From the very first post I ever made on this blog, I have argued, consistently, for a suite of “practical (affordable), principled and even visionary foreign [(and defence) policies] that set goals for Canada in the world.”
A few days ago I saw a meme on social media that struck home. I have adapted it, slightly, to add a Canadian context (the pictures are from Ortona where Canadians fought and died in December 1943):
This also goes back to something about which I have been commenting for years: while we may wish to see ourselves as the “peaceable kingdom,” but it’s another (Liberal–progressive) myth crafted by a few public relations experts to give some ‘cover’ to Pierre Trudeau’s neo-isolationism of the 1970s.
Now, no one in their right mind, especially not me, wants Canada to be a warlike nation. We know where that leads … we’ve paid too high a price to defeat warlike nations.
I am not going to bore regular readers by repeating all or even a few of my posts arguing for better (both quantitatively and, more importantly qualitatively) military forces serving better national policies. New readers can just click on “defence policy” and/or “foreign policy” in the links just below the title of this post to get an idea of how important I think this is.
To the point at hand: IF we, Canadians, really want to be “peaceful,” which I hope we all do, then we must, always, ensure that we are well prepared for war. Amongst the very first and, indeed, the most important of the duties of the state is to preserve itself: to defend itself and its sovereignty and its liberty, in the broadest sense, and its freedom to act in pursuit of its own vital interests. A country that cannot or, worse, will not do that is not worthy of the name and, sooner rather than later, will become a colony of a greater power. I have argued in the past and continue to assert today that Canada was, for centuries a colony, it became a nation ~ a nation with real power, a leader, in fact, amongst the nations, and then, in the late 1960s, took a major step backwards and towards becoming a colony again … this time a US colony.
The solutions are simple and obvious but very expensive and, therefore, out of reach in the current political climate.
I am convinced, I am absolutely certain that Canada will go to war again in my lifetime (I hope I have 20+ years left). I expect a major war sometime in this century. At a WAG* the war will be instigated when the Russians miscalculate, probable in the Middle East, and push America too far or when North Korea miscalculates and ignites a nuclear exchange that turns into a major war. The other very real possibility is that Amerca miscalculates China’s response in East Asia. The why (casus belli) will not matter. The fact will be that Canada will be unprepared ~ on about a par with 1939 when the effects of the great depression left both Britain and Canada unprepared to face Germany and Italy, both of which used military preparations as “relief” (job-creating) measures. We will be very junior partners in a US-led Western alliance. That’s nothing new, despite our remarkably large contributions ~ especially in agricultural and industrial production ~ to the allied victory in World War II we were very junior partners; but that was by choice; Prime Minister Mackenzie-King could have been a major political ‘player’ but he chose the more comfortable sidelines where he could not be blamed for anything. As the poet FR Scott said, his policy was “Do nothing by halves which can be done by quarters.” That quip is very appropriate to Canada in 2019.
It will not be the same in the 21st century. In the 1950s and ’60s, Canada came to expect to play a leading role in world affairs … and we did. Starting in 1969 Pierre Trudeau quite explicitly renounced that role, but he never explained to Canada what his neo-isolationism really implied. But Canadians thought, incorrectly, that they could embrace Trudeau’s neo-isolationism (which freed up money (from defence and foreign aid) to pay for enhanced social programmes) and still have a respected voice in the world. They didn’t make the distinction between being peaceful and being harmless.
If Canadians want a voice in the world ~ and I think that a majority of us do, even though most will not want to pay the price ~ then they must understand that distinction. We, all of us, want to be a “peaceable kingdom,” but it comes at a price. Part of that price is being ready, able and willing to offer “great violence” to others. There is a fiscal, social and moral price to be paid.
If we choose to stand aside and let others make the decisions for us then we will, I am absolutely, 100% certain, be dragged into another great war for which we will be sadly unprepared. If we want to help keep the peace then we must prepare, well, for war … that will cost money which must come from the taxes that you and I pay.
* Know as a Wild Arsed Guess in the Army, as opposed to a SWAG which is a much more complicated Scientific Wild Arsed Guess.