Steven Staples presents to Senate Committee on National Security and Defence

On Monday, March 3rd, Steven Staples attended a meeting of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence as a witness, presenting remarks and answering questions on Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).

Hundreds of supporters came forward in the days ahead of the meeting, adding their voice, and commenting on what suggestions should be brought forth to Senator Dallaire and the rest of the Senate committee. We brought your comments to the Senate Committee and even included a few of your ideas in the official remarks presented. Overall, the destabilizing nature and danger of BMD were presented by Steven:

Some proponents fall into an easy trap– they only look at whether it will work – overlooking the most important question, which is: Will it make us more secure?

The answer is no. In fact, missile defence systems that can target intercontinental ballistic missiles are terribly destabilizing.

And let’s be clear – we’re not talking about systems like Israel’s Iron Dome or the Patriots in Gulf War I. Those are much smaller versions of what is sitting in the GMD’s missile silos in Alaska and California, and the smaller systems don’t pose the same risks to global security.

We are talking about intercepting nuclear warheads in the vacuum of space, launched from half-way around the world – like a bullet hitting a bullet. That’s the GMD system that is in question.

The GMD system has no deterrence capability, as some witnesses have asserted. It upsets deterrence, giving one side an advantage over the other. The country that has a shield can not only fend off a small first strike, but it can launch a first strike of its own and then neutralize an opponent’s counter-attack with what remains of his victim’s arsenal.

So with such a poor performance record as that, you might ask why any other country, like Russia or China, would feel threatened by it? It’s because if you’re a defence planner in Russia or China’s seat you have to assume it will work – if not now, then in the future.

The country without a shield will build more missiles, improved missiles, and will launch them more quickly during a crisis to try to overcome a potential aggressor’s missile shield. Two warriors armed only with swords may never strike each other for fear of each being killed by the other. But give one warrior a shield, and he can attack the other with impunity.

Will the world be safer if China feels it must build up its nuclear arsenal to match those of the US and Russia? Why should Russia agree to further nuclear reductions with the end of the Cold War, after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile, or ABM, treaty and continues to put missile defences right up to its borders in Europe?

The fundamental reason that missile defence won’t work is not the technical difficulties that plague the system, which are substantial: It is the fact that missile defence deployment will lead to responses by the countries who feel their forces are threatened by it.

…Senators, in preparation for my remarks today I invited our community to contribute comments for you, and we received over three hundred submissions in a just a few days. Most people felt that missile defence does not address the security needs that Canada is facing. Paul Beckwith said that the risk of a missile strike is insignificantly small compared to the risks to Canadians from abrupt climate change. Beth Johnson added that we need to return to our role as peacekeepers, while assisting the less fortunate in Canada and around the world in achieving a reasonable, sustainable level of living.

I hope we can discuss the costs, contributions, and the technical problem of decoys during the discussion period.

Let me conclude with this challenge for you to consider.

Canada’s role in missile defence is not a problem that needs fixing. In 2004, at the height of the missile defence debate, one political figure put it like this: “We need to know clearly the objective of this initiative. Whether it is technically feasible, exactly what role Canada would play, as well as the potential costs and benefits [and] the nature and length of any Canadian commitments.” All good points that were raised in the House by then opposition leader Stephen Harper.

To my knowledge, this remains the Conservative party’s position. I would urge you to consider these questions as well, and if they cannot be answered satisfactorily, then I hope that your final recommendations will suggest that Canada stays its current course outside of the US ground-based midcourse missile defence system.

You can read Steve’s full remarks here or watch the full committee meeting on ParlVu.



Tags: anti-ballistic missile system, Ballistic Missile Defence, BMD, Ground-based Midcourse Defense, NORAD, Nuclear disarmament, Senate of Canada, Steven Staples