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  • December 5th, 2017

Professor Paul Rogers on the Trump wars era


In his latest article, The Trump wars era (OpenDemocracy.net, 30 November 2017), Professor Paul Rogers, International Security Advisor at Open Democracy, outlines the terrifying augmentation of military force by the Trump administration. Because of its importance, we include it below in its entirety.

“A new era is opening almost by stealth. Its defining feature is military expansion, ordered by the United States president and conducted by the Pentagon. Underlying it is Trump’s fusion of elements from the strategy of his two predecessors, George W Bush and Barack Obama.”

A recent, low-profile Pentagon document gives a hint of the US’s current projection of military power:

“The U.S. has 8,892 forces in Iraq, 15,298 troops in Afghanistan and 1,720 in Syria, for a total of 25,910 troops serving in the three war zones as of Sept. 30, according to DoD. The figures were released to the public Nov. 17 as part of DoD’s quarterly count of active duty, Reserve, Guard and civilian personnel assigned by country by the Defense Manpower Data Center” (see Tara Copp, “26,000 troops total,” Military Times, 27 November 2017).

The total figure alone is much higher than previous numbers. But by itself it is misleading in that the United States defense department normally excludes two further categories of troops: those rotating for short periods and, of far greater significance, many of the special forces. These are waging much of the combat in all three theatres – Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. That means the true number is probably close to, or even over, 30,000. To this could be added troops involved in operations across the Sahel, Somalia or Yemen.

Such indicators give only part of the picture. Another is a Pentagon request for $143 million to expand its operations at the Azraq base in the Jordanian desert, the largest single overseas financial commitment now being considered. This base has been key to operations in Syria and Iraq, and been used by other states including the Netherlands and Belgium. So just as the wars in Iraq and Syria are supposed to be winding down after ISIS’s much-vaunted defeat, the Pentagon wants to go the other way and prepare for yet more conflict in the region. A growth in overseas bases, such as a huge one for surveillance drones costing $100 million in Niger, fits the trend.

All this must be seen in the perspective of the sixteen years of “war on terror”. Again, troop numbers are a signal if not the whole story. In 2007-08, at the height of George W Bush’s campaigns, close to 200,000 US troops were in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even as Barack Obama started to withdraw troops from Iraq, he was “surging” them in Afghanistan: an extra 30,000 troops by 2011 took the US total in that country to around 100,000.

That short-term policy failed in its aim of forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table, and most troops had been withdrawn by the end of his second term in 2012. In parallel, Obama was moving rapidly towards “remote warfare. This relied much more on strike-aircraft, armed-drones, and special forces – all involving far fewer “boots on the ground”.

“Now, the Trump wars era brings a reconfiguration: plenty of remote warfare and far more military personnel abroad. Bush was all about crushing al-Qaida and similar groups, as well as regime termination; Obama moved more towards “shadow wars” at a much lower intensity, if still controversial. Trump, in combining these, is going back to the future.”

The Egyptian parallel

Destroy your opponents; forget the sixteen years of failed wars; do not try to understand where these enemies are coming from, and why they retain support. If these tenets guide Trump’s approach, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime has followed them in Egypt’s arena.

Since al-Sisi became president after ousting Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, his forces have pursued a tough line against any kind of religious-based dissent. The Islamist-linked rebellion in northern Sinai was a prime target. The terrible attack on the Al-Rawda mosque in nothern Sinai on 24 November, which killed 305 people, is the latest incident in this escalating conflict. The immediate response to the massacre was air-raids by strike-aircraft, which the insurgents would have expected and taken precautions against.

But the problems in Sinai go much deeper than al-Sisi’s policies, damaging as these are. This part of Egypt has long been neglected and marginalised. Its younger men are particularly angry that the oil and tourism industries bring local communities little or no benefit. Thus, the now dispersed ISIS leadership see al-Sisi’s Egypt in general and Sinai in particular as fertile ground. For the movement, Cairo’s policy of hardline suppression could hardly be better. An objective view of Sinai’s recent decades suggests that the chances of Sisi’s approach working are close to zero.

“So the comparison works in reverse. For al-Sisi, read Trump – on a much bigger scale. This may still be an early stage of the Trump wars era. An increase in the worst excesses of the post-9/11, such as rendition and torture, can be expected as problems multiply. Clear indications of new thinking remain scarce. “Liddism” still rules. It is better to be prepared for the long haul.”


Photo credit: OpenDemocracy.net

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  • Blog
  • November 30th, 2017

NATO statement decrying nuclear ban treaty full of errors

NATO-NAC Meeting image
On Wednesday, November 22nd, Rideau Institute President and former Disarmament Ambassador Peggy Mason testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence during its deliberations on Canada’s involvement in NATO. The entirety of her written submission can be accessed by clicking here.

