The nuclear mess: Editorial

CANADA’S 1963 WAR MACHINE

KEN LEFOLII March 9 1963
The nuclear mess: Editorial

CANADA’S 1963 WAR MACHINE

KEN LEFOLII March 9 1963

CANADA’S 1963 WAR MACHINE

The nuclear mess: Editorial

KEN LEFOLII

Canada is the battleground of World War III. There is only one class of weapon we can use for anything but suicide — and' that is any 'weapon that helps prevent war. Are nuclear arms such a weapon? This is the question that matters most in the issue now dividing Canadians. Clear judgment depends on a calm look at

NUCLEAR WEAPONS, like war itself, are too important to be left entirely to generals. This winter we have been learning that they are too important to be left to politicians either.

The nuclear mess of 1963 goes back to decisions made by the cabinet, with military advice, in the late Fifties. When the politicians decided to arm Canada with the Bomarc missile, the Honest John rocket launcher and the CF-104 bomber, they forgot or refused to tell us that their military advisers expected these weapons to carry nuclear warheads. They never did tell us, in so many words. They held their silence even when General Lauris Norstad accused Canada, in January, of breaking “clear commitments” to acquire nuclear arms. But soon after that the politicians all started talking at once. Since the last week of January their claims and counterclaims have come so loud and fast that a supremely important issue of state has often sounded like a carnival barkers' shouting match. By the time the U. S. state department jumped into the act with a statement charging, in effect, that the prime minister of Canada was either a liar or a fool, the sideshow made it hard to bear in mind the three points that matter most when we come, as we must come now, to clean up the mess:

• The Americans have changed their minds about the time and place to use “tactical” nuclear arms.

• The nuclear mess turns on incredibly complex technical considerations, but the great decisions of nuclear strategy have been made on grounds that ordinary men of good will can — and indeed must

— understand and weigh.

• Canada has — or should have

— a fairly clear defense policy.

The story that leads up to the

nuclear mess really starts at the beginning of the Fifties, when the NATO allies bet that the way to

hold off the Russians in Europe was to threaten them with a “tactical” (or small-bomb) nuclear counterattack against any armed force they sent into free territory. General Norstad, as military commander of NATO, was in charge of making this bet stick. Canada's nuclear-arms carriers in Europe were ordered when Norstad was building up his “tactical” nuclear threat.

Then, toward the end of the Fifties, the Americans started changing their minds. In 1959 one of Norstad’s most prestigious colleagues, General Maxwell Taylor, wrote that to his mind the risks of this strategy were too high; one nuclear attack of any size, Taylor suggested, runs a high risk of leading to another. General Taylor's book, The Uncertain Trumpet, argued that a “tactical” bomb used against troops in Europe might very well lead in the end to the obliteration of Moscow, New York, and points between.

General Norstad no longer holds his command. He is now vice-president of a New York glass-fibre company. The man responsible for the decision to approve his resignation was General Taylor. He is now chairman of the U. S. chiefs of staff committee, the ranking American military officer. His stand against using “tactical” nuclear weapons in Europe is built into speeches made recently by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

The same change in American policy is written into the joint communique issued by President Kennedy and Prime Minister Macmillan from Nassau in December. They turned inside out the “nuclear sword” and “non-nuclear shield'’ metaphor that Norstad used for years to describe his NATO strategy. Paragraph ten of the KenncdyMacmillan communique speaks of a “nuclear shield” and a “non-nuclear sword.” This means that you fight a conventional battle — by “sword” — as long as you can, relying on CONTINUED OVERLEAE

The arms we’ve got and what they're for

CONTINUED vour “shield” of big offshore nuclear missiles to discourage the enemy from using his nuclear weapons on you.

Madcan's Washington editor, Ian Schinders, has made careful inquiries that bear out this evidence of a new American policy at the top. This policy is set against the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons in Europe, although McNamara told a congressional committee at the end of January that the U. S. will continue to stockpile “tactical" nuclear arms in Europe ‘‘in case Russia uses them first.” But these weapons are now “frozen” — they can be fired only on orders from Washington, not by the decision of the commanders in the field.

