Canadians seem to have a common misperception about the role of the military
The Canadian government announced that it’s planning to spend as much as $477-million to participate in a U.S.-led military satellite program, according to an article in the National Post.
The Wideband Global Satellite system has been advertised by the U.S. Defense Department as a communications system for “U.S. warfighters, allies and coalition partners during all levels of conflict, short of nuclear war.”
The idea is to have as many as nine military satellites hovering over different parts of the world, ready to provide high-frequency bandwidth for U.S. and allied forces wherever they may be operating.
Understandably, reaction was mixed on the paper’s message board. I’ve come to really appreciate the discourse in these forums – from intelligent and thought-provoking comments, to the unbelievably asinine rants and tangents that have no connection to the articles – and, predictably, one comment really irked me.
One reader posted, of the government’s decision to spend almost half a billion dollars on satellites, that it was:
“An endless money pit……for a nation that was well known as a Peacekeeper! Wow, has that changed once Harper moved from Alberta to Ontario.”
There seems to be this perception in Canada that we, as a nation, are nothing but peacekeepers. Granted, there is a fine military tradition in this country of defending Canadian values overseas, but these roles aren’t without risk, and potential combat.
To be blunt, there’s nothing peaceful about peacekeeping.
Whether our troops are peacekeeping or participating in joint military ventures with our NATO allies, this satellite program will undoubtedly help protect our troops and eliminate the fog of war by enhancing communications lines.
I think it’s fair game to criticize the program because you think it’s too much money, or that you’d rather see an investment in another program, but to use a lazy internationalist argument that Canada’s troops are peacekeepers before soldiers is counterproductive.
I’m constantly reminded by a comment a former professor of mine once said whenever I read comments about Canada’s military (I’m paraphrasing): The concepts of peacekeeping, reconstruction, and nation-building are still new. Canada’s military is above else a fighting force, and we mustn’t forget that.
I don’t think we’ll be able to shake off that misperception until Canadians disassociate investment in the armed forces with necessarily hostile intentions.