The war at home -

The war at home


Paul Robinson wonders about the ramifications of our turn toward militarism.

However mythological Canada’s earlier peacekeeping image may have been, it was at least a noble myth to aspire to. The crass spectacle of the Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird, writing a message on a bomb is, by contrast, shameful. Regardless of what our war in Afghanistan may have done for Afghans, it has eroded our civilized instincts. It has not left Canada a better place.


The war at home

  1. This is an excellent article!

    ‘the elevation of the military into a moral elite of super-citizens’ is pure crap, and totally un-Canadian.

    It’s another adopted image from Dubya’s Amerika we can do without.

  2. Enfin!  About time we brought this up.  The best Canada has to offer is our military  – and the worst is our artistic community, according to harperian theology. And there are ordinary Canadians, as we are oft repeated, and those who are better than us and who we equip with very powerful weapons.

  3. “However mythological Canada’s earlier peacekeeping image may have been, it was at least a noble myth to aspire to.”

    It is only noble myth to aspire to if all humans feel same way, which they don’t. All Canada would be doing is disarming itself while others increase their military.

    Si vis pacem, para bellum 

    ” …. China specialists Paul Giarra and Patrick Cronin maintain that “an increasingly assertive China is creating its own Monroe Doctrine for Asia’s seas – and threatening longstanding freedoms.” 

    For evidence, they proffer such recent events as Beijing elevating the South China Sea to a “core national interest,” meaning it is prepared to fight for its maritime territorial claims in Southeast Asia; and China’s vitriolic response to U.S.-South Korean maneuvers in the Yellow Sea.

    Giarra and Cronin are half right. Buoyed by growing military power, Chinese interpretations of international law indeed threaten freedom of the seas, a cornerstone of the globalized international order.”

    • Stop it.

    • Congratulations on demonstrating a total lack of understanding of “peace-keeping”.

      Few would have the courage to elevate their ignorance in such a public manner.

  4. I don’t see anything shameful at all in John Baird writing a message on a bomb.  Nor do I think that cheerleading the men and women of our armed forces is the same thing as “militarism”.

    Paul Robinson seems to be overly sensitive about such things.

    • We’ve all noticed it, and consider it disgraceful.

      At the very time we’re globalizing, and trying to trade and make friends, it’s idiotic to go back to some WWII view of the world.

      Next we’ll be ‘knittin mittens for Britain’

      • When you say “We’ve all noticed it, and consider it disgraceful”, who are you speaking for?  Yourself?  In that case, you should consider using a singular pronoun.

        Canada isn’t going back to some WW2 view of the world–far from it.   I have no idea why you think we are.

        • Canada is definitely not going back to WW2 view when we got involved to repel a military power that was invading one country after another and was intent on conquering the world for a thousand year reich.  We are now in the business of promoting democracy by military force and regime change rather than by diplomacy and peacekeeping.

          • Exactly. We’ve moved from being peace-keepers to invading countries at random.

            At exactly the wrong time in history.

            I think Cons watched too many WWII movies, and are acting out their fantasies.

          • Invading countries at random?  Now you’re just being silly.

            By the way, weren’t you a WW2 baby, born shortly after the war?  Did your father or mother serve in the war effort?

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            We are now picking names out of a hat to invade, and have no business invading anyone.

            I was in the military, so you needn’t go back to my parents.

          • We are now in the business of promoting democracy by military force and regime change rather than by diplomacy and peacekeeping.

            That’s great, because “diplomacy” and “peacekeeping” won’t do squat to change a dictatorial regime hell-bent on murdering its own citizens to stay in power.

          • How be we let them sort it out on their own?  It’s our own meddling that caused these problems in the first place.

          • Is there a long list of murderous dictators who have been removed from power through diplomacy?

          • No, but there’s a long list of murderous dictators we helped put in place.

          • So, Emily, we shouldn’t attempt to remove dictators because we’ve supported dictators in the past?  Putting dictators in place is bad, but removing dictators is ALSO bad?

            “Ignore dictators” then, is that you plan?

          • Should we attack China?

          • If the Chinese were sending tanks and fighter jets against civilians in Chinese cities, and we had some realistic hope of stopping or mitigating those attacks militarily (or, even better, potentially toppling their authoritarian regime) then sure Loraine, in that instance we should attack China.

            The inability of military interventions to effect the change we want to see EVERYWHERE is not actually an argument against using the military to effect the changes we’d like to see somewhere. Treating Libya differently than we treat China isn’t hypocrisy, it’s an acknowledgment of reality.

