I think I've discovered the reasons
Iran is so focused on its uranium enrichment program.
It's too worried about getting shown up by Canada and
2009, Iran spent $6.5bn on defense.
Canada and Australia, who together have less than
three-quarters Iran's population, each spent almost
triple -- Canada outlaid $19.2bn and Australia $19bn.
This reminds me of a question I once drunkenly posed
in a Laotian bar in 2005.
Which of the two countries, Canada or Australia,
would win in a war against the other?
Never mind Iran for now.
The United Nations can worry about that one.
On the face, it's an absurd question.
Both countries are
constitutional monarchies with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
as the head of state.
The two nations have deep historical ties and have
fought side-by-side when the sun never set on the British
Empire and, more recently, in the Korean War, the Gulf War,
and the war in Afghanistan.
There's no reason Canada and Australia would ever
really get into a fight.
This question is a hypothetical one and asked as
much as an exercise in critical thinking as because no
immediately obvious answer comes to mind.
A distance of around 7,500 miles
(12,000 km) separates Canada's western coast from
Australia's eastern one.
That's a fair distance.
As ridiculous a notion as it is that Canada and
Australia would wage war on each other, it's even more
ridiculous to imagine one transporting troops and materiel
to the other for the purposes of war.
The two would have endless arguments beforehand
deciding who gets to host the fight.
To lead this thought experiment along a fruitful path
of discovery, it's necessary to set up a few ground rules
Since both Canada and Australia possess primarily defensive
forces, each would be at an advantage if the other tried to
invade its lands.
The war has to take place in a third country or
territory more or less equidistant between the two nations.
One possibility is the Pitcairn Islands, located
5,133 miles (8,260 km) from Vancouver and 4,664 miles
(7,506) from Sydney.
Less than 50 people live there, and there's only one
settlement on the island.
Both countries have three
weeks preparation time to get their forces amassed on the
island. We will
assume that neither nation will launch an assault on the
other within this three week period.
Without that assumption, the nation that set up shop
first on and around the island in greater numbers could
fight in defensive mode and probably prevent the other
nation's forces from ever landing.
The point of discussion here is to avoid one nation
being mainly defensive and the other offensive.
Each nation is completely on its own.
Neither gets any logistical support, weapons,
materials, or military assistance of any kind from other
forces and weapons available to each nation are those it
possesses in its arsenals as of the end of 2009.
Strength of a nation's military depends
on several factors:
proper training, adequate investment, size of
fighting forces, technology, and experience, to name a few.
We'll take for granted that both countries' forces
are equally well trained, that a Canadian fighter jet pilot,
sailor, and infantryman are equivalent in raw skills, on
average, to their Australian counterparts.
Canada has its Joint Task Force II.
Australia has its Special Forces.
Both are elite units and which is the better is all a
matter of opinion.
Canada and Australia each have the same
military budget (denominated in 2009 U.S. dollars), but
because Australia's economy and population is smaller than
Canada's, its share of military expenditure is a greater
percentage of its GDP -- 1.8% for Australia vs. 1.3% for
absolute dollar figure is the more important one.
A submarine, air force jet, and missile all have the
same market price whatever the size of the country's GDP.
Naturally, a country with a bigger economy can reap
greater economies of scale buying or manufacturing military
percentage of GDP figure is more a gauge how serious a
country takes its military.
Israel, for example, 'only' allots $14.3bn annually
to its military budget, less than Canada and Australia, but
this is 7% of its GDP.
Canada's and Australia's percentage figures are on
par with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Holland.
Fighting force size counts up to a
point. In the
Winter War of 1939 between Finland and the Soviet Union, the
Soviets had three times as many soldiers as the Finns.
The Finns fought better, but the Soviets could
sustain the greater losses.
The Canadians have 67,756 active personnel and 23,599
Australia has 55,068 active personnel and 25,493
Those are not formidable numbers on either side.
As a comparison, there were 112,000 American troops
in Iraq as of December 2009, an amount equivalent to the sum
total of all actives in Canada and Australia.
Bear in mind that neither nation would be in a
position to send all of its active troops.
