Review 1964 OR 1971 Defence policy


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Leonard Beaton, The Canadian White Paper on Defence, 19 INT’l J. 364 (1964).

ALWD 6th ed.

Beaton, L. ., The canadian white paper on defence, 19(3) Int’l J. 364 (1964).

APA 7th ed.

Beaton, L. (1964). The canadian white paper on defence. International Journal, 19(3),


Chicago 7th ed.

Leonard Beaton, “The Canadian White Paper on Defence,” International Journal 19, no.

3 (Summer 1964): 364-370

McGill Guide 9th ed.

Leonard Beaton, “The Canadian White Paper on Defence” (1964) 19:3 Intl J 364.

MLA 8th ed.

Beaton, Leonard. “The Canadian White Paper on Defence.” International Journal, vol.

19, no. 3, Summer 1964, p. 364-370. HeinOnline.

OSCOLA 4th ed.

Leonard Beaton, ‘The Canadian White Paper on Defence’ (1964) 19 Int’l J 364

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Copyright Information Notes and Comment

Leonard Beaton, Institute for Strategic Studies

The Canadian White Paper on Defence

The Canadian Government’s decision to expose itself to the perils of a Defence White Paper should be as welcome to the public as to Parlia- ment. The British have found to their cost how dangerous it is to main- tain a tradition that defence is best left to the professionals at a time when budgets, strategies and even weapons are hotly disputed by the public. Thanks largely to historic accident, the American Congressional system has shown itself best suited to this curious age of expensively armed peace, when defence policy can only be effective if it is strongly supported. The parliamentary countries are learning the lesson slowly: and while this document, together with the extensive evidence given to the Defence Committee by the heads of the armed forces, can be re- garded as a good beginning it is only a beginning. The paper itself is most unusual for a Government statement. Apart from a section at the end about Defence Research, it has all the marks of having been written by a single hand. The style is consistent and literate. To any regular reader of British Defence White Papers or the American equivalent (Mr. McNamara’s prepared testimony), this gives it a slight air of unreality. The British papers have all the marks of having been put together from a series of documents emanating from many sources. Their complex and discursive clauses show patient civil servants reconciling a host of objections from the Colonial Office or Admiralty, or a suspicion by someone in the Foreign Office that NATO might be irritated. Mr. McNamara’s style is bad and frequently his argumentation is shamelessly political. None of this can be said of this paper. It flows effortlessly through an economical and brilliant sum- mary of traditional Canadian defence policy and then tells us how the Department of National Defence sees its world. There is almost nothing of hardware: Caribous and Voodoos and Bomarcs seldom inter- rupt the scholarly flow and the vulgarities of cost are almost entirely avoided. The result, when you look at it carefully, is a very thin meal handsomely presented. In the end, few governments can resist the fact that security offers an ideal, if spurious, excuse for keeping one area of public policy away from Parliament and the country. A convenient distinction in modern defence forces is provided by the categories of strategic nuclear forces, confrontation forces (the tactical forces needed for a central war with the Soviet Union), and intervention forces (those with the mobility for quick deployment to distant places). Where the first of these is concerned, Canada has the special, if unad- vertised, position of being the first deliberately non-nuclear power. The decision of 1946 is reiterated. “The national manufacture of nuclear weapons,” the paper says, “is not contemplated.” NOTES AND COMMENT 365

This leaves the distinction between confrontation forces and inter- vention forces as the real issue in Canadian defence policy: and what the issue boils down to is the proper priority of NATO’S European and Atlantic requirements for Canadian policy. It raises many basic political issues: the role of Canada as an example to the United States; the policy of Canada towards the Monnet-Kennedy grand design of Euro- pean-American partnership and the place of Canada in such an arrange- ment if it comes about; the multilateral force; the likelihood of a major

European war and the kind of options which should be created to handle it; and the foreign exchange issues raised by the continued stationing of large numbers of troops in a country with a high and rising export surplus. Unfortunately, these underlying themes are all

almost completely ignored. The thinking about NATO Europe is sum- med up in the following passage:

A possible course would be for Canada to withdraw from the commitment to maintain a Brigade Group on the central European front in favour of making a contribution to an air portable force based in Europe and available for employment on the NATO flanks. After the most careful consideration, it has been decided that this would not be in the best interest of Canada and the Alliance for

several important reasons. The brigade, consisting as it does of highly qualified and well trained professional soldiers, is making a useful contribution to NATO Europe at one of its most vulnerable points. Its presence, moreover, has a political significance for the Alliance, and its with- drawal from front-line positions at this time could be misinterpreted – by both our European allies and the Soviet bloc. The impor- tance to the solidarity of the Alliance of a Canadian “presence” in

the NATO defence forces is real. In consequence, it is the inten- tion of the government to continue to employ the brigade in its present role.

