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Strategic Visions


DND photo IS2002-2118 by Master Corporal Brian Walsh Canadian Forces Combat Camera

Members of 3 Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group move to board a US Army Chinook Helicopter at the Kandahar Airfield to embark on Operation Cherokee Sky.

The 2004 Haycock Lecture

Boots on the Ground: Thoughts on the Future of the Canadian Forces

by Andrew Leslie

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In democratic nations, governments have a responsibility to defend their citizens from dangers, both foreign and domestic. According to Canada’s first published and very recent National Security Policy: “There can be no greater role, no more important obligation for a government, than the safety and protection of its citizens.”1 In terms of absolute results, the Canadian historical record in protecting its soil from the ravages of war has been exemplary, at least in comparison to the vast majority of our international friends and allies. Over the years, many hundreds of thousands of Canadians have served their country honourably and well in defending the nation, both at home and abroad, as members of Canada’s armed forces. Our country has taken a great deal of pride in their exploits, most recently on those occasions when they have served to prevent the outbreak of war in far-away lands, very often under appalling conditions.

For over a century, Canadians have been secure in the knowledge that, aside from the relatively recent risks of nuclear war, they had no direct enemies who could attack them with impunity, due to the accident of geography that placed them under the benevolent protection of a friendly superpower. Canada was free to spend the vast majority of its resources on national development and social programs, and its energies were focused on keeping a grand experiment in federalism together and relatively coherent.

Recent events and tragedies around the globe, however, are indicative of a period of sustained and dramatic changes to the international security context, and a lot of Canadians may be unsure as to the way ahead for members of our profession of arms. What is certain is that more changes are coming, and that a globally connected Canada will be a part of those changes, like it or not. And, though Canadians are growing increasingly aware and sensitive to the dangers that lurk in the international context,2 there is very little discernable evidence to suggest that expenditures on national security or military capabilities have broken into the uppermost priorities of where, or how, the Canadian electorate would like their tax dollars spent. This is especially true as such resources must come at the expense of social programs and quality of life issues.3 In any case, a variety of ‘tough calls’ and new ways of thinking about Canada’s defence requirements will be called for in the coming months and years in order to better protect Canadians against the new threats facing our nation, both at home and abroad.

The aim of this article is contribute some ideas to the long-standing professional debate on the future of the Canadian Forces (CF) and the requirement to ensure that Canada’s security needs are met in an increasingly dangerous and complicated world. Without getting into any specific details, some broad suggestions will be offered as to the possible way ahead for the CF. It is hoped these will generate discussion, comment and criticism, all of which will allow those interested in the debate to exchange ideas and learn from each other.


Canada more than paid its share in lives and overall effort in helping our allies during the titanic struggles of the two world wars, but the Canadian political authorities – of all varieties – have usually operated on the principle that there has never really been a direct, external military threat to Canada, with two significant exceptions. The first concerned the US in the early years before and immediately after Confederation4 and the second, more recent threat was that of the Soviet Union and the concomitant risk of nuclear Armageddon during the Cold War. In both cases, there was very little that the people of Canada could do about such threats unilaterally, either defending against or defeating foreign foes of such magnitude.5 The very pragmatic, very Canadian policy has been to seek, or accept, the defence of allies to deter would-be enemies and to balance the influence of powerful friends and neighbours. Historically, Canada’s contribution to such efforts has been the minimum that the Canadian authorities thought reasonable to provide for such defence, both at home and abroad. This minimalist approach to defence expenditures, originating in necessity and as a product of frugality, has grown to be a part of what the majority of Canadians may think of as a virtue,6 as it allowed Canadians to focus their resources on nation building and social programs.

Coast guard

DND photo ETD01-0363-02 by Corporal Colin Kelley, CFB Esquimalt Imagery Services

Members of the Canadian Coast Guard come alongside HMCS Vancouver to extend their best wishes as the frigate departs Esquimalt harbour for Operation Apollo, Canada’s contribution to the international campaign against terrorism.

Canada is among the most blessed of nations, whose people are remarkably compassionate, secure and free to make whatever choices they might wish, within the bounds of the law. Although as a nation we have some internal issues that merit concern and deserve attention, our problems fade into relative insignificance as compared to those facing the vast majority of our fellow global citizens. Though far from perfect, the political entity that is Canada is about as close to perfection in nationhood as one might expect to find, though some will disagree with this very personal opinion that has developed after many years spent overseas. If every nation and collective had the same values, principles and economic benefits that Canada currently enjoys, there would be little or no need for any military forces anywhere.