For a front-line military man or even a staff planner, both of whom

like to feel they have their finger on as important a trigger as possible, these changes in American nuclear strategy are hard to take. American military journals, particularly air-force journals, have been publishing articles that bitterly criticize the U. S. decision to freeze “tactical” nuclear warheads, on the ground that NATO will lose “flexible firepower.” Canadian airforce officers in Europe resent manning impotent warplanes. Most of them believe that Canada has definitely reneged, as General Norstad and the U. S. state department charged, on a binding agreement to arm our NATO squadrons with nuclear warheads. Blair Fraser's report from our European bases, on page 18 of this issue, graphically sets out their state of mind. Most air-force planners in Ottawa feel the same way about being left without a trigger of any kind to pull.

Some West European politicians, notably Charles de Gaulle and former West German Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss, are in the same camp for reasons of their own. They dislike the high cost of the big conventional forces the Americans now propose. And they fear that the Americans might fail to bring their nuclear deterrent to bear on Russia as long as conventional warfare is confined to Europe. These men feel the same way about the U. S. that some people in the U. S., apparently, feel about Canada — they believe the

U. S. is reneging on a firm deal. West Germany has fired Strauss. President de Gaulle is apparently ready to do whatever it takes, from freezing the U. K. out of the Common Market to ignoring NATO, to arm France with a nuclear deterrent of her own.

Somewhere in the middle of this international disagreement, Canada is playing politics. We drifted into the nuclear mess by buying nuclear weapons and then avoiding nuclear warheads: politics. We may have good reason now, in the light of America’s new nuclear strategy, to arm our main weapons with conventional warheads. Instead we arc leaving them unarmed while we debate nuclear warheads: politics, again. We have spent twenty-four billion dollars in the last eighteen years on a Canadian war machine. In 1963, instead of a clear and consistent defense policy, we have the prospect of more politics.

Defense, for Canada, begins with the harsh truth that we live on the battleground of World War III. Our arms and our alliances have failed if World War III breaks out; their most important job, now, is to help prevent thermonuclear war. That is also one of the reasons why we belong to NATO. Outside the Atlantic alliance we’re not strong enough to do anything about nuclear war one way or the other; inside the collective defense pact we add what force we have to the Western strength that stands off an

overt communist assault on our world. And the first principle of collective defense is that each member does the jobs that matter most to its own people, and the jobs it can do best. Somewhere along the line, certainly by the time they decided to arm Canadian airmen with a nuclear attack weapon, our politicians seem to have forgotten that these are the straightforward ground rules for any Canadian defense policy that makes sense. We have neither the wealth nor the technology to make or man nuclear attack missiles; that is the Americans' specialty, and as long as they employ it responsibly we’re lucky they’ve mastered it.

Before we can clean up the nuclear mess and start pulling all our weight in the Atlantic alliance, we will have to lay out a defense policy that recognizes this kind of sense. Here is what we have to work with: the balance sheet is drawn up from information and military opinion assembled by Macleans from sources in Ottawa.

Canada has 124,000 men and women under arms. This year's estimate for defense spending is $1.6 billion. (The U. S. totals are 2.7 million men and close to $60 billion.) Eighty-three percent of our military budget is used to maintain the men and weapons we have; seventeen percent is available for new equipment. Almost all the money we’ve spent on new weapons in the last four years — $685 million — has gone into our unarmed nuclear weapons.

In the decrepit wooden huts in downtown Ottawa that house our National Defense Headquarters this causes furrowed foreheads. The best of our military experts are not so much worried about whether we have nuclear warheads as they are about whether our conventional forces are as good as we can make them. These men tend to regard Canada’s armed forces as part of the West’s protection against what they call “nuclear escalation.” The case they make is that if we can meet conventional communist attacks anywhere, anytime, with precisely the right conventional counterattack, neither side will have reason to “escalate” to nuclear war. Their view, in other words, is close to the new “sword and shield" strategy in Washington.

