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Book Reviews

Book cover: CANADA AND BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENCE, 1954-2009 – DÉJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN, by James G. Fergusson

CANADA AND BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENCE, 1954-2009 – DÉJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN by James G. Fergusson

Reviewed by Fred Brulier

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CANADA AND BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENCE, 1954-2009
– DÉJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
by James G. Fergusson
Vancouver/Toronto: UBC Press, 2011
332 pages (+xviii), $85.00 (HC), $34.95 (PB)
ISBN 978-0-7748-1750-9 (HC)
ISBN 978-0-7748-1751-6 (PB)

Reviewed by Fred Brulier

The author, Dr. James Fergusson, is the Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, a professor in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba, and a Senior Research Fellow with the Canadian and Foreign Affairs Institute.  Frequently referred to as Canada’s ‘Mr. Ballistic Missile Defence,’ James Fergusson is recognized as a Canadian national security expert, and he has been commissioned to write several reports on the subject by the Department of National Defence (DND). Additionally, he has testified to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veteran’s Affairs (SCODVA), and has lectured at the Canadian Forces College.

Prior to this reviewed work, Dr. Fergusson’s recent publications in the area of ballistic missile defence include a collaborative effort with Wilson Wong, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies in Winnipeg, entitled The Military Uses of Outer Space (Westport: Praeger Security International, 2010); and another collaborative effort with David McDonough, a Doctoral Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies and a Research Associate at Dalhousie University’s Centre for International Policy Studies, entitled “WMD, Proliferation and Missile Defence: A Canadian Perspective,” in Thomas Adams and David S. McDonough (eds.), Canada’s National Security Strategy, Interests and Threats (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010).He has also recently authored Beneath the Radar: Change and Transformation in the Canada-US North American Defence Relationship (Calgary: Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, 2009).

Drawing from collected interviews of government officials, previously classified government documents, and media archives, Ferguson presents, in Canada and Ballistic Missile Defence, 1954-2009, a comprehensive review of Canada’s ballistic missile defence policies. He demonstrates that our decision makers in Ottawa sometimes sacrificed our national defence interests for a notion of international security. The author makes a compelling case that Canada’s policy on ballistic missile defence has been akin to a ‘dysfunctional diplomatic tango’ to avoid the issue. He discusses the weakness of successive Canadian governments to think strategically, and to formulate a clear statement with respect to nuclear defence. He brings to our attention what he believes to be Ottawa’s timid decision making in matters of nuclear defence, often influenced by domestic issues, as well as the ebb and flow of Canadian public opinion with respect to US policies.

Fergusson describes very skilfully the ambiguity of our ballistic defence policy making due to interdepartmental rivalry, exacerbated by a lack of leadership from successive prime ministers. In support of this analysis, Ferguson uses the example of internal strife between DND and the Department of Foreign and International Affairs (DFAIT) over the issue of ballistic missile defence. He maintains that DND, seeking to foster a closer US-Canada relationship, advocated a greater commitment from the government to the nuclear defence issue. In contrast, DFAIT wanted to keep the issue ‘at arms length’ in order to preserve the image of Canada as a fair and honest broker, independent of US defence policy.

Dr. Fergusson believes that a lack of proper cabinet deliberation and defence strategy on the issue of ballistic missile defence had a negative impact upon our relations with the US. By way of example, he cites Prime Minister Paul Martin’s announcement, made, Fregusson posits, without proper consultation, that Canada would say no to participation in the US ballistic missile defence program. This response, which was unexpected by the Americans, resulted in retaliation from the US in the form of information sharing barriers, especially those pertaining to ballistic missile defence.

As a result, and based in part upon my own rather extensive experience in NORAD, Canadians have had to work hard to try and regain some of the freedom of access we once enjoyed with the Americans. Further, Dr. Fergusson believes that our lack of coherent defence strategy has made NORAD overall less of a ‘player’ in US defence policy, and, in some respects, subservient to the United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM) mission.

This book provides a good understanding of the environment Canada was operating under during the period under consideration, and the influence it had upon our ballistic missile defence decision making. Dr. Fergusson has posited the weakness of our policy making, and I for one believe this book should serve as a ‘lessons learned’ reference for our political and military leadership with respect to development of coherent strategic policies. It is also a very useful historical source for students and scholars of politics and history.

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Major Fred Brulier, CD, a highly experienced air weapons controller, has had tours of duty at 22nd NORAD Region Headquarters, North Bay, Ontario, the Regional Software Support Facility at Tyndall AFB in Florida, 12 Radar Squadron, Bagotville, Quebec, Fighter Group Headquarters in North Bay, 21 ACWS Squadron of the NATO Airborne Early Warning Force in Geilenkirchen, Germany, and the joint US/Canada System Support Facility at Tyndall AFB. He is currently a staff officer for professional development at the Canadian Defence Academy in Kingston.

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