Winter 2007 (Volume V, Issue IV)
Promoting new understanding and improvement of Canadian foreign and defence policy.
In this issue:
- Message from the President – Robert S. Millar
- CDFAI 2007 Annual Ottawa Conference Report
- CDFAI Major Research Paper
- Article: Quebec and Security: Beyond Stereotypes – Dany Deschênes
- Article: Time to Create a Northwest Passage Authority – Brian Flemming
- Article: Managing an Interdependent World – Gordon Smith
- Article: Some Historical Reflections on The ‘Boom and Bust’ Cycle of Canadian Naval Procurement – Richard H. Gimblett
- Article: A Note to American Friends: What Lies Behind the Border, and How it Shapes our Relationship – George Haynal
- Article: Contemplating the Future of the Afghan Mission: Some Thoughts for the Manley Review – Scot Robertson
- Article: Helping Hands and Loaded Arms? Navigating the Military and Humanitarian Space – Sarah Jane Meharg
- Article: Where’s the Transparency? – Sharon Hobson
- Article: Canada and Afghanistan: The Second Fog of War – Denis Stairs
- About Our Organization
Welcome to the Winter 2007 issue of “The Dispatch”. As usual the articles are diverse and thought provoking.
In this newsletter there are nine articles:
Quebec and Security: Beyond Stereotypes - Dany Deschênes. Quebec is often stereotyped as being anti-American and anti-military. Dany argues that Quebeckers are actually anti-imperialistic, preferring a multi-lateral approach to defence, and have, in reality, made significant contributions towards North American security.
Time to Create a Northwest Passage Authority - Brian Flemming. Brian argues that with the faster-than-expected melting of the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage, Stephen Harper needs to take the initiative to propose and create a Northwest Passage Authority with the United States. This, he says, would require both sides to put aside their opposing claims but would result in a mutually-beneficial policy.
Managing an Interdependent World - Gordon Smith. Now is the time for Canada to lead the way in refashioning the G8 Summits into G13 Summits and create a network of think tanks to support them. This, contends Gordon, is the best way to break global deadlocks on a number of issues.
Some Historical Reflections on The Boom and Bust Cycle of Canadian Naval Procurement - Richard Gimblett. Since the late 19th Century, the Canadian Navy has gone through a boom and bust cycle about every twenty years. In 2009, however, Richard foresees the first ever failure of the Navy to meet the upswing of the boom and produce an operationally viable naval task group.
A Note to American Friends: What Lies Behind the Border, and How it Shapes our Relationship - George Haynal. George delves into the relationship between Canada and the United States, a unique mix of comity and asymmetry, he says. After 9/11, the relationship has changed and is moving towards a new equilibrium but Canadians, George says, will not be as complacent in this new relationship and policy will reflect a growing independence from the United States.
Contemplating the Future of the Afghan Mission - Scot Robertson. Scot proposes that Canadians rethink some of the measures by which they judge the success or failure of the counter-insurgency and nation-building operations in Afghanistan. He outlines ten ideas for how to re-evaluate the mission and the Canadian commitment to it.
Helping Hands and Loaded Arms? Navigating the Military and Humanitarian Space - Sarah Jane Meharg. Sarah examines the overlapping roles of humanitarian organizations and military forces following the Three Block War concept. She argues that humanitarian organizations see this overlap as detrimental and that both parties need to resolve their emerging roles, behaviours, and identities.
Where’s the Transparency? - Sharon Hobson. Restrictions on the military’s ability to answer media questions, argues Sharon, ensures that neither the government nor the military can provide the public with their interpretation of events, alternate views to those of their critics, and the rational behind their decisions. Sharon predicts the unwillingness to share information will only get worse in the future.
Canada and Afghanistan: The Second Fog of War - Denis Stairs. Canada’s role in Afghanistan is being obscured by the second fog of war that has enveloped people in Canada, making it nearly impossible for them to understand what the Canadian Forces are doing and how well they are doing it. Denis urges Canadian politicians to do what they can to elevate the debate over Canada’s participation in the Afghan mission above this second fog so Canada can follow sound policy in regards to this issue.
Enjoy this issue and let us know what you think about the articles.
Canada as the “Emerging Energy Superpower”: Testing the Case
Canada as the “Emerging Energy Superpower”: Testing the Case was the theme. The Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, was the keynote speaker ending a full day of interesting panel presentations. Annette Hester wrote the conference paper of the same name. Greg Lyle conducted the pre-conference poll. Colin Robertson was MC and there were four panels:
- Panel 1: Life as an Energy Superpower – Chair David Pratt with Annette Hester, Mike Cleland and Albert Legault;
- Panel 2: Implications for US-Canada Relations - Chairs David Biette and Mark Entwistle with Debra Yedlin, Dave Pumphrey and Matthew McManus;
- Panel 3: Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection – Chair Bob Booth with Dave Redman, Felix Kwamena and James Young; and
- Panel 4: Energy, Environment and the Arctic – Chairs Stéphane Rousel and Charles Pentland with Rob Huebert, Samantha Arnold and Frédéric Lasserre. Stéphane Rousel provided closing remarks.
CDFAI wishes to thank all attendees, partners and presenters. Without the support of sponsors for the conference, the program would not have been as interesting or extensive and to them we offer our gratitude and special thanks. Once we have sorted out the technical challenge the panel commentaries will be posted on CDFAI’s website.
The CDFAI 2007 Annual Confernce Sponsors were:
“CFIS: A Foreign Intelligence Service for Canada” by Barry Cooper, to be released on December 12, 2007
Currently Canada is the only G8 country without the ability to collect foreign intelligence using human agents. While Canada does collect intelligence on immediate domestic security concerns as well as signals intelligence, these types of intelligence are of limited value, as they do not provide information on the capabilities or intent of foreign states or non-state actors. Unless the Canadian government begins using spies to collect foreign intelligence, Canada will continue to have to rely on its allies for intelligence that may be misleading or biased and is in any case collected by them for their own reasons, not Canada’s. This risks undermining Canadian sovereignty, helps ensure that Canadian foreign policy remains reactive, and that Canada remains a soft target for espionage and terrorist activity. This report details the history of Canadian intelligence capabilities, current Canadian capabilities and their limitations, the arguments and issues around the creation of a CFIS, and how CFIS, as a separate entity from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), could overcome the current Canadian intelligence deficit.
by Dany Deschênes
New security threats arising since 9/11, and to a lesser degree, since the end of the Cold War, have reminded democratic societies of their vulnerability. As a result, the Canadian government has been compelled to reaffirm its principal mission of ensuring the security of its citizens. Canada’s first National Security Policy, presented in April 2004 by Paul Martin’s Liberal government, reinforced that purpose. Despite its name, the policy entitled Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy is as much a public security policy as it is a traditional national security policy, that is, a policy centered on the state and the role of the armed forces in responding to outside threats. It states that security issues have changed and describes how they can no longer be reduced exclusively to an interior-external dichotomy.
Without necessarily intending to, the national security policy underlines the fact that Canadian provinces (and even municipalities) have an increasingly larger role to play, particularly as primary participants, on many issues concerning the post-Cold War security framework. Security is clearly the basis of the amicable relationship between Canada and the United States, which goes back specifically to the 1938 Kingston Dispensation – a historic exchange between American President Franklin Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King. Addressing Roosevelt, who had vowed to defend Canada in case of a threat to Canadian security, Prime Minister Mackenzie King responded that Canada would seek to ensure that Canadian territory would never be a source of threat against its neighbour to the south. A normative basis for the ensuing United States-Canadian relationship, the Kingston Dispensation has traditionally been supported by federal measures. However, the provinces are now assuming a greater role in upholding that vow. This is explained, among other factors, by the federalist nature of the Canadian government. For all six sectors identified by the 2004 National Security Policy, at least three – emergency planning and management, public health emergencies, and transportation security – fall under provincial jurisdiction, but the provinces, Quebec among them, are also responding to issues within their competency in sectors like intelligence and border security, despite the fact that these are traditionally under federal jurisdiction.
In terms of security, Quebec has generally received bad press. This image is largely based on the false premise that security is a strictly military domain, a recent example being Canada's intervention in Afghanistan. The weak support of the Quebec population for that intervention, as has been documented by multiple surveys, tends to be interpreted as a traditional anti-militarist stance. However, as my colleague Stéphane Roussel effectively demonstrated, Quebec’s strategic culture has evolved significantly towards multilateralism over the past fifty years. From that perspective, Quebec’s position is not so much a question of anti-militarism or anti-Americanism, but rather of anti-imperialism – the nuance of which is a matter of scope. One may argue that the anti-imperialism that has taken shape since the Henri Bourassa era stems from, among other factors, the minority status of francophones within Canada as a whole. Thus, when international politics is interpreted as being imperialistic – based on examples such as British rule at the turn of the twentieth century (e.g., the Boer war) or American policies that justified the 2003 invasion of Iraq – public opinion in Quebec becomes divided.
