Remarks at a Citizens' Inquiry into Peace and Security

The ever-tightening interdependence of all local economies, demographies, and security concerns has made all major human problems global problems. Awareness of this interdependence and a conviction that global problems can be solved only by global efforts could be called globalism. Globalism should not be confused with globalization, the name sometimes given to the activities of large corporations transcending national boundaries. Globalization is invariably associated with concentration of accumulated economic power, and therefore of power over populations, especially the destitute and helpless ones. Globalism, as I will use the term, implies a diffusion of power, among people who are directly affected by its application. Globalism implies democracy on the global scale.

Since globalism implies a certain scope of awareness, it can be proselytized. Canada is in a specially favourable position to be a proselytizer of globalism for two reasons: its position as a ‘middle power’ and its close ties to the United States.

The middle powers are in a favourable position to press for the establishment of a world order based on the rule of law rather than on force, and also on a world order based on collective solidarity rather than on the anarchy of realpolitik. Middle powers should use all the influence they can muster to enhance the authority and prestige of the United Nations, in particular of the International Court of Justice. Not being ‘great powers’, the middle powers will ordinarily not be tempted to throw their weight around and to rationalize strong arm tactics by appeal to the prerogatives of the mighty. On the other hand, not being small and weak, they can hardly be accused of appealing to the rule of law simply as a matter of protecting themselves against the strong and ruthless.

Until last fall, Canada was a middle power enjoying a fairly justified reputation as a peace keeper and hence was in an especially favourable position to act as a proponent of the rule of law on the global scale. Unfortunately, Canada’s reputation as a peace keeper was seriously impaired when Canada immediately followed the lead of the United States in escalating the Gulf crisis. The horrendously destructive Gulf war broke out largely as a result of provocative actions by the US in the form of mounting threats which cut off ways of punishing Sad-dam Hussein’s aggression without shedding innocent blood.

There is a positive and a negative side to the tight US-Canada alliance. An alliance is a commitment to cooperation. If Canada is committed to globalism, the content of its cooperation with the US should enhance globalism. But the actions of the US have frequently been a major obstacle to solutions of global problems. The US has frequently flouted international law and its own treaty obligations, has participated in and, at times, deliberately escalated an arms race that for two generations diverted human and material resources into the bottomless pit of death technology. It is imperative that, while preserving the readiness to cooperate closely with the US on matters promoting genuine security and human welfare, Canada categorically and explicitly dissociate itself from the arrogance, callousness, and pugnacity that have characterized US actions throughout the Cold War and have, if anything, intensified after what the American establishment interprets as a ‘victory over communism’. The probability that Canada can induce the US to change its ways is slight. But by dissociating itself from power-oriented policies, Canada will contribute to the spread and prestige of globalism.

The demise of communism did not make the three cardinal global problems go away. On the contrary, it increased awareness of their urgency. The three problems are still: the threat of sudden annihilation by way of total destruction, the threat of a degraded environment no longer able to support human life, and the threat of new sources of global violence generated by the disparity between the affluent and the destitute worlds. Our recommendations to Canada are to come realistically and energetically to grips with these problems.

  1. Now that no conceivable justification has remained for the continued threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical arsenals to the human race, Canada should mobilize all its prestige and diplomatic skills toward instituting immediate, concrete procedures with the aim of destroying all genocidal weapons and preventing their development and production for all time. Preferably the US should be induced to change its present stance on this issue. But if it refuses Canada should unequivocally oppose it in the United Nations and in all international efforts to implement this programme. In particular, Canada should not hesitate to expose the shabby rationalizations of the continuing threats and obstacles to global security.
  2. Environmental protection and environmental recovery should be among the central goals of Canadian policies, foreign and domestic. In designing environmental policies, the tight interdependence of all the components of the environment should be kept in mind: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the geosphere, and the biosphere. Among these components is also a global fund of human resources. It, too, is threatened by degradation by being squandered on futile or destructive efforts and by being perverted by addictions to anti-human, self-destructive ideologies.
  3. Even as the danger of war between countries of the developed world becomes remote, it should be kept in mind that the chronic violence in the Third World is likely to remain unabated in the immediate future. The roots of that violence should be clearly perceived. Among them is the continuing exploitative relationship between the affluent and the impoverished worlds. Partnership should replace both exploitation and paternalistic charity as the basis of the relationship between the developed and the developing worlds. The aim of aid to the Third World should be support of sustainable development. In the pursuit of this objective, the choice of partners should be decoupled from considerations related to commercial advantage and also from those related to geopolitics. The choice of partners should be consistent with the support of sustainable development and its goals — the development of a just social order. Countries with regimes genuinely devoted to these goals should be the preferred partners. Arms trade is a particularly vicious form of exploitation of the poor peoples. Canada should work tirelessly and uncompromisingly for total prohibition of arms trade. Its present role as a host of obscene international fairs of killing technology and as the world’s leading test area of this technology is totally incompatible with its reputation as a peace keeper. This (latter) role should not be abandoned.
  4. All of us should work toward welding a broad coalition of Canadians determined to cope energetically and intelligently with the paramount global problems of our age.

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)