Canada and Peacekeeping

Canada can and should do more to support peacekeeping

In an age of displacements created by protracted conflicts, increasingly within states rather than between states, there is an urgent need for peacekeepers. The core principles of peacekeeping – voluntary contributions, consent of all parties, impartiality – still apply. But peace operations are now more complex.

The UN is increasingly mandated where there is no peace to keep. The UN must operate where there are no identifiable parties with which to negotiate. Peacekeepers face asymmetric and unconventional threats requiring them to be flexible, adaptable and mobile.

As first responders, peacekeepers work closely with humanitarian and relief organizations. Peacekeepers set up camps for the displaced, organize fresh water and sanitation, and get civilians out of harm’s way. Peacekeepers police crime, including traffickers and smugglers of people and illicit goods.

Twenty years after the Srebrenica massacres and the Rwandan genocide, hauntingly captured in Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil, these experiences have taught lessons. Peacekeepers are now given clearer mandates to protect civilians and clearer authority to use force. For UN commanders, decisiveness and good local relationships are critical elements in peacekeeping.

There are currently 16 UN sponsored peacekeeping missions, involving more than 120,000 personnel, including 90,000 troops and more than 13,000 police. Two-thirds of UN peacekeeping missions operate in conflict zones. An additional 22,000 are involved in the African-Union-led peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Secretary-General Ban says the requirement for peacekeepers will only increase.

Canada may not have invented peacekeeping but we were instrumental in its development. Canadians monitored the truce in Palestine (1948) and Kashmir (1949). During the 1956 Suez crisis, we helped broker the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). For his efforts Lester Pearson earned the Nobel Peace Prize. Between 1956-2006, more than 120,000 Canadians served in over 50 missions from Cambodia to Congo. More than 25,000 Canadians rotated through Cyprus from 1964-1993.

Our peacekeeping commitment has declined. Today 112 Canadians are involved in various operations including an officer in the Sinai and Cyprus.

Critics, with some justification, argued that peacekeepers had become long-term band-aids to what should be diplomatic solutions. Fair or not, white soldiers confronting angry Africans or Asians also evokes complaints about neo-colonialism. Others argue that our military should first defend the homeland, then our continental and collective security obligations. They are right and peacekeeping complements all of these goals.

Then there is the cost argument.

The UN peacekeeping budget this year is $8.27-billion (U.S.), less than a half of one per cent of the $1.75-trillion that nations spend annually on arms. Developed nations – USA, Japan, France, Germany, U.K. – are the top peacekeeping financiers with Canada in 9th place.

The UN compensation for peacekeepers is about $1,100 a month. It costs considerably more for developed nations to field troops overseas. To keep a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan cost $525,000 (Canadian) annually.

Developing nations now supply most peacekeepers. Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Rwanda and Nepal field more than 5,000 each. At a summit on UN peacekeeping hosted last September by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden (Canada did not participate) Mexico announced it will now join peace operations.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told defence chiefs “when peacekeeping missions are deployed in post-conflict situations, countries are 50 per cent less likely to experience renewed conflict.” Representing all 193 member states, the blue berets possess unique legitimacy.

Canada can and should do more to support peacekeeping.

First, revive the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre that was closed for budgetary reasons in 2013. During its two decades of operations it trained more than 18,000, representing 150 nations. As Romeo Dallaire observes, peacekeepers always face ethical, moral and legal dilemma. Training, especially on working with local populations, is essential.

Second, we bring professionalism to peace operations. We are good at logistics, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Royal Canadian Air Force lift capacity was recently used for peace operations in Mali. Our Special Forces are very good. The requirement for rapid response obliges our next government to prioritize Forces readiness.

In putting forward the UN resolution creating UNEF, Mr. Pearson told the General Assembly, “We need action not only to end the fighting but to make the peace.” Etched into Canada’s peacekeeping memorial, Mr. Pearson’s words should inspire the Canadian voice at the peacekeeping summit.

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A helpful fixer role for Canada in Syria and Egypt?

These are Canada’s options in Syria and Egypt. None of them are easy

The Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Aug. 28 2013

So what can Canada do about Syria and Egypt where the options for policymakers range from bad to worse.

Syria is the latest example of a failing state where the dictator is doing everything he can to hang onto power including breaking international law, most recently in the apparent use of chemical weapons.

