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A good war

“The last ‘good’ war,” we are too often assured, was World War II. It appears to be that the Greek civil war between communists and democrats, the Malaya counter-insurgency campaign, which rid that fledgling country of aggressive and unwelcome communist terrorists, intent on subverting the fairly and lawfully elected government, and the Korean War, which pushed back communist North Korean aggressors, were ‘bad’ wars – unjust or unnecessary. The Ruxted Group disagrees. We agree there were some ‘bad’ wars in the 20th century, as there were in the 10th. Wars which might have appeared justified to some people at some point in time can be seen, with the benefit of hindsight, as unjustified. But not all wars are ‘bad.’ It is only by accepting the premise that WWII was the last good war that one could support the position taken by some opinion makers and anti-military busybodies who are waging a disinformation campaign that, unwittingly we hope, gives aid and comfort to Canada’s enemies.
Canada has, over the past century, fought three sorts of wars:

1. Great wars. This was the nature of World Wars I and II; they were national, indeed multinational crusades. We became a ‘nation in arms.’ The military was, quickly, transformed from a tiny ‘permanent force’ to a huge ‘active force’ engaged for the ‘duration of hostilities only.’ During the 20th century this was how most Canadians came into direct contact with the military.

There is no doubt that most Canadians saw these as ‘good’ wars.

2. The Cold War. This was the war which lasted longest – fully 45 years. It had its ‘hot’ spells – arguably it started as a shooting war in Korea. The Cold War had two distinct components:

a. The stand-off in Europe. For decades thousands, indeed tens of thousands of Canadians were ready and able to meet the sailors, soldiers and aviators of the Soviet Russian led Warsaw Pact in furious bloody combat. This was part of, in various stages, a NATO ‘trip wire’ or a ‘flexible response,’ and

b. Peacekeeping. When neither the trip wire/massive retaliation nor flexible response options was available, the West invented peacekeeping to avoid confrontations outside of the main, European theatre which might provoke a crisis. The origins of modern UN peacekeeping can be found in Britain’s near collapse in the late ‘40s. Crises in former British colonies and territories (like India/Pakistan and Israel/Jordan) were beyond the capacity of the British government which had been severely weakened in World War II. The British turned to the brand new UN and ‘first generation peacekeeping’ (observer missions like the UN Truce Supervisory Organization, which is still active nearly 60 years after it was established!) was begun.

Peacekeeping was especially attractive to the generation which had come of age during the Great Depression and had fought World War II. It promised to protect the next generation from the ‘scourge of war’ and it was cheap – defence budgets could be cut to pay for social programmes which were dear to the hearts of those who survived the Great Depression.

Although most Canadians saw the Cold war as a ‘good’ war they were unwilling to sustain it. There was considerable initial enthusiasm, especially in Québec – which was much more anti-communist than it had been anti-fascist, in the ‘50s and into the ‘60s, but by the late ‘60s Canadians were less and less conscious of the threat; they wanted a ‘peace dividend’ long before that phrase became popular. In the late ‘60s, Canada embarked on a rapid withdrawal from the front lines of the Cold War. By the late ‘70s most Canadians had concluded that the Warsaw Pact was not a threat. They decided that the Cold War was over and all that remained was a USA vs. USSR ‘great power’ dispute which only threatened Canada if it flared into real hostilities. Equally, Canadians forgot why peacekeeping was invented and decided that it was some sort of end in itself. This created a strange sort of contradiction in which a ‘side show’ became the ‘main event.’

3. The new war. Things began to change in the ‘90s. The Cold War was won – not in 1969, or 1979, as a substantial majority of Canadians appears to have believed, but in 1989 when Solidarity won a semi-free election in Poland and the Berlin Wall fell. The restraints placed by Moscow and Washington on client states and ‘movements’ were removed. Nineteen eighty-nine was also the year that the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan – in large part because the US funded ‘Mujahedeen’ had fought so well. That Mujahedeen success convinced many Muslims that irregulars, even terrorists, could defeat major Western armies – it had been done before. China (1949), Indo China (1954) and Viet Nam (1975) were not figments of someone’s imaginations – a rather ‘rag-tag’ band of insurgents could defeat a large, modern, well equipped army. If Asians could do it, they asked themselves, why not Arabs? Arabs, in particular, and Muslims in general have grievances – deep, historic grievances; some are well founded. The grievances, the example of the Mujahedeen and the lack of restraint by the major sponsor states (USA and Russia) convinced many that the time was ripe to attack – to reclaim Muslim pride and glory.

There are many social, cultural, political and religious issues involved but the ‘root cause’ boils down to a formless sense of grievance. Formless, perhaps, but very real and very focused for those who hold it.

Grievances, example and resources – oil money – all came together about 20 years ago – in 1988 when Osama bin Laden founded al Qaeda and, shortly afterwards began his new war.

There’s nothing really new about bin Laden’s tactics, but they’re new to us, especially to Canadians who have, for a very long time, thought little about any war. What is new is that the antagonists are, on ‘our side’ the traditional independent nation-states, established after the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) and still ‘playing’ by those rules, and, on the other side, sub-national, ‘private’ movements and groups which may have some state support but are, essentially, non-state actors. The only parallel in our ken, and it is an imperfect example, is organized crime and especially the well-financed multinational criminal organizations such as the drug cartels.

For many Canadians, especially those of a ‘progressive’ bent, whenever a conflict pitted the modern, rich, sophisticated, industrialized West against less developed groups the automatic assumption is that ‘right’ is on the side of the poor, backwards underdog. Thus, many found it easy to forgive al Qaeda’s early attacks – and sometimes, as in the Balkans al Qaeda and the American led West made common cause. But it is important to remember that we, the liberal, democratic West, have made common cause, indeed formal alliances, with unsavoury partners before – when the common enemy (NAZI Germany, for example) was so evil that almost any ally was welcome. We must remember that the ‘war aims’ of our avowed enemies involve imposing a medieval, undemocratic, illiberal, theocratic system of government on the whole world – many of our enemies believe that only by doing that will they ‘save’ themselves and us. Million and millions of devout Muslims disagree and want, beg us to win this ‘new war.’

Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor is under fire, yet again, for being honest, albeit optimistic. He has said that this ‘new war’ might go on for 15 more years in various locations throughout the world. It might not go on in Afghanistan or, at least, it might not be confined to Afghanistan. Canadians may – should – be able to withdraw from Afghanistan in the next few years, to rest, refit and rebuild – to prepare for the next phase of this ‘new war,’ and hand over to bigger, richer NATO allies, but we should not, in Ruxted’s view must not, “cut and run.” We are one of the few ‘militarily capable’ nations. We are uniquely blessed by nature, history and our own hard work. We have a ‘responsibility to protect’ our interests, as well as other inhabitants of the Earth not so strong and free, from the very real threat posed by the various fundamentalist ‘jihadist’ movements which have declared war on us.

Ruxted thinks Minister O’Connor is optimistic; it is unlikely that 15 years will suffice. This ‘new’ war will be the work of generations.

This is a ‘good’ war in addition to being a ‘new’ war. It is ‘good’ because it is both just and necessary. The enemy offers us an unjust alternative – a medieval theocracy which is destructive of our natural rights. It is necessary because it is brought to us – we did not seek it; we sought no enemies.

The enemy is different. We do not have the neat, tidy package of the Axis Powers or the Warsaw Pact – the ‘new’ enemy is diffused, shadowy and deeply entrenched. But they (numerous, only loosely connected groups) are a real enemy – just as dangerous as Waffen SS battalions and Soviet Guards Tank divisions which were faced by previous generations of Canadians. They must be met and defeated on the battlefields of Asia, the Middle East and Africa and in the banks and bourses of Geneva, London, New York, Paris and Toronto. It is a worthwhile war, but not a crusade which will require us to mobilize the nation. Sometimes the glib, exaggerated, and often erroneous pontificating of leaders playing to the home audience, makes Ruxted want to shake our heads in frustration. It is a war which will be long, hard and the work of tough, superbly disciplined, well trained and well equipped professional soldiers, but they cannot do it in one season, one year, or one political mandate.

The Ruxted Group invites Canadians, especially opinion leaders, to think about this new war and help their fellow citizens to understand why it is worth the price we have paid, are paying and will have to continue paying. It, too, is a good war.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

John Stuart Mill


The Ruxted Group on : Lead, Please, Prime Minister

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Lead, Please, Prime Minister Prime Minister Harper is quoted as saying that he wants consensus from Canadians before he will ask Parliament to extend the current Afghan mission beyond Feb 2009. The Ruxted Group applauds the PM for both insisting tha


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