Canadian Defence Policy Within a Comprehensive Security Strategy

Tasneem Jamal

Ernie Regehr

Brief to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence

1. The Security Debate: An Elusive Consensus

Canadian security policy promises to be a significant and contentious subject of national debate for many years to come:

  • A new sense of threat, from terrorism to the threatened further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including the danger that non-state groups could acquire nuclear materials, will continue to bring international peace and security concerns directly to Canadian shores and into our political discourse;
  • This changed security environment, as well as changes in understanding of what security measures should encompass, means there is not broad agreement on what the most daunting threats to security really are, and on how those threats should be met.
  • Funding for National Defence will continue to compete with other urgent national priorities – in addition to health care, the urban infrastructure, and so on, funding for non-military responses to international peace and security challenges will increasingly compete with Defence for a larger share of the “security envelope”;
  • There is a widespread view, one that is embraced across the full political spectrum in Canada, that current Canadian defence policy is not workable, either because it lacks resources or because it does not address real security needs, or both;

The lack of consensus concerning the nature and extent of the threats to national and international security, and the appropriate means to counter them, is deeply rooted. For example, the threat of terrorism is certainly widely accepted as real but there is little agreement on how imminent or prominent it is relative to other threats (WorldWatch – Jan/Feb 2005 – reports that since 1968 about 24,000 people have died in just over 19,000 incidents of terrorism; in contrast more than 240,000 people die each year as the result of natural disasters like drought, floods, windstorms, wildfires, extreme temperatures – i.e. disasters against which life-saving precautions are possible). Nor is there agreement on the extent to which terrorism is a policing and intelligence problem, a military problem, or a social-economic-political problem that requires greater attention to “root causes.”

Another example of the absence of consensus is the ballistic missile threat to North America. The threat is widely accepted as real, but, again, there is little agreement on how imminent it is, on which missile threat is the greater danger (e.g., Russia’s or North Korea’s), or on whether the priority response should be defence, counter-proliferation, or non-proliferation diplomacy.

2. The Canadian Security Interest

The April 2004 tabling of the National Security Policy should be seen as part of an effort to forge a national security consensus, within which a re-formed defence policy can be located. The April policy makes the point that “although threats to Canada will change, our security interests are enduring.” Three core national security interests are identified (pp. 4-6):

  • Protecting Canada and the safety and security of Canadians at home and abroad (in US terminology, “homeland security”);
  • Ensuring that Canada is not a base for threats to our allies (see North American Security Cooperation below);
  • Contributing to international peace and security (“Canadian security will be increasingly dependent on our ability to contribute to international security” – p. 6).

“Accepting that a direct conventional military assault against Canada is unlikely out to 2020, the notion of engaged internationalism recognizes that the potential for asymmetric assaults will be reduced by resolving global problems at their source.” Navy 2020, p. 88 — reinforces the point that Canadian security requires us to be engaged in the world, but also that our engagement needs to address “problems at their source.”

3. Canada and North American Security Cooperation

3.1 Northern Transparency: To ensure that Canada is not a base for threats to our allies, Canada must in particular have the capacity to give the Americans credible assurances that threats to US security will not emerge undetected from Canadian territory, or as a result of Canadian neglect. Ever since the King/Roosevelt meetings in WWII and the Ogdensburg agreement, this mutual assurance has been at the core of Canada-US security cooperation and places certain military obligations on Canada. In short, it obliges Canada to know, and be transparent about, what is happening within our territory. During the Cold War, for example, it meant that Canada hosted early warning radars in the Canadian North to provide early warning of Soviet bombers, and was pledged to grant the US access to Canadian territory in a crisis to facilitate its defence efforts against Russian bombers.

Both now and in the Cold War, Canada agreed to a NORAD role in missile detection and tracking, although it has never been essential that missile early warning be done through NORAD because the Americans clearly have other options, i.e. do it themselves – in air defence against Russian bombers, the Americans had no alternatives to access to Canadian territory and early warning.

