David Bercuson: Terror shouldn’t break our ties with our soldiers

Within 72 hours, two members of the Canadian Armed Forces were attacked and killed on the soil of Canada for no reason other than that they wore the uniform of the Canadian military. That has never happened before.

In the first case, a soldier was killed by a car driven by a jihadi in Quebec. The man had been under watch by Canadian authorities; he seems, at this point, to have been a lone attacker who took it upon himself to murder a Canadian soldier, presumably in retaliation for Canada’s decision to take part in the air campaign against Islamic State.

No one yet knows whether the attack Wednesday morning at the Canadian War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was carried out by a lone jihadi or whether he was part of a network. But what we do know is that Wednesday’s attack, coming on the heels of Monday’s killing, will put a chill on the relationship of the Canadian people to their military.

As of Wednesday afternoon, members of the Armed Forces have been told to curtail the wearing of their uniforms in public. Canadian Armed Forces bases for the most part have been locked down. That was and is a prudent measure, because it is not known if the two assailants were connected in any way, whether the second killer was himself tied in to the globaljihadi network or whether some sort of systematic attacks on Canadian soldiers have been planned across Canada.

It is fairly easy for the Department of National Defence to close off access to bases of the regular forces. Since the early 1990s, virtually all military bases in the heart of major Canadian cities have been closed. Units of the Canadian army and squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force have been concentrated on large bases across the country, and almost always far from the built-up areas of cities. The move was largely an economy measure, but it did remove the daily contact that people in cities such as Winnipeg, Calgary and Quebec City had with regular Forces members who usually lived in neighbourhoods adjacent to the old bases.

The army reserves are another matter entirely. They are located at armouries that are usually right within Canadian cities and towns. They do not wear uniforms on all occasions but, in fact, are only obliged to do so when they are on duty, such as one night a week or on a weekend. But now they and their regular Forces colleagues will be invisible to the citizens they are obliged to protect and who pay taxes to support them.

One of the most important missions for the Canadian Armed Forces, both regular personnel and especially reservists – army, navy or air force – is to “connect with Canadians,” not only by showing their presence when on duty but at public events that they attend for the prime purpose of reminding this very unmilitary country that the military is still here to protect Canada, Canadians and Canadian interests abroad.

In 1999, Canada sent its air force to join the coalition of nations dedicated to ending the slaughter of Muslims in Kosovo. At that time, the military and the government went to what some journalists and defence analysts thought were absurd lengths to protect the identities of the air crew involved in the campaign. The explanation, often ridiculed, was that it was necessary to guard against retaliation.

Such measures don’t seem absurd any longer. With the globe as interconnected as it is, Canadian soldiers are now clearly in danger at home. But then, U.S., British and other allied nations’ soldiers have also been targeted in their home countries in recent attacks. Now, Canadians may finally realize that our safe and gentle society isn’t quite as safe and gentle as we once thought.

David Bercuson is director of international programs at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and a senior fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Article originally published in the Globe and Mail on October 23, 2014

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Mark Collins – “Destroy” the Caliphate? Good Luck

Three to contemplate over the weekend:

1) NY Times story:

Robust Reponse to ISIS Appears Far Off for Iraqis

MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Despite increasing assistance from the United States, Iraq’s ability to mount a sustained counteroffensive to retake territory seized by the Islamic State is still months away, American military and defense officials here said on Thursday [Oct. 23].
Iraqi and Kurdish troops have demonstrated in a few recent instances that they can repel attacks by the militants, as they did this week at the Mosul Dam in the north, and make initial inroads at reclaiming enemy-held territory, such as a new push north of Baghdad toward Baiji, the officials said.
But so neglected were Iraq’s security forces by the government of former Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that scores of American advisers have been deployed to help the Iraqi and Kurdish forces rebuild their ability to conduct complex combat operations, sustain their troops over long distances, and maintain their equipment and weaponry for what American officials say will be a multiyear campaign to wrest back vast areas of the north and west [emphasis added, so far Canada is only in for six months though the Chief of the Defence Staff says the coalition campaign will go on rather longer]…
2) Long War Journal analysis (with good map):
Jihadist training camps proliferate in Iraq and Syria

Since the Syrian civil war began in the spring of 2011, the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other allied jihadist groups have operated more than 30 training camps inside Iraq and Syria. While global jihadist groups have primarily used camps to indoctrinate and train fighters for local insurgencies as part of the effort to establish a global caliphate, in the past al Qaeda has used its camps to support attacks against the West.

