Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Those in peril on the sea

Godspeed, Lt. Saunders. Someday, the current half-hearted Canadian military policy - budget cuts that have reduced the already-ebbing strength of our armed forces to a level of functional near-inoperability - is going to kill more than just one soldier or sailor at a time. What will the next malfunction of the bargain-basement diesel subs be? What if both port and starboard engines catch fire, next time? Would an entire vessel being lost due to irresponsibly low defense budgets, budgets that allow for commissioning only a second-hand joke of a navy, make Liberals (or Conservatives, who weren't terribly convincing on defense in the Mulroney years) rethink their policies? The choice is going to be a hard and embarassing one, whenever it finally becomes urgent. Should Canada become a complete free rider, and depend on American aid to protect national sovereignty, or increase defense spending to reasonable levels? The former has the benefit of being cheap, but would require quite a bit more diplomacy and pro-Americanism than any electable PM could possibly muster. Nor would it be a drastic change in actual policy, just an acknowledgment of practical realities that have led to the current decline in the Canadian military. The latter is a similar vote-loser; no matter how enthusiastically patriotic, any government trying it would be tarred with the American Warmongers! brush. Plus, it would be expensive. We'd either have to give up some of the apparatus of overweening socialist government (not likely), or raise taxes (not popular). There's no good way out. Going straight ahead on the same course will be the same death by a thousand cuts the Forces are suffering now. So what's it going to be, then? Military credibility, or socialist oblivion? I know which I'd choose.

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