Canada and Military Coalitions
Where, How and with Whom?February 21st, 2002
A fundamental foreign policy question for Canada is not whether acting through coalitions ought to remain central to Canada’s foreign policy, but whether Canada has the political will and the means to influence the shape and operating expec- tations of established and emerging coalitions to best benefit Canada’s national interests. The Canadian Armed Forces are a significant element of those means. This essay, addresses Canada’s present and future military capabilities and what the realities of those capabilities imply for a foreign policy based on acting through coalitions formed inside and outside traditional alliances and for a defence policy so closely linked to the national defence of the United States.
The paper suggests that Canada’s ability to play a reasonable and responsible role in international affairs has diminished substantially from 1956 when Canada initiated and commanded the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East to 1996 when a similar effort virtually failed in Zaire. This decline is attributed to several factors but mainly to the continuous depreciation of the place of military capabilities in Canadian foreign policy. As the author notes, “Lester Pearson might have won the Noble Peace Prize for his initiative, but he knew beforehand that Canada had the wherewithal to accomplish what he had proposed.”
If Canada is to regain or even maintain its ability to further Canadian inter- ests by acting through coalitions, then political leaders must develop a national strategy aimed at this purpose. Designing a Canadian foreign policy strategy which has at its centre the idea of achieving Canadian goals through armed coali- tions must be led by politicians and involve military officers and federal officials from many departments and agencies of the Canadian government. But what issues must they consider? Among other things, this essay suggests that the “wait- ing agenda” ought to include discussions and decisions related to national inter- ests; where, when and with whom Canada would act; the “machinery of govern- ment” designed to plan and control such enterprises; the joining of ends and means; and building support in a forthright manner.
These issues and questions, though critically important before the terror- ist attacks on North America, today ought to be the central concern of govern- ment. In the United States the growing apprehension that terrorists attacks will increase in number and ferocity has changed fundamental assumptions about the Canada/United States defence and security relationship. This change will be all the more damaging for Canada if Americans believe that “the longest undefend- ed border” must now be defended and defended according to American stan- dards because Canada cannot be trusted to take the necessary actions to deter and prevent terrorists from entering the United States.
Thus, the backdrop of Canada’s most important coalition has transformed from a post-1989 situation of little threat to an overwhelming, all-encompass- ing concern for the security of the homeland. In this circumstance, the United States will undoubtably look to Canada to share the burden of homeland secu- rity in hitherto unimagined ways which will impose considerable tangible and intangible costs on Canadians. Should Canada hesitate or seek to avoid these new obligations, then it seems likely that the United States will closely guard its northern border, undertake covert intelligence operations in Canada, and act unilaterally to defend the United States by deploying its armed forces over North America wherever and whenever the president decides. Canada faces no greater foreign and defence policy challenge than finding an appropriate and credible way to reassure the United States that Canada can live up to the defin- ing 1938 Roosevelt-Mackenzie King agreement under which the Prime Minister assured the President that no attack on the United States could come through Canadian territory.
Before that assurance can be given, however, Canadians must decide whether they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to rebuild the miliary and diplomatic capabilities to allow Canada to regain its rightful place in inter- national affairs and in the defence of North America. The more pointed question is, however, will Canadians decide to become once again “helpful fixers” in inter- national affairs or will they be content to be no more than helpful followers at home and abroad?
If we will the ends, we had better will the right means. For the means we select may betray our ends.
Acting through coalitions is a defining and traditional characteristic of Canadian foreign policy. This tradition is rooted in Canada’s political and cultural history, its relative power among states and in the modus operandi of the international community. Foreign policy by coalition is also, however, a pragmatic strategic choice, for Canada would be essentially isolated from the major events and deci- sions in the international community in the absence of coalitions or a Canadian reluctance to join them. The fundamental question, therefore, is not whether act- ing through coalitions ought to remain central to Canada’s foreign policy, but how can Canada influence the shape and operating expectations of established and emerging coalitions to best benefit Canada’s national interests?
The question is particularly relevant today given the challenges facing tra- ditional alliances like NATO, the frequency with which states seek to form and act through coalitions — if sometimes only briefly and for specific and narrow purposes — and the emphasis in Canadian foreign policy over the last few years on building non-traditional “coalitions of the willing” to address humanitarian and other global issues. Indeed, there is general agreement among scholars and practitioners that even the major Western powers “must treat multinational action as a central organizing principle for defence [that will] affect every facet of their preparations, from equipment acquisition to operational planning and con- cept development.”1 In these circumstances, Canada ought to have appropriate policies and an agile bureaucratic machinery to allow governments to assess when, where and with whom Canada will act in its own interests in both tradi- tional alliances and in coalitions of the moment.
A comprehensive paper on Canada and coalitions would necessarily address a long history, rancorous debates in foreign policy, the efficacy or lack thereof in more recent military operations around the world and the place of non-military coalitions in foreign policy. This essay, however, is mainly con- cerned with Canada’s present and future military capabilities and what the reali- ties of those capabilities mean to policies based on acting through coalitions formed inside and outside traditional alliances established for conventional mil- itary operations and “operations other than war”(OOTW).
“What’s the use?” is a question that overhangs most discussions of Canadian foreign policy and armed forces. Does it matter whether Canada has a large, capable military force or mere token forces sufficient to buy a seat at inter- national tables? Some argue that Canada, rich as it is, could not afford, for domestic political reasons, a force large enough to influence international events which involve the major powers, so why try? But this influence argument is mis- construed if one assumes (as this author does) that Canada requires armed forces not to influence others’ decisions about their interests and actions, but to influ- ence decisions others may take about Canada’s interests and policies. In other words, Canadian history tells us that absent adequate military forces (and the political will to use them appropriately), others will take decisions about vital Canadian interests in North America and internationally. Canadian politicians have usually been willing to buy a seat at the table — at times a very cheap seat to be sure — to have say in decisions that affect Canada and Canadians.
Canada was once a successful and influential peacekeeper because the Canadian Armed Forces had capabilities that elicited respect and confidence from the international community. Canada was once able to “protect itself from help” offered by the United States because Canada could assure Americans that their northern flank would be protected. During most of the Cold War, American leaders believed the claim because they could see the forces deployed for that purpose. One clear message from the “9-11” crisis is that this trust is greatly diminished, and now Canadians are exposed to intrusive American demands for changes to Canadian domestic policies. Pierre Trudeau once derisively remarked that Canada had armed forces “more to impress our friends than to frighten our enemies,” although some might suggest that he never understood the enduring importance of this observation.2 But the reality underlying the remark and its importance to Canadian foreign policy may become increasingly obvious if Canada, as many credible observers report, continues to run down its armed forces such that we can impress in our own interest neither friend nor foe.
For Canada, coalitions formed outside traditional alliances have and will continue to pose several challenges to policy coordination, doctrine, defence pro- gram and capabilities development, leadership, sustainment and national com- mand. The underlying questions, however, concern assessments of the most like- ly configurations of future coalitions, the political requirements for building them, and what policies and procedures Canada might adopt in these modern circumstances to give greatest effect to its foreign policies and national interest while continuing to act through coalitions.
Coalitions have a few distinct characteristics: they are more or less formal undertakings of two or more states encompassed by a promise to act within some definite area, time or circumstance; and they supply a mechanism for con- sultation between partners from time to time. Security-related coalitions usual- ly provide for a commitment “to some future action.” This action “could entail almost anything — detailed military planning, consultations during a crisis, or a promise by one state to abstain from an upcoming war.”3 In Canadian foreign policy, coalitions tend to be positive undertakings between Canada and other states in order to aggregate their political, economic and military powers to accomplish national goals that none can effectively achieve alone. The promise to act in concert, however, may be more or less ephemeral depending on the cir- cumstances.
The temporal nature of most agreements that underpin coalitions high- lights another major feature. Coalitions exist in an environment of competing interests, attitudes and perceptions, which create what Michael Ward termed an “alliance dynamic” characterized by “contradictory tendencies operating within bureaucratic meshes.”4 In other words, coalitions are political creatures subject to changing international events and domestic attitudes, and they thus require con- tinual maintenance and management within and between states. In reality, the more likely it is that “the promise” will be called or the more critical the events then and afterwards, the greater is the need for reliable mechanisms to shape the concerted efforts of coalitions.
Long-standing alliances like NATO have developed elaborate mechanisms for consultation and military command, but even NATO suffers great pains in sustaining a united goal in a crisis — witness, for instance, the allied campaign in Kosovo. Coalitions of the moment cobbled together even with the best inten- tions in the face of a crisis are confronted with major difficulties in holding together and conducting dangerous operations. History is replete with examples of these dynamics. But today, the effect of media reporting on domestic and inter- national audiences increasingly seems to overwhelm decision-makers and com- manders, such that one must assume that coalitions agreed in peacetime will be greatly stressed in crisis and conflict.
At issue, especially in active military coalitions — including those not ostensibly aimed at combat operations — is the fact that coalition leaders are certain to make decisions about national “blood and treasure.” There are few states in which citizens will comfortably assent to sacrifices seemingly imposed by outsiders, no matter their indifference to the terms of a coalition agreed in peacetime. These general tendencies ought to be a warning to Canadian polit- ical leaders and senior defence and foreign policy planners to beware of coali- tions. At least, leaders ought to carefully consider decisions related to Canada and coalitions in the context of the national interest, and insist on a firm national voice in any coalition decisions that directly affect Canada and Canadians.
The Bookends of Canadian Military Interventions Abroad
In 1956, at the behest of allies and under the United Nations flag, Canada took the lead in organizing and directing the UN Emergency Force in the Middle East. Canada was able to lead this critical international endeavour because it possessed the commensurate soft and hard assets to allow Canadian diplomats to convince allies, foes, prospective partners and the belligerents in the region that an effec- tive force could be deployed. Furthermore, because Canada had in its own armed forces the hard assets — the troops, transportation ships and aircraft, communi- cations units and commanders and staffs — it could conduct and lead the oper- ation as though it were a neutral state acting solely in the interests of the United Nations. Lester Pearson might have won the Noble Peace Prize for his initiative, but he knew beforehand that Canada had the wherewithal to accomplish what he had proposed.
In 1996, at the behest of the United Nations and the desire of the govern- ment, Canada again took the lead in an attempt to deploy an emergency force to Zaire and the Great Lakes region of Africa in order to help alleviate the enormous humanitarian crisis there. Unfortunately, Canada simply did not have the requi- site assets to make this commitment effective in any sense. Indeed, some contend that if it had not been for the sudden end to the crisis, Canada may have overt- ly suffered a major foreign policy embarrassment. The designated commander of the proposed multinational mission, Lieutenant General Baril, was dispatched without adequate staff or communications support. Moreover, the government expected Baril to command a multinational force even though the Canadian Forces did not have anywhere near enough transportation units to deliver even its own small contingent to the area. Neither did it have any logistical units to support the Canadian Forces detachment, to say nothing of the demands of the proposed international force.
In the most understated way, General Baril concluded in his final report that Operation Assurance was hampered “due to such factors as the active post- ing season, leave, equipment [un]availability, and other tasking, there exists a real life gap between our real readiness levels and those derived from Defence Planning guidance tasks.”5 This statement not only illustrates the weakness of the Canadian Forces, but also that policy-makers ought to be wary of defence docu- ments that tend to describe the intended capabilities of the Canadian Forces but not the actual capabilities or the readiness of forces. Michael Hennessy observed that for the Canadian Forces “moving from notional capability to actual capabil- ity was problematic” during this period mainly because “real operational readi- ness was impossible to gauge.”6 The operational readiness system, such as it is, has long been criticized as being unreliable. There is little evidence to suggest that this serious defect in national security planning has been corrected.7
This brief tale of two operations — the bookends of Canada’s intervention history — highlights the inescapable relationship between ends and means, between foreign policy aspirations and policy outcomes. Although no governments complained publicly in 1996 about the Canadian attempt to organize a multina- tional coalition, few trusted Canadian competence enough to actually commit forces to the so-called Multi-National Force. Combatants in the region showed lit- tle respect for the force commander or members of the Canadian Forces when they arrived in the field. The inability of the Canadian Forces even to get to Africa in any useful military state did not go unobserved in London and Washington.