The Long War Journal has compiled information on the camps from jihadist videos, news accounts, and US military press releases that note airstrikes against the training facilities. It is unclear if all of the training camps are currently in operation.

Since the beginning of 2012, a total of 37 camps have been identified as being operational. Of those camps, 28 are in Syria, and nine are in Iraq. 

The Islamic State, the al Qaeda splinter group that was disowned by al Qaeda’s general command in February 2014, operates the largest number of training facilities, with eight camps in Iraq and 12 more in Syria. 

In Iraq, the Islamic State has operated three camps in Anbar province, two in Salahaddin, two in Ninewa, and one more in Kirkuk.

In Syria, the Islamic State has run six facilities in Aleppo province, two in Deir al Zour, and one each in Hasakah, Raqqah, Latakia, and Damascus.

The Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has run seven camps in the country…

3) Commentary at the CSIS most people outside Canada know:

The Imploding U.S Strategy in the Islamic State War?
By  Anthony H. Cordesman

It is too early to say that the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State is imploding, but it is scarcely too soon to question whether this is possible. In fact, it is far from clear that the original U.S. strategy ever planned to deal with the complications that have arisen since President Obama officially announced a portion of what that strategy really had to be.

The Non-Strategy for Dealing with the Islamic State

To begin with, the basic goal of degrading and destroying the Islamic State always bordered on the ridiculous. It was always clear that some form of violent Islamic extremism would survive any combination of U.S. air attacks, Iraqi efforts to clear Iraq on the ground, and the limited capabilities of the Free Syrian Army. In fact, senior U.S. defense officials and military officers have repeatedly made this clear by limiting the objective to “degrade” and noting that the struggle against violent religious extremism would go on for years if not more than a decade.

U.S. counterterrorism data make the broader nature of this struggle all too clear even if the fact the United States is working with its regional allies to deal with other extremism movements in virtually every country with a large Muslim population did not. Like the worst moments in the Christian Reformation and Counterreformation, this is a struggle that goes far beyond one country or one movement…

Very relevant:

A Response to Mr Fowler: The Caliphate: No Boots, No Blood? Don’t Bother

“Destroy” the Caliphate? Good Luck Without Western Boots

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Media Coverage: October 23 Shooting at Canadian Parliament

Extensive aggregating at the Canadian Forces College’s indispensable SOMNIA - Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs (note last link):

Canadian NewsCBC News
Canadian Forces ‘will not be deterred’, says CDS 
CBC News
Nathan Cirillo: Family and country mourn fallen soldier 
CBC News
Ottawa shooter’s movements tracked in RCMP video 
The Canadian Press
As Ottawa shooting broke out, Stephen Harper hid in a closet 
Postmedia News
Three other heroes rose to the occasion in Ottawa 
The Hamilton Spectator
Comrade tried to stop shooter 
The Globe and Mail
Investigators examine amount of planning in Ottawa shooting 
The Globe and Mail
Gunman tried to get passport to go to Syria 
CBC News
Security presence high on Parliament Hill 
Postmedia News
The day after the shooting: Ottawa in pictures 
CBC News
Terror attack chatter but no specific threat - More 
The Canadian Press
Homegrown terrorists or unbalanced criminals? Federal leaders disagree 
The Globe and Mail
Harper vows to fast-track boost to spy, policing powers 

Canadian Commentary

Editorial | The Globe and Mail
Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers is a true hero 
Jonathan Kay | National Post
1984 and 2014: Two Sergeants-at-Arms, two kinds of heroism 
Robyn Urback | National Post
For Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and WO Patrice Vincent, wear your poppies early 
Jeffrey Simpson | The Globe and Mail
The end of innocence? Only for the innocent 
Kelly McParland | National Post
Ottawa’s secrecy fetish 
Brian Stewart | CBC News
We’ve known this day was coming 
Margaret Wente | The Globe and Mail
Terrorists don’t have a chance in this country 
The Globe and Mail
Don’t let the seat of government become a fortress 
Matthew Fisher | Postmedia News
Canada reluctantly joins the motorcycle gang of nations 
George Petrolekas | The Globe and Mail
Canada must be careful when trading liberties for security 
H.A. Hellyer | The Globe and Mail
Liberties and freedoms are being targeted 

International News

The Globe and Mail
White House dismisses need for tougher security on Canada-U.S. border 

More earlier at MILNEWS.ca.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Hydrocarbon Heartbreak, or Otherwise, Around the World

Further to this post,

Canadian Hydrocarbon Heartbreak? It’s Getting Worse

The Economist goes global–the only mention of Canada (of which the world needs more?):

Extracting oil from shale is expensive. So when the oil price drops, America is one of the places most likely to pull back (Arctic [good freezing luck] and Canadian tar [aargh!]-sands producers are even more vulnerable)…

The rest of the story: remember it’s a combination of economics and journalism:

Cheaper oil
Winners and losers
America and its friends [of which is Canada any important one?] benefit from falling oil prices; its most strident critics don’t

Mesdames et Messieurs, faites vos jeux.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Wilhelm the Jerk

This review in The Economist pulls no punches, neither does the book:

Imperial Germany
A toxic monarch

Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Concise Life. By John Röhl. Cambridge University Press; 240 pages; $24.99 and £16.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

On becoming Kaiser in 1888 in succession to a father who had died from cancer after only a few months on the throne, Wilhelm set out to rule as an absolute monarch over what in many respects was Europe’s most advanced industrial society. Thanks to the disastrous “monarchical principle” kept alive by the long-serving chancellor, the arch-conservative Otto von Bismarck, the young Kaiser had extraordinary authority. He could appoint or dismiss not just the chancellor (he quickly got rid of Bismarck), but also every minister, every ambassador and every general. As Supreme War Lord, Wilhelm also had the sole power to take his country to war.

Germany had the trappings of a liberal democracy with an elected parliament, but its institutions, other than the Prussian-dominated army, were alarmingly hollow. Its government reflected a court society in which all power sprang from the Kaiser. As Wilhelm insisted: “I am the sole master of German policy…my country must follow me wherever I go.” Ambitious politicians and military officers had to be fawning, sycophantic courtiers…
The Kaiser grew up to be emotionally needy, bombastic, choleric, hyperactive and hypersensitive. His personality combined with the militaristic, authoritarian culture of the Prussian court to create a monarch who was extraordinarily ill-suited to lead the most powerful country in Europe at the end of the 19th century. His belief in his powers as a great strategist and the absence of anyone prepared to challenge him were major factors in helping to create the conditions and the alliances that led directly to the catastrophe of 1914. Two abiding fixations were fear of Germany’s encirclement and a conviction that only smug, malevolent Britain stood in the way of German hegemony in Europe.

Yet it was the Kaiser’s own interventions that brought those things about. The ending of Bismarck’s secret Reinsurance treaty with Russia in 1890 helped drive Russia into the arms of France. Wilhelm’s ill-conceived and vastly expensive naval race with Britain was a major factor in forcing his mother’s homeland, too, into an alliance with France. While believing that Britain could still be deterred from war against Germany he fervently encouraged the development of the Schlieffen plan to invade France through neutral Belgium; the one thing that would guarantee enlisting Britain as a belligerent.

The Kaiser’s recklessness manifested itself in his readiness to come to Austria-Hungary’s aid whenever the call came. He constantly assured his opposite number in Vienna that whatever Austria-Hungary decided to do to tame Serbia and pacify the Balkans would have Germany’s unstinting support no matter the risk of provoking Russia, Serbia’s ally. Wilhelm was convinced that a racial war in which the Teutons would have to crush the Slavs once and for all was more or less inevitable.

Most historians have tended to attribute to the Kaiser less of the blame for what happened in July 1914 than does Mr Röhl…

Ouch.   More on World War I hereherehere, here  and here.  Plus a brilliant book on the war broadly–before, during and after–by Canadian historian Modris Eksteins: “Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age“.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Afghan Foreign Policy Balancing: India (vs Pakistan) and China (money)

What with US and most of the West losing a lot of interest and with little enthusiasm–tous azimuts?

1) India (take that, Paks):

Ajit Doval visits Afghanistan, calls on president Ashraf Ghani

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Wednesday [Oct. 22] visited Kabul and called on Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Later, Doval also held talks with his Afghanistan counterpart Hanif Atmar.

Officials said the NSA conveyed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s felicitations to both Afghan leaders and to the people of Afghanistan for the country’s democratic political transition.

“He reiterated India’s commitment to assist Afghanistan build a strong, democratic and prosperous country. The visit was to follow up on the discussions by President Ghani and CEO Abdullah with PM Narendra Modi earlier this month over telephone. The NSA was accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising the Deputy National Security Advisor and senior officials from the PMO and Ministry of External Affairs,” an official statement said.

More here on India’s Afghan (great?) game.

2) China:

Ghani to Travel to China With Afghan Business Leaders

President Ashraf Ghani will travel to China next week for a three-day trip with a group of top Afghan business leaders. The visit is intended to start a new chapter in Kabul-Beijing relations, one that the new Afghan government hopes will lead to greater economic and political ties.

The Presidential Palace has expressed optimism about the trip, which will be Ghani’s first trip abroad as president, and will take him to Beijing for a sit-down with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. In addition, an investment summit will be held in order for Afghan and Chinese businessmen to connect and discuss investment opportunities in Afghanistan...

At the moment, China is not a major aid provider in Afghanistan [India is, scroll down here]. But according to experts, President Ghani will not only focus on securing a larger amount of aid from Beijing, he will also emphasize opportunities for mutually beneficial business ventures, such as in the natural resource sector in Afghanistan…

Afghans certainly working hard at lots of angles.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Assad on Course to Win (sort of) in Syria?

At the RAND Corporation:


Alternative Futures for Syria

Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States

Developments in Syria and Iraq through August 2014 occurred with unanticipated speed and revealed initial analysis to be overly cautious.

  • Steady gains made by the Assad regime and worsened friction and dysfunction among the opposition groups, but also the shift in ISIS focus from Syria to Iraq, has allowed the regime to make progress against the opposition more rapidly than most of our [December 2013] workshop participants foresaw.
  • It is regime victory that now appears to be most likely in the near to mid-term, due to the confluence of military and political factors favoring pro-Assad forces.
  • However, regime victory would not be as big of a blow to ISIS as was originally believed, because ISIS’s advances in Iraq have given the group a new territorial base from which to operate.
  • Similarly, regime victory in Syria will not offer as large a win to Iran as previously thought. ISIS’s gains in Iraq worsened Iran’s strategic position in the Middle East and established a new threat to Tehran on its western border.

Despite the revised perspective on the plausibility of regime victory in Syria, the situation is still fluid and momentum can shift again.

  • Prolonged conflict could become more likely, for example, if the rebels acquired a new capability that helped counter the regime’s advantage in firepower, such as man-portable air defense systems or precision rocket systems and/or mortars.
  • A major increase in ISIS’s battlefield effectiveness could also alter current trends. ISIS’s capture of a number of the Iraqi army’s weapon stockpiles in June 2014 gave the group access to a large amount of modern weaponry. If ISIS is able to develop the maintenance and logistical infrastructure to operate these weapons reliably over the long term, it is conceivable that they could challenge the Syrian army in maneuver warfare in a way that no other rebel group has been able to.

