by Bernd Horn
In examining the Canadian military experience, many have difficulty in accepting the premise that Canada, the “peaceable kingdom,” has a distinct “way of war,” or in simpler, more accurate terms, a conscious methodology of how it uses armed force or military to support its national interest. Nevertheless, military force has always been a distinct policy tool that all states have used in one manner or another to achieve political purpose. Canada has been no different. The government has consistently used its armed forces to achieve political ends. More often than not, the Canadian way of war has been a direct reflection of circumstance and political will. It has never been a doctrinal treatise or a formal carefully detailed Jominian exposition that has been passed on over time. Rather, it is a pragmatic and philosophical methodology of how our country structures and uses its military potential to further its national interests. This has developed over time and is based on the country’s needs, capability, economic capacity, and the temperament of its people.
Although an evolutionary process was unavoidable as Canada matured and the world around it grew more complex, clear components of the Canadian way of war have always permeated our military experience. The nation’s soldiers, whether volunteer or conscript, have created a legacy of competence, courage, stamina, and tenacity. Through blood, they have earned the respect of their allies and foes alike. And, despite the continual assertions by historians that Canadians are an “unmilitary” people, the truth of the matter is we have continually proven in conflict and war, at home, and abroad, that Canadians as soldiers, sailors, and airmen are second to none.
But the essence of a Canadian way of war is more than just pride in the martial spirit, willingness, and capability of our people when required for military service. Quite simply, to recognize a Canadian way of war does not imply an existence of, or attempt at militaristic jingoism.