For the sake of argument

For the sake of argument

Let’s keep A-bombs out of Canada

ROSS MUNRO May 7 1960
For the sake of argument

For the sake of argument

Let’s keep A-bombs out of Canada

ROSS MUNRO May 7 1960

For the sake of argument


Let’s keep A-bombs out of Canada

From where I sit on the Prairies, the basic decision facing this country in the current crisis in defense policy boils down to this: Are we, or are we not, going to equip our military forces with nuclear weapons?

I hold to the view that we should not: that we should stay completely out of atomic armaments; that we should not try to make a showing for prestige when, at best, we could not afford to do much more than dabble in this macabre weaponry.

In the present helter-skelter pace of electronic, missile and nuclear arms development, Canada should not even try to tag along, far behind the major powers in this area of defense. Cost and common sense tells us to leave the build-up of atomic arms to the Big Powers.

I believe that Canada should confine her military activity to the rapid development of our conventional forces, giving them the best available equipment for non - nuclear roles at home and abroad. The army’s new national survival role and the commitments we must be ready to meet, especially for the UN, demand particularly an increase in the mobility of our forces by air.

This whole question of whether to “go nuclear” or not is as important a topic as there is in the country today. It needs to be discussed openly. It needs to be debated in Parliament. And on this, one cannot go half way in his opinion.

I doubt that the military view the issue in this simplicity . . . whether we should get nuclear weapons or reject them. It is possible that the government doesn't either. I have a feeling that Ottawa rather views the problem in the light of hew far we should go in obtaining atomic arms.

The government, on its military advice, has shown indications in the past year that it felt Canada's best interests would be served by acquiring such weapons. We would start with ground-to-air missiles for

air defense and some ground-toground missiles for tactical use by the army. And some nuclear devices for the navy.

We go on and on from there from warhead to warhead to what point nobody can forecast.

To this trend I shout “halt.” us take a hard look at all the implications involving our own security situation at home and our

obligations abroad. Let us view

them against the enormous strides

made by the Big Powers in atomic arms at astronomical costs and let us view it against our hopes for disarmament.

I maintain that Canada will achieve little or no additional security at home by entering the nuclear military field. I can see little additional protection of our sovereignty if we have nuclear weapons. In the present world and in

the kind of world that probably

lies ahead I believe that a dilution of sovereignty in defense is inevitable. It already has gone a long way. Our Canadian society can still be maintained and we can still retain our sense of pride in our national aspirations, our economy, our customs, our way of life and government.

On the economic side, a nuclear arms program that would make any real contribution to the power of the Western alliance could upend our economy. Even today, in a generally prosperous land, we are troubled by budget and finance problems. To impose a major nuclear-weapon program on top of this could mean something close to chaos.

Yet merely to put a toe in this kind of armament water achieves little and even that could run defense costs much higher than they are at present. Many factors point to the conclusion that Canada

should act her size — militarily —

and it is not too late to consider a reversal of what appears to be the present trend in policy and decide against A-weapons for our forces. This isn’t a declaration for neutrality. And it is not an argument for pacificism. Neither attitude can he realistic in the economic, political and military associations that Canada has and must maintain within the limits of her capacity. We must think particularly of our relations with the U. S. in this regard. But there is no evidence that the Americans are trying to pressure us into a nuclear arms build-up. In fact, at present we seem to be something of a nuisance to our American friends as we look around their nuclear arms shop to see what we could have at what price.



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“We are something of a nuisance to the U.S., fussing and haggling in their nuclear arms shop”

Of course, there is something quite hypothetical at the moment in these shopping tours, for the U. S. Congress is as yet not convinced that these weapons should be shared even with trusted allies. Indeed. President Eisenhower has assured Premier Khrushchov that he has no present intentions of sharing nuclear arms with his allies.

But this does not detract from the need for Canada to make her great decision on nuclear arms. Ultimately, it is likely that they will be available from the Americans, with the terms of acquisition and control hammered out in negotiations.

Short of a nuclear arms program, what can we do? I believe that an impressive military establishment of a non-atomic nature can be developed to meet the new requirements of our security as they exist today and those possible eventualities in ’the future.

Much can be done in development of the army in its new national survival role. This is a splendid concept and it gives the first hard reality to our efforts to cope with the tangled problem of civil defense. It is to the army's great credit that it has taken on this new role with such drive. In the west, to my personal knowledge, fine progress is being made in training regular and militia units in mobility, disaster discipline, communications and procedures in order to ensure that we have cohesive forces available in the event of an attack on Canada by atomic weapons that could wreak havoc in our cities. A breakdown of civil organizations would be almost inevitable and the military role in such a crisis could be the salvation of the nation.

The way in which the army can function. even without the new training in

survival that it is now receiving, was demonstrated most clearly in my own community of Winnipeg in 1950 when the flood on the Red and Assiniboine rivers threatened to drown the city. Both regular and militia units were rushed into

action on the dikes, alongside the thousands of civilians. In addition, the military took over many essential services and laid the complicated plans for evacuation of the metropolitan area, which fortunately was not required.