But those failings and the consequences that followed did not begin or end in National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ). After all, General Baril and other dedicated people were trying to react to an incomprehensible national policy. In Baril’s opinion, “ultimately, during Operation Assurance the only apparent ele- ments of a national strategy were the objectives inferred from UNSC Resolution 1080.” A telling assessment of the long 40-year slide from the coherence of the Pearson era to the “bungle in the jungle.”8
The Canadian Forces throughout the post-Cold War period reacted to con- founding demands from governments, the public and a radically changed inter- national system. They, like most other Western armed forces, found themselves in 1992 with internal policies, force structures, force levels, major capabilities and doctrines built to meet national defence policies that were suddenly out of step with the international situation. In a few months senior officers were asked to look away from 50 years of experience and toward emerging threats and con- flicts in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. Moreover, they were asked to assume significant responsibilities to redress instability in governments, chaos in some states, humanitarian crises and famine relief, and to intercede in near-war situations where no one was sure who was fighting whom or why.
Any fair assessment would conclude that the rank and file members of the Canadian Forces overcame many of these challenges courageously and well in all the varied missions to which governments committed them. And they did so when governments inexplicably cut away many of the resources they needed and imposed radical infrastructure, organizational, force development and policy changes on the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence (DND). In meeting their duty in these circumstances, officers and members of the Canadian Forces suffered numerous physical and mental wounds in Somalia, Rwanda, Zaire, Bosnia and Kosovo, among other places, and while serving in the air and at sea with the equipment at hand.
Not all the problems that beset the Canadian Forces during the 1990s sprang from “externalities.” The officer corps was found wanting. Indeed, the Inquiry Into the Deployment of the Canadian Forces to Somalia concluded that several senior officers “failed in their duty as commanders” and that others, including some high-ranking defence officials, may have “covered up” wrongdo- ings in Somalia and in Ottawa.9 Some units while on duty in the Balkans behaved in ways that shocked Canadians. The confusion at National Defence Headquarters, along with the public sense that some leaders were untrustworthy and apparently disregarded the common soldier, led to the early retirement of one chief of defence staff. The Canadian Forces have recovered from many of these failings, but the reforms are still underway and incomplete.10
The hard experiences of the Canadian Forces in the 1990s exposed a num- ber of recurring difficulties in modern coalition and multinational operations. Generally, they fall into six categories: weak mandates and directions; uncertain international command; confused civilian and military relationships, especially between international commanders and international officials; over-tasking of individuals and some types of units; incompatible communications and logistics systems; and contradictory force protection orders and rules of engagement. These problems occur within national contingents and between contingents as well as between force commanders and international authorities, particularly during UN-mandated operations.11
Some elements of these difficulties can be resolved for particular opera- tions and in some coalitions before anyone is deployed. Others can be addressed once the units are gathered in the theatre of operations, although allowing forces to deploy with the hope that “things can be sorted out on the ground” is a pre- carious and unmilitary way to do business.
This observation is particularly telling when people in the midst of a cri- sis expect arriving forces to immediately swing into action to remedy their some- times desperate circumstances. However, many problems and the frustrations caused by recurring difficulties can be addressed only through the development of international regimes or codes and policies that set in place principles, norms and procedures for multinational coalitions. But before Canada enters into any negotiations, Canadian political leaders, officers and officials must decide what principles, norms and procedures best serve Canada’s laws, foreign policies, mil- itary capabilities and interests.
In Canada, fundamental inconsistencies between foreign policy ends and Canadian Forces means plagued foreign policy and defence planning throughout the 1990s, creating, according to Louis Delvoie, “a policy vacuum” with danger- ous consequences for Canada.12 In 1993-94 the government convened two sep- arate and distinct committees of the Senate and the House of Commons to study Canada’s foreign and defence policy options. Each study followed similar proce- dures, welcomed wide public participation and appeared largely free from insti- tutional and partisan biases. The resulting reports were well-received, yet in time their procedural weaknesses undermined their value as guides for policy and administration. The committees’ reports seemed uncoordinated, if not contra- dictory. The defence inquiry was completed in detail almost before the foreign policy review began, an outcome many thought backwards in every sense of the word. The process unintentionally illustrated the chronic schism between these essentially related policies and their parent departments.
The ideological differences between various individuals and organizations in the Canadian defence and foreign policy communities, which emerged during the review process, continued throughout most of the 1990s. Both proponents and opponents of “soft power” and the humanitarian agenda argued among themselves, while real operations were launched from Bosnia to East Timor. Critical questions concerning force development and capital acquisition for the Canadian Forces were left hanging or, more usually, officers and officials in NDHQ moved along as they saw fit. In time, as the effectiveness of the “human security agenda” lost momen- tum, the recovering Canadian Forces set off on an ambitious — if underfunded — Strategy 2020 of its own making.13 Where once the divergence between ends and means in Canadian foreign policy may have hung on ideological nuances, some of the decisions that have been taken in NDHQ (unless they are reversed or dis- avowed by political leaders) may have already outpaced the relevance of a future policy review of coalitions and Canadian foreign policy.
Consider, for example, the Defence Minister’s recent policy announcement that henceforth “early in/early out” would be the basis for Canadian Forces deployments in any future coalition operation. This decision was taken and put into effect in the context of a small Canadian Forces deployment to Eritrea. The mission framework closely mirrored a policy preference favoured in NDHQ. Officials argue that if Canada wished to avoid most “coalition traps” and to exert maximum control over its policies, choices, armed forces and other resources in coalitions, then it should strive to find balanced coalitions of lesser powers. These coalitions, committed to low-risk, short-term objectives, in specific areas and for specific durations, may be more compatible with the capabilities of the Canadian Forces and the DND’s budget. However, it is unclear at this time whether the strategy was decided to meet Canada’s foreign policy objectives or dictated by the continuing decline in Canadian Forces capabilities.
There are apparent contradictions in the strategy even within the DND’s own policies. For example, the 1994 White Paper on Defence and current defence plans commit Canada to provide forces for NATO without preconditions, except for the size of the force. The early in/early out policy certainly does not apply to the NATO Bosnia expedition where, in fact, the Canadian Forces are building near-permanent facilities and arranging for an indefinite stay.
Even though the Defense Minister’s strategy may satisfy the needs of the Canadian Forces, it is unclear whether it satisfies Canada’s foreign policy objectives. For instance, how will Canada, which has a major global economy, limit itself to this strategy and the criteria of limited engagement without being labelled a “dodger.” The early in/early out strategy presupposes that other states (assumed in the halls of NDHQ as less capable states) will fill in behind departing Canadian troops. Is this a reasonable assumption and is it reasonable to expect these lesser states to carry duties that are presumably too onerous for Canada? What message does this policy send to the international community concerning Canada’s reliabil- ity as an international actor in global security and humanitarian issues?
If acting through coalitions is central to Canada’s foreign policy and the con- duct of that policy overseas, then what effect will a limited engagement strategy have on Canada’s policies and diplomacy in the future? For instance, one must assume that Canada would commit itself to a multinational operation to have a say in how the issue is settled. But if Canada withdrew necessary forces from the coalition before the problem is resolved, then what role could Canada expect to play in determining final outcomes? In effect, early in/early out could in some circumstances undercut Canada’s foreign policy and national interests. Thus, if Canada is to adopt a strategy of early in/early out, then that policy decision and its application in particular cases should fall to the foreign minister and the Cabinet as a whole, but not to the defence minister alone. One would hope that these types of questions were debated in detail in Cabinet and in the departments before the Defense Minister made his announce- ment of a strategy that may profoundly affect the conduct of foreign policy and the image that important friends and allies of Canada hold.
Escaping the worst effects of coalition politics does not necessarily require abandoning the idea and the foreign policy of acting through coalitions. Nor is it unreasonable to consider how to get the most benefit for Canada from such poli- cies at the least cost and risk. But it seems inappropriate for a rich country to plead “lack of resources” to a world of poverty, strife and conflict, or to the United Nations or traditional allies who are accustomed to Canada’s active participation in international affairs. Moreover, it may seem distinctly un-Canadian to many citizens and could eventually prove to be a political liability for politicians who might try to defend the notion.
The hard pounding of the last decade, the inconsistency of the govern- ment’s policies and preferences, and the withering away of military capabilities — especially of well-trained, experienced people — have had a profoundly neg- ative effect on the Canadian Forces. This result will doubtless limit Canada’s for- eign policy choices insofar as the latter depend on military assets. By some accounts foreign policy is already suffering and constrained; witness the unprecedented number of times Canada has had to refuse peacekeeping service with the United Nations.
A balance between foreign policy ends and national means was met general- ly, if not ideally, during most of the Cold War era and for UN operations conducted during the same period. Since 1989, however, the usual basis for foreign policy and defence coordination and planning has been upset and, arguably, no comprehensive national strategy has replaced the old “strategy of commitments.”14 Plans are in place in NDHQ to build a new “light and lethal” Canadian Armed Forces, and an outline of these plans and criticisms of them will be discussed later in this paper. However, the chief worry outside NDHQ is that these plans are being pushed forward with- out the benefit of any national security strategy, and they may be incompatible with Canada’s foreign policy and security needs. Building such a strategy as a foundation for national security planning and operations for the 21st century ought to be of paramount importance to Canada’s political leaders if they intend Canada to recov- er its international place and to act effectively through coalitions in the future.
A National Security Strategy
Plans and Intentions Military planning in the absence of a national security strategy has been complicated by a significant reduction in national defence budgets (some 30 percent over the past 10 years), the so-called “revolution in military affairs” (RMA) and the fact that old age has rendered much of Canada’s defence capabilities obsolete. Chiefs of defence and other military leaders and defence officials have been forced to take decisions concerning what capabilities to produce in the short and long terms without much guidance from govern- ments or coordination with foreign policy goals. For example, should planners prepare the future force according to the directive of Defence 1994, “to fight alongside the best against the best,” a significant and expensive objective by any estimation; alternatively, should they support “soft power” humanitarian inter- ventions worldwide in “coalitions of the willing,” where the region and “the will- ing” may be unfamiliar to the Canadian Forces? Even if the choices were not as stark as these (and they are not always so), there are few clear beacons to guide military planners when making choices about where to direct Canada’s long-term defence program.
Defence planners, however, are not completely innocent in these circum- stances. Quite naturally, military officers and other authorities in the force-devel- opment process have their own notions of what kind of armed force Canada needs. They also have their own ideas about why, where and with whom Canada should make coalitions. These ideas and attitudes shape the decisions these individuals take regarding defence capabilities; the distribution of resources between capabili- ties and missions, and military arrangements and procedures they make with allies.
The lack of a national strategy can create two types of problems. First, in the absence of a national strategy, military officers have no way of knowing whether their decisions will affect foreign policy goals for better or worse. But one thing is sure: their decisions will condition foreign policy insofar as hard assets drive for- eign policy choices. Second, changing foreign policy goals and (more often) the aspirations of politicians in crisis situations may tempt political leaders to demand the deployment of the Canadian Forces in circumstances for which they are ill- equipped or otherwise unprepared. Such decisions, as in the Operation Assurance (Zaire) decision in 1996, may result in an international embarrassment for Canada or place members of the Canadian Forces in great danger, or both.
In an era of standing coalitions and coalitions of the moment, which might involve the Canadian Forces and other Canadians in anything from combat oper- ations to humanitarian actions in insecure regions of the world, the government, and especially the armed force, must be appropriately prepared for a wide-ranging operational environment. If Canadian governments believe that Canada ought to continue its alliance with traditional friends and be prepared to join coalitions of the moment under United Nations or other leadership, then it must support a full range of intervention capabilities. On the other hand, governments could choose in advance a smaller range of coalition possibilities and develop a national securi- ty and foreign policy strategy of ends and means appropriate to that choice.
A policy of “go small or stay at home,” however, might carry penalties or sideline Canada in a world where multilateralism is the organizing principle of international relations and where influence accrues to those willing and able to share the burdens that flow from this principle. In the absence of a national strat- egy that both spells out with reasonable precision the objectives for foreign and defence policy and matches these goals to appropriate means, no one can predict with certainty where the diverse planning in departments and the Canadian Forces will take Canadian foreign policy.15
Ends and Means
A Canadian national security strategy for acting through coalitions, by defi- nition, cannot escape the joining of ends and means. Nor can foreign policy plan- ners leave the fundamental decisions about what means are appropriate to poli- cy ends entirely to others, lest the means drive the ends. Ends and means may become discordant through weak analysis, misunderstandings, incoherent direc- tion and planning, or inattention over time. However, major difficulties in exe- cution can arise from failure to maintain the resources necessary for coalition operations at reasonable levels of readiness.