Confident, and perhaps even righteous, under the shared security umbrella provided by our immediate neighbour and largest trading partner, there is no historical evidence to suggest that Canadians have ever been enthusiastic about spending money on their armed forces.7 As previously mentioned, Canadians are proud of the work that their representative soldiers, sailors, and aircrew have conducted around the world in helping the weak or protecting the innocent, but the policy decisions concerning Canada’s international ventures since the 1950s have been less than consistent.8 As a result, the electorate’s ‘bottom line’ toward defence spending has been equally inconsistent, approaching that of benign tolerance – with the occasional public outcry when something has gone badly wrong, or when the state of the Canada’s armed forces crossed some ill-defined embarrassment threshold in terms of their equipment or operational deficiencies.9 In the past, the result has usually been a brief flurry of attention and exchanges in the court of public opinion as various interest groups and security stakeholders jockeyed for position in support of their respective agendas, whatever they might have been. After the spotlight moved on, the situation reverted to the status quo, more or less – sometimes a lot less. Dealing with the impacts of budget cuts, or doing more with less, have been the hallmarks of Canada’s armed forces throughout most of their history,10 although there have been some recent and very welcome exceptions. For decades the men and women of the CF have quietly struggled to carry on with their assigned defence priorities as best they could, as did the rest of Canadians in their pursuit of their larger national priorities.

Although it is a matter of opinion, it would appear that Canada’s national priorities since the earliest days of Confederation have centred around nation building, keeping the country together, and social development/quality of life issues. Because security was both implied and assumed, thanks to the geographic blessing of having a superpower as a neighbour, Canada’s long-term defence priorities have remained remarkably consistent throughout the last century, and have included national sovereignty, the defence of Canada and North America, assistance to the civil authorities in times of crisis or disaster, and “such international undertakings we voluntarily assumed in cooperation with our friends and allies.”11 Because there was little need to do more, the adage of ‘keeping the generals out of Cabinet, the military out of the Treasury and the soldiers out of Commitments’ were common historical trends, though not absolutes.12

The Winds of Change

As mentioned earlier, there is a strong belief amongst internationalists and security experts that things have significantly changed. The tragedies and horrors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath are well known, as is the end of the Cold War and the resulting period of relative instability and international chaos that gives every indication of growing worse with each passing year. What is less well understood are the causes that led to these new global conditions, and the long-term impacts of the various responses and solutions that are under active consideration or prosecution by a variety of our friends, allies and trading partners. There appear to be new challenges, new threats and new security concerns. Globalization, the growing gap between the rich and poor nations, ruthless and predatory warlords whose only interest is in seizing or keeping power, fanaticism, corruption, new information and transportation technologies, banditry, the spread of horrors such as weapons of mass destruction, environmental disasters...the list is almost as long as one might wish to make it.13 And while very few of these problems are new to those who have studied some history, what is new is that their results can have a dramatic and immediate impact on both Canada’s social development and quality of life – a direct national priority – and our security, which, until recently, most Canadians may have taken for granted.

In the past, security was often thought of as a largely military affair. In today’s complicated and sometimes bewildering world, security has become a much broader issue. Many of the potential threats to Canada’s security are non-military in nature, and with the changing times has come an understanding that any defence “demands the involvement of all elements of society in a way in which security in the Cold War did not.”14 Patterns of behaviour and beliefs about sovereignty, economics, national interests, national values, social development, the willingness to help others, a drive towards democratic institutions and representational government, the rule of law, quality of life, human rights and national culture are all parts of the larger equation of security requirements and potential solutions.15 Like every nation, Canada has her own unique beliefs and points of view.

Sovereignty, Economics and Security

In the often-quoted words of a person who is one of Canada’s pre-eminent military historians, Charles Perry Stacey: “Canada is an unmilitary community. Warlike her people have often been forced to be; military they have never been.”16 Interesting thoughts, especially when one considers that they were crafted by a man who had just completed the definitive historical work on Canada’s army at war. This belief did not spring into being in 1955, at the time of publishing. It may not even have been accurate, as our earliest history is quite violent and most of the ‘tipping points’ have been marked by military accomplishments.17 But it reflects a point of view that has grown stronger with the passage of time, and there is an argument to be made that it is now an enduring fact of national life within the Canadian consciousness. The idea of ‘Canada as an unmilitary community’ can trace its genesis back to before Confederation, and is closely linked to geography, the cultural heritage of the nation, and to the recognition that most Canadians have seen themselves as living in a country which, in the words of Desmond Morton, is “undefensible and invulnerable.”18