The argument clearly has two aspects: military and political. In military terms, any troops anywhere obviously have value. The ques- tion is one of priority. Is this amount of force best employed where it is and in the role it now has or would it be better off elsewhere? A number of factors complicate this. NATO has all the inflexibility of co- alitions and it is not easy to move men in and out in response to the threat. Its German front Is clearly the decisive one of the world con- frontation and any crisis anywhere is likely to spread to this area if

the west is weak. This tends to make men in Germany into a permanent garrison rather than an element of a flexible defence position for the

free world as a whole. Nevertheless, it must be asked whether this very highly trained and effective brigade is really at what the White

Paper describes as one of NATO Europe’s most vulnerable points. The question poses itself even more urgently about the air division with its six strike squadrons in Germany and two reconnaissance squadrons

in France. What are the contingencies for which these forces exist and how likely are they? When the brigade went to Germany, NATO was

outnumbered about two-to-one by the regular Soviet forces then main- 366 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL

tained in East Germany and Poland. The satellite forces made the

proportion even higher. But now there is something like parity. Only

a major reinforcement of the Russian forces could give the Soviets a

decisive superiority in conventional weapons. Following such a rein-

forcement, they could undoubtedly launch a massive conventional at-

tack with every prospect of success against a purely conventional de-

fence. But NATO has no plan for providing itself with the capacity

to provide such a defence. The doctrine, declared and real, of both sides

excludes such a major all-out war in western Europe without resort to nuclear weapons. So this particular prospect is not a serious one. In conventional terms, NATO appears to have substantial forces for a

limited threat and to need an unattainable level of forces for an over-

whelming threat. But what of the flanks of the NATO area, northern Norway and Greece, where the conventional shield is weak and the readiness to rely on nuclear weapons proportionately less? Here, surely, are the most

vulnerable points of the NATO area. And the vulnerability of other

non-NATO areas of the free world is even more striking and even less

overlaid by Russian fears of escalation. What the government conceives

to be one of the most vulnerable points in NATO’S defences is being steadily reinforced by the growth of the German army and eased by the pressure for reductions in the Soviet forces. So this superb body of

Canadian regulars, with all the efficiency which that implies, is inevit-

ably taking a small part in what is in fact the best defended area of the free world when its size and national character give it far wider and

more important options.

Militarily, the air division is even more baffling in its present form.

Serious investigation is needed of how the CF-104 became committed

to a purely nuclear strike role at a time when NATO claimed to be re-equipping for an option on either nuclear or conventional defence.

In what circumstances was it expected that hundreds of nuclear strike aircraft (including the Germans, Dutch, Belgians and Americans) would

be needed for use from runways and airfields which are vulnerable to conventional strike and highly vulnerable to nuclear strike? The White

Paper reveals that these aircraft are retrospectively being given some conventional strike capacity; and it also promises a new look to the air division In direct support of the Canadian brigade. That is something.

But there Is no evidence from the somewhat confused arguments on these subjects that this heavy continuing expenditure is being under-

taken in response to a well-argued military case. Mr. McNamara quickly grasped the point when he started looking at the NATO European situation (especially when looking for options in the 1961

Berlin crisis) that what was needed was immense quantities of flexible conventional airpower, able to win a limited war in the air and destroy

the Soviet airfields and tactical aircraft In East Germany. If the R.C.A.F. was spending a lot of money on this option, it would be offering the al- liance something of solid value. But the CF-104 seems to have been

designed to make the least of this option while preparing for a massive nuclear strike which is only likely to be undertaken after the Russians

have wiped out ever important tactical air base in western Europe. NOTES AND COMMENT 367

The political case for the present Canadian effort in NATO Europe seems equally weak. The idea that there could be misunderstandings about a decision to relieve the Canadian brigade with a German divi- sion (let us say) so as to allow NATO to produce a really effective mobile reserve force of an unified kind is extraordinary. Who could possibly suggest that this was some great change in the character of the alliance? It may be seriously doubted whether it is important to the solidarity of the alliance to have a Canadian “presence” in the NATO defence forces: but whether true or not, the author of the paper seems to have allowed himself a very narrow definition of NATO defence

forces. On the broad issue of the place of Canada in the European confronta- tion, some illusions seem to be persisting long after they are out of date. There is no evidence that Canada is any longer important in showing the Americans the vital interests they have in Western Europe. It is perfectly true that a colossal price has been paid by the whole world to teach the United States some elemental facts of political and military life which Canadians understood by instinct. But the lesson has been well learnt – so well, indeed, that the Americans find them- selves inflexibly committed to keeping six of their sixteen army divisions in Europe as a symbol of their readiness to use their nuclear power if necessary. Canadians fulfill no such symbolic function. Politically, the case must rest on the impact of the Canadian effort on the prospects for a continuing American presence. I do not see how this case could be demonstrated.

If Canada has major political objectives in the North Atlantic alliance (and it is certainly to be hoped she has), they are to stop any deep-seated division between the United States and Western Europe. Yet the real dangers of the notion of partnership as it is understood by the State Department and the Acting Committee for the United States of Europe seem to go as unrecognized in Ottawa as in London. Is Canada going to conduct her relations with Britain and the rest of Europe through Washington? If the two drift apart, does Canada give a prior undertaking to agree to a joint isolation from Western Europe with the Americans? If Canada has something special to offer the Americans in their relations with Europe, it is a rejection of the dumb-bell concept and an assertion of direct and indissoluble links. Here is the danger to the alliance: and it is one which is directly related to the multilateral force, with the suggestion by its sponsors that it might be made the basis for a European deterrent. The creation by the Americans of a special strategic nuclear force for NATO purposes is a development full of unformed implications for the future character of the North Atlantic alliance. The British, Dutch and others are being driven into it for fear of what it might otherwise become: the French and Scandinavians are staying out for equally good reasons, and Gen- eral de Gaulle has placed himself on the side of orthodoxy, non-prollfer- ation and the angels by pouring scorn on it. If Canada is really con- cerned for the welfare of the alliance, she should be using her un- doubted influence to restrain the Americans from this extraordinary enterprise: or if she supports the venture she should go into it to make 368 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL

sure control remains in the right place. If the brigade and air division

are primarily there to see that Canada plays her historic part in the

development of NATO, the Government’s easy disengagement from the

MLF makes an extraordinary contrast.

The fact that the European and NATO thinking in the paper is

so bound to the traditions of the 1950s should not be allowed to obscure its major advances towards a world policy. The two brigades which

have been earmarked for NATO are going to be given lighter equipment and more mobility. The force is being given something which sounds

a little like the remarkable developments foreshadowed by the Ameri- can 11th Air Assault Division. Much more air transport is being ac-

quired and there will be more capacity to work where there are not

full runways. Civilian air carriers may get a reserve military function.

Stirred by the peacekeeping requirements of the U.N., the Canadian armed forces are undoubtedly at the beginning of a remarkable new phase. With Britain, the United States and (to a lesser extent) France,

Canada is likely to become one of the mobile powers of the world. The re-examination of the role of the navy, which still seems heavily com- mitted to a long conventional war, should lead to a changing role

with much more emphasis on support of the army overseas. At the moment, the policy of concentrating on anti-submarine warfare is

producing outstanding ability in this specific role; but military equip-

ment and priorities should never be allowed to get too far from the

appreciation of the threat. Effective anti-submarine forces may always be needed, but before long they may be needed primarily to protect the heavy seaborne component of Canadian or other intervention forces.

It is right that the obligations of peacekeeping in their Gaza, Congo

or Cyprus forms should belong first and foremost to the United Nations.

So great a proportion of the world gives support and some kind of allegiance to this body that it is ideally placed to work where a great power consensus allows It to. If it is to be a force for order rather than chaos and good rather than evil, it must be very much more efficient militarily: and it must learn that while some police operations

need troops they do not use the traditional methods of warfare. Canada is by far the most important and sophisticated power with the freedom

and the will to work out the complex rules of this game and to provide

some of the air transport, sea transport, air defence, communications, engineer and other elements which are essential in any substantial

operation. What Canada has to offer marginally in Europe it could

offer decisively in those wide areas of the world where the threat is

not just Communism but post-colonial chaos.