As for those moderate rebels and the U.S.:

Defense One’s D Brief: A big disconnect in Syria?..

“A big disconnect:” The U.S. only to train Syrians in a defensive role. The Obama Administration’s policy in Syria seems to be premised more on holding the line than taking back territory from the Islamic State, especially since President Obama has decided not to put American “combat boots on the ground,” which significantly limits the administration’s options there. Many believe the White House only wants to keep a lid on Iraq and Syria until the next commander-in-chief comes in in 2017.

Indeed, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby this week, on there being no “tipping point” in this kind of war, hinted at the administration’s limited ambitions: “I don’t—in a struggle like this, I don’t know that you can expect a tipping point, a specific point in time where all of a sudden you know everything is going to be better, that it’s—that you’ve turned a corner. That’s very unlikely in a war like this, particularly a war like this where, you know, you—you’ve got indigenous forces on the ground that are—especially in Iraq that are, in some cases, trying to improve their skills while they’re fighting at the same time.” The transcript of his remarks, here.

Today [Oct. 22] in the WaPo, Rajiv Chandrasekaran has this about the U.S. policy in Syria: “The Syrian opposition force to be recruited by the U.S. military and its coalition partners will be trained to defend territory, rather than to seize it back from the Islamic State, according to senior U.S. and allied officials, some of whom are concerned that the approach is flawed.

Although moderate Syrian fighters are deemed essential to defeating the Islamic State under the Obama administration’s strategy, officials do not believe the newly assembled units will be capable of capturing key towns from militants without the help of forward-deployed U.S. combat teams, which President Obama has so far ruled out. The Syrian rebel force will be tasked instead with trying to prevent the Islamic State from extending its reach beyond the large stretches of territory it already controls.”

A senior U.S. official to Rajiv: “We have a big disconnect within our strategy. We need a credible, moderate Syrian force, but we have not been willing to commit what it takes to build that force.” More on that here…

Oh well.  They look pretty irrelevant anyway.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – “Terrorism–When Argument Becomes Comedy: Glenn Greenwald Blames Canada?”

Prof. Steve Saideman of Carleton University finely demolishes a certain “journalist”:

…Greenwald had the worst of timing to issue a rant on The Intercept that blamed Canada for Monday’s fatal hit-and-run attack on a day when another Canadian Forces member was killed by some kind of terrorist. His article, in which he said he was surprised these acts of violence do not happen more often considering Canada proclaims itself to be at war, was published minutes before 9 a.m. on Wednesday. By 10 a.m., shootings had begun in the Capital.

It is too soon to understand well the dynamics of the events in Ottawa, but it is not too soon to argue that Greenwald has not only bad timing but bad judgment (and bad writing).

First, there are a lot of “scare quotes” used by Greenwald to make it seem like the government was making stuff up with regards to Martin Couture-Rouleau, the 25-year-old accused of hitting two soldiers with a car Monday in Quebec. Perhaps if Greenwald had gone to Couture-Rouleau’s Facebook page, he would have seen the ISIS banner and all the rest of the evidence that this individual was indeed a fan of the radical Islamist movement…

…the hyperbole…[is] not just unprofessional but inaccurate as well. “Wallowing in war glory?” Canada has been most ambivalent about the Afghanistan effort. Sure, the Canadian Forces are proud of what they tried to do, but, as a country, there has been much regret about “fighting alone” in Kandahar. Perhaps Greenwald should do some research about a place before speculating wildly about its stance on its most recent war.

