The first thing to understand about Canadian defence policy is that: no one cares.
Our allies don’t much care, they’ve all given up even hoping that we might be, once again, as we were for about 70 years, a leading middle power, doing our full and fair share to defend the West. Our potential enemies don’t care, either. None of them ever factor Canada into their strategic calculus except as a geographic factor related to the USA. The USA doesn’t care: IF Canada is ever a problem, America will step in and defend our land and airspace and maritime approaches … but, once they “step in” they will not step out again, and Canada will cease to exist as a sovereign nation.
But, mainly, most Canadians don’t care, and political parties know that. Oh, the parties always include a few pages in their platforms, defence got mentioned on pages 86 and 87 of the 101 page Conservative Party platform document for 2019, near the end, just ahead of all the tables of financial data. It has to be mentioned, because a few of us, maybe even a whole million out of the 18± million who actually bother to vote, really do care, at least a bit, but 6% is not enough to get Canadian political tacticians excited. Canadians’ support for the military, as I have often said, is a mile wide but only a 1⁄8 of an inch deep (that’s 1.6 km wide and only 3.175 mm for those who care). Their interest in defence policy is narrower and much shallower. There is, usually, some outrage when the cost of new fighter jets or warships is compared to the needs of e.g. long term care homes, but that always fades quickly. While most Canadian voters and most politicians don’t care about defence, a few senior civil servants ~ some in really important economic and trade policy posts ~ do care and they manoeuvre defence policy around disinterested ministers and equally unconcerned opposition critics.
So, why does it matter, at all?
Didn’t I just say that the Americans will defend us?
Yes, I did say that, and if and when it is in their vital interest, the USA will defend the land we call Canada, and the airspace over it and the maritime approaches to it, but if they ever need to do so then they will also annex whatever they want. If we rely too heavily on the USA for our defence then we will cease to exist as a nation. It is that simple, and nothing else, not our beloved (albeit deeply flawed) health-care system, not our two languages, not our wonderful natural environment, not our abundance of resources or gifted people matters as much to our very existence as a nation as does doing enough, just enough, to defend ourselves. The great English patriot and enlightenment thinker, Algernon Sidney was correct when he said that …
… if a government cannot or will not secure the country’s sovereignty ~ which very often requires being ready to (reluctantly) wage war ~ then it is useless. Any government that does not do enough to defend our country is a bad government and must be tossed aside. Those two words, “useless,” and “bad” are, I believe, fair and valid descriptors of the current Trudeau regime. That may seem harsh, but, sadly, experience, over millennia, not just centuries, says Algernon Sidney was right.
I will not bore you with any details about either how much we should spend ~ but 2% of GDP, year-after-year and -decade-after-decade is at the low end of the right range ~ nor about what ships, tanks, guns and aircraft we should spend our money on. I’ve dealt with that over and over and over again. The government has experts to help answer those questions. We, citizens and taxpayers, should focus on more important things.
For that reason, I will take you back to two things I said. First, there are some capabilities that we need. Over five years ago I said they are –
- A structure to collect and collate information, from all sources and from all over the world and provide useful strategic intelligence to the cabinet and operational intelligence to departments and agencies;
- A super-structure to make strategic plans and to control and manage our military forces;
- Surveillance and warning systems to cover our land mass and, especially, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both;
- Military forces to intercept, identify and, appropriately, deal with intruders;
- Military forces to contribute to the continental defence, especially to the protection of the US strategic deterrent;
- Military forces to patrol our territory, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both;
- Military forces to give “aid to civil power” when provincial attorneys general cannot manage with police resources;
- Military forces to provide “civil assistance” when disaster occur and the civil authorities in provinces and cities cannot cope;
- Military forces to conduct expeditionary, combat operations around the world ~
- Unilaterally for relatively small scale low and even mid-intensity operations,
- As part of “coalitions of the willing” for some low and mid intensity operations, and
- With our traditional allies for the full range of operations, including prolonged general war;
- Supporting operational and logistical services ~ telecommunications, engineering, intelligence, medical and dental, supply and transport, materiel maintenance, administration and policing ~ to support all other military forces; and
- An efficient and effective defence procurement system;
I also said, same link, using a baseball analogy, that we need “Triple-A Plus (AAA+)” armed forces and I said that meant that:
- The first A is: Appropriate … for a G7 nation with a large territory and global interests;
- The second A is: Adaptable … the global strategic situation is both ever-changing and quite unpredictable. The only “constant” is a difference: a difference from what was planned, a difference from what was imagined, and another difference from that for which one is prepared;
- The third A is Available … the days of time to mobilize, as in 1914 and 1939, are gone. We are in the age of the “come as you are” war. We will have to meet whatever threats and contingencies we imagine might be likely with the forces we have in being: regular and reserve; and
- The AAA+ is for Affordable. No matter what experts and politicians, admirals and generals might predict or demand the Government of Canada is limited by what the people of Canada say they can afford.
I have read or heard nothing in the past five years to make me alter either list and I commend both to you, my readers, and to the Conservative Party of Canada as a sound set of goals for a realistic and responsible defence policy. I invite readers to consider those two lists and to tell their MPs and the candidates for office in the next election that they want some responsible action on defence because ⇨