April 18, 2002



As predicted, the government's taking a pass on integrated continental defence (the unspoken reason being they couldn't afford to offer forces commensurate with the responsibilities that would come with it). Two classic parts of this morning's Globe and Mail story illustrate the common lack of comprehension:

Northcom's main effect will be to establish a standing land and sea force for the defence of North America. A hypothetical case that could affect Canada would be if U.S. intelligence identified, say, a cargo ship as possibly carrying a terrorist nuclear weapon in Canadian waters. If Canada remained outside the command, Northcom would properly have to contact Ottawa to have a Canadian ship intercept the vessel. If Canada had joined, Northcom commanders could send Canadian warships without consulting the government directly.

No, that's not what will happen. If there's a terrorist nuclear bomb in Canadian waters, the Americans are going to BLOW IT UP, using their own forces regardless, and worry about any Canadian whinging about our sovereignty later. The only difference our participation in Northcom would make is our senior generals would know beforehand (and might even offer to help if we could). The idea that, since we're not participating, now the White House will have to ask us nicely through diplomatic channels to send one of our undermanned ships to intercept any weapons of mass destruction for them is just ludicrous.

But our Minister of National Defence has got a grip on the issue, you betcha:

"The command of Canadian forces will be under the command of the government, under the command of the chain of command," said Eggleton.

Thanks for clearing that up, sir...

Meanwhile, the government reaffirmed that it still wanted to send Canadian forces to the West Bank. Oh, now there's a fun tour of duty just waiting to happen...

Posted by BruceR at 12:58 PM



Busy day for the Canadian Forces, newswise. In one day you have:

1) Four Canadian soldiers killed by U.S. friendly fire in Afghanistan;
2) Continued high-level jaw-jawing over whether Canada should cooperate with the United States in continental defence, or just let them do it for us as we do now (don't kid yourself... those are the options);
3) Growing evidence that Canada's armed forces have a crippling recruiting/retention problem which will soon effectively prevent us from doing anything, and will already take 30 years to bounce back from;
4) Canada's political opposition seizing what to their tiny minds seems to be the really important issue, and asking why government money is being used to reevaluate the records of a war hero from 80 years ago (Billy Bishop's real record is a tired old academic debate, that everyone who really cares about the issue hashed out years ago... it's only in the news now because of the stupid comments of the Canadian Alliance about how research money should only be used for "happy stories").

There's all kinds of ways those first three stories could reassemble themselves, now. Canada was within weeks if not days of announcing whether it would provide a replacement for the Patricias in Afghanistan this summer... it's an open question whether these deaths will make that more or less desired by the army. At the same time, it's bound to influence the debate, if that ever becomes a debate, over what Canada's going to do about continental defence. And because Canada doesn't have the troops to take on either task, let alone both, right now, the governing Liberals are going to need an excuse to get out of either commitment if not both.

My guess? The government's going to go a little neutralist on its allies and use these deaths as grist for both a withdrawal or dramatic scaling back of the Afghan mission, and a short-circuiting of any defense collaboration talks with the U.S. As it would cost considerably more money to be America's partners in defense or in war, it's likely the line to the Americans will be "We've fought now, we've bled (thanks to you)... now we're going back home to our demonstrably safer strategy of being preachy but not doing anything." (How this jives with Chretien's belief that Canadian troops still have a role to play as West Bank peacekeepers, too, is just one of that man's endearing, and increasingly fatal, delusions.)

Posted by BruceR at 11:30 AM