A Brief Review of a Brief's Review

Peacekeeping: aspiration vs. activity; “classical” vs. “current” or “second generation”; military vs. civilian; armed vs. unarmed.., how many ways can it be cut? How does one set standards? What is a “clear and practical mandate”? “Clear” to whom? – To the Secretary-General, the Security Council, the field commander? – And clear for how long? Mandates seem to creep, cease-fires to expire. Rigid prose, fluid circumstance.

Under Henry Wiseman’s expert guidance-cum analysis, the multidimensional and amorphous nature of peace-keeping (a household word!) was explored by a group of 21 members and friends of Science for Peace assembled around the big oval table at Croft Chapter House, University College, U of T, on the evening of 11 November. As is usual in any successful enquiry, we emerged with more questions than answers.

The point of departure was the thirteen-page brief Canada’s Security: Threats and Responses, prepared and presented in June `94 to the joint parliamentary committee reviewing Canada’s defence policy by the Defence Policy Advisory Group of Science for Peace. The goals of the gathering were self-education, the identification of those views or recommendations set forth in the brief which are widely shared within Science for Peace, and preparation for an informed and coherent response to the DND’s forthcoming white paper.

[The need for education was manifest: Not only some of its critics but some of its authors were found to be imperfectly aware of the brief’s contents!]

Al Slavin, whose chairmanship made the evening a success, early described some imaginative group dynamics designed to assist us in identifying and perhaps ranking the most favoured ideas. But the group resisted these. Al gracefully conceded, and deftly steered us through the long evening in sustained plenary session.

It is possible that out of the November 11th seance may come a benefit unsought by its planners, but one which Henry Wiseman appeared to urge and did provide substance for: a Science for Peace Working Group — possibly a subgroup of that on UN Reform — on Peacekeeping Reform. Whether this comes about depends, of course, on you. So does the preparation of a response to the White Paper.

In fact, everything does.

Derek Paul has contributed the following comment:

Subsequently we noted the following paragraph published in The Globe and Mail editorial 17 November, in an article devoted to foreign policy:

“Defence: The challenge here is paring priorities to two: defending national sovereignty and maintaining a commitment to peacekeeping. Both would see an end to a general-purpose armed forces. This means substantial reductions in naval equipment and possibly the elimination of the operational fighter aircraft fleet. It should also mean better equipment and more training for an army suited to international peacekeeping.”

This looks to us very much like the position presented to the Parliamentary Committee reviewing defence policy by Terry Gardner and Jim Prentice, two of the authors of the brief Canada’s Security: Threats and Responses, submitted to that Committee. It should be noted that the Committee gave this rather novel position short shrift at the time; but perhaps the position is rapidly acquiring new adherents.