Dudley Do-Right Takes Charge In Libya
It’s not the old empires of Britain or France, and it’s not the new empire of America. World leaders, in what seems a rare nod to appearances, have decided that Canada, or at least a Canadian general, will take a leadership role in the operations in Libya. Lt. General Charles Bouchard will take command of NATO forces to enforce the no-fly zone, as well as perhaps the yet-to-be-defined no-fly zone ‘PLUS’, as part of the United Nations backed mission.
After criticism, from both ends of the political spectrum, of imperial war being waged against the Libyan people, the measures necessary to protect those same people from the tyranny of Muammar Gaddafi must now be given a kinder, gentler, face in order to appease those unable to tell the difference between illegal wars of occupation, without the support or approval of the international community, and a UN sanctioned, multinational force, charged with the humanitarian mission of protecting the Libyan people as they strive for emancipation. Although the participation in this operation is made up of fewer nations than Iraq or Afghanistan, having none of the fake or coerced participation of George Bush’s Coalition of the Willing, and, unlike said coalition, that existed only as an attempt to put a legitimate face on an illegal war, is in response to the requests of the people of Libya, the Arab league, and the UN, it seems a necessary move in order to assuage the fears of those challenged by prejudice.
Canada’s long-standing role, as a financial and military supporter, and participant, in UN police actions, seems sufficient to suggest that this appointment is based on more than simply the optics. Lt. Gen. Bouchard holds a Bachelors degree from the University of Manitoba as well as the completion of a national and international security program for senior executives at Harvard University. He began his 38 year career in the Canadian forces 1974 and graduated as a helicopter pilot in 1976. He’s been the deputy commander of NATO’s joint forces command in Naples, Italy, and has worked at key positions within NORAD as well as having served at several US military bases.
While the particular qualifications of both Lt. Gen. Bouchard, and the Canadian military, make it well suited for this role in the Libya operation, it is difficult to ignore the political benefits of this arrangement. One is hard-pressed to identify a case of international malfeasance on the part of Canada, and the country’s popular image of suffering from indefatigable politeness makes it the perfect good-cop to replace the American bad-cop, and offers a measure of calm to compliment the passion of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Additionally, while the forces of old, and new, empire may seek to remove the spotlight from themselves, Canadian Prime Minister Steve Harper is facing a tough election at home where his domestic record may benefit from distraction. As the leader of a conservative government that has burdened the citizens of Canada, while bending over backwards for corporate interests – much like conservative political forces in America and the UK – Harper may be hoping to capitalize on the general public support for the humanitarian mission.
Canada, and Lt. Gen. Bouchard, may very well be the perfect choice for this role in Libya. They certainly possess both the experience and ability to perform in this role. But, it’s difficult to ignore the cynicism that recognizes this to have more benefits than simply military and logistic. The danger that this move signifies an increased politicization of the situation in Libya does not bode well for the continued integrity of the operation or how the ‘PLUS’ part of the no-fly zone ‘PLUS’ shapes up, or not.
While this decision may be generally beneficial, future decisions that place too much weight on such considerations may prove irresponsible. This win-win situation may please both the Imperial powers as well as the embattled Canadian Prime Minister, and benefit the people of Libya, but, lets not forget, the people of Libya are meant to be the key focus of these decisions, not the after-thought.