Friday, October 06, 2006

The Senate Report: The Truth About Missile Defence

The Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence has issued a report calling on Canada to sign-on to the U.S. missile defence program. “The Liberal Government declined last year,” said the report. “The current government should definitely not decline.”

Once again Canadians are being invited to opt for inclusion in an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system which would place us at the table where the decisions are made but would give Canada no decision-making power over the use or non-use of the system. That would be left in the hands of the Americans. A place at the table, so we can watch the Americans make decisions, is the notion of sovereignty that the report is trying to sell to Canadians. Along with this, Canadians are being fed the usual bromides about the proposed ABM system being purely defensive and not involving the weaponization of space.

What Canadians need to know is that the American proponents of the ABM system regard the program as crucial to increasing the offensive power of the United States against potential foes and see it explicitly as a step toward the weaponization of space.

The evidence for this comes in a report issued in 2000 by the Project for the New American Century, written by a group of neo-conservative heavy weights who have played a key role in defining the military policies of the Bush administration. I don’t know why the Canadian advocates of ABM never face up to the very clear things this report put on the public record.

Established in 1997, the Project for the New American Century included Robert Kagan, William Kristol, and Paul Wolfowitz----who were “concerned with the decline in the strength of America’s defences, and in the problems this would create for the exercise of American leadership around the globe…”

In its September 2000 report titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century,” the authors stated that the U.S. military needed to be rebuilt around four key missions:

· the defence of the American homeland;
· the capacity to fight and decisively win, major theatre wars simultaneously;
· the performance the “constabulary” duties that arise out of the need to shape the security environment in critical regions;
· the transformation of the U.S. armed forces to exploit what the authors call the “revolution in military affairs.”

The Report’s unilateralism was unapologetic. On nuclear weapons, the authors excoriated the Clinton administration for its support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which had been ratified by one hundred and fifty states. While the Clinton administration’s effort to ratify the treaty, was voted down by the U.S. Senate, the Clinton White House pledged that the U.S. would behave as though it was a party to the treaty and would not test nuclear weapons. In the long term, as far as the authors of the Report were concerned, this was not a tenable strategy. “If the United States is to have a nuclear deterrent that is both effective and safe,” the Report reads “it will need to test.” (The administration of George W. Bush has repudiated the CTBT.)

The authors of the Report envisaged a defence posture in which the U.S. military’s missions would range beyond the defence of America to the capacity to win wars far from U.S. shores and to be able to act as global policeman in laying down the law in unstable and strategically important parts of the world. That this was a blueprint for an empire rather than a nation state was made clear in the recommendation that a key task for the U.S. forces must be to control “the new ‘international commons’ of space and ‘cyberspace,’ and pave the way for the creation of a new military service----U.S. Space Forces---with the mission of space control.” The “weaponization of space”, routinely condemned by Canadian policy makers as potentially triggering a new and dangerous arms race, was thought highly desirable by this group of American thinkers.

That the authors of the Report were thinking in offensive, not defensive, terms about the mission of the U.S. military was made clear in the way they formulated their support for the development and deployment of a missile defence system for the United States. At first glance it would appear that the primary goal of missile defence would be to protect the United States against a nuclear attack by a rogue state. That, however, was not uppermost in the thinking of the authors. “Without it [missile defence],” the Report reasoned “weak states operating small arsenals of crude ballistic missiles, armed with basic nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction, will be in a strong position to deter the United States from using conventional force, no matter the technological or other advantages we may enjoy. Even if such enemies are merely able to threaten American allies rather than the United States homeland itself, America’s ability to project power will be deeply compromised.”

The authors, in language exceedingly frank on this subject, championed U.S. missile defence as a way to prevent small countries from deterring the U.S. from imposing its will by launching a conventional military assault on them. Seen this way, missile defence was a tool for maintaining and extending the sway of the American Empire. Military strategists have always warned against simplistic distinctions between offensive and defensive weapons systems. Apparently a defensive weapons system, missile defence was understood by the authors of the Report as key to maintaining America’s offensive capability vis a vis, not only small and truculent states, but even a looming giant such as China.

