Little Lost Canadians: Thinking About Missile Defence Print
Peace News
Friday, 04 March 2005 06:23
Little Lost Canadians: Thinking About Missile Defence

Winnipeg Free Press: A critique of fuzzy thinking on missile defence, and an attempt to correct factual errors about Canadian participation in NORAD and opting-out of ABM.

Date: Fri, 04 Mar 2005 06:54:44 -0500
From: John Murray Clearwater < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Subject: Little Lost Canadians: thinking about missile defence


Thursday, 3 March 2005
Winnipeg Free Press

By John Clearwater

THERE has been a great deal of muddled thinking over the missile-defence
issue and its relationship to the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

For the past two years, Canadians have been warned that failure to join
Washington's quest for ballistic missile defence would have disastrous
consequences for both our trade relations and the very survival of NORAD.

For the past week, commentators have blasted away at the leaked, then
announced, decision of Prime Minister Paul Martin to decline official
BMD participation. Their main theme is that, by declining to
participate, Canada has doomed NORAD.

Is there any rationality in this argument, or are the people who make it
just little lost Canadians in search of an intellectual home south of
the border?

The fact is that Canada formally rejected missile defence almost 40
years ago -- and even went so far as to put it in writing in the NORAD
agreement. Back then, the U.S. was committed to the deployment of a
limited "anti-China" ABM system, and Ottawa did not wish to be involved
in any way.

When the NORAD Treaty was renewed on March 30, 1968, Ottawa added an
interpretative clause, which stipulated that the agreement "will not
involve in any way a Canadian commitment to participate in an active
ballistic missile defence."

The Americans had no problem with this. Trade, diplomatic contact and
military co-operation increased annually. The sky did not fall. And
neither did NORAD.

The anti-ABM clause was not deleted until 1981. Although the clause was
gone, Canada did not directly participate in the Reagan-era "Star Wars"
missile-defence program. On Sept. 7, 1985, the Mulroney government
declined a U.S. invitation to participate in the research stage of the
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

So, within our lifetimes, there are two examples of both Liberal and
Conservative governments saying no to participation in missile-defence
schemes, and neither caused an end to NORAD. What could have led anyone
to think that a negative answer would doom the institution this time?

The same commentators claim that Canadians are responsible for the
puzzlement and confusion in Washington, and among Americans generally,
over our decision. Well, no offence, but the Americans do not have a
great track-record when it comes to understanding any decision that does
not accord with their way of thinking. That we might feel bad about this
flaw is hardly an argument in BMD's favour. That commentators have
actually made this argument is just another example of their
impoverished reasoning.

The clear and simple fact is that Paul Martin and the Liberals have
already given the United States exactly what it sought to begin with --
full co-operation by NORAD in missile-defence work. Last August, Ottawa
and Washington agreed that NORAD's aerospace warning function would be
used "in support of the designated commands responsible for missile
defence of North America." NORAD was already, by signature of Canadian
ambassador Michael Kergin, an integral part of the missile-defence

Since Canada already provides manpower for the NORAD early-warning and
battle-command posts at our expense, and as these are free gifts to the
operation of the missile-defence program, there is no reason to think
that Canada is getting a free ride. In fact, Washington gets the extra
staffing without paying the bill.

The lesson of history is that Canada does not have to participate in
U.S. missile-defence plans, and that NORAD was never at risk. A desire
to placate Washington is the only reason for further involving Canada in
the current U.S. missile-defence scheme through back-door deals and
quiet support.

Dr. John Clearwater is a specialist in nuclear weapons and international
He is the author of "U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Canada".

? 2005 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 March 2005 06:23