We note a disturbing tendency towards equating various defence purchasing initiatives with political agendas. Some argue that virtually any purchase of defence capability is counterproductive or, worse, dangerous as it is designed to draw Canada closer to the American orbit and to enable Canada to participate in US-led adventurism. Others counter with virtually knee-jerk support to US policy and for defence purchases that support those policies.
The result is confusion as to why the Canadian Forces exist, what it should accomplish and how military capabilities can be developed to support those goals.
The fact of the matter is that the Canadian Forces exist solely to give the government of the day - any government - policy options. The more capability the military has, the more options are available.
There is a school of thought that would restrict the forces to what is considered "traditional" peacekeeping. The difficulty is that such restrictions serve only to severely limit the government's freedom of action. Reducing capability reduces options. The military does not decide where and under what conditions to deploy, the government does. An adequately staffed and equipped, flexible, operationally ready military can provide Canada with a unique tool - the capability to influence events anywhere in the world at relatively short notice. The greater the assets made available to the Canadian Forces, the greater the country's ability to influence events. This maxim applies to everything from disaster relief to, should the government decide, the conduct of combat operations.
Unfortunately, there is a constituency in Canada that equates any support for military spending as support for US foreign policy. These people are so blinded by visceral anti-Americanism that they fail to realize that it is the lack of a coherent and effective defence policy that draws us closer to the United States. A military that must approach the Americans on bended knee for airlift is hardly representative of a strong, independent player on the world scene.
We would argue therefore, that General Hillier's current transformation effort is exactly what is required to make Canada more independent of American influence and to give more effective options to political leaders, of any persuasion. All parties must bear this in mind as we enter an election season.