01 February 2016
The minister's mandate letter states, "As Minister of National Defence, your overarching goal will be to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces are equipped and prepared, if called upon, to protect Canadian sovereignty, defend North America, provide disaster relief, conduct search and rescue, support United Nations peace operations, and contribute to the security of our allies and to allied and coalition operations abroad."
Some of this I can agree with, some not so much. For example, the first bit, about protecting Canadian sovereignty and defending North America, these are reasonable responsibilities but considering there are no apparent threats to Canadian sovereignty and no one is about to storm the borders of North America, they are not items we should spend a lot of dollars on. "Provide disaster relief, conduct search and rescue and support United Nations peace operations" I wholeheartedly concur with. Facing the increasing severity of weather events caused by climate change, we might train forces specifically for this challenge, in effect disaster forces rather than armed forces. Redirecting the use of the military to respond to environmental disasters was in fact part of the Liberals’ platform.
The last part of the mandate letter, particularly "contribute to ... coalition operations abroad," is suspect. This seems to lead to us collaborating with the increasingly redundant NATO and acting as a foreign legion for American imperialist adventures. We are, for example, currently being called upon to fight ISIS in the Middle East. ISIS is a product of the last great binge of Western imperialism in that region—the invasion of Iraq—and that is precisely the kind of war-making we should avoid.
In summary, we need to spend much less on conventional warfare and more on peacekeeping and dealing with national and international disasters. Considering we are not at war and have no enemies posing a threat of war, there should be ample room to reduce the defence budget overall and use the money to improve the lives of Canadians. You can sign a petition to that effect here.
Posted by Bill Longstaff at 12:05 am