Dumb Politics

by Stephen M. Saideman

I am quoted today by one of my very favorite Canadian journalists, Murray Brewster, as saying that the discussion of the Iraq mission is going to “lead to dumb politics.”  I am not sure my meaning came across, so let me explain.

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The Next Canadian Deployment

by Steve Saideman

Many people are asking the right questions about the much ballyhooed next Canadian military deployment, including where and whether there will be a vote or not.  The problem is that we are getting the questions in the wrong order, which is creating more confusion.  We cannot ask some questions until we know the answers to the others.  The vote question should be after we know much more about the mission.  The where question actually is not first either.  So, here is the correct order of questions:

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Defence Review Roundtable: Montreal

by Steve Saideman

I got the chance to participate in the Defence Review via a roundtable in Montreal.  Since I pooped all over the project when it was first announced, I have to say that I am both impressed and thankful that the Minister of Defence and his staff invited me to join the process.  That was mighty big of them.

The meeting was governed by Chatham House Rule, which means I cannot attribute stuff to anyone.  So, I will apply Saideman House Rule–I will describe the event and then say what I said.

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Provoking or Tempting the Bear

by Steve Saideman

I wrote a piece in the Globe and Mail where I advocate Canada take a significant role in NATO’s new “persistent presence” mission on the Eastern Front (the Baltics plus Poland).  I didn’t spend much time arguing for the NATO mission itself, as it is a done deal to be announced at the Warsaw Summit in July.  Instead, I argued for Canada’s participation, which is really the decision up for grabs this week.

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The Most Important Corpses

By Steve Saideman

I was on twitter talking with some folks about what Canada might promise at the Warsaw Summit, with the focus on who is going to provide the troops for the four battalions that will be based in the Baltics and Poland.  The conversation went into a bunch of directions, so I had an epiphany while shopping–it is not about proximity or folks who have ties to the Baltics–it is about whose corpses would have the greatest international political relevance.

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Breaking down Canada’s military training mission in Iraq

By Steve Saideman

The past week has been pretty interesting in Canadian defence and foreign policy as the Prime Minister announced Monday that Canada would focus on training in Iraq while taking out some (not all)* of the planes dedicated to the bombing effort.

There have been many questions raised about the training effort and many opinions offered. So, I’d like to offer a few answers. To be clear, I am not an expert on the specific skills to be transmitted or the nature of the training exercises, except in terms of the broadest categories.

* I had been advocating that the government keep at least the recon (Aurora) and refuelling (Polaris) planes as they are, in the military jargon, low-density/high demand enablers.  In other words, there are few of them and they have much valued added. Glad to see the government keep them there, even if it adds a soupçon of incoherence since they are integral to the bombing effort.

Q: Does this mean this is a combat mission?

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Three ways Canada can influence the Asia-Pacific region

By Steve Saideman

It is easy to understand why Canadian political leaders tend to focus on Europe rather than Asia/Pacific. Because of the various institutions in Europe, especially the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, we know how Canada fits in. We know what Canada’s role is in Europe, but we have a hard time imagining how Canada can make a difference in the vast waters of the Pacific and among the huge populations of Asia. The answer, to preview, is for Canada to do what it does best.

I recently spent a week in Japan, on a trip organized and paid for by that country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt. However, what I suggest below can advance Canadian interests, be true to Canadian values and not blow out the budget.

There are two clear realities: That Canada cannot make much of a difference in any military kind of way; and North Korea is someone else’s problem. The Canadian Navy is simply too small and currently too stressed to do much. Same goes for the Air Force. North Korea is the most immediate threat with its nuclear-weapons development, missile tests and awful regime, but Canada will have to rely on others to address North Korea. Canada simply lacks the tools to influence North Korea or provide security for the neighbourhood. So, we need to focus on what Canada can do as the region faces the growing pains of China.

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Should Canada’s exclusion from anti-ISIS meeting be worrisome?

By Steve Saideman

Monday, we learned of a meeting in Paris this week about the future of the anti-ISIS effort by the significant contributors to the current effort, and that Canada is apparently not invited. The natural questions to ask are: why and so what? It is easier to answer the second than the first, but I will try my hand at both.

Before starting out, one thing needs to be clear: this is not the first time Canada has been left out of a major meeting aimed at figuring out the future of an allied effort. In 2002, there was a meeting of the “Quint” to set NATO’s agenda about the future of the various Balkan missions (Bosnia/Kosovo/Macedonia). The Quint included the five largest providers of troops — U.S., UK, France, Italy and Germany. During the military mission in Afghanistan, things had changed quite a bit as it was no longer about the size of the force but where the countries’ troops were and what they were doing. As a result of Canada’s key commitment, Canada was at the table and some of the bigger contributors were either not invited or simply not that relevant (Italy, Germany).

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#WelcomeToCanada: This is how to win a propaganda war

By Steve Saideman

Lots of folks criticize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about being more about style than substance (see his Vogue pics), but the style can be substance.  How Canada has welcomed the first batch of refugees could be seen as a photo opportunity. And 25,000 refugees can be seen as too little.

However, it can also be seen as a vital effort in the war against ISIS/ISL/IS/Daesch.

The videos and pictures counter the messaging by our adversary that the West will not welcome Muslims into their country, that the West is hostile, and all that.  And the images are going viral.

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Why invite Montenegro into NATO? It’s all about Russia

By Steve Saideman

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced this week that it is inviting Montenegro to join the alliance.  The essential meaning of this is that once it is a member, Montenegro will be committed to participate in the defense of NATO members if anyone is attacked AND the alliance will be committed to defend Montenegro if it is attacked (Article V of the NATO treaty).  To be clear, this commitment is not as ironclad as people believe, but still has much political weight.

To borrow from Bill Simmons, when considering membership in NATO, the question to ask is: How much does potential member X bring to the table versus take off of the table?  What kinds of contributions to NATO capabilities/geographic position/whatever does a country bring?  What kinds of problems, such as domestic conflicts, extending NATO credibility too far, risk of international adventures, does the potential member bring?

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