That perspective offers an interesting explanation for understanding Quebec public opinion in regard to Afghanistan: even though the Afghan mission is multilateral, it is part of a larger, imperialistic US-American campaign similar to the one in Iraq. Since the Conservatives took power, anti-conservative parties (Bloc Québécois, Liberal, and NDP) have propagated the view that the Canadian mission has substantially changed into an imperialist mission by and for the “American Empire.”
That having been said, to what degree is anti-militarism or anti-Americanism a pronounced sentiment in Quebec society? First of all, the Quebec population is not anti-American. During the debate on the US-American intervention in Iraq 2003, former American ambassador to Canada Paul Celluci stated that the province did not reflect an anti- American position. Quebec’s position is, however, against the foreign policy of the current Republican administration – a fundamental difference. Aptly illustrating this point is Quebec’s support for free-trade, support which contributed substantially to finalizing the free trade agreement. Moreover, Quebec’s tendency to distance itself from particular American values is not unique to that province. As for the military, for some years, the image of the Canadian Forces has been strengthened thanks to its interventions at natural disaster sites, including the 1996 Saguenay flood and the 1998 ice storm. The recruitment of Quebeckers into the Canadian Forces is also going very well. The latest data confirm that most Quebec recruiting centres have met their objectives. Finally, the support of Quebeckers for the 1999 Kosovo intervention, for example, illustrates that military interventions can receive positive support from Quebeckers when executed in a framework they consider to be legitimate and multilateral. This should serve to correct the distorted image of a monolithic Quebec in matters concerning defence and security. What ultimately remains deeply embedded is anti-imperialism.
In addition to the aforementioned arguments, it is also important to consider the measures taken by Quebec political authorities since 2001. From that perspective, it quickly becomes evident that these were major initiatives meant to maintain and reinforce the confidence of the United States since 9/11. More specifically, these efforts overlap with an overall reinforcement of Quebec’s capacities to respond to the new global stakes in regard to security and to targeted measures with its partner American Border States. A description of the most important of these measures follows.
First, let us recall that Quebec first implemented a Centre de veille en sécurité civile (public security watch centre), which it then transformed into the Centre des opérations gouvernementales (centre for government operations) in order to maximize the intervention of different government stakeholders in the case of emergencies. Quebec also revised its regulations concerning the authentication of documents, particularly those used to obtain a Canadian passport, in order to more effectively combat identity theft and related frauds. Such measures of a more general nature aim to respond to the new security challenges. However, they also serve to demonstrate that Quebec participates seriously in security matters.
At meetings with various American authorities, the intervention capabilities of police services such as the Service de police de la ville de Montréal or Sûreté du Québec were demonstrated. Some concrete examples are the deployment of the Sûreté du Québec forces for the August 2004 Northeast Regional Homeland Security Directors meeting or for the October 2005 Double Impact simulation which, conjointly with Vermont, evaluated procedures for managing chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear risks in the case of a terrorist attack.
Moreover, the Vermont-Quebec agreement concerning the exchange of intelligence data for law enforcement, signed on 4 December 2003, is another significant example. The objective of that agreement is to facilitate the exchange of information allowing for law enforcement between Vermont and Quebec police authorities to protect against terrorist attacks or organized crime. It derives directly from the many measures resulting from 9/11 and the necessity to combat terrorism more efficiently by sharing information. Also, geographic ties led the parties to protect the common border between Quebec and Vermont in order to ensure their respective internal security. In addition to Vermont, the states of Maine, New York, and New Hampshire have also signed bilateral co-operation agreements addressing security and the exchange of information.
Another concrete example is the exchange of information between various police forces and the direct and efficient relations between American states and Canadian provinces for the Northeast Regional Homeland Security Directors meeting. The characteristics of security intelligence have thus changed since the Cold War. Considering the measures mentioned, we could argue that the Quebec government qualifies as a serious partner in security matters. As well, Quebec’s latest international policy indicates that North American security is a foremost priority for Quebec. The importance of that mandate is particularly indicated by the Centre de gestion de l’information de sécurité of the Direction de la Sécurité de l’État of the Ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec. At a presentation of that policy, newspapers such as Le Devoir portrayed it as a mini CIA. Nevertheless, the policy is proof of the seriousness of Quebec authorities, even if the resources accorded to the Centre de gestion de l’information de sécurité are limited.
These cases demonstrate that Quebec political authorities have a sound understanding of the foundations of Canadian-American friendship and prove that North American security is a central priority for Quebec. Also, the explanation of Quebeckers’ disapproval of the Afghan mission allows us to look beyond the stereotype of the inherently antimilitaristic Quebec. Although anti-Americanism surely exists to some degree, it seems more appropriate to put the emphasis on anti-imperialism. That perspective allows us to understand the evolution of Quebec’s positions favouring multilateralism as well as its current position on Afghanistan. This analytic outline of security issues thus offers a more nuanced perspective than do the perpetual stereotypes that obscure the debate and cultivate prejudices.
by Brian Flemming
Despite being surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans, Canada has never regarded itself as a maritime power except for a brief, shining, moment after World War Two.
But the faster-than-expected melting of the Northwest Passage, and a similar thawing of the often overlooked-by-North Americans Northeast Passage above Russia, may soon change all that. Witness Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new policies for Canada north of 60.
The prospect of ocean-going ships transiting the northwest passage in a decade or so opens the door to Canada proposing a joint American-Canadian institution, one sorely needed when post-9/11 American security initiatives along the world’s “longest undefended border” have eroded the gains made by the increased NAFTA-driven porosity of our southern border.
It’s been a long time since border initiatives such as the International Joint Commission (IJC) for waterways along the U.S.-Canada border, or the Saint Lawrence Seaway project, were hammered out between Canada and America. The opening of the waterways between the Arctic islands north of 60 presents a unique opportunity for North America’s neighbours to rebuild their historic borderlands relationship.
To do this will require both countries to climb down from their current policy pedestals. The United States will have to stop claiming that the Northwest Passage is an international strait under international law, one capable of being transited by any ship making an “innocent passage”. Canada, for its part, must set aside its claim to every square centimetre of territory in its Arctic archipelago. Instead, Canada and the United States should create a Northwest Passage Authority (NPA) through which both countries can manage the opening of, and the rules covering transits of, the Northwest Passage.
It is in the American interest to cede its claim to this new authority because the United States does not want improperly strengthened or underinsured commercial vessels flying flags of convenience transiting its own portion of the passage that passes through Alaskan waters. It may also want to ensure that American ships, properly certified by the NPA, can go through the passage without having a diplomatic punch-up with Canada. Paul Celucci, former American ambassador to Canada, recently said he believed the Northwest Passage belonged to Canada and that America should support Canada’s claim in return for the kind of guaranteed access it gets to the Seaway and the Canadian side of the Great Lakes.
Canada’s interest lies in putting aside its long quarrel with America over the passage and using its governmental and diplomatic energy to develop the scientific and technological capacity to help the NPA effectively manage the northwest passage. This is particularly urgent because the Russians today are far ahead of Canada and the United States in developing the tools needed to open and regulate the Northeast Passage which has the geographic advantage of making Europe closer to Asia than the Northwest Passage does.
In recent months, there has been a debate in Washington over whether to ratify the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOSIII). The issue driving the pro-ratification forces in Congress is making sure the undersea borders between Alaska, Canada and Russia can be drawn to America’s advantage. Anti-ratificationists worry about American loss of the broadest possible claim to make “innocent passages” through the Arctic.
A Harper proposal to the Bush administration to create an NPA might paper over some of these divisions in Congress and allow Bush to offer considerable consolation to the anti-ratification forces by claiming America would be better off with the combination of the NPA and UNCLOSIII ratification.
The commercial pluses for both countries would be that they could agree that the Canada Shipping Act and the American Jones Act were to apply to the Northwest Passage, thereby assuring the potential “coasting trade” in the north would not be captured by flag of convenience countries. Both countries should also encourage their insurance companies to acquire as soon as possible an ability to insure ships in the northern trade, not only in the North American north but in the Russian north too.
