August 29, 2011

AND VICE VERSA:

With sovereignty comes responsibility (Ottawa Citizen, August 24, 2011)

The Canadian military and its partners have been conducting ever-bigger operations in the North for several years. One of the government's justifications for these missions is that a military presence is necessary for Arctic sovereignty. The term "Arctic sovereignty" means different things to different people. It can be nothing more than shorthand for a demonstration of might. The idea is that we need to go up there and beat our chests every so often or the Russians or the Danes or the Americans will forget that it's ours.

Theatre does have its value. As sociologist Max Weber put it, statehood requires a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within a defined territory. So in a fundamental sense, what makes Resolute Bay part of Canada is that our fighter jets can fly over it and Russia's cannot, at least not without permission.

But sovereignty, in any state and especially in a democracy, also means that the state has responsibility to the people who live in that territory. It means that the Canadian forces must be able to protect Canadians from harm in Resolute Bay, just as they do in Vancouver or Brandon. Given the challenges of travel and equipment in the North, there are very pragmatic reasons why the Canadian forces should practise up there on a regular basis.


Posted by at August 29, 2011 9:43 PM
  

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