Thursday, 15 January 2015

At What Cost Sovereignty? - Dr Eric Lehre

This review was written by Chris Buckham and is published in the Canadian Naval review. Editor of the journal is Dr Ann Griffiths (Ann.Griffiths@Dal.Ca ). The website for the journal is:
Title: At What Cost Sovereignty?
Author: Dr Eric Lehre
ISBN: 978-1-896-44072-9
Publisher: Ctr/Foreign Policy Studies
Pages: 405
Nation-states throughout history have made concerted efforts to define themselves in specific terms in order to ensure that they retain both a unique place within the international community and a common baseline within their nations from which to develop their culture. These efforts manifest themselves in many ways; military independence being one of them. However, as the cost of maintaining a military capable of standalone international operations has spun beyond the financial affordability for many states, coalitions and alliance-based operations and development have become the norm. With this evolution, the line between national independence and reliance has become progressively less clear.

Dr. Lerhe addresses this perception in his work looking at whether the advent of interoperability with the United States has or has not undermined Canada’s military and, by extension, national independence. The sensitivity most Canadians hold in this regard given Canada’s respective size and geographic location compared with the United States, makes this is a very relevant and timely topic of study.

There are several themes that permeate Lerhe’s work such as the traditional underlying suspicion of the military held by the Canadian media, intelligentsia and some Canadians, suspicion of the military’s relations with the government and civil society, and a willingness to perceive any action by the government as capitulating to diplomatic pressures from the United States. In this book, Lerhe examines a difficult subject because the discussion among Canadians on this topic is fraught with emotion and he challenges their perceptions with the facts as presented.

Lerhe commences his study with a look at a cross section of existing literature on what defines sovereignty (in itself a challenge). He then develops a matrix by which examples may be evaluated for their impact first upon internal and external levels of sovereignty and second by their impact within those two criteria. His method of evaluation, as much as possible, removes subjectivity from the equation and better allows for a factual, unbiased determination. Following an explanation of what the issue is and how he will approach it, he provides a comprehensive historical analysis of Canada’s military and governmental approach to interoperability from the turn of the 19 century to modern times. He then reviews the major works on the issues with a view towards establishing the breadth of academic, governmental and military opinion on the subject. In order to determine which (if any) of these views is correct he then evaluates a series of recent controversial issues surrounding the war in Afghanistan including: Canadian detainee policy; Canada’s decision relating to Operation Iraqi Freedom ; rejection from ISAF 2001-2002; Task Force 151; and Canada’s response to 9/11.
In each case, Lerhe presents the background to the subject, how it affected Canadian decision-making and how the issue was perceived in the Canadian media and intelligentsia. Once this baseline has been established, Lerhe undertakes a detailed analysis of senior Canadian government and military decision-making, and the expectations and actions of US senior governmental leadership and diplomatic staff. He also examines what was made available to the media and public at the time, and the international conventions (i.e., the Geneva Convention) against which the decision-making was taken. Finally, he reviews the understanding and comprehension of these issues by contemporary academia and the media in their analysis and presentation of the subjects. He utilizes extensive interviewing of the key players involved, detailed review of previously classified diplomatic communiqu├ęs from all parties, and legal analysis of what Canada’s international obligations entail. And finally, he examines these findings against the control measures that he defined earlier in his book to determine the impact on sovereignty (both internal and external). Lerhe’s work is balanced and fair. He makes a concerted effort to acknowledge those who hold differing perspectives and, rather than dismissing them out of hand, he incorporates their opinions with a view to upholding or disproving them. I found his analysis to be comprehensive and based in fact drawn from first-hand sources. Where he must draw conclusion from conflicting perceptions he readily acknowledges this and does his utmost to retain his impartiality.
At What Cost Sovereignty is a fascinating read and a laudable study into the challenges that not only interoperability presents but also how preconceived notions, biases and perceptions of media and academia can affect opinion and policy. It is a very readable and engaging book and one that media, historians, government policy-makers and senior military personnel should study.

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