Prime Minister Harper deserves credit for putting Canada’s Arctic Ocean squarely on the policy radar screen in Ottawa. The baby steps he’s taken so far have been encouraging. But it’s now time for him and his government to seize the imagination initiative and to give an embattled Bush administration an opening way to show how it can cooperate with Canada in a creative and mutually-beneficial policy initiative. Canada might even suggest Celucci be named the first chair of the NPA.
by Gordon Smith
That the world is becoming increasingly interdependent is a well known fact. That the world’s institutions have not kept up to date with this interdependence is also well known. It has proven very difficult to reform global institutions because in any new proposed arrangement there are always people who feel they will come off less well. Nonetheless there are a large number of global deadlocks that need to be broken – think of climate change and energy security. The price of not doing so could be considerable. What should be done about this state of affairs?
It is time to refashion the G8 Summits. Summits of key leaders are the most obvious way of showing leadership and a sense of direction. It is the best way to catalyze action. Their joint commitments can trigger action in their own countries and by international organizations. Note that this is not the same as binding global decisions and enforcement.
When the first Summit took place it was of the G5 (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan). Italy immediately insisted it must be a member and the United States replied that then Canada should also be a member. Nobody elected the G7. The idea was that the G7 were the major industrialized and trading countries of the world. They could benefit from closer coordination.
In the 1990s Russia was first invited to attend for a few hours. In 1998 Russia became a full time member. Russia was invited in to this essentially self appointed club as an inducement to become a constructive member of the international community. While Russia has not developed as a liberal democracy and some argue Russia should be dropped because of its illiberal governance, on balance it is better to have Russia inside the tent.
For the last three Summits, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have been invited, as Russia first was, to participate for a few hours. It is not surprising that these five countries are becoming increasingly restive at their second class participation. Indeed the five are now caucusing among themselves. If left to fester, this could create a developed/developing divide that would have negative repercussions for the functioning of the Summit.
It is time now to transform the Summit into a G13. President Sarkozy of France is the only current leader in a G8 country to advocate such a change. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin proposed a G or L(for leaders)20, and that may be the eventual membership. While there is a certain momentum and logic to the 13, some would question whether a transformed Summit should not include an Islamic country, perhaps Egypt coming from the critical Middle Eastern region.
Of course it is true China is not by any stretch a democracy. But nor is Russia, and they are in. And India is the world’s largest democracy. With China’s economic size and population, China must be part of the group providing global leadership. It is important to the world and the evolution of future governance that China must be on the inside. China must certainly not feel excluded.
Some have advocated that membership in Summits should vary according to the subject being discussed – “a variable geometry”. The major downside of this approach is that it undermines one of the key purposes of leaders’ Summits – leaders getting to know each other and developing empathy. Variable geometry is not the way to go.
Preparation for Summits is now done by government officials, coordinated by that of the host state. This should continue. There should not be an international secretariat; such bodies tend to take on a life of their own.
Where improvement could be made is in the creation of a network of think tanks to support the Summits. Initially this should include institutions in the 13 countries, ensuring the 5 are on a level playing field with the 8. Eventually, the Summit think tank network should be open to participation from non-members, above all in the South. This should be coupled with an initiative to strengthen Southern think tanks, something already underway in the International Development Research Centre.
Canada has historically had a deep commitment to multilateralism, international law and international institutions. Canada has also both benefited from and provided leadership in G7 and G8 Summits. Now is the time for Canada to show leadership in enlarging the Summit and ensuring it is better supported.
by Richard H. Gimblett
No one is condemned to repeat their past, but when similar circumstances seem to arise, a good appreciation of what has happened before – and the context within which it transpired – can prepare us to better understand the present. A case in point emerges from a collection of documents that I am editing pertaining to Canadian naval force development over the last century.
It lays out a staggering trend – every 20 years or so we go through a boom and bust cycle roughly along the following lines: some sudden change in the global security environment demands we build up a workable little fleet from which we get a couple of very good operational cycles, but within just a few years we begin to starve it by having not bought enough spares to keep it fit, then penny-pinch till finally it fritters away into the rust-bucket butt of media jokes.
My own short life has already seen the better part of two such cycles – I joined the Navy in 1975 when the Iroquois class DDG-280s were the brand-spanking new “Sisters of the Space Age”, then spent the 1980s at sea in obsolete old steamers of the St Laurent class (laid down in the 1950s), kept the aging tanker Protecteur sailing through the First Gulf War literally with duct tape (I note she is still in service today), then saw the inspired design of the Halifax class and the upgraded 280s really transform us through the 1990s into a “Medium Global Force Projection Navy”, as described in Leadmark: The Navy's Strategy for 2020.1
That was the fleet that made Canada a world leader for Operation Apollo (the Second Gulf War), when we commanded the Coalition naval effort in the Arabian Sea for the better part of two years after the 9/11 attacks. But now we seem to be in the “frittering away” stage yet again.
Presented broad brush, it seems to suggest there is some truth in Santayana’s maxim about being condemned to repeat one’s past – except that in the details, each of those times, every 20 years, has been very different. This newsletter format does not allow the fuller analysis the subject deserves, but even a superficial telling is illuminating. In the process, I beg the forgiveness of readers as I introduce a new sub-theme: that each case has hinged upon an element of rather radical Canadian technological innovation that would shape our Navy’s destiny, generally for the better.
The first case is one that has been so well buried in the dim recesses of our past, that it is generally unknown even amongst naval historians. In 1888 a chap named Andrew Gordon, then Commander of the newly established Fisheries Protection Service, put together a proposal to create a Canadian Naval Militia composed of a new ship type just then being developed – the torpedo-boat destroyer. His plan never came to pass, for a variety of reasons all too familiar to modern readers: the Macdonald government, preoccupied with scandal, found itself with competing fiscal priorities, and did not believe the Franco-Russian cruiser threat was credible. The really radical thinking here was Gordon’s suggestion that, contrary to evolving Royal Navy doctrine, the destroyers should act not as integral screening elements of the Grand Fleet but rather as independent spoilers against a larger battle force, a concept that would be codified by the Jeune École over the next decade.
Importantly, the small ship concept would plant itself indelibly on what would become the Canadian Navy. Twenty years later, in 1909, when the first Director of the Canadian Naval Service, Admiral Charles Kingsmill, went to Britain to work out the establishment of a Canadian Naval Militia, First Sea Lord Admiral Jacky Fisher instead boldly suggested Canada should establish a proper navy structured around a battlecruiser fleet unit supported by protected cruisers, destroyers and submarines. Fisher was able to push the idea through against the better judgement of Kingsmill, who at least was able to scale it down to just cruisers and destroyers. Even that compromise fell through when the Laurier government was defeated in 1911, but it did lead to the establishment of the Vickers yard in Montreal, which in a great display of irony ended up building a large number of submarines for the Royal Navy during the First World War (which as an aside puts paid to the chestnut that we cannot build submarines in this country).
The Great War of 1914-1918 was not especially noteworthy for ship procurement, so our story can remain in-synch by zipping ahead to 1929 for the next, even shorter, episode, when the Mackenzie King government finally found its way to embark upon a fleet renewal program, and fortunately had paid for the first two ships before the Depression hit. In this way we acquired the destroyers Saguenay and Skeena, the first two warships built to RCN specifications, although in UK yards. The great technical revolution here was the “Canadianization” package, which introduced the radical concepts of steam heating and showers for the messdecks.
The Second World War came along only a decade later, ostensibly throwing the 20-year cycle out of synch. Indeed, there are only a couple of observations worth making on ship production during the war, and neither of them are very positive: for a start, the supposed mass production of corvettes and frigates really demonstrated the limited technical capacity of Canadian yards, as they were quite unsophisticated types, and we built them in numbers proportionally far below the truly industrious American effort; moreover, our one attempt to build a complex design was the Tribal class destroyers, and those were not completed until well after the war, arguably with an overall negative impact in drawing away scarce refit resources from the fleet. If nothing else, the Second World War underscored the absolute necessity to nurture the shipbuilding industry in peacetime in order to have it viable in time of war.2
We don’t need to pretend the Second World War just never happened, but it is interesting that the next cycle came along in 1949, when the threatened onset of the Cold War led the St Laurent government to undertake a planned mobilization of the economy. His ministry is one of the better in our past, and his shipbuilding strategy provides further proof.3 Here we see in the afore-mentioned “steamers” of the St Laurent class (for the record, the lead ship was named after the river, not the prime minister) a truly revolutionary indigenous ASW design, that would see 24 hulls produced over the next 16 years – a pretty good model for a continuous-build program, although the work was probably spread over too many yards. That design in turn spawned a variety of further Canadian technical innovations: variable-depth sonar, the hydrofoil, marriage of the big helicopter onto a little deck, and the innovative but often overlooked DATAR automatic datalink system.
