Editor’s Corner article

Who should have authority over the Military?
CHRIS MacLEAN  |  May 15, 2010

I’ve heard grumbling about this question of authority for many years, never more so than now. In this edition, three people from different ­backgrounds tackle the topic from widely different perspectives. However, the end conclusions are not so different.  

From his perch on The Hill, Hudson examines the roles played by both ­Parliament and Government in the deployment of the Canadian Forces. Hudson ­wonders whether it is parliament or the government machine making these ­decisions. Apparently that is a good question. The PM has proven to be a master at the high stakes chess game of federal politics.

Retired Air Force Major Rob Day, in a look at the weaknesses of the ­unification transformation process, reiterates that the civil-military relationship is not rosy when it comes to lines of authority. Day reminds us that the responsi­bilities of pencil pushing in Ottawa are a far cry from leading a dismounted patrol in Kabul to show a strong presence.

In a somewhat different vein, defence observer, Blair Watson legitimately questions the logic of western support to a foreign government that is clearly and irrefutably corrupt. Who is making these decisions? Who is accountable? It’s one thing to decide to help a nation, but if that entails backing a regime that does not work to better the lives of average citizens, does not value the basic human rights of women and children, the decision is flawed. The Afghan people deserve better than this, yet we have chosen silence.

True, the “devil we know” may indeed be better than the “devil we don’t,” nevertheless, we still have an obligation to demand legitimate and fundamental human rights concessions in return for the selfless and heartbreaking sacrifices we make on their behalf – concessions such as enshrining women’s and children’s rights. If Karzai and his government will not agree to that, how can Canada, in good ­conscience, continue to stand by that government and train their ­soldiers and police?

© FrontLine Defence 2010