A couple of days ago I suggested that President elect Trump and his cabinet will pressure Canada to share more of the burden of maintaining continental and global peace and security. It is a notion upon which I have commented several times, beginning, about a year ago, with a list of 11 defence/security/military capabilities which I maintain, still, are the minimum that Canada must have to be an independent, sovereign nation:
We can group these into four broad areas:
Strategic analysis and planning, which includes, inter alia, intelligence gathering and surveillance and warning, military command, control and communications (C³) and defence production and procurement;
Internal security and domestic operations, which includes Aid to the Civil Power (a quite specialized legal and military concept), Civil Assistance operations (helping with fires, flood, ice storms, etc) and Search and Rescue, too;
The Defence of Canada and, concomitantly, a full and fair share of the defence of North America; and
Global military operations to keep the peace, deter aggression (or opportunistic adventurism), restore peace and, when necessary, defeat aggressor enemies on the modern, high intensity sea, land and air battlefields.
My contention remains that Canada must be fully capable in all four broad areas, we can fail at none, ever … not, at least, if we want to remain an independent, sovereign nation.
I have also repeated, several times, that, while I am an experienced, albeit long retired, military officer with some senior staff level experience in an number of areas, including policy, C³ and procurement, I am not an expert in any one area ~ not an engineer, not an accountant, not an experienced ship’s captain, not a pilot, not an artillery specialist or a logistician ~ so I try to stay away from too specific comments on this ship, that tank or the other aircraft.
But I have no fear in asserting, as a knowledgable generalist, that Canada must have sufficient ~ in number, quality and availability ~ forces to do ALL eleven tasks simultaneously. It is quite possible that we might have forces fighting, on a fairly large scale, overseas, in one theatre, and still need to conduct deterrence operations in another theatre and contend with serious internal security threats at home and, of course, continue to gather intelligence, conduct surveillance, make plans, buy equipment and so on and so forth.
So, what do we need?
First, we need an efficient and effective command and control (C²) superstructure that begins, at the top, with the cabinet and the Privy Council Office, and extends down, through a DND/CF C² system, to every ship’s department, every rifle platoon, every aircraft, every supply outlet and every workshop and pay office, too. I have explained, several times, why I believe that the current DND/CF C² superstructure is bloated and inefficient and in urgent need of serious reform … reforms that are, 100%, within the remit of Minister Harjit Sajjan and Defence Chief Jonathan Vance. They don’t need more studies nor do they need a letter from the prime minister; they just need to do what’s right, which includes wholesale cuts to the senior officer ranks and more hard, useful work for HQ staffs. Doing the right thing is usually hard, often risky and rarely makes one popular but my sense is that Minister Sajjan and General Vance are up to the task.
Second, we need to enhance and upgrade our intelligence gathering and surveillance and warning systems. It is not that what we have is totally inadequate, far from it, as far as I know, but it is an area that requires constant upgrading.
Third, and this will be the toughest nut for Team Trudeau to crack, we need to grow the defence budget towards the 2% solution in order to increase military manning and to buy absolute warehouse loads of new, capable, expensive ships, aircraft, weapons and equipment of all types for the additional men and women to use to meet our strategic goals …
… this is a never ending political battle because, by and large, Canadians do not want to spend money on national defence, but deferring procurement pretty much always leads to higher costs and political problems when, eventually, without fail, the bills must be paid.
But all those nice things, above, are what sailors, soldiers and aviators want …
The sad part, in a way, is that the agenda on which e.g. Justin Trudeau, Stéphane Dion and Catherine McKenna were elected is, I believe, exactly the opposite of the one that President elect Trump and our other allies are going to demand that we implement. In the end it is unlikely to matter what Prime Minister Trudeau and, indeed, the Canadian voters want that matters; what the US needs will dictate what we have to do. Taxes, like the new carbon tax, that Prime Minister Trudeau wants to fund a green future and foreign aid may have to be diverted to a beefed up defence budget, which will cost the Liberal Party of Canada dearly at the polls in 2019.* On the other hand, failing to meet President elect Trump’s expectations may drive the Americans to punish us in other ways that will have even worse social, economic and political impacts.
What we, Canadians, REALLY need
Now, as never before, since the end of World War II, anyway, Canada needs a coherent grand strategy … not so much because of threats from defined enemies as because of changes to the politics and policies of our friends and neighbours. We were able, circa 1970, to cast aside the best (arguably only really coherent and realistic) grand strategy we ever had and replace it with a set of polices that were, to be charitable, ideologically driven nonsense. We bumbled along for almost 50 years because others were willing and able to “pick up the tab.” Now, America is in dire financial straits; that will be one of President elect Trump’s first and biggest challenges, and one of the ways he will, I am 99.99% certain, try to address it is to
ask tell allies to increase their share of the military burden. Canada can afford to spend 2% of GDP on defence … but not without rethinking a whole host of other policies and spending priorities. It all begins with a grand strategy that is based on a clear eyed appreciation of our core vital interests, which I defined as:
- Our personal and political liberty;
- A peaceful world into which we can trade; and
- Prosperity for our people.
I said, back then, that “I am persuaded that “peace and prosperity” are closely intertwined and that they lie at the very core of most modern nations’ vital interests.“
I doubt that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has either the personal inclination or the political and intellectual “weight” to advance a new grand strategy, and I doubt that the top levels of the Liberal Party hierarchy are interested in radical change … which carries risks.
But it, a new grand strategy, grounded in the realities of 2017, is what we need … desperately. Failing that we will be pushed and prodded, unwillingly and inefficiently, into ad hoc increases to defence spending that will, quite possibly, waste more than they are worth. We need a bigger defence budget to give us larger, more capable, better equipped and more effective armed forces … but we need, even more, to grow the defence budget and rebuild the military based on a coherent plan that is grounded in a sensible grand strategy, not on ad hocery imposed, under pressure, by our friends.
* A lot of the NDP support that fell to the Liberals in 2015 came from his promises to stop and even reverse military spending; if he grows the defence budget those votes will go back to the NDP.