January 28, 2005

Flip-flop, flop-flip

Good column by Paul Koring in the Globe on the defence/foreign-policy review and the de-emphasizing of the navy and air force.

The simple fact is, there's only so much you can de-emphasize. Because the other two services have evolved as niche adjuncts for American operations, de-emphasizing them further in any way will significantly reduce Canadian military usefulness to the American government still further (no frigates or CF-18s to fold into American deployments). Our army, with its small size, lack of heavy equipment, and focus on UN and NATO-driven sustained low-intensity peacekeeping, is of comparatively little use to the Bush government. It's hard to see a Martin government dropping out of missile defence AND making our conventional forces more irrelevant to the U.S., when push comes to shove. Certainly the U.S. ambassador will be a voice the navy and air force can count on (never mind the domestic ship-building and aerospace industries).

Still, Koring's got it right. We're on a track to "saving money without adding credibility." What's surprising is that anyone seriously still thinks we can somehow do both. If you want to see the future, what we're coming down to is a reality somewhere between the $15 billion and $12 billion models in this post.

PS: Given that it will take ten years to implement any military recommendations from a standing start, I really hope the foreign policy reviewers here are reading documents like this one. We've almost figured out as a country how to make ourselves militarily useful to the Americans without spending lives or money: the question for 2020 may be how do we make ourselves relevant to China and India, and for that there's no clear answer within our historic defence-spending means.

Posted by BruceR at 10:22 AM