A little different FbF this week. I want to take a moment to give a nod to our little brother up North - the Canadians.
We fought two wars against them, then created the largest demilitarized border in the world with freshwater seas free of warships. We fought side-by-side often since.
They have a lesson for us - not just in their economy - but in what they learned from their experience in Afghanistan. I invite you to poke around a bit at The National Post. It is a little too much on the "all vets are damaged, let's have a good cry" POV for me - but it is what it is.
Mercedes Stephenson's article is worth a full read. In part:
Canada leaves the Kandahar mission with a reputation for having the best small army in the world. Canadian soldiers are respected around the globe for their battle-hardened professionalism, innovative application of counterinsurgency doctrine and holding their nerve in Kandahar, while other NATO allies cowered on heavily fortified bases munching lobster instead of fighting insurgents. The Americans, who lead the mission, have noticed: Jon Vance, a Canadian general, was entrusted to command thousands of American troops when the U.S. surged into Kandahar last summer.As we enter our own arguments about budgets - we should accept the wisdom of our Canadian friends - and thank them for their work in AFG.
Canadian soldiers now experience the alien sensation of being on the receiving end of allies’ envious glances, coveting Canadian equipment — top of the line, brand new kit bought for the mission. No more making due with duct tape and borrowing from big brother America.
In short: We’ve come a long way, baby. The Canadian Forces are back. The army, especially, is a far cry from what it was when Canada sent troops to war nearly a decade ago.
As Canada entered the war, experts warned the Canadian military was on the brink of collapse. They predicted that ancient equipment, anemic spending and the bleeding of experienced personnel would produce a exponential and nearly irreversible decline. Canadian troops deployed to Afghanistan wearing bright green camouflage poorly suited Kandahar’s ubiquitous brown dust. Ill-equipped soldiers were forced to drive around in open-air Iltis jeeps that most Canadians wouldn’t feel safe in on a major highway, let alone around a war zone. Strategic airlift capability, long written off as an extravagant expense by previous governments, suddenly became an obvious necessity.
Deep cutbacks during the Chrétien years had left us unable to live up to our international obligations and, worse, the expectations we held as a country convinced it always punched above its weight.
The cost of these cuts — disarmament by neglect — resulted in an increased risk to our soldiers and decreased operational effectiveness on the ground in Kandahar.
We can’t forget that, or accept arguments suggesting that the Canadian Forces no longer need the public’s support or continuing modernization. Even in these times of budgetary pressure, the one thing that we truly cannot afford is to forget the lessons learned in Kandahar.
Nickel and diming ourselves into another decade of darkness will exact too high a price: the blood of Canadian soldiers in future conflicts. Putting the military on the back burner means death on the battlefield — a cost no Canadian or Canadian government should be willing to pay.