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Why Canada shouldn’t heed Trump’s call to boost defence spending

By Scott Taylor      

Let’s remind him how much blood and gold we wasted supporting America’s failures in Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq.

Donald Trump, pictured speaking to supporters in Arizona on March 19, says he would get tough on allied freeloaders who have come to rely on the United States to protect them. Photograph courtesy of Gage Skidmore
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OTTAWA—With Donald Trump being the last man standing in the Republican Party’s presidential candidate race, it would appear that even the most cynical among us must now brace ourselves for the very real possibility that this buffoon could soon be the leader of the free world.

If we were in Mexico, it would mean conducting feasibility studies into building that big wall—and figuring out how to pay for it. For us Canadians, it means having to take a serious look at how much we spend on defence.

Amid his torrents of bombastic rhetoric about making America great again, Trump has repeatedly said he would get tough on allied freeloaders who have come to rely on the United States to protect them. The simplest way to interpret this is to suppose that Trump means all of those countries—including Canada—that do not meet NATO’s proposed goal of spending two per cent of gross domestic product on defence. Canada currently spends about $20 billion annually on national defence, which is just over one per cent of our GDP.

Chief among Canada’s warmongers who echo Trump’s calls for massive defence spending is none other than that old convicted felon, Conrad Black. In a recent presentation, which was reprinted in Maclean’s magazine, Black opined that Canada should be booted out of the NATO boys’ club until we balloon our defence budget to more than $40 billion.

Black is of course the same master strategist who once proposed that Canada should swell the ranks of its regular force military by simply conscripting the unemployed masses. Note to Mr. Black: this is no longer the 19th century wherein states employed large standing armies of conscripted cannon-fodder to achieve imperial goals.

The reason Canadian military personnel are the best in the world is because they are the product of a rigorous selection process throughout all phases of their basic training and trade qualifications. To suggest that you could simply order all those currently collecting an employment insurance cheque to report for duty is an insult to the professional reputation of our proud military. Given Black’s experience behind bars, I am surprised he did not also suggest emptying our jails in order to swell the ranks. But I digress.

To counter Trump’s demand that we spend more on security, we need to simply remind him of how much blood and gold Canada spilled in Afghanistan, trying to salvage America’s doomed venture to create a democracy there after deposing the Taliban. The last estimate put Canada’s Afghan expenses—including long-term care for our 2,000-plus wounded soldiers—upwards of $22 billion.

Then we could tack on whatever it was that we actually spent during the U.S.-directed doomed intervention in Libya in 2011. Yes, under Canadian leadership and assisted by Canadian warplanes, the NATO mission did successfully depose Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. But then the world turned its back on Libya and that once-progressive country has since plunged into a half-decade of violent anarchy.

With Daesh (also called ISIL, ISIS, and Islamic State) now entrenched in Libya, there is no longer any doubt that the West will need to mount a second intervention into Libya—this time with troops on the ground and for a much longer window of commitment. Who can even guess what that will cost in blood and gold?

Add to this list the ongoing U.S.-led effort against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Canada spent 18 months dropping bombs where the U.S. planners told us to drop bombs, and we continue to deploy military trainers to support the Kurdish separatist militia (while our government professes to support a unified Iraq).

In other words, before we even humour future President Trump’s calls to spend more on defence, let’s remind ourselves—and him—of how much money and how many soldiers’ lives we wasted supporting America’s failures in Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq.

Are we all safer now as a result? I think not.

Scott Taylor is editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine.

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