Human Security and the Canadian Armed Forces [National Defence vs. Foreign Affairs: Culture Clash in Canada's International Security Policy?]

By Curtis, Vincent J. | International Journal, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Human Security and the Canadian Armed Forces [National Defence vs. Foreign Affairs: Culture Clash in Canada's International Security Policy?]


Curtis, Vincent J., International Journal


IN THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL, David Dewitt expressed the view, held by many, that the Canadian armed forces (CF) ought to adapt its learning, policy development, and operations to formally recognize human security as a principal element of Canada's foreign and international security policy.1 Dewitt described the situation that presently exists between the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), as it was called at the time of his writing, and the Department of National Defence (DND) concerning the policy of human security as two solitudes resulting from a clash of cultures. The view that is gently expressed is that DND is stubbornly refusing to adapt itself to the new world order that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, and prefers to view the possible deployment of the CF for a human security operation as a subcategory of the larger problem of war-fighting.

This view-that DND is being recalcitrant and perhaps a little obtuse-is based upon three assumptions that are not directly stated and certainly not evaluated in detail. These assumptions are: 1) that civilians should control the military; 2) that "human security" is a legitimate, and will be an enduring, end of Canadian foreign policy; and 3) that a thing done implicitly is less good than a thing done explicitly and as an end in itself. The aim here is to critique these assumptions and to show that the DND position on human security is sound and has more merit than it was granted.

The principle of "civilian control of the military" in fact is a derivative of the principle first observed by Clausewitz that war is "diplomacy by other means." The CF is one instrument with which a Canadian government would conduct its war policy. Following Clausewitz, the purpose of the CF is to destroy Canada's enemies in war. The principle of civilian control of this instrument arises from the fact that the highest directors of a nation's policy usually are civilians, and is satisfied in Canada by the fact that the chief of defence staff (CDS), the highest ranking officer of the CF, receives his instructions from the prime minister. DFAIT and DND are coordinate departments over both of which stands the elected government of the day, but it does not follow that a breach of the principle of civilian control is caused by a refusal by DND to accept policy advice from DFAIT. Coordination of policy between two government departments is in the first instance the responsibility of the cabinet and especially of the prime minister, and if that coordination has not been directed, it might be due to the diplomatic flexibility and the political advantages that accrue to the prime minister from the confusion, cross-purposes, and apparent helplessness of his governmental departments.

Nevertheless, the opinion is widespread that the CF, being a disciplined body of troops, ought to adapt itself to any lawful requirement of its civilian masters. Indeed, the CF itself acknowledges that it must obey any lawful order. There are, however, definite limits within which this position can be maintained, and these limits arise from the difference between the essential and accidental properties of a thing.

An essential property is that which makes the thing what it is, and an accidental property is a property a thing has in virtue of its existence. This difference is best illustrated with a couple of examples. The copy of the International Journal that I read at McMaster University has, as its essential property, the conveyance of thought. But that copy, being in the form of a book, can also be used as a doorstop, as a paperweight, and as a flyswatter; and these are just some of the myriad accidental properties that the International Journal possesses from its existence in the form of a book. A farmer can use a good-sized wrench to hammer a rusty bolt back into place, but that doesn't change the fact that the primary purpose of the misused wrench is to turn nuts. …

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