Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hillier's personality masked mistakes..

This is from the Star. Hillier's personality may have masked his mistakes but it also caused his mistakes. But I question whether they are mistakes at all. Hillier is not responsible for NATO's losing the war in Afghanistan assuming NATO is losing rather than just facing a stalemate. Backing NATO's mission is hardly a mistake. Hillier has managed to align Canadian military policy with that of the U.S. We are now not a peacekeeper but a fighting force acting as a junior partner to the U.S. military in supporting the global hegominic policy of the U.S. Not only has he changed Canada's role from peacemaker to powdermonkey for the U.S. but he has ensured that more and more taxpayers dollars are fed into the military and indirectly into the military-industrial complex both in the U.S. and Canada. At the same time he has managed to sell the military and the mission to the Canadian public to such a degree that supporting the troops means having them serve warlords, Islamic extremists, and corrupt politicians in Afghanistan together with their U.S. handlers with some troops coming home in coffins and stretchers. Bringing the troops home out of harms way would be not supporting the troops. This is a type of Orwellian MilitarySpeak.


Hillier's personality masked mistakes
TheStar.com - comment - Hillier's personality masked mistakes

April 19, 2008
James Travers

OTTAWA — Most of what is being said and written about Rick Hillier is mostly true. Up to a point, he is a soldier's soldier, a transformational leader and the folksy down-home voice of sophisticated uptown communications spin.

All of that clings close enough to experience to explain the gush after this week's announcement that, come summer, Hillier will step aside. But the man is more than the sum of the clich├ęs and the general's seminal term as Chief of Defence Staff deserves and demands analysis, not pompoms.

In fighting to the top of the military and in now walking away on his terms at his chosen time, Hillier was, and is, a shrewd master of the power vacuum. He filled one in changing then prime minister Paul Martin's mind about who should modernize the military and another in pushing the rump defence department into the premium hierarchical space once occupied by foreign affairs. In leaving he creates two more: one that puts almost impossible pressure on a successor to fill his boots as well as the job description he meticulously defined and another that leaves a contentious – and failing – mission without personal ownership.

Afghanistan connects Hillier's disparate parts. He used it to give the military renewed purpose, erase memories of the Somalia disgrace and change the armed forces' image from peacekeeping to, as he put it, a force able to kill people. Afghanistan was also the catalyst for Hillier's efforts to morph the CDS from obedient public servant to outspoken champion of uniformed men and women in harm's way.

Hillier's successes are obvious and subtle. After decades of decline, the forces are again a proud and prominent national institution. Without fanfare, he has completed former defence minister Paul Hellyer's controversial '60s plan to unify three forces into one that can be led at home and abroad by the army, air force or navy.

Still, his greatest success may be how his larger-than-life persona distracted public attention from what, in the absence of a better word, are his failures. NATO is losing the war Hiller was determined to make Canada's and almost single-handedly managed. And his successor inherits head-hurting problems including a charged and unstable relationship with the military's political masters, a continuing struggle to attract and keep troops and finding the billions needed to balance soaring operational costs against the bills now tumbling in from a Conservative spending spree that was often needed and sometimes a lobbyist's windfall.

Often forgotten, too, are Hillier's mistakes. He was wrong in framing the mission as a test of civilizations fought against a Taliban that turns out to be consumed by imposing its will on Afghanistan, not destroying Westerners or their culture. He had no qualms about biting the hand that appointed him and fed the military. And more than once he crossed the line that democracies draw to safely distance generals from politics.

Hillier's legacy is best left to military historians. In the meantime, his replacement should be pepared for pushback. This obsessively controlling government will be reimposing much of the discipline he escaped and this grasping capital will be clawing back all that it can of the influence over national spending and international policy he and the defence department seized.

As inevitable as the pendulum swing, a system once content to let a powerful individual advance common interests is now ready to take back what it considers its own. If there's a moist eye on Parliament Hill in July it will be hay fever, not the sight of Hillier's back.



James Travers' national affairs column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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