        • I remind you that the majority in this country did not vote for Harper…in fact they didn’t vote much for Libs either….the party that went along with Afghanistan

          We are not a military country, nor do we wish to be.

          • The majority of voters didn’t vote for any one party, which is the way it’s been in every election but two or three since the 1920s.  Harper has a pretty decent plurality, though.

            We’re not a “military country”, and there’s no danger we’ll become one either.  Canada’s armed forces are actually quite small in terms of enlistment relative to our population.

          • The majority of voters didn’t vote for Harper ….and his militarism.

            He has his base, and that’s it.

            I know how big our military is….so let’s stop making it the be-all and end-all of Canadian life. It is not.

          • Ahh, CR, I see you’re attempting to engage Emily in a logical, rational, substantive argument.  Good luck with that.

          • @OrsonBean:disqus 

            Yeah, it’s good to know that some things never change.

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 


            Such whiny sulky boys Cons are when they don’t get their way.

            No cookies.

        • I’d like to add that I have had soldiers in my family who served in WWII and I have a member of my family soldiering in Afghanistan at the moment.  While grandpa was quite proud of what he and his friends had done to destroy Hitler and his army my godson as it is doesn’t give a damn.  He thinks Canada is full of stupid people and he’s talking about joining US mercenaries (he wouldn’t be the first, I am told). I don’t see why the government should encourage this, although it may be inevitable when we are lead by a government who proudly declares our country to be  a second-rate failed experiment, our creative talent as mediocre citizens that need to be shut down, our citizenry as ordinary and our military as the best best citizens of our country.  I am not used to be rated in this way.

          •  I don’t see why the government should encourage this

            Um, they’re not encouraging Canadians to join the US military, much less mercenaries.  That’s nonsense.

            although it may be inevitable when we are lead by a government who proudly declares our country to be  a second-rate failed experiment, our creative talent as mediocre citizens that need to be shut down

            More vitriolic nonsense.  Muddle-headed Harper-hating.

        • Emily thinks the year is always 1969, the war is always Vietnam, and fascism is always descending everywhere.

          • This after tons of my posts on here pushing for the 21st century?

            You drinking or what?

    • Do you see anything shameful in said bomb going awry, as bombs will sometimes do, and exploding on a wedding party or some such? Or is that just the way it goes, with John Baird’s pith simply value added?

      • Canada and our NATO allies spend a lot of money on smart bombs that minimize civilian casualties. 

        NATO bombs are saving the lives of civilians, by crippling Gaddafi’s ability to slaughter them.

        • This is from the we’re-hunters-because-we’re-conservationists school of thought.

          How about no bombs…no matter what their IQ?

          • If you had your way, Gaddafi would be slaughtering civilians with impunity right now, and you’d be chanting “It’s none of our business!  Besides, it’s all our fault somehow!”

          • Whose country is it?

            You planning on intervening in every fight in the world because it offends your sensibilities?

            You planning to join up are you?

          • Months into this, and he’s still slaughtering.  Mission not accmplished.

          • Whose country is it?

            Not Ghaddafi’s.  Canada recognized the rebel governing council as the legitimate representatives of the people of Libya  almost a month ago.

          • Jan, the mission’s not over yet though, is it?  Nobody said we were done in Libya, did they?  Gaddaffi may still be slaughtering his people, but he’s hardly doing so with impunity any more, and he’s doing a Hell of a lot less damage to his people than he could have if we hadn’t eliminated his air force and taken out a whole bunch of his tanks.

          • I don’t see how writing on a bomb “compounds” anything.  Honestly, who cares, aside from bleeding hearts who get easily offended by meaningless symbolism?

          • Meaningless symbolism? Contradiction in terms.

            But otherwise, I guess you’re right. If we didn’t kill ’em, Gaddafi would, and anyways, they’re just a bunch of brownskins who live somewhere besides here, eh? And the survivors probably can’t even read the epithets that supposed adults wrote on the weapons that slaughtered their friends and families.

          • @craigola13:disqus 

            I don’t follow your logic.  Are you arguing that NATO shouldn’t be bombing Libya right now, because there’s a chance of an errant strike?  If we weren’t using smart bombs, I’d agree with you, but thanks to modern technology  collateral damage is minimized.

            What’s your preferred alternative to military intervention in Libya through air strikes?  Would you prefer that we sit on our hands while Gadhaffi wipes out the rebels and then inflicts terrible retribution on the civilian communities that opposed him?

