WHERE WE STAND IN DEFENSE. No. 3 Could canada stay out of a U. S. war?

We’re inescapably bound to the American chariot, and we’re expected to help pull. Our problem now is how to make the best of it while we still have a chance to talk to the driver

BLAIR FRASER December 6 1958

WHERE WE STAND IN DEFENSE. No. 3 Could canada stay out of a U. S. war?

We’re inescapably bound to the American chariot, and we’re expected to help pull. Our problem now is how to make the best of it while we still have a chance to talk to the driver

BLAIR FRASER December 6 1958

WHERE WE STAND IN DEFENSE. No. 3 Could canada stay out of a U. S. war?

We’re inescapably bound to the American chariot, and we’re expected to help pull. Our problem now is how to make the best of it while we still have a chance to talk to the driver


Two or three times a year the thirty-five Canadian officers at Colorado Springs are acutely embarrassed. They are on duty there at NORAD (North American Air Defense) headquarters, and they get on very well with the American colleagues whose work they share. What makes them blush is the periodic outburst, in Canada's parliament or press, of the question: "Is it true that Canadian troops are under the orders of an American general?”

It is true sometimes, in a limited way. NORAD is commanded by U. S. General Earle Partridge, who thereby has operational control of the nine squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force that arc part of North American Air Defense.

But for more than half the time in NORAD's lirst year. General Partridge was away from his command on tours of inspection, and his deputy commander took his place. The deputy is Air Marshal C. Roy Slemon, former chief of the air staff, RCAF. When Partridge is away, Slemon has exactly the same authority over sixty-one squadrons of the Ü. S. Air Force, sixty-one antiaircraft battalions of the U. S. Army, forty-five picket ships and several dirigibles and patrol aircraft of the U. S. Navy—in all. about two hundred thousand American service personnel.

Canadians at NORAD watched carefully, almost hopefully, for some American reaction to this situation. So far they have found one editorial comment. A short piece in a Philadelphia newspaper set forth quite accurately the command structure of NORAD. noting that American troops had been directed by a Canadian officer sixty percent of the time during eight months. The editorial concluded: "And this is as it should be.”

Canadian officers say the contrast between good-humored acceptance in the United States and querulous suspicion in Canada makes them feel silly. They say that as far as operational command is concerned the suspicion is unjustified. The Americans have been scrupulously correct, have leaned over backward to avoid any offense to Canada’s national susceptibilities.

What really bothers the Canadians, though, is more than mere embarrassment. The complaints arise out of anxiety all too well founded, concern for Canada’s sovereignty in coalition with a partner so much bigger and stronger. We have cause to worry about losing control of our destiny, and becoming helpless victims of other people's decisions. For instance:

► Only the president of the United States can launch a “massive retaliation” and seno the Strategic Air Command to drop its hydrogen bombs on the USSR. He may consult his allies, it he wants to and if time permits, but the decision will be his—to strike or not to strike.

► Only the president of the United States, and American officers responsible to him as U. S. commander-in-chief, can have custody of the American-made nuclear weapons on which the armed forces of the Western alliance now rely.

► If the United States gets into major conflict with Soviet Russia for any reason, whether by way of “massive retaliation” or by Soviet attack on this continent. Canada will be inescapably involved. We have less chance of staying out than had Belgium in 1914 or Norway in 1940.

These facts are so harsh and unpalatable that Canadians can hardly bear to admit they are facts at all. Is it really true that we'd be dragged in it, tor example, the United States went to war over Chiang Kai-shek's claim to a couple of miserable little sand-spits in the Chinese harbor of Amoy? And if it be true, which God forbid, is there nothing we can do to escape this plight?

Of course it would not be true of a mere collision between the U. S. Seventh Fleet and the Red ( hiñese torces opposite Formosa. We are speaking only of a major war. between the United States and the Soviet Union. But it is almost certain that if American forces are heavily engaged again, they will use nuclear weapons. It is dreadfully likely, from what Khrushchev and others have said, that the Soviet Union w ill regard use ot nuclear weapons as the signal for a major war. And it Russia intervenes or even threatens to intervene, then Canada is involved.

Geography would dictate this even if history did not—our land lies between the two giants. They can’t get at each other, directly, except across Canada, and Canada is too small to repel either one without the help of the other. Canada cannot say, as India can and as even Britain could do in some circumstances, “A plague o’ both your houses.” We have to choose a side, and there is no doubt which side we choose.

continued on page 72

Could Canada stay out of a U. S. war? continued from page 25

In any case the choice has been made, years ago. The DEW Line agreement, which placed American radar sentries on our Arctic coast, was concluded by a Liberal government of Canada. NORAD, which makes the defense of the whole continent one indivisible task, was set up by the Conservatives. By what amounts to unanimous consent of those acquainted with all the facts, secret as well as public, Canadian defense has been merged into American like an egg into an omelet.

“Even the British would give their eye teeth for what we get”

So the question is not how to get out of this situation (we can't do that) but how to make the best of it. If we’re doomed to be dragged into a war once started, what can we do to keep one from starting? How can we make ourselves heard at the policy level where the awful, irremediable, irreversible decisions are made? In other words, never mind General Partridge; how can we influence John Foster Dulles?

Canada has in fact a good deal of influence, much more than size or strength would warrant. Canadians in Washington and elsewhere in the U. S., directly engaged with Americans on the problems of joint defense, all seem to agree that this is so.

“Nobody gets as much co-operation here as we do,” said a civilian official. “Even the British would give their eye teeth to get what we get.” When I asked him for examples he said he couldn’t give any, but 1 could take his word for it—he knew.


AUSTIN WILLIS* giving his wife for Christmas?


: Internationally known Radio, Television and Stage star. His wife is Kate Reid.

Another Canadian, a serviceman, put the point more sharply: “We can drag our feet from time to time, when things aren't being done the way we think they should be. But we can only do this so long as we co-operate and do our share when things are going right.”

That is why Canadians at NORAD and elsewhere are distressed by what they call ill-informed, ill-directed complaints from north of the border. The more we

fuss about things that don’t matter, they say, the less we are likely to be heeded about things that do.

An example of fuss about nothing was the “goof”—his own word—last August by the Hon. Alvin Hamilton, minister of northern affairs. He told parliament he was “ashamed” that Canadian officials “and even ministers” had to get American permission to visit DEW Line stations in the Canadian north. Some, he told the House, “had to wait several months for permission to go and do their duty in their own country at the direction of their own minister.”

This would indeed be shameful if true, but it wasn’t true at all. DEW Line stations are classed as defense installations, and as such are under normal security regulations that apply to other defense sites in Canada. The DEW Line airstrips are “available for use by the RCAF as required,” even though they were built and are operated by the U. S. Air Force. Canadian (but not American) civil air carriers are also free to use DEW Line airstrips, with the permission of the RCAF. The agreement provides that "the RCAF shall consult the USAF before granting such permission,” but there have not in fact been any difficulties or dis-

agreements between the two. They have worked out an agreed procedure for reporting any intended visits to the men on duty at the DEW Line, especially whenever food, shelter or service is required. Bureaucratic delays do occur sometimes, but they are as likely to be Ottaw'a’s fault as anyone’s.

What incidents have taken place have been mistakes, usually by some individual exceeding his own authority or ignoring someone else’s, according to federal officials.

In one case an American contractor built a winter road from Alaska four hundred miles into Canadian territory without even notifying, much less asking, the government of Canada. He got a sharp scolding from Ottawa, and he and the U. S. government both apologized. That was the end of the incident.

Once the Roman Catholic Bishop of Mackenzie, Mt. Rev. Trocellicr, was refused permission to land at a DEW Line airstrip. Since the agreement permits authorized Canadian planes to use these strips, the bishop was understandably annoyed. He himself was wrong by the let*ter of the law since he had given no notice of his wish to land, but normally the Americans don’t insist on this formality. It turned out that the flight supervisor at the airstrip had just heard a wild rumor that "a party of Hungarians” in a private plane was touring the Arctic, spying out DHW Line stations. Alarmed by this fantastic story he decided to play safe and not give entry to a private aircraft that had turned up unannounced, pretending to carry a Canadian bishop. Regrets were expressed by all concerned.