In the past, Canada’s enormous borders, vast coastline, relatively sparse population and extremes of weather made the nation essentially indefensible to a concerted and direct attack from a foreign foe that had the ability to reach Canada. Without the help and influence of friends and allies, the costs of defending Canada in a sometimes turbulent and dangerous world would have been flatly impossible.19 As for its invulnerability, Canada has been protected by virtue of one of the most important, perhaps even sacrosanct, American strategic doctrines dating back to 1823, a fact well known to the leadership of our nation from its earliest days. In the words of one our greatest Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier:

“You must not take the militia too seriously, for though it is useful for suppressing internal disturbances, it will not be required for the defence of the country as the Monroe Doctrine protects us from enemy aggression.”20

In the intervening decades, this belief has remained relatively constant, although the idea of reciprocity and the obligations of Canada with respect to those American defenders began to creep into the political consciousness of key leaders at least 60 years ago. In a very thoughtful and eloquent monograph written in 1962, one of Canada’s premier strategists, R.J. Sutherland, made the argument that the US has been, and will always be, vitally concerned with the overall security situation in North America, and “by reasons of geography alone the United States is bound to defend Canada from external aggression almost regardless of whether Canadians wish to be defended. We may call this the involuntary American guarantee...this guarantee, however, is subject to certain conditions.”21 He then went on to quote from a 1938 speech by Prime Minister Mackenzie King, one of the most moderate of men to ever lead Canada during a war:

“We, too, as a good friendly neighbour, have our responsibilities. One of them is to see that our country is made as immune from possible invasion as we can reasonably be expected to make it, and that should the occasion ever arise, enemy forces should not be able to make their way, either by land, sea or air, to the United States across Canadian territory.” 22

For argument’s sake, let us assume that the words of Canada’s Senator Raoul Dandurand during his 1924 address to the League of Nations are more valid today then they were when first spoken: “We live in a fire-proof house, far from the inflammable materials. A vast ocean separates us from Europe.”23 This carries the direct implication that Europe – or somewhere other than Canada – was the source of the flames. Consider the scenario of another attack on the US, on a scale similar or even larger than 9/11. If it should turn out that the attack was launched by terrorists who gained access to American territory via Canada, the reaction from our American friends might be abrupt and – decisive – not only to our economy as the shared frontier goes through the equivalent of a lockdown and approximately $C 1.8 billion of Canada-US trade per day piles up at the border crossings24 – but also to our sovereignty. If Canada cannot defend itself adequately, and cannot live up to its implied security responsibilities as outlined by Mackenzie King, then others will assume those responsibilities. Quoting once again from Canada’s National Security Policy: “There can be no greater role, no more important obligation for a government, than the safety and protection of its citizens.”25 The Americans have much the same belief, and they have a recent tendency for overwhelming and dynamic action when large numbers of their citizens are murdered. Canada, for example, could suddenly find itself with its maritime approaches under the firm and direct control of somebody else, and if a nation is not providing for its own defences, how sovereign is it? Even if one believes that Canada is relatively immune from attack – and this could be a very serious mistake – the same cannot be said for the US, and there can be no doubt that the defence of Canada and North America is a vital priority, not only for the CF, but for all those elements that contribute to national security. Our economic stability and certain measures of our sovereignty depend on it.26 This may be particularly true if the Americans develop the belief that Canada has not done all it might have to see that ‘...enemy forces should not be able to make their way, either by land, sea or air, to the United States across Canadian territory...’ It is in our national interest to do all that we can to help our largest trading partner protect itself, just as they help us. The question that defies an immediate answer is: “How much is enough?


DND photo KA2004-R101-392 by Master Corporal Yves Proteau

Corporal Yvan Bélanger of C Company, 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battalion Group walks through an Afghan village during a routine patrol.

