01 October 2006

Happy October!

If you're at all interested in Canada-US defence relations, read this article in the latest issue of Parameters. Very interesting analysis of the past fifty years and where we're heading in the future. Key line that explains the divergence between Ottawa and Washington after 9/11:

According to senior military officers at NORAD, Canada’s sense of urgency after 9/11 was not as great as was that of the United States, even though Canadians and their government were intensely sympathetic in response to what had just happened.

This is a virtual no-brainer assessment, but still one that is important to note. While the United States responded to 9/11 by creating an entirely new grand strategy (but one still within the paramters of traditional American grand strategy), the rest of the world did not fully grasp how important an event the terrorist attacks were to the American psyche. A 200-year mythology of splendid isolation was shattered, and thus in response America acted to secure itself so that a repeat event could not occur. Another important point made involves Canada's relevance to the United States in the wake of 9/11:

Government and military officials at both the Canadian National Defence Headquarters and the Pentagon recognized that Canada had more to win or lose out of this joint venture than the United States. Why? Because the United States now had Northern Command, and Canada had nothing comparable except the existing NORAD defense and security model that after 9/11 had been rendered almost obsolete.

This is something I've been saying for quite a while now. America is always happy to have countries and allies to help with the heavy lifting in major overseas operations, but will work alone when necessary and will even occasionally prefer to do so when multilateralism waters down original intentions. Much as is the case with Europe, due to disparities of power and states' tendencies to seek to balance rather than bandwagon, cooperation between Washington and Ottawa will likely become an exception rather than the norm in the War on Terror & Tyranny. Historically, hegemons have been status quo powers that seek to preserve the conditions which give their system legitimacy. The United States, however, has become a revolutionary power in the very system that it is responsible for upholding, seeking to remove tyrannies and diminish the capability to support terrorism by other states. Europeans and Canadians were growing increasingly wary of American unipolarity during the 1990s, before the onset of the Bush Doctrine; they surely will be more skeptical of hegemonic and interventionist America that seeks to remodel the world in its own image. Further:

The events of 9/11 also brought to the forefront what many defense officials on both sides of the border knew to be true, even if it was not openly discussed. The fact was that a chasm existed between the capabilities of the US military forces and those of Canada. A less-capable Canadian military has serious ramifications not only from the perspective of interoperability, but also with regard to trust. Doubts have started to emerge on the US side whether Canada could even punch below its weight, let alone above it.

This has been the impetus behind Harper's defence initiatives, in my opinion. If Canada does not demonstrate its willingness to do its part to protect the North American continent, the United States will assume that responsibility on Canada's behalf. This would, of course, have tremendous consequences for Canadian sovereignty, a theme that is discussed throughout the article, and only heighten American unilateralism on the continent. By demonstrating to the United States that Canada can and will assume its responsibilities, Canada is seen as a reliable ally, enhances its ability to maintain and advance its sovereignty, and effects constraints on American unilateralism. Political will plays a key role in all of this; Harper will face considerable opposition in the press and in Parliament if he is seen to be cozying up to Uncle Sam, an allegation made far too regularly and casually by the Left in this country. This has a very negative effect south of the border:

Doubt has crept back into the Canada-US defense and security relationship. That doubt could drive the United States to seriously question whether its northern partner has the political will to pull its share and to do its part to secure the continent from attack.

That doubt will only further the strain in Canada-US relations. If America reads the tea leaves and decides that Canada won't play ball, America will take its ball and play by itself. If that happens, Canada will be mad at being left out in the cold and lament American unilateralism. America will read this as further Canadian intransigence and become even more determined to do what it feels is necessary. As you can see, the cycle becomes ever more downward spiralling. The United States is in the midst of a full-scale transformation of its military to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The Cold War is a time far behind in America's strategic rear-view mirror, and it is overhauling itself to tackle the challenges of counterterrorism, insurgency suppression, and other hallmark features of the generational War on Terror & Tyranny. This is a big challenge for Canada, as we must either move ahead or remain where we currently are. Bear in mind, "the opposite of transformation and growth within an organization is atrophy, stagnation, and irrelevance."

I am hopeful that the Government of Canada will prove capable of the challenge and move ahead. Our long history of bilateral relations with America highlights a simple fact: when Canada and the United States work together, good things happen. We share much in terms of values and ideals, and we can and should continue to work together to spread those values in the 21st century. We need not cowtow to every American request for cooperation, and we will surely disagree on many issues in the future. The key challenge for Canada at this time is to remain relevant enough such that when we do disagree it causes Washington to pause and consider the efficacy of its policy decisions. Defence is the number one priority in Washington at this time, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. On this issue, Canada must demonstrate its ability to carry its weight both on the continent and abroad. It will take copious amounts of political will, and probably a lot of money, but it is in Canada's interests to expend them.


C. LaRoche said...

I don't see much evidence that we are not going along with securing the contentv in terms of border security, post security, and airport security.

What I do see is a lot of evidence that Canada is not going along with preemtive strikes in other countries because it does not believe such operations have anything to do with securing the continent. This is a legitimate point of view.

RGM said...

It is indeed a legitimate point of view. Me, I subscribe to the Pearl Harbor paradigm, which posits that we (Canada and the US) should seek to defend as far down the chain of contingency as possible. The defence of the continent should not begin at New York, Victoria, Halifax, or San Francisco. If we can defend against a threat when it is still incubating in, say, Iraq, that puts Canadian and American lives in a more secure condition than waiting for the threat to fully mature and come to the North American continent.