The insights Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance brings (back) to Afghanistan -

The insights Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance brings (back) to Afghanistan

He’s got a blunt pragmatic perspective that may surprise some

Jon Vance

Jon Vance (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Murray Brewster)

I find it fascinating to see Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance returning to Kandahar to command the Canadian forces there again, replacing Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard, who had to come home after being accused of engaging in an intimate relationship, which the military doesn’t allow out in the field.

Vance was our top soldier in Afghanistan not so long ago, through much of last year, and at the time I wrote about how he brought a unique analytical perspective to the job. That’s because he was the author of paper with the intriguing title “Tactics without Strategy, or Why the Canadian Forces Do Not Campaign,” published five years ago in a military textbook called The Operational Art: Context and Concepts.

It’s a quite technical paper meant for aspiring officers, but the thrust of it is that “nations like Canada do not direct their tactical forces at the operational level to achieve national strategic ends.” That sort of strategic, operational direction is almost left to countries leading coalitions, typically, from Canada’s perspective, the United States.

Vance contends that the contributing of forces is itself often the Canadian government’s main goal. “This is an entirely reasonable approach,” he says, “given that Canadian strategic objectives are less concerned with Canadian tactical outcomes, and more concerned with the political advantages of being seen to participate.”

Interesting to have this pragmatic perspective laid out so bluntly by the guy who will be leading our troops as part of what is billed as major push—U.S.-planned, naturally, although led by a Brit—this summer against the Taliban.


The insights Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance brings (back) to Afghanistan

  1. A further extension to our derivative, colonial mentality. Disgusting.

    • We were once a proud member of the British Empire. There's no shame in that.

  2. "Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard, who had to come home after being accused of engaging in an intimate relationship, which the military doesn't allow out in the field."

    I find it amusing, in a dark kind of way, that the military thinks fraternizing with a fellow officer in a combat area (even when married) is more serious than sleeping with a subordinate, which should be a no no in any workplace.

    • I think it's because when it's time to push forward, they don't want to wait for you to pull out, as it were.

      • Not only that, but it could hamper your ability to make rational decisions about missions and who to deploy. Meaning you have a conflict of interest.

  3. In other words, as long as we just show up, we're okay.

    Go overseas, wave the flag, pay the horrendous bills…and we're done.

    • oh and don't forget the body count…

  4. What is Canada involved in?
    Afghanistan has become America's longest ever foreign war, surpassing Vietnam.
    And it is a private war. Most of the cash goes to non-Afghan private companies who have a profit motive in ensuring the war lasts as long as possible as well as breeding anti-Muslim feelings that are sure to spark other profitable wars and skirmishes around the world.
    America and Nato should have gotten out Iraq and Afghanistan immediately after overthrowing the governments and warning "we'll be back" with even deadlier attacks if nothing changed.
    But America, and by extension Canada, stayed at the behest of private contractors, including one that a recent US vice-president ran for a long time.
    This is a private company war paid for with taxpayer dollars and blood.

    • … and this is news, because … ? While it may or may not be true, there is nothing a politician does that may be despicable enough … unless of course they get caught and the truth surfaces. As for "a recent US vice president" involved in worse than shady deals, again … why is it surprising, or even newsworthy? This man had been the puppet master for 8 years, the inside man for the dark and monstrously powerful groups, who are running our world into the toilet just for kicks.

    • Warning "we'll be back" is completely unrealistic. Transporting the kind of military power it takes to overthrow a government to a landlocked country like Afghanistan is a logistical nightmare that costs as many taxpayer dollars as actually fighting the war. Once the forces were there in the first place, it would take a long enough time to pack them up and even more time and money to put them back into an area where they would have had to stay in the first place.

    • NATO never was in Iraq – individual NATO nations where – the UK, Spain, the Netherlands – but it never was a NATO mission.
      Time places a sheen on all conflicts – there where many who thought Canada was being a toady of the UK and the US in participating in the Korean War… look at the two Koreas now…
      War is Hell, and no one wants to see young soldiers die… but the mission goals are credible, even when facing such hurdles as the culture and corruption of Afghanistan.
      This child-like innocence that some think should be Canada's foreign policy – click your heels together and hope for a better world – is an insult to the status we should seek to maintain. Other nations which share our values – Norway – Denmark – Australia – are also in that theatre. The fact we are participating within US or UK led theatres is just what "coalitions" do… which is just what NATO is.

      • Well put. Axworthy and soft power were and remain a joke. Whether we ultimately succeed in Afghanistan or not is up in the air. But our goals there remain noble and just. And they won't be achieved through diplomacy and economic development alone.

  5. Vance, of course, is correct. None of our 20th-21st C wars have been strategic, and lucky for us if by strategic we mean fighting for our survival. We are always part of a coalition led by our friends, and we participate because we need to–and must. That does not mean our national interests are not involved–they are. And one of the most important of those is the requirement thyat we get on with London (in the past) and Washington (today). If readers think about this for a few moments, they will realize this is correct.
    As for the present war, we need to recall that al Qaeda, its planning done in shelter provided by the Taliban, attacked North America and has declared Canada a target. We have reasons to be there.

  6. The point is not who's sleeping with whom. Menard was rightly sacked because he violated the laid-down rules in theatre. If the general officer in command does this, how can discipline in a war zone be preserved? NDHQ had no option other than to relieve him for the terrible example he set, and I expect a court-martial will drum him out of the CF. The CF is not civilian life and the rules are different and intended be so.

    • Not only should he get the boot, but remember his wife will have the last laugh with 50% of his worth and pension. Not only did he break a CF Rule what personal morals and ethics? Looks really good on ones CV. Why I lost my last job….

    • A BGen rarely gets courts martialed over such a detail as sleeping with a subordinate…….sleeping with the enemy….now there is a whole different kettle of opium…

  7. Brits don't have a good record when it comes to leading campaigns – they tend to use other nations' soldiers as cannon fodder. Is it any wonder that casualties are starting to pile up – just a day ago 10 NATO soldiers died.

    • I would rather my life be in the hands of a Brit, personally. I'd also stay as far away as I could from American soldiers. You never know when they might think that you're actually an insurgent by mistake. Shoot first, apologize later and all that.

      • good on the american leadership to show some humility and take on this training…but this is seriously disturbing as an indicator of the intelligence of the average American soldier

        • It has always been this way going back to at least the second world war, and they wonder why the population does not love them.