A new role in the intelligence game?
Canada’s ad hoc approach to intelligence gathering, even post-9/11, has “created a skewed intelligence community” that has become very good at some things but less effective at others, including foreign intelligence, says Wesley Wark.
However, with a little focus, Wark, a professor at the Munk Centre for International Studies and a visiting research professor at the University of Ottawa, believes Canada could be among the best at the intelligence game.
“We could be really good at it. We are a cosmopolitan, international, well-educated, multicultural society, and we’re good technologically.”
The Conservative Party floated the idea of a foreign intelligence service in its 2006 campaign platform. Harper has yet to put forward the government’s vision for the intelligence community, but Wark, in a presentation to the Canadian International Council in January, said a made-in-Canada foreign service may come about by necessity. “I think we need that kind of intelligence.”
The Second World War put Canada in the intelligence game, and successfully. But as the war drew to a close, debate swirled in senior circles about the country’s intelligence needs in the post war period. To be an effective player, we would need to know more about the world. What could we take from our experience in WWII to build a peacetime intelligence community?
It’s just one of two times in our history that we’ve asked these questions, Wark notes.
Camps sprung up. One in the military advocated for a global intelligence approach with foreign espionage, while, across town, another in External Affairs “wanted something quiet…along British lines.” The latter won out and held sway until 9/11.
Though we have reaped the benefits of partnerships with the U.S., U.K. and others, with minimum investment, the approach has often served the interests of others. “It was not created to feed Canadian decision-makers,” said Wark, past president of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies.
Consequently, the intelligence community has been insulated from top levels of government and, as a result, has remained “a mystery…for everyone except the intelligence community. We got quietly good at all types of intelligence gathering but were never publicly recognized.” Movies and books abound about American and British exploits, but, as Wark dryly notes, “James Bond never came to Canada.”
There are “all kinds of things wrong about the James Bond kind of intelligence, but the mystique helps in terms of recruitment of getting the best and the brightest, and with politicians who think they are getting a briefing from James Bond.”
That insulation from users – cabinet members, senior bureaucrats and the decision-making process – has reduced influence. With little profile and no way to tell its story, intelligence was done on the cheap. And, Wark adds, because the Canadian public was never part of the equation either, it was “never forced to grapple with what is intelligence, what do we need, what are appropriate laws?”
September 11 clearly changed that. But rather than answer the strategic question – what do we need from intelligence to cope with asymmetrical foreign conflicts? – the government reacted with measures “divorced from a strategic plan.”
The 2001 security budget allocated an unprecedented $7.3 billion, creating such organizations as the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre and the Financial Transactions Reports Analysis Centre. The Antiterrorism Act introduced stronger legal measures while the Smart Border Agreement “assuaged some American concerns while winning the essential Canadian position that the border had to remain both secure and open.” All, however, were constructed in an emergency environment.
In April 2004, the government followed with the National Security Policy, an attempt to address gaps and provide strategic direction. Judged against those objectives, Wark contends, “it was a miserable, very Canadian, failure.”
It had three main objectives: secure Canada domestically against emerging threats; prevent the country from becoming a launching pad for terrorism; and make a contribution to improving international security. Wark argues that the document “couldn’t make up its mind regarding the nature of the threats…it was not able to make distinctions between terrorism and pandemic.” The one positive, he notes, is a chapter on intelligence, the first recognition of the need for a different kind of Canadian intelligence.
The intelligence cycle consists of collection, assessment/analysis and dissemination, and though Canada has excelled in some types of collection – signals, imagery – that disconnect between the community and its users still remains, he says. There is no system for a regular intelligence product that can be presented at cabinet level. Conversely, we lack a way for senior politicians to direct the community on what they need.
With so many major decisions, home and abroad, requiring intelligence, getting good intelligence has never been more crucial.
R2P: Evolving norm or hopeless ideal?
Six and a half years ago, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty delivered, with support of the Canadian government, a report entitled Responsibility to Protect. Four years later, in September 2005, 155 heads of state and the UN Security Council accepted it.
But does it have any traction as an international norm, especially in a post 9/11 context? That was the question put before a panel hosted by the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa in March.
Michael Ignatieff, deputy leader of the Liberal Party, was a member of the Commission. After signing the final document in Wakefield, Quebec in the last days of summer 2001, he recalled walking up the hill behind the conference centre to the resting place of Lester Pearson, a poignant reminder of what a Canadian of a previous generation had accomplished for conflict resolution.
Ignatieff said the tragedies of Rwanda, Burundi, Kosovo and East Timor had convinced him and his colleagues that international intervention had been “too little…and too late.” The report was an attempt to encourage states to intervene more willingly and frequently.
Eleven days later, however, “the world changed.”
Afghanistan and Iraq, whatever their failings, did not fit the test for responsibility to protect (R2P). But international reaction to both has been, in part, a contributor to the unwillingness of states to intervene in such crises as Sudan, a clear R2P case. “It’s very hard to assemble the willing to respond,” Ignatieff said.
