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Jack Granatsteins Who Killed the Canadian Military? is more than a history of the decline and rustout of a military that as late as 1966 boasted 3,826 aircraft (including cutting-edge Sea King helicopters) as opposed to todays 328 aircraft-including those same Sea Kings and CF-18 fighters whose avionics are a generation out of date; the same can be said of the army and navy. Granatsteins book is a convincing analysis of Canadas embrace of a delusional foreign policy that equates knee jerk anti-Americanism with sovereignty and forgets that in a Hobbesian world of international relations, power still comes primarily from the barrel of a gun and not from Steven Lewiss speeches about Canadian goodwill, tolerance or humanitarianism.
Canadian foreign policy went awry, Granatstein believes, in 1957 when Mike Pearson won the Nobel Prize for cobbling together the UN peacekeeping mission that ended the Suez crises. Its not that Pearson didnt deserve it. Rather, its that having won it, Canadians almost at once changed their view of the countrys military. Just 12 years earlier, we had fielded an armed forces of more than a million men and women, fully 10% of the population, that fought in Sicily, Italy, France and liberated the Low Countries. (Putting aside the very few conscripts sent to fight in Europe at the end of the war, ours was the only completely volunteer armed forces in battle.) In 1955, the army alone totalled 50,000 (as compared to 54, 000 in all three forces today) and planes flew off HMCS Magnificent.
At a stroke, all this (and Vimy too) was forgotten and the myth of the nice Canadian peacekeeper was born. Pearson saw peacekeeping through the prism of the Cold War. Since we had never been an imperial power, our troops could be inserted into Suez, the Belgian Congo, Cyprus, where in addition to monitoring lines of control, our very presence kept the Soviets out. Publically, however, Canada assumed the role of honest broker, which morphed into a wannabe neutral.
International do-goodism soon became outright Anti-Americanism. After defending Diefenbakers cancellation of the Avro Arrow, Granatstein shows how Dief made anti-Americanism a staple of Canadian politics. Dief did more than dismiss the evidence John Kennedys envoy brought to Ottawa to prove that there were Soviet missiles in Cuba. He stood up in Parliament and said that the UN should investigate the issue-and this with Soviet freighters steaming for Cuba.
Dief lost the next election to Pearsons Liberals. But, as Granatstein underscores, Diefs anti-Americanism helped him hold Pearson to a minority government, and by virtue of this spread the infection [of Anti-Americanism] deep into the bone of the Liberal Party-where, as evidenced by MP Carolyn Parrishs famous I hate those bastards comment before the Iraq War, it flourishes still.
Granatsteins critics will object that by refusing to say Ready, Aye, Ready to the Americans, Diefenbaker and later Trudeau and more recently Chretien augmented Canadian sovereignty. Rhetorically, thats so: Sovereignty was the first defence buzzword in Trudeaus time.
However, in the real world of international relations, argues this military historian, sovereignty comes from having a seat at the table-and the coin that buys that seat is the military assets you bring. Canadas Second World War military reputation and her well-balanced forces gave our diplomats enough weight to help nudge the United States into NATO in 1949, which gave Canada access to secret US intelligence. Eight years later, our air force was credible enough to convince the Americans to enter NORAD and to make a Canadian second in command. Today we have few assets to bring to the table, where, according to Granatstein, all we can do is hear what the Americans have decided about continental defence.
Even peacekeeping has become more rhetorical than real. Ottawa may be the only city with a Peace Keeping monument, but internationally Canada now ranks 34th in the provision of troops (with fewer than 20,000 men and women), behind such international powerhouses as Bangladesh and Fiji. Nor has our government been honest about what peacekeeping has become. In 1999, Chrétien equated peacekeeping with Boy Scouting. It never was-though in its early years troops werent inserted until both sides had agreed to stop shooting. No such agreements were obtained in Rwanda, Somalia or the former Yugoslavia. By 1993, the Department of National Defence had grown so allergic to the idea of a military that kill[s] people and blow[s] things up that it suppressed news of the battle of Medak Pocket, during which, without suffering casualties to itself, the second battalion of the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry killed 27 and wounded 130 other heavily armed Croatians bent on ethnic cleansing.
Two generations of under funding-which has left the armed forces so badly equipped that ships despatched to the Persian Gulf in 2002 were outfitted with anti-aircraft guns borrowed from museums-is bad enough. Sadly, this has been accompanied by policies that have undermined the militarys esprit de corps. Unifying postal and intelligence services made sense. What in 1967 Defence Minister Paul Hellyer didnt understand was that the buttons and bows he disparaged symbolized something vitally important for sailors, soldiers and air men and women who identified with the traditions of their squadrons, corps, regiments or units. Next came Trudeaus barely disguised view that generals and their soldiers were brutes and dolts. Mulroney failed to deliver on promises of more money and men-and was unable to say No to any UN request for troops, thus creating the unprecedented peace time situation of soldiers deployed for as many as six months a year.
More recently, theres been the impact of the Charter on military policy. Granatstein is at pains to argue that he supports inclusion of women in all roles in which they are physically suited, such as fighter pilot. But, he argues, few women can lug heavy machine-guns and their belts of ammunition across country and fight enemy infantry. A 19-year-old female must meet the same physical requirements set for a 45-year-old male, a situation that Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente suggested is okay, so long as the enemy troops are all 45-year-old men. Equally absurd is the use of quotas to raise the number of visible minorities in the Forces. First, he argues, there is no place for race-based thinking in recruitment. Second, the claim that visible minorities are under-represented in the Forces fails to take into account the fact that the vast majority of visible minorities live in major cities-population pools which produce a very small percentage of the men and women in the Forces. And thirdly, a goodly proportion of recent immigrants to Canada came from countries where the military was something to be feared. Quotas backed up by Charter arguments may be legal, but they reveal that the government views the army as a social acculturation agency and not as a tool that exists to project the states power.
No doubt many on the left will view Granatsteins proposal that we increase defence spending from 1.1% to 2.5% of our GDP as proof that hes Donald Rumsfeld in mukluks. Hes not. Three point two percent of the American GDP goes to the Pentagon.
Granatsteins proposal is large, but the need is great. The Army requires more than a billion dollars just to get its buildings back into shape; hundreds of millions are needed to clean up environmental hot spots on firing ranges. And jeeps, tanks and helicopters, and a major support ship; and replacements for rusted out destroyers and fast aging fighters; and tens of thousands of new soldiers, sailors, aviators and militia men and women-all are needed. Its not a choice between guns and the butter of health care and culture and pensions, Granatstein argues; we can afford both. Rather, he rightly claims, its the choice of having a military that can defend the country and count with our allies or accepting the ultimate in colonialism-letting the Americans alone defend North America, the largest part of which is our Dominion.
Nathan Greenfield (Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada
J.L. Granatstein is the author of over 50 books, including Who Killed Canadian History?, Yankee Go Home?, Victory 1945 and The Generals, which won the J.W. Dafoe Prize and the UBC Medal for Canadian Biography. In 1992, the Royal Society of Canada awarded him the J.B. Tyrrell Historical Gold Medal for "outstanding work in the history of Canada." In 1997, he received the Order of Canada. A distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus at York University in Toronto, he is a member of the RMC Board of Governors and chair of the Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century. J.L. Granatstein lives in Toronto.