[Canadopers] Martin to U.S. on missile defence: Yeah, okay, su--wait! No, stfu!

In a nutshell. :slight_smile:

Canadopers, what do you think of Martin’s stance on missile defence?

He has one? I was sure the Liberal government was up 3 or 4 by this point.

(Ex-pat Canadoper here.) I think the Prime Minister has been very careful not to say that his own personal beliefs on the matter have changed. That suggests to me that Martin has just done the political and financial math, and decided that either (a) he hasn’t got the support to get a vote in favour of missile defense through the House of Commons, (b) he hasn’t got the support to get any money for missile defense into the budget, or © both. In short, I don’t think this is as much a change in Liberal policy as it is throwing said policy over the side and hoping they can fish it out later.

I think the Liberals feel safe talking out of both sides of their mouth on this issue. Since it doesn’t look like any feasible SDI is likely in the foreseeable future, they can agree with whoever is asking them at the moment. We are against the militarization of space except when our dips are talking to hawkish American officials. Everybody’s happy. :slight_smile:

Ok on a more serious note I have to say that the government should’ve stood up and signed on. The Conservative party would’ve ensured enough votes to allow it to pass on a free vote (99+ 57 of 135 liberal seats), though I’ll admit that it might damage liberal MPs in the next election to the advancement of the Bloc and NDP.

The BMD program is going to happen regardless of whether or not it’s viable. The Bush administration backs it and sees it as integral to North American defense. Notice I said program. At this time it doesn’t work and will likely not work any time soon. The program however exists despite not working and its going to be nestled inside NORAD for obvious reasons. Canada is in NORAD and constitutes our major investment in North American defense. How the government expects to continue to work as an equal with the Americans in NORAD while abdicating a position on the biggest expansion of NORADs role is left as an exercise to Mdme Cleo.

Just offer us a par exchange on the Canadian dollar and we’ll shut down the CBC and quit pretending there is a substantial cultural difference between us and America.

Aw, it’s not that bad. We do have some of our own cultural landmarks–few, far between, and unnoticed as they tend to go. :slight_smile:

A minority government put forward a bill that has more support from the Opposition than from the government? I respectfully submit that if Paul Martin tried this his own party would lynch him, including the ones who actually support BMD, for making it look like the Conservatives were in charge.

Prime Ministers haven’t had to bother compromising with the Opposition since 1980. To do so now, especially to the extent you suggest, would look like showing weakness and thus would take some political cojones. I strongly doubt Martin’s the one to risk the lynching.

Oh I agree, to meet the Tories 99 seats would require 75% of the Liberal seats to vote with them. But that’s not impossible. And really how hard could it be to play this as an assertion of Canadian sovereignty?

The Liberals could play to nationalists, paranoids and conservatives. But Martin doesn’t seem to have the political ability to pull that off, and has likely opted to pick the path of least resistance: no stand at all.

How is voluntary participation in this exercise threated Canadian sovereignty? Am I missing something?

Sometimes, when it’s not important to make a decision, it’s important **not ** to make a decision.

Why rush to reach a conclusion or take on an intractable position when only some of the data/facts are in? Particularly when you have to play to “nationalist and paranoids”. Are they really the folks you want to stand behind you?

My personal stance is that it’d be stupid to sign on to a program that simply doesn’t work. Money down the tubes that if spent differently could enhance national security far more effectively. Just because we have a budget surplus is no reason to go pissing away tax dollars.

As for the political situation, I don’t know that Martin is in a position to cozy up to the Tories too much. He’s already relying on them to pass his budget. The only votes that might swing on this issue are coming from the left side of things, not the right, and so I think he’s taken the politically convenient position. As it happens, I also think it’s the correct position, but I don’t think Martin has adopted it because it’s right, only because it’s convenient.

Canada should have signed on. It was idiotic not to. I don’t believe the U.S. was really even asking for funds - just cooperation with testing, perhaps basing of missiles, etc.