          • “I don’t follow your logic.”Then you don’t follow your own logic because I’ve just been responding to you this whole time. I didn’t say I was against the military intervention in Libya. I said I think the practice of writing stuff on bombs is childish and needlessly provocative. 
            If it’s any help, you may have lost your way around the time you asked, ‘who cares?’ about Libyan civilians after asserting that we’re there because we care about them.

          • @craigola13:disqus 

            you may have lost your way around the time you asked, ‘who cares?’ about Libyan civilians after asserting that we’re there because we care about them. 

            I asked “who cares?” about something as stupid and trivial as writing on a bomb.  You needn’t worry about offending anyone on the receiving end of that smart bomb, because it’s destined to explode, obliterating whatever is written on it. That’s how bombs work.

            And you say you have no problem with NATO using that bomb… apparently you just don’t like the idea of someone writing on it first. 

            So you think it’s childish or in poor taste, fine… that’s your opinion.   But spare me the “you don’t care about civilian casualties” crap.

        • You don’t find something, I don’t know, bloodlusty about writing on a bomb?  I mean, if you were a soldier in the field and one of your fellow soldiers had just been killed by an IED or something, I can certainly see it.  But this isn’t a soldier–it isn’t even the Minister of Defence.  It’s the Foreign Minister, (the one who is SUPPOSED to be the diplomat) and I just find it immature and, well, creepy.

          • Sure, but it’s not like her wrote “Die Gadaffi Die!” on the bomb.  He wrote “Free Libya.  Democracy Now.”

            I guess I can see the argument that we should leave Gadaffi alone to slaughter his own people.  That we should sit back and watch him deliberately and systematically bomb civilians rather than risk that we might accidentally bomb some civilians.  However, I can’t get my head around the notion that writing a pro freedom and democracy message on the side of a bomb is a big deal.

          • When did I say anything about leaving Gadaffi alone to slaughter his own people?  I wasn’t particularly objecting to the bomb, just the fact that our Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote on it.  Understand I’m not even objecting to writing on a bomb.  I’m objecting to our TOP DIPLOMAT feeling a piece of paper wasn’t powerful enough, I guess, to get his message across.  Is this how he’ll handle all negotiations? I mean, really, NOT doing this is why diplomacy is a highly regarded skill.  And he’s just come out and admitted that he not only doesn’t have the skill, but he’s sent a strong message (at least to me) that he doesn’t even understand why the skill is valuable/meaningful.  His prior foray into diplomacy got us kicked out of the Emirates, if you recall.  I don’t think he’s garnered new respect in diplomatic circles with this stunt.

        • And if the bombs were perfect, or civilian casualties could be magically brought back to life, you might have point.

          They aren’t.
          They can’t.
          And you don’t.

      • Does anyone know if he signed his real name? 

  5. Good article. What makes me optimistic about militarism not selling the way the conservatives would like is that we’ve had almost 10 years of epic-PR trying to sell the war in Afghanistan to the public, and yet polls have consistently shown throughout that time that, other than in the early few months, a majority of Canadians have remained steadfast in saying they do not want our troops in that war, and see no good coming from it. This suggests to me that the overall plan to make Canadians militaristic may not work.

    if this is so, I will be interested to see what it actually dawns on Canadians that the conservatives have now  booked $240 BILLION  in purchases of new military assets in coming years. We’re talking close to A QUARTER TRILLION DOLLARS!

    I think Canadians are not now aware that they are about to be billed for the biggest military spendfest since WW2. Why? Because no-one has really wanted to clearly tell them so, and because our media are, ah, otherwise focused.

    When Canadians do find out, I predict the conservatives, the generals and the defense industry lobby will see that Canadians are not as military-friendly as they’d hoped.

    Media may even notice. I suspect the NDP opposition surely will.

    •  I will be interested to see what it actually dawns on Canadians that the conservatives have now  booked $240 BILLION  in purchases of new military assets in coming years. We’re talking close to A QUARTER TRILLION DOLLARS! 

      Those numbers are so ridiculous I’m going to assume you just made them up. 

      • From an article published yesterday:

        “The Harper government should create a new defence procurement agency to
        oversee the estimated $240 billion worth of military equipment the
        Conservatives want to purchase, says a federal report obtained by the
        Ottawa Citizen.”

        I fear you may be one of those Canadians just finding out about this, and who finds that number to be “ridiculous.”

        • Thanks for the link.  I see that it’s $240 billion over 20 years, so about $12 billion a year for new purchases and for maintenance of all our existing equipment.

          It seems high, but I’d have to check it against current annual DND expenditures to see whether it represents a significant increase.

