General Articles

We DO NOT Stand On Guard

Invaders could grab off the Prairie provinces this week, without rockets or atom bombs. We’re still side-stepping on defense

WALLACE GOFORTH June 15 1948
General Articles

We DO NOT Stand On Guard

Invaders could grab off the Prairie provinces this week, without rockets or atom bombs. We’re still side-stepping on defense

WALLACE GOFORTH June 15 1948

We DO NOT Stand On Guard

WALLACE GOFORTH

WHILE the clouds are still gathering in Europe and Asia, we Canadians are still telling ourselves that it’s time to take stock of our defenses and still neglecting to do so. And if the odds are still strongly against an early conflict, the best way to avoid any shooting war at all is to cultivate a healthy realism about events and to review our defense system with a coldly critical eye.

The strategic objectives of Canada’s defense policy have never been adequately restated since World War II, although there are plenty of clues to official thought in the pronouncements of Defense Ministers, in the pages of Hansard, and especially in the White Paper on Canada’s Defense of 1947.

Out of these, it is possible to identify and restate four main purposes of our Canadian defense policy: First, we are ready to support the efforts of other friendly powers, and of our own diplomacy, to preserve peace in the Old World.

The direct object is to recreate stable economic and political conditions in our markets of Europe, Asia and Africa, for the mutual exchange of surplus goods and services. The indirect object is to ensure a sufficiently strong alignment of friendly powers to discourage the political and military pressures of any potential enemy combination.

Second, we will guard the security of the Canadian home base against insurrection from within or invasion from without, or both together.

This was never a serious problem for the 54 years preceding 1940. Even from 1940 to 1945 it remained a secondary and remote danger, which could only become imminent if our allies were to be overpowered. This particular object of Canadian defense will become of steadily greater importance in the future.

Third, we should be prepared against nonconventional military attack (mainly from the air and not necessarily accompanied by physical invasion), by the new scientific weapons.

This is much the most difficult problem of Canada’s defense. Fortunately it is not an immediate one. I believe it is unlikely to become a serious threat until 1957, or later. It requires, however, an intense concentration on defensive research and development in a wide field. It demands a high degree of preparation and unification by the armed forces. It calls for a prompt beginning on measures of civilian and passive defense, which will take several years to become effective, even if started now.

Fourth, we should be ready for rapid and comprehensive mobilization of the Canadian

economy, under any or all contingencies of war.

This does NOT mean that we need peacetime controls. It does mean that a detailed blueprinting of wartime controls must be undertaken now and kept up-to-date by periodic revision. It calls for appointment of key officials and nucleus staffs. It demands permissive legislation which does not circumvent the authority of Parliament, yet which permits emergency action to be taken at once in the event of sudden unexpected attack—or threat of attack—on the Canadian home base.

Invaders could grab off the Prairie provinces this week, without rockets or atom bombs. We’re still side-stepping on defense

No Time to Mobilize

IN THE three wars which have directly involved Canada during the past half century, time never seemed to be an urgent consideration until 1940. A more or less leisurely mobilization was feasible for us, behind the screen of allied sea, land and (later) air power. Even in World War II, this mobilization did not begin to become effective until early 1941 and did not reach its main strength until late in 1943.

It can be taken for granted that no such leisurely respite will be allowed to us in any future war, yet one of the most dangerous rigidities of Canadian strategic thought—military and especially political —is this strange persistence of the idea of “leisurely mobilization.” It is deeply rooted in the personal experience of at least 95% of our people, including all of our service officers and nearly all of our legislators and senior officials.

Each of us pays lip service to the need for swift mobilization yet there are numerous signs that the whole military and political hierarchy of Canada still thinks—still plans and still acts—on the assumption that we will be “taking the field in three months at best.” In practice, the “three months” are always stretched to six months or longer.

It would be technically and tactically feasible for an “enemy” air-borne force—sometime during 1948—to seize a large Canadian city, like Edmonton or Saskatoon. A route could be selected which would provide no warning of this approach. Occupation of the Canadian city could take place in a matter of hours, Continued on page 51

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with no more than token resistance from police and local reserve forces.