With an eye on the long-term future, the Report seized on the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) that had been made possible by technological transformation and the need for the U.S. military to ride the wave of advance this promised. The authors linked the creation of a U.S. global system of missile defence to the larger goal of establishing American control of space and cyberspace. The Report called for the construction of a system of global missile defences. “A network against limited strikes, capable of protecting the United States, its allies and forward-deployed forces, must be constructed,” it stated. “This must be a layered system of land, sea, air and space-based components.”

Indeed, the weaponization of space, or the further weaponization of space as they conceived it was a crucial notion of these planners, who saw this as essential if American global preeminence was to be sustained. “No system of missile defences can be fully effective without placing sensors and weapons in space,” the Report stated. “Although this would appear to be creating a potential new theatre of warfare, in fact space has been militarized for the better part of four decades. Weather, communications, navigation and reconnaissance satellites are increasingly essential elements in American military power.”

“….over the longer term, maintaining control of space will inevitably require the application of force both in space and from space,” the Report continued “including but not limited to anti-missile defences and defensive systems…”

Ultimately this would require, in the opinion of the authors, the establishment of a new American military service, to be called U.S. Space Forces. They reasoned that “it is almost certain that the conduct of warfare in outer space will differ as much from traditional air warfare as air warfare has from warfare at sea or on land; space warfare will demand new organizations, operational strategies, doctrines and training schemes. Thus, the argument to replace U.S. Space Command with U.S. Space Forces---a separate service under the Defence Department----is compelling. While it is conceivable that, as military space capabilities develop, a transitory ‘Space Corps’ under the Department of the Air Force might make sense, it ought to be regarded as an intermediary step, analogous to the World War II-era Army Air Corps, not to the Marine Corps, which remains a part of the Navy Department.”

The U.S. posture advocated in the Report was aimed at sustaining American global preeminence into the indefinite future. There was not a hint of any need to develop a collective leadership that included other nations or to forge an international regime to guarantee the rights of all nations. What was aimed at was the preservation and enhancement of the American Empire.

A number of those who were involved in the Project for the New American Century went on to wield power during the presidency of George W. Bush. Most notably, there was Paul Wolfowitz, who as Undersecretary of State became a key advocate of the invasion of Iraq.

Canadians who are being urged in the Senate Report to revisit the issue of missile defence should not be lulled into the idea that the ABM system would create greater global stability by guarding against potential threats from rogue states. The ABM system, as the authors of the report of the Project for the New American Century openly proclaim, is a step toward the weaponization of space whose goal is to extend the ability of the United States to intervene as it pleases in military missions all over the world. Nothing could be more destabilizing for the global future.


Stephen said...

Good post.

The tendencies you note in the PNAC have been confirmed in a number of other documents since published, including Bush's updates of the National Security Strategy of the United States, and the 2000 Rumsfeld Report on Space Security.

James Laxer said...

Thanks for that. I haven't seen the 2000 Rumsfeld Report on Space Security. I'll look it up.

bigcitylib said...

There is also the issue of "zero cost" to Canada. I believe a couple of years ago the U.S. ambassador suggested that Canada would indeed have to kick in a few hundred mil to get that legendary "seat at the table", but I have been unable to find a reference.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Here's what I think is the main point though. You say that we are being asked "to opt for inclusion in an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system which would place us at the table where the decisions are made but would give Canada no decision-making power over the use or non-use of the system" and that's true. If a missle is headed for America (or looks to be headed for America) and the Americans think they might be able to shoot it down, they're going to try and shoot it down. Period. If we had the technology (or believed the technology we had had a shot, no matter how remote) I think we'd do the same, American wishes be damned. The question is, when the Americans are debating that decision in the heat of the moment, is it better, or worse for Canada to have someone in the room?

To me, it's silly to pretend we're "ceding our sovereignty" to the Americans everytime we agree to be a part of some process in which the Americans will feel free to ignore us. NEWSFLASH! The Americans will ALWAYS feel free to ignore us. Especially so in deciding whether or nor to try to shoot down a missle headed for San Diego. The Americans will NEVER ask for our permission to defend themselves. Why should they? They are however at least inviting us to be heard in the process of deciding how they will do so, in the context of missle defence. How an answer of "No thanks, please don't even solicit our opinion before firing any interceptor missles, just fire away" is some grand assertion of our sovereignty is beyond me.

The Americans will likely use the system if they feel threatened, regardless of our opinion, that's true. That's not even in question I don't think. The question is whether or not we'll even be in the room to give our opinion. Seems to me, being ignored is better than not being heard at all, and certainly the later implies no less "sovereignty" on our part than the former. If you're going to confuse Canadian sovereignty with our ability to make the U.S. do what we want, when we want, on any given issue, then the game's already done. We can't, we never will be able to, and it has nothing to do with our sovereignty. Now, maybe that's a little harsh. Maybe sometimes we can convince the Americans to follow our advice. But not if we're not there to give it and have told them we don't want to be involved in the decision-making process.

Back when this was a question of Canada providing "cover" for the Americans for a missle defence program that was somewhat controversial, there was some justification for us holding out. But those days have passed. The Russians don't care. The Chinese don't care. None of our allies care. The only thing countries besides Canada really care about wrt BMD is whether the Americans will sell the technology to them if they ever get it working. We're pretty much the only nation left on the planet trying to do something to stop the Americans from pursuing BMD, while simultaneously, we're the only nation on the planet being asked to participate in the program's decision making process. The irony is stunning.

As for the rest of your post, I find it hard to argue with your assessment of the PNAC report. It would be worrying if the PNAC had anything to do with the American government. But they're a think tank and lobby group, not a department of the U.S. government. They can say or advocate whatever they like. Until the U.S. government changes IT'S policies, what do we care? Just because the Frasier Institute comes out with a report telling the Canadian government to do X, doesn't mean the Canadian government should be attacked for planning to do X.

As influential as they may be, we don't negotiate with the PNAC. We negotiate with the government of the United States of America. And their policies are the only one's that are really relevant, imho.

Stephen said...

The 'Rumsfeld Report' is here.

Published in fact in 2001, the report is often loosely called the 'Rumsefeld Report' because he had chaired the commission until December 28, 2000, when he was nominated as GWB's SecDef and had to leave the commission's chair behind.

One of its better known statements is that the US is vulnerable to suffering a 'Pearl Harbour in space,' to be averted by securing American dominance of space by military and other means.

bigcitylib said...


How is being ignored different from not being there to be ignored?
Canadians are being asked to swallow their morals and maybe pitch in millions of dollars to have sombebody useless "in the room".

And in fact we are still providing cover for the Americans. A missile defense is simply a myth for the Republican South and corporate welfare for Republican associated contracters that are trying to build the thing. As soon as a Democrat gets in, the whole thing will get mothballed again. So in fact in signing on we are simply given the Republican Party credibility they do not deserve.

Also, the PNAC position is the only one that makes any sense as a government position. Even if you accept the latest few tests as successful (and the U.S. has had a long history of covering up testing failures and/or rigging tests), the defense shield can only be effective against a N. Korea or Iran, who might have but one or two missiles to fire. The Soviets already have a new generation of IBMs that could beat the system (that's why they don't care, by the way, they think the whole effort is a crock). And the only reason (U.S. hysterics asie) that Iran or N. Korea would fire a missile at the U.S. would be under the threat of invasion. So, whether the U.S. will admit it or not, the missile shield is not there to prevent attacks, its there to make U.S. attacks on the two remaining "axis of evil" countries a bit easer. As a Canadian, I think its immoral to aid the American Empire in this fashion.

Mike said...

The fact that the technology doesn't work should not be overlooked. Rather than a true defensive system, this is simply a way for the PNAC crowd and Bush to give tax-payer money to the defence industry, not htat the Cold War is long gone to history. Seems President Eisenhower was right.

In an era when small groups of terrorists can unless a suitcase nuke, a chemical or biological attack and the only ones capable of hitting us with a missle are our allies and friends, it seems to me me to be a big waste of money. Even if the technology did work, which it doesn't.

James points are mere icing on the cake after that.