I was in Chapters today and while I was tempted by former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier’s autobiography, A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War, I opted for Mark Zuelkhe’s excellent book on the Canadians in Normandy, Holding Juno. Apparently though everyone else is reading Hillier. Chantal Hebert writes in the Toronto Star that Hillier’s book will be the final “nail in the coffin” of the Canadian mission in Kandahar, and that the Big Cod’s scathing critique of the mission will prevent the PM from continuing it in its current form even if he wanted to.

Ms. Hebert’s own paper interviewed Hillier and found that he certainly has no intention of encouraging anyone in Ottawa from ending the mission. To continue the Normandy theme a bit longer, Hillier says in the interview that ony pursuing reconstruction and aid projects in Afghanistan “be like going to shore at Normandy on the sixth of June (1944) and driving around … sightseeing and leaving the enemy the opportunity, flexibility and initiative to attack you when they want.”

Apparently Hillier’s book does not come as a great endorsement of NATO. In another piece in the Toronto Star, Hillier is quoted as saying that without some breathing some life through NATO’s “rotten lips into those putrescent lungs” the alliance will have no future.

There may be some signs that NATO is going to avoid this zombie fate. Besides producing spiffy Eurovideos, reports from yesterday’s meeting of NATO heads in Bratislavia suggest that they are coming around to US General McChrystall’s troop-heavy COIN strategy for Afghanistan. US Defence Secretary Gates is quoted as saying that “There seems to be a renewed [NATO] commitment that we have to do this and get this done right. This is an alliance issue”.

Which raises an interesting question. If NATO comes around to backing the US in an expanded military footprint in Afghanistan, will that encourage the Prime Minister to reverse our position and continue substantially past 2011, especially given his rising poll numbers? After all, the Big Cod apparently says in his book that the US had pretty much “written us off” in 2003 because “of a poor reputation the Canadian military had developed in the view of its allies as hesitant to commit, reluctant to engage and held hostage by bureaucrats in Ottawa.” After all the blood and treasure we’ve spent since 2003, do we really want to go back to that state of affairs while our NATO allies are going forward?