We live in a world that is ringing with the clangour of weapons.
Mankind is arming on all sides, and it will go ill with a state that is unable or unwilling to rely on its own strength.
~Heinz Guderian Achtung-Panzer!
The above quote is the first sentences in Achtung-Panzer! first published in 1937. The height of global economic troubles, the rise of extremisms, a mad rush to secure scarce resources, scapegoating others for every problem, persecution of minorities and a reshaping of the balance of power made Guderian’s time a scary one. Pity nobody was warning the world of what could happen if certain groups were left unchecked, appeased or supported. Of course Winston Churchill in Britain and Tommy Douglas warned of Hitler’s evil, but they were just war mongers and anti-German, right?
Imagine living in a world where idealism caved into predators in order to buy the appearance of peace. Imagine living in a world where Democracies looked weak and full of hot air. Sadly, we don’t need to imagine these things, we live in this world, the predators, extremists and idealists have changed names but they are still playing the old game. Russia, China, Iran, Islamists, Fascists and many other nations or groups are pushing for their aims regardless of public opinion, international law or Human Rights.
A potential new threat is Russia’s new Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command to cover the Arctic portions of Russia and to them that includes territory claimed by Russia’s neighbours. Canada, for those who skipped geography, is a neighbour of Russia and if we want sovereignty over our portion the Arctic, the North West Passage and Arctic resources we had better do more than make wishes. Canada was the first nation to recognize Ukraine’s independence and now we make a few pleas, slap some ignored and irrelevant sanctions on a few people on the fringes of Russian power, and go back to burying our heads in domestic side shows. We’ve allowed our once elite Diplomatic Service to become a subsidized sales arm of our extraction industries. It isn’t our soldiers, sailors and air force personnel who are the first line of Canada’s defence, it is our diplomats. It is past time to rebuild the diplomatic service and give its dedicated members the resources they need to represent Canada, make peace in the world and create opportunities for more than our oil and mining companies.
When diplomacy fails it is time for the spies to start listening at keyholes and infiltrating potentially hostile organizations. Canada has the domestic counter-intelligence and electronic eavesdropping components of national intelligence but is missing a dedicated human intelligence agency for foreign espionage. There have in the past been different foreign intelligence gathering activities but it has been a hodgepodge with little oversight, direction or lasting residual expertise. It is time for a Canadian foreign intelligence service that reports to the Chief Clerk and Prime Minister and is overseen by a committee of Parliament. We’ve long been a target for espionage perhaps we should start spying on foreign spy agencies to find out who they have in Canada.
For many Canadians the Canadian Forces are a joke, the little buddy of United States Forces or a political prop. Many think America will defend us or at least scare off the group/country targeting us. It is easy to be smug and superior about our universal health care when America can’t afford it because it has to provide defences for its allies. If Canada developed the forces to defend ourselves maybe our US neighbours could afford universal health care, disaster mitigation/preparedness, and many other things set aside for their huge defence budget.
We don’t just go shopping for new toys and definitely don’t go using the defence budget to support friends in industry or the unions. There has to be a strategic review, a capability assessment based on the review and what exists, analyses of everyones’ lessons learned over the past few decades and then creating the forces needed. Once finding the people needed for the forces the next step isn’t buying equipment but training people to be the best in the world. The next step is providing a coherent, combined services warfighting doctrine for our times and going forward. Then when everything else is taken care of buy the equipment that fits the needs, people, doctrine and budget. The current government’s buy first and make it fit their Napoleonic view of warfare is the example of how to defeat the military before the war.
A strategic review of Canada’s situation in the world will no doubt show that our southern border is secure, our Pacific border and Atlantic border are somewhat vulnerable and our Arctic border is undefended. To move military units closer to where they are needed is going to take some political courage to ignore the outcries of communities putting their economic health ahead of national security. Canada will want to reap the benefits that Climate Change is going to bring in the NorthWest Passage, having all of our security assets half a continent away will cede the NorthWest Passage to Moscow. Climate change will also reshape the world in ways that will lead to more conflict when farms become deserts, islands drown and other consequences of our pollution change haves to have nots.
It will cost Canada resources to restore our diplomatic service, create a human intelligence service and transform the Canadian Forces for the Twenty-First Century. Being stingy, or narrowly focusing on local interests maybe the preferred option for many Canadians but that happened in the Thirties and resulted in a greater expenditure of resources and worse cost nearly 150,000 Canadian lives. Achtung-Panzer! was the training manual for German tank forces that fought in World War II, Canada and its allies were not ready for that new way of warfare (Even though our army helped develop it). Warfare is again changing with the addition of cyber warfare to assist the conventional methods as an example. Better to spend money on diplomats, spies and defence than bury fellow citizens because of lack of readiness.
There are threats in this world that Canadians are ignoring, there are also opportunities that Canada is missing. The opening of the Arctic means quicker moving of Canadian goods to market, emerging economies provide new markets and new technologies are emerging to change our lives. Canadians need to be more aware of the world, relying on old markets, technologies and other people’s defence budgets leaves us a relic of dead era. We as a nation need to stop debating the minutia like potholes and start debating the important issues such as what is Canada’s global role in the next decades?