Could someone explain again why Canada’s military spending is shameful?

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  • The holy proportion of NATO. I agree with Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, who recently lamented, “We still have NATO allies, including Canada, just stocking up. And it gets a little tiring. I agree. It gets tiring.

The charge is built around a target figure: 2% of GDP per country should be devoted to military spending. NATO more or less kicked it out of the ass in 2014. It’s not required or warranted, anywhere I can find.

US military spending is around 3.7%, though the numbers are even grimmer here than in areas like unemployment. To broaden the view, Saudi Arabia is at 8.4, Algeria at 6.7, Russia at 4.3, Israel at 5.6. They are not part of NATO, but they are all in the military weight game.

Why is the United States not embarrassed to be so down? We’re between 1.3 and 1.4%, which puts us in a NATO subdivision with Germany, Spain and the Netherlands — not bad, IMO, and well ahead of Belgium or Ireland. Worldwide numbers are all over the map. Argentina is at 0.8; Finland is at 1.5. Could someone explain again why our figure is shameful?

Two other points.

The United States is a country largely built, socially and economically, around its military. It’s hard to find Americans who don’t have “served” family, even decades after universal conscription was abolished. Money spent on weapons goes directly to American corporate profits and national jobs. The recent $40 billion Ukraine aid bill that President Joe Biden signed begins right away with “replenishing US arms stockpiles ($9 billion).”

These are orders for American arms manufacturers. The more war there is, the more profit there is. This is not rhetoric, this is economics. Canada has a healthy arms industry, well represented in Ottawa by former generals. But it’s bupkis vs. US So why should their preferred targets apply to us?

Moreover, Canada is not in Europe. We are in NATO for historical reasons based on past eras. We are in a very different strategic situation from that of Italy, Germany or France. Acting distinctly from NATO would not prevent us from supporting, say, Ukraine for the time being. Or work with the United States on Arctic air defense.

If I had to say, I think we need armed forces, just like we need police forces. The question is whether they are fit for purpose – and what that purpose is.

  • Stand on guard for public instruction. The United States Supreme Court has just approved the use of publicly funded vouchers for private Christian schools. In the United States, this is seen through the prism of the separation of church and state. But I think what is more sinister is the continuing collapse of public education there.

With financing by public checks, the wealthiest parents will send their children to private schools, while covering the additional costs. Public schools will barely survive. They are already weakened. As a result, racial and economic gaps will widen even further, undermining social cohesion.

Our equivalent are the “special” schools of the public system: French immersion, arts, sciences, etc. In Toronto, there has been an outcry over recent plans to dismantle these schools. But they came about largely – as officials sometimes let slip – to deter wealthier parents from sending their children to private schools. The thinking was that in order to save public schools, much like Vietnamese villages in the 1960s, they had to be practically destroyed.

What is the alternative? To “enrich” all schools, so that everyone can benefit from an enriched education. Or make special routes available to less privileged children. This in turn would require more funding, which governments regularly resist.

Why is it important? Because the deepest purpose of public schools is to introduce children to the kind of multifaceted society they live in, through real-life experience. Then it can resist the stresses that strive to destroy it.

It is hellish to force parents as individuals to choose between what is good for their children and what is necessary for a strong and diverse society. That is why the burden should fall on all of us together, acting collectively and democratically.

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