The ‘Disarming’ of the United States
It may be a dream whose time will never come. But it is better to say ‘disarm’ than ‘arms control’ or ‘arms reduction’, if only because ‘control’ or ‘reduction’ tend to occur only when arms, or strategies for their use, are obsolete or obsolescent. Then, all their reduction will signify is the eventual deployment of newer and deadlier weapons systems. Anyway, it seems that all we can hope for from the USA for the foreseeable future is arms reduction, given that, for the moment, the US arms budget is supposed to run at a constant figure — though that figure is evidently going to be $180 billion less over the next 5 years than was formerly planned (Colin Norman, ‘Defense Research After the Cold War’, Science, Vol. 247, January 19).
Three recent articles provide useful information on the US military future. In the first of these, the report by Colin Norman referred to above, it is noted that
The issue, it seems, is not whether the Pentagon’s funding will shrink in the 1990’s, but by how much.
… The Reagan administration rearranged the Federal R&D landscape, boosting defense R&D from $15 billion in 1980 to around $41 billion by 1989. By the end of the decade, military programs accounted for two thirds of the federal government’s R&D budget, up from half when Reagan came to power.
Norman goes on —
A growing number of defense experts are now expressing confidence that a pact to reduce conventional forces in Europe and a START Treaty limiting the number of US and Soviet strategic nuclear warheads will be completed soon, and that these should provide a framework for planning force structures in the 1990s.
The programs now being widely discussed as candidates for the operating table are mostly big weapons systems under development during the Reagan years, such as the B-2 ‘Stealth’ bomber, a mobile version of the MX missile, and the SSN-21 attack submarine.
Another prominent target is likely to be the Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI, in fact, has already begun to shrink, from $3.9 billion last year to $3.8 billion this year, and there seems to be a growing consensus that it will settle out around $3 billion a year in the early 1990s.
This is shrinkage? However —
Virtually every expert contacted … expressed the view that, to hedge against a reversal of recent geopolitical trends the Pentagon’s budget for basic research and its support for critical technologies should be increased …Lewis Branscomb, former chief scientist at IBM and now a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (said): ‘You have to assume that there is some risk that the Cold War will reappear, or that in 20 years’ time, some future enemy will materialize and you will have to restore (defense) capability. If you don’t have the knowledge base to restore capability, you are in bad shape.’
The Pentagon, Norman goes on to explain, is now backing, through Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), various arms-related research/development projects to the tune of $100 million per year, and outside of DARPA will put $175 million per year into the Defense Manufacturing Technology program ‘to stimulate the development of generic manufacturing technologies in a broad range of industries’. And it has a budget of $36 million to fund an incentives program designed to raise productivity in industries critical to defense.
Norman concludes that —
The Pentagon’s rationale for funding these programs is that it is now relying more and more on commercially developed technologies in its weapons systems — in contrast to the situation in the 1950s and 1960s, when defense technologies were generally more advanced than those of the civilian side. The Defense Department therefore has a clear stake in keeping US industry at the technological cutting edge.
There is not much to be happy about in the foregoing, but it gives a feel for what those whose eventual goal is global disarmament may be up against!
George J. Church (‘How Much is Too Much?’, Time, February 12) has written an assessment of the savings that could be effected so that ‘the defense budget could be sliced by a third to a half …falling as low as $150 billion (in current dollars) by the year 2000 … ‘ Reductions could be made as follows: armed forces (halved, to one million); tanks, artillery pieces, etc; marine corps (from three divisions to two); most US forces stationed at home; Navy carrier fleet (reduced from 14 to 6); no new Trident submarine; SDI costs (reduced by one third); anti-satellite weapons development (put on hold).
Church comments further on these and other proposals:
Military strategists complain that they have to shape plans for a decade in a situation that changes explosively from week to week. But that danger is no excuse for not beginning to draw up a strategic plan to guide the reductions that a budget crunch is forcing on the US no less than on the Soviet Union. Nor should it be allowed to obscure the happy prospects now beckoning Washington and Moscow alike.
An eloquent emphasis on the once-in-a-lifetime nature of the current circumstances was expressed last month by a career fighting man, General John Galvin, the American commander of NATO’s unified forces. ‘If you’re looking for the personification of the Cold War, here I am,’ he said. ‘I’m seeing now the possibility that we can bring all of this to a close. If we can get 35 nations to sign on the dotted line on something that is irreversible and verifiable, and bring down the levels of armaments to a mere fraction of what they are today, then we really have achieved something that’s worth all the sacrifices.
