November 20, 2002



We will see what we have got, what they need. We have already ships there. We have planes there. We have troops there, and they are doing very well," [Prime Minister Chretien] said yesterday after a Cabinet meeting. "So it will be the same thing."

--National Post, today

As everyone now concedes, the chance of a meaningful contribution to an Iraq campaign is nil. The army has no tanks, the navy has no personnel who haven't been over half a dozen times already, and the air force has no ordnance. So the quote above, besides being almost totally incoherent, is a total mistruth. What's remarkable about Canadians is that we all know the guy's lying to us, and he knows we know, and yet we still do this dance.

If we really wanted to help, the best thing we could do for the Americans when Iraq rolled around would be to offer to lift some of their non-essential burdens elsewhere in the world for the duration: NORAD air patrols, or Bosnian peacekeeping, things which we could still do with the equipment we have. But you know we won't do that. Whether we choose to support the American war or not, our support/non-support must needs be symbolic. So we'll send over some token force to Iraq that is more a logistical burden than anything else, one which will only slow the Americans down, and will be wisely left as far out of battle as possible.

NB: The force in Afghanistan, it should be noted, was different. There airmobile light infantry were the need of the day, and our best troops in that field were as good and as well-equipped as the Americans' best troops. As the Patricias showed, the 101st Airborne was lucky to have them along. Not the case next time. I should also add, because I never say it enough, that the Canadian Forces are really spending the moneys they have left wisely recently. The air force has just reacquired its air-to-air refueling capability, the new submarines, despite the criticism, were still a smart buy, and the new vehicles, small arms and uniforms coming down to the army are the cat's ass. Even the $65 million air training boondoggle the Auditor-General pointed out recently isn't as bad as it sounds, now that the private contractor has promised to make up the shortfall over the life of the contract. I personally have confidence that nearly every cent the Forces is spending today, that is not being influenced by political interference the way the Sea King replacement contract continues to be, is being spent extremely wisely. Tight budgets make for efficient spenders.

UPDATE: The Globe says the Americans are after a Coyote recce unit, along with the usual odds and sods. If I were the defence minister, I'd insist on nothing less than a full 2-3 squadron recce regiment, even if we had to pull together a composite unit to do it (the CF currently has five Coyote squadrons split between the three armoured regiments). That'd be a game worth the candle for the army. Not to mention much of the kit's cross-compatible with Marine LAV kit, so the logistical burden would be significantly less. We might even be able to self-transport with C-130s, although I suspect everyone involved would prefer heavier U.S. aircraft were used. Being the divisional- or corps-level recce experts for a Anglo/U.S. formation would be a totally righteous assignment, from the army's point of view, and one they know they could do well.

The Star meanwhile, features the funniest quote of the day, as usual from foreign minister Bill Graham.

Graham refused to say what Canada would consider contributing to a campaign. "You don't signal to a potential enemy," he said. "We want to be as helpful as we possibly can."

Posted by BruceR at 01:11 PM