In today's wars, technology matters
more than absolute troop numbers.
Canada's potential 23% advantage over Australia in
soldier count may be no advantage at all if their military
equipment is inferior.
Canada has a total of 391 aircraft in its fleet.
Its primary fighter aircraft is the McDonnell Douglas
manufactured CF-18 Hornet.
The Canadians procured 138 of them between 1982 and
1988, and 80 were still operational as of 2008.
In 2000, the Canadian government modernized the
The shelf life on the upgraded planes ends between 2017
Australia has a total of 270 aircraft.
It uses an almost identical fighter plane, built
under license in Australia, called the F/A-18 Hornet.
71 remain in use, putting it almost on par with
Australian planes are in worse shape and plan to be retired
In an all-out air battle, the
Canadians' numerical superiority in soldiers and slightly
newer planes could prove a deciding advantage.
However, with the war taking place more than 7,000 km
away from either country and neither in possession of an
aircraft carrier to transport the aircraft the vast
distances to the fight zone, each would only be able to send
a handful to the war theater.
Thus, neither side is likely to have an evident air
The respective navies and armies would
play a more important role.
The Canadian Navy operates 33 warships and
Its backbone is 12 frigates which entered service in
the early and mid 1990's.
They are capable of carrying helicopters,
anti-submarine torpedoes, and anti-aircraft and anti-ship
frigates are supported by 3 destroyers built in the early
1970's, 12 modern patrol boats, and 4 submarines.
The Royal Australian Navy more than
matches this with 54 commissioned vessels.
They have 8 anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigates
capable of carrying a Seahawk helicopter plus 4 more
frigates built in the mid 1980's -- 12 in total, like Canada.
There are 14 modern patrol boats and 6 submarines.
Considering that Australia is a large island nation
with foreign attacks feasible on its western, northern, and
eastern coasts, whereas Canada has just two penetrable
coastlines spanning a fraction of the distance, a top notch
navy would be more essential to national defense Down Under
than it would be in Canada.
If the two navies engaged in battle, Australia would
be better prepared to win.
The Canadian Army consists of three
field-ready brigade groups.
Canada produces its own infantry fighting vehicle and
anti-tank guided missile.
Even with severe cuts in the Canadian military
budget, the Army hasn't suffered.
They operate 10,500 utility vehicles and 2,700
armored fighting vehicles.
The Australian Army also has three
brigades, but it is mainly a light infantry force geared
towards low-and medium-intensity operations.
The Australians' key military operations in the past
have been in Asia where light infantry forces were
concert with its allies in bigger operations, Australia is
known for high quality niche fighting forces.
If the two armies were meeting on a
battlefield in Europe in ratios equivalent to the total
active forces in each nation, the Australian Army would get
a thrashing by the Canadians' mechanized equipment.
But because they're meeting on a South Pacific island
midway between them both, an island we can surmise is dense
with jungle, the Australian Army's expertise in jungle
warfare, patrolling, and ambushing would give it an edge
over the Canadians.
The number of army personnel available
for fighting on the ground is determined by how many troops
each country can get on the island in the three week
With no assistance from other nations forthcoming,
Canada and Australia would have to get most of their troops
to the war zone by sea vessels -- that is, rely on their
assume the airport/landing strip in the Pitcairns will not
permit the landing of commercial airliners carrying military
the end of World War II, Canada possessed the third-largest
navy in the world.
Today, Australia has the larger navy of the two (though not by much) and a technologically sophisticated one
at that. A
larger navy means transportation of a higher percentage of
say that each nation has 20% of its national fighting force
it can spare.
Canada would have a maximum of 13,500 it could send,
and Australia 11,000.
We argue that Australia's more wavewise navy would be
able to get a greater percentage of available troops to the
war theater than Canada's.
In turn, despite Canada's greater pool of soldier
talent, each side has about the same number of soldiers in
place when the fighting actually begins.
The weak spot with both nations'
military forces is independent combat experience.
Canada has little experience in offensive military
tactics on its own. Defense cuts in the 1990's severely
undermined its forces' fighting ability.