It is not often that a General shows such passion about cutting the forces under his command. That is but one indication of the historic opportunity facing America’s political leadership. For once they should feel inspired to look ahead, not back at the last war.
There you have it. The article is hardly a disarmament manifesto, but it is representative of a change that seems finally beginning to penetrate the carapace of the world’s greatest military power, a change that could signify, perhaps under another Presidency, an eventual major shift in attitude. If the world is ever to disarm, that cannot happen without the eventual full participation of all the Superpowers. When people in the US — even those in the military itself — are prepared to consider seriously major reductions in arms and troop spending, it behooves those who have long been committed to such thinking to participate in whatever ways are open to them in helping to build the international confidence basic to really significant progress towards world peace and justice.
The third article is by Jack Beatty CA Post-Cold War Budget’, The Atlantic Monthly, February 1990). The thrust of Beatty’s thesis is to suggest how US militarists could drastically reduce arms spending and use the savings for peaceful projects. Thus, the money ($600 million per plane) for the Stealth bomber could be applied to medical insurance for the ’30 million to 37 million Americans (who) fall into that category, and (the) approximately 15 million … denied medical care because they cannot pay for it.’ The costs of Trident II (submarine-based ballistic) missiles could be saved, and federal aid to education returned to its 1980 level. The Midgetman (mobile land-based) missile, if not built, could provide the funds ‘to help reinvigorate the Polish economy and give a fillip to Polish democracy. The Poles asked President Bush for $10 billion; he offered them $100 million. That pathetic response is a portent of America’s decline as a great power.’ The savings could also help cut cocaine production in Bolivia by 35-40 percent through financing of ‘a program of crop substitution and allied economic development.’ And the US ‘could end the Third World debt crisis.’ If SDI were not proceeded with, a new national Police Corps of 100,000 could be formed to combat US crime. With $20 billion saved from the $150 billion spent annually on NATO, America’s decaying infrastructure (well documented by Seymour Melman in ‘The Demilitarized Society’, Harvest House, 1988) could receive a first ‘down payment’ on its restoration.
With all these proposals, Beatty feels the necessity to reassure those whose doubts about global security remain unassuaged by recent changes. Thus:
The projected cost of Midgetman is a sobering $30 billion plus. This small mobile missile is supposed to remove from the minds of Soviet planners any idea of mounting a first strike. The question is, without the land-based mobile missile, are we vulnerable to such a first strike? Joshua Epstein, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, has calculated that even if the Soviets mounted a ‘perfect first strike’ — one that destroyed all the 1,000 land-based missiles we have deployed, all the bombers on all our bases around the world, and all the missile-shooting submarines in port — the 50 percent of our submarines that are always at sea and the 30 percent of our bombers that are always on alert could still unleash more than 4,000 warheads on the Soviet Union.
Having assumed the incredible in his worst-case thought experiment, Epstein goes on to posit the unimaginable. Suppose, he says, that the same Soviet air defense that could not stop a West German teenager from landing his Cessna in Red Square managed to mount a ‘perfect’ air defense, knocking out all our bombers and all the cruise missiles they fired. In the worst of worst-case scenarios, 2,800 warheads from our missile-carrying submarines at sea would still fall on the Soviet Union. Epstein has asked senators and congressmen to tell him why the certainty of 2,800 warheads falling on the motherland is not enough to deter the Soviets. ‘They can’t even name enough targets for the … warheads,’ he says, ‘yet they want to add more. We don’t need Midgetman to deter a Soviet attack. We don’t need it, period.
These articles are very instructive because, overall, they illustrate that there are in the US as there have not been for 15 years, widespread concerns about America’s arms and troop futures and their financing — in the light of the incredible changes that are occurring in Europe. At the same time, none of these articles assumes that reductions, should they occur, will be rapid, and all of them find it necessary to indicate fears and counterarguments. For the peacemaker, they are valuable as examples of the thinking that is, perhaps, at last beginning to yield somewhat to the logic of global events and the fiscal results of an arms race, and they provide encouragement for those who see their role as clarifying and demystifying the causes of international tensions and disputes to keep trying.
