Why Canada Must Oppose Space-Based Missile Defence
Graham, Thomas, Canadian Speeches
Canada is urged to lobby the United States against the development of space-based missile systems, in favor of an international regime to enshrine space as a peaceful environment. Rather than providing an effective, long-term defence against nuclear attack, spaced-based ABM systems are seen as leading to greater risks, as well as threatening the vast commercial and scientific use of outer space. Remarks to the 72 annual Couchiching Couchiching Conference, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs conference, Geneva Park, Ontario, August 9, 2003.
The concept of missile defence began almost with the commencement of the missile age itself. By the late 1950s, long range ballistic missiles began to be developed and deployed. These missiles and their successors were capable of transporting a nuclear weapon from the Soviet Union/Russia to the United States and vice-versa within 30 minutes with ever increasing accuracy as the years went by. Indeed, the M-X or Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile deployed by the United States in the 1980s had a CEP of .1 miles.
CEP is a standard for measuring missile accuracy and in the M-X case it meant that 50% of the ten nuclear warheads carried by the missile could be expected to fall inside a circle around the aim point of .1 mile radius, or about 500 feet. Put another way, as it was once to me, five of the ten warheads of an M-X missile launched from Kwajelein Atoll in the Pacific could be made to fall within the courtyard of the Pentagon. And each of those warheads had a 500 kiloton explosive yield, about 35 times more power than the Hiroshima bomb. Without question, with capabilities like these in existence the protective shield of the two great oceans which had insulated the United States from the wars of the Old World had vanished.
But old dreams do not die easily. In only a few years, in the 1960s, the concept of anti-ballistic missile systems began to be considered. There was much debate over the merits of a pursuing a missile defence within the U.S. government. Some saw pursuit of such a defence as an essential, almost a religious matter so as to return the United States to the safety of the pre-missile era, protected by the two great oceans. Other saw it as fuel for the arms race arguing that as defences are built up they will be offset by more offensive forces on the other side--and so on--as well as destabilizing in that it would encourage striking first in a crisis. The argument here went that if "country A" built missile defences against "country B", "country B" might come to believe that "country A" was planning to conduct a first strike and utilize its defences to ward off a weakened retaliatory strike and, therefore it "country B", had to be sure to strike first in a crisis.
These two concepts were referred to as arms race stability and crisis stability. These were the important issues for a long time, but they were settled for many years on the basis of the second view by the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty which arguably ensured arms race stability and crisis stability by keeping missile defences at a very low level. However, over time the first view of attempting to turn back the clock to the pre-missile era, gradually became stronger, and this coupled with the attractiveness in principle of trying to defend oneself against bad actors along with large defence contracts created a political situation which led to the United States withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002.
With the establishment of the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD) many years ago, U.S. and Canadian fortunes on this issue have been linked. Initially, the mission of the Command was to protect the North American continent from bomber attack contemplating joint efforts of U.S. and Canadian air defence forces. An early warning radar line was deployed in northern Canada as a part of this. But, although U.S.-Canadian co-operation in NORAD continued with the advent of the missile age, air defence seemed to become increasing irrelevant as the long-range ballistic missile carrying nuclear weapons was clearly the weapon which actually threatened North America. …