The Freedom Party of Canada (while it has yet to field any candidates) has put together just such a policy. It can be found online at freedomparty.ca.
In part it reads:
“the legitimate functions of the military are to respond to and prevent unwelcome invasion of Canadian territory, attacks on Canadian territory, or other acts of war against Canada that occur away from Canadian territory (for example, as against Canadians held hostage by a foreign power or terrorist group). Activities or planned activities anywhere on the globe that have as their purpose or effect an attack on the life, liberty or property of Canadians are legitimate triggers for military response where prudent diplomacy has failed. “
The key point to this policy is that it not only identifies a direct attack on our soil as a trigger for war but it also correctly identifies the need to act preemptively to prevent an attack. It also expands the sphere of action outside of our territory. This would permit, quite rightly, the Canadian military to attack other countries or groups in other countries who have violated the rights of Canadians in those countries as long as diplomatic efforts have been tried and failed.
Let’s look at some recent conflicts Canada has been involved in to see if we have followed such a policy.
It took part in the civil war of Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the United Nations Protection Force and NATO while none of our interests where threatened.
It helped to enforce the no-fly orders of the United Nations in the civil war in Libya when no threat to Canada or Canadians was involved.
It took part in the invasion of Afghanistan in a joint response with other countries to overthrow the Taliban government which was complicit in training terrorists. I believe our involvement there was warranted to protect our nation against possible terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, the reasons the government of the day cited for entering the war was not only national protection but to ensure Canadian leadership in world affairs and to help Afghanistan rebuild. These are not valid reasons for war.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was none of our business. We had no treaty with Kuwait to defend it and yet we willing joined the United Nations in removing Iraq from their territory. Our national interests were not threatened.
At the time of the US’s decision to go into Iraq for the second time Jean Chrétien choose not to get involved. While we knew that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction and was willing to use them (if you don’t believe this you have obviously forgotten about the Halabja massacre) and while such weapons in the hands of a dictator like Saddam Hussein were a threat to his neighbours they were no threat to us and I now believe that staying out of Iraq was the better plan. (At the time I, like many of us, was caught up in the drama and thought we should have assisted.)
What of Iran? Iran is a threat to our ally, the United States. It has an official “Death to America” day. It has called for the annihilation of America and the West. It is a theocracy which has involved itself in the training of terrorist groups like al-qaeda and Hezbollah. It is developing a nuclear weapons program and has recently threatened shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, a vital sea transportation route of vital interest to many nations including our own. If allowed to develop a nuclear weapon it is quite conceivable that it could put it aboard a ship and sail into New York Harbor and detonate it.
Some have said that Iran, like any other nation has the right to defend itself. This is not true. Iran, as a despotic theocracy which does not recognize individual rights or peaceful coexistence with its neighbours has no right to exist under its current leadership.
It is not a particular threat to Canada or Canadians as its eyes seem more fixed on Israel and the US, but if the US is attacked we should retaliate as an ally if asked. Should the US, or Israel preemptively destroy Iran’s ability to get a nuclear weapon? Yes. I believe they should. They have been threatened with what amounts to a declaration of War by the Iranian government. Iran is developing the means to carry out such a threat. They should be stopped. Should Canada join in such a preemptive action? No. We neither have the means nor is the threat to this country as real or immediate as it is to the US and Israel.
Libertarians in the US like Congressman Ron Paul, would have a dovish defense policy very different from the one of the Freedom Party which I described. Paul’s basic policy is to fight only after you have been attacked. This of course would be too late for those killed. A preemptive policy is the only rational one. Ron Paul would also remove the US military out of every other country in the world. I would grant him this: The US has spread itself thin in the world and can certainly reign in much of its forces abroad but to not have bases in areas which are of vital interest to its economy and survival is folly. Keep the bases in the middle east for a possible war with Iran; keep the military in Afghanistan because that country is far too backward to be left without being supervised by civilized adults; keep the military in South Korea and Taiwan for the possible conflicts that may happen there.
We can never forget how hostile a place the world is and how much we are all interconnected. An isolationist foreign policy is not a realistic one if a country is to maintain its interests and sovereignty. However, that being said, a jingoistic policy is also not desirable. Only with a clear idea of what it is you are protecting, who your enemy is, and what your vital national interests are can you develop a defense policy worthy of a free nation.
(Revised from a broadcast of Just Right on January 19, 2012)