Canada’s standard of living is amongst the highest in the world, and our social programs necessitate a rich and dynamic economy to sustain them. We are a trading nation, with roughly 80 per cent of our international trade and 40 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product tied to the relatively free flow of goods to and from the United States.27 What affects the American economy will also affect us. In much smaller measures, the same is true for the European Union and some of the voraciously expanding economies in the Far East. To put this in terms that can be readily understood, one in four Canadian jobs is based upon international trade.28 Both the US and European Union are massive trading entities, whose commercial interests are truly global in scale. The rich, industrialized nations are increasingly interconnected, not only with each other but with many nations that are suffering the direct effects of the very worst of the new security challenges, as discussed earlier. What happens in a far-away place can and will have an immediate financial impact at home, more so than ever before. A five per cent reduction in international trade could cost Canada billions of tax dollars that the various levels of governments use to fund our social development and quality of life programs. To use a specific example, a 15 per cent reduction could wipe out the equivalent funding for a significant portion of our health care system.29 A 30 per cent reduction is almost beyond talking about in polite company.

The point is that those things that interest us most as Canadians are extraordinarily fragile and vulnerable to what happens elsewhere in our world. It is in our national interest to assist our friends, allies and trading partners in bringing social progress and eventual stability to those less fortunate than us, wherever we can, through whatever means we can, if our quality of life and standards of living are to be maintained. Canada has evolved into a sophisticated and wealthy trading nation whose economy is inextricably linked with global markets, and, by whatever index one might wish to use, the long-term historical trend of our international contributions of soldiers, civilians and funds to help others – so that we help ourselves – is not as robust as one might think,30 although there have been some recent and focused successes such as in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Some Ideas on the Way Ahead

As most nations are naturally quite parsimonious when it comes time to decide where, and how much, they can afford to spend to assist others, it would seem to make sense that Canada carefully choose a few selected areas or countries in which our military, diplomatic and developmental help would benefit us and our principal trading partners the most. And we should focus our resources – people, time and money – accordingly.31 The planning for such efforts should be long term and strategic in nature, as the aim is to help ourselves by helping others. All too often our international efforts (military and civilian, time and money) have been a kilometre wide and a centimetre deep, which is a short-term approach that caters to the many special interest groups that make up Canada’s international assistance community. But there is no discernable evidence to prove that this scattered approach is particularly successful, although there have been many localized and heart-warming victories. Though it sounds remarkably simplistic, some of the greatest strategists have told us that concentration of effort and selection and maintenance of the aim are keys to eventual victory,32 and one can make the argument that our current, diffuse tactics are not working very well.


DND photo KA2004-R101-577 by Master Corporal Yves Proteau

A child in the Paghman sector of Afghanistan poses with kites and a flag that he received from the Canadians.

The idea of focusing a significant portion of our national contributions on international aid and development may well cause shivers from various groups and narrowly specialized organizations that are relatively comfortable with the status quo,33 but the changing nature of the security threats facing Canada would seem to demand a change in approach on how we help solve the bigger international issues of failed states, despotic warlords, appalling violations of human rights, and the responsibility to protect the defenceless. Some thought should be given to enhancing the coordination of the many key agents before a Canadian mission is launched; to concentrate the effort to maximize the impact. The defence, diplomacy, development and trade (3D+T) concept reflects the nascent stages of a ‘whole of Government approach,’ and it worked very well during the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan in 2003-2004. The net should be spread wider to include all those International and Non-Governmental Organizations (IOs and NGOs) that receive Canadian taxpayer dollars. Some of them are ferociously independent and their leadership might well bristle at the idea of someone attempting to coordinate their efforts,34 but the aim should be to get the best value as possible for the taxpayer dollar. The overall objectives of the humanitarian mission should reflect the goals and objectives of the Canadian Government, especially if they are the ones who are contributing most of the money. In the absence of vast additional sums for defence, diplomacy and development, we have very little choice but to think outside our current boxes – and, once again, there is no discernable proof that the Canadian electorate is willing to accept a significant decline in social programs to help unfortunate others in far-away lands.35