It is reasonable to assume, under the most favorable conditions, that no serious counterattack on the “enemy” garrison could be mounted by other Canadian forces for several days— probably for weeks.

This is not a wild dream of pushbutton war. It is based on normal, conventional armament and tactics— and such an operation might well be multiplied to cover a large area of Canada (e.g. all or part of the prairie provinces) in one synchronized assault.

Space and Power

Such an attack is not likely to occur in 1948, or next year, or perhaps ever. Yet it remains one of the many possibilities against which a realistic Canadian defense should certainly provide. Canada’s great area has some elements of strength but its weakness is a much more obvious feature. We now have fewer members of our regular armed forces than we have miles of railway to defend. We have 17 miles of public highway for every full-time Canadian sailor, soldier and airman. These proportions would not be materially altered, even if every vacancy of our 55,000 authorized regular establishments were to be quickly filled. (Actually our total military strength is 38,000. ) There is nothing new about this space problem, except that the ocean and Arctic wastes which used to cushion our home base against attack have ceased to he effective harriers. The modern range, speed, lift and weapons of airpower have reduced these former breastworks of ice and water to a mere gauntlet of delay.

It is an old cliché of geopolitics that “space is power,” but that holds true only if you can move and fight in that space as efficiently— or more efficiently — than your enemy. That lesson has not been lost on Canadian defense authorities, except possibly on those of the Royal Canadian Navy. Our air and ground forces proportionate to their size — are as well-versed in the techniques of movement and combat over undeveloped northern territories as any in the world. Moreover, they are getting better at it each year. Arctic research ranks high among the activities of the Defense Research Board, so that the armed forces of Canada are being buttressed, progressively and ably, by the resources of modern science. In so far as human ingenuity and our limited financial resources permit, the Canadian northland will become, in future, less a source of weakness and more a zone of strength.

Union When?

But in the meantime we still have a space weakness in the Arctic. And we have an even greater space weakness in the settled and developed areas along our southern border where an enemy force could live off the country. With a few obvious exceptions, our irregular clusters of population from Prince Rupert to Yarmouth are too remote for effective and prompt defense from the United States, even if the military commitments of our neighbor were not overextended, as they already are. Far from falling back on protection from the United States, it is entirely possible that should war come we Canadians will have thrust upon ourselves the main burden of guarding the northern approaches to the industrial heartland of the United States. Either way. Canada is responsible for securing her

own safety against subversive or external airborne attack. If war comes, Uncle Sam is almost certain to be too busy to relieve us of that responsibility. The problem posed here is admittedly staggering. And from the published and visible evidence, it seems unlikely that we are organized to face the problem, much less to solve it.

When Brooke Claxton was appointed Defense Minister in December, 1946, he publicly stressed the importance of combining all essential functions of the Canadian armed services. A committee of senior officers, including a representative of the Defense Research Board, spent several months exploring all possible avenues of combination and made numerous recommendations for action.

On paper, Canada has dealt promptly and seriously with service unification. But the visible results are disappointing. Like the United States, we have learned how difficult it is to achieve effective defense integration, when every move treads on some entrenched toe.

The goal of a combined defense force can be tersely stated. It is to ensure that we develop a single defense combat team, within which the special skills of sea, land and air forces will be preserved intact. This does not mean any change in the color of their uniforms, or in their badges or titles of rank. Still less does it mean a compromise “saw-off” in the proportion of ships to battalions and to air squadrons.

It does mean effective unity of command at the top, mandatory participation in combined tactical training at the bottom, and full interservice exercising of all naval, army and air staff candidates, at intermediate levels.

On the administrative side, it means the gradual elimination of costly competition in recruitment: in equipment orders; in medical, pay, records and other personal services: in supply,

maintenance and accommodation; in signal communications, intelligence and planning agencies.

Defense and Diplomacy

Nearly all of the foregoing items are still in separate service compartments. These co-operate freely, but that is a far cry from the goal of unification, which could and should be attained in Canada.

