Why Canada Should Bolster its Military Readiness
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been widely condemned in Canada and around the world. Ukrainian-Canadians and others are travelling to Ukraine to join its fight, while the governments of many countries, including Canada, are providing Ukraine with everything from money to equipment. Unfortunately, the Russian invasion shows an unpleasant truth about the world. Countries still need to be able to defend themselves against military aggression and be ready to fight when necessary.
Canada is no exception to this, especially since we’re close neighbours with Russia too. If Vladimir Putin had decided to attack to Russia’s east, Alaska would be the first place he struck, but the Yukon would be a close second. How would we be able to defend ourselves? The Americans would be rightly furious if we didn’t do anything to help them, and it would be embarrassing for us as a country.
These debates are nothing new in Canada. The issue of how exactly Canada should defend itself, particularly in alliance with the United States, has been a recurring debate since the end of the Second World War. In the 1950s and 60s, many Canadians were upset at the presence of American missiles on our soil and how much we cooperated with the U.S. on defence. More recently, we debated whether to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its proposed missile defence shield. In these cases, public opposition led to Canada not joining either one.
During the Cold War, the Canadian, U.S. and other governments did a lot of appalling things, but they faced a Communist bloc that was infamous for killing or enslaving anyone who dared to question it. The U.S. and Canada have both always had far more room for criticism and condemnation than most Communist societies, even to the point of subsidizing them through arts grants, tax breaks and academic funding. We were in real danger from Communism and needed all the help we could get. Working with the U.S. was our best hope of surviving.
On the other hand, our staying out of the U.S.’s harebrained invasion of Iraq and refusing to join the missile defence shield were the right decisions. Iraq wasn’t a threat to us, and missile defence would have been a staggeringly expensive failure. When we do provide help, we should probably only do it when the locals actually ask for our aid, the way Britain did in the World Wars, Kuwait did in the early 1990s or Ukraine is now.
Canada’s response to these kinds of conflicts has changed over time, but the basic principle is the same. We need to be able to defend ourselves, as Ukraine is now, but we can’t afford the risk of wasting our defence resources on things that don’t actually benefit us. It also means having a military that’s well-equipped to do the job. Judging by all the stories of misconduct and procurement screw-ups within our military, Canada doesn’t compare well to Ukraine.
Originally published at https://www.stalberttoday.ca on March 17, 2022.