That is, what exactly do we, as Canadians, want our military to do? At the military and political level, there's lots of talk about "capability" and equipment rationales are filled with buzzwords like that, or "interoperability". But these don't describe context in which things are purchased. Terms like "uncertainty" about the geopolitical context get tossed in and used to justify buying things like the F-35 which are argued to be the most 'capable' toys on the market. But capable is not the same as usable. The F-35, if it even works, might able to evade radar, super-cruise, and track 800 targets and an amoeba at 40 000 feet, whilst providing a latte and back massage for the skypilot, but that doesn't mean anything unless there's as strategic rationale for having it. Right now our armed forces doesn't have much a strategic rationale for existing other than to be 'interoperable'. Being full of 'readiness', 'multi-purpose combat capable', and able to 'deploy and support allies' is tactical capacity but doesn't reflect a strategic purpose to the armed forces other than being politically and practically secondable to NATO and other allies for whatever they get up to. Tasks, these are, that remain little different than what the military has been doing for decades and are too often governed by political (and sometimes military) egos, not, IMHO, absolute military necessity.
Defending Canada and North America (as long as the US remains sane-ish and intact) are strategic mandates and the first two highlighted in the Canada
There are some indications that people in the CF are concerned about thinking, period and how it relates to how the armed forces problem solves.
For example, the RCAF, as the key bit of Canada in NORAD is at least is thinking about this. They've established a think unit on aerospace warfare in order to carve out some intellectual space for independent Canadian military thinking. Interesting enough a recent paper in the house RCAF Journal describes the early Cold War subordination of RCAF purposes to USAF strategic planning and the associated Americanization of its outlook (Goette 2012). In a recent piece in the the Canadian Military Journal, the RMC professor and soldier Col. Bernd Horn (2011) articulates exactly why reflective and creative thinking on the part of military members is important for competence (one wonders what trends he sees in his student-officers' thinking).
And so, if experience once again becomes the primary discriminator for advancement, and higher education is again deemed inconsequential, the CF will return to a system where emphasis is placed upon progression in a series of key appoint- ments and geographic postings, most notably Afghanistan. As such, successful completion of these tours once again becomes perceived as sufficient to prepare an individual for the next higher rank and responsibilities.Dave also said as much when he chided the RCAF for their cockpit-only view of the F-35.
Unfortunately, this type of myopic outlook and inward focused mind-set fails to see the inherent flaw of this model. Experience in itself is valuable and irreplaceable. But it is also constrained by time, geography, and memory. One person’s experience, particularly at a specific time and place, does not necessarily represent the knowledge or abilities that are needed for an institution to advance into the future. Moreover, the perspective from a shell-hole, turret, or command post is very limited. Service needs become defined in and of themselves without being rooted in their proper societal context. But, most of all, a system that values experience as the only true arbitrator of reality suffers from human arrogance and frailty. “We see,” wrote Major Seiberg in the mid- 1930s, “that the Spanish Civil War has up to now demonstrated nothing really new, and also that men only regard experience as valid when it is their own experience. Otherwise, it would not be possible for the same errors that led to failure in the Great War to be repeated.”22 Simply put, those who refuse to open their minds are doomed to suffer the limitations of their narrow, restricted, and outdated beliefs.
Let us flip this around a little. Like the military with its experience-based and potentially limited thinking about itself, most of us are civilians without a great amount of awareness or experience of things military. The civilian public and ultimate paymasters of the armed forces see what? Scandals, parades, the odd natural disaster or search and rescue drama, and Remembrance Day? Uncritical soundbites about supporting the troops and getting the best equipment? Fluff pieces about hockey rinks in Kandahar or how much the troops love Timmies? The dead and wounded and veterans' care? That's how it appears to me at least and while some of these matters are important, they also serve to camouflage the fact that the military does have several key roles and purposes, the ultimate of which is or ought to be, in my view, ensuring the safety and security of Canadians and Canada.
So Beaver-readers, let's open the floor and drawing on Chris Montgomery's call in my previous post, ask ourselves what the Canadian Forces, our Canadian Forces, need to be in the 21st century.
- What do you want the CF to do?
- What are the challenges it might be asked to meet?
- What limitations might it face?
- What resources might it need or not need?
SURELY, we can come up with a more nuanced set of ideas. Feel free to leave them in the comments section. Don't be shy, we're not a milblog and you don't have to be mil-type to comment on YOUR military.