Jun 112011

By Terry O’Neill – The Tri-City News

FACE TO FACE: Should peacekeeping Canada be shopping for bomber jets?

In a perfect world, the Canadian Armed Forces would not exist, guns would magically be transformed into long-stemmed roses and fighter planes would become fluffy white doves.

But because we are grounded in reality on this side of the page, we recognize that utopia will never be achieved and that a sovereign nation needs an army, an air force and, if it’s a coastal nation, a navy.

Of course, my colleague over yonder isn’t really suggesting Canada should rid itself of its armed forces. He’s merely saying that our air force should be burdened with obsolete equipment, specifically its outdated fighter planes.

He justifies this position on the grounds be believes Canada should concentrate its armed forces on peacekeeping missions. And anyway, spending billions of dollars on the Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the F-35, makes Canada too much like the United States (the Great Satan).

There are multiple problems with his line of thinking. For starters, it’s abundantly clear there’s precious little peacekeeping to do anymore in this topsy-turvy world. On the other hand, as the recent deployment of NATO air power against Muammar Qaddafi ’s forces in Libya has shown, there’s plenty of important peace-making to be done.

You can keep the peace with well-trained, lightly armed, blue-helmeted peacekeepers. But you need real armed forces to make the peace.

It’s also important to note that many of our allies — including Britain, Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and Norway — will be flying the F-35s. Does my colleague really want to see Canada asking Turkey or Holland for air cover the next time we have to send our troops into a danger zone?

Or maybe the F-35 opponents would prefer that Canada always assume the morally ambiguous, perpetually fence-sitting, pseudo-pacifist “honest broker” position that it adopted in the last half of the 20th century.

But just as you don’t make bargains with the devil, no freedom-loving, democratic country should put itself in a position of constant appeasement and apology. When you encounter an alleged genocidal murderer like Ratko Mladic, you arrest him and put him on trial. You don’t sit down over a cup of coffee and attempt to work out a compromise between him and Lady Justice.

An award-winning journalist, a writer with Edmonton’s Report Magazine and Toronto’s Catholic Insight magazine, and co-host of RoadKillRadio.com, Face to Face columnist Terry O’Neill is a long-time Coquitlam resident who sits on the board of the Coquitlam Foundation and chairs the finance committee of St. Joseph’s Catholic parish.

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