Doing a Finland

By Shirley Farlinger | 1986-06-01 12:00:00

The man is Gwynne Dyer and the policy he is selling is something he calls "doing a Finland." You heard Dyer's authoritative voice narrating the 8-hour War series on CBC. Perhaps you saw his name first in your daily paper; his political column is syndicated in 250 newspapers, 50 of them in the United States.

His War series became popular in Canada and then in the United States, thanks to PBS. He summed it all up in a book, War, written from his home in London, England. Then the CBC came along and asked Dyer to take the logic of the War series and get down to specifics about what Canada's foreign policy should be. To "drop the other shoe."

The analysis of the War series was that "war is an institution, and alliances a pernicious aspect of that institution" which could lead to World War III.

he conclusions from his research for "The Defence of Canada," the subsequent series, were a surprise even to Dyer. At first pessimistic, he set out to get the facts, impose order on them and come up with some options.

"Finlandization" is a cold word for becoming too subservient to the wishes of your local superpower. Dyer points out the word might better be Canadianization. "We cooperate far more closely with the Americans than the Finns do with the Soviet Union," he says. Finland has signed a pact with Russia -- they will guarantee to prevent any attack on Russia across Finnish land or air space in return for not having any Russian troops stationed on Finnish soil. If Finland finds that it is unable to stop an attack then, and only then, will it call on Russia for help. Could this work in Canada?

Before going for the Finnish model perhaps we should decide if we can trust the salesman.

Gwynne Dyer, age 43, describes himself as a cynical journalist who doesn't want to become a cult figure. Like all good television anchormen, Dyer has credibility. It's partly the steady brown eyes and measured unaccented voice. It's partly his education. He has a B.A. from Memorial U. (Nwfld.), an M.A. from Rice U. (Texas) and a Ph.D. from the University of London (U.K.) in war studies. His blowing strands of unmilitary hair hark back to his native Newfoundland. His leather jacket and boots are World War I flying ace stuff, while the beard is leftover Hippie. Somehow it still looks credible. He has served in three navies but does not call himself a veteran. He belongs to no peace groups and supports no political parties. His wife, Clare, is also a journalist and they live in London with their twin sons, Owen and Evan, who own hunting rifles. Sipping red wine in the lounge of a Vancouver hotel, Dyer explains that he is tired after five solid years of television series production, writing and lecturing at military colleges on strategy.

The strategy he's advising for Canada is part of a step by step process. "Short of moving to Mars or an outbreak of universal love," he says, "we can't get rid of our armed forces because we must provide guarantees to the Americans that our territory won't be used against them."

Finland also has a long border with a superpower: 1000 miles contiguous with the USSR. It is a strategic territory in the military sense and is a middle power. Finland is also a capitalist democracy but has chosen to be neutral. "Canadians," says Dyer, "are just as practical as the Finns. We live beside Americans so we have agreed to fight the Russians."

In some ways we are not like the Finns.

"We climbed in bed with the Americans because it was comfortable and because we're so much alike," he says. inns keep as distant as possible from the Russians because there's a huge gulf between their social and political systems and their outlook on the world." The Finns can do this in peacetime but there's little either they or Canadians could do in wartime. "The Americans would get our cooperation one way or another in an emergency," Dyer states. But this is supposedly peacetime.

Now is the best, and maybe only time, for Canada to change its policies. "If we just walked out of NATO and NORAD this could be a catalyst for dissolving the alliances; other nations might follow. "Nobody has a stronger reason than Canada for doing this," Dyer says, "because it's only the existence of these alliances that makes us a target for anybody's missiles. The next world war, if it comes, will destroy Canada."

Dyer is a military analyst who lectures at military colleges. His analysis concludes, "Canada is part of the nuclear war machine. Our pilots at Cold Lake are part of a nuclear war strategy, whether they know it or not. All Canadian governments have always tried to present Canadian policy, especially NORAD, as something apart from American nuclear strategy. But NORAD's fundamental purpose was always to deal with Soviet retaliation after a U.S. first strike." Then came the years of detente and the ABM Treaty. Now SDI and the claims of providing a nuclear missile shield over the U.S. make NORAD a crucial component again. "SDI cannot protect against low-level bombers or cruise missiles. So SDI, if it makes sense at all, makes no sense unless there is also air defense. That's where all the renewed interest in Canada comes in," according to Dyer.

