FUNDING FOR THE CANADIAN MILITARY: FUBAR

by Robert Stewart, C.A., C.M.C., Director of Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
and host of the Annual Peace Education Conferences in Canada.
Mr. Stewart can be reached at stewartr [at] peace.ca


I recently received a question from a student on Military Funding, asking for my views.

I hope my response shook him out of his complacency, since my view on funding for the Canadian military is: it is "FUBAR".  (FUBAR is an acronym that originated in the military to stand for the words "f***ed up beyond all repair." This is often softened to "fouled up beyond all repair" in reference to hardware. The programming and documentation equivalent is "fouled up beyond all recognition." Sometimes the last word is "recovery" or "reconciliation" or "reason.")  Many Canadians do feel there is something wrong with the current 'system'.  They are quite right.  Allow me to explain.

Ignorance is Dangerous:

Decisions on appropriate levels of military spending should reflect the minimum amount necessary to meet a nation's legitimate defensive needs as determined by external threats, vulnerabilities, etc.  (This method conforms to the goal expressed in Article 26 of the United Nations' Charter: "To promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources...")

Currently, we Canadians are quite illiterate when it comes to our military and foreign affairs missions, strategies and action plans (for example, do Canadians know anything about the "deeper integration with the U.S." as lobbied by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives?).  Furthermore, we should not be so naive to think our government will solve the dilemmas of military spending on their own (at least I have no current faith that they will).  Our government's strategies and action plans are outdated, misdirected and have not been developed with democratic participation of the Canadian public (the current Defence Policy was articulated in 1994, mired in Cold War thinking).  To do that properly, the Canadian public must understand, participate, and communicate with our elected leaders.  These are not decisions that should be made by a secretive and potentially corrupt
military/industrial/political complex (as it is in the U.S.), under coercion from the United States, and/or to appease the U.S.  We need a civil society movement to hold the necessary public meetings, conferences and town halls to provide the necessary direction to government, to give our government leaders necessary "backbone".  We must be creative and critical thinkers, sharing in the Canadian foreign affairs and military vision.

One of the culture of war and violence values, attitudes and behaviours is the proliferation of armaments.  A culture of peace and non-violence requires disarmament and non-proliferation.  My responses are developed within the framework of the United Nations Culture of Peace and Non-violence Program, which Canada has committed to, and to which I am committed to, as
it is excellent strategy.  (This is my "bias".)

The mission of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, as currently stated by the government, is to defend Canada, its interests and its values, while contributing to international peace and security.  Under Canadian defence policy, the Canadian Forces are called upon to fill three major roles: Protecting Canada, Defending North America in co-operation with the United States of America, Contributing to peace and international security. (source: http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/about/mission_e.asp  )

Defence:

"The state that I fear most is the United States."  Hon. Douglas Roche O.C. (retired Canadian senator).

The greatest military and other (eg. economic, social, cultural, etc.) threat to Canada is the United States (but Peter Mansbridge will not tell you that on the CBC News).  We can not out-spend or out-gun the United States military (the U.S. spends $500 billion annually, which is 50% of the $1 trillion spent annually by the world on militarism).  In this light, at $12.3 billion annually, Canada can not make any significant military contribution to the U.S.  If, as and when the U.S. wants Canadian oil, gas, water, or when it is in the U.S. national interest to do so, they can pre-emptively attack us (just recently Paul Cellucci, the US "ambassador" to Canada, said to Americans "Expect attacks to be launched from Canada").  It will surprise many Canadians to know that the U.S. military have plans for the invasion of Canada on the shelf.   So we must be smart in dealing with this dilemma.  Compared to this, and in light of the U.S. interest to defend North America, no other countries that we might defend against are a real threat for the foreseeable future.  The only other threats to Canadian security are terrorist attacks (motivated by our support of the U.S., which requires a different strategy than historic wars, and is significantly less of a risk than the American threat), and nuclear Armageddon (made more dangerous due to U.S. policy, and again requiring a different strategy).  So we do have an opportunity to reprofile Canada's spending on the military.

Question: How much does Canada spend on defence, and how much on contributing to international peace and security?  I suggest that no one in Canada can answer that question properly, because so far our Canadian leaders (despite their rhetoric) are not really interested in peace.  Canada talks about contributing to peace, but I challenge them to "Show me the money".  I would suggest the amount spent by Canada on peace pales in insignificance to the amount spent on "defence" and U.S. spawned wars around the world.

Will spending more on the military increase Canadian security?  No - not in the current mentality.  Can the Department of National Defence spend military dollars more wisely?  Definitely.  While to my knowledge no one has attacked Canada since the United States in 1812, Canada does spend $12.3 billion annually on the military (2002/03 figure; probably more now; the whole United Nations budget is $12 billion including its agencies and is approximately the same as the Canadian military budget - which is an indictment of world funding of the U.N.).   Canada is the sixth highest military spender within NATO and sixteenth highest in the world.  Increases in military spending now would reward the waste and mismanagement.  The last decade has witnessed billions of dollars misspent on big-ticket military programs with no clear purpose or benefit to Canada's defence.  For example,
$750 million wasted on used British submarines with a well-known history of design flaws, $174 million on a satellite communication system that was never used, $65 million for pilot training that was never taken, $155 million annually on the cadet program, generous contracts to foreign corporations and generous raises for generals and admirals while privates suffered a wage freeze for eight years.