Part of her testimony focused in detail on the extraordinary statement issued in the name of NATO members, commenting negatively on the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on the very day it opened for signature:

“The NATO statement contains multiple errors, misinterpretations of international law and just plain inanities, which would be bad enough if they were only being mouthed by nuclear weapons states but which are shockingly inappropriate for a non-nuclear weapons state …. like Canada, with a long and proud history of championing nuclear disarmament even in the darkest days of the Cold War.”

The most egregious assertion in the September 20th NATO statement is that the new Nuclear Ban Treaty “risks undermining the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)”, which NATO correctly describes as “the heart of global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts for almost 50 years”.

Precisely the opposite is true. Those states who sought to abort the nuclear ban treaty negotiation and who are now futilely trying to prevent it coming into force are of course the ones who are undermining the NPT!

“Such a state of affairs is regrettably not that unusual when it comes to the western nuclear weapons states. What is truly unprecedented and unacceptable is that non-nuclear weapons states like Canada have joined in this calumny.”

The second blatantly inaccurate assertion is that the nuclear ban treaty “will not engage any state actually possessing nuclear weapons”.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As Mason explained:

“Article 6 of the Nuclear Prohibition Treaty lays out in detail two methods for nuclear weapons states to join the treaty – through a “destroy and join” methodology or a “join and destroy” process, with the IAEA as the appropriate international body to take control of all resulting fissile material from decommissioned nuclear warheads.”

One of the more hilarious parts of the statement – if the issue were not so deadly serious – is the assertion that the nuclear ban treaty “risks… creating divisions and divergences at a time when a unified approach to proliferation and security threats is required more than ever.”

The General Assembly vote launching the ban treaty negotiation (which was then boycotted by all NATO members except the Netherlands) was a vote of 130 in favour (including 3 brave NATO members – Albania, Estonia and Italy), 12 abstentions (including Netherlands, China, India and Pakistan) and 31 against (including Canada and the rest of NATO).

In other words, the MINORITY causing the disunity and lack of consensus is accusing the overwhelming majority of being the ones at fault.

Peggy Mason then went on to suggest that NATO members would be wise to read the 1996 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons except in the very narrowest of circumstances where the “very survival of the state” might be at stake:

“The court ruled that in every other circumstance the use of nuclear weapons (and therefore the threat to so use them) would be manifestly illegal under international law because of the inability of the use of nuclear weapons to meet the fundamental requirements of international humanitarian law in terms of discrimination between military and civilian targets and proportionality as between the military objective and the collateral damage.”

Thus, the statement at the 2017 Halifax Security Forum by the Commander of the U.S. nuclear arsenal to the effect that he would never follow an order to use nuclear weapons that was illegal under international law was perhaps even more meaningful than he had intended.

So where does all this leave Canada?

“The answer is clear. It is our legal obligation under Article VI of the NPT to begin the process of signing and ratifying the Nuclear Ban Treaty by absenting ourselves from NATO’s nuclear doctrine[1] and beginning a dialogue with NATO with the aim of convincing other non-nuclear weapons states in NATO to similarly renounce NATO’s unnecessary, dangerously provocative and counterproductive nuclear posture.”

Without such action, NATO, the most powerful conventional military alliance on earth, is on the one hand proclaiming that it needs nuclear weapons for its own security while, on the other hand, telling North Korea, as that country faces off against the United States and its allies, that it does not.

Click here for the  full written presentation by Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence.


Photo credit: Wikimedia images.


[1] There is a long history in NATO of individual states absenting themselves from particular aspects of nuclear or other doctrine with which they disagree, and signalling their disagreement through a “footnote” in official communiqués. The most famous example is that of France absenting itself from the Nuclear Planning Group.

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  • Blog
  • November 21st, 2017

15 months on, Canada still has not pledged actual troops for an actual UN peace operation


Our previous blog post featured a new publication from ten experts discussing What Canada Has Done And Should Be Doing For UN Peace Operations (WFM-Canada, John Trent, editor, November 2017).

This week we focus on the results of the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial hosted by Canada in Vancouver on 14-15 November.

Sadly Canada failed to deliver on its long overdue commitment to provide up to 600 military and 150 police personnel for UN peace operations, a pledge it made in August of 2016.

