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Sovereignty Requires More Than Lip Service

Sovereignty Requires More Than Lip Service

Canada’s Arctic has been in the news again. It has been suggested that climate change will reduce the range of threats to our sovereignty over Arctic waters because they (Canadian waters, per se) are less likely to be highly desirable transit routes, thus lowering the relative importance of e.g. Arctic/Offshore Patrol Vessels. At the same time, through a new National Security Presidential Directive and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, the USA is reasserting its claims of right of free passage in the Northwest Passage, making the need for a real Canadian presence more important.

Disputes between Canada and the USA are nothing new but they all have one thing in common: they are, inevitably – over the past century or so – resolved by negotiation.

But our sovereignty is not ‘threatened’ by just the USA.

Further, ‘sovereignty’ can no longer be confined to rigid zones. What a neighbour does or fails to do in its ‘sovereign’ territory and contiguous waters can have grave impacts on Canadians going about their lawful business in our sovereign territory – a ruptured oil well in Russia’s Arctic waters, for example, can (almost certainly will) pollute Canadian waters. Human smugglers in international waters may pose a real, immediate threat to Canada. Arbitrary lines on maps cannot be allowed to threaten our sovereign rights to manage our own affairs and resources in our own territory.

In many cases Canada can negotiate with those who ‘threaten’ our sovereignty. In some cases negotiation will fail.

Our sovereignty must be both asserted and protected. Asserting and protecting our sovereignty is a job for the whole of the Government of Canada, including DND. Diplomats, lawyers and various uniformed services (like the Coast Guard and the RCMP, as well as the Canadian Forces) are in the ‘front lines’ when it comes to asserting and defending our sovereignty.

The Department of National Defence is just that: the agency charged with defending the nation. The defence of Canada starts at those arbitrary lines but may well extend beyond that. The lines on maps define our ‘area of responsibility’ – the area in which Canada, without question, may assert its sovereign rights – even as they are being challenged in various international fora. But we also have ‘areas of influence’ where we may make our presence felt and ‘areas of interest’ where we will want and need to ‘see’ what is going on.

When we are in our ‘area of responsibility’ it is, broadly, most appropriate that regulatory and constabulary organizations (e.g. Coast Guard and RCMP) lead in the assertion and protection of our sovereignty – backed up and supported by the Canadian Forces. When we are in our ‘areas of influence’ and ‘areas of interest’ then agencies like Foreign Affairs (DFAIT) and DND will need to be in the lead because they have international recognition of their international roles and responsibilities.

Canada needs to be able to meet its sovereignty protection roles in all our areas of responsibility, influence and interest. That means we need strong, capable diplomatic services and equally strong and capable uniformed services, like the Coast Guard and RCMP, able to operate on the ground, in the air and at sea in and all the way around Canada. The Canadian Forces needs to able to support other agencies in Canada and play a leading role elsewhere to fulfil their role of monitoring, identifying and, ultimately, preventing unauthorized penetration of our territory, contiguous waters and the airspace over both.

To do this, the CF needs:

1.   A capable intelligence gathering apparatus to monitor things happening in our areas of interest, influence and responsibility;

2.   A real time surveillance and warning system that covers all our territory and the ‘approaches’ to it, all the time;

3.   Ships, units and aircraft to patrol our territory and the approaches to it and to intercept, identify and deal with intruders of any and all types.

Parts of these requirements exist but none is complete.

The costs of ships, satellites, aircraft, ground stations and people are high but unavoidable if we want to maintain our sovereignty over and above the land and sea we claim, today, as our own.

Now, in a financial crisis, is not the time for false economies or lip service. Short term financial ‘gains’ achieved by reducing defence spending in 2009 could saddle Canada with some real long term ‘pain’ in the years and decades beyond 2010. 

The Defence Budget

The Defence Budget

It is no secret that Canada is in the throes of a financial crisis.

Governments’ normal reaction is times of crisis is to cut, or at least contain, defence spending to free up money for other more popular projects and programmes.

2009 is not a normal year; The Lady’s Not for Burning or turning and Canadians need to apply the same resolve to their national defence: despite the sorry state of our economy we must not turn back the clock to the 1990s - the defence budget is not for cutting.

