Finding Security

Proposals from Science for Peace

For decades we have lived in fear. This has been the world of NATO and WTO, of "brinkmanship" and "mutual assured destruction," of depending on a deterrence principle that put the world at risk. Trillions of dollars have been spent on military devices that have held us in terror. Now the standoff of "superpowers" by which this madness was rationalized has evaporated, and we feel a shred of hope again. Still we see the obscene arsenals of hideous weapons, enough to destroy all life; still we arm the nations of the world; still the budgets go to life-destroying ends.

There has to be a better way. We have to free the whole world of the fear of aggression, so that we can move on to facing the real problems.

We speak here of the network of confidence-building measures known as "common security." The biggest threats we face are global: there can be no "national" security without global security, and any attempt to secure national security that threatens other nations or people is self-negating. It follows that national defence must be non-provocative. Security lies not in military preparedness but in seeking peaceful resolutions of conflict, in redressing injustice and in reversing environmental degradation.

For Canada, in particular, our security has little to do with defending ourselves militarily, but owes far more to an international order that recognizes and respects our autonomy. It is important that we not be dominated by another nation or bloc of nations: common security is the very antithesis of collective security by military alliances.

We in Science for Peace believe that, in light of these principles, a radically new approach is needed to protect security. In this document we propose a decisive reassignment of duties for the defence establishment; progressive elimination of military exports; and several important modifications in our international relationships.

Redesigning Our Security Forces

Canada faces no direct military threat to its territorial integrity. Because of geography and geopolitics foreign invasion is not a realistic fear. Canada may be unique in this freedom from direct military threat. It follows that our defence posture will be unique: it need not include all the traditional military elements of more threatened nations. It is relatively easy for us to be truly non-provocative and to make a significant contribution to world security.

New priorities for Canada's Forces

Since Canada is under no direct military threat, we no longer have any valid role to play in military alliances such as NATO and NORAD. For the trained and disciplined body of national servants in our Forces, we propose three important tasks.

1) non-provocative defence of Canadian territory, air space, and coastal waters;

2) peacekeeping under U.N. direction;

3) emergency disaster relief.

The union of these roles upholds the principles both of sovereignty and of common security.

Non-Provocative Defence of Canadian Territory

Although there is no danger of military invasion, the length and loneliness of our coastlines invites incursions into our fisheries (already experiencing serious long-term problems), the misuse of our shores, the violation of our space and that of our aboriginal peoples. This argues for a much expanded and very well equipped Coast Guard Service.

Of particular interest in this regard is Canada's special place in the Arctic. The interests of both Canada and the world are served by our greater attention to our North. The aims must be: the protection of the indigenous peoples and of the region's ecology, and thus the clear assertion of Canada's sovereignty in the North, coupled with increased cooperation with the circumpolar nations.

A key element is Canada's taking the initiative in managing the region by establishing comprehensive regulations governing navigation and limiting economic activity; but such regulations require enforcement. In our view, extended Coast Guard operations are needed for both law enforcement and search-and-rescue capacity. Such operations imply a well-trained force equipped with powerful icebreakers, long-range reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters, appropriately designed ships, and a technology of remote underwater and above-ground automatic sensing systems.

Although this role of non-provocative defence needs the trained personnel now found in the Armed Forces, it is not a military task but rather one of policing. What we envision is a transfer of some of the personnel and equipment from our present Armed Forces into a reorganized and expanded Coast Guard Service; this should probably be managed under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We are speaking of an enormous task: a much expanded service, and one requiring the best equipment.


We are proud of Canada's distinguished record. Ours is the only country to have participated in every one of the U.N. peacekeeping operations. There will be need for more such service in the future. The rote is military, but it does not imply aggressive weaponry or modern war-fighting training. It does require a highly professional force, either unarmed or with minimal defensive weapons, and the best technology for surveillance and communication (e.g. high-tech electronic and signalling equipment).

With the end of the Cold War, the U.N. may want to use military sanctions to enforce its decisions and those of the International Court. Canada should be considering the role it might play in such operations, which would represent a step beyond providing peacekeeping forces that merely stabilize bilateral agreements.

Emergency Disaster Relief

In a world where assistance in unpredictable emergencies is often not available, or is too late and inadequate, Canada could offer a significant gift to the world-an efficient emergency force trained for immediate response to events such as floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and famines. Disaster relief would be a worthy main task for our services, and for this armaments are not needed nor appropriate. As Dr. Robert McClure has said, we need to "replace our warplanes with transport planes able to carry the bulldozers with which we have replaced our tanks." Then we could be a lifesaving force on the ground anywhere in the world within hours. A technology of prefabricated emergency housing and emergency food supplies should be developed. A greatly expanded engineering corps and a substantial medical corps would be central to such operations.

Both the peacekeeping and disaster-relief activities could be managed under a single ministry, e.g. a Ministry of Emergency Services. It could be coordinated with External Affairs, Finance, Environment and Northern Affairs.

In a world threatened with omnicide, things cannot go on as they did for ages. With the end of the Cold War, the abolition of the institution of war can and must be put on the political agenda worldwide. In a book soon to be published by Science for Peace, Canada and the World, Anatol and Anthony Rapoport write:

Institutions embedded in a society are systems often endowed with impressive viability potential, which enables them not only to withstand encroachments on their existence but also to resist attempts to change their character. Military establishments have acquired this immunity to a considerable degree. The threat of a cataclysmic end of civilization stems from this acquired autonomy and immunity.

The recommendations made by Science for Peace to restructure Canada's security policies represent major steps towards realizing the eventual abolition of the institution of war.

For the full text of this abridged paper, contact Science for Peace at 978-3608.

Peace Magazine Jan-Feb 1992

Peace Magazine Jan-Feb 1992, page 24. Some rights reserved.

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