Friday, November 6, 2009

Do Canadians Embrace New Role for the Military>

An interesting article which shows the characteristics necessary to be a senior writer for the Globe and Mail. Start out with an interesting headline but then do not provide any evidence for your claim. This article in fact itself provides considerable evidence against what the headline claims. As the article mentions there is majority opposition for our role as a warrior nation especialy in Afghanistan. How can the Globe print such nonsense as this? In case anyone is interested since the article does not bother to quote any actual polls. Here is some 2009 actual polling on Afghanistan from Wikipedia.

October 2009 Innovative Research Group poll: The majority 76% of Canadians oppose keeping any Canadian military forces in Afghanistan beyond 2011: 53% want to end the military mission "and concentrate exclusively on humanitarian work and reconstruction", and 23% want Canada to "end to all of its activities, military and non-military" and "get out" completely in 2011. Only a minority 15% support having the military stay in some form past 2011. According to the online poll commissioned by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, 50% of Canadians oppose having troops in Afghanistan, while support was at 45%.[8][9]
October 2009 Harris Decima poll: The majority 56% of Canadians oppose the government's commitment to having troops in Afghanistan, up from 54% in May. Only 9% "strongly support" it, while twice as many, 21% of Canadians "strongly oppose" having troops in Afghanistan. The majority 86% of Canadians want the troops to be out of Afghanistan before or by the current end date in 2011: The plurality 45% of Canadians believe Canada should stay until the current end date in 2011 but not extend past it, while 41% want Canada to bring the troops back early before 2011. Only a minority 10% of Canadians support keeping military troops in Afghanistan past 2011. The plurality 49% of Canadians support ending the military mission and replacing it with a civilian mission, while 40% oppose a civilian mission after 2011. In a dichotomy between voter groups, only among Conservative voters was there majority support for having troops in Afghanistan.[10]
October 2009 Angus Reid poll: The majority 56% of Canadians oppose Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan, an increase in opposition to the war from 52% in July. 37% support the military involvement, a drop in support from 43% in July. At the time of the poll, the number of Canadian soldiers killed by the war stood at 131.[11]

Not much evidence there for Canadians warming towards the idea of Canada being a warrior nation.

Canadians embrace new role for military

As the Forces have spent money and sacrificed lives in Afghanistan, Canadians have warmed up to the country's new role as a warrior nation. But what happens after 2011?
Erin Anderssen

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published on Friday, Nov. 06, 2009 10:34PM EST

.There's no doubt that Canadians have developed a full-blown, if heartbreaking, romance with their soldiers – and, it can be argued, a more robust sense of the country's place in the world. They have become modern-day action heroes, fighting the Taliban in lethal skirmishes, chasing pirates off the Somali coast, providing a worthy air escort for the Olympic torch across the ocean. But it's an awkward love affair.

And if Canadians have accepted – and even come to admire – a military that is more muscular, they are still more comfortable with Joe, the Canadian of that decade-old beer ad who declared: “I believe in peacekeeping, not policing.”

But after decades of keeping the peace, our soldiers have become police – immersed in a deadly combat mission which, according to several polls, a majority of Canadians oppose. While tending to accept that their soldiers should stay in Afghanistan to the 2011 deadline, a war-shy public will be hesitant to commit to a future of grieving over the Highway of Heroes, however renewed their patriotism. Afghanistan, some analysts say, may be the country's last war, at least for a while. So a hard conversation looms when the fighting side of the mission ends two summers from now: Welcome home, brave soldier. But where and how will you serve next?

“The question facing Canadians – and it's very important – is what do we want to do with a better armed, better equipped, better funded military,” says Janice Stein, director of the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto. “Are we willing to use it? That's the debate that's coming.”

For a country shaped over the past 50 years by its peacekeeping identity, that means a truth-telling: “Classic peacekeeping of the kind where you interpose yourselves between two armies and play volleyball in the middle, that's gone.” Now wars are fought inside countries between armies and militants, and civilians are killed deliberately. In Afghanistan, Dr. Stein observes, “we can talk about it as a reconstruction mission or stabilization mission, but that actually involves fighting and dying. [That makes] many Canadians uncomfortable still.”

Canadians largely support a military presence in Canada's north, but that's a matter of “standing on guard” for sovereignty, not advancing into war. As Dr. Stein says, “Nobody is going to die in combat in the Arctic.”

The military – particularly under the outspoken command of Rick Hiller, now retired as chief of defence staff and promoting his autobiography across the country – has been quite deliberate in self-promotion, and successful, to a point. “If the key icons of the 80s were things like medicare and the CBC, the military became the new icon of the 21st century,” says pollster Frank Graves, president of the social research firm EKOS. Once the Afghanistan mission began, “the military became the most recognizable face of the federal government,” he said.

The lingering shame of atrocities by Canadian soldiers in Somalia has dissipated into history, the images of soldiers piling sandbags during the Red River flood or saving stranded citizens during the ice storm that struck Quebec and Eastern Ontario in 1998 sparked the return of affection. But it is the war in Afghanistan – and the steady, wrenching return of fresh-faced young men (and a few women) in coffins – that inspires the solemn crowds on those dozens of overpasses between CFB Trenton and the Coroner's office in Toronto, and the ribbons of support on car windows (or the more hostile bumper-sticker rebuke “If you don't stand behind our troops feel free to stand in front of them”). Annual Armed Forces appreciation nights have become de rigueur at professional sports events across the country. most recently at a Senators game in Ottawa, where 2,200 uniformed soldiers were given free tickets. “Ten years ago,” Mr. Hillier said during a phone interview this week, “that would have been incomprehensible.”

Standing in a line for a flight at the Ottawa airport, a couple months ago, anonymous in his civvies, he watched the mass of people in line approach the uniformed soldiers, shaking hands, even offering to buy them a Tim Hortons coffee. Less than five years ago, he observes, that would never have happened. “I don't think most Canadians would have known who they were, and even if they had known, very few of them – if any - would have gone out of their way to say ‘Thank you for what you do, our hopes and prayers are with you.' And I've seen that across the country.”

And after a long stretch of resistance to spending money on the military, support for defence expenditures has steadily risen over the past decade, rooted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in the need for a stronger military, and, at times, an even stronger desire to make work safe for the soldiers themselves.

“We have to be careful we don't romanticize the change too much,” counters Douglas Bland, chair in Defence Management Studies at Queen's University School of Policy Studies, who believes that dwindling political and public enthusiasm for combat missions makes a sequel to Afghanistan unlikely. “It's not very deep-seated.”

The public, he says, will not support big-money defence spending and hasn't responded to newly enthusiastic flag-waving by enlisting. (Every branch of the Armed Forces is struggling to replace retiring veterans with new recruits.) Bottom line, Dr. Bland said, Canadians are “not very keen on a mission that involves a lot of shooting.”

But for two more years, they will have to live with one. In the meantime, Canadians will wear their poppies and shake the soldier's hand on the bus, and sadly, inevitably, line up to honour more convoys carrying the casualties of a divisive war.

Last week, after a speech at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Mr. Hillier played a video of pictures from the Highway of Heroes, with a Canadian version of the stirring U.S. country western anthem, God Bless the USA . (“I am proud to be in Canada,” chants the chorus.) A standing ovation followed in homage to the soldiers flashed on the screen. That's the easy part – waving the flag a little higher, caring much more for lives sacrificed in service to country. Now the tough talk begins about the future of the country's finer fighting force.

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