The audible “umph” heard across Canada last night was the sound of the Federal budget dropping. With all the subtlety of a Bison taking a dump in your morning cereal, the Harper administration took another concerted step towards making Canada that much worse of a place. Suffice it to say, concerned citizens have already taken to the interwebs to voice their displeasure.
As the government’s latest round of pillaging of the country’s public services takes its sinister form, the most egregiously over-funded department remains largely untouched. I speak, of course, of the Canadian Forces.
As a PhD student in Political Science, with a specialization in International Relations (IR), I feel I can speak with a certain level of competence on the subject of militaries, war(s) and similar concerns. As such, I ask you, dear Canadians, why do we have a military?
Putting aside knee-jerk jingoism, I honestly don’t know that there is a reasonable answer to this question. But let us entertain the only two legitimate possibilities, from what I can gather, all the same:
To ward off invasion! Who is going to invade Canada? And more over, who would invade Canada that the United States would not immediately retaliate? What, are the Russians suddenly going to drop Spetsnaz troopers into West Edmonton Mall and the Americans are just going to sit there and wring their hands about the legality of foreign entanglements? Please.
Ah, but the Arctic, you say, we must defend the Arctic! Yet again, we must ask ourselves, however: defend the Arctic from whom? The only legitimate threat to Canada’s sovereignty is the United States and I hate to break it to you hockey fans, but in the event of a serious American desire to annex the Canadian North—it is going to happen. As that is a seriously unrealistic prospect any time soon, the whole point is moot. We have nothing to defend, and if we did, we couldn’t do so anyway—even if we increased our military budget many-fold.
As such, we are better off relying on the mercies of international law, as dire a prospect as that may seem (or, indeed, be).
International Commitments (read: NATO). As a member of NATO, Canada has certain commitments to this military alliance, one of them being maintaining armed forces capable of projecting force across the globe. At least, that’s the official line. Realistically speaking, NATO is a US-dominated vehicle with some paltry assistance from countries like the UK, Germany and France. Canada, like most member states, serves as little more than a glorified air strip for Americans bombers (during the Cold War, our major contribution was a handful of NORAD bases, for instance). As such, Canada’s NATO “commitments” are barely substantive at all.
You know who else is a member of NATO? Luxembourg and Albania. Now, if most Canadians can find these countries on a map, I’ll eat my shoe. In any case, neither one of these states is exactly a military juggernaut—numbering barely 4000 standing troops in the case of the former.
What purpose does it serve to have Canada pretend like our 80-year old submarines or our 90-year old aircraft (I exaggerate…slightly) are going to free anyone from anything? Or that that this even ought to be our role? If need be, Canada could still play a supporting role in NATO-operations (what we already basically do) without the need for billions in extra dollars spent on glorified museum pieces. And again, even if you updated the military hardware—what would you do with it? The worst case scenario is precisely what is happening right now: precious public funds are being spent on sending young Canadian men and women overseas to die in the name of foreign occupations and, as in the case of Haiti, in the name of toppling democratically elected governments. Canada’s foreign involvements, at least of this nature, do not serve the purpose of Canadians and certainly not the people overseas who are being ostensibly “liberated.”
Let’s be clear: Canada is an isolated, geographically and politically secure country. It is fully in the fold of the Western world, and will never find itself under threat of foreign invasion that would not be repelled by its allies. And in the event that one of its allies themselves threatened Canada’s security (such as the United States), we could not possibly hope to defeat them anyway. And besides, such a scenario would likely only play out in some sort of dystopian tomorrow-world, in which case American invasion would likely be the least of our concerns (as the roaming bands of Mad Max-like outlaw motorcycle gangs, which will surely have come to dominate the landscape by then, will already have sacked Mississauga and Comox alike).
Consider this, Costa Rica, by any sensible analysis, has far, far more to fear in the way of foreign invasion or even internal strife than Canada. And yet, Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948 (!) and today only maintains a small peacekeeping force for domestic and foreign endeavors. Why should Canada not pursue a similar course? Incidentally, Iceland, another northern country, and member of NATO, has not had a standing military in the real sense of the term since 1869—and they’ve had to worry about rogue Viking fleets practically that whole time (and an invasion by the British in 1940).
Who amongst us or who amongst our elected officials would like to make a serious case for the necessity of Canadian military “hegemony”? Any such arguments would have to be based on hyperbole and fabrication—precisely what the Harper administration has engaged in for years now.
Instead of wasting precious public funds, which could be used for schools and universities, hospitals and public pensions, or even an increase in Canada’s foreign aid commitments, we waste billions of dollars every year pretending like our jets and frigates serve any function whatsoever. Canada has no future as a war-machine and this should be a point of pride, not concern.
The money we continue to spend on the Canadian Forces would even be better spent on a giant, money-burning furnace, which if built would at least be a tourist attraction. Maybe we can even put it in Comox.
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