The proponents of separate services quote examples from the United States, or the United Kingdom, to justify continuance in Canada of distinct functional organization for our Armed Forces. Their case is weak, if indeed they have a case at all. Our Canadian defense services today are on the scale of l/34th of the United States forces, and about 1/11th of the forces of the United Kingdom. Moreover, our comparative freedom from overseas commitments in peacetime enables us to dispense with the extreme specialization of military staffs and organization which remains unavoidable for these larger nations. Perhaps the best argument of all for unification is that any Canadian experiments along this line will he closely watched by London and Washington. We may conceivably provide them with valuable “laboratory tests” for their much larger and more difficult problems of unified defense.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that we have agreed on the proper objectivesboth short and long-range — for a Canadian defense policy, how does our position look in detail? Let’s study first the credit side of the ledger.

For all practical purposes, Canada’s foreign and defense policies are one. There is now a closer and more intimate liaison between our top

External Affairs officials and our chiefs of staff than existed even during World War II.

There is steady progress in the unified planning of North American defense, under the Ogdensburg agreement of 1940. This arrangement appears to be here to stay.

Canada was the first power to establish an effective link, in peacetime, between defense and the country’s scientific community. The Defense Research Board has a status generally equivalent to that of a “Fourth Service.” It acts as a continuous modifying influence on the armed forces at the top level. It also devotes particular attention to defense against the new weapons of war. The Canadian example of putting science and defense in double harness has since been followed by the United Kingdom and the United States.

Leadership material of Canada’s present forces is intrinsically better than a decade ago. Partly it is the fortuitous result of recent combat experience, but mainly it is because we now have, in Canada, some first-class staff colleges and a National Defense College. Here, promising young commanders are developed and kept up-to-date, for the day when they may he needed.

We are placing practical emphasis on winter adaptation and Arctictraining. Up to 1940 our regular forces (except for a few signal details and individual airmen) knew next to nothing about Canada’s undeveloped areas of mountain, hush and barren lands.

The defense signal services of Canada are exceptionally efficient and have a long record of valuable experience in maintaining reliable communication with remote areas of the country.

The weaknesses of Canada’s defense today mainly stem from too much wishful thinking about the virtues of collective security and from our unreasoning political avoidance of selective service and universal military training. It is unfair to blame all of this on French-speaking Canadians, who incidentally provided over 120,000 volunteers for the active forces during World War II (more than three times the total of 1914-18).

As long as we were cushioned comfortably by distance, and by AngloAmerican sea power, from any threat of invasion, the essentially logical people of Quebec strongly resented any form of compulsion in military service. Their attachment was, and is, to their soil, to "La Patrie” and to their faith.

Now all three of these are endangered directly and equally by a force which infiltrates when it cannot invade, corrupts when it cannot convince, absorbs when it cannot conquer and crushes when it cannot persuade— world Communism and its domesticoffshoots.

It is time for English-speaking Canadians to seek and find a new working agreement with their Frenchspeaking compatriots on a rational defense of the Canadian home base. The key is universal military training and a political agreement on the use of this key can he found.

Manpower Bottleneck

Now let us examine the weaknesses of our present defense in closer detail, hearing in mind that manpower, severely limited by our present system of voluntary recruitment, is the main bottleneck in each case. The main weaknesses are:

(I) Our reserve forces are not “reserves” in the true military sense at all.

A real “reservist” is a well-trained reinforcement. He is annually exercised in arms and medically examined. His combat equipment is earmarked for his immediate personal use. His transportation, pay, rations and other details are fully arranged in advance. His instructions are already prepared to take him quickly to his mobilization centre. He can be promptly absorbed into a vacancy in some well-organized fighting unit—ready to march. None of our Canadian reserve forces could begin to qualify on these severe but essential standards.

