Love letters to the prime minister
This summer I had an exchange of E-mails with the Government of Canada over policy matters. I reprint our exchange in order here. It began in July when I read a story in The Japan Times about the decision of the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end military operations in Afghanistan(not about the decision [in August] to re-instate use of the word “Royal” for each branch of the Armed Forces.)
Saturday, July 9, 2011.
Dear Prime Minister:
Congratulations on the decision to end Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan. It is a good and proper decision. Now, please consider extricating Canada from NATO, whose raison d'être no longer exists, as well as the Organization of American States, participation in which has negligible purpose. Our military requires augmenting in order to protect the sovereignty of our far-flung territories and their resources from encroachments by predatory powers - the United States especially - who do not recognize, or at least question our sovereignty. Future conflict with America over natural resources is a plausible scenario.
The Prime Minister’s Office’s response came pretty quick. I was excited even though I knew it was an automatic response.
Monday, 11, July, 2011.
Dear Mr. X:
Thank you for your e-mail.
You may be assured that the statements you offered have been carefully reviewed. Your e-mail has been forwarded to the Honourable Peter G. MacKay, Minister of National Defence, for his information.
Once again, thank you for writing to the Prime Minister.
Executive Correspondence Officer for the Prime Minister's Office
Then more than a month passed. I visited Ontario on holiday and returned to Tokyo. I never forgot M. Bourque’s promise to forward my E-mail to the Defence Minister, but I thought nothing more of it, until ...
Friday, August 19, 2011.
Dear Mr. X:
Your email concerning the end of Canada's combat mission in Afghanistanand Canadian sovereignty was forwarded to me by the Office of the Prime Minister. Thank you for writing.
You have touched on several key issues regarding the three fundamental roles of the Canadian Forces: defending Canada, defending North America, and contributing to international peace and security.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces are committed to working closely with allies and partners to achieve the best results for Canada. In this regard, our relationship with key partners such as the United Statesand our participation in critical international organizations, including The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Organization of American States, continue to be invaluable for Canada. Indeed, the complex security threats facing Canada today, many of which originate far beyond our borders, demand ever more multinational cooperation.
As you rightly point out, Canada needs a strong military to protect and defend our sovereign interests, and for that reason the Government of Canada is committed to rebuilding and modernizing our military for the future. The Canada First Defence Strategy sets out a detailed plan to modernize the Canadian Forces with increased, long-term funding to ensure that we have the military forces of the right size and with the right skills, capabilities, and equipment. With this strategy, the Government of Canada has defined a level of ambition that will enable the Canadian Forces to maintain the ability to deliver excellence at home, be a strong and reliable partner in the defence of North America, and project leadership abroad by making meaningful contributions to operations overseas. I invite you to read more about the Canada First Defence Strategy at
I trust this information is helpful, and
thank you again for writing.
Minister of National Defence
c.c. Office of the Prime Minister
The Minister’s E-mail gave me a delightful chance to expound further. Note that the letters are quickly getting much longer. This can’t go on for long.
Saturday, August 20, 2011.
Dear Mr. MacKay:
Thank you for your message of August 19th, part of a continuing response from the Prime Minister’s Office to my message of Saturday, July 9th.
These days, it challenges credibility to describe the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a “critical international organization.” Because the raison d’être of NATO evaporated with the demise of the Communist Soviet Union and the expiration of the Warsaw Pact the continued existence of NATO fits the definition of obsolete. Its continued existence, therefore, also fits the definition of irrational. Of course, any nation whose policy is completely free of irrationality would be quite exemplary indeed. The demonstration of my point lies in the continuing need to redefine NATO’s mission to fit the moment. “Missioncreep” I suppose we can call it, and the dishonesty of it is transparent, distasteful, immoral and not appreciated. It is bad politics and, worst of all, bad economics.
Objections to Canadian participation in the Organization of American States are as valid today as they were during the governments of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, which deliberately avoided membership. That does not mean that the objections are correct, merely that they cannot be dismissed as a priori invalid or false. I suspect that the decision by the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to join the OAS involved considerations other than the “invaluable” benefits of a “critical” organization. I am not closed to OAS membership, only unconvinced.
The world is not nearly as dangerous a place as some governments - particularly the American government - pretend. And, I object most strongly to pretension. America’s security interests arguably can be best served by ceasing their interference and intervention in other countries, of which they have a dark history consistently disguised as being cultivated by noble, legal and legitimate motives. Certainly such a course would be the single greatest remedy for its debt and deficit woes. But that suggestion can hardly be aired there because it is practically deemed unacceptable speech. Other Western countries have a terribly history and reputation in this regard, but America’s are the worst of all in the contemporary world. Some may call it the burden and risk of a superpower, but ...
The security argument - domestic or international security - is prone to such unscrupulous manipulation that we might dismiss it as a canard. The pretense of danger cultivates fear, and fear cultivates consumption, and consumption is good for the corporations with which governments - especially the U.S. government - are intricately bound. Strictly speaking, the structure and operation of the American government today satisfies the definition of “oligarchy,” not “democracy.” So the Canadian government, as a close neighbour and ally, would do well to be cautious when participating in international organizations and operations with Americaand then defending itself with the claim that it is addressing legitimate defense threats to democratic government originating beyond our borders.
If international terrorism had been treated from the start as criminal matter for police rather than a national security matter for the military - as European nations are more prone to do - then the quagmire of war in Central Asia and the Middle East may have been avoided. And, we could have been spared the puerile, sophomoric expositions of their virtue. I expect my government, the Government of Canada, to be less puerile and sophomoric than what prevails in the United States.
The greatest single threat to Canadian security lies directly on our southern border. We can calculate a statistical probability greater than 50% of American military intervention in our territory before then end of this century, despite claims of being close allies, cultural cousins, and partners in the world. Indeed, despite the peace that has existed between our two nations throughout modern times, our real history is not at all a peaceful one.
This military intervention may result from contention over sovereignty of the Northwest Passageas it slowly opens for navigation, although I doubt it. The Northeast Passagehas already been commercially navigated, so the Northwest Passage seems like a peripheral issue. The real issues are fresh water, energy resources, and arable land. We can predict that Washington, D.C. will adopt the position that that portion of Canadian territory which is fundamentally empty and uninhabited is legitimately “international” space, and paint its interference as beneficial development of legitimately available territory. Of course, it will require redefining a host of impediments, especially matters of sovereignty. However, the Patriot Act of President George H.W. Bush already sets a dangerous precedent by effectively repudiating the Peace of Westphalia (1648), the template of all sovereign states’ rights, prerogatives and multilateral relations in the modern world.