A Two-Edged Sword: The Navy as an Instrument of Canadian Foreign Policy

By Turek, Tyler | British Journal of Canadian Studies, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

A Two-Edged Sword: The Navy as an Instrument of Canadian Foreign Policy


Turek, Tyler, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Nicholas Tracy, A Two-Edged Sword: The Navy as an Instrument of Canadian Foreign Policy (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012), 496 pp. 35 b&w photos. Cased. £35. ISBN 978-0-7735-4051-4. Paper. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-4052-1.

As the winner of the 2013 John Lyman Book Award in Canadian naval and maritime history, A Two-Edged Sword comes with high expectations. But the award is justified. Nicholas Tracy, a University of New Brunswick professor, has produced a valuable monograph based on solid research and nuanced writing. His objective is to 'explore the ways in which the Canadian government has employed its naval forces to manage its relationship with its powerful friends, Britain and the United States' (p. 17). He argues that the Royal Canadian Navy since 1910 has been caught between the need to promote independent foreign policy objectives, and therefore also Canada as a sovereign state, while proving useful to its allies and collective security partners. Interdependence is a strong theme in this book and Tracy also stresses the relative insignificance of Ottawa's maritime muscle in international politics. In the end, Canada's navy was never meant to be used outside an 'alliance umbrella' (p. 316). Its modest influence on national independence and international security must be considered in this light.

Inspired in part by Sir James Cable's 1971 taxonomy of naval power, Tracy's balanced analysis details how the Royal Canadian Navy has employed symbolic and substantive force to promote various diplomatic and defence objectives worldwide. The topics and chronology should be familiar to Canadian foreign policy scholars. Well-written and engaging sections on imperial cooperation, the world wars, Canada-US relations, collective security, the Cold War's emergencies and economic sanctions form the monograph's core. …

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