Wednesday, August 17, 2005

But they won't hear a word of a doubt, or see signs of weakness

This is not a surprise. Despite fiery rhetoric from Canada's top soldier that the Forces' main job is to kill people and rid the world of "scumbag" terrorists, Canadians prefer an old-fashioned image of their soldiers as benevolent peacekeepers, says a newly released poll. Canadians support their troops and think there should be more of them, that they should be better funded and have better equipment. But the public's support is not deep, and still follows a traditional pattern that remains disturbing for the Forces: They don't think they deserve more money at the expense of health care and education. [...] About 57 per cent said they want the Forces to have a "traditional peacekeeping role" compared with 41 per cent that favoured "a peacemaking role, which might involve fighting alongside other UN troops to force peace in a disputed area." Quebecers, at 62 per cent, and university-educated Canadians, at 61 per cent, most favoured the traditional role. It's still disheartening, because it's just another peace of evidence that Canadians (and especially the most-educated) are still desperately clinging to the peacekeeping fantasy. It's not so much pride in the Pearson vision, I think, as much as cognitive dissonance: The imagined premise of "nice" Canada, moral giant among petty geopolitical squabblers, doesn't jibe with that of maintaining modern and capable armed forces - unless those forces can be justified with feather-light arguments for the further moral authority that their missions grant. That a pathological attachment to peacekeeping before proactive defence means Canada may not have the international influence (or even durability of national defence) many imagine is irrelevant, in this line of reasoning; Canadian troops don't have to be capable of protecting Canada, to be props in a certain type of feel-good post-modern daydream. As long as the self-image of the country as an innocent on the world stage is maintained, that's enough for 57%, apparently. (Also questionable: Since when is peacekeeping the "traditional" role of the Canadian military? I sense shades of Carolyn Parrish-style historical ignorance. Participation in two world wars and several regional ones prior to the Liberal-redefined Year Zero of the nation surely counts for more than the forty-odd years of international irrelevance since, doesn't it?)

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