Posts Tagged ‘military’

Dear friends. I have been watching the media traffic on the Mali mission with interest and offer a few reflections. I served in the military for 33 years retiring in 2001 before 911. In my time we were either peacekeepers or cold warriors serving in Europe. The forty years or so of peacekeeping missions saw about 113 killed. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was a period of somewhat ill-fated missions, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia. Then in 2001, we became war fighters, and the military marginalized peace keeping, essentially getting rid of the Pearson Peacekeeping Center. Well, within a decade, and Afghanistan. Libya and Iraq later, we saw 156 killed, more than that in suicides, thousands wounded or with PTSD, and responsible for civilian fatalities and causalities, unintended but 100% foreseeable.

Now with a new government we are tentatively exploring peacekeeping again, almost from the perspective of little experience, and not much evidence of understanding of UN multidimensional peacekeeping under civilian control. So, over cautious and hesitant, and with seeming resistance from the war culture generation of officers, the military continues to budget for heavy warfighting capabilities and the government in turn delays funding and procurement.    Peacekeeping is almost viewed as a nuisance, or an attentive military would already have permanently rerolled, reequipped, and trained a brigade or two, and assigned dedicated air support, for peace operations, and the money would be flowing. In addition, government departments such as GAC should be well on their way to establishing some type of non-DND federal institution for peace and peace operations.

So here we are heading for Mali, and without a new military generation, or a change in mentality in DND officer-ship from war to peace operations. We are entering a conflict where there is a significant risk of being sucked into anti terrorist or anti insurgency operations, and the killing and casualties will begin again. When something happens, watch how fast the warriors take over if we are not careful.

We will not end wars but can respond to them with humanity. Certainly, there will be causalities, there have always been causalities. The military trains for war zones, civilians do not.   Civilians deserve better.

So in principle, seeking to contribute to peace or the relief of suffering in Mali or any conflict zone, is something Canada should be doing in my view. Hopefully we will learn our way from this start. The question is how and with what sense of humanity. Peace professionals have the characteristics of presence in the conflict, of impartiality, talking to all sides, of uncompromising values for human rights, and with non-violent communication and mediation skills. This is what Canada should be in conflict zones.

Good luck to us.  In peace


Perhaps it is time for a review and update of Canada’s role in nuclear weapons elimination.  It may be time to have a debate of such as:

A Canadian Declaration on the Control, Verification and Eventual Elimination of Nuclear weapons

Preamble.   The IPNDV consultation represents an opportunity for Canada to continue to deliver its government mandated “pivot to peace operations’ in regards to international peace and stability, specifically in the area of nuclear weapons control.

However, getting rid of all nuclear weapons does not un-invent the technology or the knowledge for reconstitution of a nuclear threat. Certainly getting rid of existing nuclear weapons is a necessary step but may be impractical in the near term. An overriding need is a new global ethic regarding nuclear weapons to deal with this reality.

This ethic must certainly deal with the treaties, prohibitions, control and verification regimes, safeguards and global pressure, but in parallel, we have to deal with the nature of conflict, the evolution of national and global identities, the responsible use of power, and the mimetic structures that pass on cultures and values of hate, violence, or conflict from generation to generation. Structures that often fuelled by poverty, corruption or extremist politics. We must transcend our identities, live beyond national interest, beyond differences, to the level of global citizen, to that of human being. We are one family.   We must change the language of conflict from “war and enemies and anger”, to a language of “peacemaking, humanitarian operations, reconciliation, of stopping violence and relieving suffering”.

We need to acknowledge the truth that under no interpretations of the laws of armed conflict is the use of nuclear weapons either legal or acceptable in any way.

We also need to consider a new global ethic regarding responses to conflict in the global community to reduce, such as the usage risk of nuclear weapons. We need to codify and consolidate a body of law and convention obligating robust peace operations as a precursor to military intervention, and make military intervention a truly last resort. We need to fund and resource such a capacity.

Whereas, we believe that nuclear weapons are unusable within the laws of armed conflict.

Whereas, we believe that the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons defines the best of human existence for all mankind.

Whereas, in the interim, we believe in the strongest verification regime possible for all nuclear weapons states.

