RE Canadian Military Diplomatic Theory

The post Diplomacy, Bush style discusses President Bush’s diplomatic gaffe in Canada when he veered off the agreed agenda and pushed for Prime Minister Martin to sign on to the Missile Defense Shield.Launching off that discussion, I submit to you three cornerstones (IMHO) of Canadian Military Diplomacy, in reverse order or importance.

Question Period
The Wallace Theorum
The Pearson Doctrine

[NOTE TO AUTHORITY MONGERS: the author is a Canadia-born American who studied Political Science in Washington DC and Canada, but is not an expert in the topic.]

Question Period: Stand and Deliver

Prime Minister Martin’s comments about the Missile Defense Shield, in the United States and in Canada, have been characterized as “definitely maybe”. But more accurately, he has stressed that his Government will not consider discussion of the matter until the questions it has submitted to Washington are answered.

In order for PM Martin to get the Missile Defense Shield passed he will have to stand before the Parliament several times and answer questions (maybe every day). Some will be friendly, “knowledge seeking” ones from his own party, but an equal number will be the hostile “gotcha questions” from the opposition. The PM’s success in getting the MDS passed will revolve around his ability to reassure his own party, humiliate his opponents, and win some converts from the Opposition.

Until Washington answers the questions Ottawa has submitted, the PM won’t even consider going to the floor of the Commons with the MDS. It would be like “showing up to a gun fight with a knife”, as they say in Texas. …and the opposition would make him look like an idiot.

The Wallace Theorum: Conflict Spirals and Arms Races

Canadian Academic Michael Wallace (now teaching at UBC) is a Canadian product of the Cold War. For over thirty years he’s been one of Canada’s most influential thinkers on violence and armed conflict, specifically how conflicts escalate and arms races manifest.

Arms Races: Every new offensive weapon I develop encourages my opponent to develop a new defensive weapon, which I will need a new offensive weapon to defeat. A successful Missile Defense Shield would encourage hostile states to (1) increase the number of warheads (MRV) on each missile to compensate for expected losses, and (2) invest in alternate delivery mechanisms (e.g. submarines, cruise missiles, cargo containers and suitcase nukes on passenger airliners). If South Korea believes it’s missiles do not provide a deterrent to the United States, it will be tempted to plant nuclear devices in US cities in advance (American reaction, if discovered, is predictable).

Corollary to the Arms Race: a Power will strike first if it believes that it will lose and arms race. If you know you’re going to fight a war, do you want it now or later? If you’re falling behind in an arms race, you want it now before your opponent gets stronger.

Conflict Spirals: Wars rarely start with a “Kill ’em all” policy; a “Measured Response” is what we look for. But once a conflict starts each side will inflict greater and greater damage to retaliate for the last measured response. An insignificant border skirmish will escalate to armed intervention to battlefield warfare to chemical weapons to tactical nukes to intercontinental nuclear holocaust… unless the actors recognize the Conflict Spiral and intentionally climb out of it.

[Side Note: Wallace’s PhD thesis in the 1970s was the first to use computer simulations to model the effects of a 100% successful US nuclear strike on the Soviet Union without retaliation. The conclusion: within a year the West Coast of North America would be uninhabitable indefinitely because of radioactive fallout. It got worse from there.]

The Pearson Doctrine:  You gotta keep ’em separated

Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s (1963-1968) contribution to military diplomacy was the recognition that Canada was best served by keeping the USSR and USA in separate corners. Canada, he recognized, was a small country located between two very big countries who hated each other, through which they would pass if they went to war. Canada, he reasoned, would never have a military strong enough to keep either the Americans or the Soviets from invading. If either did invade, the other would nuke Canada to keep them from getting all the way across. So there was little point in spending money on a big military that would never be big enough; the best policy was to be the diplomatic middleman and peacemaker (and spend the money on the welfare state and universal healthcare instead).