More attack planes or more feet on the ground
War at all costs?
Harper has to decide between his precious F-35 attack aircraft and his Canadian soldiers on the ground. There isn't enough money in the defense budget for both of them.
His generals are putting pressure on him to maintain the current number of troops and keep all the military bases open, while still buying Harper's costly F-35s.
The Defence experts are saying it just isn't possible. It'll have to be airplanes or soldiers. Take your pick. Something has to go.
Harper is still committed to buying 65 new F-35 over a 20 years period, even though the cost of whole package has gone from $ 9 billion to $ 40 billion.
Rather than increasing the budget by $ 8.9 billion it would cost to buy the first set of F-35s, Harper could cut an entire battalion of Canadian soldiers.
There are good arguments to be made for either choice.
We recall that Harper won his war in Libya using only attack aircraft, six old Canadian Air Force F-18s flying out of Italy. Not a single Canadian soldier set foot on Libyan soil.
But in Haiti after the earthquake, it was completely different. Attack aircraft would have been useless. They would have had nothing to attack.
What was needed there were foot soldiers to rescue the miserable victims.
Harper's decision will be difficult. He doesn't want the military budget to get out of control When he came to power seven years ago the Liberals' military budget was $ 14 billion per year.
It's now $21 billion a year. That's called a 50 % increase.
Harper wants to reduce the budget somewhat this year, but that may be impossible. That's what it's like to be Prime Minister. The choices are there, there are always choices, but they are not always easy.