With respect to the CF, a logical and realistic solution would appear to be predicated upon modest, flexible, well-equipped and superbly trained military forces that are capable of two interconnected activities, namely, domestic and international operations. The emphasis within each of these two activities should be somewhat different than in the past. Several examples spring to mind, but it might be appropriate to choose one from each of the environmental services – while reminding ourselves that the army, air force and navy do many things apart from the following activities. An admittedly simplistic explanation of previous, Cold War imperatives of the 1950-to-1990 period had the army worried about killing large numbers of tanks somewhere in Europe; the air force focused on detecting and shooting down other manned, high-performance military aircraft; and the navy working hard on the challenges of finding and destroying enemy submarines. There is no doubt that these skill sets and capabilities will still be required so as to ensure a certain range of interoperability with our allies, and to maintain the government’s range of force employment options well into an uncertain future. After all, who can reliably predict what will happen in 2020 and beyond. The US may not remain the only superpower for long.36 It can take 15 years (and sometimes more) to introduce sophisticated new equipment into the CF. This is another issue – one that points toward the need to rethink how Canada produces its defence capabilities, but well beyond the scope of this paper. It underlines, however, that one has to think through very carefully the implications of throwing something away. Once a capability is gone, it can take many years to reacquire the equipment, and years after that before the appropriate people are fully trained so that they have a fighting chance to do their duty in defence of the nation. But what degree of emphasis, which translates into people, time and money, do these or other activities currently deserve? Can they be used for something else that is related to a contemporary domestic or international mission, and does it make operational or financial sense to do so? In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, the threat has changed. As that threat changes, so should our emphasis on how to best employ the very finite resources available to defend the nation.

For the reasons of sovereignty and economic stability, as discussed earlier, the first priority of the CF should be those capabilities dedicated to the defence of Canada and North America, with an emphasis on providing the surveillance and ‘teeth’ within the larger context of Canada’s domestic security strategy. Particular attention and specialized capabilities to cover the air and maritime approaches to the nation would seem to be of paramount importance, especially when one considers the established trading patterns and the potential threats, as would the ability to interoperate with the military forces of the Americans, with whom we should be working even more closely. Closer integration would increase efficiency, minimize the blind spots and, to be blunt, enhance the ability to react should something go very badly wrong – while maintaining sovereignty. Changes to the ways in which the Canadian domestically focused forces are organized, controlled, trained, and equipped would appear to be in order, as the current mechanisms are, of necessity, products of the Cold War, and may not be as joint and integrated with the supported civilian agencies as they could be. Within this domestically focused force, the army reserve component – the militia – might emulate the model already established by the naval and air reserves, who are assigned specific and important roles, responsibilities and equipment to accomplish their assigned tasks. As the reserves are already located in hundreds of Canadian communities, perhaps they should be the first military responders for when the next disaster – be it man-made or natural – comes our way, while still maintaining a crucial capability to help the regular army on international missions.

A soldier

DND photo KA2004-R101-385 by Master Corporal Yves Proteau

Children trail after Corporal Eric Fortin of 9 Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battalion Group during a routine patrol of an Afghani village in the C Company area of responsibility.

The argument that focused efforts, across the spectrum of national capabilities, are more important than ever before is as valid for the military as for any other agency. Any military contribution to international operations must be seen as one more tool in the box of capabilities that Canada, in conjunction with her friends and allies, would bring to bear on the crisis.37 What a focused military can provide is security and the ability to protect those who are unarmed or vulnerable, allowing the civilian experts to get on with the difficult work of social reconstruction or humanitarian assistance. To do this they need superbly trained and effective ‘boots on the ground.’ Lots of them, and the more the better. What the international community should try to avoid is the temptation to accept contributions of poorly-trained, poorly-equipped soldiers who are unable to prevent themselves being locked into their compounds, hostages to the local warlords. Having said this, organizations such as the United Nations can only pick from among the military forces that have been offered by the respective nations, and Canada’s participation in UN missions has been declining for some time, though, to be fair, our participation within active NATO missions has been rising. The days of a blue UN helmet acting as a guarantor of invulnerability and credibility to lightly-equipped international forces are long gone.38 More often than not, the deployed military forces in contemporary operations have to be equipped and ready to fight. If they look tough and are tough, walk softly but firmly, are well equipped with a wide range of combat power, and the rules of engagement are sufficiently robust and flexible to nip incipient problems in the bud before they can explode out of control, the hope is that lethal force may not have to be used – at least, not much.39 Hope, however, is not a recommended planning method.40

