When the American government first contemplated Star Wars during the Reagan era, many speculated that it couldn’t be done, and insisted that it was a move that would only antagonize Russia and China. President Clinton discussed missile defence, and then President George Bush moved to expand the system to include the U.S. and its allies.
During the years of discussions and bickering, Canadian politicians were slow to take a stand either way. It seems that the government of Jean Chretien constantly stuck their finger in the air to find out which direction the winds of public opinion were blowing. That is too bad, because Canada may have missed a golden opportunity.
While a leadership contender, Paul Martin came out in favour of Canada participating in the ballistic missile defence (BMD) plan. Once in office, he inexplicably changed his mind. Some suggest he was unwilling to go to the polls as the only party leader to publicly support the plan. If that is the case, then it shows a serious deficiency in leadership. Decisions that impact Canadians from coast to coast should be made on principle, not on polls.
A majority of Canadians were against the BMD shield, but many also misunderstood exactly what it entailed. Fear mongering by opponents of the plan cried out that it would lead to the weaponization of space. What it really entailed was a system that was, for all intents and purposes, equivalent to a bullet shooting down a bullet. Most Canadians still feel that the chance of a hostile missile being shot at Canada is slim to none. In the meantime, should that event ever occur, Canada is defenseless and on its own.
Of course, Canada should have the prerogative to decline any invitation that is extended to it by any of its allies, including the United States, but we should have a plan of our own if we choose to go it alone, and that is where the problem lies. Our country, in the name of peace, has left itself virtually defenseless, and that is just plain dumb. I think Canadians believe in the back of their minds that our American neighbours will come to our aid if we need it. That is not necessarily true, nor should we believe that it is.
Some people in a position to know insist that the BMD shield is not dead yet. Washington will revisit the issue with Canada in the hopes of a change of heart, but probably not until a change of leadership.
Canada needs to wake up and come to its senses. Being a neutral country, whatever that means, does not prevent hostile powers from trying to impose their will on us, or worse. Our government is charged with our protection and well-being, and it should begin by ensuring that we are secure within our borders from all possible threats. While it displays a bit of macho by going it on your own, it is silly to do it unprepared.