Cases like these have been the occasion of most of the public outcry about sovereignty in the conduct of joint defense with the United States. This has tended, in Washington, to magnify Canada's reputation for being a hypochondriacal fuss-budget—a reputation not yet widespread, but growing enough to worry some Canadian officials who would rather see Canada hold her fire for things of more importance.

There are many such. One is Canada’s position with regard to nuclear weapons.

The Canadian army, like other NATO ground forces, has adopted a new tactical concept based on nuclear striking power. In fact we have not got this striking power, and under present American law we cannot get it. The McMahon Act stipulates that all U. S. atomic weapons shall remain in American custody, and it provides stiff penalties of fine and imprisonment for any American who breaks it.

Partly to get out of this position of tutelage Britain and France, and probably West Germany, plan to make nuclear weapons of their own. Canada has no such costly intention. Until the McMahon Act is amended, therefore, our armed forces will be using weapons that cannot be fully loaded except by a friendly foreign power.

Liberal Leader L. B. Pearson has urged the government to insist on a change in American law so that Canadian forces may have possession of their own arms. This will not become a party issue; the government view, in essence, is the same as the opposition’s. However, Ottawa has not yet made any such request to Washington.

One reason may be that Canadian officials understand American misgivings. The NA TO alliance has fifteen members, all entitled to claim equal treatment but by no means equal in responsibility. One European ally recently sent a general out to NORAD headquarters to make a survey of methods. He had the very best credentials, so the American officers at NORAD told him everything. A few weeks later large chunks of their most secret information turned up in a public document at NATO headquarters in Paris, the work of the gcneraFs confidential secretary.

East spring a French air-force squadron bombed a village in Tunisia. The French government had not authorized this action, but it gave a kind of halfhearted authorization after the event. Many people in other countries, including the allies of France, regarded this operation as an outrage. That was bad enough for the West—but if the bombs that fell on the Tunisian village had been “tactical” atomic weapons made in the U. S. A., it would have been much w'orse.

NATO is the only military alliance of which Canada is a member. The United States has others — the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, for instance, which includes Pakistan but not India. Moreover, if allies are to get custody of American-made nuclear arms, what about that most militant of all the United States’ allies, Chiang Kai-shek on Formosa? Is he to have them too—and if not, why not?

So Canadian officials can sympathize when Americans say, as they often do in private: “We’d be happy to let you have atomic weapons or secrets or anything like that, but how can we make an exception of Canada without offending everybody else?”

They already make an exception of Britain, in the sharing of information about nuclear weapons, but the experiment has not been wholly encouraging. The administration had great trouble getting Congress to amend the McMahon Act at all, to allow American secrets to be shared with anyone. They finally stipulated that information should go only to allies which had nuclear-weapon programs of their own well advanced— which in practice meant Britain alone, and which was designed in particular to exclude France. But now France has her own nuclear-weapon program, so the carefully wrought stipulation didn't do much good. It’s not considered very likely that new or further exceptions will be made immediately.

But there is another and stronger reason for not making a major issue at this time of the custody of nuclear warheads. Other requests are being made, on matters that are deemed to be even more essentia! to Canada’s national independence.

All three Canadian armed services use American-made equipment. The RCN flies American Banshees armed with American Sidewinder missiles. The Canadian army has bought sample Lacrosse missiles, and will buy more of this or some kindred weapon. The RCAF division in Europe, now armed with obsolete fighters, is virtually defenseless against modern Soviet aircraft and must soon decide what American interceptor to buy. (The all-Canadian Arrow, even if the government should change its mind and go ahead with production, would not be suitable for the European task.) The new SAGE units, for semi-automatic direction of North American air defense, cost a hundred million dollars apiece; one or two are to be built on Canadian territory. BOMARC, the ground-to-air missile that Canada will buy in considerable quantity, will run into hundreds of millions. Anti-missile defense, which in a few years will become the most important and most expensive of all, has not yet been even begun in this country.

Other allies get their American military equipment free of charge under Mutual Aid. Canadians are proud that their country has never been on the American free list—Canada has been a giver, not a taker, of foreign aid ever since the days of Lend Lease in World War II. But we did discover in World War II that we couldn't afford to pay for these weapons solely in cash. Only by payment in kind—making some weapons in Canada for other allies, and getting credit for these against the weapons we got from the U. S. for ourselves—could Canada pay all her military bills.

That arrangement was known as the Hyde Park Agreement between Mackenzie King and Franklin Roosevelt. Canada wants another deal of the same kind now. The U. S. has been told, in language rather more blunt than Washington is used to hearing from Ottawa, that the present' situation is not good enough. Canada cannot go on sharing every part of continental defense except the employment.

Shared projects won’t do

Washington’s reaction to this demand has yet to be seen. It will become part of the intricate negotiations of cost-sharing for the SAGE program, the BOMARC program, the anti-missile BEMUSE program and all the rest. It’s a fair guess that some at least of these mammoth defense establishments will be made in Canada.

However, even a fair share of employment won’t remove Canada’s problem entirely. There’s still the question, what kind of employment?

Research and development contracts for the armed services are a mainstay of the electronics industry, the metallurgical industry, the aircraft industry, all the industrial frontiersmen of the U. S. Mere assignments to manufacture in Canada from American designs would not be the same thing. They would favor Canadian subsidiaries of American companies, they would offer no scope to Canadian talent in design or invention. As one Canadian official said, this kind of sharing would “dull the cutting edge of Canadian industrial development.”

This consideration was part of the argument over building the Avro Arrow. The government apparently decided that with a weapon of diminishing importance, like the manned fighter, the advantage of Canadian design did not offset a wide difference in cost. In the case of the weapons of the future, the judgment might be different. The government might well decide that some at least of our advanced military equipment should be designed, developed and built right here in Canada.

Canada will be closer, with a military program of her own, to the sources of North American military policy. U. S. military security is based on “the need to know.” An enquirer who can show a need to know about an American military project gets maximum co-operation, as many Canadians have found. The Americans in charge will tell him all he asks, and go to great trouble to do it. But if he can't convince them of his need to know, they'll tell him nothing at all. Whole regions of military knowledge, on which policy decisions in both countries might be based, are kept from him.

This is probably the best of all reasons for keeping up a fairly expensive, somewhat redundant program of defense research in Canada. It's a way of becoming deeply and intimately involved in American defense planning. This in turn is a way, perhaps the only way. to know what is going on in the field of national safety.

Such inside knowledge is part of the answer to the most important question of all, the one that underlies all of this enormous and complicated subject: How can we keep the greatest freedom of choice, the greatest independence, with the smallest loss of strength and security?

It’s obvious that there is no fully satisfactory answer to this question. No nation has complete freedom of choice any more; Canada, for geographic and historical reasons, has rather less than some other countries, though we also have compensating advantages.

One advantage is experience. Canadians have been dealing with their big, wealthy relatives for a long time—first with London and now with Washington. The men who are doing this job for us are not green at it.

Neither are they blinded by custom and use to the dangers that threaten Canadian sovereignty, as some Canadians seem to think they are. If anything, they are more sensitive to these things, not less, than the average Canadian who notices them only intermittently. They are just as apprehensive, and from time to time just as indignant, as the rest of us.

But they do know from experience that indignation is only helpful when it is justly based 'and accurately directed. A monotonous drip-drip of ill-natured, illfounded criticism is no help at all. John Foster Dulles has been nagged by experts, all the way from India to Indiana; a little more nagging from Canada may not do much harm, but it certainly does no good.

Theÿ think it might be wise, too. for more Canadians to realize how big a share of the common defense burden the United States is carrying. Not many of us stop to figure it out. though the figures are plain enough: Canada’s defense budget, as a percentage of national income, is only about half that of the United States. Dollars are not the whole story, of course, but the manpower percentages give the U. S. a greater, not a smaller share—we have fewer than half as many men in uniform, in proportion. If we appreciate these facts we don’t often say so.

Authorities don’t suggest that Canadians should refrain from saying what they think on the things that really matter. The only point they make is that we'll have more weight if we save our complaints for the questions of gravity, and don’t squander our influence on trifles. Even at best it will not be decisive, but it is greater than size or strength could have earned for us.

Are we inescapably bound to an American chariot? The answer is yes. The official attitude is that since this is true, we should at least try to stay in the front seat, where we can talk on good terms with the driver, instead of being dragged along behind, if