Political Notebook

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Contingency plan for war with neighbor is disputed

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., asked Pentagon leaders during a Wednesday committee hearing whether they had a strategy in place for responding to the violent insurgency trying to topple Iraq’s government.

“Based on my previous service in the Senate and some service now, I am fully aware that the Pentagon has a contingency plan on the shelf for just about every possible scenario, everything from nuclear war to an invasion by Canada and everything in between,” Coats said .at the hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, of which he is a member.

He told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey that “there had to be some anticipation” on their part that Sunni extremists might attempt to overthrow Iraq’s Shiite leaders.

“Was there a plan on the shelf?” he asked Dempsey and Hagel during the webcast hearing. “If so, what is it; if there wasn’t, why (wasn’t there)?”

Dempsey replied, “Let me first assure you, we do not have a plan on the shelf for the invasion of Canada. I want to make sure that our Canadian allies who may be watching. …”

He went on to say that the U.S. military has many intelligence, aviation and maritime assets “committed to Iraq.”

On Thursday, Roll Call reporter Tim Starks noted in a blog that the U.S. had invaded Canada in 1775 and 1812 and developed an invasion strategy in the 1920s and 1930s as part of War Plan Red in the event of a war with the British Empire.

Coats perceived Dempsey’s remark about Canada as “completely humorous,” an aide said.

Coats “used an example with extremely low likelihood to illustrate his point, and General Dempsey made a good natured quip in response,” Matt Lahr, Coats’ communications director, said in an email to Political Notebook.

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