Why missile defense sucks

By Bryn Levy

The American effort to develop a National Missile Defense system is fraught with grave implications both for Canada and the international community.

The creation of weapons systems designed to defend against an enemy nuclear strike could make a nation in possession of such a system more willing to use nuclear weapons without fear of retaliation. In addition, the development of defensive countermeasures simply encourages the development of offensive systems. In effect, NMD faces becoming obsolete shortly after it is deployed. The only alternative to obsolescence is constant upgrades to the system, leading to constant upgrades in offensive weaponry. The deployment of the missile shield risks promoting an arms race that would divert resources from more productive areas of the economy in any nations involved.

Another drawback of the system is the likely weaponisation of space. Were this to occur, the missile “defense” system could be used as an offensive weapon, as space-based weapons would present a platform that could strike any point on the globe with little to no warning. This would exacerbate international tensions, and could also result in an arms race in the last frontier where humans aren’t actively finding new and ingenious ways to kill each other.

Testing of present missile shield technology has produced overwhelmingly negative results, making the efficacy of NMD dubious at best. Even if a system could be built, it would be next to impossible to test all parts of it at once when deployed. When one considers the financial burden that Canadian participation in NMD would entail, it seems ridiculous to spend that money on a system that isn’t likely to work.

What is necessary is an assessment of where Canada’s national security interests lie (something the Canadian government hasn’t seen fit to do since 1994). We are a nation of roughly 30 million people occupying the second largest country in the world. Therefore, our domestic defense interests lie in protecting Canadian sovereignty over our massive territory and ensuring our capacity to respond to natural disasters rather then in some pie-in-the-sky missile shield.

The Prime Minister’s announcement that Canada is not going to participate in NMD is no reason for pro-American enthusiasts to fret (this is Alberta; I know you’re out there).

Given the amendment to NORAD allowing it to be used as part of NMD’s early warning systems, and the announcement by Pierre Pettigrew that Canadian industry will be allowed to participate in NMD development, it would seem that a policy of “back-door” Canadian participation in NMD is taking shape. This is another instance of the Liberal government talking out of both sides of its mouth (or perhaps out of another orifice).

This type of disingenuous policy, while beneficial for cynical vote-grabbing in Quebec and the key demographic of Toronto-area soccer moms, hurts Canada internationally. We come away looking like fence-sitters to nations who might support us, and it pisses off the Americans, who, like it or not, are our largest trading partner. Canada should by no means make decisions based on kowtowing to the Yanks, but if we’re going to go against their wishes we should make a clean break and move on, rather then setting ourselves up for the negative consequences on both sides of the NMD issue.

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