Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

Contact Report Banner

Given the increasing pace of change and the uncertainty that is brings around issues of international and defence policy, this series is designed to bring some clarity to current events. Short in duration and timely in delivery, the Contact Report presents views and opinions by our fellows, leveraging the diversity of backgrounds and experiences to provides thoughtful and concise analysis.  We are always looking for such analysis and if you want to contribute, please get in touch with us at CIDP@queensu.ca.

*The views contained in these reports are the author's alone and do not represent those of the CIDP

What is a "Contact Report"?

“Zero, Four-one. Contact, wait out.”

These six words, spoken over a radio, bring an acute focus to all who hear them. Everything else stops. Everything else is suddenly less important. Focus now shifts to ‘Four-one’, the call sign representing a small unit of soldiers who are suddenly engaged in a fire fight – firing their weapons in anger and likely fighting for their lives. ‘Contact’ in this sense means that the small unit has begun engaging the proverbial enemy – they are being shot at and are shooting back. More ominously, they will let ‘zero’ – the headquarters – know when they are done. In essence, they are telling the headquarters, "don’t call us – we’ll call you". More importantly, until the contact is resolved, everybody else stays quiet – and waits.

What they are waiting for is called a contact report. This report follows a format that all combat leaders memorize and consists of where the shooting is coming from, who they think is shooting at them, what they are doing about it, and when the shooting started.

The contact report is designed to be a clear, concise, and precise response to an event. It is designed to get the essential information to those who need to know and, more importantly, may be able to offer support in a timely fashion. In short, what is happening to Four-one may be of importance to other organizations on the same team.

It is in this spirit of precision, concision, and clarity that the CIDP launched "the Contact Report". This series is designed to be a venue for our Fellows to provide their learned opinions on the contacts of the day, in this case international and defence policy-related events. It is designed to do so in a timely but accurate and thoughtful manner that enables us to leverage the knowledge of our researchers to inform the debates that ensue.

Special Series Introduction

H. Christian Breede, Georgie Giannopolous, and Thomas Hughes
26 February 18

Ten months ago we launched our first Contact Report and, since that time, we have showcased informed opinion from our diverse range of fellows. The CIDP, as part of its ongoing mission to inform Canadians on issues pertaining to defence and security policy, supports students within the Queen’s community through the provision of internships and aid to research and publication. In the spirit of this support, we are excited to introduce a mini-series of sorts for the Contact Report. Over the next few weeks, we will showcase a piece from our Political Studies students here at Queen’s. The reports – five in total – will be released every two weeks and represent the best work coming from POLS 465 – The Politics of War, a fourth-year elective course here at Queen’s. This course introduces students to the intricacies of war and conflict and how politics and society shape this violent and pervasive phenomenon. These five reports were selected as the best from a pool of over fifty submissions. We are excited to share them with you here.

Enjoy, and congratulations to Kayla Maria Rolland, Rachel Hardy, Ejaz Thawer, Patrick Dermody, and Sarah Fallavollita, whose work will appear here over the coming weeks, starting with Kayla’s excellent piece on what hybrid war actually looks like.


Russia & Psychological Operations

Kayla Maria Rolland, POLS465, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University

22 February 2018

“Crooked Hillary has ANOTHER coughing fit while bashing President Trump at #Wellesley2017. Choking on her lies?” was just one of the tweets posted by the Twitter account @TEN-GOP in 2017. For months, the pro-Trump Twitter account @TEN-GOP sent out tweets promoting anti-Democrat conspiracy theories, endorsements of Donald Trump’s policies, and racist and islamaphobic content. Appearing to be run by Tennessee Republicans, the account gained over 130,000 followers, and was even retweeted by those in Trump’s inner circle including Donald Trump Jr. The account was shut down in August of 2017, after it was learned that the account was managed not by a proud Republican in Nashville or Chattanooga, but an organization supported by the Russian government. Russia’s recent actions, including during the 2016 Presidential election, should serve as a warning bell to Western states regarding the growing threat posed by information warfare and psychological operations conducted through social media. Through the use of its broadcast network RT, social media, automated bots, and “troll factories,” Russia has been accused of using information warfare to influence public opinion within the United States. Russia’s actions are an example of psychological operations, an element of information warfare that aims to alter the behaviors and attitudes of foreign populations. Through the internet, information is spread with the intention of sowing doubt and confusion. This strategy serves as a powerful tool for states and non-state actors, and is one Western states struggle to counter. 

Scholar Sunil Narula defined psychological operations broadly as, “the planned use of communications to influence human attitudes and behaviour, to create in target groups, behaviour, emotions, and attitudes that support the attainment of national objectives.” The practice is not new.  Records of the use of psychological operations can be traced back to Genghis Khan, who sent agents in advance of the arrival of his men to stoke rumours regarding the size of his army. In 1984, Russia was found to be behind an article in an Indian newspaper that claimed the AIDS virus first emerged as the result of an American genetic-engineering experiment, and during the 1991 Gulf War, 29 million information leaflets were dropped by coalition forces. While the practice is not new, it has gained profound strength with the emergence of the internet. Through the internet, information can now reach unprecedented numbers of people with incredible speed for very little cost. Psychological operations can also be specifically targeted to certain individuals in order to maximize effect. As individuals go about their daily lives on the internet, large amounts of personal data is collected. This data can be used to group individuals based on categories such as political beliefs or religion, and target them with specific content. It is now known that Russia purchased Facebook ads to target specific individuals during the 2016 election.

According to British General Sir. Nicholas Houghton, most wars today involve an online element, where social media networks are used to manipulate public opinion. Yet some have argued that information warfare no longer exists solely in conjunction with conventional warfare as a force multiplier, but in some instances may actually replace it. What we are seeing is the latest generation of warfare, where information has become the central strategy. For states like Russia, this strategy helps them to achieve their objectives while circumventing the superior military capabilities of their rivals. This strategy also requires little sophistication. It is not about the quality of the information spread, but rather the quantity. Much of the information spread by Russia during the 2016 campaign was far less convincing than narratives the USSR disseminated during the Cold War. For example, a message spread by Russian-linked social media accounts proclaiming voters could “avoid the line” and legally vote by tweeting their preference with #PresidentialElection was widely ridiculed as being ridiculous. Yet with psychological operations, an actor does not need to craft a convincing narrative, they merely need to sow doubt. During the 2016 election, Russia’s goal was to sow doubt in American democratic institutions. As explained by journalist Peter Pomerantsev, Russia’s main goal was “to confuse rather than convince... so the audience gives up looking for any truth amid the chaos.”

One positive outcome of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election may be a greater awareness the threat of information warfare, yet responding to these psychological operations poses a predicament for Western powers. Merely keeping up with the volume of information spread is nearly impossible. Western governments do not have the resources to respond to every piece of information that emerges, with the challenge often compared to a game of whack-a-mole. The commitment to truth prevalent in liberal democracies also makes crafting a compelling counternarrative difficult. Offering a truthful counternarrative to compete against sensational information, such as the existence of a child sex-trafficking ring operating out of a D.C pizza parlour, often proves impossible. Professional standards in Western media to report both sides of a story causes further difficulty, as media outlets often end up repeating information spread by psychological operations in their coverage.

Russia’s conduct during the 2016 election was not the country’s first attempt at conducting psychological operations online. Most notably, psychological operations were a key element of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. The country has also been accused of engaging in similar efforts during the 2016 Brexit referendum and 2017 French elections. In addition, Russia is not the only threat who has employed this strategy. The terror group ISIS has shown immense capability at psychological operations, producing high quality web content to recruit foreign fighters and gain sympathy for their cause.

Psychological operations conducted through the internet pose a great threat to Western democracies. If Western states do not direct greater attention to the use of information warfare online, a threat to liberal democracies may just be one click away. 




Rachel Hardy, POLS465, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University

12 March 2018

Arctic sovereignty is a hot topic; as the earth warms, the ice melts, and our technological capabilities increase, attention is slowly drifting northward. As the resource rich north is increasingly becoming part of the collective consciousness of the public and world leaders alike, Canada needs to take a proactive approach to sovereignty, resource management, and the security concerns that a new northern landscape will pose. Action now as opposed to reaction later is the best way to ensure that Canada’s interests are achieved. In order to do this, Canada must solve its territorial dispute with the United States.

There are two main areas in the north that Canada and the United States still dispute, the first being the Northwest Passage, which Canada considers to be internal waters and the United States sees as an international straight. The second is the Beaufort Sea, more specifically where the territorial line through it should be drawn. As one of the last few territorial debates left in the arctic region, it is one that must be solved in order to take proactive steps to ensure resource protection and security in the north. The Canadian Government takes the official stance that the “disagreements are well managed, neither [Canada- U.S. disputes and a Canada-Denmark dispute] posing defence challenges for Canada nor diminishing Canada’s ability to collaborate and cooperate with its Arctic neighbours”. Even accepting this position does not guarantee that the context will remain unchanged in the future. The transformation of the region is slow, and policy regarding the area is just as unhurried in its development and implementation. This procrastination needs to be stopped before the opportunity for proactive decision making deteriorates to reactive action.

In determining the position Canada must take, there are three main concerns regarding the territorial control over the disputed areas. Canada must look to its economic options, its affairs regarding its sovereign territory, including treaties with the Inuit peoples, and security concerns that are inherent, and complicated by, the dispute within the region.

Economically, the far north is a resource-rich geographical region, and as the climate changes and technology becomes increasingly adept these resources are now viable. The Beaufort Sea is rich in both oil and gas resources, with the potential for a strong fishing industry. The Northwest Passage offers opportunities for tourism, research, shipping and other transportation related endeavours. Fishing is as promising as it is contentious as many parties are desirous of the opportunity to access the territory. Due to the fragile nature of the northern ecosystem such practices must be strictly regulated. Furthermore, development regarding oil and gas would be a long-term endeavour due to necessary environmental regulation, the high cost, and difficulty accessing the area, not to mention the failure of past attempts to access these resources that hangs over potential investors.

Regarding sovereignty, both Canada and the United States have made public their claims to the small, pie shaped wedge of the Beaufort Sea, the disputed part caused by the different perspectives on the territorial delineation. Any Canadian claims to sovereignty over the region have an added consideration of past agreements made with the Inuit peoples who inhabit the area, much of which is their ancestral land and fishing territory. Any decision relating to the Beaufort Sea and fishing in the region must be made with representatives from the Inuit leadership in order to maintain not only self-governance of the region but continued access to its resources by regulating sustainable resource practices.

Security concerns lend urgency to the sovereignty dispute. The very fact that it is an issue concerning sovereignty means that compromise can be difficult to reach, but also necessitates it. As the arctic transit routes become more porous through technological advances and changing geography, the separation that the arctic provides between Canada and Russia/the Asian peninsula becomes more porous. It is not only shipping companies that are realizing the potential of these new transportation routes. The annexation of Crimea, interference in the presidential election in the United States, and continued support of the Asaad regime are examples of proxy territorial disputes more at home in Cold War conceptualizations than in modern discourse, yet such current events coupled with nuclear threats over social media increase the urgency for Canada to seek assurance regarding the northern border. The practical reality is that Canada must be able to enforce its claim over the contested regions, both for security and to maintain legitimacy. Search and rescue in the area will be an important part of this concept as travel increases. Most importantly, if the Northwest Passage is declared an international straight (which is the position taken by the United States) then it will be open for all to freely traverse through the archipelagic islands of Canada’s north. This poses a security risk for both Canada’s north and Alaska, which sits at the western end of the Northwest Passage.

There is a clear position Canada must to bring to the negotiating table to enable all three of the aforementioned concerns to be addressed. Canada has a stronger position regarding Northwest Passage than it does in its claim to the disputed portion of the Beaufort Sea. Therefore, Canada can acquiesce to the American position on the Beaufort Sea in exchange for the backing of its claim over the Northwest Passage. Canada will retain natural resource rights in its portion of the Beaufort Sea, gain legitimacy in its claim to the Northwest Passage and open dialogue for further cooperation in the region regarding regulation and security. As the less powerful and more northerly state, Canada has an interest in settling this dispute expediently. Delaying offers the opportunity for foreign parties to take advantage of such indecision and use the Northwest Passage, creating a precedent where Canada does not have control. Reaching an agreement with the United States not only furthers Canada’s claims of sovereignty in the north, but also makes it more plausible for Canada to enforce these claims and sustainably manage resources and relations in the region.



Sherman Xiaogang Lai, PhD, Department of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada
15 February 2018

Years before Donald Trump called him “short and fat” and “Little Rocket Man,” Kim Jong-un had acquired the nickname Kim San pang, Sanpang for short, in China. This can be translated as “Fat Kim III”. The name has two Chinese characters: san (three) and pang (fat). San refers to his relationship (grandson) with Kim Il-song, who brought China into the Korean War and earned himself the nickname Daliu (big tumour) because of a visible sarcoma on the back of his neck and the damage he caused to China. Kim Jong-il, Jong-un’s father, did not have a nickname. There was no need: the Chinese characters for Jong-il’s name sound, in Mandarin, like “a man who is screwing.” Although crass, the intention is clear.

These nicknames demonstrate the Chinese public’s frustration with the troubling Kim dynasty. However, until North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test in 2006, the Kims and North Korea were a taboo subject in China, even among academics. The Kim family and North Korea concern not only Beijing’s security posture in Northeast Asia and its mysterious national victory over the Chinese Nationalists in 1949 but also numerous Chinese interest groups, ranging from the People’s Liberation Army and state-owned enterprises to elite ruling families. These families’ linkage with Kim the Daliu can be traced to the 1930s, when he was a mid-ranking guerrilla fighter under the command of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Although few in Beijing are happy with Pyongyang, as a Chinese official acknowledged privately, “[The Kims are [China’s] spoilt brats. No matter how bad they are, could we kill them?” With North Korea’s first nuclear test, Beijing’s Pyongyang headache was growing.

A year after Jong-un succeeded his father in 2011, Xi Jinping came to power in China. In striking contrast to Jong-un’s inherited rule, Xi came from a CCP elite family but worked as a common peasant in a poor village during the Cultural Revolution. He climbed to the top through China’s system of meritocracy, thanks at least in part to his own efforts and capacity. As a show of his closeness to the common people, shortly after his appointment, Xi went for breakfast to a Beijing common worker’s canteen, where he ordered baozi, a kind of steamed bun with fillings. Unfortunately, Xi’s gesture garnered him the nickname Xi baozi, and baozi in Chinese also means incompetence. Fortunately for Xi, his appointment came at a moment of peace and prosperity that had been unseen in China since the 1720s and that brought the Chinese people a good life that their ancestors had not been able to dream of. But Chinese society has never been more polarized, and China’s international situation has never been as unfriendly as now. China has not a single friend except for Pakistan, a de facto client state. But its economy needs new markets and new raw materials. In the meantime, Beijing has to handle difficult, intertwined problems inherited from its revolutionary and imperial past, among these the issue of Taiwan and the territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Jong-un’s nuclear weapons advances increases Xi’s difficulties tremendously by creating a diplomatic dilemma. If Xi does not support the worldwide efforts to de-nuclearize Pyongyang, China will be alienating itself from the international community. Xi will also have to face a nuclear-weapons–armed Jong-un. And Jong-un will then have greater resources and leverage to abuse its relations with Beijing. Xi will without doubt become a baozi on Jong-un’s plate if he does not support the international efforts. But neither does he want to see a collapse of the Pyongyang regime, let alone a new Korean war. North Korea serves as a natural barrier protecting China’s critical areas, namely Beijing and the Northeast. The plight of the North Korean people also helps maintain the loyalty to Beijing of millions of Chinese ethnic Koreans. These are the reasons for which Beijing rescued and offered protection to Pyongyang in 1950. But the Kims do not trust Beijing, finding China’s Korea policy, and especially its close economic and political ties with Seoul, an insult.

As North Korea will be a direct nuclear threat to the continental US in the near future, US President Donald Trump may be inclined to a military solution, a scenario that alarms Xi. As a result, Xi has adopted a stick-and-carrot strategy. While agreeing to international sanctions, he has also repeated to Jong-un China’s guarantee to protect Pyongyang. But Jong-un has shown no sign that he is prepared to step back. The approach of war is forcing Xi to consider whether China should or even can rescue Pyongyang again. He would like to see the Chinese public discuss this issue openly and reach a consensus on the question.

Two opposing groups have emerged. At one end are intellectuals arguing for deserting Pyongyang; at the other are bureaucrats insisting on maintaining North Korea’s role as a buffer zone. The latter group forms a bureaucratic resistance against any attempts to dismiss Pyongyang as China’s buffer zone. This resistance grows as the situation in Korea becomes increasingly tense.

A recently revealed document, said to be a top-secret decision on the situation in North Korea by the CCP’s General Office on 19 September 2017, demonstrates this bureaucratic resistance. This document claims that North Korea plays such an “irreplaceable” role in China’s national security that China must defend it at all costs. The document mandates the CCP’s International Liaison Department (ILD) to coordinate China’s North Korea policy to convince Pyongyang to exchange its nuclear program for China’s up-to-date short- and intermediate-range missile systems. Although the spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) claims that the document is a fake, the ILD is the principal agency with which Pyongyang has been working, rather than the MoFA, and its history can be traced back to the 1930s, a decade before the MoFA was founded. Xi’s envoy to Pyongyang in November 2017 was the ILD’s head, with whom Jong-un refused to meet in person.

Whether or not this document is authentic, what is true is that the ILD does play a special role in the bilateral relations between Beijing and Pyongyang. The ILD, however, is a remnant of the era of Communist revolutions, as is China’s CCP autocracy. Deng Xiaoping’s pragmatic market-oriented reforms forty years ago, which would lead to Beijing’s close ties with Seoul, saved his Communist party-state from the fate of his European comrades. Pyongyang was able to exploit some of China’s outdated agencies such as ILD and accuse Beijing of betraying their common cause of Communism. Beijing cannot afford an ideological debate against Pyongyang as it did against Moscow during the 1960s. This kind of debate would promote Maoism in China and split the CCP leadership and the Chinese society. Beijing therefore selected a strategy to buy Pyongyang’s quietness.  It is not an exaggeration to say that Pyongyang hijacked Beijing in the Korean War and has not set it free. If Xi does not want to be a baozi on Jong-un’s plate, he will have to reform his agencies and alter fundamentally Beijing’s relations with Pyongyang.


Some Fresh Options

Grace Jaramillo, PhD, Fellow, CIDP

18 January 2018

Venezuela just moved one further step into the downward whirlwind of polarization and civil violence. Just this past week, lieutenant Oscar Perez was executed – all captured on Facebook Live – while the lieutenant was asking for the possibility of surrender to the official forces. Lieutenant Perez was leading one of the many rebel groups which had taken up arms against the government of Nicolas Maduro. Lieutenant Perez did exactly what former lieutenant Hugo Chávez did in 1993, for which he was pardoned the following year. Notwithstanding this precedent, Maduro is meeting all uprisings with the full force of the government – including the military. As the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has declared that the Venezuelan government may have committed crimes against humanity, it is fair to ask when and how this crisis started and more importantly, what can be done to address it.

If we should mark a date for the commencement of the latest democratic breakdown, it should be April 14th 2013. By this time, the economy was in dire straits. From 2004 to 2013, amidst a boom in oil prices, Venezuela had already run fiscal deficits of around 17% of GDP, according to the Venezuelan economist Ricardo Hausmann. In the preceding months, the regime had contracted immense amounts of debt. Following a dramatic drop in the price of oil, the government desperately overheated the economy in order to guarantee an easy re-election for a cancer-ridden populist leader. Chavez won the presidency for the third time in October 2012, without being able to campaign in person due to his treatment. He would never be sworn into office.

The result was immediate political turmoil. Maduro assumed power and faced the immediate effects of the economic crisis. His economic team halted payment of imported goods almost immediately, expropriated even more private companies and called the crisis an economic war initiated by the so-called ‘oligarchy’ and the United States upon Venezuela. The effects were devastating for the population as a whole: food scarcity and harsh restrictions on basic grocery items like toilet paper and diapers followed. The imposed price controls and ensuing food and supply rationing pushed the country into a full-scale humanitarian crisis.

Amid the chaos, including incommensurable scarcity and inflation of almost 700% a year, the administration called for the election of a Constitutional Assembly in March 2017. The election became immediately questioned not only by the National Assembly – which has the constitutional authority to sanction it – but also by the international community that considered the decision as yet another move into a full dictatorship.

It should be noted that Chavez was himself victim of a coup-d’etat in April 2002 that although only lasting a few days, certainly weighs on Maduro’s mind now. While the military restored Chavez to office in 2002, trust between the military and the civilian leadership remains low. Today, Maduro has been a loyal follower of the steady move towards a socialist regime similar to Cuba where there is no market economy, but more importantly, where democracy in all its content and formalities, is non-existent.  In short, he is centralizing power.

For its part, Latin America as a region has failed Venezuela. The polarization and division along ideological lines have poisoned any reasonable path to mediation through Latin American channels accepted by all sides, like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the newly created Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  Even the Organization of American States (OAS) is staying out of this crisis, even though arbitration of democratic breakdowns is mandatory under its charter. UNASUR managed to get a mission of mediation approved by the Venezuelan government but, for a variety of reasons, failed to bring about a lasting solution.

So what are the realistic options for Venezuela and what can be done internationally to help Venezuelan democracy? There are three important principles that need to be considered in order to start solving the crisis. Albeit difficult to attain, any peaceful solution of Venezuela’s crisis needs a combination of all three.             

 First, direct US involvement needs to stop. For years, Venezeula has perpetuated a narrative of animosity and open propaganda that blames the US for all Venezuelan ills, including gruesome involvement in Chavez’s death. Moreover, the Bolivarian revolution only wins whenever there is a perception that US will try to meddle in Venezuelan affairs. US intervention disempowers the organized opposition. Moreover, the unilateral batch of sanctions by the US and the unhelpful inclusion of Venezuela in President Trump’s recent address has only made the problem worse by providing the Socialist government in Venezuela the perfect justification for economic hardship, food scarcity and even authoritarian control.

Second, the UN needs to take a leading role. Only a mission backed by a UN Security Council resolution can make the Venezuelan government change course. Mediation has been tried in the past: UNASUR set up a commission of accepted international leaders to set up dialogue but they did not have the leverage to have Maduro’s regime accountable to its commitments and as a result, it quickly lost confidence among opposition leaders. Moreover, the lack of consensus among Latin American leaders about the Venezuelan crisis has resulted in division and polarization in the three international organizations that can oversee a working mediation scheme (OAS, UNASUR or CELAC). These three organizations treated the crisis as a zero-sum game, hence the need for the UN intervention. If there is going to be an enforceable arrangement that prevents a conflict of unpredictable proportions, the United Nations has to get involved. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres needs to secure a mandate from the Security Council to conduct a truly impartial mediation process with committed professionals and leaders acceptable to both sides with a mandate to find a democratic and transparent solution to the crisis. Interestingly, some positive signs that a Guterres-led intervention can make a difference happened just last week when the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Julio Borges, accepted the dialogue proposed by Guterres, advancing some conditions that could make it feasible. It can be a good starting point to a new, enduring solution.

Finally, Latin America should lead the process of mediation but with new actors. The humanitarian crisis is already ongoing with spillover effects in most neighbouring countries. Despite recent quarrels and ideological disputes inside its long-standing organizations, comparative regionalism has demonstrated that regional bodies are the best institutions to guarantee compliance and long-term supportive commitment. The African Union has been far more successful at implementing peace agreements in Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda than UN agencies or foreign forces. Latin America also has a long tradition of post-conflict compliance bodies in border disputes, like the five guarantors in the peace agreement between Ecuador and Peru and the Contadora Group in the Central American Peace Process. Latin American countries can reach common ground through GRULAC, the Group of Latin American States that deliberates and works together at the United Nations. GRULAC could lead UN efforts and move the debate forward to avert a humanitarian crisis like Syria in a near future. Even more, the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, could be an active part of this initiative empowering its own region into action into a wider and authoritative forum.

The three principles of regional buy-in, UN leadership, and frankly, US patience and willingness to step back, are the best hope for the Venezuelan people. History suggests this attempt could work, and only through the will and commitment of Venezuela’s neighbors and the UN itself, will we know for certain.