2009 is not a normal year because we have Canadian Forces members – our friends and family, the neighbours’ boys, our colleagues’ daughters – at war; they are not just in a combat zone, they are in close contact with the enemy in Afghanistan. We are paying a price – in lives and in shattered minds and bodies – to give effect to the Canadian promoted doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” Less important than the lost lives and broken bodies, but costly all the same, is the price of fuel and ammunition and the equipment which are being consumed in combat. After several “decades of darkness” 2009 is not a year to falter. Canadians finally appeared ready, in 2007/2008, to begin the long, painful and expensive process of rebuilding our military muscle so that Canada could, after a 40 year hiatus, ”make a real difference in halting and preventing conflict and improving human welfare around the world,” because, as former Prime Minister Martin said (same source), Canada must practice the kind of “activism that over decades has forged our nation’s international character—and will serve us even better in today’s changing world. The people of our country have long understood that, as a proud citizen of the world, Canada has global responsibilities. We can’t solve every problem, but we will do what we can to protect others, to raise them up, to make them safe.”

2009 is not the year to abandon our global responsibilities. Grave as our economic problems may be they pale in comparison to the economic, military, social and medical problems that bedevil the ”Bottom Billion.” Canadians hope that we can help the “Bottom Billion” without entering another shooting war but events in those countries, which are in a geo-political arc stretching from Afghanistan through to Zimbabwe, suggest that we, Canadians and other rich, sophisticated, militarily capable and mostly Western nations will have to use force to bring help and hope to the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak.

2009 is a year in which Canada’s defence budget needs to grow, in real terms, even as the nation’s top bank economists are advising Finance Minister Flaherty to, later rather than right now, reign in government programme spending.

DND can and will look for ways to stretch every dollar it has – if DND has learned nothing else since the 1960s, it has learned how to pinch pennies; in fact, it has often been accused of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Some defence spending – on DND’s badly neglected infrastructure on bases and stations in Canada or on replacing Canadian made equipment that has been worn out or damaged in combat – can be used to stimulate the economy in 2009. Mindless cuts to defence spending will not help Canadians in 2009 or beyond, only contributing more to our financial woes.

Finance Minister Flaherty will bring down a budget later in this month. The Ruxted Group urges him to increase defence spending, in real terms. A larger defence budget is good policy and it can be made into good politics as well.

Prognostications: 2009

Prognostications: 2009 – M to Z

Military Service – in Canada the public’s perception military service has, broadly, alternated between a few brief periods of near adulation and the more common long periods of public indifference verging on disdain. Neither is particularly useful.

The rare periods of public adoration were, essentially, bouts of self congratulation and they gave birth to or reinforced a myth that, in some inexplicable manner, the defence of Canada was best left in the hand of ordinary or average Canadians who would, when a crisis occurred, rally to the colours and save the day.

The long periods of public disinterest created or reinforced a different myth: someone else, the UK, first, lately the USA, must do the world’s policing and Canada can, indeed should, sit on the sidelines and hope that the ‘big boys’ wouldn’t do too much damage to Canada’s trading interests or expect us to take on too much.

There was one brief period (roughly 1948 to 1968) when the Government of Canada and the people of Canada actually put the military and military service into its proper perspective – as a “tool” that governments use to accomplish broader strategic aims. A succession of Liberal and Conservative governments had national goals expressed in (shared) basic policy principles that enjoyed the broad support of Canadians. Canadians, politicians and average Canadians alike, understood that in sending their small, professional military force into direct combat in Korea, into a “trip wire” role, face to face with a huge, aggressive, threatening enemy in North West Europe or on ‘peacekeeping’ duties in other regions that aimed to prevent more imminent threats they were pursuing bigger, broader, even bolder aims than those of ‘just’ military action and the military, itself, understood that it was a policy tool.

We need to return to the basics. We need to find, once again, the ”Role of Pride and Influence in the World” that we abandoned circa 1970 and, consistently, failed to assert throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s and the first decade of the 21st century. When we recover that ‘role’ then Canadians will be able to understand why they want and need an appropriately (for one of the world’s “top ten” nations) strong, flexible, professional military and why they, Canadian citizens, should take pride in its accomplishments and should want to support their military – not with yellow ribbons or red shirts but with their tax dollars and with votes for political parties that make good use of their military “tools.”

Navy Ships – our fleet needs a makeover. The three remaining destroyers need to be replaced by four area air defence and command/control ships – perhaps as the ‘lead’ of a new fleet on common surface ships. The twelve frigates need to be given a major, half-life refit, soon.  The promised half dozen or so Arctic/Off shore Patrol Vessels need to be funded, designed, built and put into service. New fleet replenishment ships need to be built or purchased. Plans need to be started to replace the four Upholder class submarines with a half dozen under-ice capable submarines. Plans need to be advanced to replace the coastal defence vessels with some combination of mine counter measures vessels and coastal patrol craft.

While all that is ongoing DND needs to hire a few thousand new sailors to make all those ships ready.

Operations – these are the raison d’être of the Canadian Forces. Not all operations are combat operations, and government needs to ensure that the Canadian Forces remain ready and able to conduct the whole range of operations from Search and Rescue and disaster relief to mass combat on a high intensity battlefield.

Press - the Canadian Government must become more conscious of its dealings with the Press and become a more active participant in putting out the word as to what Canadians and the Canadian Forces are doing to improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan.  More coverage and exposure as to what Canadian Forces and Canadian Police Agencies are doing in training and mentoring the Afghan Army and Police Forces is required.  More coverage of what the OMLT and Provincial Reconstruction Teams are doing in helping to rebuild the infrastructure of Afghan communities.  More coverage of what NGO's are doing is required.   Canadians on many levels are working to rebuild Afghanistan.  By far, the majority of their stories are not being told.

Québec – Québec’s  soldiers are just as brave, loyal and ready to serve as any others. It is time the media stopped trying to create controversy where none exists. Many, likely most other Québecers, on the other hand, continue to be “out of step” with their fellow citizens – as they are on a range of issues. This is part of the complex fabric of Canada. It makes life difficult for politicians.

Recruiting and Retention - the Canadian Forces Recruiting Group must reform itself and its message. The CF needs thousands, indeed tens of thousands of new sailors, soldiers and air force members. The ‘front line’ are the men and women in the recruiting system. They need to have the skills, tools and money make the recruiting process work effectively and efficiently and, above all, speedily – consistent with getting the right people in and keeping the wrong ones out.

Members of the CF should be encouraged to continue their careers in order to maintain continuity in all trades.  There should be several plans that could encourage this.  One incentive would be a 'signing bonus' for members to reenlist in their trade on the end of their initial engagement and basic engagement periods of employment.   Another plan would encourage CF personnel on release, to do a 'reverse component transfer' to the reserves, in order to fill much needed positions in reserves with 'experienced' personnel, and bring up the calibre of the reserve forces.  This may alleviate some of the problems faced by reserve units, when they get personnel trained to a certain standard and then loose them to the regular force through component transfers.  Another incentive would be to hire retired, injured or medically released CF personnel into the training system as contractors to provide experienced instructors to free up currently serving members to fill manning shortfalls in other establishments.

One of DND’s main aims must be to retain as many trained, experienced members as possible. While a number of factors contribute to people leaving the forces, Ruxted suggests that quality of life for both members and their families is high on the list. To mention just one of many demotivating factors, garrison life in Canada can be an emotional let down after the camaraderie and sense of purpose of an operational tour. Previous generations used to jokingly refer to getting back to real soldiering after the war is over. It, however, is a challenge to convince someone who was in real peril a few months ago that the monotony of garrison routine or the artificial pressure of a career course is reality, and not the other way around.

Sudan - Canada is involved in a range of activities in Sudan, including military activities as part of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan and the African Union Mission in Sudan.  Has enough changed since the expression of Ruxted's previous position: "To call for Canadian blood to be spilled in the sands of Darfur in an open ended mission for no result is perhaps the greatest folly our politicians, academics and journalists could commit"?  Not yet - in the words of Rick Hillier, "we are unprepared, under-resourced and lacking the public support necessary to successfully intervene in many of today's complex conflicts. Until these shortcomings are addressed, discussions on humanitarian intervention will remain purely academic."

Transformation – needs to continue. The next step is to downsize, rationalize and downsize again the current headquarters – which many observers consider too many in number and too large in size. The trick is to get it just right. There is an almost unbearable demand by government/politicians to micro-manage every little process. That’s understandable – politicians, and, especially, their unelected staffs, are highly risk averse and whenever something goes wrong happens the media are there like hungry jackals circling a wounded antelope. Who can blame them?

The next step in transformation should aim at lessening the ‘management overhead’ – at every level. Less management will generate higher morale., greater enthusiasm and increased attention to the assigned tasks. Less management will produce qualitatively better forces and save a bit of money, too.

Understanding - Although great advances have been made for serving members who report mental issues with PTSD more must be done to teach the 'system' that reporting such issues will not result in a full stop in relation to career development. We have all seen the physically wounded being nurtured back to a resumption of their careers, and this is how it should be, however the "suck it up, Buttercup" attitude in relation to mental conditions must be pushed off the map forever so that no one suffers in silence, and thereby potentially bringing harm to careers and to the loved ones who supported the member while they served.

We know much has been done, and that this issue has come a long way, but the Ruxted Group feels that we still have a long way to go.

Victory – in Afghanistan we will have the requisite “victory conditions” when, as we reported to the Manley Commission “the people of Afghanistan can make their own decisions in their own way, even when they decide on policies with which we disagree – always bearing in mind that Canada, and the world, cannot accept a country's decision to turn itself into a base for aggressive war … [and] when the Afghans can elect a government – even if it is a government which we do not much like … [and] when the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police are able to contain insurgencies – home-grown and foreign.”

We have, already, met some of those victory conditions, others are on track, now. There is hope for a sensible ‘victory’ in Afghanistan if we stay the course a bit longer.

Wounded Warriors – all, regular and reservist , deserve equal care and benefits. It is bad policy and worse PR to discriminate – as current policy does – against some (reserve) members who are wounded while serving on less than a 180 day ‘contract.’ To paraphrase: if that’s the Treasury Board policy then the Treasury Board Secretariat is composed of asses.

X-ray Vision – it’s here, now along with a whole host of other technological marvels that can and should be made right here in Canada, for the Canadian Forces. This ‘stuff’ is not rocket science – it’s actually rather more complex than that – but it can and should be developed by Canadian defence scientists, in Canadians defence laboratories, using Canadian R&D money and then given to Canadian entrepreneurs to build and sell to Canada and our allies.

Yankee Bashing – needs to stop. The United States of America is a great country, imperfect, to be sure, but “better” than pretty much any of the other great powers that have strutted and fretted their hours upon the stage over the course of the past few thousand years.

For about a century the US has been a close friend, an ally in times of war and, latterly, our most important trading partner and, despite the irritants that must arise between trading partners, a good neighbour.

Canada has policy differences with the USA. Canadians often dislike the courses our American friends and neighbours decide, in their own democratic fashion, to pursue. Friends and neighbours can disagree but there is a constant nasty edge to the Canadian side of the discourse. It is an edge that speaks poorly about Canadians and our political maturity.

There is more to Canada than simple the fact that it is not the USA. Canadians would do better to learn more about why their country is “good” than to repeat (often untrue) canards about why the USA is “bad.”

It’s time to grow up, Canada!

Zimbabwe - may be a bellweather for the “Bottom Billion.” Recent unrest and associated spin-off problems in Zimbabwe, as well as more recent rumblings elsewhere, draws the eye to poor, beleagured Africa. Poverty, governance, AIDS, resource and ethic issues continue to fuel conflicts in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, even Ethiopia/Eritrea (where a ceasefire following a 30-year-long civil war, as well as now-out-the-door United Nations mission, hasn't eased all areas of contention between the two countries), to list only the more obvious choices.  Ruxted hopes Canada's decision makers (both political and bureaucratic) remember the caveats we've laid out when considering what will likely be increasing calls to do something (especially something military) about Africa.