Sunday, January 09, 2005

Cold Comfort

I was visiting Halifax in 1969 when the USS Manhattan ponderously exited the port on its way to the first commercial vessel transit of the North West passage. I recall only too clearly and mentioned it to more than one colleague that, "If this isn't a wake-up call for Canada to pay attention to the Arctic, I don't know what is!" I said at the time that I thought the military was going to finally get some money to do the job. I thought the Canadian Navy would be on the fast track for nuke subs and icebreaking fighting ships and hovercraft, we in the Air Force would be getting newer, and more of them, long range patrol aircraft and we would establish at least three fighter bases in the deep arctic, the Army would be setting permanent stations on Elsmere Island, the Coast Guard would be getting the most powerful icebreakers in the world and I was just just a dumb junior Air Force officer. I was right on the dumb part. The powers that were as usual in Canada had no intent of putting their country first. The egotistical bastards thought only of their own position of power. The military was slowly strangled of any semblance of capability and while the few honest officers tried to hold the organization together the prima-donnas cow-towed to the politicos and we have today a military organization that couldn't defend ten square feet of the Arctic Archipelago if push came to shove.
Ok, I hear some screaming out there; well before you start hitting the keyboard, think about this! There was a Danish flag and a metal plaque nailed to the rock on Hans Island last year and that flag is still flying and taunting and we have not the resources or the guts to do anything about it.

Oh the screams in 69 when the Manhattan went through the arctic and then more weeping and gnashing of teeth in 70 when the behemoth did it again. What did we do? We invented the pollution solution! The bureaurocrat who came up with this winner is probably sitting out his glorious retirement on a beach in Barbados today.
The Arctic waters Pollution Prevention Act was a brilliant ploy. After the Manhattanhad sustained some damage, some say serious, but because the tanker carried no oil the point is moot. The event provided the impetus to the touted protection of the "delicate" arctic environment and led to the conclusion that legislation had to be passed to protect the North from environmental damage. Canadian bureaucrats worked hard and ultimately succeeded in establishing the concept of custodianship of the arctic waters and had the "Arctic Exception" written into the final UN Convention on the law of the Sea Dec 10, 1982 as article 234.
The brilliance of this move in case you haven't thought of it is that Canada can slough off the sovereignty issue if it has enforceable control in other ways. So.... you say..... What? The liberal, peace-loving government can now not only not increase military spending..... They can CUT it which they did!

Remember the chickens. Part two tomorrow!


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