F-35s

In July 2010, I wrote a column for my local paper, Island Tides, on the decision to buy 65 F-35 fighter jets.  Now that the Auditor General has confirmed what everyone knew, that the planes were wildly over-budget and that we were being misled (lied to?) at every turn, I decided to go back and look at my column.     

On the costs I wrote:

Like many military contracts in the US, the costs of the F-35 have spiralled and are way over budget.  In March 2010, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates told the Congress that it was “unacceptable” that the F-35 is 50% over-budget.  Costs of developing the new fighter jets is approaching $300 billion. With bureaucratic baffle-gab that takes your breath away, the Pentagon critique of the fighter jet programme concluded: “affordability is no longer embraced as a core pillar.”

On the question of whether the F35s met Canadian defence needs:

Peter MacKay enthused about the jets.  Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets are exciting new toys.  They are so exciting that our government did not hold an open contracting process.  We only wanted these planes. They can take off and land on aircraft carriers. They have stealth coating.  They can engage in air to air combat and rely on mid-air re-fueling.  ….  We don’t have aircraft carriers.  We have no plausible security scenario in which air to air combat is anticipated.  (The Battle of Britain was a long time ago.) And stealth coating?  Are we planning a surprise invasion? 

True, our aging CF-18s need to be replaced.  Our large geography has always led to a priority choice for two-engine planes, so if a plane is in a remote spot and loses an engine, the pilot can get to a safe place to land.  The F-35s are single engine planes.  Asked what will happen if the engine fails, Peter MacKay replied “it won’t.” We need planes for search and rescue.  The F-35 is not appropriate for search and rescue.

My column concluded:

So, it seems Canada is spending money we don’t have for planes we don’t need. And it seems we are doing this to hold our place in some macho military solidarity with the Pentagon. The opportunity costs of $16 billion for fighter jets is enormous  -- in lost opportunities to reduce poverty, create jobs, protect health care and fight climate change.  None of this has been debated or discussed in the House.  And it was not in the 2010 budget.   I will work with other parties to reverse this sale and direct priorities to those Canadians value.

So, I was still using the Harper $16 billion estimate.  But when the Parliamentary Budget Officer explained that those costs were off by about $10 billion or so, I believed him.  Stephen Harper attacked him.

The point is that not even willful blindness of the most acute variety can be pleaded by the Prime Minister in his attack on the Parliamentary Budget Officer.  If I knew the planes were being chosen without criteria or a proper open bidding process, that the whole project was a boondoggle and that Canada was going to be spending $25 billion on planes we did not need, so too did everyone else.

The Auditor General’s report should be required reading for every voter who thought Stephen Harper had the qualities of a wise manager of the public purse. 

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Time to debate direction of Canadian military

"So, it seems Canada is spending money we don’t have for planes we don’t need. And it seems we are doing this to hold our place in some macho military solidarity with the Pentagon. The opportunity costs of $16 billion for fighter jets is enormous  -- in lost opportunities to reduce poverty, create jobs, protect health care and fight climate change.  None of this has been debated or discussed in the House.  And it was not in the 2010 budget.   I will work with other parties to reverse this sale and direct priorities to those Canadians value."

Thank you for your article Elizabeth.  It's time to have the most crucial debate of all.  A debate that will give direction to future military spending, recruitment, and relationship with our allies. 

That debate is on what the Canadian military is for and what direction it needs to take.  Peacekeeping vs acts of war.  Then the military should have everything it needs to accomplish that mandate.  I would challenge whether the F-35 is needed to enforce no-fly zones if that is a chosen mission in future.  I would challenge how many fighter jets are needed to contribute to such a mission and how many are needed for domestic defence. 

 

 

   

This blog reflects my personal opinion. It is not official Green Party Policy. www.departmentofpeace.ca 

http://stephenlafrenie.blogspot.com

Peacekeeping vs. Acts of War? That's not a choice.

Primarily our military must exist and be ready for acts of war.  It may also be used for a secondary purpose, which would be peacekeeping.  Regardless, the fundamental purpose of the military must be to defend our nation, and that necessarily includes forward strike capability.

At this point, it has become clear that the F-35s cost too much.  From a technical perspective, they have requirements that have yet to be met by current technologies, so it might make sense to push for a more economical model or simply go with a European competitor.  As a best ally to the US, I'd expect they'd have held back their cultural influences, but that's not the case -- and it's actually getting worse.  They regularly attempt to influence our domestic behaviour, and as a result, I feel we shouldn't be compelled to blow 15% of our federal budget on aircraft purchases that are largely luxury items.

The hidden reason we MUST buy F-35's

Apart from the fact Harper's *policy* is to simply do whatever the U.S. wants us to.   (Has he ever had an original thought?)

The reality is:  U.S. fighter pilots in the war theatre are hepped-up on amphetamines to improve their reaction time.

 The result being, they have an inconvenient habit of shooting down anything that moves and doesn't look exactly like them.  Their 'trigger-happy' murdering of their own allies including Canadians is called, "friendly fire". (How consoling)

"Shoot first, ask questions later." are the standing orders.

So its self-preservation that's driving our military, who are more frightened of American killers on a drugged-up rampage than even the enemy. 