But by the mid-1960s, this nascent national maritime strategy was beginning to fall apart. Historians have yet to properly analyse the period, but my sense is that blaming it all on unification is simplistic. In a certain way, the country lost its nerve in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and that was reflected in the fracturing of the Navy into various communities or “advocates” of specific ship types as one author has set it out in a recent issue of the Canadian Naval Review.4 To make a long story very short, the Navy in the 1960s looked variously at getting a second carrier, or switching to an amphibious flat top, or even an all-nuclear submarine force.
The hope had been to obtain an equivalent capability replacement of that found in the already aging “steamers”; instead the 1969 variant of the boom cycle produced the four 280s – leading-edge technology and the envy of other fleets in many respects though they were – but only four of them. A modest effort to gap the steamer fleet saw four of them converted to “Improved Restigouche Escorts”, but the rest had to wait another decade for the DELEX (DEstroyer Life EXtension) package, dryly described by those of serving in them as “grave-robbing”. DELEX did nothing much to protect the steamers patrolling off Kamchatka and in the GIUK Gap from the coordinated Soviet nuclear submarine and Badger bomber attacks we constantly exercised against, but in making the “Link-11” computer-to-computer datalink a standard fit throughout the fleet (communications systems generally are cheaper to buy than weapons fits) it at least gave the entire Navy a window into the information age revolution that was about to dawn.
The next boom in the procurement cycle would come along right on cue with the floating-up of the first Halifax class Canadian Patrol Frigate in 1989, but the technical promise of those ships had already sparked the greatest doctrinal revolution in our Navy’s history. The towed array sonar – or more specifically, its powerful Canadian-engineered shipboard processor – broke our Navy from the mould of close-in convoy escort that had typified its later Cold War employment, expanding the horizons of the fleet for the success we see today. Efficient employment of towed array ships meant they had to be stationed independently, sometimes hundreds of miles apart, which meant in turn that every ship had to have satellite communications for reliable datalink information exchange, as well as an integrated combat suite for self-defence (it is not commonly known that ours is the only navy in the world that got Harpoon anti-ship missiles for self-defence) – the combination of all these capabilities meant that suddenly the USN looked to us as real contributing partners in strategic ASW, hunting for Soviet nuclear-powered ballistic missile-firing submarines in the North Atlantic depths. Suddenly “interoperability” was not just a faddy buzzword, but something uniquely ours.
The result was that, even though the present fleet does not conduct much ASW any more, it has developed a very respectable capacity in the network-enabled capabilities that are essential to command and control of dispersed naval formations typical of the 21st century – as we have demonstrated, for example, in the Arabian Sea.
We should be poised for success, but are we really? By any reckoning, 2009 is only a little over a year away, and it looks like we are going to be adrift for the next boom in the cycle. The need for a destroyer replacement programme – to replace the 280s built two cycles (nearly 40 years) ago – is long past urgent. For a ship to be launched in 2009, steel cutting would have to begin today, which means a project management office should have been stood up at least five years ago. Instead, in 2002 DND shelved the Navy’s CADRE (Command and Control Area Air Defence Replacement) project, and only now are defence planers beginning to turn their attention back to the idea. The strategic consequences are enormous – just as a new era of uncertainty in global security deepens, Canada will be without the naval capacity to assist our allies in its risk-management. Because it is becoming unaffordable to maintain the older ships, the 280s will be progressively withdrawn over the next five years, just as our frigates are being put into refit under the recently announced Halifax class modernization programme. The ability to deploy an operationally viable naval task group will be extremely limited through 2012-2018.
If only it were as simple as buying someone else’s ships “off-the-shelf”. There is very little immediate excess capacity in the global shipbuilding industry, even assuming a suitable hull type could be identified in time. Some days it is possible to see light on the horizon, in that the idea of a continuous build program as in the 1950s, which makes sense in so many ways, seems to be gaining traction. But then on other days such hopes seem doomed, because while naval types recognize that it takes decades to recapitalize a fleet, politicians and joint capabilities boards work in electoral and procurement cycles measured in months or a couple of years at best.
Unless someone comes up with a radical new technology to deliver an innovative “just-in-time” solution, future historians will record our generation as the first to fail to meet the 20-year upside “boom” in our national warship acquisition cycle.
by George Haynal
The essence of the United States/Canada relationship is a unique mix of asymmetry and comity.
This short paper is an attempt to sketch how these two apparently incompatible qualities, asymmetry and comity, are reconciled and how they create a dynamic partnership. It also notes the delicacy of the balance in this relationship and the stress that reaction to 9/11 continues to place upon it.
The asymmetry in the economic power, military reach, and cultural influence of Canada and the United States is self-evident and needs no iteration but there is, however, another less obvious aspect of asymmetry that is key to understanding the relationship - the degree to which each partner is present in the national life of the other. The United States is present in Canadian affairs in a way that is probably more potent and direct than anywhere else in the world: the Canadian economy relies fundamentally on access to the United States; Canadians measure themselves constantly against the United States in social, economic, and international spheres (sometimes to the exclusion of benchmarks that are arguably more appropriate); Canadian social discourse is therefore conditioned (perhaps too much) by that of the United States; Canadian history is, in a very real sense, one of reaction to the United States given that Canada was created in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War and in reaction to it; and Canadian territorial integrity and military security rely on American forbearance and guarantees against external threat.
For Canadians, in short, the United States is so all encompassing a presence that it shapes their view not just of the world but also of themselves. The relationship is therefore a matter of constant national discourse and preoccupation. Americans’ view of Canadians, in contrast, is partial and vague. The relationship is peripheral to the American national life. It comes into focus only in moments of difficulty; even then, it is almost always the domain of particular constituencies rather than the nation as a whole. Yet while Americans do not obsess about Canadians as Canadians do about Americans, Canada cannot ever be entirely absent from their thinking. Canada is one of the United States’ only two immediate neighbours, its economy is deeply integrated into the American economy, it is a uniquely reliable source of natural resources and a useful international ally, and it has been the United States’ deep border – an integral component of their continental defences against superpower rivals. But more interesting is the fact that Canada is the only society with which Americans have been able to take a positive, quasi-domestic relationship for granted.
This is because Canadians are “North American,” very much (if not entirely) like Americans as they both share the DNA of British North America. Canada evolved over 400 years from a colonial, to a post colonial, to a North Atlantic, to a North American society and although the country adapted French and British institutions to its needs, France has been absent from Canadian national life for almost 250 years. Britain’s influence on Canada’s domestic and international politics, though it declined more gradually, evaporated in the latter half of the last century. The American Declaration of Independence came much earlier, was more abrupt, and was as much an expression of ideas as of pragmatism but that does not change the fact that both countries are successor states to British (and French) North America. Their political values, legal institutions, and social structures all have roots in a common heritage. The result is that there are now two models within the North American system that are distinct, yet also uniquely compatible. That compatibility and distinctiveness is expressed in their respective statements of constitutional values – in the BNA Act (Peace, Order, and Good Government) and the Declaration of Independence (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness). They create compatible and complimentary approaches to both national and international affairs, they can generate great synergy when both countries share general objectives, and they can spur a useful dialectic when they differ on goals and means.
Asymmetric comity, then, is the heart of the relationship and each country manages their affairs on the assumption that they are in “harmony,” that at the very least, their policies, regulations, and modes of conducting public and private business are compatible and do not cause conflict across the border. Each society has become comfortable in the notion that its future is, in many respects, a shared one. Over the years, Canada and the United States have codified both the security and economic dimensions of that expectation. The security bargain was most clearly articulated in the Ogdensburg Declaration, an understanding reached during World War II that became the basis of the shared defence of North American air space in the Cold War. This bargain was straightforward. The United States relied on Canada to defend itself and, hence, to be America’s deep northern border. If Canada could not do so, and if this inability became a threat to the security of North America, the United States was committed to defending Canada and Canada was committed to allowing the United States to do so. The defence bargain has assumed a common perimeter because the military threats to the security of either country lie beyond the continent and come only from shared and identifiable enemies. This has created a paradox at the heart of Canadian defence policy that is that Canada must defend itself ultimately only against “help.” The security bargain, however, is now being reworked. Currently, threats to North America also come from anonymous quarters: from terrorists who could live among us and who are capable of creating mass destruction. Suddenly, it seems, the assumption that both countries share a common responsibility to defend North America is no longer the basis of American policy. The border between Canada and the United States is no longer seen as a shared checkpoint but rather as a last line for asserting American sovereignty, with Canada no longer being seen as a full partner within a shared security space.
