The most uplifting takeaway from my 2007 Afghanistan embedding with the troops was hearing how our soldiers had never been prouder to serve than being in combat against the tyranny of the Taliban.
But a decade later, that pride has gone along with the fall in our status as a middle military power.
We continue to negotiate to buy hand-me-down jets from the Aussies. Combat ship building languishes on the drawing boards as the price tag soars. And with new supply ships delayed by at least four years, the substitute vessel can’t actually venture into dangerous environments where the navy usually goes.
Sure there is a small training mission in Ukraine and a mid-sized Latvia deployment to deter Russian aggression.
And let’s not forget the mostly idle Operation Impact, a $370-million exercise monitoring Iraq for signs of ISIS life with zero actual impact on protecting the region.
But the final insult to Canada’s military status downgrade was a small CBC story this week.
Military documents revealed the defence minister couldn’t bring himself to send a tiny group of soldiers for UN peacekeeping duty in Colombia.
Consider the context of this unfathomable display of military risk avoidance.
Colombia is a country where two civil-warring factions have disarmed and declared a peaceful end to a 50-year conflict. That means it’s the peacekeeping equivalent of monitoring a Grade four class in the playground during recess.
Yet inexplicably Canada dithered, pondering the potential danger of the mission until the spots were filled by other countries which didn’t consider the world’s safest peacekeeping assignment too risky to join.
This has got to leave Canada’s war-hardened Chief of Defence Staff avoiding eye contact in the mirror.
Jonathan Vance didn’t sign up to watch countries like Jordan, Denmark, Holland and even Rwanda deliver peacekeeping in extremely dangerous Mali while Canada goes AWOL in offering to monitor the coffee grow in Colombia.
Two years after Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan began scouring the world for places to help, we still have 600 troops waiting for a reason to deploy.
Our 50,000-plus combat-ready troops, trapped on base by the government’s pacifist preference to avoid a world filled with conflict, must be mortified that all missions are seemingly impossible.
By refusing to accept even the softest assignment for blue helmet peacekeeping, the Canadian government has waved the white flag as a middle military power.
That’s the Last Word.