Some thoughts on Preventative Attacks

Robert Martyn, Fellow, CIDP

21 November 2017

American considerations of pre-emptive strikes are not new. Such attack discussions were reasonably common in the to-and-fro of early nuclear warfighting doctrine. It was enshrined in NSC-68 and was contemplated against both USSR and China prior to their nuclear forces being fully developed. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, US administration officials reaffirmed that specific circumstances would warrant striking enemies before they attack. Pronouncements faulted conventional deterrence as deficient against terrorists or rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction (notwithstanding “rogue state” often having more theatrical utility than international relations value, and being cited haphazardly, as seen in the dissimilar approaches taken towards Iraq and North Korea).

This past summer, President Trump stated that threats from North Korea would be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” which he revised, saying “if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough." His subsequent UN speech noted that if forced to through self-defence, there would be “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Ignoring bluster and name-calling, this report will provide an overview of pre-emptive strikes, starting with some necessary definitions.

“Pre-emptive attacks” are launched upon the belief that an enemy assault is imminent and inevitable; striking first ostensibly decides the difference between victory and defeat, or at least makes the ensuing conflict less damaging. This was the rationale behind Israel’s salvo against Egypt, commencing the 1967 Six-Day War.

Conversely, “preventive attacks” thwart less immediate threats but still with the belief that one must fight sooner rather than later. The rationale has tended to be a shifting military balance or the prospect of an adversary acquiring a formidable new military capability. Israel’s 1981 raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility is an oft-cited example. Similar to Osirak, 1994 saw US plans prepared for a strike upon the DPRK Yongbyon nuclear reactor to prevent the removal of nuclear fuel rods – a weapons-grade plutonium source.  That crisis was averted through diplomacy.

Although the UN Charter is clear that states will refrain from using or threatening force, international law generally accepts pre-emptive attacks as appropriate national or collective self-defence. This same legal interpretation is not usually extended to preventive attacks. Evaluating an attack’s legal parameters (crucial necessity, distinction in targeting, proportionality, etc.) should be a priority for decision-makers. The 1980s saw several instances of the US asserting defensive security in mining Nicaraguan harbours, as well as attacking Iranian oil platforms and naval ships in the Persian Gulf. The International Court of Justice ruled repeatedly against the self-defence claim; with equal consistency, the US disregarded the rulings.

International law may permit loose interpretations of the legal standard of self-defence, but some may question whether the law even matters. An action deemed illegal may still not preclude a first strike, contingent upon a government’s dismissiveness of international principles. Remarking upon US decision-making during the Cuban missile crisis, Dean Acheson highlighted evaluating risks and the need for effective decisiveness, yet discounted legal considerations – the government simply declared the eventual strategy lawful. That Trump used the UN as a forum to threaten DPRK’s destruction suggests some distain for the UN Charter. Regardless, while weighing lawfulness adheres to international norms, legality and logically-justified defensibility also drive perceptions of an attack’s legitimacy, and thus political costs and benefits.

Legitimacy’s broader ambiguity is underpinned by legal judgement; a lawful military action will generally be considered legitimate. Yet, anticipatory attacks usually entail significant international and domestic political costs if the threat does not appear dire to others. Assessing urgency may often be linked with utilizing other potential solutions, such as allowing China’s increasingly restrictive fiscal policies towards North Korea to play out. Strikes may also be deemed valid if conducted for a moral purpose, despite not being strictly according to law. Trump’s rhetoric has been uniformly scorned by DPRK’s neighbours – South Korea, Japan, and China – casting doubt upon its ethical legitimacy, although it may still resonate domestically within the US.

Beyond political calculations of legality and legitimacy, intelligence capabilities are critical. One must, without bias, understand the enemy’s intentions, know the capabilities faced, and have accurate targeting information. Although capabilities are reasonably straight-forward, intent is particularly difficult in closed societies such as DPRK. Analysts must weigh bluster along with observable preparations, which may be routine training exercises. Targeting nuclear assets can be particularly problematic. An immediate requirement would be the destruction of 100 percent of the weapons, which would be dispersed and well protected. Production facilities to rebuild the nuclear force would likely also be on the target list. These strikes must be accomplished while minimizing radiological contamination throughout the region. Finally, to ensure the effort has not been meaningless, complete regime change may be an essential component. Finalizing the desired outcome would likely require the military defeat and occupation of North Korea – a situation unacceptable to China or South Korea, even without factoring in inescapable environmental and refugee crises.

Significant second-order consequences could ensue from such a hypothetical strike. We may witness an upsurge in such attacks as international norms against anticipatory strikes are weakened, reducing their political costs. Further, other nations fearing a US attack may be enticed to strike first, as the precedent of ruin and regime change may be the final indication that they have little to lose. Finally, additional regimes may conclude that US propensity for preventive attack makes nuclear weapon possession a critical goal, based upon America’s previous reticence to risk conflict with fully nuclear-armed states.

Israeli examples opened this paper for its clear distinctiveness from the United States – a small state whose minimal strategic depth leaves it precariously vulnerable to critical security hazards – a condition not remotely extant in America... unless of course, one is predisposed to see most crises as existential threats because it fits a world-view or some domestic audience requirement. Michael Walzer’s timeless Just and Unjust Wars posits that the relevant criteria for a preventive strike is present when threats (“fire and fury”), preparations (naval deployments and bomber overflights), and the target nation’s failure to act risks territorial integrity or political independence (“no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”).  If correct, it becomes difficult to differentiate the aggressor from the aggrieved.


​Reflections on Canada’s past and future as an International peacekeeper in Africa

John Schram, Fellow, CIDP
9 November 2017

Canada has promised the world that we are back in the business of working for global peace. Plans for new Canadian support for international peacekeeping are said to be imminent. This is good news. It is where Canada belongs, where we can work for Canadian values and objectives, and where we can make a positive impact for humanity.

But we know from past experience that peacemaking and peacekeeping are complex, challenging and costly undertakings. We need to grasp the lessons learned from earlier peacekeeping operations, adapting them to the new challenges whether these be from IS, al-Qaeda and its associates in the Sahel, Mali, or the Central African Republic, or arise from the near civil wars of Congo or South Sudan.

Here are ten such lessons as seen through the eyes of a Canadian diplomat and admiring observer of a number of Canadian peacekeeping operations in African countries. They are not new.  But they certainly remain relevant.

  • It is the Prime Minister, not the armed forces or Global Affairs Canada, who ultimately makes the decision to intervene, and how.  PM Trudeau’s decisions will reflect two major factors: how Canadians see the issue – will they vote for it – and how it fits into Canada’s overall interests. 
  • If Canadians do not see such peacebuilding interventions as a priority or as a compelling Canadian foreign policy interest, or our like-minded partners are themselves not consumed by the issue at hand, the Canadian government should think carefully before embarking on a major peacekeeping operation. 
  • Any intervention should be grounded on facts and realistic assessment of the demands and costs. The government must formulate the mandate, publicly specify the goals, and commit the resources for as long as it takes to do the job. 
  • There is as much uncertainty in the getting out of a post-conflict situation as there is in the getting in, and that all the sophisticated planning and firepower won’t win the day unless the local people want us there, are willing to accept the intervention, with empathy flowing both ways. 
  • It’s often hard to sell our concept of stability, tolerance and development to people who believe they face immediate threats to their land, political standing, economic security or, most pervasively, religion and culture.
  • People just emerging from a violent change of government or social confrontation have little interest in promises of future development assistance from Canada – if by development assistance we mean judicial training, government capacity building, or building a better education system. They will only be convinced to tolerate outside intervention, to support the local authorities on whose behalf we are intervening, if they can see fast and visible benefits – affordable food, electricity, water, local security, and functioning local markets.
  • Many conflicts are driven by non-governmental private interests, from large companies through shadowy diamond and oil traders to well-funded and popular international religious organizations. These entities are largely outside the control or ken of either Western or African governments. We have seen many times over in Africa that one can negotiate peace, reconstruction and demobilization with governments or with apparent leaders, but if there are major private and civil interests that thrive on continuing conflict, weak government and failing economies, all the effort at restoring peace and prosperity may well be wasted. 
  • White faces throwing weight around are an instinctive affront to African national pride. This shapes a considerable amount of the debate in the AU and with African leaders when they are considering the role of NATO, US or Canadian interventions in Africa. Understandably, Africans are tired of being told what they should do by people of European extraction and perceptions. 
  • We have to understand the context in which we are operating – not just in broad terms, but especially, who did what to whom, why, how can it be stopped, what forces and goals and methods will work in that particular society to achieve our and the country’s goals. 
  • Canadians need to learn this through African eyes, not just from Western media, or donor country analysts. This understanding must come from “real” people in African countries – not just government ministers or diplomats - but business people, professionals, academics, the media - ‘ordinary’ members of each society.

