Evidence of meeting #45 for National Defence in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was nato.

A recording is available from Parliament.

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11:35 a.m.


The Chair James Bezan

Good morning, everyone. We're going to continue on with our study on NATO's strategic concept and Canada's role in international defence cooperation, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2).

Joining us today is retired Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard. It's great having Charles here. Of course, we all know him from his many roles in the Canadian Air Force across Canada, but most recently, before his retirement, as the commander of NATO and Operation MOBILE.

With that, I will turn it over to the general to bring us his opening comments.

11:35 a.m.

Lieutenant-General Retired) Charles Bouchard (As an Individual

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the privilege of being here today to assist you perhaps with a few measures that will help determine the road we can take to move forward.

As you can see, I have put away my uniform. I am now a civilian, and it is in that capacity that I will be speaking to you today.

I certainly do not represent the Canadian Forces or NATO. But the way I understand the mission—I still use military terms—that you've given me this morning is to tell you a little bit about my perspective, as you look at NATO, through the eyes of Libya, perhaps, and the aftermath of Libya and what we've learned from it. I will offer some comments as to Canada's approach to it and also its future.

Obviously NATO was built on article 5—an attack on one is an attack on all. I will argue that while some may be critical of NATO, it has been able to adapt in some ways, perhaps not at the speed we would like, but it's certainly been....

The nature of conflict itself has changed, from the Cold War, to genocide, to ethnic cleansing, to religious conflicts, to counter-terrorism, to democratic uprisings, which was my area.

We've gone as a military organization to win war, sometimes to search and destroy or neutralize the enemy, to protect civilians. Protection of civilians was totally different and a new mission for us, hence Libya. Therefore, our approach to Libya was a plan that emphasized legitimacy of its target, of our action. Constant and uppermost on our mind was protection of civilians, not only in the sense of today's activity, but also secondary and tertiary effects and nature. Shock and awe was not a strategy or a tactic for Libya, but rather finesse. That's how we went about it.

If we've learned anything, it is three major lessons, and these lessons, I believe, apply to NATO today, as we look at NATO today and in the future.

First is that process and doctrine are for the blind obedience of the fool and the guidance of the wise. We cannot let processes get the best of us. Sometimes, I believe that 28 nations coming together are driven way too much by that. But I offer that it will change.

Second is our ability to communicate and to understand each other's culture. While NATO is 28 nations with common objectives, it's also 28 or more different cultures that look at life much differently. If we learn to work through that, I believe we'll learn to adapt and change NATO as well.

The final one is agility of the mind, which is the most important part—agility of the mind—and what we do from a political perspective, from a strategic perspective, and an operational perspective.

NATO, from a commander's perspective.... I had the greatest chance, because I had the political will of 28 nations and four regional partners. Regardless of what was going on, I knew I had the support. We had the capability of some 18 nations out of the 28. It's fine with that, because the will was there—18 nations provided us with capabilities at various levels and scopes.

We've used the term “caveats” in the past. I stopped using that term publicly in dealing with NATO because it has a negative connotation. To me, it's about doing what you've been told to do with what you have, constantly reminding about what you need, but making the best of what you have and understanding that caveats are normal.... Actually, national intents and limitations are a normal fact of life.

Agility and flexibility were the keys to the NATO mission. Really, it was a reminder to all of us that a crisis such as Libya surely requires a comprehensive approach, and that applies at the political, at the strategic, and also at the operational level.

The comprehensive approach aspects include the political aspects of it, understanding national agendas: military—making the best of and understanding cultures and dealing with them; economics—understanding the impact of oil, gas, and trade with Libya; social and cultural aspects—we went through a campaign, school out and school back in, and we went through Ramadan, making sure this was not to become a religious issue but rather keeping it to the protection of civilians, and we worked extra hard on that.

Finally, with regard to infrastructure, this is what I meant by secondary and tertiary effects. We left all of the infrastructure standing—oil, gas, water, electricity, and road networks. Why? Because we worked to protect civilians, and to damage that infrastructure would affect them in the long term. That's also why this country is able to get back on its feet. It has a source of revenue.