Agenda for Non-Proliferation
This is the title of a leading editorial in Nature, Vol. 343, February 8, which begins by asking ‘What will recent events in Eastern Europe mean for the spread of nuclear weapons?’ (For) ‘There is a sense in which, on the issue of proliferation, events in the past few months have put the clock back 30 years.’ The editorial continues —
Then, many peaceful states, not to mention others more bellicose, seriously believed that nuclear weapons might be national necessities. Canada, Sweden and Switzerland, for example, encouraged by the examples of the Soviet Union and, more relevantly, of Britain and France, flirted with the notion that nuclear weapons might be a safeguard of neutrality. None of them thought of becoming a superpower; it would suffice, the calculation went, to be able to inflict on an aggressor damage commensurate with their value as military prizes — the doctrine of the French General Gallois that justified French nuclear weapons.
The extreme version of the Gallois doctrine, from time to time echoed by China (though not recently), that stability is best assured if every state is a military nuclear power, is unlikely to command support, but there are likely to be many governments itching to set off on the nuclear road. lithe NTP was a bargain between nuclear and non-nuclear states, it will have to be remade. So why not dust off and redraft the US plan for the control of nuclear weapons put to the United Nations in 1946? The underlying theme, that sources of uranium should be owned internationally, predictably came to nothing then, but administrative control of nuclear materials must be a more reliable way of spotting illicit diversion, especially if, by then, the prospect of climatic change makes the resurgence of civil nuclear power essential.
Well, there are many issues here. Perhaps, realistically, none of them is likely to lead to fruitful outcomes.
But the questions need raising.
Other Nature Editorials
Nature continues to editorialise on matters related to global disarmament, peace and justice — a matter of some gratification to scientists interested in peace, in view of Nature’s prestige as a science journal.
In ‘Freedom and Its Obligations’, Nature, Vol. 343, January 4, the question is raised as to what the recent tumultuous months imply for future democracy in Eastern and Central Europe. Thus —
In the countries … (in which) … old style Communist governments were thrown out in the second half of last year, one of the reasons why people have ‘chosen freedom’ is that they have seen the previously hidden proof in the West that a centralized state is a self-impoverished state. But there is not enough capital to create Western-style prosperity in Eastern Europe within a mere few years. If Romanians are still digging graves with picks and shovels a decade from now, will their taste of freedom then turn sour?
Without really suggesting how substantial capital is to be obtained, the article goes on to assert that
The obvious model is that of the European Communities, a device by means of which 12 Western European states have agreed to indulge their natural quarrelsomeness only at Brussels, but in the expectation of enhanced prosperity as a result …A decade’s moratorium on upheaval should allow the Eastern States to fashion something effective along these lines, especially if the European Communities’ sensible plan for an investment bank turns out to be effective. Then there could be a deal between the two European economic blocks and the not inconsiderable states that are so far uncommitted.
In ‘Death of a Secular Saint’, Nature, Vol. 342, December 21, 1989, Andrei Dmietrievich Sakharov’s death is noted as follows: ‘In other times and places he … would have been made a saint …Like classical saints, Sakharov taught by example, often breathtaking example.’ And
Sakharov’s wider contribution to the new temper of Soviet life is the example of his disarming and, often, infuriating directness … much of the turbulent Congress of Peoples’ Deputies now in session has taken its cue from Sakharov. The benefit is that the Soviet people now know how desperate is their plight.
The rest of us have a more subtle debt to pay, arising from Sakharov’s sense of professional rectitude. Sakharov was conscripted into military research during the Second World War and, by 1945, had become one of the small group of theoreticians canvassing the feasibility of both the peaceful and military uses of thermonuclear fusion …But from the outset, Sakharov insisted on the dangers inherent in this enterprise. During his own exile to Gorky, he pleaded publicly the cases of others whose plight was even worse, urging that the international community of scientists, ‘the one real worldwide community that exists today’, should shoulder the responsibilities its privileges imply … How well will the responsibility be discharged now that the prophet is dead?
More on Chernobyl
Chernobyl refuses to die — though it appears that many of its victims may indeed die at earlier-than-normal ages. A number of articles (e.g. ‘Chernobyl Cover-Up’, by Katya Globev, Toronto Star, November 19, 1989) in recent months make clear how persistent is the radiation threat. There are regulations for the inhabitants of towns in the region that forbid strolls in the woods, swimming or fishing. Beaches are to be avoided and ‘allegedly uncontaminated food is delivered once or twice a week.’ When deliveries fail, a 25 percent bonus and 30 rubles extra are given for food. The locals term these ‘grave rubles’. It is claimed that in the Narodichi region, radiation is in some places ‘higher these days than in the cleared-up 30-kilometre zone around the stricken reactor.’ It is reported that a local party secretary (Budko) stated that
We’ve been told it won’t be dangerous to live here for another few years. There are 4,500 children in my district. Practically all of them are ill.
