Esprit de Corps editor and publisher Scott Taylor comments on the silent role of the U.S. government in the F-35 debate (Scott Taylor, “The silent US hand guiding Canada’s F-35 debate,” Embassy, 9 February 2011, full text here):
Although no actual contract has been signed, the Harper Tories remain adamant that they will proceed with the purchase of the stealth aircraft, which, at an initial cost of $9 billion and an estimated $7 billion in future maintenance expenses, would make this the largest military project expenditure in Canada’s history….
Thanks to recent revelations made public via WikiLeaks, it is safe to surmise that the US State Department is the unseen puppeteer making Harper do the F-35 dance. The embarrassing documents contain American diplomatic correspondence detailing how they used a public “carrot” and a private “stick” approach to convince Norway to buy the F-35.
A “lessons learned” cable from the US embassy in Oslo reads: “We needed to avoid any appearance of undue pressuring…. We opted for ‘choosing the JSF will maximize the relationship’ [between the US and Norway] as our main public line. In private we were much more forceful.”
The backroom strong-arm tactics of the US State Department obviously did the trick as the American Embassy subsequently reported to Washington, “The tide has turned in Norway…. The media have recently run a number of articles from active duty and retired officers extolling the strengths of the F-35.”
Taylor goes on to argue that similar tactics are likely in use in Canada:
While those cables may have been penned in 2008, it would seem that there is no need to change a winning playbook. Fast-forward to the Jan. 24 edition of the Ottawa Citizen, wherein former Canadian air force generals Angus Watt and Paul Manson penned a joint editorial entitled, “The truth about those jets.” This was written as a myth vs. reality, 10-item opinion piece, the gist of which was to extol the strengths of the F-35. Sound familiar?
Taylor’s article also awards props to Ceasefire’s Steven Staples for pointing out that Gen. Manson was being just a bit economical with the truth, if not with taxpayers’ dollars, in his plug for the planes.
While he was indeed once the chief of the defence staff for the Canadian Forces and a top project officer on the acquisition of the air force’s current fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft, Manson forgot to mention his post-military stint as the president of Lockheed Martin Canada. Given that Lockheed Martin is the main manufacturer of the F-35, this should be considered a salient point to note for readers.
Luckily, Steven Staples, director of the Rideau Institute and a long-time thorn in the side of the military establishment, outed Manson’s Lockheed Martin association in a letter to the editor the following day.
U.S. Department of Defense photo