Welcome to the Spring 2008 edition of the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies (JMSS). As one of the few electronic journals dedicated to the study of security related issues in Canada, we are pleased to provide a forum in which security issues can be examined and discussed.

 

After Hillier

 

     The announcement of the retirement of General Rick Hillier as Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff has sparked much comment about his impact on the Canadian Forces and public. He is credited with having restored the morale of the Forces, with securing more funding and equipment, and with positively raising the Forces’ profile among the public. Bad memories from Mogadishu have been expunged. Everyone “supports our troops”, as the public mantra goes, even those who dislike their engagement in Afghanistan. That engagement reflects other effects of General Hillier. He has raised the influence on policy of the Canadian Forces among mandarins in Ottawa and the country, and expanded public notions of the uses of the Canadian Forces beyond UN-associated peacekeeping (and a hushed association with NATO).

     General Hillier set many things in motion, but settled few of them. It would have been better had he stayed on a few years more in order to do so. Instead, as matters stand, the choice of his replacement will shape the results of his tenure as CDS. The issues remaining are fundamental. Afghanistan has strained Canada’s defence resources and produced a new emphasis on the army, rightly so. But the position of CDS traditionally rotates among the three services, which must compete with each other for resources, and Hillier’s policy and procurement proposals did not entirely please the RCAF and the RCN. A new CDS from another service might wish to reconsider some key issues, especially given the rise of the Arctic and a strategy of “Canada First” as concerns defence policy. Again, one must wonder whether this government will wish to appoint another visible and outspoken figure as CDS (and equally, whether anyone else in the CF”s senior ranks can approached General Hillier in these regards). How will the selection of a less charismatic CDS affect the public profile of the CF, and in Ottawa to boot? Will the government seriously consult its military professionals before launching new commitments and initiatives? How will it handle one obvious implication of Afghanistan – our problems in maintaining a significant (in our terms, at least) ongoing commitment with current or reasonably foreseeable levels of personnel and funding, not to mention the erosive impact which this deployment has on the quality of units and the lives of CF personnel? The CF has just begun a long and expensive period of rebuilding, which can succeed only if it receives even more resources than it has been promised, and uses them effectively, for a sustained period of years. These conditions are not given.

     Other matters lie beyond the control of the CDS or the CF. The continuing public debate over Afghanistan shows that Canadians are divided about the role of force in our external policy, no new thing in itself. Decisions over these issues are a matter for the next election, not the next CDS. The government’s choice for General Hillier’s replacement will indicate its perception of the future for the Canadian forces, but the final decision sooner or later will be taken at the ballot box; as it should.


By James F. Keeley and John R. Ferris, Co-Editors, JMSS


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JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council

ISSN: 1488-559x