Academic journal article Parameters

A National Force: The Evolution of Canada's Army, 1950-2000

Academic journal article Parameters

A National Force: The Evolution of Canada's Army, 1950-2000

Article excerpt

A National Force: The Evolution of Canada's Army, 1950-2000

By Peter Kasurak

Vancouver, B.C. Canada:

University of British

Columbia Press, 2013.

348 pages



The history of Canada's civil-military relationship after the end of the Second World War is a complex story, parts of which remain largely untold. Having started the war as a significant yet still subordinate ally to the British Empire, Canada emerged from the war with a new voice of independence shaped in part by its wartime relationship with the United States. Still, for much of the Cold War era, Canada's military forces found themselves split between its British traditions and an emerging American way of warfare resulting from latter's dominant role in the cooperative defence of North America, the Korean War, and NATO's defence of Western Europe.

In his most recent work, A National Force: The Evolution of Canada's Army, 1950-2000, independent scholar Peter Kasurak offers a broad and sweeping narrative of the Canadian Army's history from the Korean War to the beginning of the War on Terror. While general histories of the Canadian Army are nothing new, Kasurak's study is very different from previous offerings in its analysis of the chosen subject. Departing from what he describes as "the standard narrative of the army's history," Kasurak sets out to reframe a story often viewed through the lens of Samuel Huntington's Soldier and the State with the perspective of Peter Feaver's Armed Servants. The exercise is novel and intriguing, if not at times outright controversial, with the results often at odds with the established scholarship on the subject.

The history of the postwar Canadian Army is typically divided into two eras. The period from 1945 to the unification of the Canadian military in 1968 has at times been referred to as the "command era," followed afterwards by what many critics have referred to as a "management era." The former is often perceived as a golden age of the Canadian Army--British roots, influential, worldly, combat experienced, and professional. The latter - during which the army was integrated with the other two armed services into a single unified service, ushered in what one military historian later described as a "generation of professional decline." In the post-unification era, Canadian Army values had been replaced with civilian business management concepts. British traditions and ethos were discarded. It is this established narrative that Kasurak takes aim at, and using Feaver's agency theory sets out to demonstrate it was in fact not the civilian leadership but rather the army that was "the author of its own decline," beginning not after unification but instead right after the Second World War.

Any attempt to recast a military organization's historical characteristics and attributes so significantly in a single study is bound to run into difficulty, and Kasurak's book is no exception. …

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