The economic bargain is also changing. The shared comfort in economic interdependence was most compellingly expressed in the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement of 1988 but the economic relationship has been evolving in the direction of free trade with or without the benefit of treaty protection for over 140 years (indeed, earlier efforts to provide it were sometimes failures). The understanding that underpins both countries’ mutual economic dependence has been clear. The United States relies on Canada to manage the Canadian economy in a way that is compatible with American economic interests, and in return, the United States implicitly guarantees that the border will not stand unreasonably in the way of Canadian access to the American economy, the world’s largest and most advanced. Now the economic bargain, like the security pact, is also coming under severe pressure as the border hardens in the face, ironically, of shared threats.
Canadians are finding it profoundly difficult to accept that the historic relationship between the two countries is suddenly being redefined. This stems from a misunderstanding of how Americans perceive them. Most Canadians live within about 150 miles of the border and hence, have a personal sense of community with America and Americans. “The Border” is a familiar part of every Canadian’s life, one that had been experienced largely as a formality in interactions involving their daily routine with family, social groups, sport activities, shopping, and recreation. Canadians have come, perhaps naively, to believe that they personally have an inalienable entitlement to ignore the border, a belief that has been reinforced by the exceptional access that the United States had, until recently, extended to Canadians. The Canadian economy has also benefited from exceptionally open access to the American market. While the nature of the dependency that this has engendered in the Canadian business community is too large a subject to explore here, it may be sufficient to observe that well over half of the Canadian economy is in one way or another accounted for by flows to, through, and from the United States. This level of commitment to one market speaks, if not to complacency, then to an extremely high level of confidence in the immutability of access.
This high level of trust in, and dependence on, fair and open access is why any deviation from that norm quickly becomes a national issue in Canada. This familial view of the relationship is not mirrored in the United States, however. Relations with Canada almost never create national ripples. The reasons are simple and are rooted in asymmetry. First, Americans have two borders, and comparatively few Americans live close to either. In relative terms, far fewer Americans than Canadians cross or trade across the shared border. Also, while Canadian content is welcome, it does not dominate American popular culture. Additionally, only a small percentage of the American economy is tied up with flows across the border, and while many American firms have integrated Canadian operations and almost all assume open access to Canada, that access is simply not seen as “contingent.” If it is restricted, American companies are confident, though not always with reason, that they can generate the leverage to restore it. Finally, Canada is useful to American national defence but it does not have the capacity to impinge upon American sovereignty.
This asymmetry in what is at stake is reflected in the way the relationship, writ large, has been managed, or actually, not managed. It is too pervasive of a relationship to allow for detailed, top down direction but once in a while aspects of the relationship are expressed in treaty form. Management of issues is, however, frequently necessary. It follows an almost unvarying template: Canadian governments monitor threats to Canadian interests in American policy and practice; they then engage in intense and proactive diplomacy to head off those threats; and the American government then responds by accommodating or rejecting Canadian initiatives. The only variance in this pattern occurs in those relatively rare cases in which the United States has taken the initiative on issues of international diplomacy, continental defence, or when they cannot be resisted, in the service of special interests. Active management of the relationship, therefore, is left largely to Canada. That is why so many Canadian resources are dedicated to it.
Given the intensity Canada brings to the relationship, one would presume that Canada’s approach to management would be systematic, deep, and steady but this has not been the case. The approach has always been intensely political, sometimes ideological, and often deeply partisan. Canadian governments have been inconsistent in their objectives over the years. Some have sought alternatives to Canada’s growing dependence (though often unable to deny the imperatives of geography and familiarity), while others have pursued formalized guarantees of access. Compounding federal inconsistency has been the fact that provinces also play a role. Under the Canadian Constitution, many issues that cross the border are in their jurisdiction and their interests, being regionally defined, are often not aligned across the country.
There are two pillars of constancy in the Canadian management structure, however: the embassy in Washington and the prime minister. The embassy – properly, Canada’s largest – is “Ottawa on the Potomac,” and every major federal department is represented. Now, with provincial participation, it is a physical expression of the hybrid, multi-layered nature of the relationship. The ambassador has often had quasi-Cabinet standing and he has always been a prime, though sometimes not the dominant, source of advice to the Cabinet and the prime minister. Prime ministers have always been the ultimate decision-makers in managing the relationship, always directly involved personally or through their office – sometimes more, sometimes less, but always aware. They have at various times been energetic or passive, sympathetic or distant, strategic or tactical in their approach to the relationship, and they have always set the tone. Other than these two constants, the Canadian system is fluid and adapts quickly to changing circumstances.
Within this management system, DFAIT is nominally in charge, but the reality is that a myriad of Canadian policy-makers and regulators conduct business with their counterparts across the border. Various actors take on prominence as their issues come to the centre of the relationship and move on when those issues are resolved. At its best, this diversity of involvement has meant that Canadians are quick to anticipate problems, innovative in advancing agendas, and effective in defending both Canadian interests and the integrity of the relationship. At its weakest, as during the period of complacency that succeeded the conclusion of NAFTA, the lack of constant central leadership saps the relationship of energy and a sense of direction. In moments of crisis, such as North America has been in since 11 September 2001, the system is always mobilized and the looseness of the structures temporarily stiffens to ensure coordination.
With the changing nature of the relationship between Canada and the United States comes a danger of alienation. Canadians assumed that the relationship of comity would continue after 9/11, that each country would co-operate and do the right thing to protect each other and themselves against international terrorism, each in their own jurisdiction. It took time, but Canadians have accepted that they must now deal with an adjusted reality. The border, rather than a bridge, seems if not yet an impermeable wall, an alienating reality, and it is the border, not the myriad of other positive aspects of the relationship, that is driving much of the domestic discourse on the relationship between both countries. The Canadian system has been deployed to meet the challenge for a border-centered relationship and Canadian governments have changed laws and regulations as well as increased security expenditures to ensure compatibility with American border policies and expectations in the fight against terrorism. Prime ministers have taken a personal role in managing the dialogue on the security relationship and Canadian business groups have engaged their American counterparts in the cause of a fluid border.
The relationship has steadied, but it is now moving into a new equilibrium. What should that be? Canadians, for their part, know what must be done to ensure the desired relationship: to continue to be the United States’ most trusted and transparent trading and investment partner; to continue to build their own defences against international terrorism; to continue to seek common objectives in the world; to continue to cherish the relationship; and to work to make the border a shared instrument for mutual protection.
But Canadians will now be asking themselves what they had not asked before – how should the relationship evolve? And just asking that question will make Canadian management of the relationship more systematic, more focused, and less complacent than it has been thus far. It will also create a genuine new dynamic in Canadian policy – a substantive effort to define options to diminish Canada’s dependence on the United States.
by Scot Robertson
The debate over the future and duration of Canada’s commitment to the mission in Afghanistan continues to ebb and flow. The essence of the debate still seems to turn primarily on the question of casualties, whether the progress made over the past few years has been worth the cost, and finally, on the future prospects for Afghanistan. Presumably, these and other matters are being contemplated by the special blue-ribbon panel headed up by former Foreign Minister John Manley. This committee, which was announced with some fanfare, has receded onto the background, although but it should, in due course, release a series of recommendations concerning the future of Canada's mission to that troubled region -- whether we stay and finish the job, whether we leave at the end of the "mandate" or whether we abandon Afghanistan and return forthwith.
It may, therefore, be time to step back and consider the entire question from a different perspective. Rather than focus on day-to-day operations, with the inevitable casualties -- Canadian, NATO and Afghan -- it is more important to keep the overall objective of the mission in mind. NATO’s stated mission is “to help establish the conditions in which Afghanistan can enjoy – after decades of conflict, destruction, and poverty – a representative government and self-sustaining peace and security”. Most informed observers and commentators would agree that this is a worthy objective. Yet, earlier this year, when Gordon Smith undertook a stock-taking of the situation in Afghanistan, he concluded, more or less, that the odds against NATO’s success were daunting, that time was not on NATO’s side, and that the consequences of failure would be profoundly troubling. While Smith’s assessment of the situation was disconcerting, he did not, however, conclude that the situation was hopeless. Rather, he was of the view that prompt and effective action was necessary across a number of fronts.