It was army discipline, communications and staff work that paid off then. It would be even more valuable to our survival under an atomic assault.

Mobility is one of the keys to effective employment of the services under such

circumstances and the expenditure of defense funds on squadrons of aircraft that could rapidly airlift three or four Canadian battalions at a time would, in my opinion, be worth as much to Canadian security as a couple of missile bases.

Similarly for our international roles, mobility is of the essence to get our units to the trouble spot rapidly. Our efforts to put our UNEF forces on the road to Suez were rather badly frustrated by lack of aircraft and also at the time lack of suitable shipping. Although, I must say the way the military transformed our lone aircraft carrier into a trooper for this purpose was quite a remarkable feat of ingenuity.

Is seems a reasonable forecast that in the years ahead this country will be called on by the UN to contribute forces to some UN effort to stop an international incident in some foreign land from becoming the basis for a major conflict. It also seems to me logical that conventional forces will be most suitable for this kind of police action. I could hardly visualize the UN ordering the use of tactical atomic weapons.

Since World War II we have been involved in a good deal of overseas service. There was Korea. There was the build-up of our force in western Europe in support of NATO. There was the fine job at Suez. We have military officers in a dozen other countries serving as UN truce and observation officers.

We’ve no “duty” to arm

We’ve maintained a fair-sized force at home over this period. We've done it all with conventional forces and no atomic weapons. Advocates of nuclear weapons will say that the situation has altered radically in the past few years. True, the big powers have their gigantic weapons of terrifying power. But has the situation altered for a middle-size country such as Canada? Canada has no present obligations to any ally to fit herself with nuclear arms.

I argue that it hasn’t changed to the point where we should or can afford to acquire the power weapons. Since the last war, Canada has spent an amount approaching $20 billion on defense. This spending ranged from a low of $385 million in 1950, or 15.7 percent of the national budget, to $1.9 billion in 1953, or 43.4 percent of the budget. Recently it moved to a plateau of about $1.75 billion a year or about 30 percent of the budget.

We received much solid value from these expenditures. In addition to meeting our foreign commitments for military forces, we contributed nearly $1.75 billion in mutual assistance since 1951. At home there was a large-scale building program for the services' needs. Today, it is estimated that it cost $1.1 billion a year to run this "plant."

Latest figures show there are about 120,000 in the three regular armed services —47.000 in the army, 51.000 in the air force and 20,000 in the navy, and in addition there are 48.000 civilian employees.

Can we do more in this country than this in peacetime without endangering the economy, without a trend toward more and more controls, without a slowdown in our growth at a time when our Gross National Product is making steady gains and is being reflected in the wellbeing of most Canadian families?

There are two very difficult questions that arise, however, in this discussion of having nuclear weapons or not having them. One is consideration of our position in NATO. What effect would it have on our allies in NATO if we rejected atomic

arms and said we were staying with improved conventional forces suitable to our security requirements?

It is a question for a Solomon.

I would think, however, that for the time being our membership in NATO and the value of at least our brigade of ground forces would not be lessened if we kept away from nuclear arms.

It is another matter when the RCAF air division is considered. In their new tactical attack role, our planes, to fulfill their function, would have to have air-toground missiles with nuclear warheads. We have been part of the NATO shield. Do we want now to become part of the sword?

This factor should be balanced against the over-all picture of the defense policy Canadians will support and against all the ramifications of our political and economic activities.

The other difficult question concerns our American friends. If we do not go nuclear, will there ultimately be a strong pressure for the U. S. forces to locate their own missile bases on our soil? I would think it is a possibility.

This likely would raise a giant controversy over Canadian sovereignty and the age-old cry that we are selling out to the Americans. But how bad would it really be? The Americans have atomic planes based in Britain. I don't see any diminution of British sovereignty. The Americans have atomic aircraft based in a number of other countries and the greatest care seems to be taken not to intrude on national feelings.

I could be very wrong on this and I admit it. But I am not horrified by the prospect of such a development in Canada.

In all this, I am not suggesting that we should not pull our weight, that we shotdd not, as the vibrant country we are, make, every contribution we can to the unity and the strength of the western alliance.

But I feel we can do it much better without squandering our wealth on weapons that only our bigger partners can manage to handle. We can, for instance, move with much greater strength into the field of aid tu underdeveloped countries. [ his is a particularly attractive sphere or activity for a country »such as ours.

In the political field, on the international level, our voice in the disarmament conferences will be stronger if we are not launched on an atomic program. The world is so disenchanted about prospects for disarmament after the experiences of the 1930s that there is a natural defeatism in our mood and that of many other peoples. BuT this time disarmament MUST come to mean something in reality and not just a word of faint hope, 1 judge that the Canadian people are right behind the government in its efforts in this direction.

1 come full circle back to where I started. Let us stay out of nuclear armaments. But if the trend toward their acquisition continues, then let there be the widest debate on the issue before the final decision is made.