01 February 2016

Modest proposals for our defence policy

The federal government has promised to develop a new defence strategy for the country and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has confirmed the public will be asked to participate. I thought, therefore, I would get my two cents in early.

The minister's mandate letter states, "As Minister of National Defence, your overarching goal will be to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces are equipped and prepared, if called upon, to protect Canadian sovereignty, defend North America, provide disaster relief, conduct search and rescue, support United Nations peace operations, and contribute to the security of our allies and to allied and coalition operations abroad."

Some of this I can agree with, some not so much. For example, the first bit, about protecting Canadian sovereignty and defending North America, these are reasonable responsibilities but considering there are no apparent threats to Canadian sovereignty and no one is about to storm the borders of North America, they are not items we should spend a lot of dollars on. "Provide disaster relief, conduct search and rescue and support United Nations peace operations" I wholeheartedly concur with. Facing the increasing severity of weather events caused by climate change, we might train forces specifically for this challenge, in effect disaster forces rather than armed forces. Redirecting the use of the military to respond to environmental disasters was in fact part of the Liberals’ platform.

The last part of the mandate letter, particularly "contribute to ... coalition operations abroad," is suspect. This seems to lead to us collaborating with the increasingly redundant NATO and acting as a foreign legion for American imperialist adventures. We are, for example, currently being called upon to fight ISIS in the Middle East. ISIS is a product of the last great binge of Western imperialism in that region—the invasion of Iraq—and that is precisely the kind of war-making we should avoid.

In summary, we need to spend much less on conventional warfare and more on peacekeeping and dealing with national and international disasters. Considering we are not at war and have no enemies posing a threat of war, there should be ample room to reduce the defence budget overall and use the money to improve the lives of Canadians. You can sign a petition to that effect here.


  1. Article about Minister Sajjan in National Observer and one in Huffington Post speaking about his service in Afghanistan. Gives me a bit of hope. Seems like a truth teller and not a born war monger. Hope so.


  2. I believe Canada needs to have a robust and capable defence force. The remainder of this century will be unlike any previous era in the history of mankind. We can expect to see levels of violence that are, today, almost unimaginable.

    At some point, Bill, the global House of Cards collapses. Anthropologist Jared Diamond tells us these events happen rapidly, abruptly and usually when a civilization is at its zenith. Gradual decline does not happen.

    Climate change is already destabilizing a structurally interconnected world. States are failing as never before and this process is only beginning. The UN reports that more than half of all the active conflicts in the world are resource driven. The mess in Syria was sparked by food insecurity and famine caused by severe drought.

    There exists no means nor is any proposed for achieving an equitable distribution of essential resources such as freshwater. That means we're acquiescing to death on the scale of billions. James Lovelock is adamant that, while our population may peak just past 9-billion, we'll end the century at something less than 1-billion people.

    Canada is one of just six countries that remains ecologically viable which means we also have the status of a fatted calf to the 180-nations in the other camp. We're not even addressing these issues much less seeking resolution.

    Considerations of Canada's defence needs are pointless without taking a realistic view of what lies ahead on a span of at least two generations. That's a tough go but we really have no other choice.

  3. You may be right, Mound, and I am certainly baffled by how our leaders ignore the big issues, yet we must beware of self-fulfilling prophecy. If we assume Armageddon, and arm ourselves for Armageddon, we may very well ensure Armageddon.