J.L. Granatstein’s evidence problem

In this morning’s Ottawa Citizen, J.L. Granatstein critiques the Liberals’ proposed policy of only deploying the CF on operations with a UN Security Council mandate. 

He rightly notes many of the difficulties that this policy presents, such as Canada ceding important defence policy decisions to the Permanent Five (including Russia and China). 

As well, he observers that Canada rightly took part in the Kosovo War without the approval of the UN Security Council and that the Security Council failed to act in many other cases that warranted an intervention. 

True to form, Granatstein then uses the op-ed to go after his biggest bugbear: Canada’s attachment to UN peacekeeping. Although I find that he goes too far with some of his arguments, I generally agree with his views about the changing nature of peacekeeping and the illusions that many Canadians hold about contemporary peace operations. 

Unfortunately, I completely disagree with another point he makes in the piece. 

Granatstein claims that Parliament (by which he means the House of Commons) should always be required to approve international deployments of the CF with a formal vote. According to Granatstein, long-lasting public support for the CF’s international deployments depends on the holding of such votes. 

Granatstein offers us no evidence to support this rather bold assertion. And I would argue that there is no basis for making such a claim. 

Here are a two problems I have with his statement:

-Public support for the CF mission in Afghanistan starting falling steadily after the Commons began voting to extend the mission. This belies the notion that there is a correlation between Commons votes and public support. 

-Public support for the Libya operation appears strong, despite the fact that the mission was not approved by a formal vote in Commons. 

Simply put, recent events provide him with no support for his argument.

I would also challenge Granatstein to see if his claim fits with the following cases:

-Did public support for the Kosovo War slowly evaporate because there was no vote to approve Canada’s involvement in the Commons?

-Did public support for peace enforcement operations in Bosnia slowly evaporate because there was no vote to approve Canada’s involvement in the Commons?

-What about the Korean War? Did the lack of a vote in the Commons affect public support for that military deployment? And how can we establish a causal connection between the two?

What I find most disappointing about Granatstein’s claim is that he makes it in an article that attacks supporters of UN peacekeeping for not looking at the facts. The irony is that he is repeating the same mistake with his argument about public support and Commons votes. He is basing his assertion on a gut feeling or a hunch, not evidence. 

I won’t get into the problems I have with Granatstein’s other claim that Parliament must assume the burden of responsibility for military deployments. Here he betrays his deep-seated dislike of the Westminster tradition, the Crown, and responsible government. I answer this particular question in my IRPP Study, Accountability for National Defence: Ministerial Responsibility, Military Command and Parliamentary Oversight

You can download the PDF of that study by clicking on this link:

http://www.irpp.org/pubs/IRPPstudy/IRPP_Study_no4.pdf

And you can read Granatstein’s op-ed here:

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/Canada+armed+forces+should+used/4754589/story.html

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