 In all of this, Canadian peacekeepers can indeed be a unique catalyst for sustained peace. But peace, reconstruction or change will not come about in any lasting or meaningful sense because of what Canadians tell people to do, or wish to make happen. Only Africans themselves will really fix the root of African conflicts and build lasting peace.  


Major Air Disaster Response in an Age of Terror

Robert Martyn, Fellow, CIDP
9 October 2017

Shattered aircraft wreckage litters the edge of the tree line. Several dozen people lay throughout the site; some moaning in agony while others are deathly still. Overlaying the scene is the roar of a CC-130 Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft. Such was the grisly tableau that greeted participants, staff, and observers as CONPLAN SOTERIA, the major air disaster (MAJAID) contingency plan, played out during this year’s SAR exercise (SAREX).

The annual training exercise was staged out of Hamilton Ontario, with challenges that featured aerial and ground searches, medical responses, parachute accuracy exercises, varied terrain rescues, plus the MAJAID at Trenton’s Mountainview Detachment. Military participants came from across Canada’s SAR squadrons, Joint Rescue Coordination Centres, and the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre (CAAWC). Additional participants included the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, plus observers from both Canada and foreign nations.

The joint exercise tested approximately 200 people in this vital responsibility; SAR is one of the eight core missions the recent Defence Policy assigns to our military. It is no easy task.  Canada’s massive SAR area spans 18 million square kilometres of mountains, tundra, boreal forest, three million lakes, and the world’s longest ocean coastline.  Such expanse, exacerbated by isolation as one moves further north – especially within the Arctic – has always created a ‘tyranny of time and distance’ necessary to be traversed to reach a crash.

Our military and Coast Guard combined responds to more than 9,000 search and rescue calls annually, approximately 1,000 of which require launching SAR aircrews. This will undoubted expand with the double drivers of climate change and technological innovation making the far north increasingly accessible. While few states or firms previously had the ability to operate in the Arctic, we currently see rising commercial interest, research, and tourism throughout the north. Such a rise in activity inevitably brings increased safety and security demands.

A great benefit of these training events, beyond the obvious skill enhancements for those being exercised, is the numerous discussions in the margins amongst the diverse gathering of observers. For example, an interesting question was raised regarding the nexus between a major air disaster and a terrorist incident. After a slight pause, NDHQ representatives acknowledged that the issue required more attention.  This report therefore provides a brief overview, rather than specific details, of recent terrorist developments that may influence the way ahead.

Terror attacks against aviation are not new. 1933 saw the first instance of a commercial airliner being destroyed by a bomb, when a United Airlines plane exploded in mid-air over Chesterton Indiana. Sporadic aircraft bombings occurred following the Second World War, usually to further a political agenda through VIP assassination. Palestinian extremists dominated the 1960s in their struggle against Israel. Although the September 11th attacks are qualitatively different from MAJAID-type incidents, they did re-focus terrorists upon airliners.  Direct attacks on airlines have again surged dramatically following the Islamic State’s 2015 in-flight bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai. 

Closer to home, 1949 saw Canada’s first in-flight bombing, wherein a Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-3 was destroyed, killing all 23 aboard. Our aviation history changed dramatically in 1985 when Air India flight 182, enroute from Montreal to London, was blown apart by a mid-air explosion that scattered debris over the Atlantic, near Ireland. The 329 fatalities made it the deadliest aircraft bombing and the largest mass murder in Canadian history.

Such attacks illustrate terrorists’ ability to strike the aviation industry, writ large. While early attacks tended to be murder/insurance scams, the past several decades have seen violent political and religious extremism as the key motivator. Over 45 years ago, radical Palestinian leader George Habash famously commented that hijacking a plane had more effect than killing a hundred Israelis in battle. The direct psychological consequences of these incidents draw attention to the extremists’ causes, create tensions throughout the target population, and potentially paralyze transportation networks, even if only temporarily. 

The tactics chosen vary and tend to be cyclic, often due to changes in security countermeasures. We still remove our shoes during airline security screening because Al Qaeda member, Richard Reid, attempted to smuggle an improvised bomb aboard a flight within his shoe. The operation failed, but the psychological result remains.  Explosives placed in luggage or within the aircraft itself, therefore, have been present for many years. As noted though, tactics evolve. There is growing concern regarding combat experiences terrorist fighters are accumulating in various conflicts; these include anti-aircraft weapons, laser devices, remotely piloted aircraft, and cyber attacks.

  • “Traditional” state-produced shoulder-fired missiles are being joined by field-expedient rockets, including heat-seeking versions. Several extremist websites provide directions on how such weapons may be constructed.
  • Increased threats to pilots from laser devices have recently increased by 1,000 percent, averaging 11 incidents per day internationally. Transport Canada notifications warn that the risk of temporarily blinding or distracting a pilot, or merely creating windscreen glare, can garner punishments of five years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
  • The threat from Remotely Piloted Aircraft (often misnamed “drones”) is gathering momentum, particularly around major airports where airliners are statistically at greatest risk of catastrophic failure, during flights’ take-off departure and landing approach phases. Certain extremist groups are reportedly experimenting with affixing up to several hundred grams of C4-type explosives onto RPA. 
  • Finally, there are rapidly-evolving cyber threats. Beyond “GPS spoofing,” for which hard evidence is growing, professional debate remains regarding the current threat to aircraft. Cyber-security experts within the passenger compartment have reportedly compromised a plane’s control system, despite the aircraft’s operating network and passenger communications systems being independent.

Amongst the varied terrorist organizations, radical Jihadist social media has shown the most dramatic increase in discussing these various techniques for bringing down aircraft.

The recent SAREX scenario, while large-scale for the rescue personnel involved, was relatively straight forward. SAR Techs determine the crises’ scale and begin the controlled chaos of casualty triage and treatment, as the Hercules aircraft orbits overhead, providing on-scene command. MAJAID stores, air-droppable pallets loaded with tents, heaters, and food from CAAWC are parachuted in, along with soldiers to provide support, such as setting up the emergency structures.  As patients are stabilized, CH-148 helicopters arrive to begin evacuating the injured, signalling ‘ENDEX.’

The skills observed were inspiring, providing much confidence in Canada’s military personnel to address the SAR requirements demanded within the Defence Policy. However, adding even a reasonably modest terrorist element raises many complicated issues. Are SAR Techs suitably prepared to address secondary explosions, possible crash scene contaminants, or hostile terrorist survivors? Should RCMP accompany parachute-trained SAR Techs; if so, how? Who determines any military/judicial boundaries? If appropriate, how would JTF-2, CFJIRU, and possibly CSOR fit into a MAJAID situation?

Given the international situation and domestic occurrences of violent radical extremism, Soteria, the ancient Greek goddess of safety and salvation, may require some advice from Ares, the god of war, sooner, rather than later.



Chris Kilford, External Fellow, CIDP
27 July 2017

One year ago, on 15 July 2016, a group of senior Turkish military officers attempted but ultimately failed to overthrow the government.  Dubbing themselves the “Peace At Home Council” their aim was to remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power and “reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and general security.”

According to the Turkish government the coup attempt was carried out by supporters of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen who has been living in the United States since 1999.  And if the coup had been successful, said Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ recently “he would have come to Turkey from Pennsylvania like Ayatollah Khomeini landed in Tehran.”  As for Gülen, he and his followers were quick to say that the whole event was simply a false flag operation contrived by President Erdoğan to give him a freehand to silence his critics and opponents once and for all.

As post-coup trials get underway and following the release of a Parliamentary investigation into the events surrounding the coup, it is clear that the scope and scale of the rebellion went far beyond a false flag operation.  Indeed, a significant portion of the Turkish armed forces attempted to topple the government as they successfully did in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997.

