As Canada prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, it is time to reflect on the future role of our military in the world.
Our active involvement in Afghanistan transformed Canada into a “nation at war.”
The tragic loss of 158 Canadian men and women to this war, along with the enormous price tag of $18 billion is a constant reminder of Canada’s longest-ever war.
The Conservatives are constantly glorifying war and the fact that they spent $30 million to celebrate the War of 1812 is another testament to this effect.
With Canada actively engaged in discussions to establish military bases in a number of countries we are led to believe Canada is preparing for more military adventures overseas and not necessarily under the United Nations (UN) flag.
There is much speculation as to whether or not Canada will take part in potential interventions in Syria or Iran.
My preference would be for Canada to once again become a world player under the UN flag. The concept of peacekeeping was initiated by Canada and we have long been admired as a nation who consistently contributed to this effort.
A 2010 Nanos poll indicated four out of five Canadians ranked UN Peacekeeping as a higher priority than even North American security and defending the Arctic.
Considering that UN peacekeeping operations cost less and have a higher success rate than other forms of interventions, it is shameful that of the 84,000 military personnel from 115 countries serving on 16 UN Peacekeeping efforts, Canada is only contributing 33, a number which has been steadily declining.
It seems to me our priorities for our military should be the following: defence/sovereignty, UN-led peacekeeping, domestic/international disaster relief, and protecting the safety and security of Canadians, including search and rescue.
NATO was originally formed to create a balance of power against the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II.
Yet, as the global context changes, the purpose of alliances such as NATO must also evolve and even be questioned.
Canadians should encourage the government to use our position in NATO to promote a more comprehensive approach to international security. Canada also has the opportunity to contribute to international alliances, especially the UN, in a more meaningful way and it is clear that Canadians want a more humanitarian approach.
I have always believed that we should be able to defend ourselves and that this involves having a strong presence along our coastlines and suitable aircraft to patrol our borders.
However, the government’s planned purchase of the controversial F-35 striker aircraft is a more comfortable fit for further U.S.-led combat missions under an integrated command structure.
With the primary purpose of this stealth bomber being to attack and drop bombs, a number of military analysts have suggested that this aircraft is poorly suited for defence of our territory, particularly the north.
It may make sense to have the capability to mount joint military efforts with the U.S. but this should not lead to a complete integration of our fighting forces and a loss of sovereignty in decisions regarding the defence of our territory.
It is time we had a full debate about the role and future of our armed forces.
– Alex Atamanenko is MP of the B.C. Southern Interior