A disorganized and poorly-armed intervention or security force, thrown into the midst of ruthless warlords and hideously complicated venues – within local circumstances where respect for individual rights, due process or even the value of human lives are at a minimum – is asking for nothing but trouble. And the local thugs and predators, some of them armed with weapons ranging from suicide bombers to main battle tanks and heavy artillery,41 will be only too happy to provide that trouble if they believe they can get away with it. Using the analogy of a helping hand, the political leaders and diplomats are extending the hand. The civilian humanitarian and development experts are the open palm. The international military forces in stabilization or crisis response missions are the steel fist, wrapped in a covering of respect and understanding of the local culture and a detailed knowledge of what has to be done to provide security. In this context, security has a variety of interwoven dimensions. One is defensive, or relatively passive. The other is offensive, or relatively aggressive. How much of the steel is exposed, and in which dimension, depends upon the local circumstances, on a day-by-day basis. What is clear is that the ability to deliver precise, carefully controlled and deadly combat power is more important than ever before in this era of fourth generation warfare,42 which is a blend of the political, economic, social, military and technological skills used in unconventional operations to establish whatever the conditions for success might be. As an aside, who is to say that the whole paradigm of conventional versus unconventional warfare will not reverse itself, where the majority of Western military forces of the future will be equipped, organized and trained to fight a terrorist or insurgent foe as matter of routine? It might only be when called for by a very specific mission that they would organize to fight a large standing army. The conventional threat might be the terrorists and insurgents, and the unconventional the massed military formations of anybody silly enough to present such a target-rich environment to the devastating abilities of modern military forces.43

Canadians, both uniformed and civilian, have historically proven themselves to be particularly good at the sorts of complex and dangerous stabilization missions that require superbly trained and robust ‘boots on the ground.’ In the absence of almost unlimited funding, it would seem to make sense to focus on an activity at which the nation excels, and for which there is an ever-increasing demand. The Chief of Land Staff has articulated the US Marine Corps concept of a three-block war as a guiding concept for the Canadian Army.44 In one block of a city the ground forces are fighting terrorist or warlords who have been preying on the local residents. In the second block, they are patrolling with local security forces and helping them keep order. In the third block, they are providing security and helping humanitarian relief agencies with hundreds of refugees or displaced persons. This concept is equally applicable to air and maritime assets within their respective domains.

For example, a Joint Support Ship could be floating offshore, providing readily deployed, self-contained command and control facilities and logistical support to the ground troops, while an escorting frigate is boarding local vessels and checking for terrorists or contraband weapons.45 Meanwhile, another frigate may have just launched a surface-to-surface weapon to destroy a cave entrance that shelters murderers who refuse to surrender to a combined team of local and international ground forces. Overhead, a very large transport aircraft is engaging in a humanitarian relief flight bringing much needed medicines donated by a Canadian pharmaceutical company to the locals, while a heavy helicopter provides a lift to a civilian medical team from a Canadian-funded NGO that has to get up into the mountains to help some wounded farmers. A smaller, more agile and robust helicopter is escorting the Canadian Ambassador and the International Coalition Commander – who is a Canadian, since Canada has focused its international contributions on a couple of mission areas, and is one of the largest force contributors to this particular mission – to a critical meeting with some local power brokers.

A soldier

DND photo KA2004-R103-408d by Corporal John Bradley

Sergeant Stephane Tremblay, a member of Anti-tank Platoon, 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battalion Group stands near the summit of a mountain while on a patrol in the Kabul area of Afghanistan.

The point behind these fictitious examples is to argue that the CF have to think and operate as a single entity with air, land and naval assets working as a joint team, both at home and abroad. They have to learn how to work even more closely with all of the elements that can help in achieving the Canadian government’s objectives, as well as those of whatever international coalition we may choose to work with. The days of the three traditional environmental services operating in relative isolation from each other, with the air force acting as the supporting bridge between the army and navy, have to come to an end. This implies changes to the command and control mechanisms, to the way the CF equips and trains its teams, and even in the way they are educated and view the profession of arms within the larger political and social context in which they will have operate, both at home and overseas.


The threats to Canada and Canadians have changed, and the CF will have to evolve to meet these emerging dangers, both at home and abroad. There is no proof that the Canadian electorate is convinced that security has precedence over social programs, and it is fair to assume that democratic governments do what the electorate wants them to do. It must, therefore, be further assumed that any additional resources for the CF will be augmented in graduated, incremental doses. The inference is that the CF will have to initiate whatever changes they can largely from within existing funds – hopefully somewhat enhanced – which points to the need for tough and determined leadership that will effect some structural and procedural changes, internal re-allocations, and the possible elimination or reduction of systems and infrastructure that is no longer vital to deal with the new security challenges that we, as a nation, might face in the future.