On the day of the coup, and using encrypted text messages to coordinate their activities, the main conspirators gathered at Akinci Air Base just outside the capital, Ankara.  Among them was General Akin Öztürk, the former commander of the air force and army Major-General Mehmet Disli.  According to prosecutors, both were the military leaders of the coup attempt.  A civilian, with allegedly close ties to the Gülen movement, Adil Öksüz, was also present. 

President Erdoğan was not in Ankara and on holiday with his family in Marmaris, on the Aegean coast.  However, the Chief of the Turkish General Staff (TGS), General Hulusi Akar was, along with his deputy, General Yaşar Güler.  But both were unaware of the pro-coup preparations taking place at Akinci Air Base, inside their own headquarters and elsewhere in the country.

According to the coup plan, at precisely 0300hrs on 16 July, commandos would take President Erdoğan into custody at his hotel.  General Akar would be detained and convinced to lead the coup.  Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was to be arrested.  The Parliament, Presidential compound, key media outlets, bridges over the Bosphorus, both Istanbul airports, the Turkish stock exchange and many other strategic locations were all to be seized.

However, at 1420hrs on 15 July, Major Osman Karaca arrived by taxi at MİT headquarters, entered the building and for whatever reason told initially sceptical investigators all about his co-conspirators.  At 1620hrs, certain that Major Karaca was telling the truth, Fidan called General Güler and by 1830hrs was in General Akar’s office.  Fidan and Akar then contemplated their next moves but decided not to warn the President or Prime Minister in case it was a false alarm.  Instead, orders were issued grounding military air traffic and Army Chief General Salih Zeki Çolak was told to visit the Ankara Army Aviation School Command, which Karaca said was another coup hub.

In some respects Fidan and Akar’s decision not to immediately inform the government was understandable.   Few believed the Turkish military was capable of overthrowing the government despite the many coup rumours that had often been tossed about in the media since President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party took power in 2002.  Indeed, responding to a fresh round of speculative coup-focused articles, the TGS issued a statement on 21 March 2016 noting that it was “inconceivable to think that the TGS would tolerate any illegal phenomenon or action that would digress from the chain of command.”

Although in hindsight Fidan and Akar were wrong that night, the actions they did take were enough to alarm the coup plotters.  Losing no time, at 2121hrs, and six hours ahead of schedule, Brigadier General Mehmet Partigöç released three messages over the Turkish Armed Forces Message and Document Delivery System that launched the coup.  The first message, “Appointments” assigned and promoted coup officers to new positions.  The second message, “Participation” confirmed which pro-coup units should do what and when.  The third message was a “Martial Law Directive” stating that the “Peace At Home Council” had seized power in Turkey.

Just prior to Partigöç’s messages, at 2145hrs a WhatsApp group was created for pro-coup Istanbul-based units and direction given to seize key locations, which they largely succeeded in doing.  Around the country, other units moved into position.  At Incirlik Air Force Base, 400 kilometers south-east from Ankara, the base commander readied at least two air-to-air fuel tankers that would later support pro-coup fighter jets.  Other officers prepared an A400 transport aircraft and C-160 cargo planes to be used for transporting pro-coup troops and their supplies where needed.

But starting the coup on a Friday night would undercut months of careful planning and secrecy.  President Erdoğan was able to leave his hotel unscathed and make his way by airplane to Istanbul.  At 0026hrs on 16 July he addressed the country on television by mobile phone, urging Turks to take to the streets in the name of democracy.  Some 30 minutes later, the 1st Army Commander (Istanbul) General Ümit Dündar began moving troops loyal to the government into place.   On television he confirmed the coup was not led by the high command and that only a small rebel faction was involved.  The actions of ordinary civilians on the streets that night acted as the final nail in the coffin.  By the early morning hours on 16 July the coup plotters were in full retreat.

In the immediate aftermath, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency.  Anyone associated with Fethullah Gülen were labelled as members of what the Turkish government called FETÖ or the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization and purged.   In total, 87 of 202 army generals, 30 of 67 air force generals, and 32 of 56 admirals were dishonourably discharged.  On 22 May 2017, 221 alleged putschists, including Akin Öztürk, Mehmet Disli and Mehmet Partigöç, went on trial.  Those on trial, by and large, have vehemently denied being members of FETÖ or having anything to do with Gülen.  Nevertheless, laying the blame at the feet of alleged Gülenist officers has certainly been very convenient for the government and has led to widespread anti-Gülen purges across the civil service.  It’s also convenient, one might conclude, for the armed forces to point a finger at Gülen as a means of avoiding full responsibility for what happened. 

In the end, there is little doubt that the coup attempt on 15 July was very real, a terrible shock for the country and likely carried out by a group of senior officers with varying allegiances and motivations.  The Gülen movement, one assumes at this point, was the glue keeping them together.  Regardless, as the plotters sensed events conspiring against them, pro-coup officers on the ground were ruthless in their attempts to take back the initiative, killing some 250 civilians and wounding thousands more.

Is this the last we will see of the Turkish military in politics?  In the aftermath of the coup attempt the government engaged is some hurried coup-proofing reforms such as closing major military bases close to Ankara and Istanbul and announcing reforms to the military education system.  To enhance civilian control and oversight of the armed forces the TGS was also placed directly under the Minister of National Defence, rather than reporting to the President directly, which had been the case.  Will this be enough to prevent future coup attempts?  One hopes so.  But what is clear is that it will now take many years to rebuild the respect the military has lost across much of Turkish society.


Putting the Trudeau Government’s Foreign and Defence Policy Statements into Perspective

Kim Richard Nossal, Fellow, CIDP
​4 July 2017

In the past, there was a certain clockwork regularity to the process of reviewing Canadian foreign and defence policy: when a new prime minister came to power, aspects of Canada’s international policy would immediately be reviewed. Lester B. Pearson published a defence review in 1964 after the Liberals won the 1963 election. After he won the leadership of the Liberal party in 1968, Pierre Elliott Trudeau published a foreign policy review in 1970 and a defence policy in 1971. When he became prime minister in 1984, Brian Mulroney published a foreign policy review in 1985 and a defence policy in 1987. After the Liberals regained government in 1993, Jean Chrétien issued foreign and defence policy reviews in 1995. His successor, Paul Martin, Jr. published his International Policy Statement in 2005. Stephen Harper published a defence policy in 2008, but broke the tradition of launching a foreign policy review: he decided that there was no need for a foreign policy review.

In theory, articulating periodic statements of a country’s foreign and defence policy makes a great deal of sense, even for a non-great power like Canada. After all, world politics is in a constant state of evolution, and subjecting policy to a formal review provides an opportunity to take account of changes and to subject the accepted verities of one period to scrutiny. Policy reviews set up a feedback loop that enables a government to adjust its international policies to ensure that its global strategy — and its spending — will keep pace with change.

This might be the theory, but all of the foreign and defence policy reviews launched by Canadian leaders since the 1960s — and the statements of policy issued at the end — were not designed for any strategic purpose. That much is clear from the fact that not a single prime minister between 1964 and 2015 ever revisited the foreign or defence policy reviews launched at the outset of his ministry, even though Pierre Trudeau was in office for 16 years, Chrétien in office for ten years, and Mulroney and Harper for nine years. Rather, the primary purpose of these reviews was purely political: to demonstrate just how different the new government was from its predecessor.

When Justin Trudeau and the Liberals came to power in November 2015, he immediately launched a review of defence policy. Like Harper, he chose not to launch a foreign policy review. 

In early 2016, it looked as though history was going to repeat itself: the Trudeau government would publish its defence policy review later that year. It would of course establish that the defence policy of the Trudeau Liberals was indeed different from the defence policy of the Harper Conservatives. While in opposition the Trudeau Liberals had made much of returning Canada to a mythical peacekeeping past, and after taking power in 2015 the new government had bruited the idea of a major deployment of peacekeeping troops to an operation in Africa, widely anticipated to be Mali. It was expected that the defence review would embrace that return as a key feature of Canadian defence policy for the next decade.

It was expected that following a cross-country consultation in the summer of 2016, the review would be published in the fall. The new defence review, in glossy four-colour format and featuring catchy slogans ripped from a Mad Men episode, would then prominently adorn desks in National Defence Headquarters — and then be promptly forgotten about for the remainder of the Trudeau fils ministry.

And then the normal sequence of events was disrupted by the rise of Donald J. Trump, whose hostile takeover of the Republican Party was followed by his election in November.

