Canada and Conflict: A Hard-Hitting Look at Canadian Security Post-9/11, from the Afghanistan War to US Relations and Arctic Sovereignty

  • Published

Canada and Conflict: A Hard-Hitting Look at Canadian Security Post-9/11, from the Afghanistan War to US Relations and Arctic Sovereignty, Patrick James. Oxford University Press, 2012, 156 pp.

The title of Patrick James's recent book delves much deeper than its enthusiastic title suggests. The professor of international relations and director for international studies at the University of Southern California offers a very thorough breakdown of security and foreign policy issues facing Canada in a post-9/11 world. Major facets of the book include Canadian-US affairs (referred to as Can/Am relations) and the two countries' dealings with border security/management, Arctic sovereignty, ballistic missile defense (BMD), and military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. James presents a very fluid analysis of Canadian decision making through the lens of liberalism, realism, the world of ideas, and state and domestic politics. This approach allows the reader to decide how much Canadian security policy and Canadian leaders' views of the nation within in the international system have changed since the attacks of 9/11. The crux of many of James's arguments rests on the understanding that Canada has incrementally shifted its emphases from human security and peacekeeping to securing its national security interests through a balanced mind-set of realism with the hard power to back up the nation's humanistic beliefs.

James argues throughout the book that Canada's place (and perception of itself) as a "moral superpower" was its undoing. This viewpoint caused decreasing funding and support for its military, which diminished actual military capabilities and power projection. He contends that the Canadian emphases on peacekeeping and human security, starting with the Suez Canal crisis and continuing through the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, led to an undermining of Canadian Force (CF) war-fighting capabilities and morale. James proffers that the reversal of this trend started after the first CF deployment in Afghanistan, when Canadian military and political leaders realized that their military was ill-equipped and unprepared for sustained military operations in the theater. From that point on, Canadian decision makers increased funding and support for the CF. Expanded rules of engagement followed to permit a larger (and more proactive) combat role under the auspices of defending provincial reconstruction teams (PRT).

James's introduction sets the basis for framing a layout for understanding Canadian decision making (internally) when it comes to security issues and Can/Am relations. Furthermore, he explains the uncomfortable position Canadian leadership is put in as a neighbor of a world superpower (i.e., the United States), while also trying to placate the anti-Americanism of its citizenry. Nonetheless, his book positively approaches each security issue pertaining to Canada and provides context for understanding Can/Am relations.

In supporting his argument, James analyzes the events leading up to 9/11, showing how underfunded, mismanaged, and unprepared the CF was in supporting its first deployment to Afghanistan. He shows how this outlook on human security with an emphasis on a moral foreign policy was a byproduct of Canada trying to differentiate itself from its much more powerful neighbor. The attacks of 9/11 quickly changed this, and with the first CF deployment to Afghanistan, Canadian leaders quickly realized that the virtues of human security and the protection of PRTs could not be fulfilled without robust fighting abilities (i.e., hard power). Slowly but surely, Canadian decision makers' show of concern for Can/Am relations and demonstration of a desire to perform on the battlefield led to more CF deployments. This required improved weapons and training, which permitted an increase in missions on par with the US military, putting the CF in more danger but also allowing it to fight as effectively as the American forces.

As an interesting sidebar to James's focus on Canada, a significant portion of the book is devoted to Afghanistan and toward explaining the role of the Canadian military and its efforts to protect PRTs and rebuild the host nation. In this vein, he provides a cogent analysis on Afghanistan pre- and post-9/11, including all of the issues facing the country in the present and future. This emphasis and analysis are noteworthy yet could be distracting to some readers desiring a more structured analysis of Canadian foreign policy. Some may find this humanistic picture of the issues facing Afghanistan thought provoking and as justification for Canada's role in proactively defending human security there. However, this observation created by James and his disproportionate emphasis on Afghanistan might be seen as journalistic self-gratification.

Besides Afghanistan, James delves into Can/Am relations and how interconnected the two countries have become due to the Cold War. Issues such as North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) are shown to be a near-free security commodity that wholly benefits Canada at little to no cost. Despite this integration of defense, James explains at length how Canada vacillated over BMD for decades until US Pres. George W. Bush (2000–2008) pressed the issue in Halifax with a speech trying to compel the Canadians into signing the BMD treaty. Canadians' disapproval of the Iraq War and President Bush tied the hands of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, forcing him into political survival mode; hence, he had to refuse the BMD treaty.

One issue that might surprise readers is how sensitive the Canadian public is to Arctic sovereignty. Throughout the book, James brings up issues and incidents involving the United States and other countries violating the sovereignty of the Arctic and how spirited Canadian legislative responses have been. The nationalism usually espoused by Canadians over the Arctic has involved protecting the environment, shipping lanes, and mineral/oil rights. However, in line with James's thesis, the militarization of the Arctic by Canada appears to have happened incrementally since 9/11.

Ultimately, many readers will find James's book on Canadian foreign policy easily digestible and devoid of unintelligible acronyms. The hallmark of his writing style is the fluidity in which he seamlessly segues through multiple topics in each chapter. However, readers appreciating more formalized and organized structuring of chapters and subjects will find his book wanting and disjointed at best. In addition, since the book was written from the perspective of a Canadian for a Canadian audience, American readers may not understand some assumptions and concepts laid out in the book. Nevertheless, this book is an invaluable introduction to Canadian foreign policy and should be read by all civilians and military personnel working in organizations associated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Finally, Canada and Conflict is great for those seeking to develop a foundational understanding of Canadian security policy and how future Can/Am relations might evolve.

Capt Jahara W. Matisek, USAF

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."