The challenges will be immense, especially if one agrees with the idea that the average Canadian may still want more ‘butter than guns,’ where social programs trump security issues. It is enormously difficult to change large and complex organizations at the best of times, and even more so when the day-to-day business of defence and security has to continue without significant interruption. When combined with the inevitable funding pressures and natural resistance to change from all types of interested observers and participants, life within the CF is going to become even more interesting than before. Still, the future looks a lot brighter than it was, because for the first time in decades the funding for the CF has risen for several years in a row, and there is every indication that this trend will continue. The key, of course, is whether there will be a long-term commitment from all the interested stakeholders for continued and sustained investments into the military instrument, which is a vital component of fulfilling a nation’s ultimate responsibility to its citizens. “There can be no greater role, no more important obligation for a government, than the safety and protection of its citizens.”46 We live in fascinating times.

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Major-General Andrew Leslie, OMM, MSC, MSM, CD, is a doctoral candidate at the Royal Military College, and he presented this paper at the College as the Haycock Lecture of November 2004. He has command experience at regimental, brigade, area, contingent and joint task force levels in domestic and international operations.


  1. Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy. (Ottawa: Privy Council Office, Government of Canada, online at <http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca> April 2004), p. vii.
  2. <http://www.ekos.com/studies/default.asp> The Security Monitor, ‘Understanding Shifting Attitudes Towards Risk.’
  3. Ibid. Although the trend since 9/11is that Canadians are increasingly willing to tolerate moderately restrictive security measures over convenience, and that anywhere from a quarter to half of the respondents on various studies are willing to support increased security and defence expenditures, the Number One concern appears to remain health care, followed by a lengthy list of other social development programs.
  4. Desmond Morton, A Military History of Canada: From Champlain to Kosovo, 4th Edition. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999), pp. 70-77.
  5. David Bercuson, “Canada-US Defence Relations Post-11 September” in Canada Among Nations 2003: Coping With The American Colossus, eds. David Carment, Fen Osler Hampson and Norman Hillmer, (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 125-128.
  6. Douglas L. Bland and Sean M. Maloney, Campaigns For International Security: Canada’s Defence Policy at the Turn of the Century, (Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004), pp. 64-66.
  7. With the possible exceptions of the two world wars, and even then, there was something less than unanimity.
  8. Rod B. Byers, “Peacekeeping and Canadian Defence Policy: Ambivalence and Uncertainty,” in Canada’s Defence: Perspectives on Policy in the Twentieth Century, edited by B.D Hunt and R.G Haycock, (Mississauga: Copp Clark Pitman Ltd., 1993), pp. 179-196.
  9. J.L Granatstein, Who Killed the Canadian Military, (Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2004), pp. 187-190.
  10. J.L Granatstein, Canada’s Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), pp. xi – xii, and as outlined in Bland and Maloney, Campaigns for International Security, Chapter 5, which covers budgeting for National Defence in the 1990s and is highly recommended reading.
  11. Douglas Bland, “Everything Military Officers Need to Know About Defence Policy Making in Canada” in Canadian Strategic Forecast 2000 – Advance or Retreat: Canadian Defence in the 21st Century, David Rudd, Jim Henson, Jessica Blitt (Eds), (Ontario: Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, 2000), p. 28. The quote in parentheses is from Canada’s longest-serving Minister of National Defence, Brooke Claxton.
  12. Ibid., p. 19.
  13. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “US Power and Strategy After Iraq,” in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 4 (New York: July/August 2003), pp. 60-73.
  14. Christopher Donnelly, “Security in the 21st Century: New Challenges and New Responses,” CND (Final), 21-05-2003 p. 4/14.
  15. Ibid, pp. 4/14 – 5/14.
  16. C.P. Stacey, Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Six Years of War, Volume 1, (Ottawa: Government of Canada, Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationery, 1955), p. 3.
  17. Grant Dawson in Canada Among Nations 2003: Coping With The American Colossus, eds. David Carment, Fen Osler Hampson and Norman Hillmer, (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 191-193.
  18. Desmond Morton, “The Military Problems of an Unmilitary People,” in Revue Internationale d’Histoire Militaire, No.51 (1982), p. 7.
  19. Desmond Morton, A Military History of Canada, pp. 70-73. The British attempted to do so after the War of 1812, but eventually gave up due to the exorbitant costs involved.
