Friday, December 22, 2006

Hillier out of line and off the mark

There wasn't much to catch my attention in this article until I read this:
The idea of another election a little more than a year after the last one sends shivers down Hillier's spine, not so much for the political aspects but for the upheaval it causes for planners and the morale of soldiers in the field.
An election "is exactly what we would not like to see," he said.

Perhaps General Hillier hasn't quite grasped the reality of the political condition of this country. It is led by the weakest minority government in history and has no real mandate. But beyond that, the Chief of Defence Staff is expected to appear absolutely apolitical and that remark is close to the edge.

General Hillier needs to be reminded that the timing and results of any federal election, beyond his one vote, are matters with which he is not to concern himself. The armed forces he commands are generated by the Crown and financed by Parliament. This is a democracy, an institution he is sworn to defend, and to suggest that a federal election, whatever the time, would be inconvenient to his particular agenda is not within his province.

Hillier's suggestion that an election call causes upheaval for planners is patently false. Nothing prevents planners from progressing their work unless he stops them or the current minister of national defence orders plans to be placed on hold during an election campaign.

Given the fact that the current mission to Afghanistan, which is sucking up a great deal of National Defence Headquarter's energy, was a Liberal government initiative Hillier should be confident that even after an election he would likely be expected to continue with whatever plans are in place or are being developed.

General Hillier's comment that an election affects morale of soldiers in the field is specious. It may be that Hillier so lacks confidence in the validity of the Afghanistan mission that he fears an election would require he alter the committment of troops. Whatever it is, whether the Afghanistan mission continues or is revised, it is not his decision.

The troops are Canadian, raised in a democracy. Elections are a part of their life and, as electors, they traditionally participate at the ballot box in higher percentages than most other Canadian homogenous groups. Why would morale suffer?

Hillier also has little on which to base his statement. Elections have been held with troops deployed in combat many times in Canadian history and the troops fought on.

17 December 1917 - World War One.
26 March 1940 - World War Two
11 June 1945 - World War Two. (Germany had been defeated but Japan was still fighting.)

The general might have contained himself on this occasion. A more proper answer would have been to suggest that an election is a part of the democratic process in this country and whenever it comes he will view the results as the will of the people. Period.

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