Major-General (ret’d) Len Johnson was a great inspiration to us in the Pugwash movement, both in Canada and internationally. He had a unique combination of military expertise and peace activism – which I later saw combined with spirituality. He could argue for nuclear disarmament with conviction and direct experience. He built a wonderful relationship with one of the pioneers of peace research, Anatol Rapoport, and even secured an honorary doctorate for the pacifist at the Royal Military College of Canada.
That relationship helped forge links between Science for Peace (where Rapoport was President) and Canadian Pugwash (where Johnson was chair). He brought new thinking to our nation’s military leaders as Commandant (1980-84) of the National Defence College (NDC). When visitors come to visit me at the Canadian Forces College, I often point to his picture at the hallway containing NDC official portraits, and I praise his book “A General for Peace.”
He was so committed to his cause that he ran for federal parliament in the 1988 election, making so many good points as the Cold War was ending but so many others did not know it. The NDP proudly adopted “their general.”
So many of his world views have borne out in world affairs. He was on the right side of history. Those of us who interacted with him drew strength from his convictions and activism. We owe him immensely. He exerted a powerful peaceful influence on my own maturation in international affairs. The world has lost one of its great generals for peace.
Dr Walter Dorn is Professor of Defence Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces College. At the Canadian Forces College, he serves as the Chair of the Department of Security and International Affairs. He is also Vice Chair of the Canadian Pugwash Group.