Means in this context fall into two broad designations, soft and hard assets, each of several capabilities, some of which are controlled by domestic decisions and some by international agreement. Soft assets are highly flexible, readily assembled, unobtrusive and process-oriented. Hard assets are physical, technical, obvious in deployment, normally requiring substantial and continu- ous preparation for employment, and costly, and they need to be deployed in large numbers to give much effect to events.
Soft and hard assets are (or ought to be) complimentary and compatible. However, whereas soft assets can be developed quickly from national and inter- national sources, hard assets are difficult and expensive to develop, something that has important consequences for foreign policy and defence planners. Generally, soft assets — money, people skilled in diplomacy and the technical functions of particular coalitions, and the mechanisms for intra-coalition policy- making — are most important to diplomatic coalitions meant to unite declara- tions of intent and to confirm commitments before humanitarian and security coalitions are brought into action. Hard assets, on the other hand, are predomi- nant whenever a coalition wishes to display its unity through a show of force and whenever a coalition resorts to overt operations.
Hard assets are the stuff of security coalitions in action. Foremost, hard assets are people in governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and armed forces who, through their skills and initiative, move declared policies into actual policies. These people must be recruited, trained, deployed and cared for by governments and international organizations if coalitions are to have effect anywhere. Hard assets include, as well, equipment of various sorts; stockpiles of expendable resources; land, sea and air transporta- tion means; communication devices and networks; and other tangible items that allow people to construct working coalitions in the field.
National armed forces are the most obvious hard asset in any coalition. Yet, developing and maintaining appropriate hard military capabilities to service coali- tions is a considerable difficulty for governments and military leaders. Ideally, gov- ernments would define their foreign policy related to coalitions in sufficient detail to allow diplomatic and military planners to develop appropriate capabilities for these purposes. Afterwards, governments would modify commitments to coali- tions carefully to maintain a reasonable balance between foreign policy ends and available military means. This logic has not always been followed in Canada.
Coalitions usually demand, if they are important, a commitment of both soft and hard assets. While some might believe that a commitment to coalition partners is a sometime thing — promissory notes, not cash, as was, perhaps, the case through much of the Cold War — coalitions today are based on cash, not credit. As coalitions are a central part of Canadian foreign policy and national defence planning, there is little room for naive and incomplete policies that may ultimately commit significant amounts of national treasure and prestige in coali- tion politics. Similarly, there is no room at all for strategic and institutional dis- order when such commitments place Canadians at risk.
Commitments to coalitions that affect the well-being of other states can embarrass governments and Canadians when coalition partners point to the inad- equacies of Canadian preparations to uphold their side of the bargain. Recently, the United States Ambassador to Canada criticized Canadian defence efforts when he remarked: “I must note that many of our friends in Canada have expressed concern … that many on the US side of the border share. That concern is over resources for Canadian Forces … it has now reached the point where without significant increas- es the Canadian Forces could lose much of their effectiveness.”16 This official state- ment from the Bush administration, made before September 11th, should warn foreign policy planners that Canada’s incapacities are sidelining Canadian influence not only in Washington, but also in the international community generally. Allies may listen to Canadian rhetoric, but they can count our ranks for themselves and draw conclusions appropriate to their own interests.
Where in the World, How and With Whom?
Choosing where in the world Canada is willing and able to act in multinational operations, including humanitarian operations, is a difficult political decision com- plicated by public and political perceptions that Canada is a leader in international peacekeeping. This national myth encourages Canadians to expect the government to participate in, if not lead, significant international coalitions. The nature of inter- national crises and Canada’s apparent enthusiasm for intervention gives an erratic shape to many aspects of foreign policy planning. However, coherent, coordinated diplomatic and military policy and plans suffer without prior basic consideration and choices about where Canada can and ought to act in international affairs.
Choosing among three obvious coalition leaders seems appropriate. Canada could continue its traditional emphasis in North America and Europe, to include, perhaps, a broad definition of where Europe begins and ends, and emphasize operations with NATO. On the other hand, Canada might emphasize coalitions of the moment, usually formed under the direct auspices of the United Nations. Third, Canada might more closely identify its defence and foreign pol- icy with American aims and programs and ally itself mainly with American-led coalitions. Each of these general options carries its own costs and benefits, and any decision on where to go should be made in that context. Therefore, no mat- ter the choice, governments ought to make an explicit and inseparable decision to build a defence and foreign affairs establishment capable of deploying and maintaining over a long period the requisite forces such operations demand.
Although Canada’s coalition policies since 1950 have been shaped largely by the United Nations and NATO, and more recently by coalitions of the moment conceived and constructed at the edges of these institutions, are these the only options in Canada’s foreign policy future? Might not other international organizations, the OAS or ASEAN, for example, sponsor some types of interna- tional actions that could not conveniently be arranged through the United Nations or NATO?17 Could not Canada prepare itself to lead a common cause security and defence coalition constructed around a particular issue or regional matter, perhaps in the Caribbean or in Africa, as it has done recently on issues like land mines and international courts? These are questions for later in this paper. For the moment, it is safe and conventional to assume that Canada will always be a partner in NATO, the United Nations, coalitions of the moment and with the United States, and that the characteristics of each partnership will con- dition Canadians’ particular responses to international affairs.
The North Atlantic Alliance
The North Atlantic Alliance is the principal coalition that oversees security matters in Europe west of the Russia-Eastern Baltic-Ukraine-Romania boundary and in the Mediterranean Sea. Its regime is well-known to Canadians and its polit- ical/military mechanisms are sound and practised. The alliance has overwhelming military power in the region and further afield in some circumstances. Although NATO functions by consensus, the major powers, and unquestionably the United States, play a dominant role in policy decisions and in any operation the alliance might undertake. In the past, allies have expected each member to join, as their capabilities permitted, every NATO mission and certainly those anticipated in “general war” circumstances. More recently, in the Balkan missions, states’ opera- tional commitments to NATO have become more discretionary. That is to say, national interests and sensitivities have become more significant in decisions about who will join operations and what they might bring to each mission.
During the Kosovo war, for example, Greece downplayed its involvement for important domestic reasons. The NATO deployment to Macedonia was approved by “silent voting” — an example of “the rule of the most affected” in action — and involved a discrete number of national armed forces under British leadership. These examples suggest that NATO is once again adapting to emerging circum- stances, much as it has done in the past. But what is most striking is the degree to which the alliance is able to form coalitions within the coalition.
Once cohesion and unbreakable consensus were the dominant characteris- tics of the alliance standing before the Soviet Union. Today, carefully controlled “flexible responses” to particular situations by various combinations of states and military organizations allows the alliance to act together in name, but without unduly stressing states’ interests. From another perspective, the Macedonia opera- tion hints at a greater willingness of the European powers to lead alliance actions without significant contributions by the United States. Although this opinion might be overdrawn given the small scale of the Macedonian operation, the largely European International Stabilization and Assistance Force deploying to Afghanistan (without any Canadian Forces) may support this notion.
Recent developments in NATO and the evolving European defence enti- ty may change Canada’s response to coalition operations within the alliance. For instance, it may no longer be necessary for Canada to join every NATO initiative simply to show its solidarity with the allies. Canadian Forces deploy- ments, especially, might be more discrete and concentrated (as they have arguably been recently) without fear that they will be criticized in Brussels or at home. On the other hand, once made, commitments to actual operations are difficult to undo – witness 25 years in Cyprus and 10 years in the Balkans. If the only prospect for withdrawal from the Balkans is “peace in our time,” then Canada and the Canadian Forces might be committed to the region for a very long time. In this event, foreign policy officials might consider drafting a specific policy aimed at Canada’s participation in NATO coalitions, and that policy could not avoid questions and recommendations on force development and capabilities planning in Canada that might be at odds with extant plan- ning in NDHQ.
The United Nations
Arguably, as the United Nations takes a more prominent role as the legitimiz- ing authority for international security operations — and especially for interventions by the international community in the affairs of sovereign states — coalitions that it has blessed may become the main mechanism through which most states act in their own interests and, presumably, in the interests of the global community. The United Nations is, therefore, the second foundation institution — and Canada’s preferred institution — for coalition-building.
In fact, building coalitions within a coalition has become a principal busi- ness of the United Nations Security Council and the secretary-general. Over the years, however, the United Nations has experienced considerable difficulty build- ing effective coalitions to maintain stable conditions in contested areas, for instance, in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. Various ideas and reports, such as the UN Brahimi Report, point to the continuing need to reform the United Nations if it is to better anticipate, plan for, organize and support all but simple, small, less risky coalition operations. Unfortunately, there is no reason to expect that any of these ideas or recommendations will be put into effect soon.
Nevertheless, the United Nations will probably remain the “legitimizer” for most international interventions that involve member states, and it will continue to promote interventions whenever the secretary-general can build momentum for them within the Security Council and among public opinion. Canada, because of its support for the United Nations and because it is a rich country with limited advanced capabilities, can expect to be called upon by the secretary- general to commit soft and hard assets to future UN operations. Given that the United Nations will most likely be charged with humanitarian and OOTW-type interventions in underdeveloped regions of the world, there are two policy ques- tions for Canada. First, what type of capabilities is Canada prepared to develop which would best serve the missions that will probably fall to the United Nations? Second, what is Canada prepared to do to enhance the United Nations’ ability to conduct coalition operations?
Answering the first question requires an assessment of the likely force requirements for typical UN intervention operations. From this study, Canadian policy-makers could develop a force model for Canada, one that would likely include diplomatic, military, police and NGO capabilities, as the basis for a national strategy to support the United Nations. Military planners, of course, have other imperatives that drive force development, and they are spelt out in the government’s Defence 1994. Leaning the military force model too far toward the United Nations’ needs might compromise other national defence requirements. By the same measure, leaning too far toward “battlespace” warfare and the RMA might compromise Canada’s ability to aid and support the United Nations or to join “non-conventional operations” where stealth and people are central to plans. The goals and their consequences for force development need to be reconciled within a national strategy for acting through coalitions.
Helping the United Nations is never easy. If it were easy to change patterns of international behaviour through the United Nations, then the worthy recom- mendations of dedicated people would have accomplished this task years ago. The United Nations is not beset by a puzzle in search of a solution. Rather, it is a political institution and functions along political lines much as its founders anticipated. However, once it has decided to intervene in some dispute or crisis, then there are ways that might enhance the effect and efficiency of that interven- tion. Many, if not all, of the important recommendations have been made, in some cases many times. But a crucial area frequently criticized in Canada and elsewhere concerns the command and control of UN forces or, rather, the weak- nesses or absence of UN command and control capabilities. Here is an area where Canada might put forward ideas and an effort to make a difference in the inter- est of the both the United Nations and the Canadians deployed under it.
Military leadership in the diplomacy of UN-mandated multinational opera- tions is a prominent characteristic of recent coalitions. Few diplomats or soldiers were prepared for this outcome when international interventions began to multi- ply and developed into quasi-military campaigns unlike any operation of the Cold War-peacekeeping era. Whether in the Gulf War, or in Bosnia, Kosovo, Zaire, Rwanda, Haiti or East Timor, senior military officers and commanders have been asked or required to take decisions far outside the usual expected range of military matters.18 Officers, including Canadians at times, are increasingly involved in polit- ical, legal and ethical questions that they must help to decide to ensure coherent coalition operations. Many officers are frustrated by the confusion that swirls out of the United Nations, NATO’s political committees and national capitals. They are frustrated not only by orders and counter-orders, but also by the restrictions that follow from the notion that leaders of intervention forces ought to be “even-hand- ed,” no matter the circumstances or the activities of people in the region.
General Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and overall commander of allied forces during the Kosovo war, recalls that he was asked to “use forces, not force,” but to do so following “the principles of any mil- itary operation.” But what was especially vexing to Clark as he dealt with con- flicts in the Balkans was the idea taken from United Nations mandates that com- manders would be given “unlimited obligations” to protect civilians, deliver aid, secure safe areas and so on, but “very limited authority” to accomplish any of these things.19 The formulation is a perversion of military principles and com- manders’ expectations, and it contributes greatly to coalition difficulties in the field. This difficulty is exacerbated when the belligerents know that commanders of UN and other coalition forces are greatly restricted from using the military force placed under their command. Hostile political leaders, some of whom are former military officers, have little respect for and are unlikely to be swayed by international commanders who they know have no right to act on their own ini- tiative. What Clark suggested should be the policy in all allied coalitions, and what he was seeking under the Dayton Accords was “to limit the obligations of the military — you can’t do everything with military forces — but to give the commander unlimited authority to accomplish these limited obligations.”20
Where Clark was frustrated in a NATO context, other officers, like General Romeo Dallaire, were ironically and tragically blocked by the same constraints under UN rulings from accomplishing the missions the United Nations sent them to do. In Dallaire’s case, it led directly to the catastrophe in Rwanda. Better to send no commanders than to send officers prohibited from commanding their forces to accomplish their missions.
