Statement to the Minister's Defence Review Consultations
We appreciate very much this opportunity to discuss our views before the Minister.
I assume you have had the opportunity to read the statement prepared by the Defence Policy Advisory Committee of Science for Peace. The Committee arrived after long discussion at some rather radical proposals.
It is not my intention to list these proposals now (although I will be happy to respond to questions you may have about them).
INSTEAD I want to ask you to consider the process by which they were reached, because this seems crucial to our jointly arriving at fruitful paths towards real security.
The proposals represent the Committee’s attempt to answer the question it set for itself. I am willing to argue that they are reasonable answers to this question.
BUT whether they are the exactly optimum answers is FAR LESS IMPORTANT than knowing WHETHER THE RIGHT QUESTION was being asked.
It is certain that you cannot get useful answers unless you are asking the right question.
We have the impression that most of your respondents have been trying to answer questions rather different from the one we asked – questions narrow in scope and based on unexamined traditional attitudes. It would be reassuring to know that the Minister agreed on the nature of the question that needs answers.
Let me, then, try to STATE the QUESTION which we thought was the one that needed to be posed.
It was this:
“Given Canada’s stature in the world, its resources and capabilities, how can we use them most effectively to enhance our own security and the global stability on which Canada’s security finally depends?”
That seemed to us the right question to ask.
1. I hope you notice that it is an intensely pragmatic question, not one appealing to moral absolutes, nor to conventional slogans.asks only for an attempt to optimize our good effect, within whatever constraints may exist. This can lead you to some surprising conclusions, however, as we discovered.
2. Like any good question, it demands (and also largely prescribes) an analysis of the constraints and possibilities. Let me sketch briefly that analysis:
A) One must ask first what direct and immediate military threats there might realistically be to Canada’s territory. The answer: virtually NONE (always supposing the U.S. remains stable and friendly).
B) But this puts Canada in an absolutely UNIQUE POSITION, at least among the middle powers. If there is no immediate need for combat forces for the territorial defence of Canada, then the maintenance of such forces is desirable only if they are judged to be more effective in enhancing global stability than alternative initiatives. Our judgement was fmally that this was quite unlikely to be the case, and that Canada should instead be using its unique position to take the lead in learning how to assist in the non-violent resolution of conflicts and in addressing the causes of conflicts before they occur, rather than just coping with the consequences.
C) Canada’s long-run security depends on global stability in the face of the increasing strains of environmental degradation,burgeoning overpopulation and economic disparity. Our outlook must therefore be profoundly INTERNATIONAL in scope. Much of the response to these challenges lies in wide-ranging diplomatic and economic decisions outside the scope of the present examination of “defence policy”.
D) Nevertheless we proposed three “on-the-ground” initiatives requiring the high levels of organizational skill and of discipline that have characterized our armed forces. It is anticipated that many of the personnel of our present armed forces would wish to transfer their dedication and abilities to one of them. Two of the three we see as substantial contributions to protecting stability in the international scene; the third is especially Canadian:
1. Emergency corps: We propose that Canada should offer, as a contribution to the world, to maintain a substantial airborne unarmed corps able to provide emergency assistance within hours anywhere. This should include medical and engineering units and be able to provide aid in the form of emergency shelter, food, temporary infrastructure, etc. Environmental pressures will in practice erupt as local famines and epidemics, inability to cope with natural disasters, etc. Our assistance, besides being humanitarian, could help prevent such instances from turning into bloody conflicts.
2. Peacekeeping. We believe there is an important role for unarmed civilian peacekeepers, and that Canada should move in that direction (following an Austrian precedent). Such a corps requires special training quite different from combat training – in political skills, mediation, public health, etc. – and a high level of skill and courage. Canada is justly proud at having led in classical U.N. peacekeeping; it is now time to take the lead once more in a new stage.
3.Coast Guard & Rescue. Given Canada’s geography and its responsibilities in the Arctic and to the fisheries, it needs a greatly enlarged Coast Guard service, with much improved equipment including powerful icebreakers and modern technology. I have mentioned these particular proposals because they address what should in our view “become of” the present Defence establishment, preserving its contribution to the nation. There are many other proposals in our statement (including the progressive elimination of arms exports) and we envisage a gradual conversion path in which our combat-capability is phased out, over a period of a few years, in favour of alternative international contributions.
The proposals in the Statement offered by the Committee are under continuing discussion and refmement by Science for Peace, and indeed a membership meeting in this regard will take place on November 11. I REPEAT, however, that the precise details of those proposals seem to us less urgent than agreement on the nature of the QUESTION we should be addressing, together with your Government, namely: “Given Canada’s stature in the world, its resources and capabilities, how can we use them most effectively to enhance our own security and the global stability on which Canada’s security filially depends?”