As part of the discussion over the future of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, we perhaps need to fundamentally re-think some of the measures by which we judge the success and / or failure of the counter-insurgency and nation-building operations that lie at the heart of the Afghan mission. What follows then, are a number of ideas that might cause us to re-consider how we view the operation, and by extension, how we evaluate our continued commitment to it. Hopefully, the Manley review panel is adopting a wide-ranging and broad perspective, and not just focusing on Canadian concerns. To that end, the following ten propositions are offered for consideration:
As the Manley committee, and Canadians in general, reflect upon the future nature and duration of our role in Afghanistan, it would be well to bear these considerations in mind, for the mission is a complex and multi-faceted one. On one level, the question today is really all about how to deal with the insurgency in Afghanistan. On another level, the question is how to go about building a nation out of the disparate, fractious and broken elements that constitute Afghanistan today. This is not a simple proposition, and our decisions cannot be based on naïve idealism, but instead on a realistic understanding of the challenges and pitfalls involved in this vast undertaking.
by Sarah Jane Meharg
The militarization of humanitarian aid is one of the most contested topics of discussion in humanitarian circles. Questions of legitimacy are raised concerning militaries operating in the historically neutral and impartial humanitarian space in crisis environments. However, militaries must often fill the aid-gap left behind as humanitarian organizations retreat from non-permissive crisis environments. This then generates a shared military and humanitarian space where the historical tenets of humanitarianism are challenged. How, then, should the relevant stakeholders navigate the emerging roles, behaviours, and identities emerging in the military and humanitarian space?
Since the late 1880s, humanitarians have framed their policies and activities inside a space protected by the principles of humanitarianism, namely neutrality, impartiality and independence. These principles allow humanitarian organizations to assist those affected by armed conflicts and natural disasters alike. Humanitarian aid and assistance include feeding, clothing, educating, protecting, and healing affected peoples as an end unto itself. Although not a homogenous group, humanitarian organizations are those that uphold the tenets of humanitarianism and adhere to specific codes of conduct, such as the Humanitarian Charter and the ICRC Code of Conduct. Recipients of aid and assistance are considered equal within the humanitarian paradigm, regardless of political, polemical, or sectarian affiliations. Humanitarian principles, thus, suggest that they do not take sides in conflicts, thereby avoiding being perceived of as party to a conflict.
Those in need are assisted through a network divided into sectors and specializations that are often territorialized by stakeholders involved in aid and assistance. As is often the case, territorialisation is the result of self-preservation and the need to create a case for source funding within donor communities. Funding becomes a raison d’être for many humanitarian organizations, while larger international organizations involved in humanitarianism attempt to find ways to operate within permissive and non-permissive environments while upholding the principles of their work.
Humanitarians and their organizations have witnessed an increase of military forces, augmented by private security companies and other industry players, conducting humanitarian-like activities under the pretext of reconstruction and stabilization. Activities such as aid and assistance are increasingly considered as part of the cadre of military strategies applied under the Effects-Based Operations (EBO) rubric. Effects-Based Operations is a military planning methodology for the conduct of operations for achieving security objectives and is now being applied to the conduct of operations other than war (OOTW) such as reconstruction and stabilization operations. The methodology of EBO is based on an historical military tradition of shaping the will of an adversary and is intended to influence the thinking and behaviour of an adversary in order to reach an envisioned effect.1
Effects-Based Operations are most effective in their adaptation of network-centric warfare, technological and real-time communications linking all aspects of war fighting into a shared situational awareness and shared understanding of command intent “so as to achieve a unity and synchronicity of effects that multiplies the power of military forces.”2 This is understood as a force multiplier. According to the military forces that are adopting this planning methodology, it results in the maximization of efficiency and the minimization of wasted efforts in the pursuit of goals.3 Undertaking humanitarian-like activities within the rubric of EBO aims to achieve the effect of winning the hearts and minds of war-affected populations.
Some have accused military forces of employing their humanitarian resources to ensure their own security amidst potentially hostile populations as they undertake reconstruction and stabilization operations in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Private military and security companies, fundamentalist religious groups, and non-state actors have also become involved in the business of humanitarian aid and assistance. Some of these actors are unaware of the principles governing this space and pay no heed to the consequences of their presence and activities. Indeed, not only is the physical environment of humanitarianism moving away from the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence due to the influences of additional stakeholders, so are the policies and activities that define this space as it shifts into unrecognizable territory.
Humanitarians seeking to protect the neutrality and independence they worked diligently to build over 120 years stand at an important crossroad. Joining them at this juncture are military forces that continue to identify ways in which to stabilize and reconstruct war-torn environments through humanitarian-like activities but to achieve different objectives.
Three Block Wars
Traditionally, multinational military forces have accomplished a wide range of tasks while intervening in armed conflicts. Combat operations, inter-positional activities, as well as assisting civilians in meeting basic needs, have been included as part of a military’s mandate. It is not a new phenomenon for troops to rebuild schools, dig wells, offer food and medical aid, build and manage emergency camps for refugees and internally displaced persons, evacuate civilians, as well as remove insurgents, separate warring factions, uphold peace agreements, and provide security to civilian organisations.
To adequately capture this range of activities and the training that must accompany such diversity, the term three-block war (3BW) was coined by General Charles Krulak in 1997 (the then-Commandant of the US Marines) and adopted by the United States military to encompass these activities. The term was used to describe the complex spectrum of challenges increasingly faced by soldiers in the theatre of operations. The three blocks are meant to symbolize different types of activities where combat fighting occurs on one city block, the separation of warring factions on another block, and the provision of humanitarian-like aid and assistance to affected civilian populations on a third block. The rubric of 3BW offers the military a logical framework for discussing the diversity of their activities in a way that makes sense to politicians and soldiers.
Three-block war has not been developed as an operational strategy and is not doctrine; however, the operations, strategies and tactics that are a part of fighting these wars, such as combat and counterinsurgency operations, are fully strategized in both the US Military’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual (2006) and the Canadian Forces Counterinsurgency Manual (2007). Three-block war is best understood as a metaphor for describing the phenomenon of soldier training and intervention.
Conceptually, humanitarian space overlaps with the military’s third block, which has seemingly inserted itself into humanitarian space, muddying distinctions of neutrality, impartiality and independence. Although history notes that militaries have been active in all blocks, the protected and distinct humanitarian space has been the territory of humanitarian agencies since the late 1880s. This environment was never conceived of as being the same physical or symbolic place as the third block of three block wars because it was conceived of through international law while the other through a military commander’s rubric designed to frame training and intervention from a soldiering perspective in the operational space.
As the 3BW concept has been articulated since 1997, the level of frustration from some humanitarians towards the military has risen. As the term has been adopted and promulgated by the US military and other military forces, including Canada’s, there has been increased concern among humanitarian stakeholders over the activities taking place on the third block. In particular, humanitarians suggest that pursuit of the 3BW agenda risks undermining their safety and security and that of their beneficiaries. They further suggest that the 3BW agenda undermines the geographical and political space in which humanitarian organizations conduct their activities. Some humanitarians perceive the 3BW codification as a way for militaries to subtly take over the dispersing of humanitarian aid, thereby contaminating the neutral and impartial humanitarian space. This has resulted in a defensive posture from some humanitarian organisations to protect what they perceive as their jurisdiction.
As a result, humanitarian organizations have attached priority to defending humanitarian space by reducing or eliminating their involvement with military actors, despite mutual needs or requirements evidenced by humanitarian, military and recipient populations. Navigating the military and humanitarian space may be more difficult than previously conceived if some parties to the space are reticent to resolve emerging roles, behaviours and identities that could improve humanitarianism and intervention writ-large.
1 LTC Ho How Hoang, Effects-Based Operations Equals to ‘Shock and Awe’? (2004).
by Sharon Hobson
When the National Post's Matthew Fisher accepted the Ross Munro Media Award at the Vimy Award dinner in November, he commented that during his many assignments covering the Canadian Forces, he had never had a problem getting the information he needed. It was obvious that Matthew spends most of his time away from Ottawa because anyone who is trying to get information out of the Department of National Defence (DND) these days is fighting a nasty and frustrating war.
The 1998 openness policy may still be on the books, but its implementation has been unrecognizably corrupted. The chances of getting an answer to a direct question are slim, and the chances of getting an actual interview with someone are slimmer. In fact, on many questions, the DND's method of dealing with the media is not to deal with them at all.