“Canada has missed an historic opportunity to make a real difference. UN peacekeeping, which puts political reconciliation and good governance at the heart of the effort, is the best hope for countries seeking to emerge from violent conflict into sustainable peace.” – Peggy Mason, Rideau Institute

At the Vancouver Ministerial Meeting on Peace Operations, Prime Minister Trudeau, accompanied by Defence Minister Sajjan, Foreign Minister Freeland, and International Cooperation Minister Bibeau, did offer some new pledges of support.  These include:

  • making specialized equipment and personnel available on a case-by-case basis, including up to 200 troops and accompanying equipment, an aviation task force of armed helicopters, and tactical airlift;
  • joining the “Elsie Initiative” to increase the proportion of women deployed in UN peace operations; and
  • support for a set of non-binding principles on reducing recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Walter Dorn, President, World Federalist Movement – Canada, and Professor of Defence Studies, Royal Military College assessed this radically reduced contribution in the following terms:

“The smaller contributions that Canada has offered may be useful to the UN but they are not at the scale or importance of what was promised. In addition, it will be a challenge for Canada to provide international leadership on peacekeeping training given the low levels of experience and knowledge among Canadian Armed Forces regarding UN peace operations.”

To be clear, over one year after the original commitment was made, Canada still has not identified a UN mission to which it will contribute or a timeframe for doing so, despite the urgent need for professional soldiers in many current UN peacekeeping missions.

One area that has garnered a lot of attention has been the commitment to increasing the number of women peacekeepers:

“The stated support for the Women, Peace and Security agenda is encouraging. But it’s hard to see how Canada can actually fulfill many of their recently-announced Women, Peace and Security priorities if Canadian peacekeepers are sitting on the sidelines.” – Monique Cuillerier, WFM – Canada representative to the NGO Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada

For a further critique of the government’s Vancouver pledges on UN peacekeeping, click here for the CBC radio interview  with RI President Peggy Mason.

Photo credit: Government of Canada

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  • Blog
  • November 16th, 2017

New publication on Canada and UN peacekeeping

Canada and the UN 2014

With the United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference having taken place in Vancouver earlier this week, the World Federalist Movement Canada has released the 2017 edition of “The United Nations and Canada: What Canada has done and should be doing for UN peace operations”, a collection of ten articles by civil society experts on the state of Canada’s involvement with international peacekeeping.

“Peacekeeping has become an essential element of international security in a globalized world… There is a compelling case for Canada doing more to fulfil its responsibilities. We are needed by the UN and by the world…” – John Trent, editor and current Fellow of the Centre on Governance (University of Ottawa)

At a time when Canadian involvement with UN peacekeeping efforts has stagnated, it is more important than ever for citizens and civil society organizations to demand greater participation from the Canadian government in mediating and resolving these complex global challenges. The articles included in this publication make a strong and wide-reaching case for how and why Canada should seek more robust re-engagement with UN peacekeeping mechanisms, particularly if we hope to acquire a seat on the Security Council in 2020.

Walter Dorn, President of the World Federalist Movement – Canada, highlights the atrophying of Canadian peacekeeping under the Harper government and the lack of forward progress under the Trudeau Liberals, despite repeated promises of Canada’s return to multilateralism.

“Two years after Trudeau claimed on election night that Canada was back (a claim he reiterated in his 2016 UN General Assembly address), we have yet to see the peacekeeping promises fulfilled.” – Walter Dorn

Meanwhile, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason outlines why UN peace operations are worth the risk in her article, The “Value Added” of UN Peacekeeping.

“When properly mandated, resourced and managed, UN peacekeeping offers the best chance for a society emerging from violent conflict… Many current UN missions may have comprehensive mandates to build sustainable peace but they manifestly lack the professional forces and equipment to provide the secure environment necessary for peace to take hold.

The full potential of UN peacekeeping will not be realized until countries like Canada meaningfully re-engage.” – Former Disarmament Ambassador Peggy Mason

Another important discussion comes from former Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, in his article Peacekeeping and security for refugees, regarding one of the most pressing elements of contemporary peacekeeping: refugee management.

“With climate change, famine, armed conflict all on the rise, the way the world comes to grips with the rising number of refugees needs a major re-set… Our contributions to peace operations and to refugee system reform can provide important reasons for other UN member states to view positively Canada’s candidacy for election in 2019 for a two-year term on the UN Security Council in 2020-21.” – Lloyd Axworthy

Beth Woroniuk, coordinator and co-founder of the Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada, in her article, Gender Perspectives and Peacekeeping: More than Deploying more Women, highlights the importance of non-military solutions:

“… the value of the women, peace and security agenda is its potential for transformation rather than greater representation of women in existing paradigms of military response.” – UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).


The 2017 edition of “The United Nations and Canada” and previous versions can be found at https://unitednationsandcanada.org/


Photo credit: WFM-Canada

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New RI Report on flaws in Arms Trade Treaty implementing legislation

ATT- Report Bill C-47 (Oct31)

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