Friday, July 07, 2006

Onward Canadian Soldier! - Jul 7

Well it seems our boys are actually going to get the tools they need to do the job. Relying on the U.S. for heavy aircraft to get to where we want to go is ridiculous. On another note, I believe this $17b that was being earmarked for the military was something that was initiated by the Liberals when they were in power all those years. A lot of posturing and foot-dragging ensued which is why it was never properly implemented under Chretien and Martin. Good to see PM Harper actually putting his money where his mouth is. Well OK, it's taxpayer's money but you get the general idea. Canada is small compared to the U.S., it will be nice to assert ourselves on the world stage once again independent of American foreign policy. Those of you with a leftist bent will disagree, but you can't have a strong foreign policy without a strong military. It just doesn't work that way.

The Man in Black

Stratfor -- Predictive, Insightful, Global Intelligence


Canada: Moving Itself Militarily
Jul 06, 2006

Summary

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the White House July 6 to lend personal credibility to his recent security initiative. On June 29, the Harper government unfolded a multipronged "Canada First" strategy that will boost defense spending in order to provide the airplanes, helicopters, ships and trucks necessary for Canada to project an independent and interoperable military capability around the world.

Analysis

A visit to the White House July 6 by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was intended to signal Canada's commitment to maintaining security in an uncertain world. On June 29, the Harper government began unveiling a defense spending program, with outlays at a level that has not been seen in decades. Dubbed "Canada First," the program calls for more than $17 billion ($15 billion U.S.) to acquire strategic- and tactical-lift airplanes, medium-to-heavy-lift helicopters, joint-support supply ships and thousands of army logistical trucks. Once delivered, this equipment will give Canada an independent ability to project its armed forces anywhere in the world.

These acquisitions -- which likely will include C-17s and C-130J Hercules transports and CH-47 Chinook helicopters -- will significantly boost the capabilities of the Canadian armed forces, which have been limited by severe budget cuts made by the previous Liberal government and have had to make do with antiquated and borrowed equipment. Their workhorse C-130s have been relied on for tactical transport since the early 1960s, and many are at the end of (if not past) their life expectancy. A NATO and NORAD ally, Canada has had to rely on contracted strategic aircraft to ferry personnel to and from distant theaters of operations, including their high-profile and sustained commitment in Afghanistan.

The Canadians also realized this limitation when trying to mobilize and send their Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to Indonesia following the December 2004 tsunami; the DART team had to wait for days while an Antonov transport aircraft could be located and the terms of its lease finalized. In Afghanistan, the lack of heavy-lift helicopters capable of transporting troops and material on operations in the country's thin mountain air has underscored the limits of Canada's current military-transport capabilities.

A general reluctance to acknowledge that Canadian soldiers are primarily warriors -- not peacekeepers -- did not prevent the Harper government from securing a vote in parliament May 17 to extend the Canadian deployment in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009. In the vote, the government gained the support of the opposition Liberal Party, which held power when Canadian troops first deployed to Afghanistan in 2001. The Liberals, who control 103 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, voted to approve the extension in their individual capacities rather than as an opposition bloc because the party is in the process of electing a new leader. Canada has deployed its frontline combat units to Afghanistan, including an estimated 40 members of its secretive special forces unit, Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), and a battle group from the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. The Canadian mission to Afghanistan, which has included operations to track down high-profile targets, has garnered international respect for Canadian units' combat and special operations capabilities. The government of Canada has in turn increased the budget for JTF2, purportedly doubling its size.

As long as U.S. and Canadian foreign policies align, Canada can count largely on the United States and coalition allies to provide air support, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Lacking airlift capabilities of its own, however, Canada would be hard-pressed to pursue an independent foreign and security policy and intervene in a place where the United States is unwilling to go. Canada equates this weakness with an inability to ensure its sovereignty and national security.

At the same time, the Harper government is taking a political risk in its high-profile commitment to boosting Canada's military capabilities. A minority government with 124 seats in parliament, Harper could be brought down with an opposition vote of no confidence. If Canadian forces in Afghanistan suffer significant casualties, or if Harper falls prey to accusations that his defense commitments align Canada too closely with the United States, the opposition Liberal and New Democratic parties may seek such a vote. The Harper administration has considered early elections in order to pre-empt the opposition from derailing its policies.

Support for the troops in Afghanistan -- where Harper went on his first foreign trip since being elected prime minister Jan. 23 -- is more than mere rhetoric. His announced boost in defense spending will enable Canada to join those nations that can independently project their forces and defend their interests at home and abroad.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

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