It starts with a call to the Media Liaison Office (MLO) where hardly anyone ever answers the phone in person. Instead you get a recording which goes on for one and a half minutes, detailing the regular office hours, the after hours contact information, the request that you leave a message, and then a repeat of the whole thing in French. Most offices have discovered the technology that allows callers to select their language of choice, and have an after-hours message that plays just after hours. I suspect the lengthy recording is the first line of defence against bothersome media inquiries. Only the truly determined or the desperate will stay on the line.
When the MLO does return the call the young officers request detailed information regarding the query and the reporter's deadline. This is a double trap. If you provide the detailed information, you will get either an e-mail or a call from a public affairs officer providing select information pertaining to your exact questions, with no chance for follow-up. But that's only if you're lucky. More than likely, you'll get nothing, because the other part of the trap is the deadline. It would not be a leap to conclude that they want to know when your deadline is, in order to miss it.
You may have noticed more and more media stories contain some version of the line "the Department of National Defence did not return calls".
Find someone who will talk about the shutout, and they will point the finger at the Privy Council Office (PCO) and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). The civilians at the top are asserting their control and the word has come down that no one in the military is to speak to the media without specific clearance.
And that "word" is verbal. There is no written guidance on how to ignore the media. Rather, everyone is being told that if media inquiries concern "a regional or national issue" (it's not clear what would not be covered by this description) then any DND communication must be cleared by the "the centre" (PCO/PMO).
How this works in practice is for the DND contact to write up a reporter's request for information with a proposed Media Response Line (MRL). That is then sent to the PCO/PMO for approval. But instead of being approved and sent back, it sits in a pile somewhere. When the reporter gets fed up waiting and calls again, the DND is not able to offer a response because the official process is now underway for dealing with a written inquiry and the response has not yet been approved.
Requests for interviews are routinely denied in lieu of PCO/PMO approved written "bullets". So instead of being able to have a broad discussion with a DND project manager, the reporter receives one or two carefully crafted sentences which allow for no interpretation or selective quoting.
It's not just the media that is being thwarted. Access to Information (ATI) requests are similarly stalled or blocked. Documents that were previously released untouched, are now sent to the PCO for vetting. Of course, there's only so much the PCO staff can read in a week (even if they were inclined to read quickly), so there is now a log-jam that results in even non-controversial requests taking months to appear. Thirty-day extensions on ATI requests are now routinely tagged as 150-day extensions.
When documents are released, they often contain large sections that have been blacked out. While one expects technical specs to be deleted for national security reasons, much of the censored material seems to be excluded for much more mundane, political reasons. For example, project costs – which in a sane world would be readily available for consideration by the taxpayer – are deleted as being "advice to government".
Its not just reporters who are feeling frustrated. Public affairs officers and other military personnel are also chaffing as they watch their hard earned trust with individual journalists evaporate, and as stories appear which contain inaccuracies that they cannot correct.
Reporters cannot just ignore stories that the government won't talk about. If that were the case, the government's best strategy would be to say nothing. Ever.
Instead, if the officials won't talk, reporters have to rely on information from other sources. In this, everyone is shortchanged, but most especially the Canadian public loses.
By refusing to answer questions, neither the government nor the military is able to provide the public with its interpretation of events, or explain its rationale for decisions taken, or present an alternate view to that of its critics. Moreover, brave souls within the DND who are willing to talk, do so only on "deep background" so the public is not given the credentials or agenda of the person providing the information or comment. This leaves the public unable to assess the import of the information, and everything then carries the same weight.
It would be nice to think that in the long term, the Canadian public will get fed up with being shut out of the decision making, of being treated like children, and that there will be an electoral backlash that will force the government to start talking. But for citizens of a democratic country, Canadians seem willing to tolerate a tremendous amount of anti-democratic behavior from their governments before getting mad. Therefore it's not a stretch to believe that not only will things continue this way for some time, they'll get worse.
by Denis Stairs
“The level of ambiguity in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations.”
Such is the military definition of the “fog of war”. It is the way the phrase was defined, at any rate, by the British Joint Services Command and Staff College in some of its officer-training materials in 2001 (and doubtless in other years, too).
The technical rendition of the professionals may lack the evocative texture of the metaphor itself, but it can hardly be attacked for want of analytical precision. Attributing the term to a passage from Carl von Clausewitz’s famous treatise On War, the College refined its meaning further by differentiating its applications respectively at the “grand strategic,” “military strategic,” “operational,” and “tactical” levels of warfare.
But in the end all four refinements pointed to essentially the same phenomenon – the perennial inability of those who are actively engaged in the conduct of military hostilities to know, or in the crucial short term to find out, what is really going on. This incapacity can originate with communications breakdowns, faulty intelligence, or the absence of pertinent intelligence at all. For combat personnel on the front line, the problem is amplified by the chaotic, howling bedlam of battle itself – a bedlam easily compounded by logistical collapse, the destruction or failure of capital equipment, disruptions flowing from casualties in the chain of command, and the triumph, in extremity, of the will to survive over the will to advance the mission. In such conditions, confusion is king. Even when the battle is over and the dust has settled, such progress as there has been can seem in retrospect more fortuitous than planned.
This first fog of war -- the battlefield fog -- is these days accompanied, however, by a second. It is manifested in the uncertainty, ignorance and ‘ambiguity’ – in short, the “fog” -- that envelops those who make up the political community at home. Whether they be citizen-onlookers, interest group activists, mass media pundits, disputing politicians, or policy-makers saddled with both the power and the obligation to decide, their civic duty (and in some cases their professional responsibility) is to understand as best they can what their armed forces are up to, and how well they are doing.
But what if the task is impossible? What if this second “fog of war” is so thick with mist that the duty cannot be fulfilled, or the responsibility reliably performed?
Precisely this circumstance currently afflicts Canadians in the context of the Afghanistan intervention. They cannot tell from what they see or what they hear how things are really going. The messages they receive from media reports are mixed. Even reporters who have similar degrees of exposure to the field and represent the same news organization – Christie Blatchford and Graeme Smith of the Globe and Mail, for example – convey sometimes conflicting portraits of the realities on the ground. For some, the mission is making progress. The bottle is half-full (or more). For others, it is mired down and things are getting worse. The bottle is half-empty (or less).
‘Area specialists’ and other ‘experts’ do little to improve our collective capacity to navigate the scene, or to view the trend lines with clarity. Some are optimists. Others are pessimists. Their assessments vary. They may even be antithetical. And we suspect that a few of them – whatever they say they think – are parti pris, or overly influenced by personal preferences and wishful thoughts.
But suspicious though we may be, we cannot always tell which are which.
Even those in uniform who have been active (and in danger) in the field do little to help us resolve the problem. Their commitment to their mission – whatever their rank – appears unassailable. Certainly it is reported to be so. Certainly they say it to be so. But in the circumstances, their dedication is exactly what we would expect from them. The trouble is that they are ‘up close,’ and we fear they may be too close. Their perspective is deeper than ours, but it may also be narrower than ours, more selective than ours. Besides, many of the ones who speak to us of their experience in the theatre will admit in private to having more reservations than they confess to having in public. At the very least they think the mission will take much longer to bear fruit than even the most cautious of our political leaders, whatever their party affiliation, have been willing to argue. And to be fair, the latter have been careful from the very start to warn us not to have ‘quick-solution’ expectations. But the hands with the greatest exposure in the field now talk less of years and more of decades and generations.
All of this has perfectly predictable consequences. It means, for example, that we all have before us a pot-pourri of varied and often conflicting bits of ‘evidence’ from which to choose as we try to make up our minds. Having no independent way of determining which bits are signaling the trend-lines over-all, and which amount to noisy distractions that serve only to obscure the larger picture, we do what comes naturally. That is, we take from what we hear, see and read the bits that accord with our own expectations and prior judgments, and assume them to be the most reliable indicators. These are the bits that reassure us. They make us think we have it right. Hence at dinner tables across the country moderately informed contributors to the conversation can be heard to defend their scepticism (if sceptical they be) with observations to the effect that the British couldn’t control Afghanistan in the 19th century, nor the Russians in the 20th. So why do we think we can do it in the 21st?
It can be argued that the question is based on a superficial understanding of the pertinent history, and that the analysis to which it leads is glibly facile. But it can be argued equally that it reflects the sound judgment of the worldly-wise. The same observations, after all, can be heard in the chatterings of cognoscenti, in the private ruminations of worried professionals in government service, and in the rueful wise-cracks of informed observers in the halls, offices and eateries of our universities. For none of them really knows either.
