Our northern neighbors.
Winnipeg is a nice town. I got in about 3 pm, which is early enough to get a walk in and still have time for a beer. I ended up at a place down the street from the Canadian Armed Forces recruiting headquarters, so predictably ended up talking war and politics with some of my slightly younger and more current Canadian military counterparts.
To a man, they were reluctant to openly second-guess the underpinnings of the Iraq fiasco (it seemed that perhaps they had been warned about “US Politics“), although they readily agreed that it had turned out to be a disaster. Most of them had served at least one tour in Afghanistan or Bosnia. All of them were horrified at the suggestion that they might someday be called on to serve in Iraq.
The difference between Canadian and US reserve forces is that Canadian reserves will never be called up to active duty involuntarily without an act of Parliament. You can join the Canadian reserves and not worry about being sent off somewhere at the whim of your national leadership, unless your elected representatives are willing to take specific responsibility for the decision. When we talked about the US Reserve and National Guard situation, they just shook their heads.
These guys were recruiters, and they had the same complaints that recruiters have always had: good economic conditions make for poor recruiting. Luckily, the Canadian economy has been only fair, so they were doing ok. We had a pretty good time.
A couple of comments stood out for me, though. One regarded the US military recruiters use of “incentives” to help bring people in. The slogan, “join the Army and get a college education--if you don’t die first” was the subject of much envy. Evidently the Canadian armed forces have very little need for, or access to, incentives in order to meet their recruiting goals.
The other comment that stayed with me was about Memorial day, which isn’t celebrated in Canada. Someone said that the US celebrates it as a festive holiday marking the beginning of summer. I think that about sums it up for most Americans. Except for the families of those on the list, of course.