Liberals' massive increase in defence spending is a budgetary coup

by Murray Dobbin, from rabble.ca

Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

The arrogance of power could scarcely be more dramatically demonstrated than by the tag team of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announcing that Canada was going to cave in to Donald Trump’s demand that we spend two per cent of GDP on defence. We will be increasing military spending by 70 per cent over 10 years — an obscenity when so many social needs go unmet. Not only does this make a mockery of Trudeau’s election pledge to return to Canada’s historic peacekeeping role but surrenders to the absurd one-size-fits-all NATO imperative. Nothing has changed internationally to justify such an increase. There are no existential threats to Canada on any horizon. As Trudeau said in March, Canada more than pulls its weight in NATO: we are the sixth-highest spender in NATO and 16th in the world.
Giving Freeland the opening role on the announcement raises the question of her disproportional position in changing Canada’s defence posture. Her contradiction-filled foreign policy speech in the House of Commons on Tuesday suggested that Canada is going to somehow fill the vacuum left by an allegedly isolationist Trump regime. In her statement Freeland declared:

The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.”

Really? Just how do we do that by caving in to Trump’s demand that all NATO members pony up? In fact, the increase in spending – $14 billion over 10 years; $62 billion over 20 – represents a clear loss of sovereignty, abandoning our right to make decisions in our national interest in order to please a rogue U.S. president.
Exactly what kind of global leadership does Freeland think we are now missing? Given that she spoke almost exclusively about defence spending, presumably she thinks that a less military-interventionist Trump requires more intervention from Canada. But intervention where, exactly? Our last enthusiastic intervention – celebrated by our last prime minister – was in Libya. That “humanitarian” project resulted not only in a failed state but also in the creation and arming of ISIS, the flood of desperate refugees to Europe and, indirectly, the terror attacks Freeland rightly describes as “monstrous.”
U.S. “leadership” is known by another name in scores of countries around the globe: U.S. imperialism. In the last decade that term has gained widespread acceptance by the U.S. political elite where it used to be righteously denied. Does Freeland believe that the illegal war on Iraq is an example of U.S. leadership? Would she, unlike Jean Chrétien, have joined in? What about the slaughter in Yemen? Going back a bit further, would Freeland see the literally dozens of U.S. interventions to overthrow democratic governments and install dictators the epitome of U.S. leadership?
The notion that anything Trump says can be taken as rock solid American foreign or defence policy is laughable. The man is willfully ignorant of anything outside his New York penthouse and incapable of formulating, let alone implementing, a coherent policy. While he Twitter-rants, real decisions are made by others. The U.S. has not announced the closing of any of its 800 military installations around the world. Trump is going to go along with the military’s request for thousands of more troops for Afghanistan. And what kind of isolationist president increases military spending – already at $600 billion – by $54 billion?
The increase in military spending announced Wednesday will turn the Defence Department into an unabashed War Department, with Harjit Sajjan playing second fiddle to the militant Freeland. Just what existential threats does Canada face? The terrorist threat is handled by our intelligence agencies and police. Russia and the U.S. are the only two countries in close proximity and whether we have 65 jet fighters (Stephen Harper’s plan) or 88 (Freeland’s plan) will make absolutely not one iota of difference. With respect to the Arctic, where there are conflicting interests, it is obvious to all parties that negotiation is the only possible strategy.
But, of course, it’s not about defence. It’s about war. If we look at the planned spending it seems clear that we are gearing up for more Western adventurism, using NATO to prop up a failing finance capitalism by military threats. Freeland stated: “Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes requires the backing of hard power.” She has a duty to explain exactly what that means in the areas she listed as the focus of hard power: North Korea, the civil war in Syria, the Islamic State, Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Baltic states. Freeland’s stated goal of “peace and stability” will not benefit in any way from an additional $14 billion in war materiel.
It’s hard to say which is the most outrageous aspect of this budgetary coup by the foreign affairs and defence bureaucracies. The transparent rationalization for the spending is simply shocking. Equally disturbing is the complete lack of a mandate for such an increase: it was never mentioned in the election and erases the Liberal election commitment to peacekeeping, it doubles down on Harper’s aggressive foreign policy, and was done without consultation with Canadians.
There will be blowback to this military build-up. Young people played a major role in electing Sunny Ways Trudeau. They might want to ask how it is Mr. Trudeau can find billions more for war fighting but nothing for reducing the crushing weight of tuition fees. They have the political clout and passion to put him on notice that this is a dealbreaker. Let’s hope they use it.

Murray Dobbin has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for 40 years. He writes rabble’s State of the Nation column.


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Filed under: empire watch, latest, NATO
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exiled off mainstreet
exiled off mainstreet
Jun 18, 2017 3:07 AM

Freeland is a fascist from a fascist family and Mr. Dobbin, a respected correspondent, is spot on in his commentary. Trudeau was elected because he was perceived as more reasonable than Harper and more independent of neoliberalism. Freeland’s desire to step up to the plate and make Canada a target for nuclear armageddon is not only criminal but stupid.

Jun 17, 2017 11:17 PM

The author is naive and has a simplistic view of things. There is nothing wrong with increasing defence spending. Our claims in the Arctic can only be enforced with our military assets, of which we have essentially zero of. The hypocrisy is astounding. Russia is allowed to build military bases in the Arctic and commission icebreakers, while Canada is demonized for merely raising the military budget to do exactly this.
Our military-industrial complex is quite pathetic. Bombardier is going the way of BlackBerry. Our reliance on the Americans to patrol and protect our airspace is an embarrassment. That the Liberals want to make Canada self-sufficient in these vital responsibilities only means Canada’s reliance on the U.S. will decrease, thus debunking any claims of a loss of sovereignty.

