• Blog
  • April 27th, 2016

Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Saudi Arms Deal


At a well-attended press conference on Parliament Hill today, Roy Culpeper (Group of 78),  Peggy Mason (Rideau Institute), Alex Neve (Amnesty International Canada) and Cesar Jaramillo (Project Ploughshares) released an OPEN LETTER to the Prime Minister on the Saudi arms deal 25 April 2016 . The letter had been signed by a total of 15 Canadian non-governmental organizations, listed below.

The letter states in part:

We, the undersigned, wish to express our profound concerns about the issuance of export permits for Canada’s multi-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, despite the flagrant incompatibilities of this contract with the human rights safeguards of our export controls.

To provide such a large supply of lethal weapons to a regime with such an appalling record of human rights abuses is immoral and unethical. The spirit and letter of both domestic export controls and international law support this view. The government has had every opportunity to uphold this position, but has chosen not to. We therefore ask the government to rescind the export permits, ensuring that this deal does not go ahead unless and until relevant human rights concerns have been resolved.

Of this we are convinced, Prime Minister: the decision to proceed with this arms deal undermines not only the public’s trust in our export control system, but also the core values that define Canada’s character as a nation.

Click on the link for the full copy of the  OPEN LETTER to the Prime Minister on the Saudi arms deal 25 April 2016

Pour la version française, cliquez LETTRE_OUVERTE_AU_ PM_L’Arabie_Saoudite_25 April 2016.

For the Globe and Mail article on the Press Conference, click on Saudi arms deal breaks Canada’s export controls, opponents argue (CP, 27 April 2016). See also Canada breaking export control rules, violating Trudeau’s feminism with Saudi deal, say critics (Janice Dickson, iPolitics 27 April, 2016).

The organizations that signed this Open Letter are listed below.

Roy Culpeper, Chair: Group of 78

Fergus Watt, Executive Director: World Federalist Movement Canada

Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director: Project Ploughshares

Pierre Jasmin, Vice-President: Artists for Peace

Peggy Mason, President: Rideau Institute

Béatrice Vaugrante, Directrice Générale: Amnistie internationale Canada francophone

Alex Neve, Secretary General: Amnesty International Canada English

Julia Sanchez, President-CEO: Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC)

Monia Mazigh, National Coordinator: International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

Thomas Woodley, President: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Paul Hannon, Executive Director: Mines Action Canada

Silke Reichrath, Director: Brooke Valley Research for Education in Nonviolence

Professor John Packer, Director, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa

Nicole Filion, Coordiatrice: Ligue des droits et libertés

Metta Spencer, President: Science for Peace

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  • Blog
  • April 20th, 2016

The “Rogue” Missile Threat: Getting from BMD to NPT by Ernie Regehr

A successful intercept test for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense element is conducted at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai in Hawaii Jan. 27.

At the beginning of April, the Liberal government decided that it would launch a review of Canada’s defence policy and, as part of that, has reopened the issue of Canadian participation in Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD), a contentious debate which 11 years ago ended with the Paul Martin government opting not to join.

The reasons why this was and remains an excellent decision can be succinctly summarized as follows:  (1) it does not work (2) it is an incentive to build more offensive weapons (3) it is very costly (4) the threat to North America from North Korean and Iranian yet-to-be-developed missiles is minuscule to non-existent and (5) did we mention that the system does not work?

To analyze this issue in greater depth, we are very pleased to reprint an excerpt from an article by former Project Ploughshares co-founder Ernie Regehr which he published last December, and to provide a link to the full article here: The “Rogue” Missile Threat: Getting from BMD to NPT (Ernie Regehr, The Simons Foundation, 18 December 2015).

Canadians might soon be asking just where George W. Bush is when we really need him. He used to be a key antidote to Canadian temptations to embrace North American ballistic missile defence (BMD). Canada’s 2005 rejection of BMD was driven largely by anticipated public reaction to Canada signing on to a system championed by a Bush Administration that was, to understate it, little loved in Canada and that had especially offended disarmament advocates with its trashing of the ABM Treaty[i] and its hostility toward arms control generally. Now, however, with the Bush effect waning, the allure of a Canadian BMD role seems to be waxing. So, well into the final quarter of the still appreciated Administration of Barack Obama, and with a new and less polarizing but Washington friendly Government in Ottawa, BMD supporters in Canada see a new opportunity to pursue BMD involvement without generating a major backlash. What hasn’t changed, though, is the basic reality that, even if its technology improves, BMD won’t solve the rogue state missile problem. That’s because the North Korean missile threat is finally a non-proliferation, not a defence, challenge.

