Professor Jean-Christophe Boucher a foreign and defence policy expert at the University of Calgary has released some poll results about how Canadians feel about military missions. I do no find the overall results shocking …
… because I remain convinced that most Canadians neither know nor care much about either foreign or defence policy. They, the societal mainstream, were and are still being fed a load of codswallop in schools and universities about Canada’s military history. It begins with the lie about how Canada “invented” peacekeeping. Anyone who believes that “baby-blue-beret” style United Nations peacekeeping was Lester B Pearson’s idea is too bloody stupid to walk around loose. In fact, Dr Ralph Bunche, a distinguished American diplomat got the Nobel Prize (1950) for “inventing” peacekeeping in the late 1940s. The outcome of his negotiations was UNTSO, The United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization, the UN’s first ever peacekeeping mission. There was parallel work going on at the same time, involving Canadians like General Andrew McNaughton and Lester Pearson, to use military officers to supervise the India-Pakistan truce in Kashmir. The two original missions, UNTSO and UNMOGIP (the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan) are still working.
What Lester B Pearson did was to use his diplomatic and political skills ~and both were of a high order ~ to, almost literally save the Western alliance after Britain and France made a strategically stupid decision to capture the Suez Canal after Egyptian President Nasser nationalized it. That move infuriated US President Eisenhower because it upset his own Middle East strategy, and nearly destroyed the Western alliance. Mike Pearson, under orders from Canadian Prime Minister Louis St Laurent, repaired the damage before the USSR and its cronies could take strategic advantage of the rift that had opened in the US-led West. Mike Pearson moved peacekeeping from small observer and truce supervisory missions to major undertakings involving troops in a “trip-wire” role. He and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld were able to stick handle a complex plan through President Eisenhower and around the Soviet bloc in just a few days. Some people said the pair “saved the world;” they certainly saved the Western Alliance.
If you don’t know that then you are a typical Canadian who has been failed by the education system.
There are both gender and age differences in Dr Boucher’s poll results …
… and that may suggest that support for peacekeeping is softening over time.
But the results are somewhat contradictory. The top chart indicated responses to the question “what is the most appropriate role for the Canadian Armed Forces?” Almost 40% chose Peacekeeping from the six options. When the question was changed to: “how important, if at all, are should the following priorities be for the Canadian Armed Forces?” then contributing to international pace and security, which is what both Peacekeeping and NATO are all about, fell to fourth (last) place…
… which ought not to be surprising given how the options are phrased.
Professor Boucher expressed some surprise at the results from a question that gave respondents a range of options:
I am not surprised. I think most Canadians should approve of using our Armed Forces to help when natural disasters strike ~ at home and abroad. I know I am. Given the persistence of the peacekeeping myth in Canada the second choice, while silly, also doesn’t surprise me. I suspect that the majority support cyber operations only because foreign interference (“cyber-attacks” or “information operations” or “war in the grey zone”) in elections has been in the news, especially in the US election news, lately. I am equally unsurprised that participating in air attacks is not supported, at all by more than ⅓ of Canadians. Many people associate air strikes with American (and Israeli) unmanned air vehicle (mistakenly called drone) attacks on terrorists that, unintentionally kill bystanders (who may or may not be innocent). Anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiment are both strong in Canada.
I am pleased to see that “Defence cooperation with allies” has the support of 70% of Canadians because our major alliance, NATO, is The Most Successful Peacekeeping Operation in modern times. In 1947 President Harry Truman and his new Secretary of State, recently retired General George C Marshall were persuaded, in part by the entreaties of British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin but more by the now famous (then SECRET) ‘Long Telegram’ (22 Feb 1946) sent by US diplomat George Kennan who was deputy chief of mission in Moscow from mid 1945 until early 1946. His ‘Long Telegram‘ was revised and published in Foreign Affairs, in July 1947, as an essay entitled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” attributed only to “X.” The publication was approved by US Defence Secretary James Forrestal, possibly as part of an attempt to push Harry Truman and George Marshall into more precipitous actions against the USSR. In any event, the situation in 1947 ~ which was well before the Berlin Blockade of 1948/49 ~ led to the formulation of both the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan which committed America to protecting free, democratic nations and rebuilding Europe and which led, directly, to the establishment of NATO in 1949.
Keeping the peace was precisely what Truman and Marshall had in mind in 1947, the year before Dr Ralph Bunche “invented” UN peacekeeping. No one hated war more than General Marshall: several small and two great and bloody ones had been fought in his lifetime and there now existed weapons that threatened to end human civilization. The aim of NATO was never to win a war against the Russian-led Warsaw Pact, it was, always, to deter aggression, to prevent a war, to keep the peace. It did so for decades and it is still doing that today. Vladimir Putin is an adventurous opportunist (or opportunistic adventurer, take your pick) and I have no doubt at all that, absent NATO, he would, by now, have driven a corridor though either Lithuania or Poland to connect Kaliningrad to Belarus and Russia. (Some of you may have to Google Kaliningrad, It was Königsberg until Russia annexed it in the late 1940s.) NATO still keeps the peace because President Putin knows that he cannot prevail against the US-led West and he knew that, even when President Donald Trump was secure in his position, the US establishment, the administrative state (AKA the deep state), would have pushed President Trump into defending Europe.
Quite frankly, I doubt that if “Defence cooperation with allies” had ben changed to “Meeting NATO commitments” the level of support would have gotten as high as 40% on this table:
There is a lot of work to be done. It needs to start in think-tanks and in political party policy conference working groups. National defence and real peacekeeping, not the nonsense at which the UN tries and fails, needs to be back on Canadians’ radar screens. There needs to be public discussion of the costs of NOT being prepared …
… every grave marker in “some corner of a foreign field” is someone’s son or daughter, someones spouse, someone’s sister or brother … it represents some Canadian who may have died too soon because his or her parents or sisters and brothers or spouse voted for candidates who were explicitly anti-defence.
Canada has a long, proud history of “keeping the peace.” It has very little do do with the United Nations. It has a lot do with alliances like NATO and with “Defence cooperation with allies” and with being prepared.