Thursday, November 11, 2010

Canada's Military - The Political Crossroads

As a citizen of Canada, with no special education or training in the military, I have spent a lot of time trying to sort out my feelings and come to an understanding about Canada's military place in the world and what our domestic needs are as well. There has been lots of conversation regarding what our investment should be in terms of funding services and in funding peace/war initiatives. I have tried to identify our philosophic approach, as a nation,  to funding and participation in war. And I try to consider the pressures for Canada to perform in a more agressive manner as a military presence, and also to note the denegration of our many contributions manifested in the lack of acknowledgement of the importance in evolving peace keeping through military deployment, as if it does not really count in certain circles.

The Vietnam war, in the news, in songs, in conversation  was a time of reevaluation and a demand for a more thoughtful approach to interventions by the American public. It was not a Canadian war, but it was a conversation that was relevant in the consciousness of our nation and it a conversation that is still meaningful today in that Canada is currently exhibiting a desire to re-shape our military into something that is representative of our values today and where we want to be tomorrow.

I have come to truly understand and appreciate the magnitude of our contributions in action in WWII, and of our consistent dedication to and presence in peace initiatives, and I feel proud to this day that our young country has been a daring and eager contributor in the conversation, providing leadership, and addressing some of the difficult questions with regard to participation and restraint in the pursuits peace and safety.

I believe we are entering a new phase in terms of our understanding of our military commitments, both domestically and internationally. It is a time when we are addressing renewal and direction in our military, and what these next steps represent is an exercise in defining who we are as a nation. For you, me, and our future generations.

Canadians stand now at a crossroads where we absolutely must make commitments to upgrading our military, in terms of resources and to the people who serve our nation. The question is not should we, because the truth is that we must. The question is how do we define our commitments as a nation, the purpose put to our resources and to move forward on that commitment.

What does this crossroads look like? Well, there are many roads we have the options to travel, but we cannot travel all of them at once, and we probably don't want to travel some of them at all.

A couple of options to consider are: to refurbish the military with new weapons and vehicles that are cutting edge and will provide superiority on land, sea and air for more traditional actions. Another is to invest in operations that focus on "soft" skills such as peacemaking and diplomatic efforts to resolve conflict. Yet another option is to become world leaders in cyber defence. All these options have good arguments in their support, and they all have good arguments against as well. But which option(s) best support our national ideals upon deployment. This is the question and the discussion we must have.

The truth is that we will likely have to invest in all these options, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what  we as Canadians decide to pursue on a philosophical level. This decision will represent who we are to the world and to the generations to come. How this decision gets made is a political decision and it is directly related to how we vote as a nation.

This means that you and I must make an effort to think about what we want in this regard, do some homework, and to make our desires known to our political representatives. It does not mean that we visit our ire or frustrations on the men and women who serve, they are the bedrock of all we are in difficult times, and they serve our politic and deserve our respect and honour, gratitude and care. This is a fact.

I think that world peace is the ideal, but, it is an endeavor that requires constant vigilance. That will always be the formula. Most people understand this, but vigilance does not gurarentee peace, there are many situations where the juxtaposition of peace and vigilance come to an action, and that is where we need to have consensus on where we, as Canadians, stand in defence of our country and our ideals at home and in the world.

I have come to the conclusion that I, you, we, must pay attention to, and participate in, the politics of war and peace making in Canada to ensure the politics reflect our vision and goals as a nation, address our safety requirements and delivers a message of respect and solidarity to all those serving in our armed forces today and tomorrow and tomorrow after that.