        • Just for the record, it makes it clear later in the article that the $240 billion figure is the total cost of buying new equipment AND maintaining all of the military’s equipment over the next TWENTY YEARS.

          Maybe it’s just me, but $240 billion for the maintenance of all of the military’s equipment, AND all future purchases of new military equipment from now until 2031 doesn’t seem too crazy.

          • Especially when you consider that the federal government will be spending 7 or 8 trillion dollars over that same 20-year time frame.

          • On something more useful I hope.

            Like education and healthcare

          • Bravo! A quarter trillion is sounding smaller and smaller!

            (What about as a percentage of GDP, that would make it sound absolutely inconsequential.)

          • @Getting_By:disqus 

            That’s a good idea.  It should be expressed as a percentage of GDP, for comparison with other G20 countries.

            It should also be expressed as a percentage of total federal government spending, so that we can compare it with previous years.

          • I invite you both to think up language to explain at a town hall meeting why it’s a great idea for the government to order up a quarter trillion dollars in new spending for military equipment.

            I’m thinking the result will be the same as the decade-long militarism PR campaign we’ve had over in Canada to generate support for the Afghanistan war: a majority of Canadians won’t buy what you’re selling.

            Not that there is much the 6 in 10 of us who don’t vote conservative can do to stop these acquisitions right now, other than to maybe try to get opposition parties to commit to cancelling these projects if elected. 

          • Why don’t you just say $12 billion per year?  That’s a lot more honest than using some huge twenty year lump sum out of context.

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            Oh you could buy the moon if you budget it that way.

          • We spend roughly the same amount on the military as Australia (currently ruled by the Labour Party).

            How much would you spend Emily and Getting By? Nothing?

    • I agree….the last thing we need to be spending money on is more military equipment

      Utter insanity.

  6. How about linking the Citizen’s counterpoint from Jack Granatstein from yesterday? Hack.

    • You could have done that.

      Take some cough syrup.

  7. I agree with most of the commenters above.  The world would be a much better place if we minded our own business and let people like Hitler and Ghadaffi and groups like the Taliban run their nations as they see fit, and abuse and kill their citizens by whatever means they prefer.  Who cares if they’re slaughtering civilians?  As long as they’re abusing and slaughtering foreign civilians somewhere far away why don’t we just ignore it?  People who didn’t have the good sense to be born in a prosperous democratic nation probably deserve whatever they get anyway.

    I agree with Emily below.  Canada is definitely not going back to some WWII view of the world.  Today, we’d try to understand where Hitler is coming from; discuss his (no doubt legitimate) grips with our interference in German affairs; try to explain to the world how sorry we are that our decadent North American ways have led poor Mr. Hitler to lash out; ignore the militaristic propaganda making National Socialism sound like a bad thing, and encourage our citizens to learn German.

    • Kindly don’t pretend tiny broken 3rd world countries are anything like Hitler

      Bombing stone age countries back to the stone age is nothing to be proud of

      Especially since they did nothing to us.

      And spare us the pop psychology too….had it not been for the vindictive treaty we forced Germany into Hitler would never have arisen.

      • You brought up the comparison to WWII, not me.  I was responding to your earlier comment.

        • Everyone compares the current situation to WWII when it is nothing like that.

          The only ‘just war’ is one of self-defence.

          • The only ‘just war’ is one of self-defence.

            So, you really are saying then that it’s acceptable for us to engage in military action to save ourselves, but it’s unacceptable for us to engage in military action to save other people?  That’s fine, and perfectly logical, but personally I find it to be somewhat morally repugnant.

          • You find a lot of things ‘morally repugnant’  That’s why you’re a librarian.

          • LOL Emily.  I don’t even know what that last one means!

    • Heh.  Well said.  It always makes me roll my eyes when naive, muddle-headed peaceniks think that “peacekeeping” and “diplomacy” will somehow stop murderous dictators. 

      They’d rather let bloodsoaked tyrants slaughter their civilians at will, because war is bad, after all!  God forbid Canada should use its military for something other than standing around in blue hats singing Kumbaya.

      • We aren’t supposed to be stopping anybody….it’s not our country

        And nobody elected us God.

        What makes me roll my eyes is all you studly types…who somehow never manage to join the military….you just want others to go do the fighting for you, so you can post in a ‘tough’ way from the comfort of your armchairs

        • Yeesh, what rubbish.  Also, I’m pretty skeptical about your claim that you served in the armed forces, Emily. 

          • I did, you didn’t

            Pretty much sums your macho up.