The Trump insurgency was seen by the Trudeau government in Ottawa as a major threat to Canadian interests. For Trump promised to overturn the key pillars of Canada’s approach to global politics since the end of the Second World War in 1945. Of considerable concern was Trump’s constant slagging of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as “obsolete” during the election campaign; his disparagement of traditional American friends and allies for “ripping off” the United States by not spending enough on defence; and his denigration of international trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement in particular.

The response of the government in Ottawa to Trump’s rise was immediate. Trudeau shuffled his cabinet, giving the foreign affairs portfolio to Chrystia Freeland, the trade minister, and sought to involve a number of former policy-makers, including Brian Mulroney, in the formulation of policy towards the United States.

The shift also had an impact on the defence review. The Trudeau government slowed the review right down to a crawl. The timing of the defence review release was pushed back, first beyond Trump’s inauguration in January, and then, when the new president made it clear that his America First rhetoric in 2016 was not just a campaign shtick, into the spring.

In the meantime, the idea of a major African peacekeeping operation was taken off the table. Instead, the government moved ahead with a major deployment to Latvia as part of a broader effort by NATO at reassurance in Central Europe. It continued a major operation in Iraq with the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

It was not until June 2017 that the defence review was ready for release. However, the Trudeau government decided that the defence review needed to be placed in a broader foreign policy context, so on 6 June, two days before the release of the defence review, the minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, rose in the House of Commons to deliver a major foreign policy speech that sought to frame Canada’s broad approach to global politics in an era when American leadership and support for the liberal international order could no longer be taken for granted.

Then, on 8 June, the minister of national defence, Harjit Sajjan, unveiled the government’s defence policy. To be sure, the Mad Men approach was still evident — Canadian defence, the review assured us, as all about being Strong, Secure, Engaged (“strong at home, secure in North America, engaged in the world”).

But this was a defence policy written for the Trumpian era. It promised a massive increase in Canadian defence spending. It promised that the size of the Canadian Armed Forces would be increased. It promised that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) would be modernized.

And in the minister’s announcement, no mention was made of returning to Canada’s peacekeeping past. Instead, Sajjan insisted that Canada needed to play a stronger role in NATO, particularly in the face of Russian aggression, and in Iraq, in the face of the rise of violent extremism.

In short, the foreign and defence statements of the Trudeau government of June 2017 were unlike any other in Canada’s history. The defence review might have started off like all other defence reviews of the last half-century — written primarily for domestic political, not strategic, purposes. But in an era when business-as-usual assumptions about global politics can no longer be counted on given the stream of insurgent covfefe tweets from the president of the United States, the Canadian defence review ended up, along with Freeland’s foreign policy address, being highly strategic.


It's Complicated

Josh Tupler, 2017 Fulbright Visiting Scholar
24 May 2017

It is very easy to get distracted by the almost ‘reality TV-like’ spectacle that is American domestic politics. It seems like a day can’t go by without a new scandal being revealed about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the inquiry into possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russians, and the potential disclosure of highly sensitive information—there is certainly a lot of smoke, but it still remains to be seen whether or not there is any fire. Although this is an important issue that deserves thorough investigation, the media coverage of all things ‘Comey and Russia’ has eclipsed discussion of other important global issues—especially events unfolding on the Korean Peninsula. With the announcement that the Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director (2001-2013) Robert S. Muller III as a special counsel to oversee the probe of Russian interference in the U.S. election, people should be comforted that an independent inquiry is occurring and might be wise to shift their attention to what’s going on in the rest of world.

This Contact Report is intended to bring readers up to speed on what’s happened in East Asia since President Trump and President Xi met in early April, and highlight issues of concern—specifically China’s willingness and ability to exert pressure on North Korea—that should continue to be closely monitored.  When Trump and Xi met in Mar-a-Lago, one of the primary issues of concern that they discussed was what China could do to help solve the ‘North Korea Problem.’ Trump’s quote to the Wall Street Journal on the following Wednesday that “after listening for 10 minutes, I realize it’s not so easy” is alarming not only because the American President appears to be learning about security issues from a foreign leader as opposed to a policy expert in the State Department, but also because he appears to lack basic insight or understanding of the complexity of U.S.-China-North Korean relations.

It is important to recognize that American and Chinese interest might diverge on North Korea, especially with regards to financial issues. China is North Korea’s largest import market ($2.95 billion) and largest export market ($2.34 billion).  North Korean coal is also their largest export product ($951 million), and China has been known for dexterously exploiting loopholes in the UN Security Council sanctions allowing for exports of products for ‘humanitarian purposes’, such that August 2016 saw the largest imports of North Korean coal by China ever recorded for a single month. Although China did announce a ban on North Korean coal imports, it also simultaneously took other steps to downsize imports from other coal-producing countries. It is important to carefully monitor Chinese coal imports as China has often restricted them temporarily to signal compliance with sanctions, only to drastically increase such imports again.

Another financial issue to monitor is Chinese exports of military, satellite, or missile technology to North Korea. According to a report released by UN officials last month, a sizable number of technological components critical to the development of North Korea’s ballistic missile program are almost certainly sourced from foreign countries; investigations show that as recently as 18 months ago, Chinese companies shipped restricted products to North Korea. The Washington Post has sourced anonymous former U.S. and UN officials and independent weapons experts who worry that Chinese companies continue to act as enablers. Global actors should continue to monitor such activity, investigate potential governmental complicity, and take any steps available to halt such assistance.

The final issue to monitor is U.S. forward military presence in the region. It was less than a month ago that President Trump boasted about sending an armada towards North Korea when in fact the ships were heading in the opposite direction, and the U.S. deployed a THAAD battery in Seoul—and yes, Secretary Mattis has assured the South Koreans that Americans are going to pay for it. In spite of these developments, there still has not been a major change in U.S. force posture in the region. Although all options might be on the table, anyone with a modicum of common sense recognizes that a potential conflict with North Korea would be extremely costly and bloody. It is very difficult to believe that American policymakers would take any action that risks military conflict without significantly altering the U.S. presence in the region. Deploying a weapons system or sending a ship is one thing, but I would not be too worried unless a true armada and large logistical buildup occurs in Seoul.

Although this Contact Report might paint a somewhat bleak picture of the region, there is nevertheless still a good case for some optimism. President Trump appears to be seriously considering the advice of his senior security advisors—especially Secretary Mattis and General McMaster, who are regarded with the utmost respect and considered to have great poise in both military and policymaking circles in D.C.. As long as Mattis and McMaster are in the room when key decisions are being made, you should be optimistic that no major catastrophe or conflict will occur.



Brigadier-General G.R. Smith, Defence Fellow, CIDP
28 March

Conventional operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are approaching an end game in Northern Iraq. ISIL initially swept into Western and Northern Iraq in the Summer of 2014 capturing Ramadi, Tikrit, Fallujah, and ultimately the major city of Mosul. Equally, employing terror and exploiting Iraqi ethnic fissures, the warriors of the Islamic State seized vast tracts of land and large populations along the strategically important Euphrates River Valley (ERV) and Tigris River Valley (TRV). Advancing nearly to the gates of Baghdad, a modern city of seven million, ISIL’s advance was only halted through the efforts of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) including the Kurdish Security Forces (KSF), the Shia-heavy Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and Coalition kinetic targeting.

This final action, led by the United States under Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR), included the contributions of Canada and 51 other nations. Initially focused on the aforementioned air bombardments to halt ISIL’s murderous advance and the associated humanitarian crisis, Coalition activities broadened to compromise collaborative planning, providing Advise and Assist teams to ISF and KSF land formations, and the training and equipping of security forces at Building Partner Capacity sites throughout Iraq. These collective cooperative efforts of the ISF and its OIR Coalition partners succeeded in arresting and re-capturing considerable tracts of the approximately 40 per cent of Iraqi territory held by the violent jihadists.

This re-conquest has been far from bloodless and the ISF’s slow and irresistible advance has killed large numbers of Iraqi Sunnis and foreign fighters with ISIL. Similarly, at great cost to the Iraqi Forces, the Islamic State-held cities of Ramadi, Tikrit, Fallujah, and numerous other urban and rural areas throughout the ERV and TRV have been recaptured in grinding battles of attrition. The ISF, although possessing a poor brand as the result of some Iraqi Army divisions breaking and fleeing as ISIL advanced into Northern Iraq in 2014, has rebuilt itself and is now capturing the final symbolic enclave of ISIL in Iraq: Mosul.

