Face to Face

Face to face: Is it time to redesign and replace the Canadian Army’s combat uniform?
Face to Face

Face to face: Is it time to redesign and replace the Canadian Army’s combat uniform?

Back in 2002 and into 2003, a tempest swirled in an Ottawa teapot over the combat fatigues Canadian troops were wearing to a war 10,600 kilometres away. Here were our soldiers, God forbid, wearing green in the arid climes of Afghanistan. The uniforms were an embarrassment, declared the pundits and politicians, none of whom had set foot in Afghanistan or anyplace remotely like it. Their case, countered one Afghanistan veteran, “was more political than it was tactical.” The fact was, at least half the armies of the coalition—Middle East included—were wearing green. And, in a stroke of serendipity, the Canucks’ crisp new fatigues faded after a couple of washings. The diluted green, combined with the powdery desert dust, proved ideal camouflage in much of the Afghan terrain, with its li...
Face to Face: Should the Allies have ceased their attacks on Nov. 10?
Face to Face

Face to Face: Should the Allies have ceased their attacks on Nov. 10?

  On Sept. 28, 1918, General Erich Ludendorff, commander of the German army, admitted that the war was lost. “If we had the strength to reverse the situation in the West, then of course nothing would yet have been lost,” he stated. “But we had no means for that.… We had to count on being beaten back again and again.” Insisting that “every hour of delay is dangerous,” Ludendorff led an effort to create a new German government and issue an immediate call for an end to the fighting. A new chancellor, Prince Maximilian of Baden, was appointed on Oct. 4, and claiming that he wished “to avoid further bloodshed,” asked American President Woodrow Wilson for an immediate armistice. Wilson’s reply on Oct. 8 demanded the immediate “withdrawal of their forces everywhere from invaded territ...
FACE TO FACE: Should robots replace soldiers in war?
Face to Face

FACE TO FACE: Should robots replace soldiers in war?

Historian Matthew White estimates that 123 million people died in wars in the 20th century, and just 37 million of them were military. The rest were collateral civilian deaths (27 million), genocide and other mass murder (41 million) and consequential famines (18 million). Surely if there must be war at all in the 21st century, there has to be a better way. It is unlikely that robots will ever totally replace soldiers in war but, to the degree that they can, they should. Why send troops to clear landmines when a robot could do the job? Why not dispatch a remote vehicle or a drone rather than reconnaissance troops to scrutinize enemy positions? Or unmanned fighter and bomber aircraft to take out hostile assets? Robots can conceivably carry packs, deliver resupply, even spearhead assaul...
Was the Dieppe Raid just a raid?
Face to Face

Was the Dieppe Raid just a raid?

  Early 1942 was a dark period for the Allies in the Second World War. The United States was by now a belligerent, but the situation was bleak. The Soviet Army was hard pressed to withstand the German onslaught that threatened Moscow, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin appealed for—or, to be correct, demanded—an immediate second front in Western Europe. Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, concerned that Russia might make peace with Germany, promised a second front in 1942. That promise was irresponsible because there were insufficient troops and landing craft. Still, something had to be done, and Roosevelt wrote to Prime Minister Winston Churchill to demand action. Churchill’s reaction was to direct Chief of Comb...
Does Canada’s new peacekeeping policy make sense?
Face to Face

Does Canada’s new peacekeeping policy make sense?

The thing about Canada and peacekeeping is that while 7 in 10 Canadians consider it one of the country’s signature characteristics, the reality has always been something quite different from the fantasy. Sure, Canada helped revolutionize third-party roles in bringing conflicts to an end—decades ago. But those days are long past. Times have changed. The nature of warfare, and defence spending, have changed with them. Peacekeeping as it used to be was a costly, thankless and sometimes ineffectual task. Canadian soldiers, who in 1991 comprised more than 10 per cent of United Nations troops, were cursed by the prevailing idea that peacekeeping was, well, a peaceful pursuit. The perception of Canada as “good guy” was something of an albatross to a post-Korean War military that was ...
Should Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery have tried to clear the Scheldt Estuary in September 1944?
Face to Face

Should Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery have tried to clear the Scheldt Estuary in September 1944?

It does not require hindsight to criticize Montgomery’s strategy in September 1944. As Allied supply lines stretched farther and farther from the Normandy beaches, the problem of supplying the advancing troops was rapidly becoming unmanageable. With the French rail system still in chaos from bombing, virtually all supplies had to be brought forward by truck and there were simply not enough trucks. So, when the 11th British Armoured Division and the Belgian resistance gained control of Antwerp, Belgium, the largest port in Europe, on Sept. 4, 1944, the strategic imperative was obvious—clear the approaches from the North Sea up the Scheldt River estuary through the Netherlands to Antwerp. Antwerp is 100 kilometres from the sea and it depends on free ship passage up the river. G...

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An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.