Movement Should Work Towards An End To Canada's Role In NATO

By David Mandel and Eric Shragge | 1985-05-01 12:00:00

OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS the Canadian peace movement ~_ has succeeded in arousing public concern and mobilizing broad support for disarmament. But the cruise testing is going ahead, as is the installation of the US missiles in Western Europe. The Peace Petition Caravan Campaign deposited its 400,000 signatures with Parliament, but was not able to force a debate of its rather limited demands. Consequently, there is no clear, highly visible issue, like that of cruise testing, to galvanize opinion during the present discussion of a national peace alliance.

Canada's participation in NATO is a central feature of its foreign policy. Some in the peace movement have argued for a more prominent and critical role within this organization. However, in our view such an approach merely plays into the hands of the Canadian government, which argues that to be able to influence NATO policy Canada must first show itself a loyal member that carries its share of the "defense" burden.

One must keep in mind what NATO is and why it was established. First and foremost, NATO is a US-dominated military alliance based upon the myth of the "Soviet threat to the free world". This myth rests on nothing more real that the "worst-case scenario" that the Soviet Union might be harbouring aggressive designs against Western Europe. It is this myth that justifies the most criminal squandering of wealth during a time of mass unemployment, cuts in social spending and starvation in the Third World.

But NATO is also more than a US dominated military alliance, it embraces the principles of "nuclear superiority", the possibility of limited nuclear war, no first use of nuclear weapons, and a counterforce strategy, all of which have been and remain central NATO policies. And Canada supports these policies. If it did not, it would be impossible for it to remain in NATO.

Moreover, Canada's support for these NATO policies is not passive -- witness their country's testing of the cruise, its voting pattern in the UN and its concern with meeting its NA I Q obligations. Canada's pretensions (downplayed under Mulroney) as a mediator between the US and its adversaries, big and small, appear farcical in this light.

The European disarmament movement has succeeded in undermining both the credibility of NATO as a defensive alliance and the logic of the cold war. We in Canada should follow this same direction by challenging the ideological, economic and political underpinning of the arms race. This implies working for a basic reorientation of Canada's foreign policy, a goal which, in turn, will require far-reaching economic and political changes.

Canada's expanding arms industry is heavily tied into export to the US market. A shift in foreign policy would have obvious consequences here. Peace groups must discuss these issues with the trade union movement and encourage workers in the military sector to participate in plans for the conversion of military to socially useful production. (In Québec, the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) has already committed itself to work in this direction.)

Canada's withdrawal from NATO would greatly strengthen these forces in the smaller member countries, such as Spain, Greece, Holland and Belgium, which are fighting against US and NATO militarism, and its economic and political consequences. It would also put an end to the polarization of world politics that the cold warriors strive so hard to preserve in order to justify their policies of nuclear escalation and aggression in the Third World.

As noted previously, NATO policy orts Drenaration for limited nuclear war and the deployment of counterforce weapons. It also seeks "nuclear superiority" and specifically calls for first strike as a direct escalation from conventional warfare. In recent months, as a response to the largely discredited policies attached to nuclear weapons, especially in Europe, NATO has begun to emphasize conventional weaponry, which has become extremely sophisticated and destructive. This is not a shift to a less dangerous or to a more defensive strategy, but a new escalation in the arms race and an integration of offensive military strategy with nuclear weaponry.

In our educational efforts, we should he precise about Canada's support of these dangerous and criminal NATO policies. In this way, fear and anger can be productively channeled into a political program that strikes at the real and deep causes of the arms race.

Another issue of importance to the Canadian peace movement is the struggle against US intervention in Central America. It is here that the concrete issues of war and peace are currently being played out. We should demand an end to US intervention in the region and a clear stand by the Canadian government in favour of the rights of people to self-determination and to social and political justice. It is here especially that the increasingly intimate relationship between Canada and the US must be challenged. As a first .step toward building a broad opposition, peace groups should forge links with already existing anti-interventionist organizations.

Military production is a third central issue. An important facet of our relation ship with the US is the regulation of our arms production and trade by the Defence Production Sharing Arrangement (DPSA). Through DPSA, the boom in the US military sector has spilled over into Canada. The peace movement must explain that this is not only a politically and morally unacceptable way to create jobs, but it is also economically unsound.

A fourth objective of the Canadian peace movement should be an examination of the precise objective of Canada's current "rearmament" program and of its "NATO obligations." The North Atlantic Alternative Network has drawn attention to the nuclear and conventional build-up in the North Atlantic which is aimed at threatening the Soviet Union in its very home bases. What is the role of Canada's naval programme in this? It is surely not a simple question of "modernization" but of active participation in new and extremely dangerous policies. The close links between the present Canadian armed forces build up and NATO and US strategies have to be brought out clearly.

The program we have proposed for the Canadian peace movement moves from opposition to the arms race as such to a direct challenge to the Canadian state's military alliances and broader foreign policy orientations, of which its participation in the arms race is only the most obviously objectionable aspect. The analysis on which this proposed program is based must be extended to the relation ships between Canada's foreign policy and its socio-economic and political structures. Such an analysis will highlight the need for a broad alliance with groups in solidarity with liberation movements in the Third World as well as with groups and movements - women, labour, youth etc. - struggling for a more just and democratic society in Canada itself.

Peace Magazine May 1985

Peace Magazine May 1985, page 28. Some rights reserved.

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