Canada's armed forces are designed for, first, the
defense of Canada; then, the defense of North America in
conjunction with the United States.
The Canadians know that no threatening enemy power
could get within a time zone of a Canadian coastline without
the U.S. military stepping in.
Therefore, Canada's real defense role becomes
one of working along with the U.S. to provide marginal
assistance in North America's defense.
Australia originally relied on its
British and American allies to provide its key defense.
In 1969, the Nixon Doctrine put forward by the United
States stated that U.S. allies were now expected to take
care of their own defense, though the U.S. would provide
assistance if requested.
Australia initiated its Defense of Australia Policy.
Military forces were concentrated in Australia's
north facing the Asian continent to prevent an attack.
Over time, Australia gradually increased its ability
to strike at enemy forces abroad from its own bases in
These changes have not transformed Australia into a military
Not in the least.
Australia's logistical capabilities remain
insufficient to supply their military forces deployed far
from home. In
the past, Australia was always part of a team of larger
coalition partners -- usually, the British and the Americans
-- who provided that logistical support.
Canadian forces have no recent
experience being deployed abroad as the sole or leading
For that matter,
they lack a lot of recent fighting experience period.
Long thought of as a nation of UN peacekeepers, ever since
the 1990's Canada's contribution to UN peacekeeping
missions has been in steep decline.
As of 2006, Canada ranked 55th out of 108
troop contributing countries.
In 2010, Canada rejected a UN request to lead a Congo
more accurately, a Canadian general turned down the chance
to lead a 20,000+ peacekeeping force, only of which a few
dozen would've been Canadian.
Canada's biggest recent fighting commitment, but done
so in partnership with its powerful allies, is in
Afghanistan, where they have approximately 2,800 troops.
In contrast, Australian forces
conducted a military operation, Operation Morris Dance, in
reaction to a Fijian coup in May 1987; and in 1999, led the
peacekeeping effort in newly formed East Timor.
also in Afghanistan, contributing 1,550 troops.
doesn't have volumes of experience handling or
disproportionately contributing to major offensives, but it
front line experience and some is better than none.
It's this real
world fighting experience that contributes the most to a
technology is necessary, but if the forces using that
technology have never had genuine uses to employ that
technology in the field
on their own,
the technology cannot be utilized to maximum effect.
Let's look at Saudi Arabia.
They spend 8.2% of their GDP on defense.
That's $39.3bn, slightly more than Australia's and
Canada's military expenditures combined.
With this cash, they buy the most modern military
technology from the West.
And yet if Saudi Arabia were to be invaded or the
mere threat of an invasion appear on its doorstep, like it
did in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Saudis know they
can count on the United States to back them.
If the United States refused to help and the Saudis
were left with their high-flying technology to fight solo,
would they win, especially against a nation which had ample
recent fighting experience?
Australia are not military juggernauts.
A war between them is like two paunchy and
out-of-shape arthritic 65-year olds getting into a scuffle.
No side really wins.
One side just collapses before the other.
Neither tips the scales on all significant military
measures. Canada has more troops,
Australia spends more
per capita on defense.
Canada's Air Force is slightly more equipped than
Australia's, but then Australia's navy is slightly better
outfitted than Canada's.
The Canadian army has more equipment than the
Australian army, but all of this equipment would prove
ineffective in a jungle island war environment.
The deciding factor
in a military victory between the two scrawny forces remains the
nations rely heavily on U.S. security guarantees to keep
their derrieres safe.
Canada, having big brother right next door, is less
self sufficient than Australia thousands of kilometers away.
Australia has the largest military in Oceania.
That ain't saying much when Oceania consists of
Australia, New Zealand, and many tiny South Pacific islands.
But at least Australia is a big fish
evolved into a very, very, very lightweight regional power,
which means it has to step up and show some meager
independent fighting initiatives in its own backyard.
Canada's geographic situation prevents it from
having to do even this.
Australia's ranking over Canada is not restricted to
Australia's better-tasting Cadbury chocolates.
In an all-out war, the kangaroo would hop all over