Sorting out the new civil-military relations between nations in coalitions and “international commanders” is an essential part of building clear methods for act- ing through coalitions. Canada might take the initiative in sorting out this messy relationship in international affairs by first qualifying its own policies with regard to Canadian Forces officers deployed and assigned as coalition commanders.
Coalitions of the Moment
Typically today, many international interventions take place outside the Cold War, allied framework and the “Cyprus model” of peacekeeping. “Coalitions of the willing” in Somalia, the Balkans, Africa and East Timor have brought together nations and armed forces that are often strangers. One thing that is known about these new types of operations is that not much is known in advance of their assembly and deployment. There are few principles or rules or decisions in place before a crisis occurs and Canadian officers and officials and strangers are forced to cobble together operating procedures in the midst of a cri- sis. Furthermore, because each operation tends to be unique in important ways, these same officials are often forced to define a Canadian position and an opera- tional response in haste at home and overseas. Repeatedly, they and others have complained about the inadequacy of the machinery of national government and international organizations in these circumstances.
At the end of the Cold War, some believed that the new international order could be managed mainly through the offices of the United Nations and the will- ing cooperation of states in various types of coalitions. Certainly in Canada, the Axworthy doctrine followed these lines and encompassed a greater vision in which states, great and small, would increase the breadth and depth of interven- tions around the world. Canadians could not, according to Axworthy, “ignore the problems of others, even if we wanted to,” and he asserted that Canadians did not want to ignore others “in an increasingly interconnected world.”21 One can argue, as Sokolsky and Jockel have, that the “human security agenda” rescued Canadian defence policy from “military irrelevance and strategic sterility.”22 Others, however, would now say that military leaders have largely gotten past Axworthy’s challenges and fashioned a new (old) relevance for themselves in Strategy 2020, leaving foreign policy behind in the race to situate a post- Axworthy national foreign and defence strategy.
While Canadians debate the legacy of foreign ministers, the sine qua non of the human security agenda, interventions “in the problems of others” may be coming increasingly problematic, not only for Canada, but for other major states as well. President Clinton’s policies encouraged the American armed forces to launch in 1997-98 a mission to “shape the world through engagements.” America’s National Military Strategy defines shaping as helping to “shape the international environment primarily through [the] inherent deterrent qualities and through peacetime military engagement” of the armed forces. This effort would help “foster the institutions and international relationships that constitute a peaceful strategic environment by promoting stability; preventing and reducing conflicts and threats; and deterring aggression and coercion.”23 The strategy is controversial, not only because the goals are difficult to delimit, but also because some theatre commanders believe it cuts into resources dedicated to the armed forces’ primary missions. The greatest concern, however, is the way “shaping” can turn against the “shaper” and entangle the United States in unresolvable regional and domestic conflicts. Rarely can anyone, least of all military officers and their units, help solve others’ problems without taking sides or making choices that seem to favour one faction over another.24
The British government’s defence policy directed “Britain’s armed forces [to] make a major contribution to peacetime diplomacy” as part of a general pol- icy to “be a force for good” around the world. The “key aim of these activities [known in the UK] collectively as ‘Defence Diplomacy’ is to teach other countries how Armed Forces should operate in support of and be accountable to, a demo- cratically elected government. In this way [Britain] aims to reduce the potential for tension and conflict and make the world a safer place.”25 Heightened empha- sis on the armed forces’ traditional role of “showing the flag” is a display of British willingness to join international efforts to construct a peaceful world. Engagements in the Persian Gulf region, Kosovo, Macedonia, Sierra Leone and now especially in Afghanistan, demonstrate a British willingness to lead coali- tions and to use military force to achieve these national and international ends.
Nevertheless, a certain weariness with these conflicts and a disillusionment with the outcomes of costly engagements may be signalling that the idea that “others’ problems are our problems” may have run its course. The Bush admin- istration is in the midst of a defence and foreign policy review, but no one expects President Bush to commit the United States to coalitions of the moment unless they are formed to address significant American national interests, as in the war on terrorism. The British government is widely reported as being on the verge of substantially cutting major military capabilities, and this policy will undoubted- ly curtail any opportunity to “do good in the world” outside Europe. Early in/early out may not describe a change in Canadian foreign policy, but the prac- tical effect is that Canada, too, has lowered its horizons to a very few commit- ments in regions tied closely to Canada’s traditional national interests.
Partnership with the United States
Under bilateral and multilateral agreements, Canada has enjoyed a long and beneficial security relationship with the United States in what a colleague called “the only coalition that matters to Canada.” Despite the upheavals in international relations since the end of the Cold War, few political leaders in either country expected the fundamentals of this relationship to change any time soon. Although a number of influential American leaders were questioning what they saw as Canada’s failures to honour its obligations to the coalition during this period, they did not carry much weight in Washington or Ottawa. Generally, Canadian officials successfully deflected American criticisms of Canadian efforts, and most Americans felt that its armed forces provided adequate defence in North America. For the most part, the currency in the Canadian/American coalition was Canadian political support for US security interests and activities outside North America.
The recent terror attacks on the United States and the growing apprehen- sion that they will increase in number and ferocity has changed fundamental assumptions about the Canada/US defence and security relationship. This change will be all the more dramatic if Americans believe “the longest undefended bor- der” must be defended — according to American standards — because Canada cannot be trusted to take the necessary actions to deter and prevent terrorists from entering the United States.
Thus, Canada’s most important coalition may be headed for radical trans- formation, from one based since about 1950 on a threat of over-the-pole air attacks and from 1989 on no threat at all, to an overwhelming, all-encompassing concern for the security of the homeland. In this circumstance, the United States will undoubtedly look to Canada to share the burden of homeland security in hitherto unimagined ways, which will impose considerable tangible and intangi- ble costs on Canadians. Should Canada hesitate or seek to avoid these new obli- gations, it seems likely that the United States will blockade its northern border, undertake covert intelligence operations in Canada and act unilaterally to defend itself by deploying its armed forces in Canada whenever the president deems it necessary. Canada faces no greater foreign and defence policy challenge than finding an appropriate and credible way to reassure the United States that Canada can live up to the 1938 Roosevelt-Mackenzie King agreement under which the Prime Minister assured the President that no attack on the United States could come through Canadian territory.
Canada must, however, view its coalition relationships with the United States and those outside North America more broadly. It is difficult to see how NATO, the United Nations or any important coalition of the moment could suc- ceed without American political and logistical support and, at times, its armed forces. Nor should one exaggerate so-called “neo-isolationism” or “unilateralism” in American foreign policy. Careful policy planners in the United States tend to agree that coalitions are essential — for advanced basing of military forces, for instance — if the United States is to exploit its technological superiority in any regional con- flict. They agree also that the American public expects a collective response and a sharing of burdens between the United States and traditional allies. But perhaps the main reason why the United States may usually seek to act through coalitions is because coalitions “are reassuring to others [states] and may contribute more to sta- bility than attempts by the world’s only superpower to unilaterally impose deter- rence [and conflict resolutions]” on the rest of the world.26 The challenge, therefore, is not to get the United States to act within coalitions, but to shape coalitions in ways that serve each partner’s interests, needs and constrains.
While there is no doubt that the United States would act to defend its interests when necessary and seems now likely to look for allies in such situa- tions, it is not as certain that the United States will always eagerly join coalitions devised by other states for other purposes. This observation is the clear lesson of the Rwandan affair and in some diplomatic contexts. But Canada and other states whose foreign policies are closely associated with the United States and which depend, more or less, on American soft and hard assets, cannot usually wait for a happy coincidence of their goals and American interests. Therefore, it would be especially useful to find ways in which Canada could help keep the United States continuously engaged in global security issues beyond those that directly affect America’s vital interests.
There are, of course, scores of initiatives aimed at bolstering America’s international “engagement.” However, those that attempt to embroil the United States in every regional conflict outside America’s definition of its vital interests might simply defeat the general intent and particular operation. First, over- dependence on the United States in coalitions can appear to Americans as though allies are “in effect ‘taxing’ the American public” to the detriment of the United States.27 This perception might only fuel the rhetoric and opinions of those in the United States who believe that “entangling alliances” are essentially wrong-head- ed. Moreover, where these types of engagements result in American casualties, then the negative effect of coalition-building with the United States can be great- ly exacerbated, as the American experiences in Somalia demonstrate.
On the other hand, involving American armed forces in UN operations and coalitions of the moment can unintentionally worsen already tense situations and lead to conflicts between coalition forces and local inhabitants. Americans, for many reasons, are international targets that some people wish to fire on simply to gain attention at home and abroad. Thus, putting Americans in situations — especially on the ground — where inhabitants might see them as opponents could turn a man- ageable situation into a hostile situation. Arguably, this was the case in Somalia and may now be the case in Kosovo. Allies and coalition-builders ought to carefully con- sider the consequences of organizing coalitions around American assets and armed forces before they devise policies that assume that engaging Americans in multilater- al coalitions is universally beneficial to national and international security interests.
What, then, might Canada do in these circumstances? Ironically, the best policy might be to support those Americans who argue for the restricted engage- ment of the United States in coalitions formed for missions outside America’s direct interests. Doing this, however, would require others, including Canada, to pick up the American burden to relieve the United States from leading and underpinning every coalition in NATO, the United Nations and elsewhere. Specifically, Canada and the other states would have to build the requisite com- mand and control mechanisms, develop armed forces, especially army units and formations and accept the costs these policies would entail. They would also have to lead willingly when crises arise and to sustain their efforts until some rea- sonable outcome is achieved. In fact, some might contend that this is the key ele- ment in Britain’s security relationship with the United States now.
This logic is behind much of what is happening with a greater European defence entity, and it is expressed in the British deployment to Sierra Leone. However, keeping the United States engaged by giving it room for disengagement will fail if the political will and effective soft and hard assets are not forthcoming. What can Canada do to enhance its foreign policy through coalitions? Canada could begin the long process of building a credible Canadian capability to lead and support multilateral coalitions at levels commensurate with its traditions, wealth, international position and global responsibilities.
A New Realism?
Policy planners may be facing a “new realism.” In this environment, the human security agenda may be put to new tests aimed at showing relevance to specific national interests. Being my brother’s keeper may no longer serve as a basis for national foreign policies no matter the value such homilies hold for indi- viduals. According to some observers, “the pendulum is swinging the other way now, above all in Washington…NATO is under political and logistical strain. Each western-brokered accord has entailed policing, and almost every interven- tion has turned out to be for the long term…making for deep reluctance to back diplomacy with military muscle.”28 Is there a truer example of this realism than the grudging reluctance of states to use force to implement stability in Macedonia and the consequent limited NATO commitment to the state that many described as the fuse in the Balkan powder keg?
If it is true that “[T]hose who cause fire will be left to burn,” then what future is there for Canadian foreign policy through coalitions? The focus on tra- ditional friends and allies will not change, but less will be expected in terms of commitments to “out-of-area” operations. The United Nations will remain a stage for pleas from some and condemnation from others, but it will be less likely to react to either simply because it does not have the resources to act on its own. Coalitions of the moment will come and go, but they too will be restricted to put- ting out small fires in otherwise controllable neighbourhoods. Embargoes, threats of force and gunboat diplomacy in the name of any cause, no matter how noble and necessary, may be the exception rather than the rule except where states and their vital interests are directly threatened or attacked.
Perhaps the new realism is fuelled, ironically, by a reverse CNN-effect already at play. Once media broadcasts stimulated governments to act for a good cause. Now the media may be unintentionally dissuading governments from acting through their ever-present images of Hobbes’s “worst of all [worlds of] continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” and of autocrats in thugocracies, self-centred and unwilling to be reasonable in any circumstance. Who would send their children to soldier for collective security and the United Nations on the assumption that peace can be found in such places?
These pessimistic “mean times” and “complex political emergencies” may be driving good people from the scene, but this result is not the only predictable consequence of Canada’s experiences in coalitions.29 One can flee in fear from Hobbes’ world, or one can act courageously to mitigate its worse aspects where one can do so. Saving some — by reinforcing success, not failure — means mak- ing choices about where to spend scarce resources. It also means making deci- sions aimed at creating the conditions for success.
