- Beyond Afghanistan: An International Security Agenda for Canada ed. by James Fergusson and Francis Furtado
Canada's mission to Afghanistan lasted 13 years (2001–14), consumed billions of dollars and cost the lives of 158 Canadian Armed Forces personnel. The mission, which was Canada's largest and bloodiest military deployment since the Korean War (1950–3), had a profound impact on Ottawa's defence policy thinking and even defence procurement decisions. This impact was especially acute during the five year (2006–11) deployment to the southern province of Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold.
The passage of time following the withdrawal of the last troop contingents in 2014 has seen a reassessment of the war and its impact on both Canadian defence and foreign policy. Amid this discussion has emerged a slowly growing body of scholarly literature, including Stephen Saideman's 2016 Adapting in the Dust and the recently released, The Politics of War by Jean-Christophe Boucher and Kim Richard Nossal. A third standout is this edited volume, Beyond Afghanistan, by political scientist and noted defence scholar, James Fergusson, and retired federal civil servant, Francis Furtado.
Unlike the other texts, Fergusson and Furtado do not seek to analyse the mission itself. Instead, they and their assemblage of researchers (many of whom are leading scholars) attempt to posit Canada's Afghanistan experiences in the context of new international security challenges, key of which is the return of great power rivalry as the United States undergoes a relative decline in the face of an assertive China and a resurgent Russia. In this context, old debates like ballistic missile defence, arms control, and disarmament have returned to the fore after a decade (or more) post-Cold War pause. Using a structuralist lens, the editors and their 14 contributors attempt to provide lessons to policymakers on how Canada can be best prepared to confront these post-Afghanistan challenges.
The book is divided into three sections: one of which is entirely dedicated to NATO; another to non-NATO but regionally focused issues (e.g. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the Arctic, Latin America); and finally, attention is directed to specific security issues such as nuclear deterrence. While some chapters are historical in nature, like Denis Stairs's retelling of Canada's early involvement in NATO, the contributions provide enough history of their respective subjects to emphasise the point that despite the lengthy and costly Afghanistan mission Canadian defence and foreign policy remains characterised by continuity.
In fact, what becomes strikingly clear towards the end of the volume is how prevalent and intertwined both the US and NATO alliances are in Canadian defence and foreign [End Page 239] policy thinking. This is not necessarily a criticism but rather a reflection of the country's geostrategic position; its middle power status and capabilities; shared history, norms, and values with its western allies; and the strong institutional frameworks that have developed in these alliances since the Second World War. Even in non-NATO, non-North American regions like Latin America it is difficult to see how Canada can further its own economic and security interests without engaging with the US or its European allies whose overseas territories, influence, and assets Canada continues to depend on, and vice versa. However, given the publication date, the question today is whether American leadership can still be depended on. If not, a book update may be necessary.