Again, I cannot attribute what other folks said at the informal meeting with two of the Advisory Board members, besides what I said, but here are some of my reactions:
- I was somewhat wrong about my initial reaction to the announcement of the Defence Review Roundtables. I was upset that Ottawa was left out, but it turns out that they did anticipate correctly that the experts in Ottawa would get multiple opportunities to engage the review folks. Yellowknife? Still makes no sense, but skipping Ottawa is not as problematic as I thought.
- Any discussion of defence stuff here tends to center on keeping Canada’s military a “full spectrum, flexible, combat capable” force. This is the pushback language if anyone suggests that Canada specialize in some stuff and drop some missions and capabilities. The joy of this construction is that it conflates combat with flexible and suggests that any specialization would mean that the CAF could not do combat. It is, of course, wrong, but it works in short arguments. The reality is that few countries in the world have a full spectrum military: the US, and maybe Russia and China. Only the US can do everything, and everyone else has to choose what they cannot/will not do. China does not really have strategic bombers, Russia does not have the capacity it once had to do strategic airlift, etc. France? UK? They can do more stuff than Canada, but not as much as they could.
- There was much discussion about how can one do a defence review without knowing how much the government intends to spend. So, we had some folks advocate for the military to have everything it wants/thinks it needs. I pushed against that. I wish I had advocated the following:
“Do the defence review like the way the military puts together a position: posit three possible options of high risk, medium risk and low risk with the budget being less than it is for the high risk option, about where it is now with the medium risk option and increased with the low risk option.”
- The room was mostly male, mostly white, and mostly older than me. Which speaks to the need to do something about fostering a new generation of Canadian defence experts (my plan over the next few years, SSHRC willing).
- On the bright side, the Advisory Panel consists of two men and two women.
Overall, the conversation was reasoned, informed, and interesting. I have no idea what the panelists will recommend, other than reading/buying my book.
I, of course, did conclude my comments with a reference to:
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”
Stephen Saideman is a Fellow and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs