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William Watson: On military spending, we are number one out of three!

For half a century, we haven’t really had to take these questions seriously. Now we do. let’s go

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We are very satisfied with our Ukrainian efforts, aren’t we? Our newscasts are full of stories of aid workers going there, church basements filling up with donated items, grandmothers making pierogis to raise funds (millions of pierogis, it must be now), our little gestures and ceremonies before hockey games, on billboards and so on. Our Parliament had its face-to-face with the world’s bravest leader, sandwiched between Westminster and the US Congress, and gave him a three-minute standing ovation before our own politicians rose to hurl judgmental ladles in return. It was a bigger ticket than when Nelson Mandela came to town. We felt good there, it could be seen on the faces of the people who were applauding.

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It’s all heartfelt (except maybe from the politicians) and touching and, in reaction to what’s happening, it’s much better than nothing. It is very good that, under the enamel of our sophistication, we can still be genuinely appalled by an aggressor ready to burn down a neighboring country to express the depth of his brotherly feelings.

But because there are broader interests at stake than just Ukraine and because over the years we have neglected our hard power, we are going to disappoint President Zelenskyy, as he surely understands. We will do anything to help Ukraine except what Ukraine wants and needs the most, which is for us — the West, not just Canada — to come and fight with them. We may be on Ukraine’s side, but we stand 7,000 kilometers apart.

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And here we are, in the accompanying chart, #103 in the CIA World Factbook ranking of countries by military spending as a percentage of GDP. We don’t even do double digits, the top 99.

Our official target is to spend 2% of GDP, but it has been many years since we got close to that. We like to tell ourselves that we punch above our weight. With a weight of 103, it’s not asking much.

That all this money is spent on the military, largely by very poor countries, is of course a tragic waste. Eritrea: 10% of GDP for its army. Venezuela: 5.2%. Jordan: 4.7%; Mali: 3.4%. You don’t need to know anything about Isaiah to think that swords should all be turned into plowshares and missiles and drones into CT scanners and 3D printers.

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But the world we live in – as opposed to the one we would like to live in or even, until three weeks ago, might have thought we were living in – requires this kind of spending. And in any country that has anything to do with NATO or Europe or also the periphery of China (for who knows which big country will go on a adventure next), the share of GDP spent on the military will increase .

Ukraine is still in play and will do so largely on its own. But NATO defenses must be bolstered and supplies must be sent to buffer states against which Russia has not yet moved but might be willing to.

Until three weeks ago, two percent of GDP seemed like an unattainable ceiling. It now seems one floor. We are currently 0.6% of GDP below. At the current rate of production, that’s just under $16 billion a year. This government has shown no reluctance to spend tens of billions of dollars. But the effect required now does not come from the announcement of new expenditure, but from the quality of its deployment over the next few years. The current government excels in announcements. The deployments disconcert him. Either that – or that – will have to change.

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What do we need? What do not do we need? More people to make everything work. And we must quickly develop a war ethic that treats arms acquisitions as military decisions, not as regional or industrial policy.

If you go to the websites of our armed forces, you see a lot of different types of equipment. The army, for example, points to a list of weapons: “Fire! Our soldiers use a range of modern weapons, from indirect fire weapons to small arms. On the main page, however, under ‘Features’, the first link is to ‘Inappropriate Sexual Behavior Resources’. It’s not immediately obvious what this string of words actually means – is this where you can get the resources to do this sort of thing? — but it turns out that’s where you can “learn more about sexual misconduct and how the Canadian Armed Forces addresses it.” One solution is to settle a $900 million sexual harassment class action lawsuit. Even with inflation, $900 million would have bought a lot of bullets.

The RCAF gear page actually lists the Sopwith Camel – but only among “historic aircraft.” But its active aircraft page doesn’t show how old each is, what percentage of the fleet can fly at any given time, and how each performs against peak opposition.

For half a century, we haven’t really had to take these questions seriously. Now we do. Let’s go.

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Tags : armed forcescanadian armedprime minister
Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.