MISSILE DEFENcE: ROUND ONE by Steven Staples (Lorimer), 248 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Paul Martin's decision not to go ahead with George Bush's proposed U.S. ballistic missile defence program feels like ancient history, but that should not deter you from reading a book by someone who was at the centre of all of the action.
In a clear, fast-paced narrative, peace advocate Steven Staples tells how an effective campaign by a small group of activists in the Canadian Coalition to Oppose Missile Defence that included just about every prominent peace activist in the country laid the groundwork for that political decision.
Staples details the winning strategy: old-fashioned lobbying of politicians of all stripes, careful cultivation of reporters and the use of dissident former U.S. military experts to provide credible arguments warning of the dangers of an international arms race in space should Bush's Son of Star Wars scheme get the go-ahead.
Of, course, having as its target a shaky Liberal minority government after the June 2004 election also made a big difference. In retrospect, the anti-BMD campaign looks like a piece of cake compared to what opponents of the counter-insurgence operation in Afghanistan have to face, for instance, in a more ideologically fixated Stephen Harper-led Conservative government and an ambivalent Canadian populace.
Staples does remind us, though, that missile defence as part of the framework of a renewed NORAD agreement looked like a done deal, what with the initial support of Martin and his cabinet, the business lobby and newspaper editorial writers.
In the larger scheme of things, other decisions by Ottawa to please Washington - like pursuing the mission in Kandahar or ramping up our military expenditures - may have been the price we paid for for nixing missile defence and keeping our troops out of Iraq.
Perhaps that should be the subject of Staples's next book.