Monday, September 19, 2011

What is the future role of the Canadian military?

The history of the Canadian military has been an interesting one and always evolving.

Before 1914 Canada really had no military of its own as such.   We then had a huge military for the duration of the war and then dropped back to almost nothing.   We were down to 366 men in the navy in 1922.   In 1939 Canada once again expanded from almost nothing to a huge military.

The idea of a permanent professional Canadian military only finally came into being at the end of World War Two.

After the Korean war and until the first Gulf War, Canada had a large permanent military that was no involved in any conflict.   Canada had an aircraft carrier in this era.   At times Canada had hundreds of frontline jet fighters.    Canada had a significantly large military for a country that was not near any potential conflict zone.   And this military had 37 years of no involvement in a conflict.

With the end of the Cold War, the Canadian military has become involved in numerous conflicts:

  • 1990-91 1st Gulf War
  • 1992-95 Croatia - officially peacekeeping, but the Canadian Army did fire weapons and engage in limited combat
  • 1995 - current  Involvement in anti-piracy campaigns
  • 1999 Kosovo
  • 2001-2011 Afghanistan 
  • 2003-2008 - Iraq - formally the Canadian military was not involved, but about 150 members of the Canadian military served in Iraq either with the US or British military while they were on exchange with them.   Most prominent of them is the current Canadian Chief of Defense Staff Walter Natynczyk
  • 2011 Libya

I do not think when the Berlin wall fell in 1990 and the Cold War ended that anyone thought that the Canadian military would be busier.   Canada seems to fallen into a very active role globally without ever thinking about what we are doing or why.

From 1957 to 1990 Canadians took a lot of pride in peacekeeping missions conducted by the Canadian military, but even peacekeeping has changed with the end of the Cold War.   With the end of the Cold War, peacekeeping has been allowed to take a more active role in intervention in countries around the world.   21st century peace keeping is a lot more active than the first 33 years of peacekeeping.

Without planning for what Canada will use it military for, the ability to achieve the goals of the government become much harder to achieve.   The purchase of the F-35s precludes a lot of other options for the Canadian military.

If the role of Canada is to be able to intervene in an urgent conflict somewhere in the world, the planning for future equipment has to take that into account.   It strikes me that the military really needs transport planes to be able to move the army to whatever locations around the globe that need Canadian intervention.  

It also strikes me that Canada needs a navy that can support a Canadian presence globally.   Large enough supply ships, enough supply ships in general, and combat ships that can effectively act in the role required of them all over the world.  

I really have no expertise in this area and I am a pacifist.   What concerns me is that no one seems to be actively having this debate in Canada.   We are about to spend a lot of money on planes and ships, but we do not really know why we want them and what role they can fulfill.   Without a good debate, and this has to include members of the current military being part of that debate, we are assured we will not end up with a military anyone was looking for.
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