Thursday, December 29, 2005

Another look at arctic defence

Babble on.

I am in rather vehement disagreement with Chris Taylor - a man for whom I have a great deal of respect - over the efficacy of the proposed Conservative arctic sovereignty plan.

For an interesting perspective on many of the salient points, Simon Fraser University's CASR is worth a visit.

Their concerns about building new armed icebreakers in Canada ring true, and they echo Chris' points regarding our lack of under-ice enforcement of our own territorial claims. But they also support my assertion that the ability to pinpoint subsurface transgressions is a huge step forward. Quite frankly, their worries about cabling for the underwater sensor system show a lack of imagination: who says cabling has to emerge at a shoreline? Run it into the rock below the ice level and bring it to the surface inland and the problem of shifting sea ice is solved.

It’s almost like they’re looking for something to nitpick, which never fails to annoy me.

In that same vein, I am somewhat surprised at the authors' simplistic reasoning concerning UAV patrols, and their subsequent dismissal of those patrols as virtually useless. First off, they assume that the UAV's will be unarmed, and thus unable to engage in any enforcement of Canadian sovereignty. It's a reasonable assumption, but an assumption nevertheless, and they do their readers a disservice by not admitting as much. Even if we grant them this point, though, their conclusions are flawed. Before we can enforce our sovereignty, we have to detect intrusions. It is far more economical to patrol our vast northern territory (bigger than India) with unmanned high-endurance drones than with CF-18's, C-130's, CP-140's or CC-144's. Should a UAV spot a problem, a fighter or manned patrol aircraft could be deployed quickly to follow up with muscle. Survey using remotes, and respond using manned aircraft if you must - this is common sense, is it not?

CASR's thoughts on the Cambridge Bay training centre seem like purposeless sniping to me: you have infrastructure and a training mandate, and if it makes political sense as well, then all the power to the CPC for killing two birds with one stone. Moving the training around all over the arctic with no centralized hub is nonsensical, and assuming the training will occur exclusively at the centre is equally obtuse.

When it comes to support for the Rangers, I agree with the authors wholeheartedly. I'm especially intrigued by the idea of a small number of Ranger regulars as opposed to an entirely Reserve force.

While those with an interest in Canadian sovereignty and our military may debate the merits of this specific proposal versus that one, it's refreshing that there are new political ideas on defence emerging during an election for us to discuss at all. And we have the Conservatives to thank for that.

Babble off.


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