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Who Killed the Canadian Military? [Hardcover]

J Granatstein
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 29 2004

When it was first published in 1998, J.L. Granatstein’s Who Killed Canadian History? set off a firestorm of controversy, touching a chord in our nation’s psyche. Who Killed the Canadian Military? promises to follow the same trajectory, as Canadians question the effectiveness of a military that is weakly waving the white flag both at home and on the international peacekeeping front. From failed submarine deals to tragic helicopter crashes, military equipment is sadly out of date and out of shape, Granatstein asserts. Military personnel are stretched far too thinly and are ill-prepared for the battlefield —or peacekeeping. He wonders if Canadians are aware that we rank 34th among nations in the provision of troops for UN peacekeeping, and that our vaunted reputation for diplomacy is pretty much in tatters. And now, it’s not just Canadians who are questioning our diminished military. Since 9/11 and the US–Iraq war, America is seriously evaluating our ability to defend our own border against a terrorist attack.

Who are these killers of the Canadian army, navy, and air force? Granatstein fingers a government who believes that peacekeeping solves everything, and the organizational restructurers who thought that putting everyone in green might make a new breed of soldier. He notes, too, the anti-American sentiment that says we’d rather fight the Yanks than our (potential) enemies.

Most important, Granatstein provides a powerful and articulate argument for the re-establishment of a well-funded and well-trained military—and a realistic strategy for how we can achieve it, given the threatening new climate of the 21st century. Written by one of our most outspoken military experts and thoughtful historians, Who Killed the Canadian Military? will provoke impassioned debate and controversy in the media, and among ordinary Canadians.


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Jack Granatstein’s 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as opposed to today’s 328 aircraft-including those same Sea Kings and CF-18 fighters whose avionics are a generation out of date; the same can be said of the army and navy. Granatstein’s book is a convincing analysis of Canada’s 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 Lewis’s 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. It’s not that Pearson didn’t deserve it. Rather, it’s that having won it, Canadians almost at once changed their view of the country’s 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 Diefenbaker’s 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 Kennedy’s 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 Pearson’s Liberals. But, as Granatstein underscores, Dief’s 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 Parrish’s famous “I hate those bastards” comment before the Iraq War, it flourishes still.
Granatstein’s 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, that’s so: “‘Sovereignty’ was the first defence buzzword in Trudeau’s 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. Canada’s 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 weren’t 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 Patricia’s 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 military’s esprit de corps. Unifying postal and intelligence services made sense. What in 1967 Defence Minister Paul Hellyer didn’t 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 Trudeau’s 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, there’s 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 state’s power.
No doubt many on the left will view Granatstein’s proposal that we increase defence spending from 1.1% to 2.5% of our GDP as proof that he’s Donald Rumsfeld in mukluks. He’s not. Three point two percent of the American GDP goes to the Pentagon.
Granatstein’s 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. It’s 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, it’s 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

