By Ken Waddell, myWestman.ca
It’s been a long time since the guns of WWI fell silent. One hundred and one years ago, in fact. Some of us are old enough to have known some WWI veterans. Most of us know WWII vets but, there are very few left with us. The Korean War was a much smaller conflict and it was almost 70 years ago. My brother was a Korean War vet, but he is gone now too. We have a number of military veterans with us who have served our country well in other places, in peacekeeping efforts, mostly in the Middle East.
The irony of the opening sentence is that the guns have never actually fallen silent. Diminished yes, but silent, no.
One has to wonder why we still have conflicts? There are many factors and while military action is still seen as a solution today, it rarely is the answer. Canada’s role as a military country has an interesting history. Our very nation was formed by war. The French colonists fighting the British in Canada’s early days, the government fighting the First Nations people and the Metis are all key points in Canadian history. Canada sent troops to the Boer War in the late 1800s. It is said Canada became a nation in WWI. By the time WWII came along, Canada became a major player in this thing called war. The 1950s saw the Korean Conflict and heavy Canadian involvement. Canada tried to be a peacemaker in the second half of the 20th century and on into the present day. By either war or peacekeeping standards, Canada has been pretty successful.
After experiencing 400 years of military involvement, Canada needs to take a serious look at what the future holds. Hopefully, the next 100 years will look very different from what the past 100 years has looked like. Hopefully, the results will be much different.
Canada needs to take a serious look at what it can and should do. In spite of our great geographic size, Canada is still only a small percentage of the United States in population and economic capacity. That factor alone sets some boundaries about what we can and should do. Canada needs a strong and battle-ready military on land, sea and in the air. We don’t have that right now, especially in the air and on the sea. Canada needs to have training and equipment that allows us to partner with our allies at home and, when necessary, abroad.
That word, abroad, raises some serious considerations. Our interventions abroad were instigated out of the necessity of the times. Past decisions were made based on the best information available. It is unfair to criticize past decisions. To do so is a disservice to those who risked their lives for our sake. But future decisions and interventions need to be examined in the light of the best information available and of what we have learned from the past.
Canada needs to be ready at all times to defend our borders and come to the defence of our allies. That said, I am not sure we should entangle ourselves in civil and religious wars in faraway places and, especially, in places where the people have no intention of sharing our view about peace and good government. In the bluntest of terms, if we intervene in countries that place little value on human rights or religious freedom, it is doubtful if we should send our people to die there.
Canada is a relatively young country, but some of the places where we try to intervene have had a highly developed society for thousands of years. I doubt they are really prepared to take moral instruction or military intervention from us.
Canada’s military needs to be ready to defend, to work at home, be ready to align with allies when necessary, but intervention should be done in a very measured and considered manner. Canada’s job is to build opportunity in Canada and defend Canada’s interest. If other countries like our approach, they are quite welcome to adopt it. However, we should tread very carefully, lest we think we can enforce our values in places where we are not welcome.
Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association.