The Canadian Peacekeeper Myth
It was a toss-up whether to place this article in the Canadian Military or Cranky categories. Fortunately, I have discovered a way to ‘dual categorize’ this – okay, I’ll say it – rant. I nearly explode whenever I hear somebody talk about Canada’s ‘reputation’ in a world context. In this instance I refer to our world rep as ‘peacekeepers’ versus a combat military. I want to explode because people who label us peacekeepers are both ignorant about Canada’s military history and further, they have bought into the political/media spin machine. Let us address the ‘reputation’ issue: Whether it is our military, approach to the climate, aid, diplomacy or finance, Canada is such a teeny weeny player as to be barely noticeable on the world stage. And this is not necessarily a bad thing, when being such a small player can keep you under the radar of say, terrorists. Naturally, when we watch the Canadian evening news, the cameras will have focused on the Canadian politician presenting his or her spin on whatever the current issue is. What the cameras won’t show is the small audience paying attention. The others are in the media room next door listening and watching the big players reps from France, Britain, USA, Russia, China, India and so forth. This is what happens when you have a country with a population of only 32 million. I mean, SUDAN has more people! Canada is not a mover and a shaker. It does not have OOMPH. We are a middle power who aspires to play with the adults. And again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as we can direct our budget(s) to things other than ‘walking the walk’ that the big countries feel they have to do. For our size, we do wonderful things around the world, both militarily and aid-wise. However, we are not the focus of the world’s attention. We are not in any spotlight. When we do bad things, such as what happened with the ‘Somalia Issue’ or the latest dust-up in Copenhagen, we cause not the slightest ripple of attention amongst the nations of the world. We don’t.
Now, all this being said, I have served in the Sudan as a Canadian military observer and I can categorically state that the Canadian SOLDIER and NOT peacekeeper (I use the term ‘soldier’ here to represent all Canadian military members) receives a HUGE amount of respect from other countries militaries. Yes, this is a reputation – a good one. It is not however a peacekeeping reputation. It is the respect granted from a sailor/soldier/airperson (Gad, I hate being politically correct!) to a peer, regardless of nationality. Do you get the difference? Stop talking about Canada’s activities in Afghanistan destroying our peacekeeping reputation! We NEVER had one EVER! If Canada has and had a reputation in the military sense, it was one of a small, tough, fighting and professional military. This despite weak-kneed politicians and the occasional military leaders who confused leadership with ‘management’.
To conclude, a few numbers: Haiti = 2000+ Canadian Forces members, Afghanistan = 3000 CF members, Olympic Games/G8/G20 = 4500+ CF members, preparing for next Afghan roto = 3000 CF members, UN other missions around the world = 300+ CF members . . . . . and thanks to Canadian politicians for making us have to struggle so hard to fill all these jobs with people and equipment.
There. I feel much better . . . .