Only 7% of Canadians want more scarce tax dollars to go to defence, while 72% want our resources to go to social programs like education and health care.

Contributing to peace and international security:

This is where I would spend my limited resources.  Through service to the United Nations we will make Canada and the world more secure.  In a recent survey of Canadians' perceptions by Environics Research Group, almost one-third of Canadians believe "peacekeeping and peacefulness" is the greatest contribution Canada has to offer the world.  Canadians are resisting Canada's participation in the War on Terrorism and more military spending, which will come at the expense of social programs. Polls are
telling the government that Canadians desire Canada to take an independent role from the United States, to seek non-military means to effect positive change in the world, and to protect Canadian sovereignty and social programs.  Unfortunately, Canada has almost abandoned the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions in favour of U.S. led NATO "peacekeeping".

To be clear, our Canadian government political leaders and bureaucrats are illiterate when it comes to building peace.  Their actions prove this.  For example, if they understood what it takes to build peace at home and abroad they would be actively promoting Peace Education, Leadership for Peace, and a National Culture of Peace Program.  They would have developed a peace website getting at least 40,000 visitors per month (that is what our web site gets, and the Government of Canada should be able to do better with all their resources).  They would be sponsoring peace conferencing across Canada and around the world.  They would be creating "Open Spaces to Open Minds to Peace".  They would not be misinforming Canadians with pacifying terms like "Missile Defence System" - it's future is an Offensive Nuclear Missile System for pre-emptive strikes when it is in the U.S. national interest to launch - "let's call a spade a spade".  Our government should be having those difficult conversations with the U.S. Administration to build a better relationship, and honour our differences.  They would recognize that our most important ally in the defence of Canadian security is a stronger, more effective United Nations and be supporting that.  They would be helping the United Nations to create a standing, rapid deployment Peacekeeping Force, and a visionary Peacebuilding Force.  They would be prepared to support American "draft dodgers", and being that "sanctuary from militarism" that Pierre Trudeau felt Canada should be (as versus simple-mindedly calling draft dodgers "cowards" as you read recently in the Calgary Herald).

Simply, Canada (and the world for that matter) should not spend more on preparing for war than on preparing for peace.

What can you do?:

First, do not take my word for this, or any other "expert" with a bias -- do your own research and critical thinking on the matter.

Here is my challenge to the reader -- be leaders, and educators, and take the initiative to create the public venues for this crucial conversation within the values of a Culture of Peace (an approach to life that seeks to transform the cultural tendencies toward war and violence into a culture where dialogue, respect, equality, sustainable development, free flow of information and fairness govern social relations).  Currently, the discussion and politics is driven by a military lobby comprised of retired generals, security think tanks, academics, and corporations that benefit from military contracts.  Together, we can take back this important issue
and help give it due process.  It is clear that this dialogue on military and foreign affairs policy and spending must be taken beyond Parliamentary committee rooms, university campuses, and newsrooms.

You can help give Canadians the opportunity to participate in this discussion, and demonstrate a proper democracy in action.  It is within your power.  You can feed your results and actions into the Canadian civil society report to the U.N. Secretary General on progress of the Culture of Peace Program in Canada in 2005.



Bibliography:

Breaking Rank: A citizen's review of Canadian Military Spending, by Steven Staples, Director, Polaris Institute (available online at http://www.polarisinstitute.org/polaris_project/corp_security_state/publications_articles/breaking_rank.pdf  ) 5 Star Must Reading

Critiques of Canada's Military Budget (ref. http://www.peace.ca/critiquesofcanadamilitary.htm  )

Recent survey of Canadians' perceptions by Environics Research Group http://www.peace.ca/surveycanadianrole.htm

NOW with Bill Moyers, the August 1, 2003 show
http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=1413857&cp=1415060&page=6&doVSearch=no&clickid=lftnav_sbs_txt&pageBucket=0&parentPage=family
available for $29.98: Is America spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the wrong weapons and for the wrong reasons? An insider gives viewers a look into America's massive defence machine and asks, is it really keeping us safe? Bill Moyers talks to 30 year Pentagon veteran Chuck Spinney, a man TIME magazine once labelled a "Pentagon Maverick," in his first television interview since retiring from the Pentagon.  This expose of the military/industrial/congressional complex will "blow your mind"- every American should be aware.

The FUBAR definition comes from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,,sid9_gci748437,00.html

Click here to listen to a Radio Interview January 2005: Issues Analysis - Military Funding, by Dennis Bevin, SAIT 103.5 with David Bercuson, University of Calgary Strategic Studies and Bob Stewart, Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace (Note - size of file download is approximately 3MB and takes one minute with high speed internet access)

Click here to listen to a Radio Interview January 2005: Interview of Bob Stewart (on Military Funding), Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace by Dennis Bevin, SAIT 103.5 (Note - size of file download is approximately 10MB and takes three minutes with high speed internet access)