Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Historian Janice Stein has Kind Words for Gen. Rick Hillier

In a special Globe and Mail section yesterday, Janice Stein answered some questions from readers about Afghanistan, politicians and Gen. Hillier. While she noted that policy regarding Canada's stay in that country should be determined by civilian leadership, Hillier did not overstep his bounds by publicly saying that the mission could take another decade. There appeared to be support for Hillier from readers as well. Here are a couple of responses from Janice Stein:

Gen. Hillier is an inspirational leader, respected and admired by soldiers serving in Afghanistan as well as many others who serve in Canada.

He has the capacity to connect to officers and enlisted men/women, and he is certainly the most effective "communicator" the Canadian Forces have had for decades.

His leadership matters enormously to those who are serving in Afghanistan.

She says Hillier made a military expert comment about how long the mission would take, and that's the type of information that policy makers need to make an informed decision on.

Gen. Hillier is obligated to speak privately to the civilian leadership about Canada's capacity to execute operations and about the conditions that he sees in Kandahar.

When he is asked publicly to comment about these issues, I think that it is important for him to share his informed analysis. This is what he has done.

It is not appropriate for a Chief of Defence Staff to advocate policy — such as, should Canada stay in Afghanistan after February 2009 or leave — and this he has not done.

In practice, these clear lines can blur and sometimes create difficulties.

On balance, however, Canada benefits from a clear and forthright analysis by Canada's military leaders, analysis that stops short of advocacy.

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