          • I’m not sure it’s “rubbish”.  I personally find the “they’re a bunch of foreigners being killed by a foreign dictator, it’s none of our business to intervene, and we should just sit back and watch them die” to be morally indefensible, but it’s a logical position to hold.  There are plenty of people who think that we should pull our military back to our own borders and just leave the rest of the world to fend for themselves, and if a bunch of poor people get slaughtered by maniacal dictators then that’s just too bad.  I personally think that we should intervene to STOP leaders who are systematically murdering their populations with jet fighters and heavy weapons, but I can accept that there are people who believe that mass murder that happens outside of our borders is none of our business, and that we should just go about our days.

          • Sounds very noble

            Much like the ‘white man’s burden’ that got us into so much trouble.

  8. We then let’s invade China.  Then we can go on with the invasion of Saudi Arabia.  They are, after all, dictatorships who mistreat their citizens and our goal should be to get rid of these regimes  Why not show some real balls?  If that’s the rationale for our military efforts, why concentrate no the not-so-important ones?  Rather than fighting Hitler, we should have concentrated on Mussolini. By the way, Walter Natynczyk and Peter Mackay have the perfect Il Duce’s pose in the picture accompanying the Citizen’s article.

    • To me, this argument is the equivalent of saying “if you can’t defeat Satan himself you should just ignore all evil and go about your day”, or perhaps “since we can’t catch all serial killers, we should stop trying to catch serial killers”.  It’s like arguing that the police should let the local motorcycle gang run rampant if they’re not able to control the Italian mafia, lest they appear to be hypocrites.  I also don’t like the implication that the civilians being slaughtered by Gaddafi are somehow “not-so-important” when compared to civilians being killed in China.

      The fact that we can’t intervene everywhere is not an argument to not intervene anywhere.  The fact that some dictatorships are too powerful or influential to be influenced by military intervention should not provide cover to every murderous dictator on the planet.  We should do what we can, when we can, and not intervening to save civilians in Libya because we’re incapable of doing the same in China would be shameful imho.

      • Remember how we intervened in South Africa?

        Are the civilians killed by a bomb autographed by our minister of defense somehow ‘not-s-important’ when compared to civilians being killed by Gaddafi? Or does the autograph give it more democratic legitimacy?

        • You do realize we’re not targeting civilians, don’t you?  

          I don’t think civilians killed by NATO are less important than civilians killed by Ghaddaffi, I think they’re less numerous.  Less numerous, in fact, by orders of magnitude.  I don’t see the logic to sitting back and allowing Ghaddaffi to deliberately slaughter thousands of civilians so that we can avoid accidentally killing hundreds of civilians ourselves.  I’d argue that for every Libyan civilian that dies because of our intervention, there are at least a dozen more who didn’t die thanks to that same intervention.  Unless you think that the collective military power of the West is just UNBELIEVABLY incompetent there’s just no way that we’ll end up accidentally killing even a TINY FRACTION of the number of Libyans that Ghaddaffi would have deliberately slaughtered if we’d just sat by and watched.

          • Yes, I realize we are using laser-guided bombs. I just don’t feel the assurance you feel that we can predict the outcome of a war  or its effect on the civilian population.  I have been called a war monger many times, I am far from being a pacifist, but I need better reasons to support all-out war than the prediction that Ghaddaffi would deliberaly slaughter civilians if we don’t show up.  In terms of aggressive invasion of a country, I have always supported war against the aggressor.

          • I need better reasons to support all-out war than the prediction that
            Ghaddaffi would deliberately slaughter civilians if we don’t show up

            It’s not some prediction that Ghaddaffi might have deliberately slaughtered civilians if we hadn’t shown up, he was literally in the process of deliberately slaughtering civilians when we showed up.  In fact, his deliberate attacks on civilians with fighter jets and tanks were why we intervened in the first place.

            I agree that war and its effects are inherently unpredictable, but I have an extremely difficult time believing that the number of civilians accidentally killed by NATO bombs is anywhere near the number of civilians Ghaddaffi would have deliberately killed if there were no NATO bombs taking out his air force and his tanks.  While civilians will certainly be accidentally killed from time to time as a result of our attacks on Ghaddaffi’s fighter jets and tanks, has everyone just forgotten that Ghaddaffi’s fighter jets and tanks were engaged in DELIBERATELY killing Libyan civilians?

            I also think that we’ve lost all notion of what war means if what we’re doing in Libya can be described by anyone as an “all-out war”.  If NATO were engaged in an “all-out war” with Libya, by now there’d be nothing more than a smoking crater where Libya used to be.