The Gander Airport of Defense Policy Update: Awaiting Canada’s Defence Policy Review

By Danny Lam

The Trudeau regime promised Canadians a defense policy update on June 7 after PM Trudeau visit with his counterparts at NATO and G7.   Meanwhile, North Korea tested two ballistic missiles, (May 13&21, 2017), one that demonstrated a re-entry vehicle for nuclear warheads, and the latter a solid fuel MRBM that directly threatens much of Western Europe and the Middle East when launched from DPRK’s Axis collaborator Iran.    The following analysis of what is likely to be in the forthcoming Defense Policy Update is based on analysis of submissions and pubic consultations, public statements by officials in Canada and allies, and discussions with defense industry experts and suppliers.

The “updated” Canadian defense policy will go down in history as the Gander Airport of Canadian Defense:   Gander airport was the largest, busiest mid-North Atlantic refueling stop until the jet age.   Ottawa invested to upgrade the airport in 1971 even as longer ranged jet aircraft began to dominate air travel in the 1960s and bypassed Gander, creating a white elephant that only was used to full capacity exactly once: 9/11.

Canada is about to repeat the Gander story in Defense Policy with the “update” that will be shown by 2018 to have failed in identifying the main, imminent existential threat to Canadians, and with it, how the Canadian Armed Forces can address the challenges and what it will cost in 2017 and 18, not by 2030.   What are the failures?

North Korea under Kim Jong Un is a clear and immediate existential threat to Canada and allies.   This is now generally recognized by Pacific allies like South Korea, Japan, Australia and the US but not Canada.   European NATO allies are in the process of joining the consensus after the most recent DPRK missile test that was a proxy for their financier and Axis partner Iran.

Yet, the Liberal regime of Canada put forward a Defense Policy that ignored the near term threat from North Korea’s nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles beginning 2019.   By then, DPRK will be a credible thermonuclear ballistic missile threat to Canadian population centers like Vancouver.   Furthermore, Canada’s defense and foreign policy establishment failed to recognize the motivations that is driving the Kim Jong Un regime, preferring to be concerned with softwood timber tariffs and milk quotas.

DPRK is not arming with WMDs that can threaten Canada just for the sake of deterrence, but for the purpose of extortion.  Extortion is the use of force or threat of force to obtain money, property. It is fundamentally and legally distinct from blackmail.   (Bracken, 2017).    Nuclear blackmail has precedence with Israel’s threat to use nuclear weapons unless they received urgent conventional arms aid during the Yom Kippur War.     Nuclear extortion has no known precedence EXCEPT DPRK.

If sanctions and military action failed to prevent Kim Jong Un’s North Korea from successfully practice nuclear extortion, it will be devastating to the existing world order. It is a matter of time before states like Canada become tribute paying vassals if DPRK prevails.   Or nuclear blackmail will be applied to other issues like genocide, imposing religions by force, or other purposes that Anglo-Europeans abhor.

Canada need to urgently evaluate the extent and scale of threat in the Second Nuclear Age where Canada cannot solely rely on American extended deterrence as sufficient to deter regimes like North Korea in the near term.   The Defense Policy review is silent on what needs to be done in 2017 to have a deterrent and/or defensive capability in place by 2019 or sooner.

Allies like Australia, Japan, S. Korea, and the United States are giving Beijing China a last chance to curb the DPRK threat this year.   Should that fail, Canadian Defense Policy must prepare for military options in concert with allies.     This is not a problem for the next decade or 2030, but a problem in 2017.

Near term military action against North Korea will strain resources from every NATO and Pacific ally including Canada.   A prescient defense policy update would have recognized that on this short a timeframe, urgent action and expenditures need to be undertaken today to bring existing Canadian forces to a high level of readiness.   That is to say, everything from training, maintenance, to having adequate stockpiles of costly precision munitions.   Plans need to be put in place to rapidly improve and update capabilities ahead of a major, high intensity and long duration conflict that Canada has not fought in since World War II.    Orders need to be placed yesterday for missile defense systems, which will be in short supply.   To date, Canada’s DND have not even initiated a formal request for information to manufacturers of missile defense systems when they are within a year of being swamped with priority orders from other allies.

Canadian warfighting systems are not just underfunded, poorly equipped and antiquated that successive governments pay lip service to improve – and then break the solemn government-to-government pledges.   What the Policy Review does to improve Canada’s credibility (or lack thereof) in the short run (2018-2020) without concrete, irreversible action is an open question.   If it is to happen, it should already be in the public record like the Canadian Federal Budget released in March, 2017.

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan the Trudeau regime loyalist, within the span of one year, went from sounding the alarm about a fighter “capability gap” in June 2016 that must be immediately met by a no-bid purchase of 18 “interim” F/A-18 Super Hornets, to have the deal being reconsidered in May 2017 by Liberal regime loyalist colleague Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland.     This abrupt change in defense policy against the Boeing made F/A-18 in retaliation for the ITC investigation against Bombardier – with Boeing calling for countervailing duties and antidumping charges of 80% – strains what little credibility the liberal regime has left.

Expeditiously acquiring 18 F/A-18s was an important enough issue to have Prime Minister Trudeau press President Trump during their February 2017 meeting for “immediate acquisition”.     When the deal is questioned in May (not even 100 days later), no alternative was proposed to meet the former “capability” and credibility gap by Sajjan, Freeland, or the PMO.   Would Canadian commitments to NATO presented by Prime Minister Trudeau in Brussels May 25 do any better than his track record with President Trump?

Beyond the chronic problem of underfunding of Canadian Armed Forces, decades of engaging in low level conflicts and peacekeeping primarily against poorly equipped irregulars have weakened Canadian’s ability to fight in a high intensity war.   A war against North Korea will not be a replay of Gulf War I or II against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.   Or a fight against rag tag armies in Afghanistan or Rwanda or Mali:   It will not be a slow motion “war” that Canadian Armed Forces presently excel at.   Yet, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia “free riderFreeland apparently have no inkling that traditional Canadian Forces missions like UN Peacekeeping will be the least of Canada’s concerns once allied consensus crystalize about the DPRK-Iran threat.

War on the Korean peninsula is unlikely to be a limited war of high tech stand-off strikes touted by planners.   Or a short duration war with Canadian troops “home by Christmas”.   Canadians and allied forces cannot automatically count superiority in quantity or quality (technology, doctrine, training, logistics, or anything else) taken for granted since World War II.   Or the security of unprotected supply lines from Canada. Nor can Canada count on immunity from nuclear strikes against the Canadian mainland for which Canada presently have no defense.   Will the Defense policy update talk of fielding a missile defense by 2030 when credible threats exist beginning 2019?   In order to have a missile defense in place by 2019, orders should have already been placed.   None is known to be placed or planned for 2017.

In a likely high intensity conflict in the Korean Peninsula where DPRK will be supported by other peer competitor belligerents, Canadian and Allied Armed Forces will quickly discover that the cumbersome doctrines, tactics and rules of engagement built up over the half century of peace are not only an impediment, but have fatal consequences against first rate enemies with no such concerns.   A review of these quaint, outdated legacy codes, archaic as the Code of Chivalry, need to be urgently be undertaken and contingent doctrines and ROEs devised.   Canadian Forces have apparently learned nothing from the training mission with the Ukraine: at least in the urgency of revising ROEs and doctrine for high intensity multi-dimensional warfare.

Finally, the Defense policy update failed to recognize that reform of the cumbersome, outdated, obsolete and costly procurement system that Canada (and most allies) operate is an urgent priority with or without the looming threat of a high intensity, long duration war in the Korean Peninsula.   Canadian defense procurement systems in its present form will collapse within months of a high intensity conflict; but not before failing to deliver Canadian forces in the field up-to-date gear needed to survive.   Just how will the Canadian public react to Canadian Forces being outmatched 10:1 by DPRK precision munitions that are superior when it happens?

There is still time to sketch out contingency plans for the issues and eventualities and append it to the Defense Policy Update before it is released on June 7.   Or alternatively, to suspend release pending an update that address these contingencies in the Appendix.

Canada will have the opportunity to listen very carefully to allies at the NATO summit and consult with Pacific allies like Australia, Japan, South Korea to ensure that the draft Canadian Defense Policy is consistent with the consensus view about the DPRK threat before the document is finalized.   Canada cannot field a credible missile defense against without the participation of non-NATO allies Japan, South Korea, working with the US nor participate in a high intensity war in the Korean peninsula in their present condition.

The Trudeau regime need to act now lest we end up with another Gander Airport.

Note: The Liberal regime did not see fit or necessary to issue a statement, comment, tweet, or any other expression of Canadian government views after the most recent North Korean Ballistic Missile test on May 13th and 21st. A curious omission for an aspiring member of the UN Security Council.

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