What I've really just said is that NATO did its job. We were there to protect civilians and we did it to the best of our ability. Using the words of the Secretary General, I believe this was one of the most successful events and one of the most precise campaigns in NATO's history.

But I will be critical of one point. We, the collectivity, did not follow through with Libya. It's a lesson that we must truly understand. I don't think it's NATO's job, but Libya requires political assistance, judiciary review, a better understanding of internal and military security, electioneering, governance, and monetary management. Essentially, we need nation-building to continue. It's not NATO's job, but it's part of NATO's strategies: what next, and then who should do it?

Is this the African Union's job? Is this to be done by the Arab League, or the Friends of Libya, or is this truly in the UN seat?

Does Libya apply to the future? A lot of people have asked me if we can make this fit another environment. Let me offer you some thoughts. If we tried to apply Libya to other theatres, as it were, it would be difficult. We learned the hard way. We tried to adapt Libya to Afghanistan and to Bosnia and to Iraq, and it didn't work. We must adapt ourselves and change.

When we look at international conflict, what next and what then, I think we need to consider international legitimacy. We had it under the UN Security Council.

Who should be doing it? NATO. But given the economic status, if it's not NATO, then who? The geography of Libya itself, as compared to other places, is certainly an important part. On the regional support, the internal actors, Gadhafi had essentially two friends in the world, Mugabe and Chavez, but his power base was very limited. When we look at another place, who are the friends? Who are the actors?

Finally, once NATO is done, who takes control and who has control? I'm talking about both internally and externally. We've learned a great deal of lessons through all of this, or at least we've observed a great deal of them. Let me summarize some of them.

For NATO, it's a success. For Libya, it's the victory. I talked a little bit about Libya, and they still require assistance. We need to look at that in future conflict because it applies to Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Iraq in many ways. All of these, by the way, were areas I had to look at from my last job's perspective.

We have made some new allies. How do we approach these new allies? How do we expand NATO, without expanding it in the sense of PFP, the Partnership for Peace, or the Istanbul conference initiative, or the Med Dialogue? Not everybody wants to be part of NATO, but many want to be closer to them. By the way, the closer we get to everybody, the better we will be.

I think these are great lessons learned. We have more lessons learned on the intelligence-sharing issues, about networking ourselves in a sophisticated manner, having a deployable and interoperable force. I have many more lessons learned that I will not cover here, but I can expand on them, if you wish, Mr. Chair, as we go through.

NATO in the past was necessary. In today's terms, NATO has been crucial, and I believe NATO is essential to Canada in the future. It's greater than the military alliance. It provides us with an environment for dialogue, diplomacy.

More importantly, if not NATO, then what? Do we have a better option? We've been building on this over 50 years—60 years, in fact. NATO, though, will have to adapt to the change, and that's where we can play a role. I believe we, as Canadians, can play a big role there, but we must be partners. You cannot change from the outside. You've got to change it from the inside.

Also I would suggest that we may have to temper our expectations in some ways because our concept of change, of time to conduct the change, may be different in all those 28 nations, depending on the culture you're dealing with.

The strategic concept of NATO is sound, and I support it. Smart Defence, as has been talked about at the Chicago summit and enunciated clearly by the Secretary General, is idealistically good but pragmatically difficult to operationalize. It's about weighing, pooling, and sharing in common activities, much like AWACS, AGS, or the C-17 initiatives we have, against national sovereignty requirements and also industrial and economic benefits. We have to balance all this and find the right balance. It's also to make sure we'll have what we need when we need it; we will be there, and when others need our capability, we will be there.

I think pragmatically focusing on connected forces is important, in the sense that we're not there yet and we must continue. Believe it or not, even after 60 years together, we are still having problems communicating with one another, because national imperatives took over the grid of the alliance, or not necessarily the grid but at least the activities.

