Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Did Trudeau Blunder by Rejecting the F-35?

From everything I've learned about that warplane, Trudeau made the right call only it might not have been the right time.

The overdue, overpriced, under-performing F-35 is not the aircraft Canada needs unless we're planning on attacking China or Russia and, if we did, that would invite some massive retaliation from people who have some impressively powerful weapons.

At home and in the newly militarized Arctic, the F-35 would be of extremely limited use. It can't go very far. It can't go very fast. It can't carry very much fuel or payload. It can't even go stealthy without the support of sophisticated aerial intelligence aircraft such as AWACS and JSTARS and Canada isn't buying any of those, not now, not ever.

As the head of the US Air Force Air Combat Command said recently, it's not a fighter. The very limited number of missiles it carries are strictly defensive, a last chance to avoid destruction by intercepting fighters. If it does get in a dogfight, it's trapped, doomed.  It very quickly becomes the world's most expensive lawn dart.

I think the NDP leader knows what Trudeau knows - unless Harper is re-elected, the F-35 is toast. But is canceling out on the F-35 a suitable election platform? I seem to recall Jean Chretien promising to cancel the Mulroney/Campbell government's plan to buy a fleet of very expensive anti-submarine helicopters for our navy. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't that occur during the pivotal 1993 election?

Mulcair took a shot at Trudeau for not waiting until there had been a full competition before deciding the F-35's fate. Fair enough, it's an election and his momentum seems to have stalled. I wonder, however, how many of the NDP rank and file would regret seeing the F-35 eliminated? My guess is very, very few.

Is it just me or does anyone else feel like this election has run out of steam? From Trudeau's perspective was this just an attempt to stir something up - something, anything? From Mulcair's perspective could he have done anything else but criticize Trudeau? It just seems, to me at least, as though the whole life has gone out of this campaign and there's really nothing much to say beyond repeating what's already been said again and again.

Wait, I know! How about going to bat for those poor Canadians who got stuck with Volkswagen diesels? Tell'em we're going to cross the Rhine again to finish what we left undone in 1945. That's the ticket.


Lorne said...

I agree with your assessment, Mound. The campaign has run out of steam, thanks to its ridiculously long duration, and quite honestly, as a political junkie, I feel that I have suffered an overdose. Time to go into rehab, methinks.

Scotian said...

I would tend to agree with your feeling that it feels like the campaign is running on empty at the moment. So far the only real "winner" from this lengthy campaign that I can see is Trudeau, because he has managed to come out of the debates looking like he is competent enough to govern and seriously undercut the "not ready yet" meme that both CPC and NDP voices have been chanting for so long now. Aside from that though I would say it is hard to see anyone or anything else that can claim any real gain/victory to date from this lengthy a campaign, only those losing (CPC/NDP) during it. The CPC of course have not been able to do any more than hold their bsae so far, and their attempts to destroy Trudeau have to an extent backfired, and their late shift to target Mulcair so far seems fairly weak, and the NDP went from being the dominant party at the start of the election with their main competitor the Libs many points behind them to being in a three way deadlock tie over a lengthy period now of a 1% spread from 1st to 3rd with party positions changing depending on which poll it is.

At this point I really think it will come down to whether the anti-Harper vote coalesces around one voice or two between the Libs and NDP. The NDP seemed to believe they had already locked it up over the C51 issue, but as I noted many times before this campaign started they would need more than that to succeed in the election campaign itself, and I would suggest that it looks like I called that one. The Libs are the only party to have made significant gains from the starting gate, but are currently stalled too, but so far they also look to be the most accessible party and candidates nationally, they also look to be the only party willing to take risks in policy and concepts to engage voters with, and that may end up being what triggers the break-point when/if it comes for that anti-Harper vote. One of the main issues many Canadians have with the Harper years is the lack of any positive vision and feeling of self worth in ourselves as a nation, and it is there I think Trudeau has been doing the better job between him and Mulcair. Mulcair is being too cautious with a front-runner campaign approach, and if that continues I really think it is a recipe for loss, not gain. Not to mention it leaves many feeling he is taking their vote for granted, and that is always a dangerous thing to do, ESPECIALLY in a change vibe election environment.

I suspect you are right on this F-35 issue overall, yet it is also another point where Trudeau has made himself appear on one side and both Harper and Mulcair on the same other side, and in terms of pitching to woo the anti-Harper vote, that may well be yet another snowflake building for a Lib avalanche in that part of the voting spectrum come E-day. So far Trudeau has been very effective at differentiating himself on fairly significant points from Harper and Mulcair, and even better from a Lib perspective Mulcair has been too eager to centrify/Blairify his image that he has ended up making it easy to cast him as being on Harper's side of things, and combined that is something that I cannot help but think will work to the long term advantage of the Libs, especially on things like this, fiscal policy, and so on.

To be honest I've been a little surprised at just how heavy handed the Dipper team has been in sidling up to Harper to make themselves look safe, they do not seem to think they are at any risk of losing from their own left flanks to the Libs, as if C51 gave them carte blanche, and I have to wonder how true that really is. I say this given some of the policies that Trudeau has been championing that seem far more truly to the progressive side of Mulcair from the early pot legalization to the tax free targeted child care funding to the deficit spending for infrastructure work and now this with the F35.

Dana said...

Another Harper government is going to be the upshot of all this.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, JT won my vote when he shot down the F-35s. They are such a ridiculous example of smarmy, insider politics and it's more the message about the Harper way of politics that must to come to an end than the product itself. Drugs, military, oil and other industries (many of them without a single drip of Canadian input) all have back door access to the PMO, but Canadians don't.

I think this announcement is just the beginning of an upswing for Trudeau because his 'Canadian' is starting to show, whereas Mulcair is now clearly trying to out-Harper Harper.

Anonymous said...

Anyong said: Actually, I thought Trudeau was very brave and, what better time to say so. Harper needs to hear it as well from someone he is presently listening to a lot.

The Mound of Sound said...

Having concluded that Mulcair is entirely motivated by opportunism, I would prefer Trudeau to prevail. That said I'm still voting Green.

With public opinion running strongly against the F-35 I expect Trudeau won't be punished for pulling the trigger on this issue. It remains to be seen whether Mulcair will make any ground out of this.

This idea of a competitive fly-off in which the F-35 faces off against its rivals is unlikely to ever happen. Even the US Marine Corps, which has declared the F-35B operational, admits it won't be combat ready for at least two years.

Lockheed knows that in a head to head contest with the competition, the F-35 would likely finish last in several aspects - turn around rate (sortie generation), serviceability, range, speed (supercruise), payload, agility, vulnerability to ground fire and engine failure. For the sake of its limited stealth cloaking the design is deficient in all of those aspects. The F-35 is the car you buy without even a chance to kick the tires.

Anonymous said...

The F35 is more of a political statement than a weapons system.
The heart ofthe F35 promise is an AWACS type aircraft that conduits the resources of multi F35's to decieve the radar of the oponent.
Only the USA will possess the 'mother ship' leaving all other air forces as followers , unable to fully use the aircrafts attributes to their full.
When one considers that the heart of the consortium involved with building this aircraft is the old Anglo club of USA, UK, Canada, Australia ; with Israel tagging along ; we should consider the true nature of the use of this airplane!
The nature of the system is not unlike the relationship between the UK's Trident missile nuclear programme that is dependant upon the USA for operational purposes.
To remain part of this elite club Canada HAS to buy this airplane regardless of it's ability.

Purple library guy said...

I found the Accidental Deliberations guy's point interesting: If you say up front before running the competition that the F-35 is out of the running, Lockheed Martin can then sue you for gajillions for being unfair to them once you've picked something else, particularly given the trade treaties we're signatory to. Ergo, the thing to do that's good administration is what Mulcair is doing: Say "We'll run a fair competition and no, no, I'm not saying it's completely impossible for the F-35 to ever conceivably win such a thing, perish the thought, gonna be totally transparent (and not liable) here!"
At a political level, I can't see any downside to saying flat out that the F-35 is history, which would mean Mulcair is taking the political hit now to get a win once in office, a surprisingly responsible approach.
While contrariwise, this would suggest that Trudeau's stand is political grandstanding that he knows will result in costs to the public if he's elected. An unsurprising approach.

Anonymous said...

Anyong said: Simply put; The Greens in B.C., the NDP in Quebec, the Liberals in all the Maritimes including NL and Harper in the Prairies and who knows what in Ontario with no one wanting a coalition it ought to be a wonderful time all way round. If it were not a sad state of affairs, one could laugh.

The Mound of Sound said...

I don't see it turning out that way, Anyong. The Greens are hoping to pick up seats on Vancouver Island but the NDP should do well in BC with the Libs holding Vancouver itself and the Tories hanging on in the interior. As for once the dust settles, I'm pretty sure there'll be some sort of coalition. Both Trudeau and Mulcair have sworn they'll never support Harper's Conservatives so that doesn't leave them many options but to cooperate between themselves.