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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Fit For Conscription?

Thinking this morning about Syria - and the various alliances lining up on either side of the Syria equation - reminds me more than a bit of the state of Europe pre-World War I.  If supporters like the US, Great Britain and Germany are steadfast committed to siding against the Assad regime and Iran and Russia decide to support him in force things could get pretty nasty, pretty quick.  Add to that the volatility across the Middle East and in economically challenged countries with heightened ethnic tensions like Greece and Hungary and ongoing violence in hotspots ranging from Somalia to Western China, there's a potential scenario which sees the world on fire.

All worst-case scenario stuff, of course.  One would like to think we've learned from the past and won't repeat the mistakes of our forefathers.

If, though, countries like Canada find themselves further engaged in fighting for a new world of law where the strong are just, the weak secure and the peace preserved - would we have the military resources to do so?  Sure, there's lots of talk about procuring physical assets like f35s, but a story less told is how poorly we've been doing in supporting our troops, particularly where it comes to PTSD.  One must question whether we have the human resources required to sustain heavy combat in multiple theatres, simultaneously.

If we don't?  If the demands of world security (and our allies) grows more burdensome than our military can bear, would Canada ever re-introduce conscription, giving yet another generation of young men (and now, women) the opportunity to serve their country on the front lines?  Again, unlikely.  As Randian Objectivism has become today's Marxism, I don't see their being a lot of appetite for that against a backdrop of austerity, but not yet widespread desperation.

If we do, though - how prepared are Canadians to go to war?  How fit are we?  I know of a whole host of young Canadians, highly trained and extremely motivated who have spent months or years looking, unsuccessfully, for steady work.  They're becoming more psychologically fragile the longer uncertain futures loom over them.  Frankly, I wonder what sort of training supports they would need to develop the sort of emotional discipline required to run into opposing gunfire.

Then, there's the physical fitness.  Society-wide, we've gotten into a bad habit of off-loading our healthcare to healthcare providers; without the physiotherapy, the drugs and the personal trainers (if you can afford any of those things), how fit are we?  A generation of desk-workers could find themselves dying more of strain-induced heart attacks than actual combat.  

Of course, this is all speculative.  It's at the extreme end of strategic planning to consider such eventualities, but guaranteed that somewhere, military gamers are running scenarios, just as they are around water insecurity.

If it does happen though, I'd argue we aren't ready.  It would take several years of committed government intervention to get new soldiers fit and trained for combat.  More than that it would take a massive propaganda war (far more invasive than even the Economic Action Plan one) to get Canadians committed to the idea of putting skin in the game in the name of Harper's New Canada.

After a decade of "stop expecting government to hold your hand" leadership, it would be very interesting to see our current federal government turn around, commit sociology and ask Canadians to put their lives on the line for others in their name.  It'd be a bit rich for the political class to tell Canadians to ask what they can do for their country when they have visibly failed to set that standard.

I think our political leaders need to do some serious soul-searching about what they want Canada to be ready for down the road.  I think it's even more important for Canadians to have open conversations about these big questions.

War is the ultimate game-changer; Canada's identity was shaped by global conflicts past, as well as conflict solutions like peacekeeping.  War could very well change who we are and what we stand for again.

None of us can make informed choices that will impact the young feet that may fill tomorrow's boots on the ground if we don't take the time to get informed.

What's happening in Syria is a great place to start.

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