A few weeks ago I suggested that Canada needs a grand strategy and that it ought to be based on a firm foundation of acceptability to most Canadians (Louis St Laurent’s first principle) and on our vital, national interests. Those interests, I said, are:
- Our personal and political liberty;
- A peaceful world into which we can trade; and
- Prosperity for our people.
Prime Minister St Laurent said, back in 1947, that:
“The first general principle upon which I think we are agreed is that our external policies shall not destroy our unity. No policy can be regarded as wise which divides the people whose effort and resources must put it into effect. This consideration applies not only to the two main cultural groups in our country. It applies equally to sectionalism of any kind. We dare not fashion a policy which is based on the particular interests of any economic group, of any class or of any section in this country. We must be on guard especially against the claims of extravagant regionalism no matter where they have their origin.”
I think that “Uncle Louis,” as he was popularly known, was referring, mainly, to the English-French divisions that were of such concern during the war which had just ended, but they need to be understood, 70 years later, in a much broader context. Consider the streets of, say, Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal. The ‘face’ of our nation is vastly different from what it was, 60 years ago, when I walked down those city streets as a teen-ager …
… we are, truly, a polyglot, multi-racial and multi-ethnic society. There are no longer just a few brown or black faces, adding a bit of spice to an otherwise snowy white society. We look different because we are different … our different skin colours and accents bring with them different, and not always welcome, social and cultural values, too. When I was a child Canada was a WASP* edifice built upon an equally white but French Canadian and Roman Catholic foundation. We, English and French Canadians, may not have understood or, even, actually liked one another very much, but, at least, our “divide” was clear and simple. It is not so today, we WASPs are not, any longer, a large, dominant majority. Our views and values no longer prevail automatically. We now have many different, and wholly acceptable, cultural norms and values …
… and they all need to be (relatively) united or, at least, not too deeply divided by any policy that a government chooses.
But this is, really about:
Peace & Prosperity
I said,in that earlier post, that “I am persuaded that “peace and prosperity” are closely intertwined and that they lie at the very core of most modern nations’ vital interests.“
Peace is more, far more, than just the absence of war. It is the condition that allows us to:
- Trade (relatively) freely with the rest of the world and more and free(er) trade creates more wealth and better lives for all trading partners; and
- Help those who are less fortunate in productive ways ~ not just by bombing them.
Prosperity, most of the evidence suggests, induces peace. Richer people, people with something to protect, are less likely to want to go to war with their neighbours than are poor people with little to lose. There was, many years ago, an only half joking suggestion that two countries with McDonald’s franchises were unlikely to go to war with one another because McDonald’s only put franchises into relatively prosperous places. The theory doesn’t hold for every pair of countries but it is anything but preposterous. Big Macs don’t keep the peace, but the McJobs that come from flipping them just might.
When peace and prosperity combine they reinforce one another. Peace becomes a habit of sorts, which is not a bad thing.
On another online forum I use a quote from the 17th century English soldier and parliamentarian, Algernon Sidney: “It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.” It is in this spirit that we also find …
… George Orwell probably didn’t say that but it is routinely attributed to him. All three quotes remind us that peace (and the consequential prosperity) and even our precious civil and political liberties sometimes need defending.
So, we have two notions: the habit of peace and the the sense that peace (and the liberties that underpin it) needs protection. Some would say that they are two sides of the same coin, but I would disagree. I believe that the habit of peace is just that a habit while the sense that peace needs protection is a truth that we understand from long, bitter experience.
The habit of peace is a nice thing and we would all wish and hope that it could be the natural order of things. Experience teaches us that peace is not natural; we humans have a hard time keeping the peace amongst ourselves. Our “better angels” are too often missing in action, to stretch a metaphor.
But the habit of peace is especially popular with the political left in the open, liberal, modern and peaceful West; and, in Canada, it is pretty much part of the mantra of the Liberal Party of Canada.
The lesson that peace needs protection, on the other hand, is a bit of a hard sell but, in my opinion, it needs to be part of the Conservative Party of Canada’s core values and it needs to be in the platform ~ for honesty’s sake. At the very least we, Conservatives, need to promise to reverse the priorities on page 70 of the Liberal’s platform document:
“We will develop the Canadian Armed Forces into an agile, responsive, and well-equipped military force that can effectively defend Canada and North America; provide support during natural disasters, humanitarian support missions, and peace operations; and offer international deterrence and combat capability.”
Conservatives should promise Canadians that they will have combat ready, well trained, superbly disciplined and tough armed forces that can defend Canada and its vital interests, at home and overseas, and contribute to maintaining global peace and security.
If we have peace, a peace that is kept, as those who framed the UN Charter back in the mid 1940s intended, by the “powers” that can afford to maintain and use modern, sophisticated, standing militaries ~ a group which must include Canada if the data provided by e.g. the World Bank and the IMF are in any way meaningful ~ then prosperity will follow.
Prosperity is more than just “a chicken for every pot.” Prosperity is the condition in which most Canadians feel reasonably certain that their children and grandchildren will have an even better chance at success and peace than they do themselves. It is the condition in which Canadians will be inclined to share what they have with those who have less, at home and abroad. Prosperity is, however, the child of trade and the historical evidence suggests, very strongly, that free(er) trade ~ even the enforced “free trade” of imperial regimes ~ ensures greater prosperity for the most people. “The greatest good for the greatest number,” as utilitarians, like me, are fond of saying. Free trade deals, like the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (1988), the NAFTA (1994), the (still awaiting ratification) Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) (2014) and the (just signed, also awaiting ratification) Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) (2016) ~ all negotiated by Conservative governments over strenuous Liberal objections ~ are all positive steps in the direction of Peace and Prosperity.
It has been recently reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is open to a free trade deal with China ~ something we Conservatives must support in principle; China has, it is also reported, agreed, in principle, with some tough conditions. Australia, another modern, Western, liberal democracy, negotiated an acceptable free trade agreement with China that just came into force late last year; there is no reason why Canadians cannot reach similarly acceptable arrangements with a great trading nation … bringing added prosperity to Canada, giving Canadians more opportunities to prosper, and binding China even more closely into the family of peaceful trading nations that eschew war because it’s bad for business.
It has been said, by me amongst others, than, in the second half of the 20th century it was American nuclear weapons, and the certainty that a US president would use them, far more then UN peacekeepers in baby-blue berets, that “kept the peace” between the USSR and Warsaw Pact on the one hand and the US led West on the other. But free(er) trade, and the consequential prosperity that free trade brings to all, is an even better peacekeeper ~ and one that isn’t hamstrung by inept bureaucrats in the UN’s HQ in New York.
In my opinion the Conservative Party of Canada ought to stand, foursquare, for peace and prosperity. Peace needs to be based on strong, properly trained and adequately equipped for war (and, therefore for any eventuality short of war) armed forces, and prosperity can be most readily built upon a foundation of free(er) trade, domestically, between provinces, and globally. Such a stand can unite Canadians, as Prime Minister St Laurent suggested we must, behind a policy that makes Canada, once again, a leader amongst the free nations. Leading in the 21st century does not mean, as many Liberals hope, that we can hide behind Uncle Sam’s back and go back to leaving for the washroom when the bill for global peacemaking and peacekeeping is presented. A leader amongst the nations stands for peace and prosperity and does its full and fair share of promoting and protecting both.
* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant