I have, since January 2016, published about 25 “Everyman’s Strategic Surveys.” I said, back in January, that “An essential start point for any serious discussion of foreign and defence policies and, subsequently, any useful recommendations for, say, defence spending, is a strategic survey.” It seems to me that we, laymen, cannot discuss strategy or defence and security requirements unless we have an informed world view. I have turned, most often, to three internationally read “open sources” …
… and I have turned to them because they are internationally written, well informed and well written, in my opinion, and read and they all have what one might describe as a generally liberal, Euro-American world view.
In my first survey I concluded that:
First: The situation in the Islamic Crescent, which stretches from the Atlantic coast of North Africa all the way through the Middle East and West Asia to South East Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia, especially) remains unstable, to pout it mildly, and we, in the US led West, are strategically and militarily ill equipped to do much that is useful … other than periodic punitive air attacks and drone strikes: essentially what we’ve been doing since the 1920s in Iraq. I still doubt that we, the West, including Canada have anything like a coherent plan, never mind anything as big and complex as a strategy, for the Middle East.
Second: As I said, “Vladimir Putin has reawakened Russian pride in one of its “great” eras: when, under Stalin, it played a HUGE and heroic role in defeating Nazi Germany. Many Russians are very proud of that their parents and grandparents did under Stalin, but they are woefully ignorant about what Stalin did to them. Now they, and perhaps Putin, himself, see Putin as a new Stalin who will bring Russian glory back … Russia is (potentially) rich but it is socially, economically, politically and structurally backwards and is unable to make good, even just barely adequate, use of its natural and human resources. It finds it easy to resort to bullying, coercion and brute force to accomplish what should come almost naturally to a well educated, productive people with abundant natural resources. How is Russia so different from America? The answer is why Russia remains a threat …” I still believe that Russian “opportunistic adventurism,” as I call, it is the biggest, most significant threat to world peace.
Third: I suggested that: “Our leaders must figure out how to counter those threats even as they deal with:
- A rising and unpredictable China that is asserting itself in its own back yard;
- European social and political turmoil; and
- American political and strategic confusion.“
I stand by those conclusions:
- The Middle East is a problem, a serious one, and many of the “actors” in that region, and throughout the Islamic Crescent want to attack us, right here in America and Britain and Canada, too, as one part of their larger campaigns to restore one or the other sort of caliphate to the whole Islamic world. They are a real threat, but not an existential one;
- Russian “opportunistic adventurism,” which could, very easily, slide, seamlessly, into real aggressive war very, remains the main and only really important threat to world peace in 2017; but
- There is danger in Asia IF America, as I have suggested just recently, misinterprets Chinese actions and provokes tensions that could escalate into armed conflict.
I also reiterate that “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 …” And who is to say that he is not sending us that message, right now through the ways he is managing the transition to power? Allies are worried, but everyone, including, perhaps especially, Canada, must wait and see, and, I think, be prepared to do more than has been the custom for decades.
Readers needn’t agree with me, nor with my sources, but we, citizens, cannot tell our government what we want them to do about, with, for and to the world, especially using our military power, unless we have, and they share, a global strategic outlook, and I suggest that mine, based on open, reputable sources, is as good as most.