UN-sanctioned inspectors are on the ground attempting to determine the facts although US Secretary of State John Kerry has declared evidence of chemical weapons is “undeniable” and that there must be “accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons”.  Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the US is “ready to go.”

Acting precipitously, as the USA and its ‘coalition of the willing’ learned in Iraq comes with a huge cost in blood, treasure and international standing. But, as Senator John McCain argues,  if the USA doesn’t make an armed response “our credibility in the world is diminished even more.”

Meanwhile, the military coup in Egypt that ousted President Morsi is a reminder that the transition to representative government takes time and requires patience.

It took the Anglosphere nearly a millennium to go from Magna Carta to the extension of the franchise to first, all men and, less than a century ago, all women. In the case of civil rights for African Americans, it is just fifty years since the March on Washington that led to legislation on voting and civil rights.

If we have learned anything from Iraq and Afghanistan it is that the road to representative government is long, crooked, tortuous and filled with disappointments.

The costs of Iraq and Afghanistan to the USA are estimated at between four and six trillion dollars (Canada’s entire economy is  $1.83 trillion).

An estimate of the costs of intervention in Syria is contained in a recent letter from General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Senators Carl Levin and John McCain.

Dempsey observed that “the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly” because it “is no less than an act of war.”

To train and advise the Syrian opposition is costing $500 million annually.

Establishing a no-fly zone over Syria, Dempsey wrote, would have a start-up cost of $500 million and a monthly bill of a billion dollars. Intervention employing special forces to secure the chemical stockpiles in Iraq would cost at least another billion dollars a month

Policymakers, as well as armchair generals and responsibility-to-protect advocates, should start any discussions on intervention by reading aloud Dempsey’s observation that the last decade has taught that it is “not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state.”

They should also heed Dempsey’s three warnings:

First, “We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action.”

Second: “We must also understand risk-not just to our forces, but to our other global responsibilities.”

Third, “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”

Intervention, Dempsey says, should also be done  “in concert with our allies and partners to share the burden and solidify the outcome.”

These considerations and the requirement for burden-sharing were discussed during the weekend conversations involving President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry with western leaders, including Prime Minister Harper.

Surveys reveal that Americans are very wary of armed intervention. Canadian attitudes are likely to be similar.

So what can we do?

The immediate consideration is humanitarian.

The UNHCR estimates that there are now nearly two million refugees, including a million children, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Funding for the three billion dollar Syria Regional Refugee Response plan is currently only 38 percent funded. Canada has subscribed $81.5 million towards Syrian relief.

Beyond money, we should also consider ramping up our refugee intake in a way that is both strategic and humanitarian.

Experience has taught us that successful integration of refugees depends on many factors. Like the installation of democracy, some adapt better than others and sustaining Canadian support for a generous refugee and immigration program obliges policymakers to temper generosity with pragmatism.

One group that is under stress and that may require resettlement is Egypt’s Christian minority. We have condemned the attacks on the over 60 churches but their situation is precarious.

Forty years ago, in response to the expulsion of 60,000 Ugandan Asian, Canada resettled nearly 7,000.

Like the Egyptian Christians, the Ugandan Asian were a community of small business people and professionals. Today, their success is another reflection of the positive virtues of Canadian pluralism.

The Egyptian Christians would likely integrate in similar fashion, especially given the presence in Canada of their co-religionists to help in the transition.

Taking a leadership role in humanitarian relief in Syria and Egypt would give tangible substance to Foreign Minister John Baird’s ‘dignity’ agenda. It would also demonstrate, once again, the Canadian tradition as a helpful fixer.

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A Conversation with Hon. John Manley on Global Developments

CPAC The Conference of Defence Associations Institute (CDA Institute) and the CDA host the 2013 Ottawa Conference on Defence and Security. (February 21, 2013)

John Manley (CEO, Canadian Council of Chief Executives) has an in-depth conversation with former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson about Canada’s role on the world stage: Afghanistan, conditions for Canadian intervention, Pacific Century, procurement and the Jenkins Report, aerospace and shipbuilding, Team Canada missions and promoting Canadian world-class capability,  China, Japan, India, new defence challenges.

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On Nato and Canada: Commitments and Cybersecurity

NATO’s toughest battle is the discussion about its future

COLIN ROBERTSON Special to The Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Feb. 20 2013

When NATO’s Defense ministers meet in Brussels this week, they will talk about the endgames in Afghanistan and Mali, and defence spending. Canada should use the occasion to press for an honest discussion on NATO resourcing and encourage the Alliance to focus on the emerging challenge of cyber-security.

Most of the allies, including Canada, have served notice that they will be gone sooner than later from both Afghanistan and Mali, leaving only a residual force in both places. For now, there is no enthusiasm within the Alliance for out–of-area operations and with reduced spending there is even less capacity to act.

In 2006, the Allies committed to defence spending of a minimum of two per cent GDP. In 2012, only four of the twenty-eight member nations met the target.

In addition to the division it creates between member countries, the effect of these disparities is threefold writes Secretary General Rasmussen: first, an ever greater military reliance on the United States. Second, growing asymmetries in capability among European Allies. Third, a defence gap that will compromise the Alliance’s ability in international crisis.

The US has carried the load in the Alliance.

Sequester and cuts will reduce American capacity. It expects more from the partner nations, with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, warning that future US leadership, “for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.”This deserves a frank discussion.

As a start, NATO should probably revise its commitment figure to reflect fiscal realities – probably closer to the 1.5 per cent that Canada, and most other members, currently spend on defence.  Then look hard at how the money is spent.

A fifth of Alliance defence spending is supposed to go towards new equipment, crucial for NATO modernization efforts. This makes sense yet, only five allies meet the target.

NATO needs to look at procurement and discuss best practices so we can spend our money with effect. Nobody, except perhaps the French, do it well.

Part of the problem, as we witness in Canada over the F-35 debacle, is the inability to accurately predict costs or meet a schedule. In a useful report, Canada First: Leveraging Defence Procurement through Key Industrial Capabilities, business leaderTom Jenkins presented a series of recommendations that focus on five clusters: Arctic and Maritime Security, Protecting the Soldier, Command and Support, Cybersecurity, Training Systems and In-Service Support.

Jenkins’ recommendations are sensible and they should feed into discussion of an industrial defence strategy that also includes concepts like buying off-the-shelf and performance incentives (and penalties).

In a look at the wider world, another useful report, Strategic Outlook for Canada: 2013, authored by Ferry De Kerckhove and George Petrolekas, enumerates a baker’s dozen threats including nuclear proliferation from North Korea and Iran, turmoil in Syria and the Middle East, a cloning Al-Qaeda, China’s disputes with its neighbours, especially Japan. There are also threats closer to home: the continental drug trade, Haiti “the perennial rock of Sisyphus” and “a new, very cold war, in cyberspace.”

The cyber-threat deserves immediate attention.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano observed last week that not a day goes by without intrusions on the US defense and financial establishment. This likely holds true for us as well. Most of it originates from three countries: China, Russia and Iran.

In one of the first actions of his second term, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing US government agencies to prepare cybersecurity standards for the nation’s rail, road, air and energy grids.

The Order should stimulate Canadian cyber-preparedness. Our continental grid system is so integrated and vital to our economic well-being that we should act in tandem with the US.

NATO also has an economic mandate – inspired by Canada – so let’s make cyber-standards an Alliance initiative.

Canada was present and actively participated in the creation of NATO. Times and circumstances have changed, but the rationale for collective security in an alliance of like-minded democracies remains the same.

Strategic Outlook predicts that Canadian policymakers will increasingly favour pragmatism over principle; containment over involvement; reflection over engagement. These attitudes are likely shared across the Alliance. Leaders should bear them in mind as they envisage the future NATO.

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Stephen Harper’s World View

Excerpted from October Policy Options ‘Harper’s World View’

…Argue with the taxonomy, but there are essentially three traditions in Canadian foreign policy. The first is the realist, power-and-interest tradition that holds close to the hegemon, initially Britain and then the United States. The external counterpart to Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy, it has been followed, in varying degrees, by Macdonald, then Sir Wilfrid Laurier through to Brian Mulroney. The second is the Mackenzie King tradition, nationalist, regional in outlook, and both cautious and skeptical about international entanglements. It also appealed to populist, regional third parties from the Progressives through the Bloc Quebecois. The third is the St- Laurent-Pearson tradition, further refined by Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien: strongly nationalist and internationalist – assertive, energetic, with an emphasis on international law and institutions.

