Book Reviews

‘Militarism and the Quality of Life’ by Alex Michalos, Canadian Papers in Peace Studies, 1989 No. 1, Samuel Stevens, Toronto, 1989, 55 pp. Reviewed by John McMurtry.

This is a valuable book. Its author is an internationally recognized researcher in quality of life and social indicators, and brings his analytic expertise to bear on the world’s greatest enemy to quality of life and social development, the armed-force system of war and defense. The result is a crisply clear and quantified critique of Canadian military expenditures and armaments production and export, in the context of federal government expenditures in other sectors.

The monograph has seven chapters: I, an introduction grounding the book on two UN General Assembly recommendations for public education on the costs of military preparations and the benefits of reallocating them to civilian use; II, an overview of the comparative social well-being of Canada and the US related to their military expenditures; III, a comparative review of Canadian federal military and social expenditures from 1974-86; IV, a summary of available information on Canadian production and export of armaments; V, arguments against Canada’s production and export of arms; VI, replies to arguments for such production and export; and VII, a brief summary on the ‘legitimate role of Canada’s military establishment.’

The argument is concise and systematic with a useful survey of the relevant facts and works in the areas analysed. Those who keep files of such things will find this a very convenient integrator of information. They will also find the capsule summary of pro-and-con arguments on Canada’s military expenditures the best available in Canadian political discourse. It is required reading for all those loyal NATO lovers still living in clouds of Cold-War glory, and a compendious resource for the rest of us.

Here are some of the more illuminating points in the book.

*In 1984 figures, Canada was ‘better off than the United States in socioeconomic standings generally and in military expenditures’ (p.4). Canada’s military expenditures rose almost 400% between 1974 and 1988 (p.7), and armed-force spending is ‘typically greater than 13 of the 16 substantive functional areas (of federal government spending’) (p.10). Defense production generates ‘considerably less than 1%’ of employment in almost all provinces, and never more than 1%.

  • Total Canadian exports of arms ‘has consistently exceeded domestic demand by large amounts’
  • ‘There have been more than 150 wars since 1945 fought in the developing countries, resulting in more deaths than the Second World War’ (p.18). (This figure, estimated at 20 million on p.34, surely underrates the death count of the Second World War, which exceeded 20 million for the Soviet Union alone.) Canada’s share of arms sales to the third world may have accounted for about 200,000 of those deaths (p.34).
  • ‘Fifty percent of all natural scientists work directly or indirectly for military purposes’ (p.18). * ‘Canada’s Department of National Defense has seen steadily increasing funds for research and development directed contracts in Canadian industry …In the last ten years the expansion has been sevenfold’ (p. 19 — a direct quotation from former Defence Minister Perrin Beatty).

Arms production and purchase are characterized by high costs, relatively low productivity, inflationary effects, economic slowdown in civilian sectors, international indebtedness for purchasers, reduction of social services provided by governments, and undermining of democratic political processes (pp. 19-23, 38). ‘Ninety-eight percent of the members of the (US) National Academy of Sciences in fields most relevant to SDI research believed that SDI could not provide an effective defense of the US civilian population’ (p.24). In a 1988 North-South Institute survey, only 6.2% of the Canadian population thought that ‘increasing the size of the armed forces’ would be ‘most effective in increasing Canada’s influence internationally’ (p.27). The much-vaunted recent Federal government plan for purchasing nuclear submarines to patrol Canadian Arctic waters was, in fact, ‘to participate in the United States Navy’s Forward Maritime Strategy’ (p.32). Canada’s ‘relatively insignificant involvement in the production and export of arms’ is, in fact, about the same as ‘the country’s expenses on community colleges’ and ’6 times the Federal government’s expenditure on the environment’ (pp. 34-5). ‘There is a correlation between increases in the numbers of conventional weapons in Third World countries and wars (p.36). Canada’s export of arms to the US involves a ‘net drain on the balance of payments’ because US parent firms in Canada take much of their profits back to the US, and have a much higher tendency to import machinery and parts than do domestic Canadian firms (p.37). Military spending by the Canadian government creates only two fifths as many jobs as education spending, and only one quarter as many jobs as expenditures on urban transit (p.39). There is an ‘inverse relationship between military expenditures as a percent of GNP and annual rates of manufacturing growth’ internationally (pp. 40-1). Finally, ‘we should not allow ourselves to be increasingly militarized in the interest of feeding American paranoia or an irrational military-industrial complex’ (p.44) — most plainly, one might add, in these times of sweeping Warsaw Pact demilitarization. Yet despite all these facts demonstrating the absurdity of Canada’s military spending, against what is ever more obviously an invented enemy, the government has just raised its planned military expenditures by 10% over the next 2 years while cutting back post-secondary education spending by the equivalent of the total support of three Universities over the same period.

So there is no shortage of need these days to prod the Canadian government into demilitarization. Perhaps starting with the $1 billion it spends in keeping troops on another continent where the enemy they are intended to deter no longer exists.

‘World Military and Social Expenditures 1989’, 13th Edition, compiled by Ruth Leger Sivard. Available from CAAT, 11 Goodwin Street, London N4311Q for $5.92 inc. p&p.

This book is a stunning (in more than one sense) assemblage of facts on the world’s predicament. There are numerous useful graphs, charts and tables; e.g., ‘Military control and repression in the Third World 1988’; ‘Wars and war-related deaths 1945-1989’; ‘Battlefields of 1989’, which complement the array of statistics and the analysis contained in the text. This edition also features a comprehensive section on the state of the world’s health, plus an extensive statistical annex including comparative human resources and public expenditures for 142 countries. Although Sivard introduces a note of cautious optimism in the summary, (Tor the first year in 31 years no new wars started’) she amply demonstrates that the world is still in an appalling state. (World military expenditures are still at record levels’.) This book is one of the most important reference works for peaceworkers.

Source: National Peace Council Monthly Mailing Service, November-December 1989

‘Peace-keeping Satellites’, Walter H. Dorn, Peace Research Institute, Dundas, Canada, 1987, 182 pp., $8.00.

This book sets out the case for international surveillance and verification by satellites. A peacekeeping satellite is defined as an observation satellite operated under the aegis of the international community which could be used for one or more of the following functions: (i) verifying international treaties, in particular arms control and disarmament treaties; (ii) monitoring conflicts or crises; (iii) supporting peace-keeping operations, such as those performed by the United Nations; and (iv) predicting and managing natural catastrophes.

Walter Dorn, a Canadian science graduate, has long been associated with peace research activities. This book is an excellent overview of the current state of the debate. Indeed, in terms of finding a comparatively short and yet detailed study of the current issues, I think this is the best book available.

Interest in satellite verification has emerged with increased information about the capacity of the military satellites. Satellite surveillance is one of the most sensitive areas of the military use of outer space. The average person would be stunned by the progress made in satellite capabilities. It has been claimed that it is even possible for a satellite to photograph the headlines of this morning’s newspaper; the United States is able to monitor telephone calls from outer space.

It seems a waste that so much expertise and hardware should be developed for superpower purposes of preparing to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the other side, or at the very least of monitoring whether or not the other side intends to attack. Consequently, for well over a decade, various proposals have been made for some form of international satellite monitoring agency.

As Dorn points out, various people can claim to have initiated the idea of using satellites for peace. For example, Colonel Howard Kurtz and his late wife the Revd Harriet Kurtz in the USA set out proposals in the 1960s — they could see even at that time that there should be alternatives to the military developments of satellites. In 1978, France proposed an International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA) at the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament — a friend of the Kurtz family had been able to bring to the attention of the French Government the Kurtz’ research on this matter. In this subject, science is running well ahead of politics. It is clear that the satellites can already be used for peaceful purposes. The problem, however, is one of generating the necessary political will. One of the values of this book is that it encourages people to campaign for the creation of an international surveillance and verification system. Additionally, the Canadian Government has itself developed satellites for peaceful purposes; it is not necessary for progress to be made only through the UN.

