Monday, December 31, 2007

Final passage for 2007

I've had a very confused year. That's not out of the ordinary, but I had hoped it would begin to skew into the field of "organized".

As I come closer to permanently retiring I find that, instead of things lightening up, they just get busier. That was not how I expected things to go. Weren't things supposed to get easier?

In the middle of the year an old war wound decided to kick up. I wish it had been a football injury, but then, I never did play the game except for the occasional mock Grey Cup. It did however, cause me to reflect on the lifetime I spent in naval service as a marine and a sailor.

I loved it. And "it" had little to do with carrying a Bergen pack and a self-loading rifle across a mine infested island populated primarily by sheep and penguins, nor driving a destroyer through a filthy North Atlantic gale.

I loved it because of the people. They were unique. They were tough. And, they were and are my friends.

I always felt that service in the armed forces was a calling. I never felt lesser of anyone for not having joined me. In fact, I have, on occasion, talked people out of making the trip to the recruiting office. With no national emergency, there was no reason for anybody who wouldn't completely "fit in" to join.

If there are exceptions to that feeling, it is when I read or hear some individual thump a drum and cheer for our involvement in a war and then personally remain clear of the actual fighting. They think war is a video game and that is as close as they ever intend to get to it. Fighting, as far as that small crowd is concerned, is for those who took the Queen's shilling - but not for them.

What they do not comprehend is that a peacetime armed forces, in all its aspects, is not a body intended to fight a protracted conflict. It is a contingency force retained to hold the line for a limited period. Even during the Korean War, Canada, only five years removed from the end of the 2nd World War, had to recruit additional ground troops for that conflict: the Canadian Army Special Force.

We are not a warring nation. Yes, we'll fight our guts out when the situation warrants it, and this country has done so often enough. But the troops always came from the general population. Few of the people who fought wars for Canada were actually career members of the armed forces.

In the 1960s a new concept arose: peacekeeping.

There is a warped sense about peacekeeping in the collective Canadian mind. A media construct, there has never been any such thing as a "peacekeeping armed forces" in Canada. The armed forces are and always have been a combat force. Peacekeeping was simply one of the types of missions in which that combat force conducted operations. It was still a contingency force and over-commitment to peacekeeping missions did as much to wear down the armed forces as any protracted combat mission. It's just that the Canadian public never heard much about those operations. There were few casualties and not a lot of shots fired. They simply weren't sexy, and for some, they weren't violent enough to warrant the kind of cheer leading that a good old-fashioned gun fight would attract.

Back in August there was a comment left at Where'd That Bug Go which attracted my attention. Written by a member of the Canadian Forces, Ottlib was responding to another purported member of the CF who had quite openly stated that people who did not join the armed forces were cowards. In his second comment he said this:
Sorry pcs, I reject all arguments that it was the Liberals' fault for underfunding the military.

I voted for Brian Mulroney the first time partly because of his promises to spend more on the military. He broke all of them except for a plan to buy 6 nuclear attack subs. When the Canadian military needed to replace more basic equipment he wasted time and money trying to buy equipment that would give the appearance of keeping his promise.

Since then I have not believed any promise made by a politician regarding reinvesting in the military.

Even the money the current government is spending on the military is largely going to fill holes in the Afghan effort and there is not much of a plan to fill long term needs. So when Canada's Afghan mission inevitably ends the CF is going to have all of this equipment that they will not have much use for and Canadians will not be in any mood to actually allow the CF to acquire the equipment they will actually need.

As well, as a CF member you should know that Canadians have a very ambivelant attitude towards the military. After all you have probably experienced that first-hand. Since Canadians have rarely made the military a priority you cannot expect politians to do so. That is not how they win votes. Just look at Mr. Harper, he has made the military a priority and it is not doing his government any good. Indeed, I would argue that it is one of the factors holding him back.

Finally pcs, members of the CF are not automatically Conservative supporters so you should not be surprised that I am a Liberal supporter. In fact, most of the people I work with in my unit think Stephen Harper is an ass, they did not vote for him in the past and they will not be voting for him in the future.

I think it part of it was that whole "Alberta firewall" thing. For some reason the people I work with, who don the uniform to serve their country, have a hard time supporting a guy who once suggested that it be broken up.
It was written before the Conservatives started to grumble that they weren't getting enough political "sizzle" for their military equipment spending spree. And I leave it with you now as a final passage for 2007.

Now excuse me. There's a calendar to tear up.

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