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Without a Crystal Ball, We Need Fighter Jets

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 07:32

Think back to the end of 2010. As always, there were lots of experts making predictions. About the stock market. The economy. Politics. War. How many of those experts said that within three months there would be a rebellion against the decades-old regime of Moammar Gadhafi, that Gadhafi would respond with criminal brutality, that the United Nations would authorize military force against Gadhafi's regime, and that fighter jets from Canada and other Western countries would be striking Libyan targets and enforcing a no-fly zone?

Answer: none.

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Should the government of Canada spend $16 billion on 65 of those supercool F-35 stealth fighter jets? I don't know. But I do know one of the arguments often made in the debate, explicitly or implicitly, is dangerously misguided. Worse, it's common. Extremely common. Planners of all sorts routinely fall for it -- and get themselves into serious trouble as a result.

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The Peacekeeping Myth

Friday, 14 July 2006 15:58

As retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie and other officers noted many times this week, soldiers bitch. Always have, always will. The fact that a soldier killed in combat last Sunday had complained to family and friends about the tough, grinding work he was doing in Afghanistan is essentially meaningless. It is terribly unfair, both to the military and to the memory of the soldier, to read anything into it.

But one comment that didn't draw much attention is worth examining more closely. Dylan Bulloch, the best friend of slain soldier Cpl. Anthony Boneca, told the Citizen that Cpl. Boneca "was telling me no one wants to be there, no one knows exactly why they're there and why is Canada in a war zone when all we do is protect and peacekeep."

If Mr. Bulloch's recollection is accurate, it is troubling. Cpl. Boneca may have been a reservist, but he was still an experienced soldier and when even an experienced soldier thinks it inconceivable that he would have to fight a war because "all we do is protect and peacekeep," the military has a problem.

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"Killed At Vimy Ridge"

Tuesday, 10 November 1998 09:53

ARRAS, France - Tom Spear dabbed away a tear and said, ``You've caught me at an emotional moment.'' So it was for the First World War veteran, and others as well. In a concert in Arras, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band had just finished playing Amazing Grace and Nightfall in Camp, two songs old soldiers know well.

But then, the pilgrimage of veterans to France, marking the 80th anniversary of the end of the Great War of 1914-1918 has often been emotional -- never more so than this past weekend, when the veterans returned to Vimy Ridge.

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Where The 20th Century Was Born

Tuesday, 10 November 1998 09:49

MONS, Belgium - Minutes to go. At 10:55 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, Pte. George Price of the Canadian Expeditionary Force held flowers given to him by Belgian townspeople. In minutes, an armistice would take effect. In minutes, the Great War, the war that shattered the world of the 19th century and set the course of the 20th, would be over. Pte. Price waited.

There is now a little brick cairn where Price waited eight decades ago. Standing there this week, I felt as if the 20th Century were gathering in Mons. Time is converging. The air is thick with history.

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