International policy ought to address the following needs: 1) the establish- ment of an international regime to guide states acting together in stability and humanitarian coalitions; 2) the creation of interoperable assets that multiply the effects of national capabilities when they are brought together; 3) the organization of permanent, international, diplomatic, military, police and NGO headquarters and staffs dedicated to planning and controlling coalition operations both with and, where necessary, without the United Nations; 4) the creation of NATO-like military cultures and procedures in other regions of the world to enable states to rapidly bring military forces into being in coalition operations outside Europe; 5) the establishment of the terms and relationships of international military leaders before crises occur; and 6) the examination of the relationship between national leaders and international diplomats and military leaders assigned to conduct coali- tion operations. Perhaps the most difficult duty for political leaders is to explain to domestic audiences and ruthless leaders that people will not always be left to burn, and to commit themselves and their people to finding ways to bring a degree of sta- bility to regions where there is a fair chance of success.
The Canadian Armed Forces: Current Capabilities, Future Aspirations
What Capabilities — How Ready?
Measuring power and relating it to influence is a tricky business. Nevertheless, there are conspicuous relationships between a state’s resources and its ability to shape international affairs in its own interests. The capabilities of a state’s armed forces are an obvious element of power, but the term is not often well-developed, especially in discussions in Canada about its armed forces and its foreign policy. Any discussion about armed forces and coalition operations must begin from a common understanding of what is meant by the term “capabilities” and the relationship between capabilities and their state of “operational readiness.”
Too often military capabilities are described and seen simply as pieces of equipment, “platforms” used to deliver weapons to targets. In truth, however, a military capability is not simply a piece of kit or even many pieces. A capability cannot be defined simply as a ship, an aircraft or a gun. No matter the general rhetoric in defence circles about the wonders of some new piece of equipment, the finest modern ship tied to the dock for lack of a crew is no capability at all.30
Rather, a capability must be measured as an inseparable combination of weapons and equipment; trained personnel; adequate supporting equipment and logistics, such as ammunition; command support, that is, trained officers and commanders to bring the capability into operation; doctrine matching various capabilities; and sustained logistics and personnel reserves. If any one of these elements is missing, then the capability is degraded or nullified. Therefore, when policy-makers consider how to sustain the foreign policy tradition of acting through coalitions, and before they commit Canada to any coalition involving armed forces, they should look critically for a comprehensive assessment of the capabilities of the Canadian Forces in the near-, middle- and longer-term futures.
Timeliness and the readiness of forces are critical factors that rest at the boundary of soft and hard assets. Hard assets, no matter their sophistication, are of little value unless they can be brought to bear in a crisis quickly, efficiently and credibly. Operational readiness is usually defined as “the state of preparedness of a unit…to perform the missions for which it is organized and designed.” Operational effectiveness on the other hand, is defined as the “degree to which a unit is capable of performing its duty.”31 Policies built on coalitions or that place the Canadian Forces into coalitions must carefully consider beforehand both the readiness of the Canadian Forces and the degree to which committed forces will be operationally effective in the circumstances.
The issue is not merely whether the armed forces (and other assets) are ready to deploy — although that capability is significant in both soft and hard cases — but whether they are reasonably ready to be employed. In the Gulf War case, for instance, the government seemed willing enough to deploy the Canadian Forces, but overly hesitant to employ them in the theatre once they arrived there. When Canada chose to join the East Timor coalition the government committed the Canadian Forces to an operation for which it was not ready, in a region where there was little expectation that any unit — because of lack of experience and training there — would be oper- ationally effective. The slow and costly deployment and the considerable operational and logistical problems the force encountered in the theatre are evidence of a com- mitment made without a clear appreciation of the situation.
Readiness can be expressed in degrees — high, medium or low — but the state of readiness of any asset is mostly a political responsibility and a policy choice. Each choice carries its own costs and benefits. Generally, forces at high degrees of readiness can react to orders quickly, but the costs of keeping units at this level may be correspondingly high as well. Forces at low levels of readiness are less expensive to maintain (they do not need, for example, dedicated trans- portation units held ready for them at all times), but they may be very slow, too slow, to react to emerging crises. The operational readiness of forces, therefore, is fundamentally a political matter, not a military matter. Governments must decide where, when and how they wish to participate in coalition operations, and these decisions will drive second-order decisions about what forces are developed and at what state of readiness they are kept. Governments, then, ought to pay the price for their decisions.
But perhaps the relationship between the state of readiness of assets and the government’s flexibility in a crisis is the factor that should most concern gov- ernments. Specifically, governments could delay critical decisions on deploy- ments and their associate political and other costs if they have forces available at high states of readiness. On the other hand, governments may be forced to com- mit themselves early to costly public decisions or to deploy ill-prepared forces at the last minute when they have no recourse but to units and other assets that are in low states of readiness.
The Present Force vs. the Future Force
When policy planners discuss Canada’s military capabilities, there are two armed forces they should consider: the present force and the future force. The present force, obviously, includes all the people, equipment and infrastructure now within the defence establishment. The future force includes those resources that are already funded for tomorrow and those that resources planners hope to add to the inventory over time. The present force is real, while the future force is anticipated, problematic and often merely a distant hope depending on the resources dedicated to that future.
Much of defence planning is a constant battle between the present force and the future force. For example, should funds be spent on readiness for current operations — ammunition and stores stockpiled for contingency operations — or should leaders allow readiness to decrease to find funds to recapitalize the forces? Should money go to holding people in the armed forces or should people’s qual- ity of life be sacrificed for equipment, on the assumption that equipment takes a long time to come on-line and people are more readily available?
If funds are scarce and demand for equipping the armed forces is high, then planners tend to hedge toward the future force, and current capabilities and readiness decline. If current foreign policy depends on the capabilities and readi- ness of the Canadian Forces but defence planners are hedging toward a future force, then foreign policy might suffer. On the other hand, if in the same cir- cumstances defence planners favour the present force — because of over-com- mitment, for instance — then the future force suffers. Thus, foreign policy plan- ners may eventually find that the defence cupboard is bare, leaving Canada unable to join any coalition, no matter how important this might be to Canada’s national interests. Indeed, in the worst of all worlds (for people responsible for such things, at least) Canada could face both situations at once: few resources for current operations and a steadily declining future capability.
Although there is some debate about the particular capabilities of the Canadian Forces and their state of readiness from time to time, there is no dis- agreement in the defence community (even within NDHQ) that the Canadian Forces have few modern capabilities or that the armed forces are at a low state of readiness. The Chief of the Army Staff, Lieutenant General Jeffery, described the army of 2001 as “outdated” and “fragile.”32 Moreover, the hunt for funds is caus- ing considerable difficulty for planners, who are forced to cut into “core capabil- ities” or to sacrifice one set of capabilities for some other.
When asked, “will the Canadian Forces have what they need when they need it?” Brian MacDonald answered flatly, “No.” He assessed that several crit- ical capabilities were at or approaching the end of their life cycle. The basis for sustained army operations was the most severely affected. Other capabilities, though due to retire in the 2005-10 time frame, had been “extended” by vari- ous patches and partial upgrades. Macdonald concluded, “As things stand now [winter 2000-2001], future foreign policy will be determined by budgetary decisions forced on the Canadian Forces about what equipment will not be replaced.”33
The Auditor General of Canada in his 2000 Report on the Department of National Defence gave an explicit warning about the state of the Canadian Forces. He emphasized that to meet the national defence policy to maintain a “modern multi-purpose force” requires “$11 billion in capital funds over the next five years [from 1999] but [that DND] would receive only $6.5 billion, resulting in a $4.5 billion shortfall.”34 He went on to report that the defence establishment was “out of manoeuvring room.” The Auditor General concluded that the defence budget needed an additional $1 billion for capital funding annually, just to allow the Canadian Forces to maintain an “even smaller force while modernizing, revitalizing infrastructure and maintaining readiness.”35 In 2001, the Canadian Forces are in reality becoming smaller, letting people go and beaching older pieces of equipment in the struggle to find money for the elu- sive superior future force.
Recently, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs (SCONDVA) began hearings on the operational readiness of the Canadian Forces. The early reports of this government-domi- nated committee are pessimistic and warn that Canada finds itself “in the hapless situation of either renting [equipment] or relying on allies.” More ominously, SCONDVA can find little hope for early redress to the many capabilities and readiness problems facing the Canadian Forces. For instance, the committee notes that “2000-2001 estimates indicate that the planned spending for 2002- 2003 is actually lower than the budget allocated for this fiscal  year.” While estimates indicate higher spending for 2003-2004, “this increase may not be enough given all the demands being put upon the defence budget.”
SCONDVA is especially concerned about the army’s diminishing capabili- ties. The committee reported:
Despite the rhetoric about technology and the probability that the RMA will increase our combat effectiveness, we need to remember that peacekeeping is done by indi- viduals on the ground. Since the onus of peacekeeping falls disproportionately on the army, it is imperative that their levels remain at the full complement.36
The committee was convinced “that a complement of 60,000 personnel is the minimum required for the Canadian Forces to remain an effective force”37 However, the Canadian Forces today have fewer than 58,000 “effectives,” and the numbers seem to be falling rapidly.38 As a result of the continuing decline in its strength, the Canadian Forces were forced to change policies on voluntary release from the armed forces and to launch a high-profile campaign to recruit person- nel. Both these measures may, in the medium term, further decrease the readi- ness of the armed forces as experienced members are withdrawn from units to train the 7,000 recruits that planners hope will come to the colours annually over the next few years. Some predict that the new personnel policies will cause morale to fall further, and that the recruiting and training bills will remove more money from other vital programs, unless the government increases the defence budget to cover them.
The Defence Program Response Departmental and Canadian Forces’ plans to overcome these and other serious weaknesses are reflected in the department’s Defence Plan (DP), published yearly after the federal budget and departmental estimates are tabled.39 The DP allocates funds to Level 1 agencies in DND and the Canadian Forces (essentially senior general officers and assistant deputy minis- ters at National Defence Headquarters), and sets priorities for their expenditures in relation to Defence Tasks and Change Initiatives, or makes changes to previ- ously approved programs. The Long-Term Capital Program is updated yearly and lists (mainly) equipment acquisition requirements and planned acquisition deci- sions over the next 15 years.
However, there is a great deal of subjectivity embedded in the department’s programs, caused mostly by the tentative nature of federal budgeting. It is difficult for planners to control decisions when many of the components of the planning process are in the hands of people outside DND and the Canadian Forces or when decisions are subject to reviews and second-guessing in the central agencies. The Long-Term Capital Program, for instance, is necessarily spread over several years, but actual funding is rarely assured for more than one year in advance. More wor- risome is the surprise factor in defence planning.
Over the past 10 years the Canadian Forces have been deployed to places and on duties that no one would have predicted and for which no plans existed. New demands — or more correctly, deferred demands — to improve the quali- ty of life in the armed forces, to increase pay and allowances and to revamp the recruiting system, have placed unexpected pressures on scarce dollars. The effect is to impose a “random management system” on NDHQ characterized by incre- mental responses to demands and events beyond the control of any putative rational policy process or response.40
Neither the essential randomness of the defence planning process nor the criticisms or warnings of outsiders is news within NDHQ. Departmental “Level 1 Business Plans” are published yearly in response to the Defence Plan and in them senior officers and officials report on the current and foreseeable situation they face in trying to meet government policy declarations. This year, these offi- cers and officials reportedly acknowledged the stresses on the Canadian Forces as planners and commanders try to maintain even the core capabilities that are the backbone of the multipurpose combat-capable force and future defence and foreign policies.
Each officer and official raised serious concerns in their internal reports caused mainly by the differences between their “Defence Tasks” and “Change Initiatives” and the resources they have been allocated. According to some offi- cials, the shortfalls in the Level 1 demands equal some $1.2 billion per annum just for operations and maintenance functions. When this demand is added to the capital shortfalls identified by the Auditor General the total amounts to some $5 to $6 billion over the next 10 to 15 years.
This level of funding shortfall assumes, of course, that the armed forces can get by with 60,000 or fewer personnel and that further labour costs can be held to 2001 rates. Neither assumption is dependable. If personnel costs rise and budgets are held more or less constant, then the pressures on operations and maintenance and the capital programs will increase and one or the other will have to be curtailed. The faint hope within NDHQ is that technology can in many ways replace people.