It is therefore recommended that Canada formally adopts a principle of non indifference regarding nuclear weapons. Canada cannot remain indifferent to the threat that nuclear weapons represents to mankind.   Canada should not refuse to do what Canada can do.

  • Canada support and seek leadership of UN forums working towards the verification and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • Canada lead a “renewal initiative” for nuclear weapons treaty verification, adherence and enforcement strengthening to all existing treaties and conventions regarding nuclear weapons, such as involving the NPT.
  • Canada leads a “renewal initiative” involving the development of relational meta environment approaches to address state security needs for nuclear weapons and to build integrity for the primacy of peaceful human values and global human security.
  • Canada create institutions capable of peace operations what can support field verification operations, ideally within a department of peace.
  • Canada lead an initiative to codify “laws for peace operations” in pre, during and post conflict phases, as a strict precursor to invoking “laws of armed conflict” and military intervention.
  • Canada may also consider mandating DND to develop training and expertise, and create deployable units to support verification requirements.
  • Canada consider declaring itself a nuclear weapons free zone.
  • Canada endorse and recognize cities joining Mayors for Peace (Mayors for Peace is a network of over 5500 cities.  The organization was founded in 1991 by the then Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It calls upon cities to stand together for nuclear abolition and world peace. The leadership provided by the Cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is an important reminder that these are not abstract threats, but a matter of life and death for cities.)



Paul Maillet  Colonel retired

The government has got itself in an interesting dilemma. If we procure the super hornet, this may be all we will get, and may only be a question of adding aircraft numbers as we go along. Is there a first step violation here?

To me, there has to be some critical strategic and historical thinking about all this. To fly the F35 to 2070 is 55 years. 55 years ago we were just seriously entering the jet age. If the evolution of drones or other advances do not overtake the F35 long before 2070, I would be very surprised.

Here is something to think about. Considering the argument of the age of competitors, we should consider that over half the cost, and increasing rapidly, is the avionics suite; all the computers, sensors, radar, countermeasures, communications, data links and weapons. Current aircraft are not flying with original 25 year old electronic suites, not by a long shot. This means that the airframe and engine are becoming more and more just a platform for the weapons and avionics, and not the critical path. So any competitor could theoretically be upgraded to near 5th generation capabilities, and retain the airframe and engines. I suggest that geometry will not remain a deciding factor for stealth much longer.   The question becomes; which platform is best suited for such evolution. Is this the Super Hornet, the Gripen, Typhoon, Rafale? The F35 is certainly not optimized for such as range, speed, manoeuvrability or weapons capacity.

A lot of money is at stake here and we would be prudent to be very cautious. There is no immediate fighter threat to Canada here, and we can always do our share and contribute to international military and peace operations in many other ways.

I attended a panel discussion recently on this topic and noted an appeal for ideas to deal with the issue. I was struck by the universality of inspirational comments, the language of terrorism or enemies, and the almost reflex response of dealing with risk, radicalization or violence from the perspective of “identification and response”, in punitive or treatment approaches, “appeals to behaviour” regarding religious tenants or values, or community obligations. For all the good words, I felt more concern than hope in the room. There is a saying; “you cannot drink the word water.” In this regard, I felt a need for something practical to emerge.

I view language as critical here. In my view there needs to be more awareness of Rosenberg’s theory of Non violent communication. Labelling people as enemies, terrorists or violent extremists is, in a sense, an act of creation that leads us down a path to violence and war, with an implicit licence to invoke lethal force. This means more military, more weapons, more suffering and more collateral damage. That said I do agree that many struggle to find peaceful solutions.   Surely we can do better.

There is another saying; “those who would kill; know that harming others will not bring an end to your suffering.” Perhaps this is an interesting way to view those who choose violence, as also victims of suffering.   It was agreed that causes of such behaviour were everything from numerous, to incredibly complex,  to completely unknown.   However, it can be known that suffering and impermanence exists for us all, the question may become one of how we can all deal with suffering in our lives.

So what is practical in this reality? To start perhaps we need a better balance between controlling wrongdoing and building peace. This means appreciating the difference between positive and negative peace. This means a keen awareness of mimetic structures at play. Mimetic structures are how we pass on cultures of peace or cultures of violence. People have a predisposition to mimic their cultural or family values and beliefs in order to belong or survive.

