The National Post had a great cartoon recently that revealed Canada’s unpreparedness for war. A private in the Canadian Army said to another private: “The Canadian Army ranked 17th.” The other private said: “17th! Say that’s pretty good… who ranked 16th?” The first private said: “The Salvation Army.”

Canadians have always considered war an aberration or a luxury item we couldn’t afford. We much prefer to spend our tax dollars on propping up the Auberge des gouveneurs, the Shawinigan hotel in Jean Crouton’s riding that received $2 million in federal loans and grants until it tottered to its death.

Canada has always allowed its military to shrink between wars. The argument goes: “What do we need an army for – there isn’t any war going on” Financially, this may be the smart approach to take when there isn’t a war on the horizon, but what happens when a Sept. 11 occurs?

What happened then reads like the script of an unbelievably bad terrorism B-movie and forced us to look at a different kind of war. I used to enjoy the old war flicks. I always knew that John Wayne would survive to make another 37 movies. In all that shooting that went on, Wayne knew that he was going to live – at least until the last page of the script when he died heroically saving his whole regiment and the studio from bankruptcy.

I always hoped that the war to end wars would be a computer war where some clerk in an air-conditioned office with his collar open would be the one at the controls. Good grief! It’s happening!

I read in the National Post recently that fighter pilots may be out of a job. Testing was to begin in December on unmanned jets. The U.S. Air Force was conducting last-minute checks on a remote control fighter jet that would be operational this coming December.

The X-45 is designed to fly in squadrons over heavily defended battle zones, executing preliminary bombing raids under the control of technicians in faraway control rooms, according to a British weekly.

The unmanned fighter jets, the first of their kind, will fly in “all air combat situations,” according to Boeing, whose Phantom Works design team is funding $21 million (US) of the $131 million U.S. Air Force project.

This remarkable plane will not require any toilet facilities because there is no pilot. His normal space will be taken up with air intake being built into the cockpit area, making the plane much less detectable by radar. It will be able to execute much more demanding manoeuvres than a human pilot was ever capable of. (Is there some early retirement program out there for fighter pilots?)

It is said to be an improvement over programmed missiles, which cannot hit moving targets and can change mission after launch only by self-destructing. (That sounds like a lot of money going up in smoke.)

The X-45 can be programmed for an executed attack, but remain under remote control throughout, said Boeing. The whole point, says David Rudd, the executive director of the Canadian Institute of Strategic studies, “is to go after targets of opportunity, ones that you’re not sure are there, but pop up and present themselves, such as tanks, moving troops, or a camouflaged surface-to-air-missile base that can only be identified once a missile is fired.” (It can?)

Rudd also raised the ethical question of removing direct human control and accountability in military actions intended to kill people and destroy property. He said: “We are concerned, especially if the ability to pull the trigger occurs increasingly farther away from the human.” I got news for you, David. Most fighter pilots would be glad to be as far away from being killed as possible, directing the X-45 in a nicely air-conditioned control room. It gets to be like a big Nintendo game.

What annoys me is that Osama bin Laden hiding out at the end of a long ravine dotted with machine-gun nests and booby traps is in an underground cavern with such modern comforts as hot water and lights. He is also rumoured to have a fortified cave inside the Pamir mountains in Afghanistan with exits to China, Pakistan and Tajikistan.