A COMMON MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM FOR NORTH AMERICA:
CANADA SHOULD GET ON BOARD
By John Thompson
For a nation that spent much of the last 50 years being noticed, we Canadians seem to be in serious danger of playing solitaire these days. The neighbor who has sent us so many invitations is being patient with us, but wonít be for much longer.
Back in 1940, as Hitlerís Panzers were gazing at the White Cliffs of Dover across the English Channel, Canada and the United States of America entered into the Ogdens- burg agreement about continental defence against outside threats. It has proven to be a good deal for Canada, and one of the biggest projects that came out of it was the North American Air Defence (NORAD) Agreement back in the 1950s.
The central point about NORAD is that Canada (being a large nation with a small population) needs external help to defend its own territory, while the United States appreciates our vast distances, which gives them time and space in which to react to threats like bombers and missiles. The convenience is mutual, but to clinch the deal almost 50 years ago, the U.S.A. agreed to let Canadians fully share in the NORAD command structure. This has meant that leadership there rotates between American and Canadian officers; it has also meant that Canadians get full and complete access to the information developed by NORAD, and that our manufacturers get a fair share of the contracts to supply it.
The "air breathing" threat from bombers and cruise missiles has become much di- minished in recent years, and it is time to renew NORAD again. While ballistic mis- siles have been a threat since the group was born (and early warning of missile launches is a key NORAD responsibility), the number of countries that can launch missiles towards North America is growing quickly. Also, the Americans have de- veloped anti-missile technology to the point where defences against inbound ballistic missiles are now workable.
Accordingly, Canada has been given an invitation. The Americans would like to fold continental missile defence into NORAD (combining the early warning structure with the "battle fighting" components of missile defence, and combining air defence with missile defence seems like a natural fit). If Canada wants to participate in missile defence, NORAD will expand to hold this new function. If we Canadians donít want to participate, the old NORAD will continue, more or less, but the Americans wonít expect our help.
If we join in, well, we will get to know what is going on. Canadians would be intimately involved in planning, monitoring, and defending against ballistic missiles. Canadian businesses would get a share of some cutting edge research and industrial develop- ment. If we donít join, we get no benefit.
It is not that the Americans need to base anti-missile missiles in Canada, or to site new radar and communications centers here (although such rockets would fly over Canada, if launched to hit incoming missiles). In short, we are not vital to the success of a missile defence command--regardless of whether or not it is in NORAD--and it really will not cost us much to get involved.
So why arenít we rushing to sign up? In a world of smart weapons, there are still some dumb people--and some of them can be found on Parliament Hill. One of the stranger mental constructions of the old Peace Movement is that self-defence is somehow or other immoral (a proposition that really ought to be tested on an indi- vidual level, but we have laws about common assault). And of course, there are those who see their idea of a Canadian national identity beginning and ending with being contrary to the Yanks.
The United States continental missile defence program will not see nuclear weapons (nor any weapons at all) being deployed in outer space. MPs like John Godfrey tend to overlook that fact while squawking about the "militarization of space." Alas, Mr. Godfrey has not realized that space has been militarized since the first Nazi V-2 rocket arched into space before screaming down on London in 1944. The American plan is ground-based, and only envisions firing weapons into space in order to defend against incoming ones.
Anyway, Mr. Godfrey and his colleagues on the Hill may wish to become old-maids, but, hopefully, the majority of them are smart enough to recognize a good invitation when they see it, and smart enough to realize what may happen if we turn it down.
Military Defense & National Security
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U.S. National Security Strategy
John Thompson is President of the Mackenzie Institute, which studies political instability and terrorism.
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