While Canada stopped from publicly joining President Bush’s 2003 coalition of the willing for the invasion of Iraq, it has backed the American government’s occupation of Afghanistan politically, militarily, and through its oil infrastructure in secret. Canada’s participation in NORAD, NATO, and UN peacekeeping missions has decreased since the 1970‘s, when compared to involvement levels of the United States and other Western nations. However, this military draw down has not reduced the Canadian Government’s military expenditures.
While many of Canada’s citizens feel its government is different from the United States, we can never forget the political control of the military industrial complex, investment sector, and the oil industry. Similar to many Western governments, the contributions made by Canada’s government towards world peace are contradicted by the actions of its military and economic sector. Canada once led Cold War era UN peacekeeping efforts, but is currently consolidating “Peacekeeping” initiatives that benefit Canadian national interests.
At the height of its commitment, Canada supplied 10% of all troops to the united nation Peacekeeping efforts. A commitment was higher than all other nations at the time. In recent years, Canada has moved the majority of its peacekeeping forces towards NATO lead mission. According to Walter Dorn, “In NATO, the military structure is better defined, the number of troops deployed is larger, the level of support is greater, and partner nations are generally better equipped and trained than in typical UN missions” (as cited in Dorn, 2006, p. 16).
Canada’s main troop contributions can be found in Afghanistan. Canadian oil companies have followed America in securing new oil fields resulting in exploratory drilling and purchasing of land for possible pipelines in Central Asia. The area’s high level of volatility requires a military presence to suppress violence. Afghanistan has become one of Canada’s largest areas of national interest due to increasing investment in the area by Canadian oil companies. These companies are politically powerful and supported by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a recently re-elected and self-proclaimed oil man.
Afghanistan itself has little to no oil reserves, but it does offer cheaper pipeline construction due to regional environmental laws. The oil is located in the Caspian Sea, a land locked body of water. In a recent article, reporter David Smith of The Canadian noted that, “Central Asia’s Caspian Basin, over which sit the former Soviet states of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, is the world’s “richest new source of oil” (Smith, 2007,Frontpage).
The Arabian Sea is the closest connected body of water and least expensive shipping point, which is why the pipeline running through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is required. Smith also notes that, “U. S. policy toward Afghanistan during the past decade has been largely driven by corporate interests in the region’s resources” (Smith, 2007, Frontpage). One can say that, like America, Canadian involvement in Afghanistan is solely based on corporate interest when current levels of deployment are taken into account.
For example, the Canadian Pension Plan, a national institution, invests Canadian’s pension funds in to hundreds of industries producing items required to continue America’s War on Terror, including most of the world’s top 20 weapons producers. CPP’s major investments include leading contractors for virtually every major US weapons system used in Iraq and Afghanistan. These national interest ties Canadian involvement in Afghanistan politically, militarily, and economically.
Even with Canada’s current lack of initiatives and support of organizations that promote world peace, the possibilities of Canada returning to its role as a leader of national “peacekeepers” remains open for debate. The Canadian public openly called for their governments support of UN peacekeeping missions, because of the strong tradition of peacekeeping within the Canadian military and sense of national pride.
European nations are now contributing generously to a strong UN force in the Middle East, this effort provides Canada the opportunity to renew its commitment of ground troops. Even if Canada refuses to commit ground troops, there are many other areas of expertise the Canadian government and military can provide to UN peacekeeping forces. Canada’s advanced military surveillance, communication, and positioning systems can boost capabilities of UN peacekeeping missions. However, Canadian military hardware is absent from current peacekeeping missions.
Canada is also a world leader in peacekeeper training. Dorn makes us aware of Canada’s commitment towards training peacekeepers, “The military-civilian Pearson Peacekeeping Centre (PPC) was established in 1995, and the Army’s Peace Support Training Centre was set up a year later” (Dorn, 2006, 16). Thousands of paramilitary professionals and civilian law enforcement officers from various countries have gone through the wide-ranging courses taught by both institutions, with courses conducted abroad, in Eastern Europe, Central America, and Africa.
The International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centers which has established over a hundred training, research and educational centers in 50 countries is an effort spear-headed by the Canadian government to provide better trained peacekeepers to third world conflict zones. Unfortunately, funding cuts have stopped the momentum of the PPC training program, which needs continuous finical and political support. Support that is also not going towards improving the democratization process in Egypt and Tunisia.
A report filed by Peter O’Neil, Postmedia’s European Correspondent, found Canada’s support lacking during this transition. “Canada refused to commit to any country-to-country aid, saying it has given sufficient funding since 2009 to multilateral institutions tasked to help the region”(O’Neil, 2011). In conclusion, Canada’s efforts towards world peace lack the commitment of years past. Canada should not only increase its commitment of ground troops in UN peacekeeping missions, but should contribute military hardware to improve communication and monitoring capabilities in current peacekeeping conflict zones.
Canada’s national interest can still be achieved through deployment of ground troops and military hardware, because world peace provides the foundation for democracy to finally prevail in the emerging third world. Recent uprisings in Egypt and the Middle East prove this point. Canada should begin its support by joining other G8 countries in finically backing peaceful democratic transition in the Middle East, no greater step towards world peace currently exists. Reference Dorn, W. (2006, October/December). Canada: The Once and Future Peacekeeper. Peace Magazine, 22(4), 16.
O’Neil, P. (2011). Harper’s role in Middle East peace efforts causes stir at G8. Retrieved June 22, 2011 from News Tab Website: http://www. canada. com/news/Harper+role+Middle+East+peace+efforts+causes+stir/4851680/story. html Smith, D. M. (2007, January 18). Professor says America seeks Afghanistan Oil Deal. The Canadian, p. 1A. Article Summary Dorn’s article, Canada: The Once and Future Peacekeeper, talked about Canada’s tradition of Peacekeeping from early engagements in Bosnia and East Timor to Canada’s current lack of support for new UN initiatives.
O’Neil’s article is the most current and focuses on Canada declining to finically back a potion of the $40 billion package G8 nations will be giving Egypt and Tunisia towards democratic transition. Funds that are sorely needed for common government services like hospitals, emergency services, and increasing democratic tools and infrastructure. Smith article shows Canada’s economic and political interest in Afghanistan and the future pipeline that will cross the area.