The air machine

The RCAF has 48,600 uniformed men on the ground to keep thirty-four hundred airmen flying. This ratio, startling at first sight, is actually low compared to most NATO air forces. Our airmen fly thirteen hundred aircraft, ranging from Chipmunk trainers that can do well over a hundred miles an hour to CF-104 bombers that can do well over twice the speed of sound. (Speed burns the stenciled squadron-markings from the sides of the planes.)

The first squadron of CF-I04s is in the hands of its crew in

Europe — Blair Fraser’s accompanying article tells in detail why there is no doubt that it was intended to carry nuclear warheads. But there is no reason whatever why the planes cannot carry conventional bombs, which today are a great deal more deadly than the weapons that destroyed scores of European cities during World War II. If we do arm them with nuclear warheads and NATO then fights a conventional battle of the kind the new American strategy is aimed at, our CF-104s will be as useless as they are with no arms at all. They could, conceivably, be armed with both nuclear and conventional warheads during the time lag of perhaps two years while NATO’s arms are realigned to fit the new strategy. Until a decision is made one way or the other, the CF-104s are unarmed.

The RCAF’s chief weapon at home is the Voodoo fighter. We have sixty-four of them; they make up our section of NORAD’s fighter force, and they carry Falcon highexplosive rockets to use against manned bombers. (The 1,545 U. S. fighters under NORAD carry nuclear-tipped Genie missiles.) The fifty-six Bomarc missiles at two bases in Eastern Canada are under the same command. They can also carry either conventional or nuclear warheads; they have neither.

The Bomarc and the Voodoo are the cleanest part of the nuclear mess. Within a few years Russian technology will almost certainly have made manned bombers obsolete. These two antibomber weapons will be obsolete along with them — if they aren’t obsolete already, as U. S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara hinted recently that they may be. Until this year the U. S. kept nuclear teams standing by at Kincheloe in northern

Michigan, ready to fly to our Bomarc bases with nuclear warheads as soon as agreement came from Ottawa. The Pentagon has disbanded these teams, whether because the U. S. got fed up with Canadian procrastination or because the Bomarc isn’t much use any more is unknown.

At sea, the Maritime Air Command flies Canadian-built Argus bombers off the east coast and

U. S. - manufactured Neptunes off the west coast. Similar planes on similar missions in the U. S. are armed with atomic depth charges. Our aircraft can spot enemy submarines, but without atomic depth charges their chances of sinking them are not as good as the Americans’.

The land machine

The Canadian army has fifty-one

thousand men in uniform. Thirtyseven thousand of them can be classed as fighting soldiers. Eight thousand men are overseas: as well as the sixty - five - hundred - man Fourth Canadian Infantry Brigade with NATO in Europe, we have a three-hundred-man communications unit in the Congo, nine hundred men policing the Gaza strip, twenty-one officers serving as military instructors in Ghana, and other small detachments in Laos, Vietnam, Korea, Pakistan, France and the U. K.

Easily the best of our army units, and one of the best in the world, is our NATO brigade. Blair Fraser’s article describes their superb frontline conditioning; he also gives their reasons for not caring very much whether their four Honest John rocket launchers are armed with nuclear warheads or not. At the moment they’re not. (In this piece 1 have enclosed “tactical” in quotation marks when it refers to nuclear warheads. The present nuclear shells for the Honest John explode with three times the force of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. These weapons may be “tactical” to military strategists. To a man in street clothes they are city-killers.)

In Canada the army has three brigades with headquarters at Calgary; Petawawa, Ont.; and Gagetown, N.B. One of the brigades — made up of three infantry battalions, an armored regiment and an artillery regiment, along with various signalers, engineers and other specialists—is designated for the defense of Canada. The other two CONTINUED ON PAGE 60

CONTINUED ON PAGE 60

CANADA’S WAR MACHINE1

continued from page 17

Our one sane reason for arms: to make it hard for anybody to start a thermonuclear war

brigades provide training and rotation personnel. If an invader landed on Canadian territory, the army could fly in nine hundred paratroopers to fight off the intruders. Another three thousand troops are on call, but unless the enemy was operating near an airstrip they couldn't get down from the troop planes to fight.