What is practical in building communities of peace? Perhaps we need an approach of the “whole person” and “whole of community.” Perhaps we need an understanding that one can only build peace, by beginning with “peace within”, before expecting to create “peace between” others in our communities.

This opens many doors. The door to building life practices in people, that seeks to cultivate a “mind of peace”, inner peace, equanimity, mindfulness, presence; and practices and techniques for the understanding of, and dealing with, suffering and trauma in its impermanence and pain, in all the roots of conditions or causes that are not-self.

Also there is the door to building community practices. This may involve training all (children, youth men, women, elders) in the basics of building peace, such as non violent communication, conflict resolution, reconciliation and closure, ethics and ethical decision making, good values, and living well in the company of each other. At a higher level building good governance, human security, economic viability and social needs such as health, education, wellbeing.

Also there is the door to building a group of peace practitioners in the community, especially in the youth. Peace practitioners that lead by example, with capacities around principles of being presence in arising conflict or issues, impartiality, advocating human rights, and have communication or dialogue skills. This may give youth alternatives to conflict through building positive purpose and meaning. Youth with peace building skills, non violent social activism, a voice, and participation in governance can be a powerful contributor to community wellbeing. Training and certifying peace practitioners is easy, and may begin with a “peace within” focus followed by skills education and experience.

So are we in the business of countering violent extremism or building communities of peace, or both? Which has priority? Perhaps the saying “I am one and only one; but will not refuse to do what one can do” has merit. We need small but visionary steps. Good luck to us all.

It is time to try something different.  Military forces can be seen as a study in cultural rigidity. In a military conference I attended this year, a session on encountering child soldiers, trauma, PTSD and moral injury, the response alluded to ”mental health briefings” as a solution to what may lead to depression or suicide. In a strong warrior culture with the suicide rates being what they are (20 per day in the US among military veterans) belies the effectiveness of briefings. “Killing is killing” and anyone doing so, for just cause or not, encounters a traumatic event. The only question is – will they then be traumatized? This is part of what I am trying to address as a peace professional in first nations work and in a current peace and reconciliation project in the Tamils and Sinhalese diaspora, who have severe trauma issues and a child soldier problem.

There is a saying regarding all this, “one cannot drink the word water”. One does not create strong soldiers by talking about push-ups. One needs to exercise and go running every day. The same can be said for mental or trauma resiliency. Briefings are insufficient without strong military life practices. This means adding or changing certain military service practices and their acceptance in military culture. This would take courage because such practices in some ways may run counterculture to a warrior ethos that is not well suited to real independent and critical thinking and living values that are necessary for wellbeing, such as compassion, inner peace and equanimity. A rebalancing of military culture that blends mental health and resiliency with military ethics certainly begins with serious thinking about “military meaning and purpose” in war and conflict. If the trauma issue is to be seriously addressed, military culture should evolve to include continuous practices of wellbeing, mindfulness, breath practices, presence, and meditation. Military culture must understand the nature of suffering and trauma from the perspective of impermanence and that there are alternatives to victimization and depression. Mental wellbeing and causing harm or violence have a fundamental incompatibility. This is a significant and maybe an impossible challenge in a military culture. Good luck to us, or the consequences will be just more suicides and trauma.


Aug 2013.   A promise of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians is raising hopes once again, against a backdrop of decades of failure and violence.   Although peace may be elusive on one hand, on the other hand, peace is only a matter of readiness and willingness. This can be solved anytime they want.   It may simply a matter of  when they hurt enough or when they love enough.   The rest us hold all this in suspension (the hard thing, because it is so easy to be cynical and disbelieving)  and take it one day at a time, and help if we can.  Imposing a coerced agreement is not peace.  We encourage dialogue, nonviolence and human rights.  The rest is out of our hands.  Good luck to us all.

