Friday, June 04, 2004

Is a Military a Necessity for All States? 

Over at Tilting at Windmills, Kevin Brennan wonders why Canada has a military:
No, seriously. Why do we bother?

I mean, we've heard a lot of debate over our military funding levels, and there have been a number of dire pronouncements asserting that our military is on the verge of collapse. But I have to ask, why should we care?

The conventional purpose for a military is to defend a nation from attack by its neighbours. But let's face reality. There's only one nation capable of threatening Canada, and if that threat were somehow to become a reality (unlikely as that is), there wouldn't be anything we could do about it anyway. It's not a question of the Americans being asked to defend us, because what, exactly, are we being defended from?
I'm going to resist the temptation to go all Kenneth Waltz here and just note that in the immediate term, this question actually makes sense.

Brennan lists some credible alternatives and considers their implications for force structure and the like, including having a seat at the international table and participating in peacekeeping missions. This second rationale brings up the classic collective action question: why should Canada not just free ride off other states' peacekeeping activities?

There's a whole political science literature on what small states can/should/do do in a unipolar world (if you're interested in citations, e-mail me), and I'd add to Brennan's list at least one idea (drawn from constructivism): Canada has a military because states have militaries. It's not entirely because there are rational ends/means justifications.

More on this soon.

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