"At least in the minds of some overheated American imaginations, SDI," says Dyer, "is recreating the possibility of defence against a Soviet retaliation. This technology is pushing NORAD into the nasty bits that we Canadians don't want to be directly involved with, the offensive side of nuclear strategy. Canadian bases and territory are intimately involved with the possibility, no matter how remote of an American first strike." Hense we must have the North Warning Line, and northern deployment airfields like Whitehorse in the Yukon for U.S. interceptor fighter squadrons. "This is the consequence of the Star Wars program," claims Dyer. Whitehorse is on the front line.

The American attitude to all this is quite different from Canada's, Dyer notes. In the U.S. the debate on the new "Gee Whiz" technology is on cost and whether it will work. "It's distributing contracts in every state of the union and building a lobby for jobs and commercial clientele to preserve Star Wars through congressional pressure even after the Reagan administration is gone," says Dyer. Where the debate has not gone is to 'What is all this for?'

"The concept of an astrodome over the U.S. is clearly nonsense," says Dyer, "the strategy is about a first strike and nuclear superiority." Dyer gives the definition of military superiority is the ability to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons and survive.

The ease with which the U.S. has integrated Canada into this strategy is remarkable.

It starts with President Reagan hooking us emotionally with speeches stating "above all we're friends and friends we shall always be." Dyer is not taken in. "The U.S. is not our enemy but it's not our friend either. Great powers don't have friends, they only have interests, and we're one of America's interests". The importance of being loyal to our alliances is continually stressed and Dyer admits that Canadians are accustomed to alliances even though they have usually led to war. The Pentagon controls the context for the discussion of defence issues in Canada, and the Pentagon does not tell Canada the whole story. "It was William Arkin in the United States who uncovered the Pentagon's plans for placing nuclear depth charges in Canadian harbors in times of crisis and this was news to our parliament, if not to most of our armed forces. In fact it was officially denied," Dyer says. We prefer to think that we've had the same defence policy for 35 years, that we have clean hands.

here's a deliberate ploy of keeping a low profile. Not everybody at the Department of National Defence goes to work in uniform every day, because you'd see too many soldiers in Ottawa. They rotate one day a week," says Dyer. "Keeping a low profile extends to placing our bases in inconspicuous spots like Petawana, Chilliwack, Pembroke."

Dyer doesn't blame the armed forces. "They're not fools and they're not criminals," he says. "They're doing effectively what we ask them to do." The question is, did we ask them to defend Canada or to help the U.S. be number one? Many of Canada's future military commanders whom he lectures at Royal Military College question Canada's defence policy. But they do it in private or after retirement.

"Almost all we do in defence is in pursuit of American strategic objectives. Our armed forces are not designed to defend Canada. We have a navy which does nothing but anti-submarine strategy. It couldn't do anything else." For instance, the Canadian Pacific fleet is being upgraded, according to Dyer, to protect the U.S. nuclear sumarine base in Puget Sound. The American influence is "immense and permanent," he says. Cooperation also happens at an informal level, at constant joint Board of Defence meetings in Colorado Springs where the players are drinking buddies.

Finlandization would completely alter this "Yes Massa" obedience. We would make a deal with the U.S. to guarantee that there would be no invasion of their territory from the direction of Canada. If such an attack occurred and we were unable to stop it then, and only then, would we invite the U.S. into help us fight the enemy. Dyer assumes that Canada would never be invaded across the tundra, so we wouldn't need the mobilization that Finland has -- 600,000 soldiers out of a population of 5 million. "For Canada land invasion is not likely," Dyer claims. "Most of our effort would go into controlling our skies and seas."

Canada cannot, in Dyer's view, get rid of its armed forces. "We must provide guarantees to the Americans that our territory won't be used against them." It might take fewer military personnel but more money for appropriate surveillance, ships, and planes. And it would be non-nuclear, Dyer says. "The armed forces, except perhaps the Air Force who bomb from a distance, hate and fear nuclear weapons."