For a direct link to the full article, click on: The “Rogue” Missile Threat: Getting from BMD to NPT (Ernie Regehr, The Simons Foundation, 18 December 2015).

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  • Blog
  • April 8th, 2016

Our disastrous military interventions

Gar PardyGar Pardy is a Rideau Institute Senior Adviser. This article was originally published in Embassy News on Wed. April 6th, 2016.

There can be no expectation that our military interventions will do more good than the obvious disaster they are.

We spiral into confusion and frustration amid the consequences of our military interventions in places of which we know little.

In doing so, we magnify the initial disasters through the paucity of our thought concerning what the interventions are to achieve; and in the process, we convince ourselves the interventions provide us with greater security, both personal and national.

The consequences of these interventions are all around us. For example, the historic and tragic migration of some five million people out of Syria and Iraq and millions more out of Afghanistan and Libya—several millions of whom see the opportunity for a better life in Europe. Sadly, we see these migrations as having little to do with our military interventions.

Yet we react in horror when a candidate for the presidency of the United States talks of carpet bombing as policy. We do not acknowledge that the modern version of the bombing in Syria and Iraq, and earlier in Libya and Afghanistan, is as close to carpet bombing as one can get. For the people on the ground, the distinction is totally artificial and without value. They need to move and they do so.

Then we are bewildered and react in horror when new enemies arise from the chaos of our interventions. Again, in our peaceful, normal, daily routines far from those interventions, we do not draw a connection when large bombs explode and guns are used in mass killings.

This is blowback, in the fullest meaning of the word.

It doesn’t stop there. We are even more bewildered when young men and women from down our streets suddenly appear in the news, cold-bloodedly executing others or taunting us and our societies.

One leading researcher, Marc Sageman, was recently quoted in the New York Times saying:

 … with each new terrorist incident we realize that we are no closer to answering our original question about what leads people to turn to political violence.

The same March 27 article went on to note that:

 …research linking terrorism to American policies, meanwhile, is ignored.

The reaction of some of our political and military leaders when these consequences blast into our daily lives is uniformly militaristic. Rhetoric that is better left to the theatre than the stage of public policy promotes more military interventions, and more bombings. Tragically, these leaders are cheered on without any acknowledgement they are promoting a vicious, never-ending circle in which we chase our enemies and they chase us.

Of course, these Western military interventions and the occasional eastern ones are not without historical precedents. There is a certain amount of immortality and immorality about all of them. For most, with the passage of time, we can pigeon-hole them into their historical context and move on with a conviction that we would never be that stupid.

The military interventions of our generation loudly proclaim: we are that stupid.

Military interventions in Afghanistan, for instance, have been underway for almost 40 years.

After 10 years, 1979 to 1989, the Soviet Union decided it was not going to change much in that ancient land and abruptly withdrew.

The Afghans, with an army trained by the Soviets before they left, muddled along for more than a decade. The Taliban emerged, forming a weak government in 1996 centered in Kabul and the southern provinces. Osama bin Laden and his band of global terrorists, the Sunni al-Qaeda, lumbered the Taliban with troublesome guests as they planned a deadly attack on the United States.

The post-9/11, American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001—backed by most of the world—was effective in driving the Taliban into temporary exile, among fellow Pashtuns in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

But in the almost 15 years since that invasion, nothing much has changed. Afghanistan remains a largely feudal society with a thin veneer of central government—one that has readily consumed the billions of dollars in aid associated with the Western intervention. The Taliban controls as many parts of the countryside as it did before 2001, including some cities.

The hubris associated with the Afghan invasion led the Americans, again with widespread international support, to invade Iraq in 2003.

A dozen years later, after American troops left Iraq in 2011, there is a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad; a relatively new extremist Sunni group, ISIS, dominating the Sunni areas in the northwest; and a largely independent Kurdish state in the northeast, showing few indications it is interested in the recreation of either the old or a new Iraq. Before long, the latter will see irredentist impulses to draw into its orbit Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Armenia.

While Saddam Hussein is no longer with us, his legacy lives on.

Meanwhile, Libya has become a failed state as a direct result of Western air and other military support to disparate tribal groups whose initial objective was to see the end of Muammar Gaddafi. Once Mr. Gaddafi was no longer with us, at the end of 2011, the Libyans demonstrated their historical disparateness and now seem not much interested in restoring the trappings of the former state. Before long, al-Qaeda and ISIS created branches there from which forays into Africa south of the Sahara can be conducted with impunity.

And then, there is today’s Syria. The Russian intervention and its overt willingness to see the regime of Bashar al-Assad restored to its former prominence, along with the destruction of most of its opposition—except for ISIS—ensures a rush to the exits by most Syrians will continue for some time to come.