3.2 A BMD Digression: But it’s important to be clear that Canada did not betray that King pledge when it declined further endorsement of or involvement in BMD. Canadian involvement in BMD is not needed for Canada to credibly assure the United States that threats to its security are not emerging from Canadian territory. What Canada declined was to politically endorse BMD and to negotiate protocols related to interceptions of hostile missiles headed for Canadian territory. Whether one agrees or disagrees with that decision, it is clear that it does not in any way renege on the pledge that Canada take measures to ensure that threats to the US would not emanate from Canadian territory (we are obviously assuring the US that no missile threat to it will emanate from Canadian territory).

BMD is not the focus of these comments, but it is worth noting in passing that the decision not to participate further in BMD did not violate an historical commitment to defence cooperation with the US. Washington had already decided much earlier that BMD defence/interceptor operations would be run through NORTHCOM – a US-only operation. NORAD was never going to be active in missile interception, and a Canadian “yes” to BMD would not have altered that. And through Canada’s cooperation in NORAD’s missile launch detection and tracking function we are doing everything necessary to support the US in its effort to defend itself.

3.3 Mutual Defence and Means Testing: Nor does Canada’s decision not to participate further in BMD absolve the US of its responsibility to come to Canada’s aid if we are under attack. At Ogdensburg, King and Roosevelt confirmed Roosevelt’s earlier declaration that if Canada was attacked, the United States would not stand idly by but would come to our aid. Roosevelt did not add, provided you endorse any new weapon system we might want to pursue. Similarly, in NATO’s Article V, all members, including Canada and the US, agree “that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…”

These enduring security commitments do not have to be means tested by Canada declaring its political support for selected defence programs, policies or weapons systems independently conceived and pursued by the United States.

The means by which those Ogdensburg and NATO assurances are to be acted upon are entirely the sovereign decision of each country. Allies come to each others’ aid using the defence resources they have required in their own interests and according to their own priorities.

The Americans themselves decided to make BMD a priority – they didn’t ask Canada first, and Canada certainly didn’t ask them to pursue that capacity on our behalf. If the Americans wanted to make participation in BMD a test of Canada-US defence cooperation, then they should have put that proposition to Canada before passing the 1999 National Missile Defense Act. They didn’t consult us because they regarded missile defence as strictly their own business, and not a test of the Canada-US security relationship. They have every right to pursue BMD, whether we think it wise or not, but they cannot now say that because the US has decided to pursue BMD, Canada’s decision to confine its participation to NORAD’s missile warning and tracking function calls into question Canada’s commitment to cooperative continental security.

3.4 The Duty to Consult: And finally in this BMD digression, we should be reminded that neighbors don’t have to earn the right to be consulted. If a particular US initiative affects Canada, we don’t have to provide a blanket endorsement of it before we can expect to be consulted. Whenever the Americans undertake defence initiatives with implications for Canada, they have an obligation to consult. That is why we have a Permanent Joint Board on Defence, amongst many other consultative mechanisms – indeed, that is why we have embassies in each other’s capital.

4. Canada and International Peace and Security

4.1 Canadian Security and International Order: Because all chronic insecurity and enduring political conflicts have strategic implications, what happens beyond our borders affects our own security and interests. Furthermore, the security of and within our borders cannot ultimately be assured by Canadians acting on their own. Our security depends on a world order that is stable and in which the sovereignty and rights of Canadians are recognized and respected by others. That requires not only attention to the basic needs of Canadians, but also to the basic needs of others, and to the development of a rules-based world order. As Prime Minister Martin once put it, “we are one of the world’s most open economies, depending very much on global order and stability for our prosperity and security.” The Department of National Defence Joint Doctrine Manual on Peace Support Operations makes the same point about Canadian overseas military engagement: “Canada is well known for its desire to promote international peace and security as the stability of the world directly affects the economy and the quality of life of Canadian citizens” (emphasis added).

4.2 A Collective Effort: Although contributions to a stable international order are a contribution to our own security, they are necessarily part of a collective effort and are not a unilateral achievement or a national victory over forces that threaten us. The operative word is “contribution,” and all of Canada’s military and non-military contributions to international peace and security are undertaken in cooperation with others through the United Nations and other global and regional institutions and coalitions. By working towards international peace and security collaboratively, we strengthen the multilateral framework and the body of laws and norms which govern international relations and on which our own security depends. Mr. Martin summarized the point during his campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party: “As global solutions move from the military to the much broader spectrum of global challenges there is less and less room, let alone capability, for unilateral action. To achieve international goals, to pursue collective interests: no one nation can do it alone.”

