Friday, 25 October 2013


It has been reported that former General Rick Hillier has said that the army doesn’t need the CCV because it has, or will soon have, the upgraded LAV-IIIs. Those LAVs, says Hillier, are excellent and what the army needs. So there is no need to spend more money on CCVs.

General Hillier, like the LAV-III, is a product of his time and experience. Hillier was part of a cadre of officers whose formative experiences gave them a distinctly post-Cold War outlook. Like Hillier, many had experienced the new world order's dark side while serving in the fragmenting former Yugoslavia. Hillier, when he was the Chief of the Land Staff, was known to hold controversial, but imaginative, ideas about how to change the CF and Canadian defence policy. When he presented this vision to Bill Graham, the newly appointed Defence Minister believed he had found the innovative policy he was seeking. Prime Minister Martin was equally impressed with Hillier’s plans. Martin named Hillier as Chief of Defence Staff shortly after meeting him in January of 2005. The newly minted CDS was charged with directing the defence policy review.

In some ways the LAV-III was central to Hillier’s vision for mobile, relevant armed forces. Eschewing the heavy armour that characterized the cold war, the LAV-III symbolized a new vision of contemporary warfare that had come to dominate western thinking after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The LAV-III was by no means “light” by previous standards. The 17 ton vehicle was to replace the 12 ton M-113 tracked APC and the 11 ton Grizzly AVGP wheeled APC. In truth, however, the LAV-III, and its companion Coyote reconnaissance vehicle, were much more the spiritual successors of the wheel borne Grizzly then the M-113.

The AVGP variants were introduced into Canadian service in the late 1970s.  Originally intended for use only in Canada with reserve units, by the 1980s and 1990's it was being used by regular armored units as a tank substitute for those units not equipped with the Leopard tank, and as an armoured personnel carrier in regular force infantry battalions not equipped with the M-113 APC. They were pressed into service for several United Nations missions, including UNPROFOR, the first United Nations peacekeeping force in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Yugoslav wars and in the mission to Somalia.

It was those experiences, and the belief that they were harbingers of the future that motivated the decision to purchase the LAV-III and to organize the army around that vehicle. It should be noted that those views of the future were widely held.

Most notably detailed by Robert D Kaplan in his book “The Revenge of Geography”, the period of time between the fall of the Soviet Union and the invasion of Iraq, famously referred to as “the end of history by Francis Fukuyama, was seen as a new era in international relations. The, relative, success of western intervention in the former Yugoslavia, along with the apparent lessons learned from the lack of intervention in Rwanda, when seen in the light of overwhelming western military superiority displayed in the First Gulf War lead many to believe that a new age of benign but necessary military efforts were at hand.

There was an unlikely confluence of both leftists and conservatives, idealists and realist as Kaplan would have it, at work. As Michael Ignatieff is quoted as writing in “Homage to Bosnia”, by the New York Review of Books” on April 21, 1994 “For liberal internationalists Bosnia has become the Spanish Civil War of our era” referring to the passion with which intellectuals like himself approached the Balkans and the need for western military action. At the same time conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz in the United States believed that there was a once in a generation opportunity to re-order the world towards an order more in tune with western interests.

This unusual, to say the least, rapprochement between left and right in favour of the usefulness of western military intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, to protect the citizens of those nations, lasted for perhaps a decade, dissolving in the harsh realities of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

While there has been a great deal of historical “re-invention” by participants on all sides of this short lived alliance, there is wide spread agreement by all concerned now that at no time did they ever really favour military intervention in foreign climes or ever agree in any way with each other, the reality of hardware procured at that time survives as a not so mute testament to the belief that we had a “responsibilityto protect”.

In Canada the LAV-III is an example of the kind of multi-purpose, mobile, military equipment procured when we believed that we would be exclusively participating in wars of choice, our choice that is. That belief is now gone. More common now is the belief by politicians and generals that we will only be going to war to protect vital national interests. There is widespread understanding that the public in western liberal democracies will no longer support the use of the military to meet what are now perceived to be “idealistic” goals.

Seen in the light of this new, harsher, world view, the CCV becomes not a complement to the LAV-III but rather a symbol in heavy metal of our new view of the limits of military force. If our Armed Forces are not to be used in wars of choice for reasons of compassion then it follows that they may find employment in wars for our national interests that are forced upon us. That kind of war, experience teaches us, is fought with the most powerful weapons available to us, weapons like heavy tanks and armoured personal carriers and networked stealth fighters. These are the kind of weapons Canada is procuring for our brave new world order. It is not a pretty picture, but perhaps we can take some, cold, comfort from Robert D. Kaplan, who points out in "The Revenge of Geography" that “Because realists...expect conflict and realize it cannot be avoided they are less likely then idealists to overreact to it”

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AVGP, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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