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. The CF has many accidental properties that arise from the fact that its organizing principle is to fight in war.
The limit to which the CF can obey a lawful order is reached when it is asked to be something other than essentially an instrument for warfighting, for by so changing, it ceases to be what it is. The ramifications of being something else, based on the original thing's accidental properties, are profound. Because the CF has as its essential purpose the destruction of Canada's enemies in war, it consists of disciplined troops who accept the principle of unlimited liability, i.e. that one may be wounded or killed in the ordinary course of doing one's job. It is because of the discipline, the teamwork, and the equipment that modern war-fighting demands that the CF is able to peacekeep around the world, plough snow in Toronto, help Winnipeg through a flood and Quebec through an ice storm, and search for bodies from an air disaster off the coast of Nova Scotia.
But what happens when the essential property of the CF is changed from destroying Canada's enemies in war to merely keeping peace in foreign countries? Because the essential aim is changed from fighting in war to keeping a peace, the principle of unlimited liability that war-fighting demands of soldiers is no longer applicable. No Canadian can be expected to die on behalf of peace for some foreign country whose citizens don't want it kept. Therefore, by changing the essential purpose of the CF from war-fighting to peacekeeping, the discipline and teamwork that makes the CF such a useful instrument for peacekeeping is undermined; the tactical equipment the CF has becomes unjustifiable; and what remains of an army is akin to a lightly equipped police force. But Canada already has such an instrument-the RCMP.
Thus it is not a demonstration of an obsolete Cold War mentality when the CDS declares that the CF must remain a general purpose combat-capable force. It is a demonstration of a normal war mentality that it is entirely proper for a military officer and a chief of defence staff to possess; and by defending the essential requirement of the CF, the CDS sustains the accidental properties that make the CF so useful in all its respects to civilian policymakers. The limit of obedience is reached when the CF is asked to be something other than what it is.
Let us now examine the assumption that human security is a legitimate and enduring end of Canadian foreign policy. Were the CF to be deployed for the purpose of human security, the term "human security" means to protect the citizens of some foreign country from the abuses and predations of their own government, or from the governmentless mess they have made of their own country. The policy carries with it the assumption that Canadian taxpayers should fund these efforts.
How seriously does the government of the day accept the principle of human security as a basis for deploying the CF? Consider Iraq and Sudan. Was the government of Canada prepared to use the CF to help liberate the Iraqi people from the abuses of the Saddam Hussein regime? No. Is the government of Canada prepared to use the CF to help the Iraqi people rebuild their country, at least to the extent of providing security so that elections can take place? No. Is the government of Canada prepared to send the CF to Sudan to protect the Christians of the south from genocide perpetrated by Muslim militias supported by the government of Khartoum? No.
From these examples, it is clear that the government of the day does not accept the principle of human security as a decisive end of Canadian foreign policy. From of its very formulation, it is also clear that human security as an end of Canadian foreign policy would lose the support of a large segment of the Canadian public if that policy were pushed very far. Thus it is not at all obvious that there might even be a need for the CF to change its learning, policy development, and operations from what they presently are for the diplomatic end of the human security of foreign populations whose plight might be broadcast on CNN.
The final assumption to be examined is that a thing done explicitly as an end in itself is better than a thing done implicitly in the course of doing something else. This is a point of dialectics that was first recognized in Aristotle's The Topics. As a point of dialectics, the principle is neither true nor false, but merely a fine-sounding argument that may be true or false depending on the particular circumstances in which it is employed. In this case, the end is human security. The position of the CF is that that end is encompassed within the general scope of peacekeeping operations for which the CF already trains. Dewitt lamented that more wasn't being done explicitly by the CF towards that end. Practical people, as soldiers often are, would find it an absurdly fine point to have to resolve, but resolved it can be so long as the resolution does not compromise the essential purpose of the CF.
Such a resolution may be on the horizon. It is found in the concept of the "three block war" recently proposed by General Charles Krulak, commandant of the United States marine corps.2 Krulak foresees wars of the future as happening in cities: on one block there is traditional combat, on the next block soldiers are engaged in peacekeeping, and on the next block over, soldiers conduct humanitarian assistance. Out of this concept and the doctrinal requirements it imposes, a CF true to its purpose may emerge that more directly addresses the requirements of human security and humanitarian operations within the scope of armed struggle. All it may take to bring about these changes to the CFs doctrine and training is political will, and the money for the conceptual development and expanded training.
In summary, there is no question of a breach of the principle of civilian control of the military by the reluctance of DND and the CF to harmonize its programs with the intellectual fashions of another government department. If the prime minister desired such harmonization, he could order it. That he hasn't, says much. There are limits to what the CF can be properly called upon to do. The CF has an essential purpose and role in the foreign policy of Canada, and it must remain true to that purpose or cease being useful altogether. The goal of human security is high-sounding, and commanding of general respect and support. However, the practical implications of applying that principle to specific situations are often politically unacceptable, and therefore human security can never be a decisive end of Canada's foreign policy. Military doctrine continues to evolve and adapt, and a greater recognition of human security and humanitarian assistance that is adapted to a war context may be on the horizon.
Postscript: After the article was submitted, the Asian tsunami occurred. In a matter of days, the US war machine was able to deliver large amounts of humanitarian assistance in the affected region, whereas Canada's disaster assistance response team (DART) was not able to get to the region until weeks afterward. This disparity illustrates that the organizing principle of war fighting is a truer guide for being able to provide for human security needs than is the principle of peacekeeping, for peacekeeping does not require the capability of force projection, and disaster assistance response cannot justify that capability alone.
Igitur qui desiderat pacem, prasparet bellum. (If you want peace, prepare for war.)
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1 David Dewitt, "National defence vs foreign affairs: Culture clash in Canada's international security policy," International Journal 59 (summer 2004): 579-96.
2 Charles C. Krulak, "The strategic corporal: Leadership in the three block war," Marines Magazine, January 1999.
Vincent J. Curtis is a research scientist with an interest in military and international affairs.…
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Publication information: Article title: Human Security and the Canadian Armed Forces [National Defence vs. Foreign Affairs: Culture Clash in Canada's International Security Policy?]. Contributors: Curtis, Vincent J. - Author. Journal title: International Journal. Volume: 60. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 2004. Page number: 272. © Canadian Institute of International Affairs Fall 1997. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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