The boys and girls have swollen glands, anemia, respiratory diseases. ‘None of that is caused by radioactivity, the experts in Kiev tell us,’ says Budko.
‘Why isn’t there a little more concern about people? Somebody surely wants to cover up the real results of the accident.’
Local veterinarians claim that many malformed animals are being born in the region and doctors claim that a crime is being committed by the authorities who deny the effects of the radiation.
To judge from the reports it sounds appalling. International agencies have established 5 rem as the maximum acceptable lifetime radiation dose for humans. But a commission headed by nuclear expert Leonid Bin has established 35 rems as the maximum. If the lower dose were accepted 700,000 to 800,000 people would have to be resettled in Byelorussia alone. Ilin is quoted as saying —
I favour without reservation (a situation in which) nobody is burdened with radiation. But that would mean evacuating 2 million people. And I declare, with full responsibility, that such proposals have only one goal — to destroy our state.
It’s quite horrifying, but it follows a tradition — a very common practice — of official down-playing of the effects on civilian populations of radiation risks following blunders or disasters: the Nevada bomb tests on troops in the field, Windscale, tests in the Australian desert, Eniwetok, Three Mile Island …Chernobyl. There are many more. And Bhopal, of course, which was not radiation, but equally deadly, pervasive — and another example of a failed responsibility.
What’s it all say to us? Taken along with rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, massive pollution in our water, spillage of toxic wastes in urban areas, oil tanker disasters along coastlines, the inescapable conclusion that treating either people or nature as less significant than economic systems is pervasive and enduring. Our economic preoccupations have too long been with overproduction of consumer goods and weapons of defense (=war). We have now, perhaps, our last chance at a rational system overview and measures emerging that will allow us to deal ourselves a new hand.
‘Public Opinion’ and Democracy
Jay Rosen ‘Phantom Public Haunts Nuclear Age’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 1989) has written an extremely penetrating article which argues that: ‘The crippling of the democratic process began shortly after Hiroshima, and Truman’s decision to develop the hydrogen bomb was greeted by silence.’ Jay Rosen argues that
Today opinion polls increasingly dominate discussions about politics. Major newspapers and television networks invest heavily in their own polls, which then become the basis for stories about the state of public opinion. The press and the pollsters take it for granted that there is a public and that it has opinions.
Forgotten is Walter Lippman ‘s observation that ‘public opinion’ can have little meaning unless the public understands issues in some reasonably competent way …
Rosen believes that polls ‘produce the impression of an active and interested public no matter how little the citizens know or care about issues.’
Secrecy surrounds nuclear weapons and this is tolerated by public bemusement over their technological complexity. Public ignorance abounds; for example, a national poll in 1987 revealed that more than 90 percent of registered US voters did not know that the INF treaty eliminates all land-based missiles in Europe able to reach the USSR. Eighty-one percent of Americans believe, ‘incorrectly, that US policy prohibits the first use of nuclear weapons.’ This sort of ignorance makes it ‘impossible for citizens to debate and help decide the matters that the ‘secrets’ involve.’
Examples of this sort of thing multiply in Rosen’s article; he finishes as follows —
Even the campaign for a nuclear freeze, at its height a true mass movement, was unable to reverse the crippling of the public in the nuclear age. A May 1982 CBS/New York Times poll showed that, while most of the population said that it favored the freeze, only 30 percent knew that Ronald Reagan opposed it, and 59 percent thought that the issues involved in the freeze were too complicated for the public to decide.
A public that believes it cannot understand the issues has resigned its functions in a democracy, and a public realm that cannot even acquaint citizens with the president’s position has broken down completely. Under these conditions, the machinery of politics may continue to operate — elections are held, the press is free, polls are published — but there is little reason to call such a politics democratic.
… Our difficulty now is to cope with a new, paradoxical form of secrecy, in which the majority of citizens remain in the dark about matters that have long since come to light.
