CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Peter C. Newman.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1983.
184pp, cloth, $14.95.
ISBN 0-7710-6798-4.

Grades 9 and up.
Reviewed by Paul E. Blower.

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May

In previous books, Peter Newman chronicled the lives and times of powerful men in business and politics. He now turns to the subject of military power, in particular Canada's lack of it, and prescribes a set of solutions that would give us a more prominent role in the western alliance without involving us in nuclear weapons.

Newman begins by surveying this country's inadequate air, sea, and land defences, observing that "Canada's current defence posture hovers precariously close to a pratfall." In 1983, Canada spent only 1.8 per cent of its GNP on defence, lowest of the NATO allies, and even that, in Newman's opinion, was "misdirected and ineffective." With much of its military hardware "a bad joke," practically the only redeeming feature of Canada's defence is the loyalty of the armed forces, which presumably qualifies them as little more than cannon fodder.

The roots of the problem appear to derive from the early sixties when spending on military budgets and personnel began to lag behind requirements. Defence Minister Paul Hellyer's unification of the armed forces was an unmitigated disaster from a morale point of view. The lack of interest in the military on the part of average Canadians (Newman even goes so far as to call it a "psychology of surrender") reinforced the descent; politicians intent on re-election failed to exercise the appropriate leadership. Canada began to rely increasingly on the United States and other NATO allies for its defence as global security came to be defined as "mutual deterrence" by the nuclear superpowers. However, the result was that Canada's sovereignty was put in jeopardy; "any country that hands over holus-bolus the ability to defend itself to any other country automatically becomes that parent-nation's colony."

Newman's solution is for Canada to concentrate on the defence of its northern frontier, the "muskeg-moat over which the confrontation between superpowers will be fought," using conventional weapons. This initiative would involve increased expenditures for an expanded army, navy, air force, and reserves, both in terms of men and material; it would not only fulfil Canada's NATO and NORAD commitments more effectively but serve to protect its national status as well. We should continue our membership in NATO and NORAD "as ourselves, not as a branch plant of the American military machine." An emphasis on conventional weapons buys time for political solutions to be found, putting off the time when nuclear weapons might have to be used.

Newman intended this book to contribute to the debate on Canada's role in ' the western alliance, a position defined to a great extent by the United States. In view of superior Soviet firepower, a more effective response from all the western allies is undoubtedly required. Peaceful political solutions to world problems are undoubtedly to be preferred to military ones but the best means of averting world holocaust is to bargain from a position of strength.

Paul E. Blower, Sault Ste. Marie P. L., Sault Ste. Marie, ON.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works