We also need to look in non-kinetic ways. I think we focus too much. There are three areas: we look at equipment; we look at the capabilities, the hardware; we look at the people, the greyware, we need. Canada can play a great role, but we also need to look at the non-kinetic aspect of it. Social media play a critical role in the authorizing and the awakening, and it's only the beginning. We need to look at this. We need to look at computer network operations to be able to gather intelligence, disseminate information, influence behaviour, and, if necessary, disable systems in a non-kinetic manner, which will enable the system to go back up again. If there's one thing we learned from the Balkans, it's if you break things, you're going to have to rebuild them.

I'm nearing the end of my comments, Mr. Chairman.

I'll just say that crisis response, as seen by NATO, is workable. This is not the NATO of 10 years ago or of last year. NATO has changed. First it needs political will that is translated into capabilities and capacities, but finally, we also need to look at sustainment and continue with our agility. From a military perspective, I see new structures and I see some removal of the duplication. We must not confuse redundancy and duplication, but we must wisely find the difference and apply it as best we can.

My advice to my past commander at SACEUR was let's make sure we build...not a peace establishment structure that needs a war establishment to be put together, but, much like we showed during Libya, create war fighter organizations that can get going right from day one. We had three weeks to get ready, one week to build a headquarters, and we got on with it. To put it in perspective, Bosnia took one year from the Security Council to boots on the ground. We can talk about boots on the ground, if you wish, or lack thereof. I certainly have a point on that, and I will address your point, Mr. Chairman, as you wish.

From a Canadian perspective—I'd like to bring this to a wrap—first, is the measure of Canada's provision of support to NATO. I was in Washington and was reminded that Canada's expenditure is around 1.4% of the GDP against a goal of 3%. In replying to my U.S. colleagues and politicians, I offered that quantity is a very poor judge of what the efforts are; rather there is quality and there's also the will. You can have all the quantity you want, but without a political will to use it and deploy it, or the quality given to you by Canada—and I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about the great members of the Canadian Forces. I'd also like to add the support I had from Foreign Affairs in the provision of political advice, this whole-of-government support that came to us.

These are great people. So let's measure Canada not only by numbers but by who we are and who we send. Our record speaks for itself.

I think Canada needs to look at having a deployable force, both politically and militarily, a relevant force, and more importantly a balanced force. Let's not build on the past. Let's build on the future. The future is about agility, about the capability to deal with what is not predictable. One thing I've learned is that the foreseeable future is not.

Therefore, we need to be ready for this. We need to be there for NATO, not only in providing for it but also in bringing this agility that Canadians, I will opine to you, can bring. We therefore need to be present. We need to be present with the right level of military-political presence.

Finally, if the science of war is about creating capability that can bring success through technology and communication, the art of war is making it work with what you have. This is what Canadians are good at.

Mr. Chairman, this completes my opening remarks. I stand ready to answer your questions.

11:50 a.m.


The Chair James Bezan

Thank you, General. I appreciate your opening comments.

I should just point out that the first time I met General Bouchard, he was the commander for 1 Canadian Air Division in the Canadian NORAD region out of Winnipeg. I got to know him a bit there. He went on to be deputy commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command, deputy commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, and then, of course, we all know him as the commander for NATO's Unified Protector.

I want to remind committee members that even though General Bouchard is now a civilian, we're treating him as a public servant, since all his activities were done as a public servant. The rules in chapter 20 of O'Brien and Bosc apply. We can't compel him to disclose information on issues that he dealt with in a secret manner or dealt with in expending his duties. As well, the Security of Information Act of 2001 would apply for any top secret information he was privy to.

With that, Mr. Harris, you have the floor.

11:50 a.m.


Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

Of course, we treat all of our witnesses fairly gently in this committee—so far, at least.

Thank you, General Bouchard, for joining us, and thank you for your lengthy and successful career in the military. It's great that you're able to be here to share your knowledge and experience and perspective with us on this study that we're doing on Canada's participation in NATO and the new NATO concept.

I'll do this through the lens of Libya, of course. Your direct hands-on experience there was quite valuable to the mission and to the success of the mission, and it will be in helping us understand some of the issues.

