Better security makes better neighbours
The United States and Canada may be facing a time of decreasing defence budgets, but there are ways to manage our shared defence and security concerns, John Hamre believes, including better industrial cooperation.
The president of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington gave an audience at the annual seminar of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute four ideas to consider as we plot out the next few years. Paraphrasing a quote from Winston Churchill, he said: “Now that we’ve run out of money, we have to think.”
First, the U.S. must put terrorism in perspective. With the exception of nuclear terrorism, the government, the defence and security community and the media have overstated the risk of most forms of terrorism, effectively “doing the work of the terrorists.” That must change if the U.S. is to more effectively respond to another incident like 9/11. Furthermore, in an effort to defend itself, the U.S. “continues…to put Canada on the outside of [that] shield.”
In that vein, second, America needs to rediscover the value of alliances, moving from coalitions of the willing to the much more difficult treaty-based internationalism. That includes the United Nations. Whatever its flaws – Libya on the Human Rights Council, for example – the solution is to clean up the UN, not throw it away. “We have a tendency to walk away,” he said. Treaty-based efforts provide a platform to reach agreements in other areas, he added.
Third, because of constrained resources, the U.S. must rely on others. For example, whatever comes of Canada-U.S. border and security cooperation talks, he suggested Canada must do more to protect the North. “We need you to do it. The only [country] with older icebreakers than you is us. It is in our interests to have you protect the North,” whatever our disagreements over the Northwest Passage.
Finally, American industrial protection policies date from the 1960s when the Soviet Union was the threat. “The threat has changed and the nature of industry has to change,” he said, adding that it makes little sense to subject friends and allies to the same export license process as potential adversaries. That requires new architecture for industrial cooperation. “We can not afford to waste money on administration procedures that buy us no real security.”
The Canadian army is already preparing for future combat. As BGen Jonathan Vance, Chief of Staff Land Strategy, told the Army Outlook conference in Ottawa, “I believe the next fight is just around the corner.”
In Afghanistan, where he says Canadian soldiers have been successful, fighting ranged from conventional or near-conventional to what he called the complete counterinsurgency experience. But there are some lessons that have not yet been learned.
“The major exception from my experience on what we have learned in Afghanistan is that we never faced a near-peer competitor, and this is important,” he said. “We had some bad days. We lost some soldiers, but we never came close to losing a fight.”
However, in future, Canadian forces could face opposition that is closer to their level in using indirect fire or potentially direct fire from the air. “[It could] make a bad day in Kandahar look relatively easy if you’re dealing with a near-peer competitor and I believe that the future spectrum includes that near-peer competitor,” Vance said.
Two upcoming exercises at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre in Wainwright, Alberta illustrate the nature of the change: Exercise Maple Guardian in late April and early May will prepare soldiers for the transition in Afghanistan; Exercise Maple Defender in August “is not training soldiers for deployment to Afghanistan, rather it is training soldiers in the basics as general purpose combat capable soldiers.”
Decline of the American empire?
As Vanguard was going to press, U.S. forces were in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had just disengaged from active operations and leadership in the Libyan intervention. It was an appropriate moment for Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute in Washington to ask, “Is the United States in decline, and should we care?”
As director of foreign policy studies, Preble is well placed to both pose and respond to the question. With enormous deficits, and overseas commitments that have lasted decades, clearly the financial foundations of American action aboard are eroding. As Preble said recently to a group at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies, “this pattern isn’t sustainable.”
So could the U.S. reduce its international commitments, and contribute to deficit reduction by downsizing its armed forces, without harm to an international structure that has maintained peace between the great powers for more than six decades? Today, as Preble said, “the international order is quite safe, by any standards.” (A significant and often unremarked side effect of American military might has been the tendency it induces in its allies to maintain proportionately smaller forces themselves, under the American wing. That worked for Washington, which has long held that the U.S. must not permit any other nation to achieve military parity.)
Other nations can easily step up to defend themselves, Preble believes, while the U.S. could slacken the pace and get by with a smaller navy and air force that can control local air and sea space, and a reduced nuclear deterrent capability.
“If I got my way,” he said, the U.S. would reduce military spending by about five percent to about three percent of GDP. “Would that require Canada to spend more on your military? Probably not.”
Cracking the Taliban leadership
As Canada begins the drawdown of its forces in Kandahar, it can take heart in what has been accomplished this past year. According to former ambassador to Afghanistan, Chris Alexander, this last 12 months saw the most significant strike against Taliban leadership in Kandahar as sanctuaries become fewer and fewer.
Speaking to the Conference of Defence Associations Institute recently, Alexander said perception has finally caught up with reality when it comes to civilian casualties: many Afghans now recognize that most civilian deaths are the result of Taliban improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks.
He noted, however, that although a campaign to target insurgent leaders across the Pakistan border has had success, the main Taliban leadership has “not been touched” by the Pakistani military. Given that almost every country involved in the campaign is working against agents in its own country who have trained in Pakistan-based camps, it “should be a UN issue to pressure Pakistan.”
He also warned of an escalation in insurgent activity as the fighting season resumes. Recent roadside blasts in Khost and Paktika provinces and numerous suicide bombings, as well as a coordinated attack on a police training compound in Kandahar, bear him out.
ADIANS executive appointment
The Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Nova Scotia (ADIANS) has a new executive director. Army Major JoAnne Seviour will take up her new responsibilities effective May 2. Maj Seviour is a graduate of Memorial University and holds a Master’s degree from Dalhousie University. In the most recent assignment of her 20 years with the Canadian Forces, she served as Strategic Business Planner for the Army in Halifax.
Steve Elder, the president-elect of the ADIANS board, said Seviour would be critical to the execution of the association’s strategy. Seviour will remain in the forces and serve on a part-time basis.