  • Canadian multilateralism is a way of strengthening our sovereignty – in the same way that involvement in NATO was originally conceived of as a means of countering US influence. Thus, multilateralism is a means to reducing Canadian vulnerability to the US.

4.3 The Obligations of Privilege: Global security depends on contributions from many quarters, and there is a special need for states that enjoy comparatively high levels of prosperity and security at home to help build the capacity of the international community to come to the aid of those who are most insecure, to provide protection to people in extraordinary peril in states that either cannot or will not provide such protection, to help restore order and confidence in public institutions in failed or failing states, and to enforce compliance with binding international norms and commitments, including human rights and nuclear non-proliferation. Such protection, peacemaking/peacebuilding, and law enforcement are first and foremost economic, political, and diplomatic challenges. In extraordinary circumstances they become military challenges and the international community also relies on the capacity to resort to force in pursuit of these ends. One of the important functions of government, attended to by an informed and engaged civil society, is to discern which approach applies most effectively to which situation, when the resort to force is to be mandated, and what the conditions and limitations of the use of force should be.

Canada enjoys extraordinary levels of prosperity and peace and security at home, and as such is one of those states with the opportunity and the responsibility to make a significant contribution to international peace and security beyond its borders. Canadians have traditionally been supportive of their country’s active participation in efforts toward international peace and security, perhaps grounded most especially in our sense of ourselves as being part of a common humanity, and in the recognition that when some are in pain and oppressed, we are all diminished. But, in addition to being committed to a common humanity, or perhaps because we recognize that human security is indivisible, the pursuit of international peace and security is also a vital national interest for Canada.

5. Changing International Peace and Security Requirements

5.1 The Experience of Insecurity: For national and international security policies and measures to be effective they should obviously address and mitigate the ways in which people and communities experience insecurity. And around the world, the most immediate experiences of insecurity come in the form of unmet basic needs, political exclusions and the denial of basic rights, social and political disintegration, and the related escalation of criminal and political violence. In addition, the retention and further spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction pose an ongoing extraordinary threat to the safety of people – much less immediate than the other threats just noted, but with extraordinary and irremediable consequences if such weapons were to be used.

The primary threats to the safety and welfare of individuals in most instances do not stem from external military forces bent on attacking the territorial integrity of their state or on undermining its sovereignty by imposing their will on an otherwise safe and stable national order. Rather, the primary threats to security are internal and manifest in conditions of economic failure, the violation of basic rights, and political marginalization. It follows, therefore, that the primary guarantor of the security of people is less likely to be a formidable military equipped to keep foreign powers at bay than favourable social, political, and economic conditions. In other words, the promotion of human development, basic rights, and political participation are at least as essential to advancing human security, and thus national and international security, as are the development of effective military forces.

In extraordinary, though not infrequent, circumstances (often when vulnerabilities are not addressed early enough with appropriate measures), conditions of human insecurity translate into military challenges. The spreading disorder that accompanies chronic human insecurity as well as direct military threats arising from groups trying to advance their own interests through coordinated resort to force challenge states and the international community to develop effective military responses to people in peril. In the context of underdevelopment and political exclusion, the ready availability of instruments of violence mean that armed conflict is a prominent, if not inevitable, element of chronic human insecurity.

5.2 Military Capacity: That is not to say that the failure to deal effectively with criminal and political violence is due to a lack of military capacity. The international community collectively is in possession of extraordinary levels of military capacity, and simply adding to it will not prevent violence, nor will it make the world more responsive to the needs of the vulnerable or more inclined or able to assure compliance with international laws and standards. The point is not that military force has become irrelevant to international peace and security, but that for it to be relevant and effective it has to be applied within a two-fold context:

  • Military force must be used in coordination with other security measures (e.g., diplomacy, political reform, disarmament) that have become increasingly relevant;
  • When military forces are employed, they have to be trained, equipped, and managed so as to support peace and security in particular local contexts, in ways that do not escalate violence and distrust, and without resorting to attempts at militarily forced global engineering that ignore the transformative social, economic, and political conditions that are essential to durable peace and security.

5.3 The Five D’s of Security: Based on the recognition that nurturing peace and security beyond our borders requires much more than military capacity, Canadian security policy must necessarily include a range of military and non-military elements. The following therefore focuses on five Ds of a comprehensive security envelope:

  • Development – Measures to create the kinds of economic, social, and environmental conditions that are conducive to sustainable peace and stability;
  • Democracy – Measures to promote good governance that emphasize political inclusiveness and participation, as well as respect for human rights;
  • Disarmament – Measures to prevent excessive and destabilizing accumulations of arms and to prohibit weapons of mass destruction;
  • Diplomacy – Engagement in multilateral efforts toward the prevention of armed conflict, the peaceful management of political conflict, the development of a rules-based international order, and the promotion of development, democracy and disarmament;
  • Defence – The capacity to resort to the use of force in extraordinary circumstances in support of the full range of peace and security efforts.

6. Reshaping Canada’s Contribution to International Peace and Security

6.1 Current Security Spending: Canada of course spends money on all five D’s in support of international peace and security, although getting an accurate measurement is a challenge. Indeed, it would be a major service to Canadians if federal officials were to track and disclose the full extent of Canadian international peace and security spending within these five areas. A preliminary effort to identify expenditures in each of these categories concludes that Canada currently spends about $16 billion, or 1.3 per cent of GDP on the five D’s. Of that, about 20 percent is development spending, another 4 percent is on diplomacy, disarmament and democracy promotion, and just over 75 percent on defence.

6.2 Getting the Priorities Right: Spending $16 billion per year represents a substantial Canadian effort toward the collective, multilateral pursuit of international peace and security, but two questions obviously follow:

  • Is it enough? Given Canada’s extraordinary wealth, and given the high level of stability and security Canadians now enjoy at home, should we be doing more to support efforts in the rest of the world to reach similar levels of peace and security, and in the process contribute to the durability of our own well-being?
  • Is the distribution of our effort appropriate? Should some three-quarters of our peace and security effort be on military roles when the most prominent threats to the security of people come from non-military sources? Defence can certainly be expected to be the most prominent component, given its responsibilities at home as well as abroad, and given their extraordinary hardware and personnel requirements, but the basic question still applies.

6.3 The Military to ODA Ratio: Another way to look at the proportions is to compare the military-to-ODA ratio among OECD countries (IISS and OECD). The Canadian defence to development ratio is about 3.8:1 – putting it roughly in the middle of the OECD rankings. The most balanced ratio is held by Luxembourg (1.2:1), while the most disproportionate ratio belongs to the United States (24.8:1). It is not particularly relevant to compare Canada to either Luxembourg or the US, however, in comparisons between Canada and several like-minded, similarly situated, countries (Germany at 5.9:1; Netherlands, 2.2:1; Sweden, 2:1; Norway, 2:1; Denmark at 1.6:1; and Ireland at 1.8:1), Canadian peace and human security spending priorities are weighted more heavily toward the military than most.

If over the next five years development spending was actually increased to .7% of GDP, and if at the same time there was modest growth in democracy, disarmament, and diplomacy spending, including special funding for conflict resolution and war prevention, and if defence spending moved during the same period from its current level of about 1% of GDP to about 1.2% of GDP, the result would be a significant shift in emphasis toward security measures and strategies that actually address the insecurities experienced by people in their homes and communities on a daily basis – and would shift the military closer to 60 percent of the total security envelope.

  • 30% Development (.7% of GNP); 65% Defence (1.3% of GNP); and 5% on Democracy, Disarmament and Diplomacy (for a total of about 2.2% of GNP)

Overall, peace and security spending would rise from its current level of about 1.3 per cent of GDP to about 2 per cent of GDP, and the Canadian defence to development ratio would move from roughly 4:1 to 2:1 (making it comparable to Netherlands at 2.2:1; Sweden, 2:1; Norway, 2:1; Denmark at 1.6:1; and Ireland at 1.8:1).

Would that be an appropriate balance? Would an expanded peace and security envelope re-proportioned in that way be a more appropriate expression of a relevant and responsible Canadian contribution to international peace and security?

The recent budget, on the other hand, projects defence spending to increase at a faster rate than the other elements of the security envelope. The result will be a defence to ODA ration of about 4:1 and the military’s share of the security envelope increasing to almost 80 percent, and Development below 20%. Is that a rational trend in a global environment in which the most prominent threats to security of people are still unmet basic needs, political exclusion, the denial of basic rights, the loss of confidence in public institutions, and social and political disintegration?

