So I’ve already talked about how I don’t want to turn this blog into a place where I speculate about how I would blow this country up? Well, for the most part that’s still going to be a thing, but I feel that I need to chime in with my own alternative to Lepine’s plan to assault James Bay.
So earlier on in Bland’s novel, Will Boucanier described an airborne drop onto the Robert Bourassa Dam as a ‘hard-ass’ plan, seeming to suggest that this was the only option that could potentially undo his cunning strategy to draw the CAF into norther Quebec. Later on, Gen Lepine comes up with basically the same plan, implying that he is hard-assed enough to match Boucanier move per move.
The fact that there won’t be any other significant manoeuvres between the two men doesn’t seem to mean much.
But here’s what’s bothering me: It’s the notion that there’s only one option that qualifies as acceptable (or hard-assed) and that any other would constitute a failure…or maybe a fat-ass? Either way, there’s a notion here that the sheer risk of the plan lends it credibility in a kind of “just crazy enough to work!” sort of way that’s really bothering me.
So here’s my alternative:
Seize the Robert Bourassa Dam right now. Like before the uprising starts.
Never mind this bullshit about waiting for the NPA to launch their carefully laid plan. Why let the enemy do what they want when you have the power to stop them, anyway? Instead, Gen Lepine should launch his mission to Chisasibi right now, seize the airport and push out to take possession of the Dam before anyone can respond.
Now, in the spirit of Battle Procedure: “This operation will be conducted in five phases.”
Phase 1 will consist of a night time parachute drop onto Chisasibi airport by a Pathfinder/DZ control party, followed shortly after by a Commando of the CSSR. It would be this force’s job to seize the airfield (assuming it was even defended at this point), and push out a security perimeter to protect the aircraft that will be following.
With the DZ control party providing direction, the airborne force would land/take off two CC-130s as quickly as possible. Each of these planes would be transporting a pair of up-armoured G-Wagons with mounted C-6 machine gun and crews. These four vehicles, loaded up with a total of 16 troops, would immediately race from the runway to the highway connecting Chisasibi with Radisson. If phase 1 goes well and surprise is achieved, then the planes’ landing might be the first indication for the NPA that something is wrong. Even if warriors in Boucanier’s force have their weapons close at hand, there’s a good chance they won’t have time to block the road.
These four vehicles will drive hard for the Dam, with orders to break through any barricade that might spring up in front of them, and not to stop for anything. Once at the Robert Bourrasa Dam, they will link up with the Hydro Quebec staff (who will have been warned by phone just a few minutes prior). Their job will be to provide an initial security force at the Dam while the rest of the CSSR is de-planing.
The rest of the CSSR arrives by successive Herc flights over the next several hours. They will be supplemented by Combat Engineer and Military Police elements, plus some RCMP and SQ to give the operation a veneer of civilian control. Additional G-Wagons will be landed, as well as defensive stores other equipment needed to turn Chisasibi airfield into a proper base of operations.
Concurrent to Phase 3:
A combined force of R22ième and SQ personnel (approximately one mechanized company) will set out north along Highway 109. Instead of trying to reach Chisasibi, they will stop at the first major bridge, take control and hold it. This will have the effect of sealing off James Bay/La Grande region to ground traffic. Their orders will be to prevent anyone from the north from leaving (thus preventing NPA warriors from escaping) and turning back anyone trying to travel north (after searching them, thus intercepting any other NPA warriors who might try to reinforce Boucanier).
Because this cutoff force will potentially be in the public eye, the official story will be that they are responding to a bomb threat at the bridge. This story won’t hold forever, but right now the idea is to buy time and sow confusion.
Around mid-morning, once CSSR is entirely on the ground, two Commandos supported by G-Wagons will advance into Chisasibi to secure the town. They will be working in conjunction with RCMP/SQ and the Band Police (if they are willing), and their orders will be to seize key buildings and road junctures, and arrest suspected NPA personnel. Top of the list would be Will Boucanier, his ‘disgraced Rangers,’ and anyone else the Int guys can build a profile on. This phase is to be conducted slowly and deliberately, with a maximum show of force to dissuade less experienced warriors from fighting back.
Once Chisasibi is secured, an additional force of CSSR paras from the third Commando, supported by civilian police will move to Radisson to join the initial team in the protection of the Dam. With the Dam properly secured, CSSR will reorganize themselves for a sweep of Radisson.
