Monday, December 27, 2010

Canada's Military Space Policy:
Part 1, The Axworthy Doctrine

The recent announcement by Colonel André Dupuis, the Director of the Department of National Defence (DND) Directorate of Space Development (DSpaceD) that DND is set to release an "updated" but not substantially changed Canadian military space policy early in 2011 suggests a series of obvious questions.
Lloyd Axworthy, as drawn by Graeme Mackay.

At the very least, if the new policy is going to be pretty much the same as the old policy, then what was the old policy?

For the answer, we need to start with something called the 1994 Canadian White Paper on Defence.

Called the "Axworthy Doctrine" after incoming Liberal MP Lloyd Axworthy (who helped originate and champion many of the ideas in the document), the focus of the 1994 white paper was to scale back expenditures allocated by the outgoing Conservative government in order to allow Canada to take advantage of the so called "peace dividend" expected to accrue to western democracies after the collapse of their major opponent, the Soviet Union.

Included among the cuts was Canada's traditional commitment to the "level and tempo of Canada-U.S. defense relations, particularly in NORAD, (the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which) has been decreasing since the late1980s" according to the document "Canada, Getting it Right This Time: The 1994 Defence White Paper" published by the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the United States Army War College.

Canadian contributions to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were also cut back as were Canadian financial contributions to the NATO allied infrastructure program and force levels for the CF-18 Hornet fighter jet.

The current NORAD HQ in Building 2 at Peterson Air Force Base. Cheyenne Mountain is "no longer used on a daily basis" according to Wikipedia.
But while military cutbacks to Canada's NATO and NORAD contributions might seem like a sane and sensible policy for laymen like you and I, those cutbacks also undermined two of the four traditional pillars of Canadian military policy (the other two are protection of Canadian sovereignty and international peacekeeping missions).

Even worse, the Axworthy Doctrine suggested that direct threats to North American security requiring sovereignty protection capabilities were unlikely in the foreseeable future. With three of the four traditional justifications for a Canadian military seemingly under fire from an incoming government mandated to slash spending, a new rationale was needed for Canadian military spending.

This is where the Axworthy Doctrine got creative.

It championed a concept called "human security" which challenged traditional notions of international security  by arguing that security should be focused around the individual instead of the state. It also argued that the United Nations (UN) had a "responsibility to protect" people anywhere in the world against genocide and ethnic cleansing attempts, even to the extent of invading or interfering in the internal politics of otherwise sovereign nations.

An account of the 1994 UN mission.
Axworthy (who eventually became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Jean Chrétien liberal government) felt this new Canadian military role could be undertaken by the existing Canadian Forces without the need for any additional military expenditures. In essence, the ruling liberal government could legitimately task the Canadian Forces with the Axworthy Doctrine and still cut military funding.

Was this a great country or what?

To be fair, the doctrine was widely considered to be a reasonable response to help prevent a repeat of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide where the Canadian commander of a UN peace keeping mission (Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire) was prevented from taking steps he felt would diffuse the situation and save lives.

But even in this area, the "Axworthy Doctrine" was a two edge sword. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia:
It may sound warm and fuzzy on the surface, but underlying that vision is the cold hard recognition that military intervention may be necessary to achieve this end. Rejecting the sanctity of national borders that has been central to the UN since its founding in 1945, the proposal would create a sort of official licence to invade.
The concept of a "license to invade" rogue regimes for the greater good found an obvious following in the United States (especially after 9/11) which initially provided much of the support infrastructure needed to send Canadian soldiers around the world.

A cartoon about another rogue regime.
Unfortunately, the Americans soon started making noise about how Canada should build their own infrastructure, and not simply piggy back on existing US capabilities so Axworthy ended up being wrong about his doctrine not needing new expenditures to support combat capable troops on lengthy international missions

Oddly enough, the easiest way to support the Axworthy Doctrine was to develop an indigenous military space communications and surveillance capability to support Canadian missions abroad.

The requirements for this capability (which led directly to the formulation of Canada's 1998 military space policy) and a bit of background on why there was no Canadian military space policy prior to 1998 will be the subject of our 2nd post on this topic.

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