About the Author

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important read Feb. 26 2004
Format:Paperback
Jack Granatstein has captured the culprit who has seen the demise of the Canadian military... it was the Canadian public aided by a succession of elected officials and some careerist members in uniform. Mr. Granatstein does an outstanding job of explaining his choices of reasons why the Canadian Forces (CF) has fallen into a state of disrepair. Peacekeeping vice training and equiping the military for general combat has lulled the Canadian population into thinking that we have a ready band of do-gooders in uniform instead of a cohesive fighting force. Diefenbaker, Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien - the latter being the worst of the bunch - all destroyed the foundations required to field a capable military force.
Mr. Granatstein does not espouse the need of a million person military nor does he say that the military requires all the bells and whistles our friends south of the border employ. His argument is simple: give the small military we have direction (through REAL leadership) and equip them with the tools they require to get the job done, whether it be supporting a coalition effort or an aid to civil power operation domestically. It should be noted that the book is not a collection of woes and complaints, it also provides some viable solutions to the issues faced by the CF. The only caviat he had placed on these solutions is that something has to be done NOW.
All in all, the book was an easy read and well argued, I urge all Canadians, whether they care about the military or not, to read this book and feel the pulse of the current state of the CF before it flat lines.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On the right track ... most of the time June 30 2004
Format:Hardcover
Granatstein hits most of the right targets when assigning blame for the neglect, bordering on outright sabotage, of the Canadian military.
Pearson-era Defence Minister Paul Hellyer's bizarre unification experiment gets (almost) the scathing criticism it deserves, as does Trudeau's neglect of the military. And the morale-sapping myth of Canada as a nation of "peacekeepers" is exposed in all its fraudulent glory.
But Granatstein, like many of his opponents on the left, goes on to make that classic Canadian mistake of confusing a strong defence posture with greater continental integration. Make the military bigger, he says, while at the same time start cooperating more closely with Washington.
Granatstein seems not to consider the possibility that Canada needs a stronger military to safeguard Canadian interests abroad and sovereignty at home on its own terms, rather than to blindly support U.S. foreign policy. His critique of Jean Chretien for keeping Canada out of the U.S.-led blunder in Iraq, for example, now looks particularly ill-chosen in retrospect.
While sharing Granatstein's disgust at the damage and humiliation that politicians and bureaucrats have forced on Canada's military, one still can't help but wonder whether he really wants to save our military and restore its pride, or just set up a local recruiting depot for the U.S. military. Even most of the new equipment he suggests acquiring comes from the United States, with very little from Europe or Britain.
Nevertheless, this is a book that every Canadian should read. And let's hope Canada's army stays Canadian, complete with the regimenal system, "leftenants" and a chain of command that ultimately stops in Canada. Or we could add Jack Granatstein to the list of those who helped kill Canada's military.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This book is Canada's bitter truth, we do not need a mighty military like the States, Britain and despite a few of the reviewers here this book does not advocate this, he simply says we should have a small, capable, and well equipped military with a reasonable budget that is capable of supporting itself, deploying itself in missions to provide security to the world.

Canada has very much fallen way behind in being important internationally, Peacekeeping has infact time and time again proved ineffective. So you know I consider myself in the middle of the political spectrum, but I find some of the leftists just as repulsive as the right wing hawks, this "We need no military" wake up and smell the roses 1100 people were killed in the states from terrorists flying planes into buildings, its not a cop out because it is news from five years ago its the truth.

Just about everything the author claims in this book seems to be true, there is a bit of a distaste for the Canadian politicians but on good reason they waffled the countries security as unimportant for decades.

This book is great and not "Food for the fire" infact Leave it to a granola eating peace protesting "activist" to of all things promote book burning, seems that comment made you the dirty opposit side of the same coin.

This book is informative and yes biased, but the author makes no bones about this.

If you have pride in Canada's military, and you "Support the troops" with stickers on your car, and or bracelet, pick this book up and realise full well how much "Support" our men and women in uniform need.

John

Halifax NS
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not history June 8 2005
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
First thing to know about this book is that, the Eminent Canadian Historian pedigree of the author notwithstanding, this is not a history. It is an extended polemical essay by a political lobbyist who happens to be a historian by day. The obvious purpose of this book, hammered slowly into the skulls of readers, is to bolster Granatstein's public calls for greater military spending and automatic acceptance of the call to arms from the US.
Second thing is that this a fast, fun read. Granatstein's agreeably light style is ideally suited to the task he sets himself here.
That said, this book falls flat. Granatstein fails to prove one of his central contentions - that Canadian anti-Americanism is widespread and has a serious impact on Canada's interests. Both positions are simply asserted as facts.
Lots of other little weaknesses. Bizarrely for the current holder of the "Great Canadian Historian" mantle, he gets some pretty basic facts wrong, claiming, for example, that Canada has only fought wars in defence of liberty, freedom and justice (Boers a century ago or Russians circa 1919 might have disagreed). More seriously, he works hard to have readers accept that the military's decline is a function of the transparently irrational (or just plain stupid) ideas of a few politicians, then zooms out to blame Canadian society for voting the bums in. He doesn't try to put any of this in a serious context, e.g. could it have been possible that for a country like Canada, it was a supremely rational choice to let an expensive and underutilised state service - military force - atrophy over the course of decades of declining external threat?
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