NOVEMBER 14, 1963
World Political Changes and Their Effect on Defence
AN ADDRESS BY
The Honourable Douglas S. Harkness, M.P.
The President, Mr. Arthur J. Langley
The Honourable Douglas Harkness needs little introduction to this audience. In his 60 years, he has distinguished himself in three career areas-as a teacher,
a soldier and a parliamentarian. This combination tells us a great deal about this man-for through his various careers runs a common thread-a concern with people-with the country-and with service to both. He is that rare person who can command respect from friend and foe alike-and alike from friends who may or may not agree with him.
This is because of his undoubted sincerity and unshakable dedication to those principles in which he believesand for which he has always been prepared to stand up and be counted. The Empire Club warmly welcomes a very distinguished Canadian-Douglas Scott Harkness.
HON. DOUGLAS HARKNESS:
I should like to thank the Empire Club for the invitation to address you today. It is indeed an honour to appear on the platform which has been occupied by so many distinguished speakers over the 60 years that your Club has been in existence.
There has been a great deal of discussion in recent years on what Canada's defence policy should be. Unfortunately much of it has been based on emotional reactions, partisan approaches, and preoccupation with equipment. Very little of our defence discussion has been based on what should be the most important considerations; that is, the political alignments in the world, what these are likely to be in the foreseeable future, and the defence policy best adapted to meet them and to provide Canada with the maximum degree of security at a bearable cost. In addition, it is hard for most people to get away from old ideas, valid for long periods in the past, but not valid now because of changed world political conditions and the very rapid technological changes which have taken place. Another way of expressing it would be to say that, to some extent, our minds are still attuned to pre-1939 and 1914 conditions.
Since the last world war two directly opposite political tendencies, or movements, have been at work. Firstly, there has been a strong feeling on the part of many people in all countries that the day of the nation-particularly in the old nineteenth century sense-is over and that larger multinational political groupings, leading to some form of world government, are the inevitable shape of the future. In fact, many believe such a development is essential if the peoples of the world are not to destroy one another and civilization at the same time. Secondly, strong nationalist feelings have developed in many places where they did not exist, or existed in a very rudimentary form, and this has led to a multiplication of national governments, particularly apparent in the political fragmentation which has taken place in Africa and Asia. This has arisen particularly as a revolt against and repudiation of the colonialism of the last century, but the total result has been a greater emphasis on nationalism and national sovereignty all over the world. We even see it in movements for separate Scottish and Welsh governments in the United Kingdom and on the part of the separatists for an independent French-Canadian State in Canada.
As a result of two world wars and the development of atomic weapons, we have a completely different political power set-up than existed in the roughly One hundred years from the end of the Napoleonic wars to the outbreak of the first world war in 1914. We have at the present time two super powers-the United States and the Soviet Union, each with its allies or, in the case of Russia, its satellites. Real world power resides in these two blocs, to which nearly all the militarily and economically strong countries adhere. However, the large number of so-called uncommitted countries constitute a group where conditions in many cases are unstable, where border disputes and other causes of disagreement are common, and where the two great power blocs are in many cases competing with each other.
Any full-scale atomic war could only come about by decision on the part of the Soviets to use their atomic power to impose their system on the rest of the world, or by mis calculation on their part. Both of these are remote possibilities as long as the Western World remains sufficiently strong to convince the Soviets that a nuclear attack could not be successful and that the result of it would be their own destruction. In other words, the nuclear deterrent of the West must be maintained.
The rising power of China and her quite apparent will to challenge Russia for the dominant position in the communist world is another reason, and a most compelling one,
I believe, why Russia is not likely to mount an attack against the West. At the same time, the enormous and rapidly increasing population of China poses a constant threat to the Asiatic part of Russia, because this is the area into which the Chinese could most readily and naturally move in search of more food and resources. This, I believe, is a basic reason why it will be impossible in the foreseeable future to get Russia to agree to any meaningful disarmament agreement.
At the present time there are wars or border incursions of one sort or another going on in Yemen, between the Moroccans and Algerians, in South Viet Nam, in the newly formed State of Malaysia, and others threatened in various places. The new countries involved in these affairs feel free to let nationalist feelings and the personal ambitions of their rulers have full play, because they know that the results will not be serious to the world as a whole if the interests of the great powers are not involved and that, as a result, they stand a good chance of being allowed to fight matters out themselves without too much interference from the remainder of the world as far as the use of actual military force is concerned.
Under these circumstances, what is a proper and logical defence policy for Canada? In considering this I would suggest that we first rid ourselves, as far as possible, of two very deep-rooted ideas or convictions. The first is the old idea that our defence forces exist primarily to meet any attack on our own territory from sea, land, or air. In days past this was the almost universally accepted idea for the existence of our defence forces. A large number of people still seem to believe that the Canadian Navy, Army, and Air Force should be able to carry out this function independently. The second is that the absolute sovereignty of Canada must be maintained under all circumstances. When any country enters an alliance with another, or even signs a trade agreement with it, some part of its sovereignty is given up. No country at the present time can provide for its own defence entirely by itself, thus adherence to alliances is a necessity, and this means giving up some national sovereignty. We have already done this through membership in the United Nations, in NATO and in NORAD. To put forward as an argument, that we should not follow any particular course in defence because it would involve a loss of Canadian sovereignty, is to conveniently blindfold ourselves to what has already been done, and to be completely unrealistic to what present conditions impose upon us.
I believe Canada's defence policy must be based primarily on strong support of NATO and a willingness on our part to make the proportionate contribution to its strength which our population and economic position warrant. I include in this NORAD, our regional agreement with the U.S. for the air defence of this continent. The Western Alliance of NATO has prevented any general war breaking out during the past 15 years and, at the same time, has stopped the Soviet take-over of any further countries in Europe. I am convinced that it will continue to maintain peace as long as it remains strong and united. The deterrent power of the Alliance depends on its military strength, both nuclear and conventional, and on its evident will to use this strength if necessary. The avowed Soviet aim of imposing communism on the world has not changed, and there are likely to be continued probing actions on their part to make what gains they can, and to test the will of the West to resist. The Russian adventure in Cuba was an outstanding example of this, and demonstrated very clearly that when the United States, backed by the other members of NATO, showed that they were willing to employ all their military strength if necessary, the Russians were not ready to carry the matter to an all-out war. The recent interferences with convoys going into Berlin are examples of the type of probing action which is likely to continue, with a hope of eroding the Western position and discovering whether weakness exists.
The military contributions of each country to NATO are based on the ability of each to contribute to the common defence. They are arrived at by negotiation and agreement and must of necessity change with changing circumstances. There is no reason why a particular type of contribution should always remain. It might well be increased or decreased, or replaced by another. The main thing is that when it has been agreed that certain forces will be provided, and other members of the Alliance depend on them being available, they should be produced. Otherwise the whole force is weakened, or other countries have to assume the burden, with the consequent loss of a spirit of unity and cooperation within the Alliance.
Canada has agreed to make certain naval, army and air forces available to NATO and, in my view, we must meet these commitments until such time as we secure agreement to a change in them. We must not unilaterally decrease them by simply failing to replace equipment as it becomes worn out or obsolete. This, I fear, is what is happening at the present time in regard to our naval contribution. The ships which we have had available are wearing out and no replacements are being built. Therefore, in view of the long time required for a naval shipbuilding programme, the strength of our Navy will inevitably decline.
The value and desirability of each of the military forces we make available to NATO have been questioned and demands made that they be withdrawn, generally without any effective replacement being proposed. Some of these demands are made by those who, whilst acknowledging the , value of NATO, seem to think that we should have a free ride. Others have a repugnance to nuclear weapons and appear to think that we can avoid any moral guilt for their existence in the Alliance if we refuse to have anything to do with them ourselves. I submit that such attitudes are neither responsible nor realistic. If we believe in the Alliance and its ability to protect the freedom of the Western world, we must be prepared to go all the way with it.
Small wars, and the threat of them, have led to United Nations intervention in a number of places. Such disturbances to peace are likely to continue for a long time and peace-keeping forces will be required. Canada has been called on for military assistance in practically all of the United Nations interventions to date, and is likely to be similarly involved in the future. Our support of the United Nations in these peace-keeping activities should be one of the important features of our defence policy. It must be realized that the United Nations cannot, because of its composition, intervene effectively as between the two great power blocs but, with the cooperation of these, it can contain and arbitrate on disputes between smaller countries and prevent these from spreading. There are many in Canada who say that a United Nations Force should be our only, or at least our main military effort. This disregards the fact that the general peace is really kept by NATO and that the United Nations can deal only with small wars. It is also unrealistic because no one can tell what kind of forces may be required from us by the United Nations, and their needs can be met only out of existing well-balanced navy, army and air forces with a good transport capability.
On the basis of past experience, and the conditions which exist in the new countries where United Nations intervention is most likely, what we should be able to provide particularly are specialist troops having high technical qualifications, such as signallers, medical personnel, vehicle and equipment repair personnel, well-trained staff officers and troops trained in guerilla warfare. The latter is something on which we should be putting, I believe, a good deal more emphasis.
The original function of our defence forces-to protect and maintain control over Canadian waters, land and airof course remains. This requires much the same type of well-balanced forces as those needed to meet the United Nations requests, and forces capable of carrying out the one function can also carry out the other. For the local protection of Canada the geographical placing of such forces is, of course, important, together with an improved air transport capability so that troops and equipment can be moved rapidly.
The direct defence of Canada also requires strong militia or reserve forces, and it is only by the maintenance of such forces that the numbers of trained men and organized units required can be provided. A strong militia is also essential to carry on the survival operations which would be the most important immediate task of our armed forces in the event of a nuclear attack. In addition, reserves are necessary to provide some of the personnel likely to be required for United Nations operations-the Korean War was an example-and to provide the numbers required for rapid expansion of our regular forces in any emergency.
There has been a good deal of talk about the organization of our forces, particularly that the three services should be completely integrated into one in order to cut out dupil cation and thereby reduce the numbers involved in, and the cost of administrative services. A considerable number of steps have been taken toward administrative unification and I think there is no question that we must continue to move as rapidly as possible in this direction. I see no great value,. and in fact a good deal to be lost, in attempting to put all of our servicemen into one uniform and having one service to which they all would belong. However, practically all of the administrative services can be and should be integrated. Mixed formations, particularly of Navy and Air Force, and of Army and Air Force are likely to be employed more and more in the future. Such formations should be set up and trained and the command and operational procedures worked out. We have made a good start in this regard in the Maritime Commands of the East and West coasts, which employ Naval and Air Force Units in one unified antisubmarine operation on each coast. To effectively control and operate mixed formations a simplification and unification of the command functions of our defence forces is necessary.
In conclusion I would like to say this. Defence is too important a matter, in regard to our relations with our allies and to the part that we must play in preserving world peace, to be a matter for partisan political argument and advantage. Too often during the past four to five years this has been the basis on which defence matters have been discussed. The considerations which should be paramount are how Canada's security can best be attained and how we can best play our part in the maintenance of world peace. I would hope that discussion of the subject in future would be more and more on this basis.
Thanks of this meeting were expressed by J. H. Corrigan, Q.c., a Director of the Club.