- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 27 Mar 1969, p. 246-255
- Lewis, David, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- An address in the "spirit of friendly and respectful antagonism." The speaker's trip to Europe and of what it reminded him: "that we live in a nightmarish world whose survival, we are told, depends on our capacity to destroy it." Turning away from the military alliance. What we are told and what is believed. Canada's forces in Europe as part of a nuclear arsenal. Support of the C.C.F. and the New Democratic Party for Canada's membership in NATO. The speaker's serious doubts as to whether hopes are ever likely to be fulfilled in terms of achieving a détente in Europe, a balanced reduction of forces on both sides, and an eventual settlement of the European problem. The speaker's observations of NATO. A look at Canada's military contribution in Europe. The speaker's feeling that Canadians should not be there, and reasons for that belief. How Canada might better use its resources.
- Date of Original
- 27 Mar 1969
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- MARCH 27, 1969
NATO in the Balance
AN ADDRESS BY David Lewis, Q.C., M.P., DEPUTY LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY
CHAIRMAN The President, Edward B. Jolliffe, Q.C.
The House of Commons Committee on External Affairs and National Derence has just returned from Europe. Yesterday, its report on Canada's role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was presented to the House, and a White Paper from the Cabinet is expected soon.
Canada played a large part in creating NATO in the first place. However, in recent years the subject has aroused considerable disputation in NATO itself, in this country and indeed within all political parties and even within governments; probably differences of opinion will continue because they are related to basic issues in international affairs today. This is an open forum and our guest today is free to express his own views, after touring Europe and the NATO bases with the Commons Committee.
Mr. David Lewis, Q.C., M.P., has had a most unusual life and career. Born in Poland, he came to Canada as a boy with his parents, was soon teaching English to new Canadians, was trained in economcis and the law at McGill and Oxford. In 1931 a most distinguished committee selected Mr. Lewis as Rhodes Scholar for Quebec. The Committee included the late Sir Edward Beatty, Dr. Wilder Penfield, Mr. Arnold Heeney and Mr. Lester B. Pearson a blue-ribbon committee if there ever was one. In England he was soon recognized as a debater and became the first Canadian President of the Oxford Union.
On his return to Canada he became a member of the Quebec Bar, later of the Ontario Bar and practised in Ottawa and Toronto. He was National Secretary of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation for many years, had an important part in forming the New Democratic Party and has been in and out of the House of Commons since 1962. He is Deputy Leader of his party and one of the most active and articulate Members of Parliament. When Mr. Tommy Douglas returned to the House on February 20th, Mr. Robert Stanfield said: "I hope I am not out of place, Mr. Speaker, in suggesting to the honourable member who is taking his seat today (Mr. Douglas) that his colleague the honourable member for York South (Mr. Lewis) has conducted himself eloquently and effectively as the acting parliamentary leader of his party."
Mr. President and gentlemen. The President did not tell you that he and I have known each other now for 37 years. We have had a close association personally, politically and professionally. And the fact that he said only nice things about me is a tribute to his loyalty and to his gallantry.
I do not expect, Mr. President, that what I have to say will meet with universal approval in this hall. Indeed, sir, I could not help but be impressed, if not overwhelmed, by the important posts held by most at the head table in the Canadian "Establishment" which I have spent most of my life criticizing and fighting; and expect to continue to do so for whatever time I have left in the political life of this country.
And it is in that spirit of friendly and respectful antagonism that I want to speak to you this afternoon.
We travelled through Europe under heavy pressures and a very tight schedule. And we heard a great deal about the importance of NATO. Indeed, as I said in Parliament yesterday, my brain was so brain-washed for two weeks that I was afraid I might not be able to find the bit of it that was still left. This was a dangerous thing to say in Parliament, because some honourable member promptly asked, with obvious doubt in his voice, "Have you found it?"
My trip to Europe reminded me that we live in a nightmarish world whose survival, we are told, depends on our capacity to destroy it.
Our wise realists across this globe tell us that so long as this destructive capacity is available equally to each of the potential antagonists, humanity will be safe.
Now, a logical person might conclude that, if this be true, then at the moment when each of the antagonists has enough nuclear hardware to destroy every living, breathing and growing thing on earth, the arms race would stop. But he would be wrong. Because this particular insanity knows no end.
Human survival in our modern world is made to depend on fear, all-pervasive, all-consuming, soul-destroying fear. We are told that only this can save the human race from destruction, and the end is nowhere in sight.
In Paris, for example, we heard a well-known ex-general of France. I sat at a luncheon table with him and, during the pleasant conversation of lunch, this intelligent and eloquent general earnestly argued that the only way to bring peace in the Middle East was to provide both Israel and Egypt equally with nuclear capacity. Fear, he said with inexorable gallic logic--fear would bring them to the negotiating table. And, he added, that is why he and France opposed the non-proliferation treaty.
The logic seemed to be that the way to make the world really safe was to spread far and wide the power to destroy it or a part of it.
I must admit that the logic repelled me with revulsion. But, after some thought, I began to wonder whether this brilliant French general was not in fact drawing the logic of the balance of terror to its ineluctable conclusion.
It is in this context that I watched what I saw in and around NATO. The military and other NATO leaders wasted their time trying to brain-wash me, for my experience with them not merely confirmed the doubts which I had had before, but turned me a very considerable distance away from the whole idea of the military alliance.
When one reminded leading people one met in Europe that historically in the past power blocks and military alliances did not stop war but, indeed, produced them, one was told, oh, this was before the nuclear age.
Europe, we are told, is now safe--safe from all-out war--because on our side, on the NATO side, we have 7,000 tactical nuclear weapons scattered over West Germany and the other West European NATO countries backed by the strategic destructive power of the United States, facing about a thousand tactical nuclear weapons on the other side backed by the strategic destructive power of the U.S.S.R.; and that this produces safety for Europe. And since some one thousand tactical nuclear weapons--let alone the strategic ones--are more than enough to destroy everything in Europe from end to end, then obviously, since we had 7,000 of the things lying around Europe, we were safe. And since the Russians had a thousand of them, they were safe!
I don't know how many Canadians realize that our forces in Europe are a part of this nuclear arsenal. Our air division in Germany is provided with nuclear missiles kept behind barbed wire under American control, and our F-104 Star-fighters have the capacity to deliver them.
Indeed, we were informed that the nuclear weapons which are available to our air division are even now pretargetted, as are most of the tactical nuclear weapons on both sides of the insane confrontation.
Our brigade, our land brigade, is provided with "Honest Johns" and nuclear warheads. And all the exercises of both our air division and our brigade are as much concerned with the use and delivery of nuclear weapons as they are: with the delivery of conventional weapons. I knew that before I went there. But I must say honestly to you that, although I saw not the nuclear weapons themselves but only the surroundings in which they are located, my doubts about the whole set-up increased some more.
Now, gentlemen, for 20 years, as those who were members of the C.C.F. and of the New Democratic Party know, I have been one of the spokesmen in our party who have supported Canada's membership in NATO. And we supported it against considerable opposition from a good many people in our ranks.
I supported it in the belief, first, that Western Europe needed our support; secondly, that Western Europe was one of the danger spots in the world. But, above all, I supported NATO in the hope that this western coalition would be used as the agency for real negotiations with the eastern coalition in order to achieve a detente in Europe, a balanced reduction of forces on both sides, and an eventual settlement of the European problem.
But, as I watched this confrontation of the blocks over the years I could not help but have more and more serious doubts as to whether those hopes are ever likely to be fulfilled. And my doubts were confirmed by the trip through Europe.
I was--perhaps because of my naivete (though no one has ever accused me of being naive)--I was shocked by the fact that very little attention is paid by the leaders of NATO to the problem of negotiating a detente in Europe. Lip service is still paid to it, but NATO has become more and more a powerful military alliance, more and more controlled by military objectives and psychology, more and more under the domination of the military leaders--at the head the American and under them not only the British and the Canadians but in very high places the German generals and admirals who just a few years ago were fighting Hitler's war against us.
In NATO headquarters and at SHAPE in Brussels there is built up a relatively large--although small in our domestic terms--a relatively large civil and military bureaucracy with vested interest in the continuation of the present organization with its military capability; with a vested interest in the continuation of the deterrent fear, because if by chance peace broke out, their game and their role would end.
I am not saying that these are not very sincere men with good intentions. But I have learned, both in my life and from reading history, that wrong policies in the hands of sincere men are that much more dangerous. And this includes Canada's civil and military representatives as well
I was struck during the trip and in talking and listening to the representative of NATO that there is not any end in sight to this game of block confrontation in Europe. The assumption universally appears to be that it will have to continue indefinitely.
After all, the central problem in Europe is the German problem: the division of Germany, the location of West Berlin right inside East Germany. One asked in vain--and I asked it many times, both when the Committee as a whole was sitting and, more often, in private conversations at lunch and at dinner and in between, of numerous people in numerous countries--when one asked, "What is your perspective about the solution of this German problem?" the answer was invariably a shrug of the shoulders, a statement that, "We really can't see any solution yet" followed by a piece of sheer, unadulterated hypocrisy: namely, that one of the objectives of the Western Alliance is a re-united Germany.
