A Canadian academic with considerable military experience, Prof Bob Martyn of Queens University, (caveat lector: he also happens to be a personal friend) in a chapter in a new book entitled Going to War?: Trends in Military Intervention, (Montreal and Kingston 2016) suggests that, while, “specific forecasts may be akin to carnival fortune telling, some readily identifiable trends can inform our thinking.“
He suggests, and I agree, that “the underlying premise is that absent superpower blocks bringing a semblance of order to international politics, we have a variety of powers, including nations, ideological movements, multinational corporations and criminal terror groups, playing off among each other to further their ambitions. International politics is evolving from a system that was comparatively orderly in hindsight, into one that is far more disconcerting with fewer behavioural regularities. Russia’s machinations seems almost a Machiavellian relief for its ruthlessly realist underpinnings. Such great power flash-points will remain, with adjacent countries continuing to lack “the influence to play a decisive role in every issue redefining their neighbourhoods.” However, such crises will not likely provide the demands for military interventions; that dubious honour lies with the growing number of small, regional conflicts.“
I agree. Russian opportunistic adventurism is a real threat to the peace in Europe, but it is a threat that we can countered and contained by using NATO for its intended (and only useful) purpose: keeping Russia out of free, democratic, Western Europe. Chinese bullying of its neighbours is being challenged by US “freedom of navigation” exercises but we should not force (or allow) the US to take all the burden and responsibility on its own.
Prof Martyn goes on to say that the countries involved in those “small, regional conflicts,” are “reappraising their previously dictated boundaries through the lens of ethnic, religious and tribal dispersions. The majority of our future conflicts,” Prof Martyn adds, “will not be between Huntington’s “civilizations,” but neighbours divided by history, with tensions often exacerbated by access to resources, be it food, water or marketable reserves.“
We must note that China, with its HUGE population that demands more and more and more of everything is also concerned about food and water, some of which might be found in (RuSiberia.
For our political and military planners whose “thinking [is] built upon conventional tank battles, ” Prof Martyn suggests, “this likely form of warfare seems new but is rather very old low level, endless warfare, often inextricable from political unrest. They will be fuelled by economic inequality, corruption, kleptocracy and class injustices. As Thomas Friedman notes, “most of what threatens global stability today are crumbling states. Exactly how many can we rescue at a time?”“
Based on that, isn’t Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response ~ to participate in UN peacekeeping ~ the right thing to do?
The UN is, in fact, in the business of sustaining, not solving, “economic inequality, corruption, kleptocracy and class injustices.” UN peacekeepers are part of the problem …
There is a solution but it is, more often than not, provided by e.g. the French Foreign Legion and British paras operating in their own, very selfish, national interests and, concomitantly, bringing some degree of peace and order to various “crumbling states.“
But, the current Liberal government of Canada is not pursuing anything like a grand strategy or even a coherent, e based, foreign policy. It has only one foreign policy interest: to be liked! The rational for being liked is that:
First, we will be less threatened ~ a very, very dubious proposition; and
Second, we will not have to spend so much on defence.
The output, the measure of effectiveness, of being “liked” will be proven by Canada “winning” a quite useless, second class, no-veto power seat on the United Nations Security Council. This was good, even very good campaigning but it is lousy policy.
Prof Martyn deals, also, with the lack of grand strategy throughout the US led West. He notes that Canada has not had an “overarching [defence] plan … after the 1950s.” That strikes me as being exactly right: the first and only time we had a really coherent, effective, values and interests based grand strategy was when Louis St Laurent enunciated it. Prime Minister St Laurent was, to be sure, a Liberal, but he was, I think, almost the “last Liberal,” at least the last Liberal in the mould of George Brown and Wilfred Laurier; after St Laurent’s acolyte, Lester Pearson, and the Kingston Conference (1960), and so on the Liberal Party was transformed by Pierre Trudeau into something that I doubt M. St Laurent would or could support. The current Trudeau regime is simply “marketing” UN peacekeeping as an alternative to everything Prime Minister Harper did; this is not a strategy. The UN will, as it always does, fail and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Canada fail with it.
The security challenge is to see the world clearly, as Bob Martyn does, and deal with it in a forthright, responsible manner, as Prime Minister St Laurent did and as Prime Minister Trudeau wants to not do.