Almost 18 months ago The Telegraph, one of the “quality” British newspapers, published a survey ~ another sort of Everyman’s Strategic Survey, several of which I have offered over the past months, along with some of my own conclusions about what Canada might do to protect itself ~ aimed at answering the question:”What is the biggest threat facing the world today?” The survey consisted of “a list of what current and former academics at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London believe to be the areas of most concern.” The list follows but the whole article is well worth a read:
- Russian and Chinese expansionism v Western disarmament, Alexander Clarke, a PhD graduate, believes that Russia and China’s desire for territory or more control of resources is a threat that will bring conflict;
- Russia’s revisionism, Dalibor Rohac, a King’s graduate and now research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington DC, fears that Vladimir Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine crisis could be a sign of worse to come;
- China’s rise and power shifting in the Indo-Pacific, Harsh V. Pant, professor of international relations at King’s, believes China’s rise should be feared more than Mr Putin or Isil;
- Unfinished business in the Taiwan Strait, Jeroen Gelsing, a PhD candidate in War Studies at King’s, says the undetermined status of Taiwan is what threatens the world’s stability;
- Unbridled nuclear proliferation, Richard Brown, non-proliferation analyst, International Centre for Security Analysis, fears the rise of nuclear technology around the world;
- Political transition in the Middle East, Jonathan Hill, a reader in postcolonialism and the Maghreb, believes that democracy is important for the Middle East but fears that it gives a voice to those hostile to the West;
- The rise of nationalism and other politics of identity, Pablo de Orellana, teaching fellow, department of War Studies, says the growing nationalist ideologies encouraged by world leaders threatens the world;
- Russian infiltration in Western politics, Giorgio Bertolin, PhD candidate in the defence studies department, believes Russia funds fringe movements to undermine European stability; and
- Corruption, Katherine Stone, MPhil/PhD War Studies candidate, believes corruption is linked to and exacerbates every major security threat in the world.
There’s only one “threat” on that list that I think is “minor:” Unfinished business in the Taiwan Strait. While I agree with Jeroen Gelsing that “Conflict in the Taiwan Strait would shatter the US and China’s uncomfortable co-existence in the Asia-Pacific and might turn ‘strategic rivalry’ into outright superpower conflict, with reverberations across the globe,” I believe that both China and the USA and, indeed Taiwan, itself, are committed to securing a peaceful reintegration of Taiwan into China. Of course, anything is possible, but I think a war over Taiwan is a very remote one.
One turn of phrase that I really like and that I think is very helpful to those trying to think about the Middle East is: “Political transition.” I think that we need to see the Middle East as a series of transitions ~ social, cultural, religious and political ~ all happening in parallel.
But which of those nine threats is most pressing? Which poses the greatest danger to Canada? And where is Africa on that list? What about North Korea? Or the environment, domestic terrorism, Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS, Russia in the Arctic, or mass migration and poverty?
I think that there is one really pressing threat to world peace: Russian opportunistic adventurism, which is what Dalibor Rohac described as “Mr Putin’s aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine [which] contravened not just international law but also the security guarantees that the West extended to Ukraine in the form of the Budapest Memorandum in 1994 … [and] … Mr Putin’s [ongoing] harassment of the Baltic states [that] may call into question the credibility of Article 5 of Nato’s founding document, effectively eroding the security order existing in the West.” I believe that we need to see NATO, not the United Nations, as the world’s most successful “peacekeeper” because it has kept a real “peace” against an on again/off again but always credible Soviet/Russian threat for 70 years.
I also believe that tensions and even some very, very serious disputes between China and Russia over China’s pressing need for resources: especially water, but these will not be threats to global peace and security.
North Korea is a problem, but it is one that can be solved politically whenever American and China are willing.
Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS are a threat to regional peace and to all of us, everywhere, from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Sydney, Australia, through domestic terrorism but, while it is a good idea to keep bombing them, and a few others, just because dead Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS supporters are better than live Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS supporters ~ and yes, sometimes killing is the only answer ~ in the end the peoples of the Middle East, indeed of the whole Islamic Crescent, must settle their own territorial, religious, cultural and other disputes and, eventually, find ways to live in harmony with the wider world, from America to Zimbabwe.
Africa has enormous potential and even more enormous problems and it would be a good idea for responsible middle powers, like Canada, to do something to help … but first you need an aim, then you balance resources (money and people) against problem areas, instead of making policy based on smoke and mirrors and campaign slogans.
What can Canada do? What should Canada do?
- First: publish, for all Canadians to see and digest, an open source but “official” strategic survey. Tell Canadians about the threats and, in general terms, how the government assesses them;
- Second: enunciate a foreign policy based on ~
- Canada’s vital interests, and
- A realistic appraisal of the strategic situation; and
- Third: enunciate and fund a defence policy that gives weight to out foreign policy.
What will Canada do?
Sadly, I expect to see more and more of this: