(This is Part Two of Dr. Tim Ball's series on the future of Canada's military. Read Part One here.)
The landmass of Canada is indefensible with its limited population and the military we maintain.
The extent of our oceans is a bigger problem, especially with the importance of the submarine, which became pivotal in the Cold War. China’s construction of a nuclear powered intercontinental missile-carrying submarine fleet underscores the threat.
We have three ocean coastlines but only deal with two, both ineffectively.
During the Cuban Crisis, we were surprised by the number of Soviet submarines that popped up and ran to supply vessels knowing that was more important than revealing their location. We didn’t know how they got past our patrols covering the normal access routes from their northern base on the White Sea (Figure 1).
They were tracking under the ice and passing through Canadian waters to the East Greenland Channel, the deepest channel in and out of the Arctic Ocean. This problem is getting worse with new Russian adventurism in the Arctic.
This is just one of a multitude of problems.
I admire the Inuit Arctic patrols, and they detect problems earlier and better than anyone. The problem is they can report, but there is little or nothing we can do.
The best weapon against a submarine is another submarine. Canada has four antiquated second-hand non-nuclear submarines. They are worse than useless, something that is true of most of our military hardware.
We have a wide range of aircraft most of which can be used in a better role for Canada. The biggest waste of money is the CF 188 Hornet.
We bought 128 and had lost 25 in accidents, which is a disturbingly high loss rate. We were going to buy more but delayed so long the price went up and it was all we could afford. We also sold 43, so we have 60 left. They have a combat range of 537 km, which is of little value in a country the size of Canada unless you only want to defend Ottawa.
So much of Canada’s defense policy is dictated by the belief that we need a similar military structure to the United States and, therefore, similar equipment. Our policy is driven by four factors.
First, the US wants to sell expensive equipment like the Hornet.
Second, the belief we can fly in support of offensive military operations like in Europe or the Middle East. The travesty of this was we bought the CF5 as a combat support aircraft in Europe. This plan fell through when they didn’t buy the refueling aircraft necessary to get the planes to Europe. We sold some of the planes to Colombia and put the air-frames in storage.
Third, we have obligations as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), North American Air Defense (NORAD) and the United Nations.
Fourth, politicians use their equipment purchases to prop up Canadian manufacturers. They buy some Canadian designed and manufactured equipment but ignore equipment that the country needs such as the Canadair CL 215, but more on that later.
NATO is an anachronism, a leftover from the Cold War. It is the remaining Treaty Organization of four designed to contain the Soviet Union (Figure 2). The other three were the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO), the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), and the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). With the problems in Europe and a move by the US to withdraw troops from Europe, NATO is unlikely to survive.
Whether NATO survives or not, Canada can provide a very different type of support than we have done to date. We need to develop support services from our domestic needs that respond to our geography.
NORAD continues and makes some sense, but we can provide support of its aims in different, more effective and useful ways.
Canada does not need, nor can it support a conventional US style military. What we need is a military that can provide logistical support to whatever alliance we join. That logistical support will form the basis of the type of Para-military force to meet Canada’s domestic needs.
Canada is so big that just Wood Buffalo National Park at 44,807 km2 is larger than Denmark (43,094 km2) so it would be the 129th largest country in the world. Environment and its protection were not a factor when the British North America (BNA) Act was written. The Act divided powers between the federal and provincial governments but was written when Canada was very different in size, population, values, and needs. Some adjustments occurred through the years, but most involved loss of provincial power and a gain of federal power. That, in my opinion, is not a good trend as I wrote in an earlier column.
Overall reduction of federal power creates better and regionally appropriate response and control. There are, however, obligations and needs that require the wider response of the federal government. This is reflected in its primary role of defense. However, I would extend the definition of defense to include defense of the environment – the national legacy – a legacy that encompasses and challenges all Canadians.
Needs that transcend current divisions of power and mandated by the new priorities include:
* Forest fire control.
* Data collection and complete environmental inventories.
The lack of data for a multitude of natural resources is seriously limiting for planning, preserving, conserving and managing the environment. There are completely inadequate inventories of rivers, streams, and climate data. We have fewer weather stations now than we had in 1960. Some say Canada has 30 percent of the world’s freshwater, but nobody knows. We know animal populations fluctuate widely naturally but have no accurate data. Extremists exploit animal population numbers when they are low because people don’t know about the natural variations in the numbers. We heard about low salmon numbers back in the 1990s, but nothing is said now about the massive numbers of salmon runs of the last two years.
* Identification and preservation of unique ecologies.
* Environmental disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and droughts.
* International disasters.
Countries with successful economies are ones that develop their resources and accommodate the geographic realities. Successful defense of the country must follow the same concepts.
We do not need, nor can we afford, a military that can defend against an invading force. We do not need a force that spends all its time preparing for war. Even now most of the military spend most of their time taking courses.
What they really need are activities that improve their skills but also benefit the country. This is important for morale.
I know serving in search and rescue was often frustrating but very rewarding. It was the same when flying antisubmarine patrols. It involved hours of “boring holes in the sky”. Then we learned how to identify whale species and report all we saw, including, type, number, location, and direction of movement.
We need a force that allows us to keep our treaty and alliance commitments, but we also need a force that can contribute to bettering the nation in peacetime, which is most of the time and hopefully forever.
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