Thursday, November 10, 2005

Canada and the US Get Closer

The Canadian and US publics have somewhat differing views on the security threats their countries face -- not least the subject of terrorism. Canada may have chosen not to support the ballistic-missile defense program, but don't read too much into that.

Public policy analysts from both countries during a panel presentation today at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, discussed how Canadians and Americans view domestic security, and generally agreed that while Canadians are more cognizant of terrorism today that they were before 9-11, they don't really think it could happen in Canada. As Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates, said, "The perception is: 'Canada is the good guy. Why would they want to attack us?'"

But the two countries' militaries have a very close working relationship -- in fact, it's probably the closest aspect of Canadian-US relations, said Dwight Mason of the CSIS research group, and the Canadian and US militaries have basically the same philosophy when it comes to preparing for existing and future threats (see "Expecting the Unexpecting"). Canada traditionally has had something of a peacekeeping emphasis for its military, but that is changing, speakers and participants at the Wilson Center event noted.

While Canada will continue to have its own unique interests (see "Warmer Waters"), its international deployments are no longer just peacekeeping operations, said Canada's military attache in Washington, even if people in the US and Canada don't realize that. "What we're doing in Kandahar is not exactly peacekeeping," he said. "We know that but the public doesn't exactly, so we have a marketing effort to do in our country as well as here."

As for preparing for future threats, even though Canada blew off missile defense, it is being consulted on the US development of the Quadrennial Defense Review, and is doing a similar project of its own. It may not have as much money to spend as the US, but Canada is also in the midst of weighing the relative merits of troop strength, equipment, and technology. As is always the case, more money spent in one area means less available for another.

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