  20. Sir Wilfrid Laurier as quoted in George Stanley, Canada’s Soldiers: The Military History of an Unmilitary People (Toronto: Macmillan, 1960), p. 294. Laurier’s use of the term ‘militia’ should be placed in context, in that he was referring to Canada’s military capability, of which the militia formed the vast majority.
  21. R.J. Sutherland, “Canada’s Long Term Strategic Situation” in International Journal XVII, Vol. 3. (Summer 1962), pp. 201-202.
  22. Ibid., p. 202.
  23. As quoted in an article by Joseph T. Jockel and Joel J. Sokolsky, “Dandurand revisited; rethinking Canada’s defence policy in an unstable World,” in International Journal XLVIII, Spring 1993, p. 117.
  24. Andrew Cohen, While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World, (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2003), p. 110.
  25. Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy. p. vii.
  26. R.B Byers, Adelphi Papers No. 214, “Canadian Security and Defence: the Legacy and the Challenges,” (London: Jane’s Publishing Co., Winter 1986), pp. 17-19.
  27. Andrew Cohen, While Canada Slept, pp. 109-111.
  28. Ibid., p. 109.
  29. Ibid. Canada trades about $C 800 billion worth of imports and exports per year. Fifteen per cent of this figure would be $120 billion. The potential implications are staggering.
  30. Andrew Cohen, While Canada Slept, pp. 175-178.
  31. Jennifer Welsh, At Home in the World: Canada’s Global Vision for the 21st Century, (Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2004.), pp. 21-23.
  32. Sun-tzu, The Art of War, Translated by Ralph D. Sawyer, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1994), pp. 134 and 138-140.
  33. Andrew Cohen, While Canada Slept, pp. 173-175.
  34. This comment is based on the author’s personal experiences on a variety of international missions. The concepts of independence and autonomy for a large number of International and Non-Governmental Organizations are crucial, as they do not wish to be identified with any military or armed group, thus preserving their absolute neutrality and credibility with all local elements. Having said this, civilian aid workers are now a victim of choice for some terrorists/warlords/ insurgents, as they represent ‘soft’ targets that will generate enormous publicity when they are attacked. If they can be intimidated into withdrawing from the mission area, the appearance is that the terrorists/ warlords/insurgents are gaining the upper hand. In fourth generation warfare, perception can be as important as reality. See last reference in endnote 42 for details.
  35. Jennifer Welsh, At Home in the World, pp. 175-176.
  36. Evan S. Medeiros and M. Taylor Fravel, “China’s New Diplomacy” in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 6 (New York: November/December 2003), pp. 22-35.
  37. David Eaves (lead author), Canada 25. From Middle Power to Model Power: Recharging Canada’s Role in the World, (Toronto: Published by Canada25, 2004), pp. 31-32.
  38. Numerous examples exist. In one, the author was a member of the UN force in the Former Yugoslavia. During the heavy fighting of August 1995 in and around Knin, a rebel stronghold, the lightly-equipped blue beret forces were essentially powerless and many people died. This particular mission failed.
  39. Some contributing nations, usually those with limited international experience, may not understand that stabilization or intervention forces may have to be prepared to fight to protect the weak and the innocent. One of the most difficult and delicate tasks an international force has is in trying to determine how contributing nations will actually allow their respective forces to be employed.
  40. Gordon R Sullivan and Michael V. Harper, Hope is Not a Method, (New York: Time Business, Random House, 1996), pp. 3-12.
  41. To use but one example, various warlords had hundreds of heavy weapons in and around Kabul in 2003/2004 (tanks and artillery) until they were removed and placed into ISAF/NATO monitored cantonment sites.
  42. Thomas X. Hammes, Strategic Forum, “Insurgency: Modern Warfare Evolves into a Fourth Generation,” No. 214, pp. 1-3. <http://www.ndu.edu/inss> First generation warfare was dominated by massed manpower, reaching its peak during the Napoleonic Wars. The Second generation was dominated by firepower, culminating in the First World War. The Third generation was dominated by manoeuvre as originated in the Second World War, reaching its peak during Desert Storm. For further information see <http://www.d-n-i.net/second_level/fourth_generation_warfare.htm>.
  43. Max Boot, “The New American Way of War” in Foreign Affairs, Volume 82, Number 4 (New York: July/August 2003), pp. 41-58.
  44. Lieutenant-General Richard Hillier, Chief of Land Staff, at an Army Conference in Ottawa, Canada in October 2003.
  45. At the risk of stating the obvious, this scenario might not be applicable in some circumstances. For example, Afghanistan is landlocked.
  46. Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy. (Ottawa: Privy Council Office, Government of Canada online at <http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca> April 2004), p. vii.