Refusing to join the program means that if a missile is fired towards North America, Canada will have NO SAY in whether or not an intercepter should be fired.

Also, this kind of oppositional stance has a way to come back to haunt you on everything from beef exports to acid rain negotiations. It’s just stupid diplomacy to reject this out of hand.

As for whether the missile defense system will ever work - sure it will. It’s an engineering problem, not a problem of basic physics. I am baffled by those who argue that, since the system is flawed today, it should be scrapped because clearly it will never work. The same people that support AIDS research, fusion research, stem cell research, and a host of other research programs aimed at solving problems that today we can’t solve.

The system is on the verge of working. Some tests are successful, some not. Every failed test yields reams of data that are used to improve technology and make the next test more likely to succeed. That’s how engineering works. One day, perhaps within just a few years, there will be a viable missile shield over the U.S. And Canada won’t be part of it, because our politicians are beholden to a base of loonie lefites who hate missile defense with a passion, but for no real reason.

Sam, can you provide any evidence whatsoever that US protectionism against Canadian imports is correlated in any way at all with the degree to which Ottawa cowtows to Washington’s foreign/defense policy preferences? Seems to me that the two are utterly unrelated, but I’m open to seeing evidence to the contrary.

And, for the record, I don’t think that anti-missile defense is an unsolvable technical problem. I don’t think that the ‘hitting a bullet with a bullet’ approach is likely to ever work, however, and it’s intrinsically easier to design countermeasures to it than it is to defeat those countermeasures. Develop a feasible beam weapon (laser of some sort, I should expect) and we can talk.

However, whether the technical problem is solvable isn’t really the issue. The issue is whether it’s a reasonable use of resources. Given the unlikeliness of a missile attack to begin with, it strikes me that we make far, far better use of the resources, even if the missile defense package works exactly as advertised. Who’s going to attack us with a nuclear missile? MAD suffices to dissuade anyone who’s rational. That leaves who? North Korea, I guess. Or some renegades buying obsolete Soviet stock inadvertantly misplaced? The latter seems unlikely. It’s not like you just push a button and the ICBM launches itself. And can North Korea’s missiles even launch nukes? Seems to me that the nuclear threat from these sorts of unconventional sources are far more likely to manifest themselves in unconventional ways, aka the container ship in the harbour, etc. We’d be far better off investing those billions in intelligence and border security, both of which will reap dividends even if the nuclear threat never manifests itself, unlike the whole anti-missile system.

In short, it comes down to this: should we invest in expensive insurance against being struck by lightning? Or would it make more sense to get a less expensive insurance package covering fire and flooding? You think it’s idiotic not to buy the expensive insurance against being struck by lightning. I think it would be idiotic to buy it.

I keep seeing these debates about the missile defense program, specifically it’s past failures. In every discussion I’ve seen to date the detractors actually seem to be arguing that the hitting a ‘bullet with a bullet’ idea won’t work… and they bring up the test failures so far made public and make very good points. The supporters all seem to think the very serious engineering and basic physics challenges of this idea are going to be overcome, it’s just a matter of time… and they may be right. What both sides miss, to my astonishment, is the elephant sitting over in the corner. I don’t believe we have any intention of actually trying to shoot down a bullet with a bullet. I personally believe our interceptors are going to be small yield nuclear devices, then you just have to get close. We’ve been getting close. Does anybody really believe that we’d hesitate to nuke the heck out of an incoming missile over the arctic ocean, Pacific or even remote arctic Canada high in the atmosphere? We’ve already pulled out of the treaties that allow us to develop the small tactical yield nuclear devices such an interceptor would need, with the tracking system in place how hard would it be to fit our interceptors with these kinds of warheads? It would rather neatly solve all the problems with having to actually physically impact the incoming missile, deal with any annoying 'decoy problems in the area and have a much larger margin for error. Why has this never been discussed or am I missing something?