And in all of this, Western policy centres on how long Mr. Assad should remain as president, and the hope that ISIS can be destroyed. We cheer the occasional victory and hope for more, while we debate whether we should send in more troops for training and/or more aircraft, contributing to draining the country of its people.

Few stand up and state that our military interventions are the cause of our troubles. There can be no expectation that our military interventions will do more good than the obvious disaster they are. Until we accept that lesson, we will go around the same circle again and again.

 Before retirement from the Canadian foreign service, Gar Pardy was head of consular services for more than 10 years. Recently he published Afterwords From a Foreign Service Odyssey, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and, in Ottawa, Books on Beechwood.

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  • Blog
  • April 2nd, 2016

Nuclear Security requires Nuclear Disarmament

NSS-logo2by Peggy Mason, Rideau Institute President and a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament

Leaders from more than 50 countries including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met in Washington on Thursday and Friday at a Nuclear Security Summit dedicated to keeping nuclear bomb making materials out of the hands of terrorists. To stave off this horrifying possibility, they pledged not to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether or even to significantly reduce their numbers, currently at some 15, 000 warheads in the hands of 9 nuclear weapons states, with the lion’s share held by the USA and then Russia. Nuclear disarmament was not even on the agenda. Instead the sole focus was the safe storage and disposal of, and accounting for, nuclear bomb making material, whether in military or civilian facilities.

The initiative to secure nuclear materials was not initially conceived as a substitute for nuclear disarmament. Quite the contrary. In President Obama’s visionary 2009 speech that so electrified his Prague audience, the Oslo Nobel Peace Prize Committee and much of the rest of the world, the central goal was to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”. And in 2010 there was exciting progress to this end with a review of USA nuclear doctrine to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons, and a treaty with Russia for verifiable reductions in long-range nuclear arsenals.

But this bold vision went no further, thwarted perhaps in equal measure by Russian and Republican intransigence and, as commentators like Joe Cirincione have observed, by Obama’s own bureaucracy where vested interests of the “nuclear-industrial complex” won the day.

Instead of further reductions in nuclear weapons, the USA has embarked on a $1 trillion plan to replace the entire Cold War arsenal. And all of the other 8 nuclear weapons states are to a greater or lesser extent also engaged in modernization efforts.

So is it any wonder that former Disarmament Ambassadors like myself and Paul Meyer view the Nuclear Security Summit with a somewhat jaundiced eye? Project Ploughshares Executive Director and tireless nuclear disarmament advocate, Cesar Jaramillo sums up the dilemma:

The point that gets lost is it’s virtually impossible to fully prevent the spread of nuclear technology in the absence of credible effort towards abolition…. There are no ‘right hands’ for ‘wrong weapons.”

It is essential that the Canadian government take a leadership role in revitalizing nuclear disarmament efforts.

Parliamentarians, disarmament experts, activists, ordinary Canadians must all play a role in convincing the Liberal government to embrace this task. There is a global parliamentary network, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), in which Canadian MPs have long played a constructive role. Former NDP MP Paul Dewar is past Co-President of PNND – Canada and NDP MP Linda Duncan is current co-chair with Conservative MP Blaine Calkins. In preparation for the NDP Federal Policy Convention 8-10 April in Edmonton, both Dewar and Duncan are supporting a grass roots effort by NDP members and their riding associations to specifically include in the NDP policy platform a resolution committing the Party to:

 [a]ctively supporting international efforts to promote nuclear disarmament”.

This is a most timely, welcome and crystal clear initiative to help bring the vital and urgent goal of nuclear disarmament back to the forefront of Canadian international security policy.

Progressive American commentators like Joe Cirincione believe that it may not be too late to see President Obama building on his landmark nuclear deal with Iran by taking equally bold steps to curb nuclear modernization by the United States and other nuclear weapons states.

This is no time for Canadian timidity. We call on the Liberal government to show leadership on global nuclear disarmament efforts.


Photo credit: fmwg.org

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  • Blog
  • March 30th, 2016

Lessons from a Decade in Afghanistan

Cdn training mission Afghan

Lessons from a Decade in Afghanistan, by Nipa Banerjee, visiting professor at the University of Ottawa Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Senior Advisor at the Rideau Institute, was originally posted on the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) blog. It is reproduced in its entirety below.

The lessons below are gleaned from the experiences of the international community in the decade following the overthrow of the Taliban regime. They provide partial answers to the question of why Afghanistan has faced renewed conflict and a resurgent Taliban, both detrimental to security and development. The limited success of the mission in Afghanistan is rooted not in the strength of the Taliban, but in the weakness of the international community’s counterinsurgency operations, including development and security programming that missed the mark.

