Friday, November 26, 2004

Tom Axworthy's Shameful Idea.

The Globe & Mail has an article today that takes my breath away. It is by Tom Axworthy, Pierre Trudeau's former principle secretary, and a key architect of the federal government's policies during that era. Mr. Axworthy is recommending that the goverment deploy a brigade of the Canadian Forces to Afghanistan, in order to assist in that country's reconstruction.

No, you didn't misread that last statement. A full brigade of troops. Most wonderous phenomena! Mr. Axworthy has clearly ingested something which alters conciousness and causes him to hallucinate non-existent orders of battle and phantom soldiers. As an academic and chairman for Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University, he really ought to know better. His former policy role with Mr. Trudeau means he was one of those who set in motion the current fiscal and policy neglect of the military which makes implementing his recommendation all but impossible.

Just in case he is completely unaware of the pathetic plight of our profession of arms I invite him to do a little homework (something I thought academics were expected to do so they won't embarrass themselves and their university in public). He could start by reading "For an Extra $130 Bucks" a report of the Canadian Senate on just how bad things are in the forces.

It is the Committee's belief that a 30 month moratorium in overseas tasks
only represents a starting point in putting the Canadian armed forces on the
road to recovery. It is likely to take the better part of a decade to bring
the military back to the shape it was in when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
Atrophied capacity cannot be restored over a few months.

A pause would allow key personnel - many of whom would otherwise be
serving overseas - to play a role in refocussing and rejuvenating Canadian
Forces training programs. Current training capacity is far too depleted to
make training a priority without repatriating overseas regulars for a
predictable period.

Two years will not be enough to rehabilitate the navy and air force.
However, over two years, a significant turnaround could be achieved in the
army. Though the army's current deficiencies are even more pressing than
those of the navy and air force, it takes less time to train army personnel
than it does navy and air force personnel. With adequate planning and
funding, the Committee feels that a two-year turnaround is at least within
the realm of possibility for the army.

The current recruiting drive should be sustained - the current level of trained, effective personnel in the Canadian Forces is 52,000 - 8,000 short of current authorized levels. But recruiting without adequate training is worthless. The Committee encountered recruits forced to sit twiddling their thumbs because of the military's depleted capacity for training. And training certainly isn't the only commodity in short supply.

The report, written in 2002, (prior, I might add, to the deployment of nearly 3,000 troops to Afghanistan) then provides a sordid litany of Liberal government fiscal and policy shortcomings which ought to make any first year student of government blush. I doubt whether any of this entered Mr. Axworthy's head before waxing philosophic about committing a brigade to the other side of the world. The party which he served so diligently for so many years really does think it can play a significant role in current world affairs without paying attention to the basics of domestic governance.

Let me be really clear for him. The airplanes and helicopters of the Canadian Forces are old, unreliable and well past their prime. The capital infrasture of the forces has been allowed to rust out. There aren't enough boots on the ground to deploy and sustain a brigade in the field for any reasonable length of time. The training system is under great stress because we've been taking instructors and placing them in those rusting vehicles in the multiple overseas deployments which his party insists on making. The men and women are overstretched, exhausted and growing increasingly bitter over his party's refusal to properly support them. The navy, .... well if he doesn't get it at this point he is unteachable.

You Mr. Axworthy are one of the main reasons this dreadful, irresponsible, unconscionable, and hypocritical state of affairs exists. Shame on you!


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