Dron’t Panic! What to know about Canada’s use of drones

By Stephanie Carvin

Last week there was a lot of attention in the media that Canada is considering purchasing drones that would have the capability to be armed.

This should not be a surprise – Canada has used drones in Afghanistan for surveillance and has considered procuring them under the Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) program for over a decade. Further, there are clear financial reasons. Where a Reaper drone costs approximately US$17 million, the cheapest model of the F-35 starts at about US$98 million. (Although some armed drones, such as the Global Hawk can cost up to US$222 million each.)

Armed drones immediately conjure up worrisome ideas about the CIA program that has operated overseas. This is seemingly at odds with the new global vision that the Trudeau government has been touting.  But Canada purchasing drones would not make it a global exception. A recent global survey of the technology reveals that over 90 countries have military drones of some kind. Of these countries, 27 have “advanced drones” that can spend at least 20 hours in the air, fly 16,000 feet and weigh at least 1,320 pounds. Ten countries had armed drones as of 2015, but it is expected that many more are acquiring them going forward. Last year Nigeria and Pakistan used drones against armed insurgents in their borders.

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Five reasons Canada faces an uphill battle in its anti-ISIS efforts

By Stephanie Carvin

Whether you agree or disagree with its reasoning, the Liberal government has taken Canada’s Iraq/Syria strategy in a new direction. Despite the criticism (much of which I share), the new policies are far from a disaster. Canada is making a clear commitment to provide aid in one of the most complex emergencies the world has seen. And we are keeping key military capabilities in theatre to assist our allies, such as refuelling and reconnaissance planes. Significantly, Canada will be putting more troops in theatre, including our Special Operations Forces, who have an international reputation for their effectiveness.

But announcing a policy is one thing; implementing it and achieving the goals the Liberals have set out is another. Indeed, there remain several challenges that the government faces in implementing its new policies that could threaten the success of its new strategy.

1. Incongruent interests between Canada and the Kurdish Peshmerga will likely trump training efforts.

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All Politics is Local – What we can expect from the Munk debate on foreign policy

By Stephanie Carvin

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A stalling Chinese economy. And of course, refugees.

When the election was called in August, it is likely that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party anticipated that they had the foreign policy issues locked down. From their view they could make an argument to have taken a strong stance against Russia and Iran, fighting terrorism abroad, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq and spending billions of dollars on aid to improve maternal, newborn and child health globally.

But things have not quite worked out the way they planned. The Conservatives hard security stance has – thus far – seemed off-key in light of recent events that have largely called for “soft” (diplomacy and negotiation) rather than “hard” (military) power. In short, there has been foreign policy issues in this election – but not the ones Stephen Harper counted on.

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Leadership labels: No, Harper is not a neo-con

By Stephanie Carvin

A recent piece by Matthew Bondy in Foreign Policy argues that Stephen Harper is “the Last Neocon” and “Bush-era Hawk.” Bondy largely supports this view by pointing to Harper’s support for the 2003 Iraq War, Afghanistan and his support for “advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

Let’s get this straight — Stephen Harper is many things to many people, but he is not a neo-conservative.

In his 2002 essay, “What the heck is a neo-con?” Max Boot (taking inspiration from Irving Krisol) succinctly but usefully describes a neo-conservative as a “liberal mugged by reality.” Essentially, both liberals and neo-conservatives believe that democratic (specifically American values) can and should be spread abroad — a belief that is often described as “Wilsonianism.” However what differentiates the neo-conservative “hard Wilsonians” from the liberal “soft Wilsonians” is the former’s willingness to use force in order to achieve these aims. However, crucially, what underpins both is a shared internationalism.

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