Why joining BMD is still a bad idea

THAAD-LaunchAt the beginning of April, the Liberal government decided that it would launch a review of Canada’s defence policy and, as part of that, has reopened the issue of Canadian participation in Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD), a contentious debate which 11 years ago ended with the Paul Martin government opting not to join.

The reasons why this was and remains an excellent decision can be succinctly summarized as follows:

  1. The American ballistic missile defence system (called GMD or ground-based missile defence) does not work despite 30 years of investment and billions of dollars spent.
  1. It is an incentive to build ever more offensive weapons in order to overwhelm the defences, should they ever work. (It is infinitely cheaper to build more offensive systems.)
  1. BMD is extraordinarily costly.
  1. The alleged threat to North America from North Korean and Iranian yet-to-be-developed missiles is minuscule to non-existent and, in any event, is a non-proliferation not a defence challenge.
  1. The fact that NATO countries have accepted a version of theatre missile defence is an entirely distinct and separate issue from whether Canada should participate in a strategic system (that does not work) for North America. There might be a separate debate over whether Canada should participate in any way in the NATO short range systems (for example, on ships), but that is not what we are discussing here.
  1. Did we mention that the system does not work?

To elaborate the above arguments, we are very pleased to reprint below an excerpt from a prescient article by Project Ploughshares co-founder Ernie Regehr, published last December even as pro-BMD advocates lobbied the new Liberal government. We also provide a link to the full article here: The “Rogue” Missile Threat: Getting from BMD to NPT (Ernie Regehr, The Simons Foundation, 18 December 2015).

Canadians might soon be asking just where George W. Bush is when we really need him. He used to be a key antidote to Canadian temptations to embrace North American ballistic missile defence (BMD). Canada’s 2005 rejection of BMD was driven largely by anticipated public reaction to Canada signing on to a system championed by a Bush Administration that was, to understate it, little loved in Canada and that had especially offended disarmament advocates with its trashing of the ABM Treaty and its hostility toward arms control generally.

Now, however, with the Bush effect waning, the allure of a Canadian BMD role seems to be waxing. So, well into the final quarter of the still appreciated Administration of Barack Obama, and with a new and less polarizing but Washington friendly Government in Ottawa, BMD supporters in Canada see a new opportunity to pursue BMD involvement without generating a major backlash.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the basic reality that, even if its technology improves, BMD won’t solve the rogue state missile problem. That’s because the North Korean missile threat is finally a non-proliferation, not a defence, challenge.

For a direct link to the full article, click on: The “Rogue” Missile Threat: Getting from BMD to NPT (Ernie Regehr, The Simons Foundation, 18 December 2015).



Tags: ABM Treaty, anti-ballistic missile system, Ballistic Missile Defence, BMD, Canadian defence policy, China, defence policy review, Ernie Regehr, Ground-based Midcourse Defense, NATO, NORAD, North Korea, Paul Martin, Russia