  • According to the budget projections, ODA will end up at about .33% of GNI (CCIC), and defence will be at 1.6% (McNamara)

7. Changing Military Requirements

7.1 Winning Wars or Winning Peace? The Iraq war demonstrates the extent to which soldiers and armed forces increasingly face situations other than basic war-fighting. US forces have suffered most of their casualties in the period after the war. It was when the war was over that American forces faced their greatest challenges and have been, by all accounts, least equipped to meet those challenges.

7.2 Military Specialization: Whether in war-fighting or peacekeeping or protection or peace support operations, it is clear that national forces will function within the context of multinational forces or coalitions of the “willing” or under the United Nations. Individual states need to decide in advance the kind of capabilities they intend to be able to bring to the collective effort. In other words, specialization is inevitable – the key is to do it in a broad multilateral context, not in a narrow continental context.

  • Strategy 2020 (as referred to in the Navy’s 2020 doc, p, 14): “At the operational level, the CF will not need a comprehensive capability – except for limited domestic situations – because the CF will normally participate in international operations as a contributing part of a coalition. Internationally, the small size of the three Canadian services results in relatively few situations where they all operate together as an independent joint force and, as such, the emphasis will be on interoperability with US forces.”
  • “The need to field a complete range of combat capabilities is decreasing at the same time as the cost of doing so becomes nearly impossible for all but a minority of states to bear.” (YCISS Working Paper 25, Jan 2004)
  • Canadian force structure requirements:
    • Rapidly deployable to remote locations,
    • Airlift and follow-on sealift,
    • Capable of operating in a range of combat contexts,
    • Able to operate on its own for short periods,
    • Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) able to operate between police and military roles,
    • DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team),
    • Contributions to the UN Standby High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG).

7.3 New Military Models: Prime Minister Martin has already signaled that “merely rebuilding Canada’s armed forces on old models will not suffice.” The identification of and preparation for alternative military models must be a priority for Canadian defence planning in these early years of the 21st century. In particular, Canadian military planners will need to heed the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). In its focus on military intervention to protect civilians in peril, it posits a specialized military role between traditional peacekeeping and even more traditional war fighting: “The challenge in this context is to find tactics and strategies of military intervention that fill the current gulf between outdated concepts of peacekeeping and full-scale military operations that may have deleterious impacts on civilians.”

A Canadian defence policy relevant for the 21st Century will prioritise doctrinal, training, and equipment changes designed to meet the human security obligation to help bring basic protection to civilians caught in deadly crossfire.

7.4 Protection Operations: There is recognition that in most cases of current warfare, the intractable conflicts at their core are not amenable to either military quick fixes or diplomatic heroics. Such conflicts tragically persist and persist, and to deal with them effectively the international community requires long-term peacebuilding strategies that address the fundamental social, economic, and political failures that fuel them. In the meantime, the human security doctrine reminds us that the international community must also become more focussed on, and better equipped to come to the aid of, those civilian populations most grievously affected and imperilled as the process of slow change unfolds.

8. Meeting our Obligations to the Vulnerable

A key impediment to effective peace support and/or protection operations is the lack of international consensus on when they are required and on who should decide when that is. That lack of consensus in turn contributes to a lack of political will among key states to support or undertake such operations when their immediate national interests are not prominently at stake. As a result, intervention in support of the vulnerable is inconsistent and seemingly arbitrary, and broad public support for protecting the vulnerable is undermined and becomes chiefly guided by the interests of the powerful.

It must therefore be the aim of the international community to develop a consistent international response based on the objective conditions of the vulnerability and needs of people in peril. The lack of international consensus is also reflected in a lack of internal Canadian consensus on when and under what circumstances and under whose mandate Canadian military forces should be deployed overseas. Canada thus needs to encourage and even give leadership, as it has through the ICISS, to a serious international discussion toward the development of international norms and consistent practice with regard to peace support and protection operations.

Sealift: Major CF sealift requirements:

  • although required at High or independent Canadian military level, it will remain limited in scope;
  • deploy major elements of vanguard forces and equipment worldwide within required timelines (up to 90 days);
  • main contingency and follow-on forces will continue to make use of civilian shipping.
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