They don't mean it.
Every western country is already frightened to death of the economic and military strength of West Germany. And we were informed by Sovietologists that every eastern European country is frightened to death of the economic and military strength of East Germany.
Not one of those countries wants a re-united Germany; indeed, they are more afraid of what such a re-union would mean to the balance of the situation in Europe. But they carry on this hypocritical drama about wanting a re-united Germany when they don't mean it, because that happens to be the political objective of the leaders in Western Germany. And because Western Germany is an important member of the NATO family, NATO as a whole must repeat this hollow and hypocritical objective, despite the fact that it is an insuperable obstacle to a European settlement.
A re-united Germany is obviously impossible without war. The Communists will not agree to it unless they are assured of a Communist Germany. The west will not agree to it unless it is assured of a non-Communist Germany. And neither of those assurances is now available, or is likely to become available, in the foreseeable future.
Now, it is in this situation that we must look at our Canadian military contribution in Europe.
In my opinion that contribution is insubstantial. It does not assist the security of Europe or the security of the NATO countries. It can be easily replaced, certainly by Western Germany, and indeed by other members of the NATO family, if replacement be needed.
I believe with all my heart that our forces ought not to be there; that we ought not to waste Canadian resources on keeping military forces in Germany that make little, if any, contribution to the security of the world, and make us part of the nuclear arsenal of Western Europe. This should not be our role. We ought to bring our forces home.
There may be some value and two of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party and I said so in a statement we issued yesterday as a minority report--there may be some value in Canada continuing as a member of the Alliance without any military contribution in Europe, but only if the authorities in this country are determined to use their position in the Alliance to counter the military domination of NATO and its military objectives; to insist on a genuine, persistent search for detente and reduction of forces in Europe on both sides of the curtain, on a persistent and relentless search for a political settlement in that unhappy continent.
I must say that from what I saw in Europe, I have serious doubts as to whether these hopes will ever be justified
When NATO was founded in 1949, Europe was devastated economically and helpless militarily. And when the Korean War broke out a great deal of re-armament took place everywhere. Canada began to increase its defence expenditures two, three, four, five times, so that from an expenditure of about three hundred million dollars 20 years ago, we now spend about eighteen hundred million dollars a year on defence.
In the early situation there was perhaps some reason for even a small country like Canada coming to the help of the west European countries with a military as well as a political contribution. But this is no longer true. Western Europe is economically strong and militarily powerful. With the nuclear deterrent of the United States it is overwhelmingly strong in military terms.
Western Germany is again becoming, in my view, a danger as well as an ally, because of its increasing economic and military strength.
In this new situation our military contribution is unnecessary, is not of any value, and, because of its nature, is vulnerable.
But beyond that, gentlemen, I am rapidly reaching the personal conclusion that perhaps we ought to get out of military alliances altogether. Perhaps Canada ought to begin a search for a new international role.
When Eisenhower warned us about the insatiable greed and hunger of the military-industrial complex in the United States, he knew what he was talking about. And this American complex, aided and abetted by similar and smaller complexes in other countries, is in control of NATO, as it is of most other aspects of our lives today, including NORAD and other western alliances.
There seems no end to the vicious circle of the nuclear arms race and the threatening power blocks. Yet, that vicious circle must be broken, or humanity is obviously doomed.
And I don't think any country which is a part of this vicious circle can credibly assail it. It is itself imprisoned by it and enmeshed in it.
The time has come--and I am beginning to be convinced of this more and more--the time has come for a country like Canada to use its resources, primarily to help raise the level of life in the developing nations in the knowledge that the elimination of poverty and disease, lifting the peoples who are now under-developed to a decent level of life is at least as much a deterrent against war as is the military confrontation.
The time has come, in my view, when Canada should use its resources in this way rather than wasting them on military commitments of doubtful value.
The time, in my view, has come for a small country like Canada to join with other smaller countries in a relentless attack on the insanity of the nuclear terror and on the international military-industrial complex which feeds it.
Both in foreign aid and in a political assault on the policies of the nuclear terror, Canada can become a leader, indeed, a hero among the struggling, frightened and frustrated smaller and middle nations of the world. If we have the courage to cease to be a satellite, we may become free to speak out with clear and firm voice. And we may even be listened to, although no one can guarantee rational behaviour in this irrational world.
I am not naive. I appreciate that we may not succeed. There always remains the possibility that, no matter what some part, even a majority of humanity may do, humanity will be overwhelmed by the insanity which surrounds us. But, if we adopt a new road and new objectives for Canada, we will at least have tried.
Thank you very much.
Thanks of the meeting were expressed by H. N. R. Jackman.