Canada needs to join the West

Received this from Paul, a retired Army Officer and old friend. I found it interesting and maybe the first of many articles emphasizing just how serious the war against terror is and how a lot of us need to lift our game. No longer can we plan for the enemy landing on our coastline in numbers or even small nuisance patrols inserted in the Kimberly. Now we have to plan for a style of attack that never existed when I went to Military colleges. Being attacked by a bomber fleet is easy to handle with modern weapons but a passenger taking over a 747 and using it as a weapon is another matter. Smart and dedicated professionals are working on the problem but don�t expect quick and easy answers. We in the west will get caught again and again before we surmount the problem but one day we will. In the meantime we need to up our defence expenditure to GDP ratio or the simply face a long and costly war. It is always good to see yourself from the point of view of others. It is good to know that some think we are trying. The debate we are having in Australia and the letter below offer hope. Thursday, August 07, 2003 CREDIT: Om Hanson,The Canadian Press LONDON – The Canadian army will be stretched to the limit and perhaps beyond for the next year and a half, rotating 1,900 soldiers at a time through two six-month tours in Afghanistan where it takes over from Germany next week. Meanwhile, Australia, which landed nearly 5,000 fighting troops at one time on Timor in 2000 and still has troops there, also made a modest contribution to the Anglo-American fighting force in Iraq. The country also dispatched 1,500 soldiers to the Solomon Islands, east of New Guinea, last month to lead a peacekeeping force that was put together so quickly it does not have a mandate from the UN or any other international organization. There was a time when Canada and Australia both punched above their weight. Each country made immense contributions, at great cost in lives and money, in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. The reality today, as can be seen in Afghanistan, Timor and the Solomons, is entirely different. Canada spends an inordinate amount of time fretting about its shrinking role in the world, and its woefully under-funded Armed Forces, but does nothing about it. Australia acts with confidence on the global stage, using military capabilities that Canada no longer possesses to take leadership roles in peacemaking and peacekeeping. There are many examples of the growing disparity between Canadian and Australian military capabilities. A company of infantrymen from the Royal 22nd Regiment landed on a palm-fringed beach in Timor three years ago. But those Van Doos did not reach the beach in Suai on a Canadian landing craft launched from a Canadian assault ship. Because Canada has no landing craft and no assault ships, the Van Doos used the Australian assault ship, HMAS Tobruk, and its landing craft to go ashore. In the early going, Canada also had difficulty supplying the Van Doos in Timor. Canada’s C-130 Hercules aircraft, which are almost all more than 30 years old, were late getting to Timor because they broke down along the way. To be fair, Canada exists in the quietest corner in the world (and has never had any qualms about accepting American protection for free), while Australia lies in the southern oceans with lots of trouble brewing nearby. But the world has taken a very sour turn lately and it is Australia, not Canada, that has been quietly gearing up to combat the new dangers. Australia obviously regards itself as the neighbourhood policeman while Canada is still figuring what is to be its place in the ugly new order. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. and the Bali bombing in 2002, Australia has made defence spending its top priority in planning fiscal decisions, mentioning defence spending in its 2003 budget far more than any other spending, while Canada’s budget speech stressed health care, child care, welfare and education. And it has committed money, in addition to tough talk, pledging to increase its defence budget by three per cent annually to 2011. Australia intends to spend $14.37 billion Cdn this year, compared to Canada’s $13 billion. More telling, Australia spends 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product on defence compared to 1.1 per cent for Canada. The other difference is that Australia spends a greater percentage of its money on combat capability. It literally seeks bang for its buck. Canada has 32 million people and Australia has 19.5 million, but each country has just more than 50,000 men and women in uniform. Where Canada does move ahead is with its Land Forces, with the re-establishment of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, Canada will own 10 infantry Battalions compared to Australia’s five. There are also very distinct rumours from Canberra that Australian Army intends to down size its Infantry Force to four Battalions, which includes its Regular Commando Battalion. How Australia intends to conduct operations outside of its own country will probably become non-existent. Australia not only has assault ships and landing craft. It has about the same number of active F18 fighter jets as Canada. And, unlike Canada, Australia also has long-range F111 bombers. Like Canada, Australia has transport and search-and-rescue helicopters, but none so old as Canada’s venerable Sea Kings. Unlike Canada, Australia also has attack helicopters, with more on order. Australia built its own diesel submarines. To stay in the same business, Canada took what amounted to a gift of used British diesel submarines. More embarrassing still, Australian taxpayers saved huge sums of money when its air force and navy recently began recruiting Canadian pilots and naval officers whose expensive training had already been paid for by the Canadian government. Furthermore, since the Canadian government chose not to join the war against Iraq, Canada has been excluded for the first time from the tight intelligence circle that it developed with Washington, London and Canberra nearly 90 years ago — it is another damning indicator of where Canada finds itself in this turbulent new world. Despite decades of neglect by successive Canadian governments, the Royal Canadian Regiment, which is leading Canada’s dangerous Afghan mission, and the Van Doos who will follow them to Kabul next February, will do its duty and do it well. But they deserve far better. Australia shows Canada that a plucky country with limited financial resources can have a military that has teeth, confidence and purpose. © Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen