This is from the Toronto Sun. That Natanczyk is quiet is no doubt a plus at least for most politicians. Hillier could be a loose cannon. However, I find it a bit puzzling that Worthington and others think that his duty in Iraq is also a real plus but then the government thought so too since it gave him a medal for his service. No one seems it might just be a bit inappropriate for a Canadian general to be rewarded for service to a war that was in effect a violation of everything the UN stands for and of the charter, a war based upon misinformation. The UN inspectors were not allowed to do their job before or after the war. They had to get out or get bombed.
No one seems to suggest that we are at best junior partners in U.S. imperialism or in their own words part of the plan for a New American Century. Quite the contrary the media pundits all applaud this role but refuse to call it for what it is.
New general quiet, but qualified
By PETER WORTHINGTON
Not since World War II has a Canadian general had the vast experience of command as the new chief of defence staff (CDS) replacing the too-popular Gen. Rick Hillier.
On paper, Winnipeg-born Walter Natynczyk seems a superb choice. No senior Canadian general can match his diversity of command, or his record of senior command appointments with the U.S. army.
From the government's point of view, Natynczyk is deemed unlikely to be as outspoken, articulate, persuasive and popular as his predecessor -- important for politicians, who don't like being upstaged by soldiers.
Even soldiers who make the government look good, or at least better than it is.
In a way that's a pity. A strong, overt personality in a commander can build morale, both among soldiers and the public.
This, of course, is conditional that he also knows his business and is competent, which Hillier certainly was.
To some, the fact that Natynczyk is from the armoured corps -- as was Hillier -- is a positive.
Natynczyk is a former commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, and has held various command and operational roles in Bosnia and Croatia, both in times of peacekeeping and of peacemaking, ending up as chief of land operations for the UN in the Balkans. He's served in Cyprus, and most recently was vice chief of defence staff -- an all-purpose general.
But the extraordinary qualification that Natynczyk brings to his new job -- and which makes him so special -- is that he was attached to the U.S. Army's III Corps, initially in Fort Hood, Texas (arguably the largest military base in the world) and later as deputy commander of III Corps when it went to Iraq. Subsequently he was deputy commanding general of the multinational corps in Iraq.
When one considers that a "corps" comprises roughly 140,000 soldiers, it means that Gen. Natynczyk has more extensive experience at high command during warfare than any living Canadian.
While the CDS is responsible for the army, navy and air force, these total roughly 60,000 in Canada, with the army comprising maybe 20,000 -- three infantry battalions from each of three regiments (Princess Pats, VanDoos and RCR) and three armoured regiments (Strathconas, RCD, and 12th Armoured Regiment).
Maybe a total of 6,000 combat soldiers -- maybe the size of the Toronto Police force. At best, the Canadian army consists of one effective brigade, which Hillier sought to expand and modernize during his tenure as CDS. He was remarkably effective, establishing himself as the face, voice and future of the army, and more popular with the Canadian public than any politician. Bit of a superstar.
He was popular in the army, too (less so among the navy and air force). That doesn't mean much, since politicians are notoriously suspect by the military, which ever since World War II has been subjected to budget cuts and negligence. Especially since the reign of Pierre Trudeau.
There's some irony in a Canadian general being the deputy commander of a U.S. corps, especially when Canada's former PM, Jean Chretien, made such a fuss about not joining, or even supporting, the war in Iraq. Saddam's homicidal manner of governing didn't offend our Jean.
In fact, a couple of dozen Canadian soldiers have served in Iraq, or are there now, attached to British or American units.
With the U.S. becoming more involved in Afghanistan, Natynczyk's background with the Americans should be useful. He is obviously trusted by his U.S. counterparts -- as was Hillier, and as many of our politicians are not.
Although Hillier seemed to get on well with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay (and vice-versa), there's a feeling that his candour and charisma made them uneasy. Natynczyk has a reputation of being much quieter, more discreet.
We shall see.
For those who tend to trust our soldiers more than our politicians, it is hoped that Natynczyk carries on with Hillier's legacy of updating the dynamism and capabilities of the military.
While we've done the heavy work in Afghanistan, and endured casualties, our soldiers have thumped the Taliban at every encounter and made their area safer for civilians. Natynczyk knows this, and signs are positive he'll continue the role he's inherited.