Replacing people with technology provides little escape from this funding dilemma and it is a questionable policy from a foreign policy perspective given that, as the SCONDVA emphasized, “peacekeeping is done by individuals on the ground.”41 In other words, foreign policy based on coalitions demands both high technical capabilities and more people, not trade-offs between these two critical components of a modern military capability. But defence planners, apparently, cannot avoid this dilemma. Thus, foreign policy may be restricted unless governments provide the funds necessary to change declared policies into actual policies. The tradition of foreign policy by coalition may be nearing an effective end.
Evidence of this approaching foreign policy crisis was expressly provided in recent NDHQ business plans. Senior officers, individually and together, reported specific shortfalls that might severely and negatively influence Canadian foreign policy options, especially coalition-related decisions, in the next few years and thereafter. Although many specialists believe that the navy is best prepared for operations, the Chief of the Naval Staff reportedly noted that, among other prob- lems: 1) the navy will not be able to deliver its mandated level of maritime defence capability without additional resources; 2) the increased cost of fuel, combined with no flexibility in operating budgets, will lead to a reduction in fleet operations; 3) maintaining a balance between sustaining current capabilities at a minimum level, investing in “quality of life,” generating savings for the future and imple- menting change remains elusive; 4) the navy faces serious personnel shortages in a number of trades and specialities; 5) force development studies for major ship and system modernization are in jeopardy due to lack of funds; and 6) aircraft fleet reductions, national procurement reductions and a shortage of personnel will have a direct impact on the navy’s ability to conduct surveillance of and control Canadian territory. Overall, he reported, these problems have the potential to severely degrade fleet operational readiness and effectiveness.
The air force is a technical service, but it too is caught in current opera- tions-future development bind. The following points were made by the Air Force Chief of Staff in his business report:
The high operational tempo, numerous change initiatives (not always well coordinated) and significant fiscal and human resource limitations con- tribute to an increased stress level for personnel at headquarters, wings and squadrons.
The air force is “one deep” in many areas and has lost much of its flexi- bility, redundancy and ability to surge (that is, to rapidly concentrate forces for critical missions).
The air force faces significant personnel shortfalls. For pilots the situation is extremely serious and will likely get worse over the next three years. The result will be a loss of capability. Other air force classifications are below the Preferred Manning Level, also leading to loss of capability.
One of the most difficult challenges in the period 2001-2004 will be achieving resource reductions while meeting DND and government per- formance expectations.
The elimination of important parts of modernization programs appears to be the only potential areas of savings.
The Army Chief of Staff, however, delivered the most pessimistic message for foreign policy planners. According to interviews, the Army Chief of Staff noted, for instance, the following points:
The army is overdrawn on its human capital account, in both the physi- cal and psychological senses.
The army is not sustainable under the current circumstances.
The ability to generate only sub-unit sized force packages does not meet government expectations.
Structural changes such as army transformation will not ultimately resolve the resource dilemma.
The level of commitment in Bosnia is not sustainable.
Specific problems facing the army of today include personnel fatigue, stress and regular and reserve unit strengths and leadership cadres that have fallen to critical levels. There should be no illusions as to the size and cumulative impact of rotation stresses on Canada’s small army.
Either a resource infusion will sustain existing force levels, or force levels will be reduced to match projected resource levels.42
The Future Armed Forces and Consequences for Foreign Policy Although one can predict a crisis in foreign policy based on the assumption that the army pro- vides the mainstay of Canada’s current coalition strategies and the army is failing, senior defence planners, including the past and present Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), seem to disagree. They are, evidently, planning a different future for the Canadian Forces, one that will inevitably take the armed forces away from army- based operations toward a war-fighting strategy grounded in the concepts of the so-called RMA.
“To succeed in the battlespace of the 21st century” is the central mes- sage of Shaping the Future of Canadian Defence: A Strategy for 2020. The “bat- tlespace” is defined as being global in scope and ranging from the sea floor to space. The emerging cyberspace environment adds another dimension to the battlespace. Military operations will be conducted at an accelerated pace, requiring rapid coordination of political and military objectives and increas- ing dependence upon information. The portability, range, precision and lethality of weapons will continue to improve, while the effective lifespan of sensors and weapons systems will decrease due to the rapid pace of techno- logical change. Many emerging threats such as cyber- and bio-terrorism will tend to be asymmetric.43
The “force structure” envisioned under Strategy 2020 might shape Canada’s hard assets and therefore its foreign policy choices for years to come. Specifically, senior military leaders hope to “field a viable and affordable force structure trained and equipped to generate advanced combat capabilities that target lead- ing-edge doctrine and technologies relevant to the battlespace of the 21st centu- ry.” This is a worthy aim, of course, if the intent is to be prepared to engage lead- ing-edge opponents in the 21st-century battlespace. But, is this the most likely conflict scenario that Canadian politicians and diplomats will face in the imme- diate future or even in the next 10 to 15 years?
Given the continuing tensions between federal budget allocations to defence and present operational demands and the need to revitalize the Canadian Forces, going the high-tech route will likely result in a smaller armed force equipped with a few sophisticated capabilities suited intentionally for battlespace operations. The “vision” set out in Strategy 2020 is transformed into fact in Defence Plan 2001, the DND “business plan for fiscal year 2001/2002.” The Deputy Minister (DM) and CDS “Message” proclaims that:
Optimizing force structure…[is] an ongoing and never-ending challenge for us given the changes in the international environment, technology (including the Revolution in Military Affairs), and the need to live within a finite resource base. Our efforts here will focus on, among other things, the modernization of our fleets, of Auroras and CF-18s, the acquisition of new equipment such as the replace- ment for the Sea King helicopters, and an ongoing review of our force structure.44
The resource allocations within DND and the Canadian Forces detailed in Defence Plan 2001 reflect these priorities. Certainly Canadian defence planners need to acknowledge the changing environment of warfare brought about by technical advances. But before they buy into the RMA in any substantial way, they must also consider the consequences of such decisions on operations, and especially OOTW, that demand less technology in the sky and more skilled peo- ple on the ground.45
The principal documents for defence planners also describe the defence establishment’s appreciation of Canada’s future coalitions or, perhaps more accu- rately, their coalition assumptions and preferences. As they see it, Canada will hold on to and reinforce its traditional alliances and must, therefore, build armed forces with the capabilities to support these allies. A directing vision within DND and the Canadian Forces strategy and a five-year target is to “manage our interoperability relationship with the United States and other allies to permit seamless operational integration at short notice.”46 To meet this target, “defence must keep pace with new military concepts, doctrine, and technological change,” all of which, by any assess- ment, originates in the United States.47 Moreover, this strategic orientation is sup- ported by a putative demand from our NORAD and NATO allies who “want defence to be a competent partner capable of playing a meaningful role in combined opera- tions: therefore, our armed forces must be interoperable with our main defence partners in the United Nations, NATO and coalitions operations.”48
Policy is not self-imposing. Mere statements from ministers, officials and senior officers are often no more than declared policy. Actual policies are made in the rough-and-tumble of bureaucracies where the opinions, assumptions, interests and preferences of those with discretionary powers and authority to decide usually carry the day. The central role of the concept of the RMA, battle- space capability planning and interoperability with the United States armed forces as enunciated in Strategy 2020 became actual defence policy because sev- eral senior officers and some officials decided that these notions provided the best interpretation of government policy. They have tenaciously held to this strat- egy for Canada against all criticism.
The former CDS, General Baril, told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in December 1999 that “since all Canadian Forces deployments will be in coopera- tion with the forces of other nations, a natural objective is to strengthen our mil- itary relations with our allies…Central to this, of course, is adopting equipment, doctrine, and communications that are compatible with our NATO allies and, in particular, with the forces of the United States.”49 Recently retired Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Vice Admiral Garnett, is a firm advocate for a strong Canada/United States military coalition based on the inevitability of the RMA. In his view the “RMA has in fact arrived at an ideal time for the Canadian Forces — a time when change must be embraced if we are to sustain our combat capabili- ties.”50 This central planning notion requires the Canadian Forces to “implement a prudent investment strategy for technology, with the key objective being the maintenance of interoperability with our allies [and to] achieve across the whole Canadian Forces…the level of interoperability with our allies that our navy has achieved with the U.S. Carrier Battle Groups.”51
When his views and assumptions about the priorities for force develop- ment in periods of continuing funding constraints were challenged, Garnett repeated his RMA theme. But he directly attacked his critics’ “attrition mentali- ty of the 1970s and 1980s” (presumably held by those who favour an increase in military personnel strength) while advancing his idea for “a ‘smarter’ model of both equipment and people.”52 He again predicted that new technologies “will be the backbone upon which we can grow new joint Canadian Forces capabili- ties.” In this environment, as Garnett honestly admits, “our army [has] and will continue to undergo the greatest degree of change.”53 But here too he sees sal- vation in a new high-tech world in which the Canadian Forces will become “light and lethal.”
Both General Baril and Admiral Garnett, and their successors by some reports, acknowledge that the Canadian Forces will be called upon to undertake humanitarian and OOTW commitments, but these tasks are second-order duties that will be met, in their view, by “improved war fighting capabilities.” But again, in the absence of funds for all capabilities, which military capability choices best serve Canada’s foreign policy needs and who is to make these decisions? Is it unreasonable for the minister of foreign affairs to have opinions on Canada’s mil- itary force development?
Defence planning documents do refer to “peacekeeping operations.” The DND and Canadian Forces mission is “to defend Canada and Canadian values and interests while contributing to international peace and security.” Traditional peacekeeping duties and so-called OOTW are interwoven within the vision of “combat-capable armed forces,” but there is no specific attention given to building a force for these purposes. The worry among some experts and former senior military persons is that the concentration on building a force to fight and win the envisaged “battlespace” battle is diverting resources and people from the actual battles that are now harassing and will most likely con- tinue to harass the international community. Experience and analysis envisions small-scale, drawn-out conflicts among low-skilled persons and low-tech armed forces. Experience suggests that responding to these types of conflicts requires not only RMA-type standoff forces, but also highly skilled, well- trained people on the ground who can be sustained for long periods of time. If Canada wished to join these types of operations in coalitions (depending on their frequency and intensity), it must be prepared to train and hold ready sub- stantial numbers of professional soldiers.
Generally, if actual experiences and assumptions drawn from them drive defence policy, then Canada might be developing a highly trained, sustainable, rapidly deployable and larger army. If foreign policy preferences and assessments were driving defence policy planning, then a similar force structure might be on the books. However, if the vision of future conflict involves war between major powers, each with comparable high-tech capabilities, and if Canada is always a partner to decisions taken by major allies, Strategy 2020 and its adherents offer the best choice for force development and for defence policy. Given that Strategy 2020 is the only strategy propelling defence choices and that its conceptual assumptions are embedded in significant segments of the defence establishment, then it follows that Canada’s foreign policy may be moving away from participa- tion in OOTW and humanitarian coalitions.
Indeed, if recent appointments to the most senior decision-making posts in the Canadian Forces have any relationship to the Strategy 2020 approach and the preferences of its adherents, then one should expect a tightening of the bat- tlespace vision over the next four or five years.54 By then, there may be little opportunity for foreign policy planners to reverse or modify decisions taken in NDHQ. Once the money is spent, such as on submarines and space-based defences for example, then barring a substantial increase in defence spending directed at other capabilities over a long period, foreign policy choices that call on hard assets may have been settled already.
The Waiting Agenda
Strategy has many definitions, but the most useful for policy-makers is the notion that strategy is the result of sets of decisions joining ends to means taken by peo- ple with the authority to decide and to oversee the implementation of those deci- sions. Although foreign policy is the province of the minister of foreign affairs, that policy is in fact dependent in many cases on resources that belong to others. Designing a Canadian foreign policy strategy which has at its centre the idea of achieving Canadian goals through military coalitions must necessarily involve people of authority from other departments and agencies of the Canadian gov- ernment led by politicians. If ministers directed officials, military officers and other authorities to bring forward a national strategy aimed at advancing Canadian interests through coalitions, what issues would be placed on the agen- da before an interdepartmental forum?
The National Interest
Doubtless, the primary matter would be to discover what “national inter- ests” could be and should be advanced in coalitions. Because coalition dynam- ics invariably require compromises, it would seem that coalition politics ought to be restricted to those things that Canada cannot achieve on its own. However, coalition politics might also be used as an avenue along which Canada could and should involve itself in the affairs of others and of the world community in general. For instance, Canada might not always have access to negotiations between the United States and Latin American states, but main- taining a connection to the United States and Latin American states through the Western Hemispheric coalition the Organization of American States does give Canadian policy-makers access to aspects of these important relationships by right of association. The basic question for the strategic forum is, however, what is the connection between Canada’s strategic imperatives and its strategic choices, with each coalition, old and new?
Why, Where and With Whom?
Quite naturally, the second item on the agenda should bring forward a dis- cussion of the national parameters that would guide a Canadian coalition strategy. In other words, as discussed in this paper, why would Canada decide to join or to maintain a particular coalition? Where in the world can Canada best achieve its purposes most efficiently and with whom would Canada seek and accept alliance? This is not an easy policy framework to design and build, especially in a political culture that seems accustomed to being a partner in every UN undertaking. But if there are no boundaries to where, when and with whom Canada will act, then there would be no limit to demands for resources from departments nor any way to contain Canadian expectations in matters of international affairs.
The Canadian Rules
Canada cannot join other states or take on obligations that flow from coali- tions without regard for national laws, costs, domestic politics and policies and the need to maintain public support for foreign policy. It is critically important, therefore, that policy planners and individuals who lead Canadians in coalition operations have at hand a basic national regime for coalitions — Canadian rules of the game — to guide their actions and decisions. The next question on the agenda for Canadian leaders is this: What are the explicit terms under which Canada will join and support coalitions in international affairs?
A National Mechanism for Managing Coalition Dynamics Inside Government
Politicians, officials, scholars and others have long criticized the federal bureaucracy and the Canadian Forces for failing to coordinate foreign and defence policies more effectively. The usual complaint is that policies are too often separately conceived and administered, and that this habit compromises more or less the national interest. But as General Baril’s reports from the Zaire operation and investigations such as The Inquiry Into The Deployment of the Canadian Forces to Somalia make obvious, the present critical conclusion is that missions have failed or been ineffectively cobbled together and people endan- gered whenever Ottawa is confused or unsure.
The present difficulties in formulating and managing a national security policy for Canada extend beyond the defence and foreign policy establishment and into the wider structure of government and its departments and agencies. Proponents for greater coordination argue that if Canada is to protect itself from and help redress the many security and humanitarian problems of the world, then it must offer credible hard, as well as soft, national security options to Canadians and the international community. But reaching this objective will require a concerted and unified assessment of Canada’s sometimes conflicting foreign, defence and internal security policies and the “machinery of govern- ment” related to these policy areas.
There are many reasons why Canada’s planning for and execution of coali- tion operations seem awkward, and political neglect and naivety in matters of foreign and defence policy are a central factor. But another chief reason lies in the structure of the federal system, especially with regards to international relations and coalition-building and operations. Successful internal and external opera- tions ought to be based on a single concerted security policy built on its own foundation, not on the hope that success might simply appear from several sep- arately conceived and administered departmental policies. Nevertheless, it is departmental politics that dominate policy-making in Ottawa.55
Some believe that a more efficient committee system might lead to better policy coordination. They offer, for instance, a “national security council” as a device to bring responsibility for policy and operations now resident in several departments and agencies into harmony.56 But these types of suggestions might only complicate an already complex bureaucratic mesh. Rather than committees, federal planners need direction and standards upon which to build an operating system for a world in which states seek results through coalitions.
A single meeting or even several routine meetings of officials will never sat- isfy the need for Canada to continuously anticipate, plan for and manage coali- tion politics in Canada’s interests. Perhaps the most difficult coalition that poli- cy-makers will find is the one they must fashion in Ottawa between the myriad players who supposedly have a stake in foreign policy formulation and out- comes. However, forging some mechanism beyond ad hoc interdepartmental committees to control coalition policies is a decisive matter. The new mechanism ought to take a Canadian perspective and thus it should not be composed of “representatives” sent by departments to ensure that the home team is protected from centralist decisions. Rather, the mechanism should be especially designed to build coherence between intentions and outcomes. In this regard, the mecha- nism might best be situated under a minister who has responsibility for the resources that change coalition intentions into fact so long as the minister’s deci- sions are carefully guided by a strong national strategy.
This argument is not made in favour of some abstract rationality — for instance that a putative perfect system would produce perfect decisions and out- comes. Rather, the recommendation to review, at least, the way Ottawa decides is based on practical concerns about effective governance of vital national secu- rity issues raised by the incoherence in operations noted in this paper. Moreover, the present security decision-making process, though briefly overturned by then Foreign Minister John Manley’s Cabinet committee on national security (now defunct), is premised on managing episodes rather than continuing operations which now define the security environment Canada faces. If strategy follows structure, then the extant structure is unlikely to accommodate or formulate an appropriate strategy for acting through coalitions in the 21st century.
Joining Ends to Means
Michael Ignatieff, commenting on the need to use force to defend human rights, concluded, “if we will the ends, we had better will the right means. For the means we select may betray our ends.”57 The warning is germane to Canada’s situation and the growing disparity between what Canadians wish to do in inter- national affairs, what they think Canada can do, and what capabilities are really available now and may be available in the future to do anything meaningful. The arguments between military experts may not be comprehensible to everyone, but even an informed casual observer would understand that in the long term — say to 2020 — if budgets remain constant relative to today, the Canadian Forces will have fewer resources and fewer people to deal with a world that is most likely to be more, not less, turbulent. Notwithstanding that some capabilities will certain- ly be greatly enhanced and “more lethal,” it is not certain that they will be espe- cially suited to the usual pattern of international security affairs, that is, to situa- tions short of conventional war.
A national foreign and defence strategy for 2020 must join ends to means and allocate resources appropriately between strategic imperatives and strategic choices. Care must be taken to avoid the allure of “double-hatting” assets (assign- ing multiple duties to the same resources) to cover gaps in capabilities because it leads to the assumption, which will invariably be proved false in a crisis, that all contingencies are covered and that one person or one unit can be everywhere and do everything all the time. Matching Canadians’ will to national means would be a critical item on any agenda to craft a coherent coalition strategy for Canada.
Canada, Helpful Fixer or Helpful Follower?
In 1963, Robert Sutherland — a respected senior defence analyst writing in a paper on national strategy that he had prepared for the Defence Minister, Paul Hellyer — declared:
There is…a distinct limit to how far one can define a Canadian position in advance of discussions with our allies. In the course of such discussions it must be anticipated that Canada’s position would be necessarily subject to reconsid- eration and redefinition…the most that is possible at the present time is to define an “initial” Canadian position, accepting the fact that this position might require substantial revision in the course of discussions.
From the point of view of the Department of National Defence, it would be highly advantageous to discover a strategic rationale which would impart to Canada’s defence programs a wholly Canadian character. Unfortunately, such a rationale does not exist and one cannot be invented.58
Hellyer rejected this “little Canada” concept and tried, but failed, to win support in Cabinet for a fuller, more mature strategy for Canada in the 1960s. Though many things have changed since that report was written, some might say that not much has changed at all in the way some Canadians think about Canada’s place in international affairs and multilateral coalitions.
Certainly, Canada cannot expect to lead the major powers, but is it true that Canada can only act on its own behalf in coalitions led by others? This is an assumption that needs to be tested. In some respects, tagging along in multina- tional coalitions diminishes Canada’s place in the world, betrays foreign policy traditions, lowers other states’ esteem for Canada and exposes Canada to cynical criticisms as a country that wants to play in the big leagues but dodges the atten- dant responsibilities. Moreover, public support for national goals may be harmed because many Canadians resist this assumption, especially when they believe that it involves an unthinking and uncontrollable surrender of national sover- eignty to more or less unilateral acts by the United States. Neither Canada’s inter- ests nor those of the international community can be well-served if the major powers, especially the United States, must lead every international coalition or if Canadians think of themselves as merely helpful followers.
Other wealthy states like Canada are well-situated to take the initiative in some multinational coalitions, as Australia did in East Timor, and to use their less imposing powers to bring nations together in common causes. Canada did just this in 1956 and failed in the attempt in 1996. Unfortunately, the failure, the result of a betrayal of ends and means, seems to have reinforced the assumption that Canada cannot lead the international community and did not promote a determination to build the means necessary to retrieve Canada’s lost legacy. A forum on a new national strategy must decide if Canada is to again become a leader or to remain just a cheerleader in international affairs.
New Players, New Methods
Coalitions today, as usual, are created around states and their diplomats, armed forces and other agencies. But multinational coalitions now also include various mixes of non-traditional allies and entirely new allies from national and international NGOs and from international organizations. Diplomatic and mili- tary leadership may come from states or from international organizations, prin- cipally the United Nations and NATO. Arrangements, therefore, within coalitions are seldom sure at the outset and often ambiguous in the field, especially where NGOs are important actors. Nevertheless, these arrangements can have a signif- icant impact on Canada’s interests, domestic and foreign policies and on the lives of members of the Canadian Forces. But arrangements are complicated in some new coalitions because they are predicated not only on sovereign states and their rights and laws, but also on the assumed rights of non-state actors and the inter- national standing of various multijurisdictional entities. Officials and officers preparing a national strategy for Canada must consider in their deliberations the terms and conditions that will underpin future Canadian commitments to multi- national/multi-jurisdictional coalitions and the rules governing Canadians assigned to such coalitions.
Public support for foreign policy is of paramount importance to the suc- cessful implementation of such policies over the longer term. This fact is espe- cially pertinent whenever Canada acts through coalitions in an environment where every step in the field may be recorded and broadcast immediately by the media. An agenda for a forum on a national coalition strategy for Canada must include some consideration of how Canadians will be informed of the choices Canada faces in international relations. This may be a daunting assignment in a crisis, if the public and the commentators are ignorant of Canada’s real capabili- ties and the circumstances in which Canadian diplomacy is played out.
Too often Canadians seem to have higher expectations of foreign policy than the circumstances suggest. For instance, many Canadians, including most members of Parliament, believe that Canada is an important participant and a leader in international peacekeeping missions worldwide. They appear con- vinced that Canada has “influence” in NATO and the United Nations because of the commitments made there, but the reality is different.59 Consequently, the public may be disillusioned when they discover a more sober truth, as many did when they found Canada outside the “Contact Group” directing NATO opera- tions in the former Yugoslavia.
A forum on a national strategy to guide coalition policy ought to address three items concerning public support. First, to redress any public misunderstanding of Canada’s capabilities to act through coalitions, politi- cians should forthrightly explain the state of Canadian diplomatic and mili- tary assets and the situation of prominent Canadian-based NGOs. Second, leaders should organize a public campaign to describe to citizens the com- plexities of the “new world disorder” and the consequences it brings to Canadian foreign policy. Third, politicians should describe the opportunities available for Canadians to take the lead in some types of multinational coali- tions and the costs such efforts might entail. The public might then appreci- ate that while Canada could build coalitions of the willing around soft assets where risks are low — as in specific arms control areas and international judi- cial matters — they might also lower their expectations of its ability to act in coalitions where hard assets are needed and high risks are anticipated. Alternatively, Canadians might decide to assemble the means needed to match the vision they have of Canada in the world.
Although attempts in the late 1980s and early 1990s to construct policy from public debates, consultations and so on do not inspire much confidence in the method and cause deep frustrations in the bureaucracy, arguably the fault is in the application of the concept, not in the idea itself. Too much detail was intro- duced in the early open forums and participants expected too much influence. A new round based, perhaps, on meetings assembled to present citizens with tech- nical information and reasoned options and their consequences, as officials and politicians see them, might help Canadians express their concerns and prefer- ences. At the same time, meetings with limited aims might overcome some of the weaknesses of earlier attempts to develop foreign and defence policy through public debates. Certainly, the two 1992-93 open, wide-ranging, special joint committees of the Senate and the House of Commons appointed to inform citi- zens and to solicit their opinions on these matters might be a useful model to consider in the future.
A Framework Document for Acting Through Coalitions
An officials’ forum on a national strategy for acting through coalitions ought to produce for political leaders a framework document to govern “Coalitions and Canadian Foreign Policy.” This document (perhaps even a Cabinet white paper, given the continuing emergency) ought to provide a com- prehensive, coherent and authorized statement of intent and an indication of the resources needed to achieve it. It should be written to inform the public, to guide and control the policy discretion of officials and Canadian Forces officers and to bring order to the ends and means of foreign and defence policies.