(2) Canada has no civil defense whatsoever. It is not even in the blueprint stage. So far as is known not one fulltime officer or civil official is now engaged on this vital task. Yet the fate of every large city in Canada some years hence may well depend in large measure on what sort of civilian defense we start to create now. New buildings ¡ire going up today in midtown areas of these cities which should either be located in safer zones or alternatively should be built to much stronger structural design. No one appears to be taking the remotest responsibility for advising or instructing local authorities on these matters.

(3) Economic mobilization is still largely a mere idea. While Canada is ahead of her 1939 state of complete unprepared ness for economic and industrial mobilization, it would take us 12 to 18 months—if war occurred now —before we could achieve any measurable result. The real aim should be to attain—in not less than eight months— full capacity production in earmarked arsenals and munitions plants, with a good start at decentralization to the wider “shadow-plant” system, essential in modern war. The same period should suffice to re-establish effectively all of the labor, material, price, ration and other controls which would be immediately needed in war.

(4) Weapon development has become practically nonexistent in this country. Even if we assume—as we shouldthat Canadian forces will use armament of British or United States design, there will always be the problem of adapting these designs for Canadian production and use. The excellent development and design organization, built up in Canada during World War II, has now melted away. The net result will be further serious delays in military and economic mobilization.

(5) We place insufficient emphasis on the all-important air arm. Canada’s defense—in future far more than in the past—will depend on air interception, air transport and their ground support. The United States is properly stressing its own retaliatory bomber force, along with the weapons and bases to render it fully effective. In any strategic division of labor, our Canadian task is to assist in providing the “parry” for their “thrust.” Geography underlines the logic of this Canadian interceptor role, as a first requirement of defense. Defense of our Arctic fringe, in turn, depends on a highly developed air-transport service, supplemented by water and tractor transport, wherever feasible. Gliders have already proved their value in the North on Exercise “Musk Ox.” Yet Canada today has no organized glider service of her own.

Mobile Eyes Needed

(6) Our early warning radar is largely immobile and obsolete. Next to air interception, the most valuable means for defending Canada against any enemy air attack or air-borne invasion, is early-warning radar. The few mobile sets now available to the Canadian forces are obsolete by present

scientific standards. No integrated, combat-ready, mobile radio-location unit or service now exists in the Canadian ground forces. The vital technical problem of developing air-borne, earlywarning units, for use in the Canadian North, still remains to be explored. Stationary units are not the tactical answer to early warning in so large an area as Canada. They can, too easily, be spotted and bypassed.

(7) Canada has no submarines or modern antisubmarine equipment. The historic role of the Royal Canadian Navy has been to keep the sea lanes of the North Atlantic open, by neutralizing and counterattacking enemy submarines. The subsurface menace in any future war will be even more dangerous than in the past, owing to the development, by Germany, of the “Type 21” submarine, late in World War II. All the secrets of this powerful new weapon are now known both to the Kremlin and to the western powers. Its high speed under water renders obsolete most of the antisubmarine vessels and equipment of the recent war. This “Type 21” submarine is a greater threat to naval power and to our wartime commerce than the atomic bomb. Obviously Canada cannot begin to maintain a high standard of antisubmarine training among her naval personnel unless she has at least one submarine (and preferably the latest type) with which to work and study.

(8) French-speaking representation in our defense organization is inadequate. One of the worst blind spots of our defense authority is its continued failure to realize that full partnership of French-speaking Canada in our armed forces is a military as well as a political necessity. So far as is known there is, today, not one representative of this vital one third of our population in the top levels of the Canadian defense hierarchy; namely the posts of Minister, Deputy Minister; Naval, Military, Air and Research Members of the Defense Council; Flag, General and Air Officers in regional commands.

The technical argument against greater French-speaking participation

goes like this: That English must

remain the sole tactical language because our forces will invariably fight with those of the British Commonwealth or the United States. That education in Quebec has mainly stressed classical and humanist studies rather than science and engineering, thus further handicapping personnel of French origin. Hence French-speaking personnel do not and (so it is argued) cannot effectively compete with English-speaking Canadians for the opportunities of a military career.