Lesson 1: Any sustainable war effort requires domestic public support to justify the expense and the sacrifice of lives.

Continued domestic support demands both transparent explanation of the objectives of the war and transparent reporting on the results of security and development investments. Lack of communication with the public pervaded Canada’s Afghan mission, with a resulting deterioration of domestic good will and support.

Lesson 2: Preventing a recurrence of conflict must be accepted as the first priority.

There was simply no strategy to address the question “after war, what?” for prevention of conflict and a Taliban resurgence. The quick victory created euphoria and over-optimism, which generated a certain smugness and complacency in the international community. The Taliban took advantage of the negligence of the external powers and commenced resurgence in the areas where they still had support.

Lesson 3: Look at the complexities of the situation before leaping into longer-term commitments.

Ground research was necessary to support the involvement of Canada and other international partners in a country where most of them were strangers. Sound analyses of the history and causes of conflicts, military and political zones of influence, the existing risks, and the interests of all conflicting parties, actors, and stakeholders were of utmost importance. Few members of the international community undertook such assessments. There was thus no strategy guiding the comprehensive whole-of-government approach involving defense, diplomacy, and development.

Lesson 4: When working in complex situations, background knowledge and proper training of staff are absolute necessities.

Expatriate staff representing their respective governments in Afghanistan were often not experienced and, most of the time, not trained in handling conflict-sensitive issues. Quick rotation of expatriate staff in and out of the country did not allow them to learn the ropes, establish credible networks, and implement plans relevant to complex situations.

Lesson 5: Two pre-requisites of an effective civilian operation in a fragile state are proximity to the local population and extensive networking.

Attention to these factors promotes understanding of the country, its people and culture, and thus their needs and priorities, which are the basis of needs-based planning, programming, implementation, and monitoring. These factors also help earn protection for and ensure the safety of expatriate staff. The contrary practice, adopted by the international community, of staying locked down in compounds for extended periods resulted in loss of contact with the local population and thus plans and actions disconnected with their realities. This had the predictable consequence of generating resentment among the Afghan people and neutralizing the effectiveness of field offices and international staff.

Lesson 6: Ensuring that opposition groups have a stake in the post-conflict order must be a priority.

Failure to placate those on the losing side immediately following the cessation of conflict often paves the way for its re-occurrence. Missing the opportunity to leverage the weakness of the enemy immediately after its defeat hobbles longer-term strategic gains.

In 2001, the defeated Taliban was in a weakened position and would have been more pliable in accepting proposals set forth by the winning party. It was a mistake to reject any attempt at reconciliation at the time. Now the dire need for reconciliation allows the Taliban to negotiate from a position of strength and makes it harder to secure a just settlement that will not be detrimental to the Afghan population.

Lesson 7: Weak state institutions breed instability.

When the state governance is incapable of delivering services, including law and order, it feeds conflict by allowing insurgents to win the support of a frustrated public. No coordinated strategy for strengthening public institutions was ever developed by the international community for establishing the legitimacy of the new Afghan state. Poor technical assistance left government institutions weak and expatriate consultants rich. Beginning training of the Afghan national security force only after the insurgency had already strengthened dramatically is but one instance of the international community’s negligence in prioritizing essential institutional capacity-building needs.

Lesson 8: Promoting the profile of the international community at the expense of establishing the authority of the local government undermines peace building and stabilization efforts.

Canada sought to raise its own profile in Kandahar through the signature projects of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) instead of helping the Afghan government earn the support and loyalty of its own people. This parallel set of priorities undermined the Afghan government’s efforts to gain a presence in the provinces and generate popular support.

Lesson 9: Achieving synergy and coordination of the international community’s support is the key to success.

The different military and civilian agencies from different donor countries approached their tasks with different goals, methodologies, and timelines and were often unaware of one another’s efforts, negating the conditions necessary for coordinated development and reform.

Lesson 10: Establishing clear results with indicators and accountability structures are essential to getting a difficult mission on track.

The international community and the Afghan government flitted relentlessly from one conference to the next, with both parties making commitments, most of which remained unmet. No attempts were made to create an action plan, monitor progress, or integrate any lessons learned into forward planning. Fallen dead on the roadside were the Afghanistan Compact, security sector reforms, and an overall national development strategy. The Aid Effectiveness principles endorsed by donors in 2005 were simply trashed.

These ten simple lessons outline the early warning signs of the failure of peacebuilding that were ignored along the way. As the international community continues to trudge along in its second decade in Afghanistan, is it too late for them to learn the basics that they should have learned a decade ago?

A longer version of this article appears in Australia and Canada in Afghanistan: Perspectives on a Mission, edited by Jack Cunningham and William Maley (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2015).

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