Sam and lokij:

An article in the November 2004 issue of Scientific American, written by Richard L. Garwin (a specialist in this field and was part of the Rumsfeld Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the US) details the problems with the current missile defense system. It’s a pretty interesting article.

Here are some key points:
The defense system is designed to intercept the missiles in mid-course (as opposed to boost phase or terminal phase)
Mid-course countermeasures (multiple decoy warheads) are inexpensive and easy to make effective, rendering the system ineffective, and in the authors words “utterly useless”

The author urged the MDA early on to instead employ a boost phase system where the missile is intercepted while it is still boosting, before it has a chance to deploy decoys.

Boeing’s Airborne Laser has been in development for awhile now. They’ve test flown the modified 747 and are still working out the bugs with the laser. This site predicts 2008 to see a fleet of 7 aircraft in service, but I don’t know when that prediction was made. This program doesn’t seem to get much press, but it seems like steady progress is being made. Did the article by Richard L. Garwin mention this system? Looks like any successful anti ballistic missile defense system will target both the in-theatre boost phase with the airborne laser and the terminal phase with the bullet-with-a-bullet systems. I’m no expert on any of this, just wanted to let folks know what’s currently out there. There’s talk of modifying these lasers for C-130 use on ground targets, but that’s off topic. These chemical based laser systems require large storage tanks and large aircraft to employ them, so we probably won’t see Buck Rogers stuff any time soon.

Move down here for a while and you’ll see just how wrong that statement is…

The program itself is a joke, mostly because it follows the classic military adage: Generals prepare for the last war. This program is even worse than most, since it’s for an even older war.
9/11 proved that classic military action will not be taken against any country with a large standing armed force. Terrorism against civilians is much more cost-effective than developing a fricking missile launching system, even if you do have a nuke on top.

Boeing’s airforce laser is also a big joke. Check through the archives of the American Physical Society’s What’s New and you’ll see that the laser does fire-- for a split second while sitting in a hanger.

Sam, Americans make zero correlation between what Canadians do on defence, and what Americans do on economic and trade issues. If they did, we’d have had real free trade on softwood lumber two decades ago. Hell, we’d have won trade concessions after 9/11. But when it comes to dealing with Americans, quid pro quo does not exist.

The program is nothing but an expensive boondoggle, and as such should be rejected by all fiscal conservatives.

Look, this decision seems more of a poke in the eye to the current US administration than a scientific debate about the potential efficacy of the current missile defence technology.

Canada is not asked to spend billions of dollars on this - just to participate in the testing. Where is the harm?

The space station, such as it is, in low orbit, has become a boondoggle as well. It’s way past the “can we float one up there” stage. It’s more of a been there, done that. But money is still being spent on it and astronauts keep going up there. The reason, I believe, is that there are continuing problems that need resolving and theories to be tested in that kind of environment, before we can venture further out with some confidence. Same with the missile defense program.

So will the missile system be implented as is? Who knows, though unlikely in the end. Are there things to learn and usefull engineering challenges to overcome? Absolutely. We sent rockets into space before the shuttle craft came along. We still send rockets and the shuttle has been temporarily grounded. But it will fly again. New and improved. Same thing here. There are things to be learned and it’s hard to predict what benefits these engineering lessons/advances will yield.

I’m as cynical as the next guy. Often more so. But I certainly can’t dismiss this as an oversight of the current world political climate by the US defense administration. The US gov’t has built a new agency (almost an industry) to lead the war on terror. Does anyone think for a second that some branch of the military has missed the memo on the popular threat-du-jour and is continuing to fight the cold war?

Where is down here? I’m a Canadian (Quebec/Ontario) living in the US (DC Metro most recently).

I’ve had the good fortune to also spend some time working with the Department of Commerce in the International Trade branch. The very folks who drafted the NAFTA agreement. I have learned that what happens with various political negotiations between these two nations very much influences the trade agreements (present and future).