Throughout its history Canada has looked to “the mother country” — first Britain, then the Second World War allied leaders, NATO and the United Nations — to provide strategic direction to Canada’s foreign and defence policy. But now Canada is “home alone” and must decide these things for itself, simply because candidate mothers are too busy with their own chores and interests to lead Canada any longer. Canada must resist the habit of merely lending troops to oth- ers, leaving them unattended to serve some communal interest while assuming it is a common interest.
Although Canada could sit still, leaving international responsibilities to others, it would then risk sliding out of sight in international affairs. Canadians would then have to accept that other states, willing to take the risks and pay the price, would set the agenda and receive any resulting benefits. Canadians would also have to set aside a legacy of sacrifice and compassion and a willingness to champion values that have defined Canada at home and abroad. On the other hand, an ambitious document might introduce Canadians to a road toward a new horizon and to a national policy that would place Canada in the vanguard of the gathering movement toward international peace and security through multina- tional coalitions.
But a crusade fuelled only on rhetoric will go nowhere, even if led by a new generation of political leaders. To regain the prominence it once held in the inter- national community, Canada ought to heed the words and courage of the man who did so much to create it long ago. Lester Pearson believed “that the mainte- nance of an overwhelming superiority of force on the side of peace is the best guarantee today of the maintenance of peace,” and Canadians were willing then to back his words with their own efforts. Few could credibly argue that Canadians today are less willing to back sound policies aimed at bringing greater freedom and security to the international community, but they need trusted national leaders to inspire them to make the sacrifices this end demands. This much is clear in the aftermath of the September 2001 attack on the United States and Western liberal democracies.
Canada has a respected international tradition to uphold. But Canadians, in their own interest, also have a responsibility to allies and the global commu- nity to help organize international affairs on a foundation built on peaceful change and security for all while defending liberal democracy at home and pro- moting it reasonably abroad. Diplomatic and security coalitions will continue to be a central instrument — an organizing principle — through which Canada achieves these related aims. Coalitions, fortunately, can also be the most produc- tive means for explaining, guarding and realizing Canada’s national interests. The challenge, therefore, is to collect our national thoughts; construct a national con- sensus on Canada’s place in the world to guide politicians, military officers, and officials; and then build the machinery of government and the soft and hard assets that will turn policy visions into policy outcomes.
Thomas (2000, p. 79).
As quoted in Gibler and Vasquez (1998, p. 787).
Ward (1982, p.74).
As quoted in Hennessy (2001, p. 20). For another perspective, see Johnson (2001, p. A14).
See, for example, Kasurak (2001, pp. 8-12).
For a detailed review and assessment of the “policy process” leading to the commitment in Zaire, see Hays (1999).
Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of the Canadian Forces to Somalia (1997).
See, for example, Department of National Defence (1999a).
For a recent Canadian example, see Brigadier General Robin Gagnon (2001, pp. 19-24).
Delvoie (2000, pp. 13-24).
Department of National Defence (1999b).
Bland (1995, pp. 214-224).
Delvoie (2000, p. 13).
The conflict in Colombia is not simply an internal security affair, as it has already spread more or less to neigh- bouring states. Latin American attempts to address the crisis with the assistance of the United States under various poli- cies, including Colombia’s “Plan Columbia,” will probably touch Canada in the next few years. Who will lead this venture is an open question, especially if the United States Congress remains sus- picious of the United Nations. However, the OAS is a possible candidate, and it will look to Canada for support and per- haps a diplomatic or armed commit- ment. What rules to govern such a coali- tion must be in place before Canada would act?
See Gagnon (2001).
General Wesley Clark (2001, p. 59).
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (1999).
Jockel and Sokolsky (2000/2001, p. 1).
Jordan et al. (2000, p. 4).
For an historical perspective see Maloney (2001, p. A18).
Ministry of Defence (1999a, p.2). See also Ministry of Defence (1999b, pp. 187-202) and Tim Edmunds et al. (2001).
Manwaring (2001, pp. 60-71).
Haglund (2000, p. 92).
The Times (London) (2001).
The terms come from Stein et al. (1999).
See for example House of Commons (2001b, pp. 12-15).
Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of the Canadian Forces to Somalia (1997, pp. 671-673).
Lieutenant General Mike Jeffery as quoted in Mooney (2001, p. 10).
MacDonald (2001a, p. 32). See also MacDonald (2001b, pp. 14-17).
Auditor General of Canada (2001, ch. 16).
Auditor General of Canada (2001, para. 125).
House of Commons (2001a, p. 7).
House of Commons (2001a). Emphasis in original.
The term “effectives” means the personnel strength less the chronically sick, those excused from duty, and personnel in basic training and on retirement leave. Generally, the strength of the Canadian Forces usually reported includes some 10 percent who are “non-effectives.”
Department of National Defence (2001).
Bland (1987, pp. 175-182).
House of Commons (2001a, p. 7).
These descriptions of the Department of National Defence 2000, Level 1, Business Reports were developed from confidential interviews in Ottawa and other sources.
Department of National Defence (1999b, p. 4).
Department of National Defence (2001, p. iii). Emphasis added.
See for example, Bland (2001b, pp. 19-35).
Department of National Defence (1999b, p. 10).
Department of National Defence (1999b, p. 3).
Department of National Defence (1999b, p. 3). Emphasis added.
General Maurice Baril (2000). Emphasis added.
Vice Admiral Gary Garnett (2001b, p. 5).
Garnett (2001b, pp. 8-9).
Garnett (2001a, p. 6).
Garnett (2001a, p. 7).
The positions of CDS, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS), and Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (DCDS) have been filled by air force and naval officers who, by all public reports, are firmly wedded to the Strategy 2020 and the underlying Revolution in Military Affairs approach to force development and resource allo- cations. The most senior army officer in NDHQ is in the second rung and well- removed from decisions concerning the overall distribution of present or future resources for the Canadian Forces.
Bland (2001a, pp. 40-47).
As quoted in Bland (1995, p. 226).
Bland (1999, pp. 34-35).
Auditor General of Canada. Report on the Department of National Defence. Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services, 2001.
Baril, Maurice. “Canadian Defence Force.” Delivered in Calgary, November 23, 1999. In Department of National Defence. Vital Speeches. Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services, 2000.
Bland, Douglas L. “Defence And Security: The Next Generation.” Policy Options, Vol. 22, no. 2 (March 2001a): 40-47.
——. “The RMA: Managing An Idea.” In Managing The Revolution In Military Affairs, eds. Ron Matthews and John Treddenick. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2001b.
——. “Parliament, Defence Policy, and The Canadian Armed Forces.” The Claxton Papers no. 1. Kingston: Queen’s University, School of Policy Studies, 1999.
——. Chiefs of Defence: Government and the Unified Command of the Canadian Armed Forces. Toronto: Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies, 1995.
——. The Administration of Defence Policy in Canada: 1947 to 1985. Kingston: R.P. Frye, 1987.
Boulden, Jane. “A National Security Council for Canada?” The Claxton Papers no. 2. Kingston: Queen’s University, School of Policy Studies, 2000.
Cellulicci, A. Paul. “Canada/U.S. 2001.” Delivered to the Pacific Northwest Economic Region and the Council of State Governments of the West, Whistler, British Columbia, July 26, 2001.
Clark, Wesley. Waging Modern War. New York: Public Affairs Publishing, 2001.
Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of the Canadian Forces to Somalia. Dishonoured Legacy: The Lessons of the Somalia Affair, Vol. 4. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 1997.
Delvoie, Louis. “Canada and International Security Operations: The Search For Policy Rationales.” Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 1, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 13-24.
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. “Notes for an address by the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, ‘Kosovo and The Human Security Agenda.’” Delivered in Princeton, New Jersey, April 1999.
Department of National Defence. Defence Plan 2001: The Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces Internal Business Plan for Fiscal Year 2001/2002. Ottawa: Ministry of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2001.
——. The Minister’s Monitoring Committee on Change in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Ottawa: Ministry of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 1999a.
——. Shaping the Future of Canadian Defence: A Strategy For 2020. Ottawa: Ministry of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 1999b.
Dorman, Andrew. “Reconciling Britain To Europe in the Next Millennium: The Evolution of British Defence Policy in the Post-Cold War Era.” Defence Analysis, Vol. 17, no. 2 (August 2001): 187-202.
Edmunds, Tim, Andrew Cottey and Anthony Forster. “Defence Diplomacy In Central and Eastern Europe: Challenges to Comparative Public Policy.” Swindon, UK: Economic and Social Research Council Research Programme on Future Governance, February 2001.
Garnett, Gary. “The Canadian Forces, More Capable in an Unpredictable World.” On Track, Vol. 6, no. 2 (June 2001a): 4-7.
——. “The Canadian Forces and the Revolution in Military Affairs: A Time for Change.” Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 2, no.1 (Spring 2001b): 5-10.
Gagnon, Robin. “Multilateral Intervention Forces.” Policy Options, Vol. 22, no. 2 (March 2001): 19-24.
Gibler, Douglas and John Vasquez. “Uncovering The Dangerous Alliances, 1495-1980.” International Studies Quarterly Vol. 42, no. 4 (December 1998): 785-807.
Haglund, David “Allied Force or Allied Forces: The Allies’ Perspective.” In Alliance Politics, Kosovo, and NATO’s War: Allied Force or Forced Allies, eds. Pierre Martin and Mark Brawley. New York: Palgrave, 2000.
Hays, John. “Conditions of Influence: A Canadian Case Study in the Diplomacy of Intervention.” Occasional paper no. 19. Ottawa: Norman Paterson School of International Relations, 1999.
Hennessy, Michael. “Operation ‘Assurance’: Planning a Multi-National Force for Rwanda/Zaire.” Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 2, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 11-20.
House of Commons, Standing Committee On National Defence and Veterans Affairs. “Report On Plans And Priorities.” Ottawa: House of Commons, 2001a.
——. “Chairman’s Remarks To SCONDVA: Operational Readiness of the Canadian Forces.” On Track, Vol. 6, no. 2 (June 2001b): 12-15.
Ignatieff, Michael. Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond New York: Henry Holt, 2000.
Jockel, Joe and Joel Sokolsky. “Lloyd Axworthy’s Legacy.” International Journal, Vol. 56, no. 2 (winter 2000/2001): 1-18.
Jordan, Thomas, Douglas Lovelace and Thomas-Durell Young. “‘Shaping’ the World Through ‘Engagement’: Assessing The Department of Defence’s Theatre Engagement Planning Process.” Carlisle, PA: US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, April 2000.
Johnson, R.W. “Rwanda Redux: Don’t blame the US.” National Post, September 10, 2001, p. A14.
Kasurak, Peter. “Sorting Out the Essentials of Readiness: A Look at the Canadian Forces.” On Track, Vol. 6, no. 2 (June 2001): 8-12.
MacDonald, Brian. “Will the Canadian Forces Have What They Need When They Need It?” Policy Options, Vol. 22, no. 2 (March 2001a): 32-38.
——. “The Capital/Capabilities Gap: The Final Rustout Decade of the Canadian Forces.” On Track, Vol. 6, no. 2 (June 2001b): 14- 17.
Maloney, Sean. “Mideast ‘Observers’ Would Be Scapegoats.” National Post, August 16, 2001, p. A18.
Manwaring, Max, ed. Deterrence in the 21st Century. Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2001.
Mooney, Paul. “Army More Capable but Fragile: Commander.” The Maple Leaf, Vol. 4, no. 20 (May 2001): 10.
Ministry of Defence. Defence Diplomacy. London: Ministry of Defence, 1999a. ——. “Policy Paper – Paper No.1, Defence Diplomacy.” London: Ministry of Defence, 1999b.
Stein, Janice Gross, Michael Bryans and Bruce Jones. “Mean Times: Humanitarian Actions in Complex Political Emergencies – Stark Choices, Cruel Dilemmas.” Report of the NGOs in Complex Emergencies Project, Vol. 1, no. 3. Toronto: University of Toronto, Centre for International Studies, 1999.
Thomas, James P. “The Military Challenges of Transatlantic Coalitions.” Adelphi Paper no. 333, International Institute For Strategic Studies, May 2000.
The Times (London). “The New Realism: Warnings for Arafat, Albanians, and More,” The Times (London), August 14, 2001, 1.
Trudeau, Pierre. “Address to the Alberta Liberal Association.” In Speeches and Statements, no. 68/9 (1969).
Ward, Michael. Research Gaps in Alliance Dynamics. Denver: University of Denver Press, 1982.