Sunday, October 25, 2009

Canada's Top Soldier in Israel

Canada's top soldier, General Walter J. Natynczyk paid a three day visit to Israel this past week.

The official Canadian Forces news release on the trip makes mention of the General's visits to Canadians serving in the middle east, as well as meetings with top Israeli military and defense officials to foster military relationships and the challenges faced in the region.

Israeli news, however, has given the visit somewhat more coverage, for example it notes the General's visit to Yad Vashem*, the various military sites he visited in Israel and has focused on a few comments the General made regarding the Goldstone report and Israel's war against Hamas.

Specifically, the General acknowledges that he still needs to read the full Goldstone report, but implies that he has had a detailed briefing on the situation and states that he now has an understanding of "...what the Israeli forces have had to counter for quite some time..." The General said that he recognizes a responsibility to protect oneself even if attacked from civilian locations and muses that "I’m not sure if the Israeli standpoint is that much different than the Canadian standpoint, having had the experience in Afghanistan."

Israeli media seem to be interpreting this as a validation of the critique of the Goldstone report which argues that it will apply to all unconventional warfare of the future where the enemy is difficult to distinguish from civilians.

In reality, the General seems to be saying not much more than that he has not yet read the report and so is not prepared to endorse it or attack it. What is interesting, however, is what seems to be some kind of an acknowledgement that the tactics used by the IDF are likely quite similar to what Canadian and other NATO militaries use.

*The first song played in the video on this link is a Hebrew song called "Tomorrow" or "Machar." It sounds strange to hear it performed so martially, but its words and message are really quite beautiful.

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