Scientists, in particular, have much to lament about public ignorance and confusion concerning almost all matters of science and technology. Most citizens of developed societies today are living in a world of actualized magic — in that they take on trust, in a mood of bland (or blind) ignorance, the use and functioning of the multitude of machines, devices and systems in everyday use. Even scientifically educated people are generally remarkably ignorant of almost everything going on in science outside their own fields of specialization, and it is getting worse. What is the answer? A longer period in school and a broader base to all education? Probably not, for a whole range of reasons related to expense, student boredom, etc. But the general teaching of history, law, politics and science at levels intended to awaken in students their rights, expectations and responsibility as citizens might help. Clearly, something is needed.
Canadian Security Corps
Dr. Mary Wynne Ashford, M.D., argues that: ‘For the past forty years, safeguarding Canadian security has meant maintaining armed defences against the Soviet military. Now, however, environmental disasters are more threatening to Canadians than foreign invasion. Canada is unprepared to deal with these threats.’
Dr. Ashford’s solution is a separate force, a corps (‘New Canadian Security Corps Needed’, CPPNW Quarterly, Summer 1989) –
… a fourth paid service, under the Department of Defence, equivalent to the Army, Navy or Air Force. Response to disaster requires very clear lines of authority, highly skilled teams of workers, independent communications systems, specialized equipment and transportation vehicles located at strategic bases, as well as organized reserves of men and women with special skills. The Emergency Response Corps would not be armed; a major distinction between it and the regular military forces.
The Corps’ responsibilities would include response to a complete range of disasters and environmental challenges, both natural and artificial in origin. Dr. Ashford stresses, correctly, that —
At the present time, the army may be called in to help in time of civil disaster, but problems of jurisdiction, lack of preparation and specific training, and inappropriate equipment greatly limit their effectiveness.
Equipment needed for military maneuvers is not designed to safeguard the environment and would most likely wreak havoc in vulnerable areas. Furthermore, as one military officer commented: ‘We are trained to defend our country, not to be garbage men.’
Dr. Ashford’s suggestions are most apt; only a couple of points might be commented on. Thus, if we are interested in disarmament then we are also interested in alternative roles for the scores of thousands in the Canadian military. Therefore, we should enquire how large the Defence Corps is to be and, whether or not some military personnel are implacably committed to their role as soldiery!, think of piecemeal voluntary transfers to the Defence Corps role — even if this calls for considerable retraining and rededication.
History and Destiny of the Great Forest
There has been much international criticism in recent years concerning the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest in Brazil, but a lot of it is based on ignorance of what is really going on. An article by Alexander Cockburn and Susanna Hecht (‘The Jungle and the Junta’, Manchester Guardian Weekly, December 31) which describes and analyses the cause and character of the forest despoliation, also explains that the present problems originated in 1966 when General Golbery, ‘chief theorist’ among the generals who drove out President Joao Goulart — with active US connivance— in 1964, demonstrated to 300 of Brazil’s wealthiest and most powerful tycoons his scheme for the agricultural conversion of the Amazonian forests.
The allurements offered … sparked a speculative boom unmatched in Brazilian history as Amazonia began to see the transfer of more than 150 million acres of public lands into private assets. There were tragi-comic scenes as speculators fought by any means to establish titles to swathes of forest larger than Luxembourg.
The article gives a brief but valuable history of land use in the forest and clarifies the roles of natives, peasant land holders and rubber tappers in their mutual interrelations and in response to the contemporary land barons and speculative forest-clearers. It also makes several telling points for would-be interventionists from outside Brazil —
International pressure has been useful in buttressing local protests, but reversal of the destructive forces in the Amazon will never be accomplished by a programme hammered out in Europe or the United States. To suppose that they could is as unrealistic as to imagine that Brazilian environmental organizations or politicians could reverse the clear-cutting of old-growth forest in Oregon or persuade Margaret Thatcher to close Sellafield Nuclear Plant.
The forest dwellers oppose a political economy that favours large owners who impose social and ecological ruin on their region …They look to a redistribution of resources and power, and invoke a vision of development that uses their knowledge, their culture and their ideas.
If there is one word that is the keystone to their demands and hopes for the future, it is the single word on which all hopes for the Amazon rest: justice.
Barnett Danson (former defence minister and member of NATO Council) has suggested that NATO and Warsaw Pact countries should form ‘a joint emergency response force .. to play a role in helping Eastern Europe adjust to democracy’ (‘East is east, West is west: why not get together?’, Globe and Mail, December 15.) He believes that
If the two worked together, through careful pre-arrangement and joint training with clear terms of reference, confidence would be established between the alliances. The people and leaders of the beneficiary nations would know that neither East nor West was imposing itself on them. The joint force would operate to restore and maintain order and ensure that freely chosen governments could be established with their sovereignty respected.