Operations against the East side of this city of two million people began on 16 October 2016 with a collaborative assault by the KSF and ISF. After 100 days of urban fighting, the ISF completed the capture of East Mosul in late January 2017 and began preparations for the seizure of the Western half of the city. Transferring elements of the Iraqi Army, Counter Terrorism Services, Federal Police, and the PMF to the West side of the Tigris River, Iraqi Forces continued their re-conquest of Iraq's second city in February 2017. Again, the ISF faces a relentless battle against ISIL as it advances house-by-house through booby-trapped Improvised Explosive Devices, snipers, re-infiltration tunnels, human shields, crude chemical weapons, and fast-moving suicide car bombs. In this challenging operational environment the Iraqi Forces and the supporting Coalition must contend with a battle space replete with non-combatants and an enemy prepared to rapidly exploit real, manufactured, or phony civilian casualties on Social Media.

Yet this physical, military battle is approaching its conclusion. The ISF is irresistibly compressing Western Mosul and approaching the Great Mosque of al-Nuri where ISIL’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in June 2014. Following the fall of West Mosul and the clearing of some remaining Islamic State-held areas in Northern and Western Iraq, the Iraqi Government will once again possess loose control of its territory. However, Iraq’s larger strategic problems revolve around governance and not military competence. Although it will be important to secure the country against physical manifestations of a redux ISIL, this will only succeed if the Shia, Sunni, Kurd, and other ethnic and religious components of Iraq feel supported by and give their allegiance to the central government in Baghdad. This is a political, economic, and communications problem that must be resolved by continued efforts at an inclusive, competent, and representative Iraqi federal government.

Moreover, there is widespread appreciation of the need for continued, international assistance in Baghdad to achieve this. Although the United States and the Western world largely walked away from Iraq in 2011, Iraqis recognize the requirement for assistance in the post-ISIL era. With many neighbouring countries possessing national interests in Iraq and its population, a suitable post-conflict international construct must be established to enable governance and economic development in this troubled country. The United States, Iraq, and potentially Canada must decide upon and negotiate such future engagement to rehabilitate this fragile state and prevent an ISIL 2.0.



Louis A. Delvoie, Fellow, CIDP
​2 February 2017

During his campaign for the presidency of the United States Donald Trump made quite a few unusual remarks in the realms of foreign policy and international relations. One of the most noteworthy was made in the course of a speech to the America-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). In that speech he promised his audience that he would move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It is far from clear that Trump knew or understood the implications of that promise, despite the fact that the location of the American embassy in Israel is an issue which has been debated in the United States for many years. A long succession of American presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan, have steadfastly resisted pressures to make this move, even in the face of pressures emanating from Congress and from lobby groups representing elements of the American Jewish community. They recognized the implications and the downsides of moving the embassy, since it would have the effect of helping to consolidate the claim of the Israeli government that a unified Jerusalem was the eternal capital of Israel.

Jerusalem is a unique city for two reasons. First, it is home to holy sites sacred to the three main monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Second, it is the only city in the world that is the object of a UN General Assembly resolution (No. 303), which states in part that “Jerusalem should be placed under a permanent international regime.” The resolution goes on to stipulate that “The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.”

Most recently, in December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution (No. 2334) which stated in part that Israeli settlements in occupied east Jerusalem constitute “a flagrant violation under international law” and represent an obstacle to the achievement of a "just, lasting and comprehensive peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. The terms of this resolution reflect the views of virtually all of the international community, including some of its most influential members; Great Britain, France, China and Russia all voted in favour of the resolution.

If he were to implement his promise to move the embassy, Trump would be putting his administration at loggerheads with nearly all of the world’s governments, including all of the United States’ NATO allies. He could expect thoroughly hostile reactions in the Arab world, most notably from America’s oldest ally in the region, Saudi Arabia. The kings of Saudi Arabia are the self-proclaimed custodians of the holy sites of Islam, including those in Jerusalem. While the Saudi government may frequently be tepid and opportunistic in its support for the Palestinian cause, it is rock solid in its opposition to any consolidation of Israeli control over east Jerusalem.

The Saudi government can be expected to mount a vigorous campaign in Washington to prevent the embassy move. In that campaign they can look forward to having one major ally in the person of the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. As a long-time executive in the oil industry and as a former chairman of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson well understands the importance of Saudi Arabia to American interests in the Middle East. He will not want to see those interests put at risk, whether on the oil front or in the fight against Islamist extremism. In this he will enjoy the support of virtually all of the Middle East experts in the State Department.

In the face of such widespread opposition, any prudent president would find a way to fudge an ill-conceived campaign promise and leave the American embassy in Tel Aviv. What the totally unpredictable Donald Trump will do is anybody’s guess. There are, however, a few mildly encouraging signs that he is amenable to accepting a logical argument, particularly one grounded in a solid analysis of American interests.



H. Christian Breede, Deputy Director, CIDP
​5 April 2017

“Zero, Four-one. Contact, wait out.”

These six words, spoken over a radio, bring an acute focus to all who hear them.  Everything else stops.  Everything else is suddenly less important.  Focus now shifts to ‘Four-one’, the call sign representing a small unit of soldiers who are suddenly engaged in a fire fight – firing their weapons in anger and likely fighting for their lives. ‘Contact’ in this sense means that the small unit has begun engaging the proverbial enemy – they are being shot at and are shooting back. More ominously, they will let ‘zero’ – the headquarters – know when they are done.  In essence, they are telling the headquarters, "don’t call us – we’ll call you".  More importantly, until the contact is resolved, everybody else stays quiet – and waits.

What they are waiting for is called a contact report. This report follows a format that all combat leaders memorize and consists of where the shooting is coming from, who they think is shooting at them, what they are doing about it, and when the shooting started.

The contact report is designed to be a clear, concise, and precise response to an event.  It is designed to get the essential information to those who need to know and, more importantly, may be able to offer support in a timely fashion. In short, what is happening to Four-one may be of importance to other organizations on the same team.

It is in this spirit of precision, concision, and clarity that the CIDP launched the Contact Report this year. This series is designed to be a venue for our Fellows to provide their learned opinions on the contacts of the day, in this case international and defence policy-related events. It is designed to do so in a timely but accurate and thoughtful manner that enables us to leverage the knowledge of our researchers to inform the debates that ensue.

As a research center within one of Canada’s leading universities, we need to not only examine problems in a systematic and rigorous way, but we need to communicate this to Canadians too.  The contact report is one way in which we hope to do this.

Over the past few weeks, in the wake of the resignation of Andrew Potter from his administrative position at McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada and the supposed connection between this and his controversial Op-Ed from this past March, much has been written about the question of academic freedom in Canada. More to the point of this new series, this has also raised questions as to what the role of the university in Canada ought to be.

Most recently, Éric Montpetit, a professor of Political Science at L’Université de Montréal, suggested in the Globe & Mail that institutions such as universities need to choose to either remain as bastions and incubators of knowledge or weigh in on the political and social affairs of the day.  They – he argues – cannot do both and he cites the events surrounding Potter’s departure from McGill as evidence of this.

Others are not so quick to sound the retreat from public engagement.  Philippe Lagassé, another professor, but this time from the University of Ottawa and arguing through Twitter, claimed instead that those of us engaged in research that relates to the events  of the day - both political and social - should weigh in.  More to the point, he argues, we need to do so to ensure that academic research remains of value not just to other academics, but to society at large, especially when that society pays the bills.

As you can probably guess, our centre falls in line behind the position of Lagassé on this question.  The marriage between theory and practice has been a not-so-subtle theme in all of our work, to include the motivation behind our core research axes as well as within the makeup of our team.  Alongside our professors and researchers, we also have former ambassadors, senior public servants, and serving senior military officers from several different countries. This team provides a unique combination of theoretical and methodological rigor along with recent and relevant policy experience.  It is a powerful combination.

This new series, to be updated as events require, is part of the CIDP's continued commitment to communicating cutting-edge and world class research to decision makers and more importantly, to Canadians.  As our director recently challenged in a TED talk, this is your Foreign Policy.

This is something we take seriously.  Contact, wait out.