Re: Mr. Staples Presentation to the Standing Committee on National Defence, June 8, 2006
The hope had been that after the thorough trouncing “Boots on the Ground: Canadian Military Operations in Afghanistan and UN Peacekeeping Missions” was given by both experienced veterans and not so experienced observers alike on Army.ca (see http://forums.army.ca/forums/threads/43950.0.html
), as well as by other notable organizations, Steve Staples and the Polaris Institute would shy away from blatantly spouting the numbers found in the report. As was discussed and pointed out repeatidly, the numbers presented are misrepresentative of the situation and are bordering on blatantly fallacious. Nonetheless, in his June 8th address, Mr.Staples apparently chose to cite this specific report in an attempt argue against the $1.8 billion put forth by the Hon. Mr. Mackay as the cost of the Afghanistan missions.
Mr. Staples then moved onto the topic of defence spending. Though his statements in this regard are not completely false, they are, as usual, misleading. Mr. Staples tries to make the point that defence spending in Canada is a run away train, already taking up far too many resources than it should. He goes so far as to state that in regards to total defence spending “we are the seventh highest within the 26-member NATO alliance”. This fact, while true, does not truly portray the burden placed on other countries as compared to our own, which is undoubtedly the purpose of Mr. Staples bringing up this little statistic.
The fact is, according to information from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, when compared with our GDP, our defence spending ranks twenty-third out of twenty-four member states with available data. We only spend more, as a percent of our GDP, than Luxembourg (Iceland of course, does not have an army, airforce, or navy). The vast majority of our allies are forced to shoulder a much higher cost, relative to the size of their economy, than we are. If Mr. Staples was trying to say that we are spending too much when compared to other nations, he is sorely wanting on facts to back such a viewpoint.
The address goes on to spout what is, quite simply, opinion, and nothing more. Mr. Staples has an agenda, and he has chosen to try and portray this agenda as “fact” or “research”. He then makes arguments, apparently to back up these opinions, that in actuality have nothing to do with the position he was taking. Mr. Staples does not provide sufficient arguments for why we should be undertaking UN missions rather than helping the millions of Afghan's in desperate need of our assistance. Most astoundingly to this author, he doesn't even state where he thinks the UN could use our manpower. Mr. Staples then beguiles our “US war-fighting” tactics in Afghanistan, but offers no solution to dealing with the armed insurgents that are burning schools and killing civilians.
Now, the moral of all of this is simple. This is a plea. This is a plea to any and all persons in the media, and as well as to any person with decision making power. Do not rely upon the Polaris Institute for analysis or comment. They have a clear and ever present agenda. They will twist and manipulate fact, statement, and research to fit this agenda. They should not, under any circumstance, be considered expert or even informed on the topic of defence. Their statements over the years have proven them not to be such.
Take one recent episode, in which when responding to questions about the recent defence spending, Mr. Staples asked “How many tank divisions does Al Qaeda have?”. This question continues to confuse this author, as he is unable to identify what support ships, helicopters, transport aircraft, or trucks have to do with fighting a tank division rather than a blood thirsty insurgency? Surely he isn't so blind as to the utility of these purchases in furthering even his aims?
Once again, the point; if you are wanting for comment or analysis, there are a vast number of academic defence research institutes and organizations to call upon. The Polaris Institute should not be seen as a reliable source for defence related comment or analysis.
The address in question: http://www.ceasefire.ca/atf/cf/%7B0A14BA6C-BE4F-445B-8C13-51BED95A5CF3%7D/DNND_8_June_06.pdf