End state will be achieved when both towns have their essential building occupied by CSSR & police forces. All NPA detainees are to be evacuated via Chisasibi as quickly as possible in order to minimize the risk of a rescue attempt. At this point conventional troops and additional police forces will begin flying in to Chisasibi to begin a relief in place of the CSSR which can then begin withdrawing back into a reserve for further action elsewhere in Canada. Further action against reserves along Highway 109 can be considered as the situation develops.
Although damage to the Robert Bourassa Hydro Electric Dam would put thousands of lives at immediate risk (and, if not repaired quickly, could endanger millions), use of force is to be strictly controlled. This is a preemptive action in a civil war, so overt bloodshed is to be avoided. Furthermore, since surprise is vital for the early phases of the operation, there is also a practical concern of not alerting a potential enemy.
During Phase 1, use of force is limited to the bare minimum necessary to capture the airfield, as well as self-defence. Taking prisoners is preferred, and gunfire is to be avoided if possible to prevent discovery.
During Phase 2-3, use of force is limited to self-defence, except upon confirmation of anti-aircraft weapons. NPA forces with anti-aircraft weapons are to be engaged without warning (although again, the preference is to take prisoners if at all possible).
The quick reaction force (QRF) racing for the Dam is authorized to engage any armed persons trying to block the road (they may fire the first shot) as well as ramming/pushing vehicles being used as a barricade out of their way. Emphasis is to employ the minimum force needed to break through, and not to stop to pursue any fleeing enemy forces. Anyone surrendering is to be disarmed, then left by the road side.
The Phase 3 cutoff force will be operating under the ‘self-defence only’ rule with regards to lethal force. Only suspicious vehicles are to be searched, but with the broadest possible interpretation of ‘suspicious.’
The biggest change in ROEs for Phase 4 is that the two Commandos advancing into Chisasibi (and later Radisson) will have clearly delineated Areas of Responsibility (AORs) and will have their movements coordinated so that they advance in conjunction. This is to prevent NPA forces from infiltrating between neighbouring CSSR units. Entry into public buildings or private dwellings is to carried out under the control of police forces. Ideally, this would be where Band Police would step in to act as negotiators or liaisons in order to minimize the need for force.
Entering Phase 5, the emphasis will be to turn over policing operations to RCMP/SQ or the Band Police as soon as possible, with follow-on military personnel providing ‘vital point protection’ (that is, protection of the Dam and the airfield only). The cutoff force is to remain in place until it is clear that their presence is no longer needed.
So, let’s talk about this idea a bit.
So the first objection to this plan would be – I think – that you can’t take pre-emptive military action in a civil conflict and kill people without cause. I would agree to this in principle but argue that, if the mission goes well, you might not even have a fight in the first place. Since Boucanier’s forces are lying low until they attack the Dam, it’s at least a decent bet that there won’t be any open military presence at Chisasibi airfield. In fact, aside from a couple of locals manning the radio on a night shift, it’s a safe bet that the arriving Pathfinders won’t find anyone at the airfield at all.
Once there’s troops on the ground, a shootout’s only going to happen if the NPA warriors (who might be waking confused in the middle of the night) attack the airfield to try and take it back. A night assault takes some skill and coordination, and when you’re facing off against thousands of special forces paratroopers (night will magnify numbers) there’s going to be some reluctance.
Then there’s the fact that these people will be fighting and dying…just to get to the start line of their intended plan. If they somehow pull out all the stops and actually overcome a numerically superior force of paratroopers, the best the survivors could hope for is to say “uh…yay? Now we can start the uprising?”
I mean, there’s no way to predict how any individual might act in a given situation, but the smart move here would probably be to bury your guns, destroy all documents, act surprised when the cops show up, and hope that you can get away with a light jail sentence. Maybe a year or two down the road there might be another chance to re-start the revolution but for now the goal should be to salvage as much as possible.
Meanwhile, assaulting the Dam after it’s already been captured? That’s pretty much guaranteed to result in casualties regardless of who fires the first shot.
Then there’s the objection that acting first would generate a tremendous popular backlash that could play straight into the rebels’ hands. Well, yes, it’s possible that the NPA and Molly Grace could change gears and launch a propaganda campaign to discredit the Canadian Government. That could be an effective reaction…except that it would be a reaction, not an action.
