Saturday, October 27, 2007

General Hillier sent Mr. Harper a message this week

One does not attain the highest ranked position in any Western armed forces without having highly honed political instincts and the ability to play the political game on a high level.

So, it is highly unlikely that General Hillier made statements that contradict the government line by mistake. He did it deliberately and with intent.

General Hillier is correct that he is on the same page as Mr. Harper in the sense that both men want to extend the miliary presence in Afghanistan into the foreseeable future. So, General Hillier was telling the truth during his exercise in damage control after he returned from Afghanistan.

So why did he contradict the government line and what message was he trying to convey?

He did it because he wants the government to make a decision on the fate of the Afghan mission sooner rather than later. He understands the political need for Mr. Harper to be ambiguous but those needs are interfering with his own needs and goals and he wants Mr. Harper to know it.

General Hillier has both long-term and short-term goals. He would like to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan for the next decade or so because it will guarantee his element of the Canadian Forces will continue to receive the lion's share of scarce military resources. Make no mistake there is still alot of sometimes bitter conflict between the Army, Navy and Airforce on how to divide the budgetary pie and a land war in Asia virtually guarantees the Army will come out on top in such conflicts. So if General Hillier can secure a long-term commitment to Afghanistan from Mr. Harper he will have the legacy of making the Army the supreme element of the CF for years to come.

In the short term the end of the current mission in Afghanistan is coming to a close. General Hillier is smart enough to know that the nature of the mission is going to change. So there is an ever pressing need for the ladies and gentlemen... Oh who am I kidding? There is an ever pressing need for the men who plan and implement the missions to learn what the new parameters of the mission will be. The longer the lead time in receiving this information the better the planning and the more likely the success of the mission.

General Hillier was playing the age old game of politics this week with his surprise visit to Afghanistan and his statements that contradicted the government line. He did it to send a clear message to Mr. Harper that he needs a decision on the nature of the mission very soon and to send Mr. Harper his ideas of what the nature of the mission should be when the decision is finally taken.

The really intriguing thing about all of this was the way he decided to send the message. General Hillier has a direct line to the Minister of Defence, who has the responsibility to listen to the Chief of Defence Staff and forward any concerns he might have to the Prime Minister. In short, there are channels General Hillier can follow to get his point across. The fact he felt the need to take the risk of stepping outside of those channels speaks volumes.


Blogger knb said...

Agreed ottlib. Hillier is particularly good at doing this. Though, MacKenzie, who is often trotted out as an objective observer, (cough), does a hell of a politicl sell too.

What's your take? Will he be kept on or not?

I think he will. He's the ace up the their sleeve, (that's a polite way of saying something else).

How soon do you think it will be before we see Manley and Hillier together?

Sorry, I'm just in a cynical mood.

October 27, 2007 7:06 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

He will be kept on because the optics of replacing him would be brutal.

When will he and Mr. Manley be seen together? Who knows. It will depend on whether General Hillier and the government see a mutual benefit in such a photo-op.

October 28, 2007 9:30 AM  

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