22 February 2014

Andrew Leslie's troubling views on defence policy

Andrew Leslie, former Canadian forces commander in Afghanistan, now adviser to Liberal Party chief Justin Trudeau, has been busy recently defending his $72,000 moving expense, particularly from attack by the Conservatives. Apparently the expense was within appropriate guidelines, so I have no intention of joining in that quibbling.

I am, however, concerned about his views on defence policy, seeing as he has the ear of Mr. Trudeau, possibly Canada's next prime minister, and his views are troubling. Mr. Leslie has been reported as saying, "It's not going to be peacemaking anymore, it's going to be counter-insurgency ... Counter-insurgency will not form the cornerstone of our operations, but it's right in the centre of our spectrum of capabilities we're going to train for."

Putting counter-insurgency at the centre of our capabilities raises a number of red flags for me. To begin with, it smacks of secret operations, and I've had more than enough secret operations from our and our friends' intelligence agencies. I don't need any from our military.

Apparently Leslie believes counter-insurgency is now priority one due to developed countries' concerns about the security threats posed by failed states. That kind of concern tends to be American, the kind of concern that got us into Afghanistan, and I don't want to see any more of that either. It leads to invasions of other peoples' countries, something the Americans just can't seem to quit doing, but then that's the price of empire. There are many things Canada can do, including peacekeeping, to get failed states back on track, things that don't involve killing people.

No doubt counter-insurgency is popular with militarists. It's the glamorous stuff, the Navy Seals and all that, and maybe the machismo will infect Trudeau as well. It was, after all, the Liberals who got us into Afghanistan, and they started by sending in forces from the secretive JTF2 without informing the Canadian public. That was more than enough surreptitious slaughter for me.

Leslie will quite likely play an important role in setting defence policy if the Liberals are elected to government, a policy we know little about. This will bear watching ... closely.


  1. Counter-insurgency is a type of warfare for which Canada's army is really not equipped. The lore of asymmetrical warfare from Julius Caesar to Lawrence and Giap is digested in the US military's field manual, FM3-24.

    This sort of warfare is the most drawn out, labour-intensive of them all. For example, in Kandahar the FM3-24 specified Canada needed 15-25,000 combat troops instead of the miniscule 2,500 strong garrison force we fielded which, on a good day, could deploy about 800 fighting soldiers.

    There are reasons why Afghanistan turned into such a miserable failure. Why should Canada pursue that into the future?

  2. Maybe he's thinking ahead to the counter insurgency required once the rabid Conservatives lose the election?