In this time of reflection,  following major Canadian   defense deployments and some soul searching in NATO, the emerging conversation is being  presented in terms of challenges in selling Canadians on increasing defense expenditures based on a threat assessment involving possible future enemies, basically China, non functioning governments, military conflict over global resource competiveness,  and maybe the north with Russia; all in an effort to maximize or increase possible defense budgets.    This is a fairly traditional military approach to defense justification;  the search for future enemies, however improbable, hypothetical or realistic, all in concert with needing  newer, more expensive military technology.   I believe this is no longer a viable or sustainable approach to defence planning, and no longer relevant, given the current nature of ethnic or insurgency conflict, the crippling cost of military hardware, the pervasiveness of media technology, growing economic constraints and  a  emerging awareness of other global priorities, such as poverty, energy and climate issues.  This is combined with insurgencies and militant radicals who now know how to defeat heavy conventional land armies and superpowers.  Canadians see all this, and regardless of the current governments view of Canadian military history, our diversity does not lend us to think of ourselves as having a deep  military tradition, or of wanting our contribution to international peace and stability to be  one of open warfare and killing.   We are a country of First Nations and immigrants, many of which came here because the militaries in their home countries were not trusted or worse.   We are a country blessed by geography in a military sense, and if anything, a tradition and culture of peace.

I believe that  to have a meaningful, credible and honest dialogue with Canadians on defence  means to set aside any “politics of fear or of enemies”.    Strategies of overselling, up-selling, or cross-selling are pretty transparent to most Canadians.

I believe it important to stop talking about threats and stop looking  for enemies.    Why do we need threats, especially China or Russia,  when growing economic dependencies make war a declining possibility; a possibility that is undesirable and ruinous for everyone, including any aggressor?  What you label  –  you create.  I believe that language is very important if you want to communicate with Canadians.    The word enemy means to an approach of  “search and destroy” in military terms and implies a real threatened of total physical destruction or conquest.  The word may engender a response from identified countries that is not conducive to good relationships.  The military or its advocates cannot, directly or indirectly, be complicit in creating enemies, that do not exist in the context of direct and explicit military threats.

Perhaps what we actually have are, not enemies, but serious problems or challenges to international peace and stability.  Then the legitimate question is –  what does this mean for the Canadian Military?  What is affordable ?  What are Canadians willing to spend on defence?  How can the military make the most effective and responsible use of what is allocated?

I suggest that the current Plan A being advocated assumes that “what is” does not equal ”what should be”  and seeks to strain capacity, tries to do everything, is never enough, and is not sustainable or credible to Canadians.

Perhaps a Plan B may involve a greater acceptance that “what is” equals “what should be” and the military accept what is given by Canadians and go from there.

In the background, perhaps we should acknowledge the Afghanistan and Libyan missions are over and some hard lessons need to be admitted here.  Iraq and Afghanistan, as was Vietnam, are failures by any measure.  We need to admit that losing trillion dollar wars in the Mideast cannot be sustained, and will be very very rare in the future.  In this regard, the west should consider a current overspend admission.  Even by the current numbers, just how many multiples of Russia-China defense expenditures do we need to feel secure, even as China plays “catch-up”?  We have massively more than enough by any military analysis.   We overspend them so much,  that it borders on irresponsible, and we then complain about their defence expenditures. This makes no sense to Canadians.  The current global arms build-up is beyond incredible.  We need a new world view  where war should not always  be the first reflexive response to problems.

This may lead to expressing  Plan B as a  Canadian defence strategy of “reduce and extend”, where we prioritize and turn expenditures into defence sustainability.

Perhaps also a Plan C in parallel is necessary.  Here we may  acknowledge that hard military intervention with heavy weapons and the taking of sides is no longer any viable solution to international conflict,  and there is a balance and sufficiency of military force structure that is enough. It may be time to reconsider supporting a relevant and  evolved “peace operations” doctrine, that aims to relieve suffering and reduce conflict, not participate in it.   I believe this  means something to Canadians,  no matter how hard the military, or the government try to deny it or assert otherwise.  I believe that the northern issue can be resolved through good faith and diplomacy.   I believe that trade and global economic integration will make any major conflict between superpowers obsolete.  Competitiveness does not , or should not, mean enemies.  My biggest suggestion would be – don’t make enemies if we do not have to.  Competitors or having differences do not define enemies.  I believe that enemies in a purely  military sense do not exist in the minds of  Canadians, and that any conversation along this line will get the Department of Defence absolutely nowhere with Canadians.

Good luck to us as we discuss what to do next, and I hope that the outcomes will  serve to bring the Canadian Forces and Canada into a new era of leadership in an evolved, meaningful and constructive response to international peace and stability.