At the political level, the effects of the second fog are more dispiriting still. Politicians do not debate the realities at all. The circumstances are too complex, too afflicted with uncertainties. Interpreting them effectively would require information they do not possess, and that no one can get. Even then, an honest analysis would have to be papered over with nuance and cluttered up with caveats -- with “if”s, that is, and “and”s and “but”s.
Instead, therefore, we are treated to debates over the timing of an eventual Canadian military withdrawal. Will it be this year? Next year? Some other year after that? The discussion is mindless. The circumstances in the field are volatile and constantly changing. They are similarly so in the politics of our NATO allies. Pronouncing on such a question so far ahead, and so abstracted from what future realities may turn out to be, could certainly have the effect of concentrating minds at allied headquarters in Brussels and elsewhere, ideally to helpful ‘burden-sharing’ effect. But it can serve no other useful purpose -- save possibly to promote partisan advantage by lowering the level of political discourse at home. It may even give aid and comfort to our adversaries, leading them to conclude that all they need to do is “hang in there” if they want to win the day in the end.
To be fair to ourselves, and to those who represent us, it must be conceded that these displays are not peculiar to Canadians. They have been evident elsewhere, too. It can be argued in any case that they are not new. Most wars are sources of controversy, and even more of them are fought in circumstances that make their outcomes and consequences uncertain. If it were otherwise, and the adversaries knew in advance exactly what the results would be, it would be senseless, all other things being equal (of course they rarely are), to fight them at all.
But the engagement in Afghanistan has a number of characteristics that, taken together, make it particularly susceptible to the debilitating impact of the second fog of war.
One of these is that the war itself is limited. Limited wars are fought with limited means for limited ends. For a time in the 20th century, we forgot that wars are almost always like that. Our experience of World Wars I and II, after all, was that they were not limited, but ‘total’. We regarded them as ultimate wars fought for ultimate ends, and accordingly with all the stops pulled out. In democratized liberal societies, it would have been hard to fight them had they been regarded otherwise, since no other argument could have mobilized support for the sacrifices they required. In autocratic ‘totalitarian’ societies, the legitimizing doctrines were very different and certainly less admirable, but the effect was much the same. It made it possible to trigger an ‘all out’ effort.
When the very different war broke out in Korea in 1950, one of the side-effects in the academic world was a flurry of books toying with the ‘limited war’ problem. If the war was limited – if General MacArthur was not to be allowed access to every weapon in the American arsenal to defeat his enemy, but only some of them, and if his operations were to be confined to the Korean peninsula so that he was prohibited from attacking China – how could it be justified? If the stakes were finite, how could they warrant the killing? How could they be worth the dying?
In the Korean case, the answer that was found – certainly the answer that was given – was that the war was an integral component of a much larger contest being played out in theatres all around the globe, and that what happened in the Far East would ultimately determine what happened everywhere else. The Cold War was in danger of going hot. Moscow had to be persuaded by evidence of unified western resolve that a breach of its containment would not be tolerated. Chamberlain’s error at Munich could not, and would not, be repeated. Hence the real stakes in Korea were not to be regarded as limited at all, but civilizational. Or so the message went.
The same argument was tried again in the context of the war in Vietnam, but this time it was a harder sell. Even in the United States, too many were left unconvinced. American politics – and politics elsewhere, too -- were disrupted accordingly.
On the U.S. side of the border particularly, but occasionally on the Canadian side as well, comparable arguments can now be heard once more. The battle in Afghanistan, we are told, is really part of the battle against “terrorism,” and terrorism is the weapon of counter-civilization forces. But the proposition doesn’t work very well. For Canadians especially, it can even be argued that the operation (in the short run, at least) actually increases the danger we are in by placing us higher on the terrorists’ hit list. In any event, our adversaries are both mobile and unconventional. If we make things too hot for them in Afghanistan, they may simply move somewhere else. A more persuasive rationale for our involvement is therefore required, and we find it in our liberal humanitarian purposes – in our support for democracy, human rights, the rule of law, economic development, equal treatment for women, and all the rest.
These are causes sufficiently noble, perhaps, to be worthy of the sacrifices of our military volunteers (for they are ‘volunteers’). But they are there on government orders all the same, and an educated liberal-democratic populace can hardly be criticized for seeking evidence that the enterprise is working, and that its humanitarian purposes, or some of them anyway, will actually be accomplished. We don’t have to be there, after all. No discernibly fundamental Canadian interest will be lost if the purposes we have identified prove to be unattainable. This is not a war for our survival. NATO will wobble if the engagement is lost. Our allies might be disappointed if we were to abandon ship. But the amity of our relations with them would survive their short-term chagrin. Attentive Canadians know all this. What they don’t know are the odds of success. It’s the second fog of war that keeps them from finding out.
The fog is thickened further by other factors. One of them is the evolutionary gradualism, and hence the ambiguity, that is bound to typify progress towards the achievement of the humanitarian purposes themselves. Even when they work, the transformational processes involved advance, at best, by fits and starts. There are set-backs along the way. Not everything happens at once, even if the elements in the societal system we seek to promote are interdependent, with everything depending on everything else. Minds have to change on matters that really matter, and minds everywhere find such changes difficult. All that being so, benchmarks that might demonstrate our success are hard to identify, and recognizable watersheds are truly rare. Squinting through the fog, the citizen-observer is likely to see more rocks ahead than deep channels, more comings aground than safe arrivals home. Beyond the water close aboard, moreover, he or she will see nothing at all, except, perhaps, the dire possibilities that imaginations can invent.
Another source of the thickening of the fog is the nature of the war itself. It is a counter-insurgency engagement, and counter-insurgency engagements are hard to pin down. We have seen the phenomenon often enough before, but most prominently in Vietnam. There are no moving front lines to tell us which side is gaining ground and which is losing it. The insurgents wear no uniforms to tell us who they are, or where they are. If the action recedes, we cannot easily determine whether they are in retreat, or simply taking a break. If, in any case, it recedes in one zone of operations, it may pop up again in another. Events are reported. Fire-fights are vividly described. But in the jargon of intelligence specialists, are they signals, or noise? We do not know. Maybe no one does.
It is hard to conclude anything very useful from this sort of analysis, except, perhaps, to urge our politicians – whatever their stripe – to try to elevate the debate rather than succumbing to partisan temptations and lowering it. We can suggest, as well, to our media that the fourth and fifth estates could make a more useful contribution to our public discourse if they focused less on passing events and more on assessments of the underlying forces at work, and where they are going. We need to know about the skirmishes, but accounts of them – no matter how vivid they may be – do surprisingly little to dispel the second fog of war.
And this is the fog that we so badly need to burn off. Unless we do, we are unlikely – except by chance – to have sound policy.
Presumably none of us wants to run aground.
CDFAI is a research institute pursuing authoritative research and new ideas aimed at ensuring Canada has a respected and influential voice in the international arena.
CDFAI is a charitable organization, founded in 2001 and based in Calgary. CDFAI develops and disseminates materials and carries out activities to promote understanding by the Canadian public of national defence and foreign affairs issues. CDFAI is developing a body of knowledge which can be used for Canadian policy development, media analysis and educational support. The Fellows program, a group of highly experienced and talented individuals, support CDFAI by authoring research papers, responding to media queries, running conferences, initiating polling, and developing outreach and education projects.
To be a catalyst for innovative Canadian global engagement.
CDFAI was created to address the ongoing discrepancy between what Canadians need to know about Canadian foreign and defence policy and what they do know. Historically, Canadians tend to think of foreign policy – if they think of it at all – as a matter of trade and markets. They are unaware of the importance of Canada engaging diplomatically, militarily, and with international aid in the ongoing struggle to maintain a world that is friendly to the free flow of people and ideas across borders and the spread of human rights. They are largely unaware of the connection between a prosperous and free Canada and a world of globalization and liberal internationalism. CDFAI is dedicated to educating Canadians, and particularly those who play leadership roles in shaping Canadian international policy, to the importance of Canada playing an active and ongoing role in world affairs, with tangible diplomatic, military and aid assets.
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Military Journalism Courses– annually, two eleven-day military/media courses (French and English) are run where upwards of 24 Canadian journalism students learn about dealing with the Canadian Forces.
Ross Munro Media Award – annually, CDFAI and CDA recognize one Canadian journalist who has made a significant contribution to the public understanding of defence and security issues.
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