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It leans a bit sensationalist, at least on the Navy side (totally missing the bit that our Frigates are doing most of the deployments now, not the Destroyers), but it's almost as though someone took the major arguments from here (less Buttons n' Bows) and put it in an Op-Ed :nod:
As Donald Trump continues to rapidly reshape U.S. policy on issues foreign and domestic, Canada is moving to adapt. Trade has gotten the most attention so far, as is logical — we depend on our access to the gigantic U.S. economy for our prosperity. But there is another area where Canada will need to adapt to the new U.S. administration’s priorities. There are early signs we are willing to play ball there, too.
As recently reported by the National Post’s John Ivison, the Trudeau government’s oft-touted plan to deploy up to 600 military personnel on a peacekeeping mission to Africa is on hold. With Trump publicly calling out some of America’s allies for not pulling their weight in the Western alliance, the Canadian government has postponed the deployment until it can co-ordinate with the White House.
Canada, of course, must act in its own interests. But it must also be pragmatic. The U.S. is our most vital partner and our closest ally. Furthermore, if the White House chooses to make an issue of Canada’s low military spending and our resulting often shockingly poor state of military readiness, what can Canada say? We do underfund our military, we do understaff units, we do bungle one procurement program after another, and our military remains, as it long has, too small for a country of our size and global responsibilities. In other words, if the president decides to be critical of our contributions, in this case, he’ll have truth as a defence.
The White House seems inclined to cut us some slack. Ivison reports that Ottawa has been told that the U.S. administration and its military leaders value Canada’s willingness to punch above its weight during times of crisis, and also recognizes that the quality of the Canadian military allows us to do more with less. But one can only take that so far. Our army is too small to meet all of our international obligations while also retaining enough forces at home to be prepared for unexpected contingencies, such as natural disaster or civil emergency. Our air force desperately needs a new fighter fleet, and in much larger numbers than the 65-jet figure that has been bandied about. Yet that procurement program remains dead in the water. And the less is said about the disaster that is Canada’s tiny navy, with its half-functional submarines, one elderly destroyer and no supply ships, the better.
Like every NATO member, Canada has committed to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. We currently spend less than half that. It is unlikely, to say the least, that Canada will spend the extra $20 billion per year it would cost to make the two per cent target, but that is no reason to not work harder to find ways and budgetary room to invest in a larger, more capable Canadian military. If it takes the White House prodding Canada to bring this about, so be it.
And in the meantime, Canada at least needs to be smart about using what military forces it has. A peacekeeping mission to Africa simply is not a priority given our limited means and the current international situation, even if the federals Liberals had badly wanted one as a way to ingratiate themselves to the United Nations. Canada is already reinforcing our allies in Europe, tensions are rising in the Pacific, and Canada remains a part of the anti-ISIL coalition active in Iraq. A 600-man deployment to Africa is a luxury at the best of times, and these are certainly not that.
There’s also the issue of the current challenges facing peacekeeping itself. Recent (and indeed, ongoing) UN missions to Africa have been rocked in recent years by confirmed reports of peacekeepers refusing to intervene to stop atrocities, and UN forces have been repeatedly accused of brutality themselves, including the sexual exploitation of children. Why would Canada commit its far-too-slender military resources to these missions? Would we be prepared to unilaterally send Canadian troops into battle, alone, to prevent massacres while our UN partners twiddled their thumbs in their barracks? Would our forces answer to Ottawa or to the legendarily byzantine East River bureaucracy? These are critical questions Canadians never had satisfactory answers to, and yet the Trudeau government didn’t waver until now. Why?
The answer, of course, is because the Liberals have convinced themselves, and too many Canadians, that Canada is a primarily peacekeeping nation, not a military one. That’s not true and never has been. It is long-past time for the Liberals to start properly recognizing the Armed Forces as an instrument of national policy, rather than political vanity. If Trump is the means to that end, so be it, for it’s better late than never.