After a deluge of opinion pieces and editorials condemning Paul Martin's decision to opt out of BMD -- even the Toronto Star was eager for Canada to sign on to, uh, whatever it is we were being asked to sign on to -- the other side of argument is beginning to leak onto the op-ed pages of the nation.
The fact is that a majority of Canadians are opposed to joining BMD. It's a political no-brainer and none of the federal parties, not even the Conservatives, are ready to endorse ballistic missile defence right now, some because of worries about arm races and the weaponization of space, and others for the simple reason that we still don't know exactly what we are being asked to write a blank "political approval" cheque for...
It takes an American commentator, however, to point out not even the Republicans are willing to give Bush free rein on this. Check out Michael O'Hanlon, author of 'Defending America: The Case for Limited Ballistic Missile Defense' and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, defending Canada in the Christian Science Monitor today:
What Bush administration officials need to remember is that they almost surely could not get blanket endorsement for all of the above missile defense systems even in the US. Congress has provided funding just for deployment of a limited land-based system and for research and development of other possible concepts. It has not bought into a grandiose architecture of the type that many Pentagon planners still envision. Nor is Bush unwise enough to request such an open-ended endorsement from Congress.Now, the way Martin and, particularly, McKenna mangled and continue to mangle the diplomacy on this... Well, that's a whole other kettle of beef. (Time to go back to International Relations 201, perhaps?)
Indeed, his budget request for 2006 cuts missile defense, in recognition of the facts that the relevant technologies are proving slow to develop and that other, nonmissile threats seem more pressing. Yet it was at this moment the president asked Canada for something he probably could not get from the Republican-controlled legislature in his own country.
If Bush had wanted help with a specific missile defense test, further cooperation at NORAD, the right for a US ship hosting a missile defense radar to call at Canadian ports, or something else specific and finite, he probably could have gotten it. But instead, he asked for the moon, and was surprised when the answer was "no."
It is time to walk this subject back. For now, Canada doesn't want to support the US further on missile defense. That's fine, because there's nothing more the US needs to ask Ottawa to do at the moment. Let the issue cool, proceed with other business such as trade, cooperation against terrorist threats, and NATO operations in Afghanistan (where Canada has contributed enormously) - and revisit this subject when there is something finite and reasonable to request.