The Americans have stopped calling it Star Wars: even they realized that doing so made the idea look sillier than it is. Still, the proposed National Missile Defence System is a bad idea for so many reasons that Canada should unequivocally reject participating in it.

Defence Minister John McCallum announced at the end of May that Canada would enter into talks with the Americans. The government has already agreed to a Canadian role in “debris acceptance” — we will let the U.S. try to blow up missiles over our country and “accept” the rubble that will rain down on our heads in the unlikely event that they succeed.

McCallum stated that, “It is our responsibility to ensure any arrangement protects our national interests. This will be at the forefront of our discussions.”

McCallum’s boss, Prime Minister Jean Chretien (for the moment, at least) has overcome his previously-stated objections to the missile defence shield. Chretien stated, “It’s a different project that involves the protection of North American territory, and geographically it is necessary for us to participate in talks on this.”

Only the fact that shadow Prime Minister Paul Martin, and Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper, are calling for even more sucking up to the Americans keeps Chretien from looking like the biggest sycophant ever to occupy 24 Sussex Drive.

Harper actually went so far as to suggest that, “Canada is slowly getting shoved outside its own air defence. We are slowly becoming marginal players in NORAD. That process will continue unless we work hand in glove with our partners in NORAD, the United States.”

McCallum argued that, “If we are not inside the tent, our ability to influence the American decision” is limited, he argued. What nonsense! The Americans aren’t interested in having their decision influenced; they want countries to agree with whatever they decide to do. As backbench Liberal MP Sarkis Assadourian notes, “They’re going to go ahead anyway.”

One of McCallum’s stated objectives is to stop the weaponization of space, but he admits that he is “unclear” about the American position on the issue. According to the website of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, the decision to based weapons in space has already been made:

“For global power, space capabilities can augment other forces to provide tailored effects, including directed energy projection for force application, against terrestrial and space-based targets. The far-term will focus more on offensive capabilities as our space forces move beyond being primarily force multipliers to also being direct force providers. We will provide multiple options to the JFC [Joint Forces Commander] and the NCA [National Command Authority] to deploy precision strike weapon systems with global range able to inflict tailored effects against terrestrial targets from and through space in a matter of minutes or seconds.”

NDP Leader Jack Layton criticizes the fact that “they try to claim this is not Star Wars. This is the first step. It’s a trillion-dollar step that we’re embarking on here.” He adds that, “the Bush Administration has a vision for world security based on weaponry and unilateral, often pre-emptive, strikes. I do not believe that vision is shared by Canadians who have consistently supported multilateral approaches to foreign policy — from Kyoto to the landmines treaty to the international criminal court.”

Outside of George Lucas’ computer generated special effects, Star Wars does not even work. Anti-missile missile tests have missed their target by over one hundred miles. Further tests have been cancelled. As well, when terrorists armed with box cutters can hijack planes and fly them into buildings, even a missile defence system that works would be useless in defending against “rogue states.”

What Star Wars will be very good for is channelling vast amounts of resources — the current estimate being US$230 billion — away from necessary government programs and putting it in the hands of the arms dealers that fund both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Star Wars will violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a key element of arms control, so the U.S. simply pulled out of the treaty. Jean Chretien once described the ABM Treaty as “the cornerstone of strategic stability, ” but the federal government is now willing to go along with scrapping its provisions.

“What kind of a world order do the Liberals support when they want to join a system that would not be able to be developed if arms control treaties were obeyed?” Layton asked. “Canada should be a voice for arms control, not a supporter of a system that threatens to spark new arms development. Star Wars can only destabilize.”


Scott Piatkowski

Scott Piatkowski is a former columnist for He wrote a weekly column for 13 years that appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle, the Woolwich Observer and ECHO Weekly. He has also written for Straight...