December 05, 2002

IT'S ALL TRUE The head


The head of the army says what everyone on the inside's known all along.

Gen. Mackenzie's essay the other day is valuable too, although it's important to note that a lot of the wasteful spending he identifies isn't THAT ludicrous:

A further billion is directed to government-imposed programs such as bilingualism, gender equality, diversity, etc. All good stuff, but irrelevant to operational combat capability... Last, but not least, the increasing cost of environmental programs will draw at least one billion away from operational spending over the next five years.

This seems silly, but the idea of economy of scale works both ways. We're so small and shrunken at this point that even the reasonable permanent programs take up a disproportionate part of the overall budget. The Canadian Forces needs to be bilingual (indeed, much of our success as UN and NATO peacekeepers stemmed from having both English- and French-speaking soldiers, allowing easy liaison with both locals and other nation's soldiers); it also needs to treat its women and its minorities fairly. And it should be self-evident that if some environmental stewardship of its extensive landholdings isn't undertaken, the defence department would risk making much of that land contaminated and permanently unsellable... a serious impediment to any future restructuring.

In a $15-$16 billion budget, which is what we really need, those costs would not need to be questioned. Although I know he doesn't mean to, Mackenzie's wasteful costs could be taken the other way, as evidence that there's still some room to cut and trim back. That would be wrong: right now I'd argue the defence department is the most fiscally responsible government department in Canadian history. We're not the ones blowing $1 billion on a useless firearms registry.

Posted by BruceR at 11:05 AM



Once again, I'm with dear Mr. Chapman. What business does the US have pressuring the EU to admit Turkey? The Turks are not exactly liberal democrats. They've brutally repressed their Kurdish minority, and seem to have, by ruling out any autonomy for Iraqi Kurds as part of their price for any wartime cooperation, guaranteed those Kurds' future subjugation, whether Saddam's still there or not. If Europe doesn't want them in the clubhouse, that's their fricking call, surely. This is the reason why all this "nobody here but us Jacksonians" rambling you see in some quarters always bemuses me: the evidence of any principle at all higher than naked self-interest in American foreign policy at this moment is, shall we say, not immediately evident.

Hey, but maybe Bush and his friends are Jacksonian, who knows. They've certainly taken a Jacksonian approach to Afghanistan.

Posted by BruceR at 12:30 AM



Totally disagree, Mr. Sullivan. From day one, "War on Terrorism" was a cheap figure of speech that by all accounts meant far, far less than it promised. It ALWAYS belonged in quotes. Does anyone really believe that the 2040 version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, in its list of the world's wars, is going to put TWOT in the same column as Korea, Vietnam, etc? Or that anyone will ever agree on the end date, if there even has been one by then? It's a rhetorical device. There was a war in Afghanistan. There likely will be one in Iraq. But those are going to be remembered as the Afghan and Iraqi Wars, not chapters in "TWOT."

Now, if you wanted to group this bunch of little wars under a larger rubric for simplification policies, like "The Lace Wars" or, I suppose, "The Clone Wars," then I could see the merit in that. So, henceforth, on this blog, references to the anti-terrorism wars will be written naked of quotes. "The War on Terrorism," however, will always merit them.

Posted by BruceR at 12:06 AM