Molly Grace’s carefully laid plans depends on seizing the Robert Bourrassa Dam, then controlling the Canadian Government’s reaction in order to achieve her own ends. Grab the Dam first, and now she’s reacting to you. In so-called military speak, this is called seizing the initiative.
It’s typically seen as a good thing.
Another objection can be raised in that Gen Lepine doesn’t have permission from either the CDS or the Prime Minister to initiate hostilities in this conflict. This is not only a fair argument but a vital one also. Generals are not supposed to start their own wars in a healthy democratic society. The government’s supposed to make that call, not the military. For someone like General Lepine to launch an intervention into La Grande on his own accord would be grossly insubordinate, if not an outright act of treason.
Now in my own mind, if I was re-writing my own version of Uprising, the first thing I’d be fixing would be the relationship between the CDS and the PM to the point where it actually reflected something approaching reality. While they may disagree, both would be professionals committed to navigating this crisis for the good of the country. Moreover, while the CDS may have serious issues with his PM’s choice of actions, his priority would be to either make it work, or to resign quickly and get out of the way.
But the depressing reality is that I probably wouldn’t have to come up with a plan like this if the CDS and the PM had a healthy relationship. If it wasn’t for this contrived, ass-backwards scenario the whole problem of the Robert Bourassa Dam would have been resolved by Day 2 of the novel by a couple of vans full of RCMP driving up to Radisson to take over security. So in the Bland-ian spirit of building my strategy around misquoted historical precedents, I off this quote from the movie Patton:
My answer would be “Fuck that shit.” Lepine should take the fucking Dam, submit two copies of his resignation, then tell his CDS boss and the PM to each shove it up their asses. Fuck Jack Hemp for ignoring and downplaying the crisis but fuck Andy Bishop even more for actively making it worse. Fuck Bishop’s secret meetings about how he doesn’t think the Prime Minister actually runs the country, and his Grade-9 understanding of who the Governor General is. They want to let the uprising happen, then sacrifice dozens or more lives in an ill-conceived airborne mission to re-take a Dam that could have been easily protected in the first place? Hell no.
If I was Gen Lepine, my only thought would be to grab the steering wheel away from this yammering boob and this treacherous lunatic, and turn the country away from the cliff before it’s too late. If that meant a scandal, a public relations disaster, the end of my career and possible some jail time, well fuck it. Service to Canada before self.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just a ‘Toon Sergeant.
***Just as a side point, this kind of action would be grossly insubordinate (as well as seriously emasculating) for Gen Bishop, Bland’s ostensible hero. My answer to this would be “Well, yeah. What do you think Patton was?” Whatever his abilities as a general, Patton was a toxic personality that was notoriously difficult to manage. As much as it might be fun to lionize men like Patton after the fact, during the War itself people like him were a massive liability. The Allied effort was multi-national endevor that required balancing between multiple governments and powerful personalities. Under these conditions, Patton was the proverbial bull in a china shop, and as awesome as he may have seemed from a distance, if you were his boss, you probably would have hated him.***
 Remember, a Commando is Canadian Airborne-speak for a company, so upwards of a hundred troops.
 In Uprising, Bland references the Galenda Wagon (G-Wagon), popularly referred to as a LUVW (pronounced love-dubya). This is a Mercedes-built jeep-type vehicle that can be up-armoured to be (relatively) bullet-proof and can support a turret with a machine gun.
 A pitched battle with special forces wouldn’t be much of an option, but the chance of some desperate, leaderless NPA warriors doing something stupid like taking hostages would still be a risk. But if there’s no one to exchange hostages for? That can defuse things pretty quickly.
 The argument I would be making to the paras would be two pronged, consisting of i) we don’t want to be the ones to fire the first shot in a civil war and ii) we want to take advantage of an inexperience enemy who might hesitate to shoot if they’re not actively being shot at themselves.
 At this point, the presence of a single anti-aircraft missile could ruin the operation and endanger dozens or more lives. While the Chain of Command would rather not have Canadian soldiers be responsible for firing the first shot, they’d really rather not have a flaming wreck of a plane blocking the runway and an under-strength force of paras trying to hold the mission together unsupported.
 Now, in Uprising, Boucanier’s forces don’t stick around to contest the Dam at all, but Gen Lepine has no way of knowing this in his planning session.
 Plus there was, you know, the whole slapping the shell-shocked soldier thing. There aren’t really any hard numbers on Veteran suicides from WWII, but I’m willing to be that it was high, and leaders like Patton actively made it worse.