Canada's Asia-Pacific Security Dilemma / Navies in the Post-Cold War Era / Canada's Asia-Pacific Security Dilemma

By Wilbur, David A. | Naval War College Review, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Canada's Asia-Pacific Security Dilemma / Navies in the Post-Cold War Era / Canada's Asia-Pacific Security Dilemma


Wilbur, David A., Naval War College Review


Varner, Joe. Canada's Asia-Pacific Security Dilemma. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Maritime Affairs. NIOBE Papers, vol. 10, 1999. 80pp. (no price given)

Haydon, Peter T. Navies in the Post-Cold War Era. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Dalhousie Univ. Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, 1998. 97pp. $10.50

Varner's Canada's Asia-Pacific Security Dilemma is a series of essays that discuss Canada's position in the rapidly developing post-Cold War order. It is also a call to the Canadian government to commit itself, through defense spending and diplomacy, to providing security for its interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Varner begins by presenting a snapshot of world powers as a new order evolves, marked by dwindling Russian influence and shifting U.S. interests. Painting a bleak picture of escalating instability and growing military spending among smaller powers throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Varner offers a new concept of international struggle. He presents a convincing argument that as global oil, waste, and toxin spills threaten vital supplies of fresh water and fisheries, disputes over possession and rights may lead to armed conflict. Additionally, he contends that ethnic divergence, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the illicit drug trade will also significantly contribute to global instability, resulting in a fundamental shift from hegemonic expansionism to homeland defense. Based on these concepts, Varner reasons that the Canadian government must reaffirm its commitment to the 1994 Defence White Paper, which outlined military spending and its growth plans to provide combat-capable land, sea, and air forces in the twenty-first century. Recognizing current trends, insufficiencies due to aging weapons systems, incompatibility with the rapidly improving neighboring Nato systems, and airlift deficiencies, Varner fears that Canada will prove more of a liability than an asset in future combined peacekeeping task forces.

Varner's work is brief and to the point, yet very well supported. As a senior advisor for the Senate in Ottawa specializing in Canadian international security issues, Varner writes with credibility. He has military experience, and he is well educated in international affairs, with a master's degree in political science as well as a fellowship in the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society. At the time he wrote this book, he was an intern at the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada/Department of National Defence, sponsored by the Maritime Affairs Division of the Naval Officers' Association of Canada.

This book will be important for two reasons to government officials, military leaders, and professionals concerned about international security interests and trade. First, it succinctly outlines the history behind the political outlooks of the most influential and prevailing small and middle powers of the Asia-Pacific region. These are powers that could mature into formidable threats to global resources and regional interests. Second, it serves as a warning to prepare for a new nature of war. In a region of instability, which Varner compares to the Balkan unrest at the opening stage of World War I, with pressure from the guardian superpowers thinning and arms easy to procure, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are becoming the venom of an unrestrained adolescent rattlesnake.

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