Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Missile Command

This Magazine Staff

I’ve got video games on the brain, what with Halo II out on the XBox, and my copy of Half-Life II due to arrive any day now from Amazon. Review to follow soon.
Meanwhile, I’ve been wondering about an issue tangentially related to Ms. Parrish’s departure from the Liberal caucus, namely, missile defence. The CBC has a dated, but still useful, backgrounder here.
Offhand, I can think of five reasons why we might oppose the US plan.
1. It will undermine Canadian sovereignty
2. It will lead to the “weaponization” of space
3. It won’t work, and will therefore be a waste of money
4. It will lead to an arms race with China, Russia, or “Rogue” states.
5. It doesn’t address the real threats to the US, since terrorists don’t launch missiles.
I think 1 is mostly false. At the very least, staying out of the US plan will hurt our sovereignty more than joining would. I don’t see the principled objection in 2, any more than we should consider quitting NORAD because it constitutes the “weaponization” of the air, or consider shutting down the navy because it “weaponizes” the sea.
3 is probably correct given current technology and the poor (and faked) test results, but that’s hardly an objection to conducting more research. One could make the same claim about virtually every civilian and military technology in history. Besides, it’s their money.
4 is possible, though doubtful with respect to Russia, who no longer opposes the plan. I think it is more likely than not that the US will eventually enter into a renewed arms race with China, although I suspect that is going to happen regardless of what the US does or does not do.
That leaves us with 5, which I think is absolutely correct, as far as it goes. Yet it isn’t clear why these are mutually exclusive, why the US can’t both take anti-terrorist measures and anti-rogue-missile measures, assuming that devoting resources to the second doesn’t materially affect their ability to pursue the first.
Ultimately, my (ill-considered) conclusion is that, yes, it is probably a waste of money, because I don’t really see the threat, but since the Americans aren’t asking for Canadian dollars, it is no big deal. I’m mostly worried about how it affects both Canadian sovereignty and our standing in the world, but I suspect that, on balance, it is probably better to be in than out.
Since a small majority of Canadians disagree with this conclusion, I need you all to help me out and point out where I’ve gone wrong. I haven’t the time to read Mel Hurtig, so if someone could summarise his book’s arguments, that would be helpful.

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