Don Hubert, an associate professor with the University of Ottawa who formerly led policy development on human security for Foreign Affairs, believes R2P is a resilient norm. Although the world has changed, he said, conflicts such as those in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to occur, “thus the continued relevance for the norms and principles of R2P.”
He notes that norms rarely “live or die on the first test case,” the abolition of slavery being a case in point. And although Darfur certainly warrants attention, it has obscured other crisis where R2P could help such as the DRC. It’s unrealistic to “expect consistent application,” he said. But with each attempt, we can “find insights on which we can build doctrine in the future.” Australian efforts in East Timor and British intervention in Sierra Leone suggests there is some willingness to act.
Ignatieff admits with hindsight, “I don’t think with R2P we were sufficiently honest of what we were doing.” But, he adds, “I don’t want people to think I’m walking away from it.” The challenge lies in how to advance it.
Robert Fowler, a former ambassador to the UN and deputy minister of National Defence, suggested R2P was never a norm. He called it a brilliant idea “with no chance of success.” It has never had support from more than two percent of the UN and never had “reasonable prospects of succeeding,” he said, pointing to the West’s unwillingness to challenge the government of Sudan or expend blood and treasure.
Louise Frechette, former Deputy Secretary General of the UN and a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, argues that although “momentum has weakened,” progress has not been lost.
Developed countries have steered clear of R2P to avoid being compelled to act in conflicts in which they have no direct interest while developing nations have been reticent to endorse a doctrine that might justify intervention in their own countries.
Nonetheless, developed countries still have a humanitarian obligation to protect, something that can’t wait until the two sides in a conflict are ready to accept a neutral peacekeeping force. “I find that hard to square with R2P,” Frechette told an audience at Carleton University in February. “There is a new paradigm taking root.”
Evolving norm or unrealistic ideal, the UN has taken steps to see it conceptualized. Last year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointment Edward C. Luck of Columbia University and the director of Studies of the International Peace Academy, as a special adviser with the role of clarifying and building consensus around R2P.
Aid: New rules required
For all the good that is accomplished through international aid, the manner in which it is delivered is hardly stellar – wasteful, had hoc and sometimes corrupt.
“We have 21st century problems that we are approaching with 20th century institutions,” says Ashraf Ghani, chairman of the Institute of State Effectiveness and former minister of finance in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004.
Ghani likens the “aid complex” in size and secrecy to the military industrial complex, a patchwork system that he says is plagued by corruption, a lack of transparency, and too many well-intentioned people working at cross-purposes.
At a presentation in Ottawa in March, he argued that, rather than any consensus on aid, “there are thousands of reports that just confuse. We need to start putting priorities in order.”
Ghani served as an adviser to the United Nations during the Bonn process and the establishment of the first post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. He has also assessed numerous aid projects around the world and has seen firsthand the futility of too many efforts.
He notes, for example, that of the $2 billion the U.S. allocates for food aid each year, 65 percent goes to administration. “Here, the principle of do no harm is violated every second…We have to rethink aid fundamentally.”
Aid projects are indispensable but they must be part of a coordinated program. Ghani suggests the skill sets of people delivering aid are insufficient – mid-level generalization is missing – and that “we need to bring pattern recognition, understanding of balance and context. When the UN does a needs assessment, they go for the moon.”
As examples, he points to the Loyal Jirga in Afghanistan in 2002, in which 325 projects totalling $80 billion were proposed – “we had a $16 million budget available” – and the needs assessment conducted for Sudan in 2005, which perfectly suited the needs of a government in 2011, but offered nothing for 2005. “There was no mechanism to manage money, [and although] the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was written in beautiful language, it required Canadian capability to implement.”
Furthermore, too often there is poor communication between projects – the justice sector in Afghanistan has 64 institutions, he says, all unconnected.
Breaking the silos between security, diplomacy, development and trade and investment would go a long way to improving aid, Ghani said, as would a better understanding of national priorities, project sequencing and expenditure.
Asked what more Canada should be doing, he said, “only Norway matches you as a global citizen…[but you] have failed to use your convening power. If you did, you could be a catalyst for…[an] agenda of change.” Canada’s voice at the UN has power and the UN, he reminded his audience, is a precious resource – “we would not be able to get agreement on its creation today.”
However, the Canadian public must first be sold on the idea of 10 to 20 year engagements in development programs, and to view aid dollars as an investment in a venture capital fund. Invested wisely, the payoffs could be tremendous.
Canada to lead Op ALTAIR
Canada will take the helm of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), a naval coalition operating in the Middle East, from June to September 2008.
Commanded by Commodore Bob Davidson, the fourth rotation of Operation ALTAIR, will monitor shipping, and help detect, deter and protect against unauthorized activity.
The deployment includes three Canadian warships and more than 850 sailors, soldiers and airmen and women: HMCS Iroquois, a destroyer that will act as the command platform for the task force, HMCS Calgary, a frigate, and HMCS Protecteur, an auxiliary oil replenishment ship.
CTF 150 included ships from France, Germany, Pakistan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canada will hand over command of the task force to Denmark in September.