In short, this is a very stimulating and encouraging book. It has caught the new mood within the peace movement: to move away from setting out the problem to presenting some of the solutions. The book is written in a style which is suitable for the concerned lay person; it is itself a model for other scientists to follow as a way of communicating ideas to the general public.

Keith D. Suter,
Foundation Director,
Trinity Peace Research Institute,
Perth, Western Australia 6000

‘International Comprehensive Arms Control and Disarmament Process — an Exploratory Study’, Arnold Simoni, Centre for International and Strategic Studies, York University, 1990, Canada.

The central premise in Simoni’s paper is that the whole question of arms control and disarmament has become extremely complex and is likely to become much more complex due to a number of factors, such as proliferation of the possession of nuclear weaponry, destabilization of national governments ( as in Eastern Europe), growing scarcity of natural resources, etc. From this perspective the likelihood of some crisis arising, such as an accidental exchange between superpowers or perhaps even a pre-meditated attack of a smaller nuclear power on a neighbour or on a perceived implacable enemy, is very substantial, and the extent of such a disaster is likely to be very great if its occurrence has not been anticipated, in principle, and its consequences and resolution assessed beforehand. Simoni believes it is essential to be realistic about such risks and to study the situation objectively before a crisis happens rather than trying to deal with it in the panic of the crisis itself. To this end he proposes that an international project be initiated, using expertise from many countries and organized into special study groups to search for ways in which problems can be anticipated, resources harnessed and methods developed for resolution. An essential point according to Simoni is that these problems should be thought about from an international perspective.

One point in Simoni’s thesis is that if, despite efforts to secure the peace and avoid crises of major proportions, a crisis actually occurs, it would be wise to treat it as as a learning situation, but to do so it is necessary to have thought its nature and consequences out beforehand to minimize the disadvantages and maximize any advantages that might accrue. A concern with this point of view is that recognizing that some advantages might accrue from a fairly major crisis might in itself tend to insure that such a crisis will in fact develop. There are two sides to the argument: whether a time of crisis correlates with fluidity in thinking so that it is a time of opportunity or whether it correlates with frozen attitudes that ignore opportunity. Perhaps Simoni’s point is that the fluidity is more in the realm of experience and that the thinking must be done ahead of time, which is what he proposes in his project.

A problem with Simoni’s project is that it would be rather slow in unfolding, typical of many academically oriented projects, whereas the time scale of events could be rather short. Nonetheless, a project can be fulfilling useful objectives simply as a process without stressing too much specific final outcomes. We are into a rather new and different era in human relationships at all levels from individual to national to international, so that history alone may not give us much guidance. Peace is not just the absence of war in the modern context, but carries with it connotations of survival with justice and dignity and in harmony with nature. It is a time for new visions of what is necessary and what is possible. Simoni’s proposal does not obviate the need to pursue peace and justice through present channels and forums, but should be regarded as a complementary activity which at a minimum would help to provide information and examine options and consequences. The essential thing is that there is a great need for creative thinking and for some degree of realistic planning at the global level. A preliminary to action is consciousness raising. The present concern with environmental issues provides an informative example. Internationally commissioned studies on such questions as the limits to deterrence, the value of regional control over security measures, non-offensive defense, the economics of military technology, and military to civilian conversion, cannot help but increase our chances of survival, both in their own right and in the broader sense of consciousness raising at both local and global levels.

Lynn Trainor, Physics Department, University of Toronto.

New in April: Accidental Nuclear War Proceedings of the Eighteenth Pugwash Workshop on Nuclear Forces, eds. Derek Paul, Michael D. Intriligator, and Paul Smoker (Science for Peace/Samuel Stevens, 1990) $10. (from SfP office) This book is the first publication by Science for Peace that is a collaboration with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. We are also offering a special pre-publication price of $120 for 20 copies.