- John Thompson
- 19th September, 2017
As Pyongyang continues to threaten one and all with the hydrogen-bomb tipped ICBM it seeks so desperately, it has dawned on many Canadians that we are defenceless against such a threat. The Americans do have an anti-ballistic missile system that might protect us, but offer no assurances. What are we to think?
How soon we forget…
First, Canada’s major cities have been nuclear targets since the 1950s. The Russians and Americans have agreed not have targeting instructions permanently left on any of their ICBMs, but China made no such guarantees. Israel (which still won’t admit to being a nuclear state) and India have no reason to threaten us; while the Iranian regime has long appeared to have Toronto in mind as their destination-of-choice if they ever have to run for it.
Secondly, it’s very, very difficult to stop an incoming ICBM. However, it is not impossible. Both the US and the USSR have built workable ABM systems that can stop an ICBM, but are bound by treaty to limit the number of launchers they own and to only have one site for them. The arrangement is intended as a backstop against really catastrophic errors, and nutcases who get their hands on a handful of nukes.
Strangely enough, America’s Ground Based Mid-Course Defence system (GBMD) has been based in Alaska for the last 20 years. By a curious coincidence, this is athwart the probable trajectory for an Nork ICBM bound for the Continental US. When the author was visiting the NORAD HQ in Cheyenne Mountain some 15 years ago; they were running drills predicated on identifying a Nork missile launch and handing the contact off to the nascent GBMD system.
Thirdly, the US did ask Canada to get involved in the GBMD project. They weren’t after a financial contribution so much as a political endorsement. Moreover, it would have been useful to extend the long-successful Canadian involvement in NORAD to ballistic missile defence.
However, Prime Minister Jean Chretien harkened to the usual idiocies of the Peace Movement and stood clear. He also elected to decline Canadian participation in the creation of North American Command – US proposal for an integrated command (including NORAD) for joint defence of North America. Dozens of Canadian officers necessarily work at North American Command HQ, but officially aren’t there.
As it is now, Canadian Air Force personnel in Cheyenne Mountain continue to sit in on the Threat Assessment teams that determine (within a couple of minutes) that there is an inbound attack on North America. Then they must shut their eyes and put their fingers in their ears while the Americans deal with the problem. Nor are the Americans obliged to fire any of their limited stock of anti-ICBM weapons at one bound for a Canadian city.
The survivors of any future Nork (or Iranian) nuclear attack on a Canadian city are invited to seek out Mr. Chretien for redress – nobody is likely to have nuked Shawinigan.
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