Some say that the Libya mission was a success in dealing with the protection of civilians, but I don't know if it could be considered a model, or the model; it was a response to a particular crisis that arose fairly quickly. Although Mr. Gadhafi may not have had lots of friends when the time came, he very quickly turned into someone for whom the “responsibility to protect” doctrine became the mechanism by which the Security Council acted.

What concerns me here, in the Libya mission...and I don't know where it affected your activities. I remember a quote from you, which I used because it reflected my concerns. At certain points, certain nations—and certain leaders in certain nations, although I won't get into the detail—and certain foreign ministers were talking about how Gadhafi must go, and about regime change. This was all going on while you and the military were acting under another set of instructions.

I remember a quote from you—I'll paraphrase it and you'll fix it—where in effect you talked about your job: my job is not regime change, my job is based on Resolution 1973, and that's what I'm here to do.

In that context, were there any tensions in relation to that with respect to the military operations and what you were doing? I know this committee had briefings, I guess the summer before and last summer, concerning this, and I was concerned that even NATO itself had chosen different objectives than Resolution 1973 and that it may be interfering with the mission.

Can you give us a general comment on that? There were two things going on, obviously—the very specific 1973 resolution and what some of the nations were saying, and perhaps doing, while you were trying to do something else.

11:55 a.m.

LGen Charles Bouchard

Thank you very much, Mr. Harris. I appreciate your question.

Let me be perfectly clear, because you've stated it, but I will restate it: my mission was not regime change. In fact, if you followed the tactics that we employed, if I'd had a regime change mandate I would have done it differently. I'm not going to go much further than that because of the classification of the aspects of it, but I can assure you of that.

In fact, Gadhafi had the choice. He could have stopped any time. If he had stopped in May or June or July and said, “That's it—I'm stopping violence”, my mission would have come to an end.

In fact, we prepared a lot of these points as we went along, because what would be the criteria upon which we would have met the objectives that we were given? Those were: the cessation of hostilities; the movement of all equipment away, because we didn't want this to be a pause to rearm and reload, and in an observable manner, so that we could observe the situation; and finally, continuing the humanitarian assistance movement unimpeded. These were the three main ones, with subcategories, that we went with.

Except that the regime opted to fight until the last moment.

If I could, I'll opine on that a little bit, because it also had impacts. While he had very few friends, we also probably made our life difficult. I wish not to be critical, but if you make an international indictment of someone, you leave very few exit strategies for these individuals. These were choices, obviously, that other bodies made, and I respect those—I serve. But when we need to consider strategy, I think we need to consider what the exit is. Do we leave these folks an exit ramp or not? In this case, if there are no exit ramps, then not necessarily regime change.... But we will use the broadest interpretation, because what we were given was to use all available means to bring an end to the violence against the population, and we did that. I'm convinced that we stayed well within those limits; we never strayed outside that.

Therefore, if I summarize it, no, it was not regime change, but it certainly became that, because the regime opted to fight until the last moment. Second, we left them no strategy out of it, sir.



Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Can I move to another topic? It's communication with the Security Council once the mission started. Throughout Resolution 1973 there are several references to reporting back to the Security Council, to working with Kofi Annan, to working closely with each other on the enforcement of the arms embargo, for example, and promptly providing written reports to the committee on what they're doing, and to the no-fly zone as well.

The no-fly zone, the protection of civilians, and the enforcement of the arms embargo all have references to reporting back and communicating with the Security Council or the Secretary-General. What mechanisms were established to do that? Did they work? Were you involved with them or was that someone else?


LGen Charles Bouchard

Obviously, the Security Council provided the international legitimacy through the 1970 and 1973 resolutions upon which NATO acted. NATO does not require a UN Security Council resolution to act, because it is an international body, but in this case, it did provide the underlying legitimacy. I can also tell you that many countries would not have joined were it not that the UN had provided that basis for it.

From there, the North Atlantic Council provided me with a series of tasks. You've enunciated three of them. They were mainly the embargo, both air and sea, and the protection of civilians.