Jun 19, 2017 10:50 PM
Reply to  Matt

I don’t agree with you at all.

Jun 20, 2017 12:33 AM
Reply to  Matt

Agreed. Further, this guy seems to be parroting Trump’s favourite pass-time of claiming the credit for things set in motion long before he arrived. In this case, Canada committed to 2% back in 2014. Further, he seems to think Peacekeeping is free? Or something? I’m not sure, but our current contributions are dismal (we contribute just 11% of the troops that Zambia does), and Peacekeeping deployments cost money. Money from the military budget, in case he wasn’t clear on that.
Further, like you mentioned, the arctic is sorely in need of our attention. In the span of 6 years, Russia invaded two of its neighbours. For more than a decade, they have been rattling their sabres about claiming more of the arctic. If we don’t have a proper presence up there, you can rest assured that Russia will, and then make a de facto claim on our territory.

Jun 17, 2017 7:24 PM

Sorry OffG, I love you to bits; but I detect a whiff of hypocrisy in posting this article. In the interests of the famous BBC ‘balance’ – I feel I have to point out that there was not the whisper of a murmur on this site to detract from the ‘Second Coming of JC’ – that our very own Labour Party made exactly the same pledge. What is the difference when they committed (fully costed) to gift 2% GDP to the war criminals of NATO; to fund the Capitalist Imperialist project? Or indeed 0.7% GDP Foreign Aid Subversion budget? Imperialism, regime change, and subversion are expensive, we all have to pay our way? Clearly, it is bad when Chrystia Freeland does it for ‘Canada’; but not for Corbyn? 🙁

Jun 17, 2017 7:30 PM
Reply to  BigBG

The bit about “Imperialism, regime change, and subversion…” was meant to have an ‘end irony’ tag that got swallowed up. It was meant to be a joke.

Jun 19, 2017 10:54 PM
Reply to  BigBG

I don’t understand your comment. There’s no irony there. It’s straight up factual. I call the US’s professed ‘leadership’ ‘imperialism’ and ‘domination’. That’s what it is. It designed the global capitalist system and, using Leo Panitch and Sam Gindins’ term, ‘superintends it’. What’s more, the international community looks to the US to do so.

Jun 17, 2017 1:30 PM

Freeland family was strongly tied to Nazis. “[Her] maternal grandfather Mikhailo Chomiak was a Nazi collaborator from the beginning to the end of the war. He was given a powerful post, money, home and car by the German Army in Cracow, then the capital of the German administration of the Galician region. His principal job was editor in chief and publisher of a newspaper the Nazis created. His printing plant and other assets had been stolen from a Jewish newspaper publisher, who was then sent to die in the Belzec concentration camp.”
Earlier this year, 12 Canadian soldiers were killed when they crossed the front line into east Ukraine. More will die for Greater Ukraine is Freeland has her way.

Jun 17, 2017 11:13 PM
Reply to  Anonymous

Fake news. You are quoting a literal Russian disinformation website. This strange alliance of you so-called “anti-imperialists” in the West and Russian imperialist nationalists who want to absorb Ukraine into regional countries is something that befuddles me.
Regardless, there is zero evidence of these imaginary Canadian soldiers entering Ukraine, crossing the front line, and getting killed. Literally zero evidence whatsoever. How thick can you be to repeat such obvious fake news, spread on Russian nationalist websites?
The “anti-imperialist” Left is actually pro-imperialism. It also believes propaganda from Russia, only selectively rejecting it when it comes from the West.

Jun 17, 2017 1:28 PM

“…determined to involve NATO in…”

Jun 17, 2017 1:26 PM

Freeland is a fascist. Not a ‘fascist’ but a Fascist, a supporter of Galician nationalism who proudly recollects her grandfather’s role as a Nazi newspaper editor who was a cheerleader for the holocaust.
Her interest in the military is not unrelated: she hates Russia and is determined to NATO in encircling and provoking it. In this work nothing is more useful than to have Canadian troops on the Russian borders, allied to the authoritarian and racist Baltic regimes.
This woman needs to be stopped and Canada needs to take the remnants of the Operation Gladio/SS veteran political lobbies under control. Those whose grandparents taught them that Hitler was OK, that the Red Army was the enemy and that the Drang nach Osten is just on a back burner should not be leading Canadians into wars and costly misuses of public revenues.
Freeland must go.

Jun 17, 2017 11:09 PM
Reply to  bevin

It seems that Russian nationalist propaganda has influenced you into believing that Ukraine is a fake country, whose Western part should be split up into “Galicia”. This is the definition of imperialism. You want Ukraine to be destroyed and for the regional countries to absorb it. Textbook Russian nationalism.
Freeland is not a supporter of Ukrainian nationalism. Nothing she has said regarding Ukraine is any different from what most other Liberal politicians have said.
You also think she “hates Russia” without supplying any proof of this. I believe she lived in Russia for many years and even speaks Russian. A Russophile.
“allied to the authoritarian and racist Baltic regimes.”
This line seems to come straight from the Russian imperialist websites. They love claiming the Baltic states are “racist”. However, it’s the first time I’ve heard them described as “authoritarian”.

Jun 20, 2017 10:12 PM
Reply to  Matt

A lot of black and blue women have husbands who love them too, according to those husbands and rednecks who are like them.