02 March 2005

BMD flap overblown

Two things are making me a little cranky today and neither of them has to do with the fact I am not getting enough fibre in my diet.

The first thing irritating my irk is the ongoing chatter about the Stunnel. NTV, the local CTV affiliate even ran a story last night on the idea of a trans-Atlantic tunnel. Now look, people, the idea of a giant hole bored through from New York to Portsmouth may promote rhapsody in people who like their science fiction a la Jules Verne, but these megaprojects are just what engineers do instead of ogle Kate Winslet on the internet when they are all alone in their cubicles.

We are now at the stage where people think we have a shot at dating Kate.

The transAtlantic tunnel is feasible. BUT and pay attention to this: the frickin thing will cost trillions of dollars and take the better part of 100 years to construct. On this last point, note that one estimate of the practical limitations of the concept was that the project would tie up every single yard in the world capable of building pre-fabricated tunnel sections for that entire century!

The same practical limitations apply to the Stunnel. The one part that Keirans and Williams can't escape is that the project makes absolutely no business sense, nor does it make a public policy purpose. There is no more compelling reason to build a tunnel to Labrador than there is to build a tunnel from Bell Island to Portugal Cove.

We know we can do it; but why should we do it?

By way of that digression I arrive at the major irk of the day: the constant nattering about US Canada relations and the rejection of active participation in ballistic missile defence.

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that in a few weeks, maybe a few months, Condoleeza Rice will visit Canada and everything will be ok.

In the world of the Grown Ups, much of the public appearance of diplomacy masks the reality behind the scenes. Sometimes it is messy. Sometimes it consists of a series of postures designed to play to political realities. Behind the scenes, the grown-ups still talk and the world continues to revolve undisturbed.

Apparently I am the only person who watched CBC national news last night and noticed the interviews from Washington. The only people talking about a crisis were members of the Conservative Party. The rest of the writing on this, including Paul Wells on his blog , seems to be drilling into the superficial posturing on this issue of Canadian participation.

I've turned into a faithful reader of his stuff, but in the same way he can get spun by those evil Liberals on defence budget increases - I am still rolling on the floor knowing he wasn't spun - Paul seems to be looking for some problem here that other evidence might lead you to believe doesn't exist.

Well, surprise of surprises, they are finding all sorts of holes in the logic of the public posturing. Maybe the conclusion to draw is not that the PMO is having difficulty working the phones to Washington, Paul et al., or that the Americans are really super-pissed at us now, but maybe that the whole thing is a bit of a charade.

If the Americans were really that upset, if they really felt that put-upon by our refusal to join in active ballistic missile defence, then we'd see some real signs of their grievance. The language would be much harsher. Trade deals would be cancelled, not threatened. Exchange officers with the US military would be sent home.

What did we actually get?

Condi Rice has a schedule conflict.
Paul Celucci says something about our sovereign national interest.



Well, that's it.

Celucci has said harsher things to his Canadian gardener.

Let's look at some other factors that need to be weighed here:

1. The Americans would have been dead if they didn't see the public statement coming that Canada would not participate in BMD. Therefore, I suspect they had alternative plans in the works all along.

2. We pay more for staying out temporarily; the Americans lose nothing. We lose business opportunities. We sort of lose a seat at the table. Other than that, there isn't an issue. The US builds the system. We get to tuck under it once its up and running.

This is not like the US is building a coalition against Iraq. This is a system for defending the US alone. We happen to benefit anyways whether we are in or out of the actual program. Unless I am completely misreading this, it is NO biggie. The Post can trot out all the retired air force generals they want but truthfully, this is not a crisis akin to walking out of NORAD. The zoomies might want to opt into cutting-edge American air programs for their own service interests, but in the national interest, we can get to the goal without letting the Canadian air force send exchange officers to the MDA. One less air force career billet on the way to general won't wreck the country.

3. We can still opt in at some point in the future. We didn't give the Americans precise directions on how to manually insert the BMD program in some orifice. We politely declined. Two years from now, a majority government can opt in following a quiet offer and away we go.

4. Look at David Dreier. A senior Republican congressman from California was quoted on CBC saying the whole thing was a minor issue and we could all get past it. Hello. Wake up people. Belinda Stronach does not represent George Bush (She was quoted in the same report predicting nasty things would be happening soon.) As much as Belinda is the leader the Cons should have chosen if they had really wanted power last year, I'd put bags more faith in Dreier's opinion being the same as that of the Bush administration.

At some point, these two things will blow over. I just have to picture a calm blue ocean until they do.

That and get ready for my date with Kate.