Such a force would have to be linked with the United Nations, as already occurs with some NATO committees, and in some circumstances might replace either UN peacekeeping or disaster relief programs.
Such a scheme would seem to inspire little but foreboding. NATO is US-dominated, Warsaw Pact is USSR-dominated. Neither country has a clean record in helping to establish or maintain democracies. It would be arrogant to think that the rapidly-changing East European States need the ‘Great Collective Wisdom’ of such an alliance. The more important thing is to get out of the way of peoples who are clearly in the business now of defining their own destinies and, at least in the case of Romania, are prepared to underwrite their determination with their own blood. Let each country prescribe its concepts of freedom and human rights in terms of its own aspirations. Neither West nor East power blocs have shown that they have the right to moral leadership.
Canada’s Forces — the changing scene
Recent stories in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail reveal the impact of the rapidly shifting scene in Europe — where the certainties are so hard to find. However, if trends are shown by deeds not words, the attitude of the Canadian government, expressed by such mega-cuts to the planned spending on the forces of $2.7 billion last May, and then the decision not to spend $8 billion on nuclear subs, says that, NATO and obligations to the US notwithstanding, Canada is entering a new phase of military funding (Murray Campbell, ‘Military Besieged by Doubts on Future’, Globe and Mail, February 16). To those concerned to see the advent of world peace, this phase, whatever the apparently contradictory rhetoric that often surrounds it, is a welcome one.
The impact of it all is spelled out in the figures and projections. Of fourteen NATO countries, Canada, spends 2.1 percent of the GDP on defence, the same as Denmark. Only Luxembourg (1.2 percent) spends less. The USA tops the list, of course, with 6.6 percent. Greece (!) is next with 6.3 percent, then comes the UK with 4.9 percent, and so on. West Germany, with a booming economy and a large population spends only 3.0 percent. These facts, together with even earlier suspicions about the Canadian government’s eventual intentions has resulted in predictions in the military that further savings will be effected by deep and direct troop cuts and NATO force withdrawals; the latter step has, however, not yet been taken, and Prime Minister Mulroney says that ‘troops will remain …until Canada’s North Atlantic allies negotiate across-the-board troop reductions with the Soviet Union and its allies.’
The scene is confusing — even to Defence Minister William McKnight who has said: ‘To be honest, I can’t find anyone who can write fast enough to keep up with the changes that are taking place in the world today.’ (Amen! to that; ed.)
There are plenty of recruits, and they are better educated than they used to be, but they don’t stay in the forces as long. As a consequence, average age is declining among troops, the proportion of officers is going down; women rose from 2 percent in 1972 to 10 percent in 1988 and francophones rose from 19 to 27 percent.
At national defence headquarters in Ottawa up to 15 percent of staff will be cut — that’s as many as 1500 positions (Eric Beauchesne, ‘Top Defence Staff Fear Job Cuts’, Toronto Star, February 19).
All this is causing more and more people to consider the alternative roles that members of the forces may eventually play in relation to other parts of Canadian society.
The present mood is confusing, not only to the public no matter how well-informed, but to parliamentarians and to members of the military themselves. As Murray Campbell (‘Deficit, Changing Europe Require New Role for Forces’, Globe and Mail, February 19) says:
Canadians often display contradictory attitudes about defence — support for (NATO) is high but cuts in the defence budget also are popular. But as the threat of warfare in Europe seems to diminish …people are saying the forces should be used for quasi-military roles and for United Nations peacekeeping, while the costly preparations for war should be left to other nations. (!)
Some of the ultimate problems that face Canada’s forces even if/when they are reduced to a purely reactive defence role can be exemplified in the following —
The army (or mobile command) is the most vulnerable. The decision to postpone replacements for the Leopard I tanks (bought in 1978 but based on a design that dates from the 1950s) has weakened the armored regiment posted in Europe. Its armor is too light to withstand the guns of the newer Soviet tanks and its own 105 mm gun is ineffective for a frontal assault.
The choice will be to replace the tank (an estimated $2 billion for 250 vehicles), or to bring the troops home from Europe. The way would be clear then to fashion some sort of army that, stripped of its heavy artillery and tank corps, would be capable of being deployed rapidly to meet a crisis.