Prime Minister Paul Martin’s tempered February 24 refusal to participate in the proposed US continental missile defence was the third such measured Canadian rejection. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, facing many of the same concerns as Martin does, chose not to engage Canada in Safeguard in 1969, despite pressures from the Nixon administration. At the time, it was feared that involving Canada in Safeguard would undermine NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) and affect broader relations with the US. An offer the Reagan adminis- tration extended to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to par- ticipate in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in the mid-1980s met with similar restraint. The Mulroney gov- ernment agreed to permit corporate involvement in research without formal commitment. In both the Safeguard and SDI cases there was no resulting damage to our relations with Washington because the missile defence policy offensives gradually died of their own accord in the US. They were sidelined by more tangible threats, inoper- ability and high costs.

The circumstances surrounding the most recent incar- nation of missile defence seem eerily similar to those of pre- vious ones. First, aside from the US cancellation of an X-Band Radar in Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, there has been no change in operations at NORAD or any negative effects on broader US-Canada relations. Canada has already agreed to permit early warning data from NORAD to be used as part of the US missile defence program. Second, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to call for patience as the missile defence program has failed to meet its December 2004 deadline for graduating from an experimental proj- ect to attaining operational status. Furthermore, the US administration, under budgetary pressure (because of its Iraq adventure) and a rising deficit, reduced its 2006 budget request for the MDA from US$10 billion to US$9 bil- lion. So far, the program has managed to deploy only 8 interceptors: 6 at Fort Greely, Alaska, and 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The Pentagon expects 28 interceptors to be in place by the end of 2007.

It is our expectation that missile defence will eventually work, in the sense of being sufficiently responsive to intercept a dozen first generation mis- siles typical of the developing world and China’s pre-DF-31 series ICBM (without decoys). It will probably never be as mil- itarily effective as simply destroying enemy missiles with nuclear strikes before they launch (counterforce pre- emption), but would be infinitely more politically feasible. Paul Martin’s deci- sion has therefore postponed rather than resolved this issue. The promise of hit-to-kill technology, the nature of China’s emerging trans-Pacific threat to the US, and the maturation of other the- atre missile programs such as MEADS (set for deployment by 2013-14), sug- gest that this decision will be revisited within the next decade (sooner than past decisions). Paul Martin’s choice has protected Canada from the current US missile defence program, which has been, since 1946, a meandering research project coupled with a provocative ide- ology in place of a clear policy.

An initial consideration that is repeat- edly raised as affecting our narrow self-interest is the anticipation of con- tracts for the Canadian defence industry. Although vague estimates of multi-billions of dollars are thrown around, estimates by the Canadian Defence Industries Association (CDIA) range from US$270 million to more than US$1 billion over the next 15 years. Others, like retired Canadian Col. Dan Bulpitt, place the figure at US$2 billion over two decades. However, even if we assume for a moment that our strategic and politi- cal interests are best served by partici- pating in missile defence, it is unclear whether the estimates of the industry windfall are accurate. For example, many estimates, including Col. Bulpitt’s, are based on the Canadian industry’s experience in the US-led joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft project. Yet, as illustrated by Ernie Regher, comparisons to and assessments of potential missile defence windfalls on the basis of the JSF project are flawed for a number of reasons.

First, Canada’s participation in the JSF project demanded a US$150 million investment, of which US$50 million was in grants to industry. Although the long- term windfalls were estimated in the bil- lions of dollars, the contracts awarded to the Canadian industry were initially sub- sidized by the Canadian taxpayer. In the case of missile defence, there is no requirement on the US’s part that we invest. In any case, there seems to be a lack of political will in Canada to pay into the project. Second, Canada’s suc- cess in winning competitive JSF contract bids is attributable to years of work in integrating the Canadian aircraft indus- try into that of the US. We do not have the same level of integration with the US in our space technology and missile development industries. Consequently, Canadian industry would have a much tougher time securing missile defence contracts tendered through competitive bids. Third, the long-term estimates of the windfall from the JSF project of billions of dollars are based on the assumption that Canada will be buying the end product. The US General Accounting Office estimates that Canada will likely buy 60 aircraft at about US$100 million each. In the case of missile defence, no comparable sale or production stimulation mechanisms exist. Ultimately, given that there are no returns on investment issues (since no initial Canadian investment is required), that our space technology and missile development sectors are not substantial- ly integrated into those of the US, and that there is no potential for US sales, projecting missile defence windfalls for Canadian industry on the basis of the JSF project is flawed.

As Steven Staples argues, the lobby- ing to encourage Canadian partic- ipation in missile defence is being led by organizations like the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), and the CDIA. In a May 2003 meeting of CCCE members and Bush administration representatives, a distraught participant reported that defence advisor Richard Perle told CCCE members that ”œCanada had bet- ter realize in the future where its best interests lie.” In a similar incident, based on a conversation with then US ambassador to Canada Paul Celluci, Ron Kane, an AIAC vice-president, reported that if Canada did not join missile defence, AIAC member corpora- tions would be shut out of multi-billion dollar defence contracts.

According to Defense News, a US defence industry magazine, the Bush administration has adopted a strategy of activating corporate lobbies ”” with the lure of US defence dollars ”” in countries that were reluctant to endorse the US missile defence pro- gram. When one couples the factors examined so far with the US Congress’ historical insistence on ”œbuying American” in sensitive defence mat- ters, it is difficult to see how and why lucrative missile defence-related con- tracts would be taken out of the hands of US corporations and given to Canadian ones. Even if the evaluation of strategic and political factors would clearly indicate that it is in Canada’s best interests to participate in missile defence now ”” which they don’t ”” the economic windfalls argument rests on shaky ground, especially when one considers that Canadian participation is desired but not necessary.

North American missile defence, in its various incarnations, has only once achieved operational status, for a single day in October 1975 (before Congress shut it down). It has mainly been manifest in the last half-century as a grandiose research project. The intensity of the debate over missile defence leading up to the Clinton pres- idency’s 1999 Missile Defense Act (com- mitting the US to the establishment of a national missile defence as soon as technologically feasible), coupled with the controversy surrounding President George W. Bush’s 2002 abrogation of the 1972 ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile) Treaty, indicate that these are essential- ly ideological/domestic, rather than strategic issues. The urgent, Manichean nature of the dispute has to do with the chronic memory loss around the belt- way and in the government about the difficulties of implementing a technol- ogy-driven program in the absence of realistic policy.

Although the cost of the current missile defence initiative ”” US$10 bil- lion in 2005 ”” is small when compared with that of strategic nuclear forces (US$30 billion in 2005), its expendi- tures to date exceed US$100 billion. Research specific to intercepting ballis- tic missiles began in 1946, and evolved through the Thumper and 1958 Wizard projects. President John Kennedy can- celled the Nike-Zeus ABM system (after spending US$3 billion) in 1961, and replaced it with the Defender research program, which spent about US$3 bil- lion per year (1958-68). One of the Defender research program’s proposals was the BAMBI space-based boost-phase intercept system, but its cost of US$294 billion, combined with its technological unfeasibility, made it impractical. Canada was not invited to participate in any of these projects, but its amenability to a sound defence poli- cy led it to host 2 of the 10 nuclear- armed Bomarc sites for the interception of Soviet bombers.

There were three subsequent periods during which missile defence appeared to be technically feasible and attained some political salience. In 1967, Robert McNamara announced that the Sentinel missile defence system (born out of the Nike X program) would cost about US$5 billion and would serve to protect cities and military targets. Sentinel was stimulated by the growing Soviet strategic missile threat, but was subsequently redi- rected against China once critics got a closer look at the vagueness of the political goals of the pro- gram (and despite the fact that China did not deploy an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capable of hitting the continental US until 1981). The program was subsequently cancelled by President Nixon following the US rapprochement with China.

Nixon’s administration re- designed the Sentinel project into the Safeguard system, whose mission was to use the same interceptors based in Minuteman silos for point defence of ICBM silo fields. Its principal phased array radar was built at Grand Forks AFB, Dakota. However, because of the Partial Test Ban Treaty against atmos- pheric testing, there was no occasion to fully test the system. The fear that unrestrained development of missile defence would provoke an offensive arms race led to the 1972 ABM Treaty, which limited both parties to two, and then one missile defence site. Prime Minister Trudeau became actively involved in discussions over Safeguard because it was revealed that the 5- megaton warheads of the Spartan mis- siles were to be detonated over Canada, resulting in certain Canadian casualties in the event that a Soviet missile was intercepted. Spending on Safeguard was sustained by a 51-50 vote in the Senate, but it was ultimate- ly cancelled on July 1, 1976, after a sin- gle day of operation, because Nixon judged it to be strategically ineffective. The US military had already quietly reduced its full operational status prior to Nixon’s decision on grounds of the system’s extreme vulnerability to a Soviet precursor strike. Research in the 1970s continued at a substantially reduced pace.

In 1983 US President Ronald Reagan proposed a national missile defence system termed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), consisting of a significant space-based component. Technical unfeasibility inhibited its deployment but reinvigorated missile defence research, with investment peaking at levels of about US$4 billion per year (accounting for less than 1 percent of total military spending at that time). SDI was also on hold because the Soviets had demonstrated a capacity for offsetting any defensive missile development with massive increases in offensive forces. Therefore, the belief that the Soviet fear of not being able to outspend SDI con- tributed to the end of the Cold War is largely unfounded.

The 1991 Gulf War provided a major impetus for theatre missile defence research and secured the Pentagon’s support for the Ballistic Missile Defense Office (BMDO). Political interest was heightened by the 1998 Rumsfeld Commission report, which indicated the rapid spread of missile technology in the developing world, particularly in so-called rogue states such as Iran, North Korea and Iraq. It was also the principal political cause of the Missile Defense Act of 1999. Under the Clinton administra- tion, most of the research into missile defence was actually diverted to theatre missile defence, which was then the main US concern: the ability to intervene regionally through allied bases without being sub- ject to missile bombardment by a hostile local power. It was also the Pentagon’s preferred research interest; national mis- sile defense (NMD), as opposed to theatre missile defence, was received with general indiffer- ence by the military. President Clinton made this policy official when it was clear that the tech- nology could not support anything else.

The Missile Defense Agence (MDA) proceeded to deploy the rudiments of a mis- sile defence system beginning in 2004. The new system is a marked improvement over the Sentinel and Safeguard interceptors; e.g., hit-to-kill technology has replaced large nuclear warheads. The system relies on a sur- veillance network that includes radars at Clear (Alaska), Beale AFB (Califor- nia), Cape Cod (Massachusetts), Thule (Greenland), and Fylingdales (UK). There are also X-band radars and secondary facilities in construc- tion in Shemya (in the Aleutians, Alaska), the Marshall Islands, South Korea, and Hawaii. However, as of April 2005, the system had not yet been declared operational.

The total cost of missile defence to the US between 1962 and 1996 is colos- sal. It includes US$3.2 billion for Nike- Hercules (1962-65), US$9.2 billion for Nike-X/Sentinel (1964-68), US$21.3 bil- lion for Safeguard (1968-78), US$51 bil- lion for SDI (1983-98), with a further US$13.8 billion for ancillary projects ”” a total of US$98.5 billion. Research since 1996 has added another US$60 billion, and is expected to add an additional US$60 billion in the next half-decade. It is not without precedent that there be this much spending on a missile defence project with no necessary func- tionalist justification; there are plenty of recent expensive Pentagon programs that were developed to the production stage because of sunk costs and because the logrolled coalitions that created them could not be undone. The B-1 and B-2 bombers are classic cases of systems that outlasted their missions.

Based on the Sentinel, Safeguard and SDI systems, the clearest sign that a particular missile defence program will eventually be phased out is its lack of clear relationship to strategy (such as containment or damage limitation).

Were Canada to sign onto a given missile defence program, it would need to reserve for itself the right to withdraw, as well as to anticipate that the program may eventually be cancelled by US leaders. For example, the current missile defence program and US pressures on Canada to partici- pate would not be so odd were it not for the involvement of Donald Rumsfeld, who was responsible for shutting down the Safeguard system in 1976 (after Trudeau had come under pressure to accede). Canada’s involvement may not in fact be very expensive, and may bring contracts to Canadian compa- nies. However, a program driven by technology rather than clear policy is likely to achieve few strategic goals for either the US or Canada, especially when previous incarnations have con- sistently been shut down.

On another front, by too close an association with the principal agents of missile defence, we risk repu- tational damage to traditional Canadian multilateral objectives. Current US domestic support for mis- sile defence has its origins in the ideo- logical movements associated with the conservative seizure of the House of Representatives in 1994. Under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, Republicans signed a Contract with America, which pledged to establish a national missile defence system. This was in part stimulated by the develop- ment and testing of long-range mis- siles, such as the North Korean No Dong in 1993. However, the conven- tional wisdom in the intelligence com- munity was that there was no near-term missile threat to the United States. Rather, missile defence was a Reaganesque solution to an illusory problem of emerging dangers left unat- tended by the Clinton administration. It was essentially an element of an iso- lationist grand strategy, and an easy focal point for mobilizing the Republican base. We would speculate even further and suggest that the conservative (religious and otherwise) wing of the Republican Party used mis- sile defence as a rallying point against exaggerated threats, both foreign and domestic, felt by many in conservative middle-class suburbs.

In that sense the push for missile defence is ideologically indistinguish- able from the conservative agenda of diplomatic unilateralism. The mindset that supports continued development of missile defence to create an America free of international constraints on its power has been dismantling four decades of arms control. Examples include the nonratification by Congress of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the International Criminal Court; nonparticipation by the US in the Land Mines Convention; and the abrogation by the US of 1972 ABM Treaty. The so- called neo-conservatives have been exercising this unrestrained power to forcibly establish friendly regimes in states viewed most likely to participate in nuclear proliferation (insofar as is fea- sible ”” note the privilege of Pakistan and Brazil). They view strategic pre- emption as the final option, given the demonstrated failure of classic deter- rence. What is curious is that the Pentagon’s oblique support for missile defence is largely based on its institu- tional interest in developing theatre missile defence, which runs counter to the promise of providing national mis- sile defence contained in the 1994 Contract with America. The Pentagon has worked hard to divert funding from national to theatre missile defence. These disparate interests combine to produce incoherent policy; the neo- conservative interventionist policy seems to contradict the isolationist ten- dencies supporting missile defence. The surveillance needs of continental missile defence have led to vital radar facilities being based in foreign states, which then involves the US in, rather than freeing it from, local security disputes. Such is the case with South Korea.

Canada’s general interest in limit- ing its political dependence on the US puts it in conflict with nearly every domestic faction that supports missile defence. Furthermore, the architecture of missile defence will also serve to provide targeting surveillance for US attacks Canada may not agree with. Especially in the context of the US’s unilateral pre-empting of strategic forces in the developing world, Canada may find itself diplomatically associated with US interventionist pol- icy if it contributes to missile defence.

Nevertheless, a future government in Ottawa should recognize that there are instances where missile defence may be strategically justifiable, and where Canadian and US interests might very well coincide. First, missile defence is an appropriate response to a missile threat from a rogue nation such as North Korea. Rogue states are likely able to launch between one and no more than a dozen ballistic missiles as part of a first strike. It is assumed that the US would engage in counter-force nuclear strikes before a second volley could be launched. Missile defence would have two benefits. First, given the scale of the potential threat and the known launch points, intercepting them may indeed be feasible and possi- bly cost-effective under forecasted tech- nology. This is a capability that may become available in the next decade. Second, missile defence will enhance the credibility of US extended deter- rence among regional allies by reducing the credibility of the threat posed by rogue states to the US. This would have a significant benefit to Canadian inter- ests by reducing the incentive of region- al powers (such as Taiwan, South Korea, Japan) to obtain their own nuclear arse- nals. However, attaining this level of technical capability will take the US some time, though in the interim the US could provide selective theatre missile coverage to certain allies.

Of course, an important consideration is that it is presumed that attacks by rogue states on North America are more likely to take the form of terrorist- delivered weapons of mass destruction. While preparations for that sort of threat should not be discounted, once identi- fied, missiles are less easily stopped than containers or truck-portable nuclear weapons. Missiles can also deliver scores of weapons on US soil, whereas terrorist- type weapons have an effective rate of fire of one or at best a few.

Second, missile defence might effec- tively defend against accidental or rene- gade launches, which would send an arsenal on the scale of a typical squadron, usually comprising 15 missiles and their warheads. The probability of this threat is speculative, and seems more so since the stabilization of the former Soviet Union. Since the number of missiles launched by renegades would be small, there is no need for large num- bers of interceptors, and there would be a high probability of successfully defend- ing high value targets like cities.

Third, while the available technol- ogy cannot cost effectively protect all civilian (counter-value) and military (counter-force) targets, the Soviet and Russian experience has shown that missile defence can help protect the command-and-control system, and thereby reduce the incentive for an enemy to conduct a decapitation attack to paralyze the decision-making process. Around Moscow, there are 6 ground launcher bases with 36 nuclear-armed A-350 Galosh intercep- tors and 64 Gazelles, guided by UHF- band radars. The system was designed to handle the warheads of 16 renegade US sea-launched ballistic missiles or 100 Chinese DF-4 intermediate range ballistic missiles. Currently, this is not a concern for the US, but it may be some years down the road if China were ever to break out and develop thousands of nuclear missiles as the Soviets did beginning in the 1960s.

Although future governments in Ottawa should recognize that there may be instances where Canadian and US interests might coin- cide on missile defence, missile defence is currently not sufficiently operational to facilitate any of the goals mentioned above. Besides, only one rogue state, North Korea, is seeking to target the US with a plutonium device atop an ICBM. Given the vast number of strate- gic weapons the US has deployed for retaliatory purposes, it is unlikely that missile defence will carry much weight relative to retaliatory forces, in the minds of North Korean decision-makers. By comparison, Iran’s alleged program is based on a regional ballistic missile capability carrying an enriched uranium warhead (which is too large to be deployed on an ICBM, and therefore can never reach the United States). This raises the issue of whether missile defence is actually designed to target China, a design that is inherently provocative and unwise (because of the marginal advantage of the offense). Accidental launches, if from a major power like Russia, will include counter- measures and decoys that no current- generation missile defence system can intercept. Missile defence for the pur- poses of protecting US command and control, presupposes China has an ICBM able to reach Washington, which it currently does not. In effect these are all time-sensitive considerations that may cause Canadian authorities to reconsider their non-participation deci- sion at some future date.

For the moment, however, the simple question remains that if the United States does not take missile defence seriously (in the sense of sub- ordinating the program to a feasible strategy), why should Canada? Paul Martin has correctly recognized the transitory nature of the latest US mis- sile defence proposal. But he should not feel that the window has closed. It is very probable that a future Democratic administration or Congress would welcome Canada’s involvement later, particularly because Canada did not throw its weight behind what was essentially a domestic/ideological feud within the United States.

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