Join­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence makes sense

North Bay Nugget - - OPINION - An­thony furey Furey’s new book Pulse At­tack: The Real Story Be­hind the Se­cret Weapon That Can De­stroy North Amer­ica, ex­plains the his­tory and science of the elec­tro­mag­netic pulse threat. afurey@post­media.com

The world is al­ready ad­just­ing to the news of north Korea’s lat­est and most pow­er­ful nu­clear test. and not just with con­dem­na­tion and calls for more sanc­tions. but with ac­tion.

the day af­ter the sept. 4 launch of what the rogue state claims is its first ever hy­dro­gen bomb, south Korea gave the all-clear to fi­nal­ize the de­ploy­ment of thaad, a u.s. an­timis­sile de­fence sys­tem.

the econ­o­mist re­ports amer­i­can util­i­ties are al­ready plac­ing greater fo­cus on pro­tect­ing the elec­tri­cal grid af­ter north Korean leader Kim Jongun’s launch came with a state­ment threat­en­ing to launch an elec­tro­mag­netic pulse at­tack that could shut off all power for months.

th­ese are over­due is­sues. but if this lat­est launch is the kick in the pants needed to get ac­tion, so be it.

We can’t say the same for one of Canada’s na­tional se­cu­rity omis­sions, at least not yet. back in 2005, the paul martin govern­ment an­nounced we wouldn’t be par­tic­i­pat­ing in a pro­posed bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence (bmd) pro­gram.

at the time there was a lot of sen­ti­ment against it. there was a ret­i­cence to be seen go­ing along with then u.s. pres­i­dent ge­orge W. bush. and there were big wor­ries that this would lead to a new arms race.

but a lot has changed since then. First of all, fears of pro­lif­er­a­tion have proven un­founded. While the u.s. went ahead with bmd, it con­tin­ued to sign dis­ar­ma­ment agree­ments with rus­sia. num­bers went down, not up.

more to the point though, north Korea hadn’t even con­ducted their first nu­clear test. that came a year af­ter we took a pass on bmd. now, it has done five more tests and has in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles that can hit Canada.

no mat­ter how much you think diplo­macy and sanc­tions are the pre­ferred route — as pres­i­dent don­ald trump, prime min­is­ter Justin trudeau and oth­ers agree on — this doesn’t change the fact that in the in­terim north Korea could launch an at­tack that would need to be de­fended against.

right now, Canada is at the mercy of the united states for this pro­tec­tion.

“through norad, we cur­rently share in­for­ma­tion in early warn­ing and at­tack as­sess­ment with the u.s.a.,” for­mer diplo­mat Colin robert­son said in a tes­ti­mony to a se­nate com­mit­tee in 2014, urg­ing us to think more about bmd. “but when it comes time to make the crit­i­cal launch de­ci­sions, our of­fi­cials lit­er­ally have to leave the room.”

this means there’s no one there whose sole job is to pro­tect the Cana­dian home­land. sure, the u.s. has our back. but it’ll be un­der­stand­ably think­ing about its own needs first and fore­most in an emer­gency.

sign­ing on to bmd changes that, giv­ing us a place at the ta­ble.

the Con­ser­va­tives never made bmd an is­sue dur­ing the harper years, when the threat as­sess­ments were much milder. that’s be­gin­ning to change.

a va­ri­ety of voices have sounded the alarm in the past week, in­clud­ing for­eign af­fairs critic erin o’toole, for­mer chief of the de­fence staff tom Law­son and for­mer gen­eral and Lib­eral sen. romeo dal­laire. For­mer de­fence min­is­ter peter mackay has said he re­grets not ad­vanc­ing the file.

When you take a look at a map show­ing the reach of north Korea’s arse­nal and re­al­ize Canada’s within range, sign­ing up for bmd now seems like com­mon sense.

trudeau’s state­ment fol­low­ing the north’s lat­est launch said Canada will work with the u.s. “to counter the north Korean threat.” he didn’t spec­ify what ex­actly we’d be do­ing. but there’s one op­tion that’s now on the ta­ble right in from of him.

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