"We would save the cost of our troops in Europe (where about half of our 83,000 military personnel are stationed) so we'd probably come out about even," he claims. "It could be expensive if the U.S. tried to punish us economically or by other means. It couldn't succeed at all unless we found some way of making the U.N. work, of common security."

There are other costs. "If we pulled out of NATO the U.S. would get very cross. We would lose our most favored nation treatment. We are there partly as a cover: Better to have two non-European nations in NATO than just the U.S. And, of course, Canadian forces like to be part of the European scene, part of the big game. "Nobody likes to be frozen out." he says. Finlandization would take the most delightful postings away. In fact, nuclear arms makes the military profession almost irrelevant. Even though, as Dyer puts it, young men join up because they like things that go bang, certainly in Canada and the U.K. they are encouraged to think through their profession. They have an awesome duty.

Dyer agrees with Professor Ursula Franklin that if we didn't have Russia for an enemy we would have to find another. What is it that drives the machine? "The political right is not as large or united as you think, but they have a good deal of history on their side and the big guns are always on the side of the status quo," says Dyer.

According to Tina Viljoen, Dyers' collaborator, one debate being ignored by the national media is the issue of Litton and Thyssen military production plants' going into the Maritimes. "Jobs at any cost, economics versus morality," she says.

Another missing debate is about the sale of uranium--a very hot topic in Australia. Notes Dyer, "I don't know where Saskatchewan uranium gets sold. I just hope the government knows because there's a lot of uranium floating around the world that is ending up in hands you'd rather not have it in. We got burned on this before with the Candu in India," Dyer recalls. "We gave them the technology for the 1974 'peaceful' nuclear explosion which set off the arms race in the subcontinent." The old jobs issue is also used to promote uranium production, adds Tina.

Although he calls the military-industrial complex 'pernicious and all pervasive' and believes it tends to drive the day-to-day strategy, Dyer doesn't think that it is the engine that drives the whole machine. "The dollars that feed the monster come through the government from the taxpayer. Of course it's got a wonderful P.R. machine which tells you how important jobs are and so on," says Dyer. "In the end it's the idea that we must be militarily involved in the existing confrontations, the fear and the perceptions that persuade the population at large to accept the myths and vote the dollars that feed the monster. Then there's feedback because they have the dollars to buy your opinions with." Catch $22.

"Conversion is possible," Dyer asserts. "We do it all the time in other areas. When some technology becomes out of date you re-deploy the people. Getting out of military production is really a function of deciding you don't need the product. And the rest is just very difficult, but do-able."

Finlandization won't get us out of military production. We would have to produce or buy what we need for Canada's defence. And it won't reduce the defence budget. Dyer estimates that it would cost about the same because it would eliminate the cost of keeping troops in NATO but increase costs at home. We would still need surveillance but not the fancy North Warning System, price tag $7 billion--12 percent to be paid by Canada. A system, by the way, which won't create jobs because it will be largely unmanned.

Dyer did not start out to sell us the Finland model, but he rejected civilian defence, passive resistance, or civil disobedience because he doesn't believe Canada faces physical occupation. "When nuclear war is going on over your head, you don't resist gamma rays very well," he says.

Changing our foreign policy will take nerve. Dyer likened it to standing up to Hitler in Germany in the 30s. "It's just as hard for nations to swim against the tide, and the same logic applies," he says. He tried to make this comparison in the ending of the Defence of Canada series but "when CBC saw the footage, they had a heart attack," he says. Peace Magazine is not as prone to cardiac arrest. The ending that CBC cut showed Dyer on location in Germany at the concentration camp of Dachau repeating Pastor Neimoeller's famous words, "When they came for the Communists, I wasn't a Communist, so I didn't protest. When they came for the Jews, I didn't protest--I wasn't Jewish. When they came for the Catholics, I didn't protest. When they came for me, there was no one left to protest."

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1986

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1986, page 16. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by Shirley Farlinger here

Peace Magazine homepage