Can’t Dodge Issue

This case falls to the ground befóte the obvious fact that Canada must have the wholehearted support of both her main racial elements if she is to develop and maintain an effective defense system.

Until 1940, there was practically no official French-language military literature in Canada. This deficiency was recognized early in 1941 and has since been corrected, but military manuals go out-of-date rapidly and no really effective provision seems to have been made for keeping French-language military literature up-to-date.

Moreover, we now have several able senior and junior officers of French origin in our armed forces. It would be wise and statesmanlike to expedite their advancement and to encourage other able men of their race to choose the services as a career. Perhaps the best move of all, to win the full support of Quebec on defense matters, would be for some capable French-speaking senator to be given the National Defense portfolio. With a strong Anglo-Canadian parliamentary assistant in the House of Commons, there would be no loss of political control and scrutiny over the estimates and administration of defense. Moreover, it would help to make our defense policy more nonpartisan than it now is.

The standard objection to a Frenchspeaking Minister of National Defense has started with the assumption that he would be a member of the House of

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Commons, subject to the somewhat volatile and emotional pressures of his constituents, with consequent lack of firmness and continuity in Canadian defense policy. No one appears to have realized that appointment of a Frenchspeaking senator would overcome these basic objections.

Present cost of Canadian defense is running around $230 millions per annum. To correct all the deficiencies herein described, and to establish some form of universal military training, probably add between $150 millions would and $200 millions to our present defense estimates.

This assumes an annual quota of 40,000 trainees, called out for 12 months’ service; plus regular force cadres totaling the same number, so as to provide instructional and administrative personnel in addition to those in readiness for combat. Under these conditions, it would seem unnecessary to raise the regular establishments to the authorized limit of 55,000.

The additional cost here suggested represents a relatively heavy drain on the Canadian economy, though less proportionately than the defense budget of the United States. It would bring defense expenditure to 25% of Canada’s federal budget and to five per cent of our whole net national income.

If we fail to assume this extra burden we face the serious prospect that our

present incomplete pattern of defense will not bring us the security we desire in time of urgent need. That time may be sooner than we think.

To the extent that Canada undertakes a broader and more effective burden in guarding the northern approaches to the American industrial heartland, we might be morally entitled to expect some monetary contribution from the United States. A modest estimate of the amount— “cheap at the price”—would be $100 millions per annum, under present conditions. It is well for Canadians to remember modestly—once in a while— that we are not a first-class power. We cannot and would not be called upon to stand alone and unsupported if the tide of war ever sweeps into this country.

We Can’t Stay Out

We may—and do—seek collective security through the United Nations and through regional defense agreements. We can—and do—hope that the Iron Curtain may someday be lowered and that the nations now behind it, including Soviet Russia herself, will establish with us a permanent structure of enduring peace. Such a hope is now receding, though it will continue to be followed by Canada and by other western powers with patience and persistence.

Montgomery of El Alamein has called Canada the “golden hinge”

between Britain and the United States. As a leading “middle power,” we hold a geographical and economic position of strategic value, far greater than that of mere population. It would not be practicable—without our full support — for the United States alone to maintain a strong beachhead in Western Europe. Britain’s normal peacetime dependence on our Canadian food surpluses becomes very much more acute in war, when shortness of routes and “turn-around” of shipping are all-important problems. The “golden hinge” is quite as relevant to the Pacific as to the Atlantic. The bastion of Alaska can only be securely held through Canadian roads and airways. Moreover, Canada has been placed, by nature, squarely in the path of any air war across the Arctic seas.

It should be obvious, therefore, to every Canadian, that this country could not possibly be isolationist—even if we wished it-—in any future war. The vital interests of too many free and unfree nations are bound up with our participation to make neutrality even remotely feasible for us. Our choice is not one of whether we wish to become the connecting hinge for a democratic entente. That we will certainly be. It is rather a choice of whether Canada will be a weak or a strong hinge. It is a question of going down to irrevocable defeat with the rest of the free world, or of staunchly and wisely playing our part in seeing that it remains free. ★