With Canada set to enter the bloody ground of the Congo on a U.N. Peacekeeping mission, perhaps within the next year, Canadians will soon have to face the reality of putting our men and women in uniform in harms way in a place not extensively different from where Rwanda was pre-massacre.
The country is a powder keg with various armed groups fighting it out for dominance in the back country, and a president named Joseph Kabila who has touched off riots amongst those who consider him yet another African strongman in the making.
Simply put, there is no peace to keep and thus no place for any kind of Peacekeeping mission.
So why are we going? It’s a fair question to ask our Prime Minister, who has so far been mute on his reasoning. Could it be a purely ideological decision without any real sense of the risks Canadian soldiers will be asked to endure? Call it what you will, Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, a Stabilization force; no explanations have so far been forthcoming so we can only speculate on that score.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan did recently undertake a fact-finding mission on the ground accompanied by the not so objective former Senator Romeo Dallaire, who still is suffering from the fallout of a failed campaign when he led Canadian and Belgian soldiers into a genocidal disaster in Rwanda in 1994. Tagging along with them was Louise Arbour, the former head of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and Canadian Supreme Court Justice. So again, an individual some see as being unable to make an objective decision about appropriate conditions on the ground for such a mission. Arbour has an activist vision when it comes to intervening in situations where human rights are being profaned, and she has the ear of our Prime Minister. Hopefully, Sajjan, who understands tribal politics like few Canadian Defense Ministers before him thanks to his war-time service in Afghanistan, will be able to balance out Dallaire and Arbour’s desire to jump into yet another African quagmire with both feet.
The whole mission smells of old Liberal politics and hearkens back to the Pierre Trudeau model of 30 years of failed military policies, rightly rejected by the Chretien government after the Airborne incident in Somalia.
And that makes twice we have failed disastrously in Africa under the U.N. Peacekeeping banner: Somalia, (which was sanctioned by the body) and Rwanda, (which was commanded by it). One cannot help but feel a certain trepidation that Justin Trudeau is setting us up for a third fall in the Congo, one of the most violent and dysfunctionally governed places on Earth.
The Cold War world where the old blue beret Peacekeeping model worked, and made a certain amount of sense, no longer exists. Peacekeeping has become a difficult concept in a world now wracked by terrorism and tribalism. Putting Canadian soldiers in the Congo, even with robust rules of engagement and proper equipment to protect them, looks like it has its pitfalls.
We have to go in prepared to potentially fight a war to protect our soldiers and innocent lives if the country goes to hell in a handbasket in the next little while. Unless we are willing to do that, there’s no point in going in the first place. Let’s see how much this current Liberal government has learned from the mistakes of past Liberals.