Fourth, the article gets the causal order wrong. What was Canada doing to antagonize Islamist extremists before 9/11? At the time, Canada’s most recent military campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo were largely aimed at protecting the lives of Muslims. While Canada was still engaged in these efforts to help these Muslims, Al Qaeda struck the US and hurt Canada in the process—twenty plus Canadians were killed with the thousands of Americans. Indeed, Al Qaeda’s formation and grievances preceded the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fifth, Greenwald gets Afghanistan wrong as well. It was not some senseless effort to kill random Muslims. Canada surely killed Muslims, but also protected them as well from other Muslims. Perhaps the best evidence of Canada’s ability to work well with the populace of Afghanistan is that it suffered far, far less from the green on blue attacks. Again, an inconvenient bit of reality for Greenwald who knows little about Canada and what it has been doing for the past twenty years…

Do read it all.   Mr Greenwald also makes this absurd claim: “…Canada has spent the last 13 years proclaiming itself a nation at war…”  See the real timelines at the post below.  And remember that it was not the supposed terrible war-monger Stephen Harper who committed the Canadian Forces to combat in Afghanistan–in fact he pulled them out of that role in 2011–but rather Liberal Prime Ministers Chrétien and Martin in 2001 and 2005 respectively:

Afghanistan and Fact-Challenged Canadian Media

More on Mr Greenwald:

NSA Thefts: Greenwald Felled

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – US Defence Planning: Keep Your Powder Dry For the Dragon Big One

The conclusion of an article in Foreign Affairs by Richard K. Betts (worth a read: Surprise Attack):

Pick Your Battles
Ending America’s Era of Permanent War

By Richard K. Betts

China poses a bigger potential threat [than Russia]. The country has made new territorial claims throughout the waters of East Asia, especially to islands over which Japan also asserts ownership. Here, however, shifting the burden to the United States’ rich ally in the neighborhood would be a bad choice. For historical reasons, Japan still evokes intense antipathy in China — and also in other countries in the region. If Japan were to step up as a normal great power, the unsettling effect in the region would not be worth whatever money the United States would have saved by reducing its military role there.

U.S. political leaders have not yet made clear choices about exactly what circumstances would warrant a war with China, but U.S. military leaders have been busy thinking about how to conduct such a war. The Pentagon’s “air-sea battle” concept is aimed at fighting China, and it emphasizes the advantages of cutting-edge technologies [more here]. This is good news for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, which would lead a fight against China, but given how astoundingly expensive such high-tech weapons are, it is bad news for budget cutters. Washington should concentrate on defusing the growing conflict with China, but if events raise the priority of deterring Beijing, hopes for cutting defense spending will be frustrated.

The Pentagon’s plans also make cyberwarfare a priority, but that poses problems, too. As has all modern society, the U.S. military has become utterly dependent on a complex system of computer networks. Since the world has never seen a great-power war in the information age, however, there has been no test showing what unrecognized vulnerabilities this dependence may conceal — and thus the United States cannot be confident that its superiority in traditional combat power will hold up against innovative cyberattacks. The recent era of long wars against backward enemies can tell policymakers little about how to protect against high-tech surprises [see "It's Time to Wake Up: Chinese Hacking Is Eroding U.S. Military Superiority"].


Choosing a strategy requires making judgments about what objectives are worth risking the lives of American soldiers and foreign civilians. Yet in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. officials underestimated the total costs, in blood and treasure, which kept ballooning after the ventures began. Many of the benefits they anticipated failed to arrive or weren’t that valuable to begin with — a particularly grave error, since costs become less acceptable the further the benefits get from promoting strict national security. The most tragic overreach, attacking Iraq in 2003, actually damaged U.S. security by multiplying enemies in the Muslim world. All these miscalculations flowed from the heady ambitions of both Republicans and Democrats who wanted the United States to not just reverse local injustices but also enforce order worldwide, often at the point of a gun. They acted surprised when their seemingly generous objectives were met with fierce pushback.

In the recent era of permanent war, the United States has learned hard lessons about the ambitious use of U.S. military power for secondary purposes. The United States’ overbearing military power encouraged civilian leaders to focus more on the desired benefits of military action than on its potential costs. Global primacy still gives the United States more room for maneuver than it had during the Cold War, but as tensions with Russia and China mount, that room becomes less than it was during the past quarter century. Now the United States needs to temper the ambitions unleashed by its post–Cold War dominance, not only in reaction to the setbacks it has experienced in small wars but also to prepare for bigger wars for bigger stakes against bigger powers [emphasis added].

