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Globe editorial: Ottawa keeps searching for a new way to say ‘peacekeeper’

The Liberal government keeps contorting itself to find some new, improved version of peacekeeping for the simple reason that, in the 2015 election, its platform promised a peacekeeping mission. And so, despite the fact that it's no longer 1957, and there are no longer traditional peacekeeping missions to volunteer for, a peacekeeping-like mission must be found.

One of the latest ideas is to turn the Liberal peacekeeping promise into some kind of training mission, in Africa. This could emulate the training mission in Ukraine, in which the military education of Ukrainian troops takes place in the west of Ukraine, far from the dangerous border war in the east of that country.

Burkina Faso is reportedly being considered as a candidate for a country where African Union troops could be trained in comparative safety, before they set out for an actual danger zone. So not exactly a peacekeeping mission, but not combat either, or at least not right at the start.

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At least it's somewhat encouraging that this emerging thinking is clearly no longer about the old-fashioned Pearsonian peacekeeping, now ancient history, which was about the supervision of well-defined, international ceasefire lines. Why then does the government still call what it wants to do "peacekeeping," or "modern peacekeeping," or the ambiguous "peace support operations"?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, like a lot of Canadians, is deeply committed to peacekeeping as an ideal. It sounds so much nicer than "combat." But out there in the real world, there is no traditional peacekeeping to be had. Why not? Because it's 2017.

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