Looking at Harper’s record suggests his approach to foreign policy fits comfortably within the realist, power-and-interest tradition.  At the outset the new PM promised to “build the relationships and the capabilities which will allow us to preserve our sovereignty, to protect our interests, and to project our values…In a shrinking, changing, dangerous world,” he declared in his first major foreign policy speech in October 2006. He continued: “our government must play a role in the world. And I believe that Canadians want a significant role – a clear, confident and influential role…they don’t want a Canada that just goes along; they want a Canada that leads. They want a Canada that doesn’t just criticize, but one that can contribute. They want a Canada that reflects their values and interests, and that punches above its weight.”

The debate within Canada around energy and the environment is symptomatic of another rule of politics. What may constitute good public policy – taxing carbon, ending sales of asbestos, abandoning supply marketing, permitting foreign investment in our resources, is not always good politics. Regional differences make national consensus difficult. National unity comes with a price and there is more than a little wisdom to F.R.Scott’s lampoon of Mackenzie King: “Do nothing by halves/ Which can be done by quarters.”

While putting on the blue beret has considerable romantic appeal, Canadians have not led in peacekeeping for a couple of decades and contemporary circumstances make it unlikely we’ll do so again soon. In part, there has been an effort to ‘regionalize’ peacekeeping pools and in part, as Denis Stairs points out, contributing to UN peacekeeping operations is “a source of badly needed foreign exchange” for the main source countries – Bengladesh, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

Technology and more failing states means what is required is less peacekeeping than peacemaking or peace enforcement or acting as a first responder to disasters. To echo historian Jack Granatstein, we owe former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier a great debt for “changing the conceit that Canadians were peacekeepers first, last and always.” Our experience in Afghanistan has given us the ‘best little army’ in the world and the skills we’ve developed proved adaptable and effective in the relief of Haiti after the hurricane. This is a much more realistic role for Canada and while Canadians wanted us out of a combat role in Afghanistan, there is strong public support for the Forces.

Rather than flog the dead horse of peacekeeping, the bigger policy question for Canadians is how far, and how much, should we commit to duties beyond our border that actively involve us in other people’s conflicts with significant risk to the lives of Canadians. Observes Australian diplomat-scholar Owen Harries: “The successful promotion of democracy calls for restraint and patience, a sense of limits and an appreciation of the wisdom of indirection, a profound understanding of the particularity of circumstances.”

As we have learned in Afghanistan and Iraq, liberal democracy is not an easy transplant and any policy of imposing it through force will also fail. Acting with the best of intentions is inherently difficult to translate into significant change because of the extent to which they depend on other people and other, often intractable, societies.

The  2008 Canada First Defense Strategy gives teeth to our ambitions in homeland defence and in making a necessary contribution to collective security.: “`A handful of soldiers is better than a mouthful of arguments,”’ said Harper in Trapani, Italy the base for RCAF CF-18s flying over Libya, “For the Gadhafis of this world pay no attention to the force of argument. The only thing they get is the argument of force.”
Restoring the traditional designations – Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force – to strengthen their identities as national institutions is a positive step.

But the real test for the Conservatives will be to meet the new recruitment targets, ultimately 100,000 personnel (70,000 Regular Force and 30,000 Primary Reserve), and to meet the procurement timetable for the new ships and planes that will “give us the ability to act.” Our procurement process is inadequate. As the Auditor General and the Canadian Association of Defence and Securities Industries (CADSI) and others have pointed out, the likely result is that new kit will be delayed, abandoned or diminished in quality and quantity. We need to quickly develop a defence industrial strategy and a viable ship building industry.  A useful first step would be to look to the experiences of our British and Australian allies…

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CPAC Broadcast on Canada and the future of NATO

CPAC Broadcast: On Septemer 21st, 2010, Paul Chapin, former director general for international security at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Lieut.-Gen. (Ret’d) Michel Maisonneuve, former chief of staff at NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, with moderator Colin Robertson took part in a  lively conversation on NATO’s future direction at the opening session of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch. The session was broadcast by CPAC. The report is available at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.

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Power Play: On Afghanistan

October 28, 2009  CTV Powerplay Interview

With the recent death of another Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, questions are being raised about the need for Canada’s military efforts in the country. The former Canadian envoy in Washington, Colin Robertson and a CTV correspondent weigh in on Canada and America’s strategy on the war.

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Power Play: On Afghanistan, Will fraud affect Canadian support?

October 19, 2009 CTV Powerplay Interview

Retired general Tom Wilkerson and former Canadian envoy in Washington Colin Robertson discuss the apprehensions Canadians have about the mission in Afghanistan.

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