The army has the lowest fund of the three services for purchasing new equipment — twenty-six million dollars this year. A new plastic water bottle for foot soldiers was introduced recently. The army treated the appearance of the bottle as news, since there was no other news. The only new weapons of any consequence the army is acquiring this year are the Bobcat (an amazingly versatile cross-country vehicle) and a fleet of light reconnaissance helicopters.

Since 1958 the army has kept a battalion at Valcartier, P.Q., on twenty - four - hour notice for such emergency duties as a UN police action. The UN has never asked it to go anywhere.

The sea machine

There are twenty-one thousand men in the RCN and fifty-one percent of them go to sea. This is a higher pro-

portion of sailors than cither the U. S. Navy or the Royal Navy reaches. Unlike our other services, the RC'N falls directly under NATO command if war breaks out. The naval vessels we have now would probably be outclassed in duels with nuclear submarines, but they’re judged to be among the West's most useful ships for tracking down and destroying conventional submarines. (The U.S.S.R. underwater fleet is estimated to number four hundred and sixty-five submarines, twelve of them nuclear.) We have one submarine of our own, for training submariners. We are trying to get three more from the U. K. If we get them, our submarine fleet might be as big as Bulgaria’s, although we have no guarantee that it will be as powerful.

The RCN has been building twenty destroyer escorts which will eventually be outfitted with highly sensitive submarine detection gear (like variable depth sonar) and all-weather antisubmarine helicopters. By 1970 the navy also intends to build eight thirtymillion-dollar frigates capable of carrying detachments of two hundred men each on amphibious operations. Navy designers have begun work on a two-hundred-ton prototype of a hydrofoil craft. If the prototype rides out its tests in North Atlantic storms, this might be the antisubmarine vessel of the future. It is designed to reach sixty knots — more than twice the speed of most destroyers.

Although the U. S. Navy carries nuclear depth charges and the RCN would be glad to get them, the navy is not now lobbying for nuclear weapons.

Altogether the three Canadian armed services keep 48,500 civil servants on their payrolls. At the height of World War II, when Canada had 3*^ million men and womenunder arms, the three services employed 44.636 civil servants. The comparison points to a reckless waste of men and money.

Two years ago the Treasury Board, an agency of the finance department which checks on all government expenditures. suggested in a confidential report that from ten to twenty thousand names could be dropped from defense department payrolls with no loss in efficiency. The public has not yet heard anything about the board’s findings.

That is our 1963 war machine. There is some waste built into it. and here and there it goes against common sense. These are clearly faults that can be fixed, if we are clear about why we're running a war machine at ail. There is only one sane reason for a Canadian war machine, and it bears repeating. That reason is to do everything we can to prevent nuclear war, by the only means that will work — taking on the jobs that are most important to us and that we can do best within the Atlantic alliance and within the UN.

Judged by these ground rules, the nuclear mess is a mistake that can be cleaned up by arming our Bomarcs. our CF-104S, and our Honest Johns with conventional warheads. Our original undertaking to arm them with nuclear warheads was made to the Americans; the Americans are now “freezing” tactical nuclear weapons because they believe conventional weapons will do the job better; we are no more involved in breaking a “contract” than the Americans themselves were when they decided to remove Jupiter missiles from Turkey and Italy.

We broke the ground rules of a clear and consistent Canadian defense policy when we took on the job of running a nuclear attack force in the first place. We have proven many times that we can send superb conventional fighting forces into the field. We can patrol our coasts and the Arctic attack route. We can man UN police actions, as we have a deserved reputation for doing with skill and honor. We can try. at least, to go just about anywhere and do just about anything that makes it a little harder for anybody to fire the first nuclear shot of World War 111. ★