Scary old world.  Earlier:

Usin’ Nukes: Scary Thoughts

Air-Sea Battle, or, What Does the US Do if China Attacks Taiwan?

Eagle’s Military Options vs Dragon–Short of Conflict

How the US Should Fight a War With China

Obama’s Darn Pacific Pivot, or, “If China and Japan Went to War: What Would America do?”

Dragon to Eagle (and others): Buzz Right Off (I’ve got gold and fire)

Keep in mind what US defence secretary Robert Gates said in February 2011, with my following comments:

…”In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Gates quipped.

Gates, who is expected to leave his post later this year, predicted a greater role for the Navy and Air Force in the future and warned the Army to gird itself for a period of relative austerity compared with the gusher of defense spending that has sustained it over the past eight years. In particular, Gates suggested that the Army will have a tough time justifying its spending on heavy armor formations – which have been the core of its force for decades – to lawmakers and the White House.

“In the competition for tight defense dollars, the Army … must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements – whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf or elsewhere,” he said.

The defense chief predicted that Army and Marine forces would increasingly be asked to focus more on short-duration counterterrorism strikes and disaster relief. As he has for the past several years, Gates called on the Army to devote more of its best personnel to training and equipping foreign militaries…

What will be the land wars of the future that Western countries will engage in?  Relevant to Canada too. 

Also leads to this question:

“Destroy” the Caliphate? Good Luck Without Western Boots

All-in-all a very sticky geostrategic wicket.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – The Wider British Raj…


Tales from the India Office

Muscat (1811)
Muscat pictured in 1811

…[There are] nine miles of shelving at the British Library (BL) that hold the India Office Records – millions of documents recording Britain’s 350-year presence in the sub-continent [webpage here].

The India Office did not only administer India, it also exercised colonial rule over an area stretching west as far as Aden. That’s why the files cover Persia and Arabia. And the reason the stories are coming to light is that the Qatar Foundation has paid £8.7m for nearly half a million documents relating to the Gulf to be digitised.

Work started in 2012, and many of those documents have now gone online at the Qatar National Library’s digital library portal.

Never formally part of the British Empire, the Gulf nonetheless came under colonial administration after being targeted for trade in the 17th Century by the East India Company. Two centuries later, the government established direct control through the India Office.

Persia and Arabia (map of 1850)

Officials created a complex network of regional authorities. British officers and locally recruited “native agents” in Bahrain, Muscat, Sharjah and other towns reported to a British ambassador known as the Resident, based for most of this period in the Persian port of Bushire or Busheer (now Bushehr in Iran).

British officials would also travel the region, making some of the first journeys by outsiders into the harsh desert interior. In 1865 Lewis Pelly, the British Resident, was dispatched to Riyadh – then a small oasis settlement – to placate tribes accused of raiding the coastal towns, one of the first such expeditions by an outsider. He was knighted nine years later…

Anyone with internet access will be able to search 475,000 pages from the two most important British outposts, at Bushire and Bahrain, along with 25,000 pages of medieval Arabic scientific manuscripts from the British Library’s own collections…

The portal currently holds between a quarter and a third of this total, with the remainder due online by the end of this year. Access is free, without registration, and the entire site is navigable in English and Arabic.

“What makes this project special is the variety of content – maps, archives, manuscripts – and the work we’re doing to create metadata for search, to make sure this content is relevant to a wide range of audiences, both in the UK and internationally,” says Richard Gibby, head of the British Library/Qatar Foundation partnership.

The BL’s curators are also writing contextual features, to help interpret the wealth of material and highlight unique stories from the archive

Happy historical hunting.  More on the Empire:

The British Empire Went Up in Flames

British Intelligence: MI5 and the End of Empire ["Guard"]

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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