In spite of everyone’s best efforts, the use of the U.N. may become

steadily more difficult. The Russians have a powerful political position

which they can exploit in the U.N. even though they and their allies

are not intervention powers. It is too often forgotten that the Soviets

have strategic nuclear weapons, which are effectively deterred, and

are the predominant land power in Europe, but they have none of

the effective capacity of the Americans and British to deploy power in

Indonesia or Central Africa. For this reason, the West will severely limit NOTES AND COMMENT 369

its capacity in peacekeeping if it is prepared to move only at the pace

of Security Council resolutions. Tjie Chinese threat to India, the disintegration of the Cyprus con- stitution, the revolt in Zanzibar and the troubles in Tanganyika are teaching a British Government which is painfully unwilling to learn

what wide implications there are in Commonwealth relationships. So too has the central place of Commonwealth troops, commanders, com-

munications and methods in every U.N. peacekeeping operation. The Canadian Government seems to be equally reluctant to reach the ob- vious conclusion. After describing the handsome (and expensive) achievements of the Canadian Mutual Aid Programme In NATO and also the Canadian contributions to NATO infrastructure and NATO budgets, the White Paper makes its one reference to the Commonwealth: “Canada has extended military training assistance to a number of Commonwealth countries to help them in their efforts to create armed forces sufficient to maintain stability and national independence. Canada will continue to give careful consideration to modest requests of this nature from newly independent countries.” Yet the Commonwealth countries are by any standard the decisive countries for the development of the world in the next half century. They look to the advanced countries not just for aid and capital but also for military security, institutions on which to model themselves, and the training of the public servants (including officers) who will

give their society strength and permanence. Virtually all of them would give the sort of support which the Scandinavians, Irish and Canadians give to the U.N. if they had the resources. These facts, if they are facts, have important implications for peacekeeping. Only the Common- wealth relationship has the great quality of the U.N. – it comprises a series of ties to which countries give their free consent because they do not believe these will involve them in any neo-colonialism. (It also lacks the great liability of the U.N., namely the Russians.) Yet when India appealed to the Commonwealth and the United States for air sup- port against the Chinese, she was supported only by the British and Americans. A Commonwealth air division based on, say, the Canadian air division in Germany, an equivalent British force, and small but improving contributions from others could have provided an impres- sive presence in defence of Calcutta and could give the U.N. the sort of protection it so notably lacked in the Congo. The British are too confused about their post-colonial identity to take any initiative in these matters. It is only because of Washington’s enthusiasm that they

have had a new lease of life in their efforts east of Suez. But if Canada saw where the job had to be done and gave the lead in doing it the British would soon throw in their weight. The weight of others, like the West Indians or Pakistanis, might be found within a few years to be

substantial. But if the White Paper is to be believed the Government has still to descry these possibilities: a fine historical paradox may yet be produced by the Pentagon (where defence is taken seriously these days) calling the Commonwealth into existence to help sustain the

world security system in the new system of sovereign units. 370 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL

The Paper has little to say about weapons development, confin- ing itself to the statement that there is ample room for Canadian participation in the development and manufacture of specialized equip- ment. The problem of how to live with a largely self-sufficient power with a far larger budget than all its allies put together is not a purely Canadian one: it is shared by the whole western world. Canada is not subject to the Anglo-French temptation to do everything nationally, allowing most items to be a year or two later than their American equivalents and hoping for an occasional world export. The Canadian approach, however, means reliance on American equipment over a wide range with a heavy resulting charge on the balance of payments. It may also mean that the forces do not always get just what they need. There is no simple way out of this dilemma, though much can be done by restricting roles and concentrating for certain periods on particular technological areas. The anti-submarine and anti-aircraft roles were good examples of these, though both were closely linked to a particular balance between offence and defence. It is a pity that the Paper has nothing but generalities to offer about where the development priorities are moving. It may be that there are inhibitions about both security and the regional political disputes which are inevitably raised by big government contracts; or the Department of National Defence may be in a period of uncertainty. All that can be said from some distance

away is that the Canadian Government seems to have used the bargain- ing power of large arms purchases in the United States much more effectively than others.

In defence policy there is seldom a wide margin of choice. Most countries are so tied down by their own defence problem, or so unwilling to take a share in working a system which others will have to work anyway, or so feared and mistrusted beyond their own borders, that they have little freedom of action. Canada has none of these liabilities. With her high sense of commitment and participation unimpaired by appalling human and material losses of two world wars, with no neo- colonialist image, with vast resources of wealth, industry and men, and soon, perhaps, with the gayest and most inconsequential flag since the Irish harp, Canada can look at the world and see how best she can shape it. A land founded by the warrior races of Normandy and Scot- land may be short on artists but it is long on responsibility. The right Canadian Defence White Paper could mean more to mankind in the perils of the 1970s and 1980s than all the festivals of Europe: and, inci- dentally, those gloomy searchers after identity may find it in the White Papers which events will write over the next decade.

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