Canadian defense minister taking tips from GOP

On the day that NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that his coalition of the willing would be expanding to run the country’s defense apparatus, Canada got ambushed in a press conference about the deployment. Some elements of the Canadian press loved to amp up the snub, asking questions that implied the Canadians didn’t want or need the help at all. As U.S. defense enthusiast Mark Thompson puts it: “With one notable exception, those who cheered this news were cold warriors, not war opponents.”

In another article, Ms. Thompson describes the diplomatic exercise that culminated in the affair, explaining that it reveals an outsize role the Canadian government has taken in Canadian foreign policy in the last year. They were joining NATO in a conflict that seems to be likely to have minimal Canadian interests.

Indeed, as William Lynn put it in The Harper Broadcasting Network, “this was a summit of NATO leaders…. and the issue they were talking about was Iraq.” For the conservatives of Canada’s military, however, this got more complicated. They were sworn to transparency, and that transparency involves lobbying Canadian defence policy makers to expand the mission so their company could get work on it.

One week ago, the Canadian government announced it was reviewing two front-end proposals from F-35 suppliers (one was submitted by the Canadian Forces). Companies usually make the most of these reviews, often demonstrating that their jets were better and cheaper. It looked as though Lockheed Martin, Canada’s main F-35 supplier, had successfully finessed its bid: The new bid was more expensive, but it included 29 percent more economic benefit for the country. In a briefing after the review, the American defence ministry revealed that the lead contractors were getting about three times more than the Canadians had offered.

Mr. Montgomery explained why the war escalations looked wrong. Canadian legislation, he said, prevents civilian government officials from lobbying for or against defence contracts—not to mention foreign governments. But Lockheed Martin’s representatives had “pressed the button”—by ringing the secretary of defense’s office—to get a break on Canada’s terms for their Canadian bid.

The press gallery dug into Canada’s defence doctrine, but only one of them actually tried to find out which security interests guided it. That article was by the journalist Deborah Phillips, who dug out a leaked government document and asked how it was that Canada had yet to sign on to the American campaign against Iran.

“Why hasn’t Canada just said ‘no,’” she wrote, “whether it agrees with the new U.S. policy or not, because it doesn’t believe in more wars; it has never gotten involved in the Cold War and doesn’t need to take on more obligations, or fears that if it doesn’t do so, China will grab its navy. It’s just a friendly big country in the middle of the south-east ocean.”

These arguments have a merit, and it’s nice to see how popular they are among some conservatives in Canada, but they don’t really square with the mounting evidence for this latest Cold War.

A total breakdown of Canadian troops in Afghanistan:

One more look at the difference between U.S. military fiction and Iraq reality

Four years after the invasion, what’s the situation on the ground in Iraq?

Another take on President Obama’s withdrawal announcement

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