F-35 jets blast peace alternative, leave $16B vapour trail


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October 11, 2010

One might wonder how Canada plans to use 65 joint strike fighter F-35 jets with stealth capability. Of course, there are all sorts of possibilities, both fanciful and realistic, in the world beyond 2016 when the first of the jets will come into service.

Still, $16 billion - perhaps much more - is an enormous investment in perpetuating a world where peace is supposedly found at the end of a gun barrel. The defence industry argues that we need to stand on guard to fend off attacks on our own shores or to engage in foreign military adventures to allegedly make the world a safer place.

Seven aerospace executives have even gone to Ottawa to say the F-35 fighter jet deal is needed to protect Canadian jobs. Good jobs, however, can be created in other ways.

Could Canada make a comparable, or even greater, contribution to lasting peace by finding other uses for that $16 billion? Oddly, the question is rarely asked or explored in any depth.

Isaiah promised a messianic age in which, "they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (2.4). It's been 2,700 years since the prophet wrote those words. So far, only a blessed few individuals have tried to realize them. More often, Isaiah's prophecy is dismissed as fuzzy-minded idealism.

More often too have provocative acts of terror such as the 9-11 bombings been met with knee-jerk military responses. Osama bin Laden got what he wanted - the overthrow of the Taliban and Western military invasions in Islamic lands that fueled passionate hatreds. Striking back may have given a sense of vindicating the killings of the innocents, but it is no path to lasting peace.

In a brief to the parliamentary committee on national defence, Project Ploughshares, an agency of the Canadian Council of Churches, maintains that no case has been made that would justify the F-35 purchase on the basis of the government's own 2008 defence strategy. Indeed, it is difficult to see how stealth fighter jets are a reasoned response to the threats outlined in the 2008 document.

The group contends government security spending is weighted too heavily towards defence. It states: "Canadian security preparedness involves more than its military capacity. It includes adequate funding for development, democracy promotion, disarmament and diplomacy."

Perhaps Canada is no longer a Christian nation. But to the extent that it is, it should respond to the dangers of the world by improving the prospects for peace and eschewing preparations for war.

The war makers' plans fuel an endless cycle of violence. The problem with the Gospel is that it has never been tried.