I would like you to use your imaginations, please … let’s just make believe that I’m right about three things:
- The strategic threat to Canada is asymmetrical, it comes from a wide range of rogue states and non-state actors with a range of motives;
- A Canadian government has been willing and able to explain that threat to Canadians; and
- Canadians are willing to support the (re)creation and maintenance of the sorts of AAA+ Armed Forces that Canada needs.
I know it, especially the latter, is a HUGE stretch, even if it’s just imagination, but …
First: The Threat …
I posit that the major threat to Canada, and to the US led West in general, is from a range of rogue state and non-state actors who are using “war” (attacks) against us as part of their strategies and tactics for their real wars which are a series of ongoing, right now, regional civil wars, revolutions, insurrections and so on that are being fought for a variety of religious, ethnic and power/ambition reasons. For the near to mid term these rogue states and non-state actors are, primarily, from North Africa, the Middle East and West Asia.
The asymmetrical threat, however, opens a window of opportunity for an Unhinged Russian dictator (the most “normal” kind) or a very untypical Chinese leader to make military mischief while the US led West is distracted by problems with the rogue states and non-state actors in the Islamic Crescent.
Next: The “sell” …
It should be possible for a responsible Canadian government to explain the threat to Canadians through an aggressive “communications” campaign that makes use of “opinion makers” and “opinion leaders” in the media and in academe.
I use the term “sell” intentionally. I am persuaded, in part by Susan Delacourt’s book Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them (2013), that politics and retailing are closely intertwined. Politicians and officials in government need to “package,” “advertize,” and then “sell” policies just as if they were soap, new cars or mutual funds. The selling must be done in two stages: first to the party base, so that it will be supported in an election platform, and then to the public at large.
Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Clement Atlee, Winston Churchill and Louis St Laurent were all part of an organized, coordinated campaign aimed at “selling” the idea of a Soviet threat to the West and, equally, selling the idea that we, the taxpayers in America, Australia, Britain and Canada had to pay for armed forces ~ forces in being for the “come as you are war” ~ despite the fact that we were sick and tired of war and wanted to enjoy the peace and prosperity that we had just earned in 1939 to 45 and were paying for again, in blood and treasure, in the early 1950s, in Korea.
It, the “selling” can be done … unless you’re one of those who believe that people like Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin Jr, Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau are, somehow, lesser men than Clement Atlee, Robert Menzies and Louis St Laurent.
Finally: The Military Solution …
So if we, most Canadians, agree that we need to pay for forces that can meet an asymmetrical enemy threat and a secondary, opportunistic threat from a “near peer” enemy, what do we need?
Since the main threat is asymmetrical and situated, mainly, away from us, but the secondary threat may be anywhere, we need four sorts of forces to meet and counter them:
- Good, strong internal security forces ~
- Good intelligence and counter-intelligence services,
- Strong police forces, and
- Adequate reserve forces to back up the police, when necessary;
- Balanced naval, land and air forces to be prepared to help the Americans protect North America from opportunistic but likely limited aggression by (more likely) Russia or (less Likely) China;
- Balanced naval, land and air forces to help allies counter Chinese or (less likely) Russian “adventuring” in Asia;
- Expeditionary naval, land and air forces able to “take the fight” to the enemy in the Islamic Crescent region.
I’m not going to say n ships of x type, and so many battalions of infantry and so many batteries of artillery, and this or that airplane … there are plenty of experts, real and imagined, out there who can do that. But I will say that we will want the capabilities I listed earlier The Defence of the Realm. I will go further and suggest that we need:
- Three “fleets,” Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific, each with organic air support;
- Rapidly deployable light army units ~ by which I mean reconnaissance parties on aircraft a mere 48 hours after warning, advance parties able to start deploying after, say, five day’s warning, and main bodies (of battalion sized army units) starting to move a mere 15 days after warning ~ backed up, after longer warning and deployment times, by mechanized units, including main battle tanks and attack helicopters, all lifted, in part, by a goodly large fleet of air transports and supported in combat by first class fighter-bombers;
- Independently deployable air force formations of first line fighters, patrol aircraft and refuelers; and
- A support (command and control, medical and logistic) structure that can deploy with the front line combat troops and sustain them for indefinite periods in operations.