‘Ottawa’ More Peacekeeping in Africa Another Futile Gesture
It’s by no means official yet, but Canada seems poised to support yet another United Nations peacekeeping mission in Africa — this time in Mali. We have already been warned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that if he reflects upon defence policy at all during the day, his focus will be on the Liberal preference of peacekeeping, because it is apparently innocuous and emollient to all Canadians.
Having just promised to defend Ukraine from the Russian hordes, this may well be a tall order for Trudeau to deliver.
It is worth considering just why the Canadian Forces, in the midst of both a lumbering defence review and exacerbating equipment shortages, should be sent to Mali since we have endured our worst peacekeeping experiences in Africa.
Though Canada did enjoy some success in the Congo from 1960-64, that mission was truly a modest exception to a dismal rule in our African experience, which has run the gamut of comic opera to horrific genocide.
Canada returned to the Congo in 1996 for a mission that was memorably dubbed “the bungle in the jungle.” This was Jean Chretien’s shining moment as he deployed the military to a mission that can only be politely described as improvised. The army personnel on the ground had another word for it but I can’t repeat it here.
Quite simply, the Congo fiasco was so ill-defined that nobody even knew what the objectives were. Never mind operational integrity, even basic resupply was a challenge. But at least no one was hurt.
That certainly wasn’t the case in Somalia, where the Canadian Airborne Regiment became embroiled in a scandal that reached into the upper echelons of the Canadian Forces and the defence department itself. Beyond the death and coverup, the Somalia experience was devastating for the morale of everyone in the CAF who persevered through the adversity of an interminable official inquiry.
It was worse in Rwanda, where Canadians under the leadership of Brig.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire watched the Tutsi and Hutu tribes clash in a vicious civil war that led to the deaths of between 800,000 and a million people. The controversy about accountability in that mission still rages, though the bulk of scholarly opinion sides with Dallaire’s inability to take any preventative or combat measures to prevent or alleviate the bloodshed because he was not authorized to do so under the UN mandate.
That is precisely the problem with every UN peacekeeping effort. The UN throws money and human resources at perceived problems without clearly defining what the mission is or how deployed personnel should react when confronted with violence. It is a recipe for disaster, especially when there is no peace to keep.
We are apparently going to Mali to confront a radical Islamic element that is further eroding governance in the country while aiding and abetting terrorism in Africa. I am not confident that any UN-led mission is at all capable of achieving that objective. If Trudeau wants to fight terrorism, he should be devoting military resources to the fight against ISIL instead of fragmenting our military response in various ineffective thrusts.
Trudeau is quite prepared to force a punishing carbon tax upon Canadians from coast to coast with the ludicrous purpose of fighting the climate change war — a spectral conflict that will never be won even with the dispensing of billions of tax dollars. But he is so committed to the idea of peacekeeping, the enduring myth that this hallowed crypto-military tradition is somehow the panacea of purposeful defence, that he can’t resist wasting our time and money on another African excursion.