Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Much Ado About Much Ado

Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) has taken center stage for the “everything associated with George Bush is bad” crowd. Their furious tilting at the BMD windmill seems to render them incapable of grasping some simple facts.

Great concern is being expressed about the future weaponization of space. Rightly or wrongly, space became weaponized on October 4th, 1957 when Sputnik 1 was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. BMD, per se, is not about weaponization; it is about protection. The Russians aren’t particularly fussed about it and the U.S. has offered to share defensive technology with other countries. What weaponization that may or may not follow is completely beyond our control, in any event.

Socialists decry the waste of money; and it is a lot of money, to be sure. The point is that it is their money and the American people seem to have given George Bush the mandate to spend it.

Many express concern about a new arms race. Did NORAD start a new arms race in 1958, just because it was a new capability put in place to counter the perceived threat? Sure, we were simply talking about airplanes that had been around for about fifty years or so, give or take. Now we’re talking about space that has had its domain entered for the past fifty years or so, give or take. In case some of those folks haven’t noticed, there are regimes out there that could care less about western liberal humanitarian values. Some may also have noticed that Vladimir Putin has never really given up on the dreams of the Soviet Empire. My recollection of the Cold War (Which was really World War III and we won; thank you, Ronald Reagan.) is that we were probably safer under the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) concept than we are today. Both super-powers kept their subordinates in check.

“Brilliant” scientists piously proclaim that the bullet-versus-bullet technology will never work. I attended a noontime CBC forum in Edmonton Centre at the base of our office tower last week. The topic was BMD and, as one might imagine, the CBC crowd was pretty hostile towards the concept. Speaking for Canada’s involvement was an extremely articulate young lady, named Mercedes Stevenson (sp?), and speaking against was Mel Hurtig, who needs no introduction. Mercedes stood up to Mel and the mob extremely well and stuck to facts and logic, as opposed to Hurtig’s hysterical hyperbole. Hurtig kept trotting out his “brilliant” scientists as proof-positive that BMD would never work.

I got into the question line and was just about the only one who didn’t lecture Mercedes as if she were George Bush himself and every other devil incarnate that they could conjure up. I pointed out to Mr. Hurtig that the definition of a “brilliant” scientist seemed to be one with whom you agreed ideologically, and asked him why Mercedes’ scientists were any less brilliant, just because they gave him the “wrong” answer. I got my expected response, which was a frothy fluffing of his notebook at me, and the obvious-to-him explanation that it was because he was Mel Hurtig and I was not.

I then asked for a purely scientific answer to an obvious and simple question. Given that so many things that are accepted as commonplace today have been deemed as impossible by “brilliant” scientists over the centuries, how can anyone say that anything will never work? There really is only one answer to this, but more frothing at the mouth and fluffing up his notes made it clear that Mr. Hurtig is anything but a scientist. I suspect that he may be related to those famous flat-earth chappies of centuries past.

One of Hurtig’s “brilliant” scientists, Ted Postol, has made the point that any debris from missiles shot down could land in Canada. This is the same Ted Postol who said that the technology would never work. Which is it, Ted? Apparently, Postol’s “brilliant” scientific mind can’t visualize what happens when two objects collide at 25,000 knots. Makes “hair on fire” and “corn flakes” kind of relative, doesn’t it? And, what did he think was going to happen to the Russian Bears that would have fallen to the mighty arrows from Clunks, Voodoos and Hornets?

George Bush has manoeuvred Paul Martin into a very uncomfortable corner. None of us knows exactly what is being proposed as Canada’s involvement, but it’s probably not much more than other than simple political acquiescence. In any event, our involvement is happening as we speak, under agreements already in place. Paul Martin is so afraid of an ill-informed public whipped into hysteria by the anti-Bush forces that he seems to be paralyzed. His cataplectic mutterings about our control over our own airspace are pathetic and totally misleading. He and his predecessors gave up the capability to control our own airspace, except for specific periods at a low level of participation. Any control that we do have is vested in our participation in NORAD.

BMD is going to happen no matter what we decide. The world is not looking for leadership from Canada on this, or any other issue, because we have made ourselves increasingly irrelevant, with our deeds not matching our words. Several countries have already signed on in support of BMD, such as Great Britain, Denmark (Greenland) and Australia; and they’re not even under the shield.

All we will accomplish by saying no is to be shut out of parts of NORAD; lose yet more input into our own sovereignty; show ourselves to be an unreliable ally and friend; further alienate isolationist and protectionist forces in our biggest trading partner; and succumb to pressures from those who promote weakness as the path to security and prosperity.

I know where my vote lies.

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