Respectfully, D. Scott Barclay

I disagree with the definition Bram

"Primarily our military must exist and be ready for acts of war.  It may also be used for a secondary purpose, which would be peacekeeping.  Regardless, the fundamental purpose of the military must be to defend our nation, and that necessarily includes forward strike capability."

Respectfully I disagree that peacekeeping cannot be the primary rather than secondary purpose of the Canadian military.  That peacekeeping capability (properly built, mandated and financed) would not rule out the ability to act in cooperation with allies against a future direct attack.  I would reverse your assertion in that the military could have a combat ready unit capable of participating in U.N. sanctioned missions where no-fly zones and/or naval blockades are enforced.  

This blog reflects my personal opinion. It is not official Green Party Policy. www.departmentofpeace.ca 

http://stephenlafrenie.blogspot.com

Perhaps it is a matter of semantics.

The primary purpose of a military force is the protection of the nation, that is its definition.  If you want an organ that is capable of physical compulsion but is to be used primarily for "peacekeeping", then it is not a military force, it is peacekeeping force -- actually, in practice it is more like a police force with tanks and planes.  Regardless, the term "military" is very strictly reserved for the protection of a nation.

What you are suggesting is that Canada should have a high-armament police force that primarily interferes with non-domestic activities and on the side can also be used maybe to protect our nation, you know, if it's not busy meddling in other people's business.

Yes perhaps it semantics but no reason to distort what I say

"What you are suggesting is that Canada should have a high-armament police force that primarily interferes with non-domestic activities and on the side can also be used maybe to protect our nation, you know, if it's not busy meddling in other people's business."

Peacekeeping is an accepted form of global relations and one of the direct functions of the U.N. Security Council. Peacekeeping missions must have the approval of the major combatants involved and the domestic government must give permission to have the mission on its territory.  It is not an issue of 'meddling' but an vital part of resolving conflict when the combatants themselves express a desire to end it.  

Peace making is another matter but has strict criteria as well, one of which is whether a conflict threatens to expand into a regional war affecting other sovereign nations.  That mission must also be sanctioned by the Security Council and the surrounding nations where mission participants will be stationed or acting from.  

Responsibility to Protect (R2P)  is a serious issue where the Security Council can take action but does not require the permission of the subject government.  This was designed to respond to and stop genocide after it has begun.  It also carries with it the responsibility to prevent by increasing diplomatic efforts and  peace building efforts to avoid the use of a military solution.

We can certainly argue or simply disagree over the issue of whether Canada should be involved.  

 

This blog reflects my personal opinion. It is not official Green Party Policy. www.departmentofpeace.ca 

http://stephenlafrenie.blogspot.com

R2P

I agree that of R2P is noble, however, recent events have me doubt that a Green party can ever take part in an R2P project with a happy ending.  R2p in practice is R2P4O (right to protection for oil.)

Afghanistan: Ms. May initially advocated for R2P, but then general resolve faded...  Even though Canada did go to Afghanistan, did we help anyone?  That's unknowable, probably not.  Certainly not women nor identifiable minorities.

Libya: Western allied forces went in for oil and the transitional government is not being held accountable in any way.  What's the net affect?  Maybe positive, still hard to tell, but western allies have sure secured Libya's oil in the meantime.

Syria:  Ideal candidate for R2P.  GPC and other Green movements around the world are somewhere between subdued and speechless.  No oil, no protection, apparently.  Assad continues to attack around and in-between international monitors.  Net affect:  absolute failure.

South Sudan / Sudan:  South Sudan seceded from Sudan.  Sudan is now attacking South Sudan on trumped up charges as to where international lines should be and who owns oil despite the facts that these issues are clear.  The Arab League is siding with Sudan in an apparent attempt to help translate resources back to Sudan, a religious compatriot.  Western nations are silent.  Haven't heard anyone say anything from GPC.

Egypt:  Since the downfall of Mubarak, Christian Copts (among others) are now persistently persecuted.  Anyone doing anything?  No.  Feel free to lead the charge.

Iran:  Druze, Gnostics, other minorities, suffer persistent and state sponsored/originated discrimination.  Anyone doing anything?  No.  In fact, the GPC actively calls for open-dialogue with Iran regarding behaviours they clearly have no intention of changing -- even while Iran is building nukes.

In fact, the list goes on and on.  Many nations have issues that could involve R2P, but no one has any material interest in pursuing, so no one does, let alone Greens.  Furthermore, when it comes to Peacekeeping, unless you are invited by all parties, you are not really peacekeeping, you are intervening with military force. 

I'm not really aware of any circumstances where we acted as peacekeepers, were welcomed by all parties and required military apparatus -- as is required for true dual purpose military.  Note that I didn't even include the requirement for producing equitable peace.

Military defense is a mandatory function of a national government; peacekeeping is not.  Since the overlap of deployable resources between military defense and peacekeeping is minimal, then perhaps you want a military, but call it a "peacekeeping" force to make yourself  feel good.  I don't know.

What I do know is that peacekeeping with a subjugated national defense role sounds a lot like our compliance with the ban on land mines: we own land mines that are configured to be manually operated, but in the event of symmetric war, could be easily reconfigured to be land mines once again.