in Afghanistan. Units like JTF-2 and the newly formed CSOR may have some tasks in Afghanistan but parts, at least, of both will be available for Vancouver/Whistler.
The military may, also, help out in many other supporting roles but Ruxted suggests that Montreal (1976) is not a good example of how DND should support an Olympics. Further, still: not every task proposed for DND and the CF by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) should be accepted by DND. Tasks ought not to be ‘assigned’ to DND just to save money or for organizational convenience. Most tasks which can be done by civilians should be done by civilians – at the expense of the Organizing Committee.
The fact that 100,000 soldiers were deployed in Athens, or that 15,000 were deployed in Turin, is irrelevant. The types of Canadian military support and numbers of people required will be determined by joint (military/civil – city/province/federal) and possibly even combined (international) planning teams which, Ruxted assumes, exist and are operating now, carefully balancing threats and risks against the overwhelming requirement to make the Olympics a free, open safe event – for athletes and spectators, alike.
Canadians do not want or need a militarized Olympics. A large uniformed military presence would send the wrong message to Canadians, to visitors and to enemies, alike, making Canada appear akin to a police state, rather than the traditional ‘peaceable kingdom’ within which citizens and visitors go about their lawful business without undue interference by the state – especially by its uniformed, armed services. While Ruxted contends that a large, visible military presence will provide little if any increase in security, should the national government so decide, the CF will provide that capability – it may need to be an “all hands on deck” affair for a few weeks.
As the nature or the DND/CF task becomes clear it may be that the Minister of National Defence will need to ask parliament for more money and he may tell the CDS to find innovative ways to meet multiple requirements - Parliament and the defence staff are used to both.
Ruxted sees the AFP article as just another part of the hypocritical “Support the Troops – Bring Them Home!” campaign. Ruxted acknowledges that ‘Taliban Jack’ Layton and fellow travellers in the media have been politically skilful in obscuring the real issues regarding Canada’s role in the world and duping a large share of a generally ill-informed and disinterested Canadian public into opposing good public policy. Ruxted is pleased to consider that the national policy centre – the Privy Council Office – is unlikely, ever, to regard the hysterical 'thoughts' of Layton and the lazy left wing of the media as anything but tripe.
The Canadian Forces has a long and proud history of meeting this country's domestic needs - be it aid to law enforcement or other government departments or military support under the Emergencies Act, particularly where Canadians' health or safety are endangered. While Canadian troops may remain deployed in Afghanistan in 2010 and beyond Ruxted believes that DND can and will maintain operations overseas, provide full, competent support for the 2010 Olympics, and maintain the myriad other national and international military/security commitments directed by the people of Canada through their elected Parliament.