Now my friend, retired Brigadier General Jim Cox, writing in the Vimy Report, has provided an excellent foundation from which you can consider whether or not this defence review can succeed. You will, in particular, want to take note of how General Cox situates defence strategies (plans and programmes) within both a national grand strategy and a overarching national security policy both of which, in their turns, are situated within a framework of three omnibus national policies: economic development, social policy and national security. General Cox concludes that (because the “outcomes” are preordained?) that there is an “overall lack of conceptual clarity between policy and strategy, [an] absence of complementary policy developments in related fields, and the sub-strategic focus on materiel all conspire to reduce Minister Sajjan’s admirable intent to conduct a broad review of defence policy. They dilute any hope that the review process will eventually lead to a solid, credible, actionable and effective defence policy with subordinate achievable defence strategies. If higher order considerations are not addressed, the ultimate product will be just another political document without impact.“
He contrasts what the Defence review is unlikely to accomplish with the outstanding work done by Liberal defence minister Brooke Claxton in 1947 in setting forth ~ in just 13 pages! ~ and absolutely clear, comprehensive and flexible statement of policy and intention. I reiterate what I have said before: the geopolitical/strategic situation in the late 1940s, the one that faced Louis St Laurent as first, foreign minister and then prime minister, and Claxton as the minister of national defence, was much more complex and was growing increasingly dangerous (culminating in another “hot war” in 1950) than anything any Canadian prime minister has faced since. As the situation worsened St Laurent and Claxton were able to adjust specific defence plans and programmes, including a massive, unprecedented in peacetime, expansion of the Canadian Armed Forces circa 1950 because there was a clear, sound policy base for dong so. “In brief,” Jim Cox explains, “policy came first.“
My fear is that since there is no overarching suite of national policies ~ what I describe as grand strategy ~ I doubt that there can be anything like the clear, comprehensive policy that Brooke Claxton delivered:
“to defend Canada against aggression, to assist the civil power in maintaining law and order within the country, and to carry out any undertaking which by our own voluntary act, we may assume in cooperation with friendly nations or under any effective plan of collective action under the United Nations.”
That’s what Brooke Claxton said in 1947. That’s what Prime Minister Trudeau could have said, should have said in his mandate letter to Minister Sajjan but, instead, Canada is embarked on a process that appears, to me, designed to conclude that “sunny ways,” rather than ships, soldiers and combat aircraft, will suffice for Canada’s defence.