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National Security and Military Interoperability

Geopolitical Integrity

Edited by Hugh Segal August 6, 2005


This collection consolidates a portion of IRPP’s contribution to a topic of critical importance in Canada: the nature of a renewed commitment to our military, our national security and to our engagement in the world. The papers chosen come from both the IRPP’s National Security and Interoperability research series, initiated in June 2001, and from presentations delivered at various IRPP seminars and symposia that have dealt with Canada’s global and hemispheric priorities and the foreign and defence policy options and challenges that those priorities suggest.

In the second paper, I propose a framework for “Geopolitical Integrity for Canada.” Geopolitical integrity, here, means cohesiveness: Canadian foreign, defence, humanitarian and trade policies should come together in a coherent manner. The term is also used in a secondary sense, to imply an ethical responsibility: Canadian rhetoric at home ought to be consistent with our actions abroad, and both our words and our actions should express our values as a country.

Much of the debate about Canadian military capacity can be traced back to the gap between the military capabilities required to fulfill the recommendations and undertakings proposed in the 1994 White Paper on Defence and current military strength. The Canadian Forces press on valiantly forward despite troop burnout and widespread equipment deficiencies. In “Force Structure or Forced Structure: The 1994 White Paper and the Canadian Forces in the 1990s,” Sean Maloney of the Department of War Studies at the Royal Military College looks back to assess the 1994 White Paper and to discuss how Canada’s defence policy and force structure should have developed over the past 10 years.

Maloney’s exercise is of more than historical interest. The 1994 White Paper was designed as an interim policy during the first years of the post-Cold War period. In 1994, many looked to the United Nations as the primary vehicle to bring stability to an unsettled world. In Canada, utopian internationalists asserted that the Canadian Forces should eschew “warfighting” and restrict their activities to peacekeeping through the UN; such views were countered by pragmatic realists, who maintained that the future was uncertain and that the forces should maintain a spectrum of capabilities. The utopian view was strongly advanced by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and prevailed; consequently, detailed force structuring was eliminated from the draft documents. The result, says Maloney, was the 1994 White Paper.

Although the world has changed quite dramatically since 1994, the White Paper nevertheless continues to guide Canadian Forces policy. It is evident, however, that the struggles of the Canadian Forces today are the direct result of the failure of the White Paper and the policies based on it to deal adequately with force structuring and equipment issues.

According to Maloney, a prioritization exercise should have been undertaken to determine the force structure best suited to implementing Canadian national security policy. Such a structure should have included two clear streams – one dedicated to providing surveillance and security within Canada, the other relating to forces abroad, whose deployment should have been based on “the magnitude of threats.”

One reason that the patchwork, ad hoc conception of defence from the 1994 White Paper still persists in 2004 is that Canada lacked a framework for articulating its national security strategy. In “A National Security Framework for Canada,” Ann Fitz-Gerald, director of the Centre for Managing Security in Transitional Societies at Cranfield University in the UK, joins forces with retired Air Force Brigadier General W.D. Macnamara, a fellow at the Queen’s Centre for International Relations, to examine what the absence of such a strategy framework has meant for defence policy in Canada.

Fitz-Gerald and Macnamara begin by clarifying key terms of reference for strategic defence planning. Next, they explore critical linkages between a broader definition of national security and Canada’s core values and interests as expressed in various defence and foreign affairs policy documents. The authors make explicit the connection between these values and interests and the tools and instruments that ought to preserve them, including defence and military power. Much of the thought process reflected in this paper is also reflected in the government’s National Security Policy issued in the spring of 2004.

The commitment-capability gap introduced by Maloney and the need for a strategic framework as advanced by Fitz-Gerald and Macnamara are both under-lined and expanded as themes in “Canada and Military Coalitions: Where, How and with Whom?” by Douglas Bland, chair of the Defence Management Studies Program at Queen’s University. Bland’s central theme is the “inescapable relationship between means and ends in foreign policy” as it bears on the question of Canadian involvement in international coalitions. He quotes Michael Ignatieff, both at the beginning and end of his paper, to underscore his central message: “If we will the ends, we had better will the right means. For the means we select may betray our ends.” Bland applies the means-end challenge to Canada’s present and future military capabilities and addresses what those capabilities imply for a foreign policy based on acting through coalitions.

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 was unsustainable in Zaire. Bland attributes this decline to several factors but mainly to the continuous depreciation of the place of military capabilities within Canadian foreign policy; that is, to the failure of means. He notes, “Lester Pearson might have won the Nobel 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 its interests by acting through like-minded coalitions, Bland argues, our political leaders must develop a national strategy tailored to this purpose. As with other contributors to this monograph, Bland argues that such a strategy must be interdepartmental; it should include discussions of where, when and with whom Canada should act; and it should account for the “machinery of government” needed to plan and control such enterprises.

Increasingly, coalitions rely on the military concept of “interoperability.” In the sixth paper, “The Canadian Forces and the Doctrine of Interoperability: The Issues,” political scientists Danford Middlemiss and Denis Stairs of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University argue that Canada needs to have more public debate about interoperability, as it is a doctrine that is quickly becoming the central principle of our defence policy.

Interoperability is the “ability of systems, units or forces to provide services to and accept services from other systems, units or forces and to use the services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together,” and it is a way for Canada to make a difference if it wants to engage its military in global affairs. The doctrine of interoperability is a strategy that permits “lesser powers” like Canada to have their own discernable impact and visibility in theatres of combat by enabling them to make focused contributions in ways that complement the resources of their allies, most of all those of the United States.

Middlemiss and Stairs start with an informal June 1999 Department of National Defence (DND) document on the future of Canadian defence that included signal references to interoperability. From this document and subsequent policy developments, the authors conclude that “Canada is moving towards greater interoperability with the United States in a manner that is far more comprehensive and rapidly paced than most Canadians realize.”

Where Middlemiss and Stairs discuss the doctrine of interoperability in its broad outlines, Joel Sokolsky, dean of arts and professor of political science at the Royal Military College, focuses on naval interoperability in particular in his paper, “Sailing in Concert: The Politics and Strategy of Canada-US Naval Interoperability.”

Although the tradition of the Canadian Navy cooperating closely with its principal allies goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century, since 1994 the Canadian Navy has sought to enhance interoperability with the United States Navy, and navies from other like-minded nations, as a matter of explicit foreign and defence policy and strategy. At its most advanced, naval interoperability allows maritime forces from a number of different countries to function together seamlessly as a single unit.

Sokolsky points out that, just as the Canadian Navy now seeks to operate seamlessly with the US Navy, the United States is now also promoting interoperability with its allies, including Canada. But Sokolsky’s description of the American perspective recalls an observation from Middlemiss’s and Stairs’s paper, that interoperability has a different significance for the dominant power than it does for lesser powers.

For the United States, interoperability is one of many tools it employs to maintain its dominant global position. Thus, while Washington encourages and welcomes them, Canadian naval contributions are unlikely to afford Ottawa a greater voice or leverage in larger political or strategic decisions. Sokolsky argues that this lack of leverage is where the true issue lies regarding the effect of interoperability on Canadian sovereignty. Canada is always free to choose whether or not to sail in concert with the US Navy, but once Canadian naval forces have committed themselves as part of a seamless larger operation, Ottawa’s commitment does have consequences.

For the Americans, this is as it must be. Otherwise, Canadian interoperability with the US Navy would not be to America’s advantage, and the US would not favour the doctrine. In this sense, there will always be tension between Canadian foreign policy strategy and the politics of interoperability with the US Navy, but Sokolsky is optimistic that this tension is a limited and familiar one for Canada and that it can be managed with close political oversight.

Ann Fitz-Gerald takes the question of interoperability back to land in her paper “Multinational Land Force Interoperability: Meeting the Challenge of Different Cultural Backgrounds in Chapter 6 Peace Support Operations.” She sets out to examine how efforts to enhance military interoperability – by Canada as well as its allies – have actually worked in recent multinational military interventions. Fitz-Gerald begins by noting an important but neglected feature of many such interventions: that members of the local population, who alone will determine whether there is a lasting peace, “are now able to view the behavioural conduct and operational effectiveness of the peacekeeping forces due to the close proximity in which they operate.” If there are “disparate national approaches” among the peacekeepers, the locals will know it, and the international forces will lose both credibility and effectiveness. Thus multinational cohesion – as perceived by local actors – is a key factor in determining the effectiveness of multinational military interventions.

Fitz-Gerald focuses on case studies in Haiti and Bosnia to identify implications for interoperability and multinational training, with specific recommendations for Canada. The experiences in those countries show that disparities in peace-keeping conduct among multinational troops can lead local groups to “reevaluate their allegiance to the international effort,” and such groups “may easily fall vulnerable once again to the forces that ignited the conflict in the first place.”

Lastly, Fitz-Gerald focuses on the Canadian contribution to these multinational operations. She examines how political decisions taken in Ottawa have affected the performance of the Canadian Forces and discusses measures that could be implemented to restore local confidence in Canada’s position as a front-line peacekeeping partner. She ends by emphasizing that the doctrine of interoperability needs to take account of issues on the ground if it is to be truly effective: “[W]hile much of the literature stresses the importance of trade partnerships, the shared defence industrial base and advanced weapons systems, complementarity at the tactical and operational levels must also be included in the equation.”

In “Missed Opportunity II: The Canadian Forces, Force Structuring and Operation Iraqi Freedom” (originally published as “Are we Really Just Peacekeepers? The Perception versus the Reality of Canadian Military Involvement in the Iraq War”), Sean Maloney assesses the proposition that it is only “peacekeeping” that defines the Canadian Forces. He looks specifically at what a Canadian deployment to Iraq, with the US, the UK, Australia and others, might have encompassed.

Maloney lays the groundwork for showing how Canada missed an opportunity in Iraq by examining the military forces Canada contributed to other wars in the 1990s, the principles underlying those commitments, the force structure as it existed in 2002-03 and, therefore, what options existed for a possible deployment to Iraq.

In the early 1990s, there was a push in Canada to expand the conception of peacekeeping beyond its original definition, instead of using a more flexible typology that would acknowledge how our forces have actually been deployed across the spectrum of conflict – in ways that fall well outside traditional forms of UN peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance.

Since 1990, Canadian Forces have been deployed in Iraq War Phase I, from 1990-91; in Haiti in 1993; in Contingency Plan COBRA in Croatia and Bosnia in 1995; in Iraq War Phase II, from 1991-2002; in Kosovo from 1999-2000; and in Afghanistan from 2001-02. By examining case studies on these deployments, Maloney establishes that it is not enough for Canadian Forces to show up to be part of a coalition; our forces must be deployed on the “principle of saliency” – a principle that recalls discussions of interoperability in other papers. Canada must be able to provide a unique capability that no other nation can bring to the table, or use the forces committed in an orthodox or unusual way, or be prepared to accept missions that no other nation in the coalition would accept.

Over the course of the 1990s, argues Maloney, the leadership of the Canadian Forces came to realize that the forces are capable of making militarily significant contributions to diverse alliance and coalition war efforts. He then returns directly to his central question, of how Canada could have participated in the third phase of the Iraqi war. Through a detailed, fact-based exposition of the options that were available, Maloney is able to conclude that “[t]here can be little doubt that Canada had the military means to contribute in an effective and salient fashion to [Operation] Iraqi Freedom in 2003.”

Ann Fitz-Gerald provides yet another analysis occasioned by Iraq, “Military and Postconflict Security: Implications for American, British, and Other Allied Force Planning and for Postconflict Iraq.” The paper takes postconflict Iraq as a timely point of departure for a broader discussion of postconflict security and especially of the military’s role in security sector reform (SSR).

As Fitz-Gerald points out, SSR is a subject that has received considerable attention and debate in the development community and government, and while there is now a theoretical understanding that effective SSR requires broad, holistic approaches, “the way in which these concepts have been translated into practice remains unclear at worst and disparate at best.” Fitz-Gerald points out that transitioning societies have comprehensive security needs: if the emergency response phase of a conflict is not properly integrated with the wider agenda, the conflict can be reignited very quickly.

To help address such comprehensive security needs, Fitz-Gerald identifies the key actors and activities within a broad conception of the security sector. She gives an overview of the main program and policy areas for SSR and discusses the potential contribution of international military forces to each of these areas as part of a continuum of actors.

Tom Axworthy, a former principal secretary to Pierre Trudeau and the current executive director of the Historica Foundation, contributes a view of what the duties and obligations of an ally really are in “On Being an Ally: Why Virtue Is Not Reward Enough.” Axworthy presents a broad and integrated image of what a country’s moral obligations, military capacities and global responsibilities must perforce embrace. He sets a high bar for any Canadian administration to address.

The final paper, “Between a Rock and a Soft Place: The Geopolitics of Canada- US Security Relations,” by Joel Sokolsky, reflects on the implications for Canada of new US trends in both security and foreign policy. Without the slightest bit of complacency, Dr. Sokolsky outlines his prescription as to what should be the basis for future Canadian foreign and defence policy priorities.

Order a copy from the IRPP store.

For immediate distribution – Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Montreal – The Institute for Research on Public Policy ( is today launching a book edited by IRPP President Hugh Segal entitled Geopolitical Integrity.

The collection, which addresses Canada’s global and hemispheric priorities and its foreign and defence policy options and challenges, will be launched at 4:30 p.m. today at the Sheraton Ottawa Hotel (150 Albert Street, O’Connor Room, on the main floor).

According to Hugh Segal, the book’s title, Geopolitical Integrity, invokes two meanings, cohesiveness and ethical responsibility.

“Canadian foreign, defence, humanitarian and trade policies should come together in a coherent manner,” writes Segal in the introduction. And he adds, “Canadian rhetoric at home ought to be consistent with our actions abroad, and both our words and our actions should express our values as a country.”

The collection brings together contributions by notable foreign and defence policy experts such as

  • Sean Maloney, Department of War Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada
  • Ann Fitz-Gerald, director of the Centre for Managing Security in Transitional Societies at Cranfield University in the UK, and retired Air Force Brigadier General W.D. Macnamara, a fellow at the Queen’s Centre for International Relations
  • Douglas Bland, chair of the Defence Management Studies Program at Queen’s University
  • Danford Middlemiss and Denis Stairs, both political scientists with the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University
  • Joel J. Sokolsky, dean of arts and professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada

Some of the papers have been published previously as part of the IRPP’s National Security and Military Interoperability series, and others were delivered at IRPP seminars and symposia on defence and foreign policy. The collection also includes the following new studies:

  • “Between a Rock and a Soft Place: The Geopolitics of Canada-US Relations,” by Joel J.
  • Sokolsky, which reflects on the implications for Canada of new US trends in both security and foreign policy. The author argues that Canada’s budget, independence and sovereignty are not at risk as a result of the new American policy. Canada can be selective in its deployments while vigorously defending North American territory. But it must better integrate security and defence at home and abroad to achieve these ends.
  • “Geopolitical Integrity,” by Hugh Segal, which explores how Canada can successfully unite commitment with action by combining a clear statement of interests with the means and will to back them up. This requires increasing the capacity to deploy, the quality and the size of the Canadian Forces, as well as better integrating government agencies and allied operations.

For information regarding the book launch or to request an interview with the editor or one of the contributors, please contact the IRPP.

Geopolitical Integrity is now available for purchase on the Institute’s Web site, at, and will also be available for purchase at today’s event.

Also being launched are Choice of Force: Special Operations for Canada, edited by David Last and Bernd Horn, and Force of Choice: Perspectives on Special Operations, edited by Bernd Horn, J. Paul de B. Taillon and David Last. The book launch will follow a conference, “The New Defence Agenda: Transforming National Defence Administration,” organized by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (; the Chair of Defence Management Studies at Queen’s University; the Canadian Defence Industries Association (CDIA); and the Conference of Defence Associations Institute (CDAI) .


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More generous cash-transfer benefit would improve access to essentials, says IRPP report
More generous cash-transfer benefit would improve access to essentials, says IRPP report