Wednesday, August 17, 2005

There's No Life Like It

The strength of the peacekeeping myth reflects itself in this latest public opinion poll.

Despite fiery rhetoric from Canada's top soldier that the Forces' main job is to kill people and rid the world of "scumbag" terrorists, Canadians prefer an old-fashioned image of their soldiers as benevolent peacekeepers, says a newly released poll.

Canadians support their troops and think there should be more of them, that they should be better funded and have better equipment. But the public's support is not deep, and still follows a traditional pattern that remains disturbing for the Forces: They don't think they deserve more money at the expense of health care and education.

Those findings were presented to Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of the defence staff, by Ekos Research Associates Inc., which conducted a comprehensive telephone survey of 1,500 Canadians. The poll, done in late winter, is considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Although Canadians recognize the need for a versatile military force, and understand the need to be combat ready, their preferred role for the forces is as peacekeepers and deliverers of humanitarian and disaster assistance. Moreover, their image of peacekeeping is a rather traditional, even old-fashioned one," the poll states.

About 57 per cent said they want the Forces to have a "traditional peacekeeping role" compared with 41 per cent that favoured "a peacemaking role, which might involve fighting alongside other UN troops to force peace in a disputed area."

Quebecers, at 62 per cent, and university-educated Canadians, at 61 per cent, most favoured the traditional role.

The pollsters offered advice on how military brass should sell their new vision of the Forces to Canadians.

"The image of the soldier holding a swaddling child is a simple and powerful one that appeals to Canadians. However, it is an isolated stereotype that needs to be put in context. That soldier may have arrived at that point by cutting through mean streets, or after overcoming daunting logistical obstacles; he or she may have been in a firefight earlier in the day, or have braved the threat of fire to prevent one."

In the first place, peacekeeping is not "old-fashioned", but a concept that is barely 50 years old (though with some antecedents in the League of Nations).

Moreover, that last Madonna and child image is a feminine image, appealling to women, but not to the young men who form the bulk of the recruiting pool for the Forces.

Young men who join the Forces like to fight. Show them images of Canadian men in combat throughout history, and that will attract them a hell of a lot more than images of social work. Besides, we didn't play U.N. peacekeepers when we were boys.

But this feminine peacekeeping image that Canadians as a whole seem to have of the Forces is an emasculating idea, reinforced by decades of feminist-inspired propaganda about the superiority of feminine virtues of caring and nurturing over traditional masculine virtues.

The Forces have not been immune from social engineering. They have been putting women in combat roles where they don't belong, and in which no civilized society should put its women. They have gone along with their political masters (mistresses?) in this kinder, gentler role for the Forces.

But young men are not fooled by this. Social engineering cannot reduce all male minds to feminine docility. The Forces exist to fight, and that's what they should be seen to be doing.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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