October 06, 2002



I'm seeing a version of this statement so often in the Iraq debate now, it demands comment:

He's trying to pretend that we either have to be completely, totally multilateralist or completely, totally unilateralist, and that if we decide to be less-than-totally- multilateralist in Iraq that no one in the world will ever cooperate with us again in anything. Of course, it's to be ignored that we're actually going to be cooperating with a lot of nations in this (such as the UK, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey).

Okay, let's see: other than the U.K., we have a repressive sheikhdom they've bought (Kuwait), another repressive sheikhdom they've intimidated (Qatar), and a rigid, quasi-militaristic country whose insistence on keeping Iraq's Kurds down has done more than anything else to encourage their oppression by Iraq, and whose cooperation will almost certainly guarantee the Kurds will continue to be oppressed and killed by Iraq's NEXT government, ie, the strongman the U.S. chooses to install... who himself, will no doubt be counted as another of America's "allies." Is the Americans' sense of historical destiny now such a flickering candle that these are the only kinds of allies it can hope to count on, or be proud of from now on? One hopes not.

Posted by BruceR at 01:14 PM



Linda McQuaig, one of Canada's leading left columnists, sets up a big straw man and precedes to whack at it for the length of a column in the Star today. Her target... Canadian defence OVERspending:

One of the biggest obstacles to rebuilding social programs will be the defence lobby -- the aerospace industry and the "think tanks" it funds -- which is keen to ensure that Ottawa's future budget surpluses go instead toward beefed-up military spending, with lots of private sector contracts.

Note to the "defence lobby." I'm still waiting for my payoff cheques to arrive for shilling for you all these months...

Our contribution [to our own defence] could never be more than marginal. David King... notes in a recent issue of Policy Options that Canada would have to increase its defence spending at at least five times the current level [Flit's translation: 6 per cent of GDP, or $55 billion a year] -- and sustain that higher level for 10 to 15 years -- before Washington would regard our military as "of some noticeable marginal utility."

You can read Col. King's actual paper here. It's quite good, actually: I agree with his overall sense of the priorities of Canadian defence policy, although I disagree with his prescription of doing nothing at all until there is a national "buy-in" to those objectives... sometimes I believe one needs to initiate change by changing, especially given this country's inertia on defence issues. The citation above is unsourced in King's paper, but reading in context suggests that "noticeable marginal utility" to U.S. interests is a category to King's mind currently occupied only by Britain, with only France and Russia even capable of aspiring to it. I don't believe any of us here in the "defence lobby" want Canada to have a force the size of Britain's. Notably, King himself does not argue that the current funding of the Canadian forces is in any way sufficient, only misdirected due to a lack of national clear thinking on the issue: I agree totally.

McQuaig continues:

[Some advocates'] version of enhanced Canadian sovereignty involves nothing more than full cooperation with the United States.

As opposed to McQuaig's version, which involves the surrender of all domestic military sovereignty and any capability for foreign involvement to the U.S. by default.

Even if we devoted one-third of our GDP to the military -- a level that would make us a freak in the world community -- we wouldn't be able to match annual U.S. military spending of $355 billion.

Okay, Linda, I give up... who the heck is arguing for that? First she throws out the $55 billion figure as what somebody somewhere thinks is appropriate... now we're competing for world domination with the States, with $355 billion... spare me.

Fact: The U.S. consistently spends 3 per cent of GDP on its defence. Even the most extravagant defence reform proposal ever aired in this country (the 1987 white paper) only anticipated a return of our expenditures from the current 1.2 per cent to a matching 3 per cent (or about $28 billion a year, up from $11 billion). Sane people realize that's unreasonable: and NO ONE has ever asked for Canada to spend more per capita on defence than the Americans do, except for the voices in Ms. McQuaig's head, apparently. Right now, people are holding out hope for 1.5-1.6 per cent (or about $3-4 billion extra a year), which would bring us back up to the median level of Germany, Italy, and the other small West European democracies. By contrast France is 2.4, the U.K. is about 2.7. (Australia, which hits well above its weight internationally, and is seen by many as the best model for Canadian reform, spends about 2 per cent.)

Missing from McQuaig's analysis is any recognition that military force can have positive impacts abroad, whether we're talking about keeping Bosnia together or suppressing Al Qaeda's recent attack on Canadians' freedom to fly our overly large country in passenger jets. She begins her flippant column by talking about the Ron MacLean issue that has currently obsessed fans of Canada's national sport... but she forgets that hockey star Ace Bailey was one of those whose untimely death on Sept. 11, 2001 Canada's soldiers in Afghanistan were happy to help avenge. Him and 24 other Canadians like him. European Union fishermen are ransacking our waters because we have no way to interdict them... Canadians must rely on France to rescue our citizens abroad... but even more importantly than that, we have lost our voice in the councils of the world because of our inability to contribute anything even if we did fully support their choices. As with Iraq today.

Like it or not, America is the locomotive of Western military adventurism today and for the foreseeable future. Accepting, as I believe it impossible not to do, that such adventures are sometime necessitated, the only choices are to pay the fare and hope to have some choice in the destination, or to stand offside of the tracks and curse the train as it passes, as McQuaig would have us do. In the meantime, she, I and the rest of Canada will continue to free ride on our American protector. We will have our healthcare, but we will have only the measure of security to enjoy it that they and the rest of the world grants us. (I suspect Ace Bailey enjoyed our health care system, too. Can't anymore, of course, now that he's dead and all. Pity about that, I guess.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:04 PM