The NAC provides you with what task you need to do. They provide the rules of engagement. These are nationally approved, but they dictate to me what my rules of engagement are. They also provide target sets, what I can and cannot touch. They don't tell you which ones; they just tell you types. I had the North Atlantic Council provide that to me through SACEUR, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. So the chain of command goes North Atlantic Council, through the military structure, which is under the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral Stavridis, and under him to the Joint Force Command, of which I was the deputy commander. Also created was a joint task force. That was my reporting chain.

I reported daily to my immediate commander. Weekly we provided an assessment up the chain, if you wish. Then monthly, a report went to the North Atlantic Council. But the relationship between the North Atlantic Council and the United Nations is a political strategic one that stays outside. I just fed them the information, but we provided it on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Let me add one more thing, if you will allow me, because it's also the way we do business that we need to assess. What we were working on were 90-day mandates. And 90-day mandates may cause a lot of issues with the population on the ground. They were terrified that we would walk out after 90 days. My point, sir, is this: how do we balance a fear of a long commitment with an assurance that we'll be there for as long as it takes?

That's all I have to say.



The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

The time has expired.

Madam Gallant, you have seven minutes.



Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and through you to General Bouchard, I'd like to know what challenges you faced in terms of interoperability with the other members of NATO that were present in Operation Unified Protector?


LGen Charles Bouchard

There remain to this day some challenges in making sure that we can communicate and work together. They range from intelligence-sharing to having the right architecture, because interoperability is about sharing. It's about working together.

We had issues on the intelligence side of the house. How do we turn national information through five eyes—Canada, U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand—to NATO secrets, to beyond that, because there were the Arab partners plus Sweden? How do we build that? That was the challenge. We created a diffusion centre, run by a Canadian, may I add, to do that, because we were in the best position. That's the first part.

The second part, of course, is that the big items are interoperable. The navy doesn't have a problem. The air forces themselves don't have a problem. Where we had probably the biggest issue was in two parts. One was the ability to transfer information through the NATO alliance national classified network, because they don't necessarily connect. You end up with many computers under your desk so that you can talk to.... Madam, I had five computers under my desk in NORAD, and that was just two countries. So you kind of work through that.

The last challenge, of course, is the cultural issue of how we work with each other and how we can communicate, because interoperability is not only hardware but greyware as well. That's probably the biggest challenge to me. You can overcome the technical issues through goodwill, understanding, and communication. To me, the essence of interoperability is understanding each other's culture, respecting it, trusting each other, and working through it.

12:05 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

What types of transformational changes at NATO do you believe would be helpful in terms of implementing lessons learned from Operation Unified Protector?

12:05 p.m.

LGen Charles Bouchard

That's a very good question. I am keeping an eye on the chairman, who is going to probably wrap me up very quickly.

Transformational change is really—I'll finish with this—about agility and attitude. That's probably the biggest point. But from a government perspective, we need to really look at the agency's rationalization. I know we have done some. I think we went from 14 to a much reduced number. We need to look at it. I still believe there may be some duplication or areas where we can save on our approach to it.

Also, we don't see it as much in Canada, but I certainly observed it from living in Europe, where change in structure, for example, affects local areas. We have no NATO presence in Canada from a common perspective. Neither does France, for example. But in terms of the regional impact, a giant headquarters where €200 million are being spent will certainly impact on the local economy and the political approach to that. We need to work at this, but it starts with continued will. The building of capability and capacity is really about sharing together, but the transformational aspect of it remains. The problem is, how do we approach this issue? How do we approach this common defence, this pooling and sharing, and what does it really mean? Do we find a common goal and objective in there that we are all agreed to? It's a great concept, but now we're going to have to operationalize it. That's the transformational part.

Finally, from a NATO and military perspective, it's creating a war fighter organization. It's something we do not have to rebuild every time we go on operation, but something that stands every day to do it. We have that in NORAD. It exists; every day we're on standby. We can do it. NATO needs to have the same structure, in my opinion.

12:05 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Do we still have time, Mr. Chairman?

12:05 p.m.


The Chair James Bezan

You have time.

12:05 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

What improvements have been made to the Canadian Forces from the lessons learned in Operation MOBILE?