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Retooling the Military

If the defence minister has been making any effort to educate the prime minister, there are few signs of success.


October 1, 2007
By Richard Purser

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This magazine expressed cautious hope for John McCallum when he was
appointed defence minister a year and a half ago, but he does not
appear to be living up to even such guardedly optimistic expectations.
He shows few signs of having appropriate clout in the government. The
already unpardonably delayed purchase of new maritime helicopters
continues to drag on interminably after his appointment. The overall
deterioriation of funding for Canada’s military over the past several
years has not been reversed. Disrespect for the minister within the
military was demonstrated when McCallum was invited not to attend the
memorial service in Pembroke, Ontario for two Canadian soldiers killed
in Afghanistan on October 2.

It
has long been clear that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has never
comprehended or much cared about the role of the military, even after
9/11/01. And he has never really seemed to comprehend the state of dire
threat that our neighbour to the south has felt itself to be under
since that ghastly date. If the defence minister has been making any
effort to educate the prime minister and his cabinet on these matters,
there are few signs of success.

One can say that McCallum could
best serve himself and his country by returning to his professional
practice as an economist; but it may be that no defence minister could
ever do much about Chrétien’s entrenched attitudes. Since a change in
prime minister is imminent, perhaps McCallum might just as well stick
around long enough to see if he can break through to Paul Martin.