In recent months, the National Post has begun to repeatedly insist that Canada is in danger of becoming a single-party state. The observation is arguably true, but only because two other democratic parties have failed to end the impasse that has given Jean Chretien three consecutive undeserved majority governments.
There is the argument outlined by Stephen Harper and Tom Flanagan in a celebrated 1997 article in The Next City which states that Canadian governments default to the Liberal party in any election unless a coalition of Quebec nationalists, Ontario fiscal Tories and Western populists can unseat them. Brian Mulroney formed such a coalition, and then discarded two legs of the three-legged stool – the feat for which he may be truly remembered in Canadian history.
Yet the point remains that – as so amply evidenced by the imperious manner of the Government over the past nine years – until the conservative triad re-assembles itself in some form or another, then Canada is a single-party state. Single party states are not viable democracies, but then neither are countries where the judiciary (the real “philosopher kings” of the Liberal oligarchy) has more weight than parliament does. It won’t be enough for the ‘Right’ to unite itself, it should also come prepared with a revolutionary agenda for democratic renewal.
John Thompson is Editorial Director of the Mackenzie Institute which studies political instability and terrorism. He can be reached at: email@example.com
In the past five years, the United States has pushed its allies to offer political support for ballistic missile defence (BMD) programs. Among the other issues, the US desires to have its allies become willing to accept the deployment and use of BMD systems – and perhaps to cooperate in the development of the technology. Moreover, while Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) is acceptable, National Missile Defence (NMD) may violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that the US signed with the USSR.
The predictable opposition, much of it operating in a knee-jerk fashion, has appeared to the American program. The Peace Movement is lurching about in the traditional manner, declaring (as usual) that self-defence is irrational and immoral, and arguing that money spent on a new technology will be wasted when it could be spent on the usual social causes. The Russians, as surly and bitter as a starving bear can be, seem to be in no mood to humour the American desire to amend or discard the 1972 Treaty. This is despite, or perhaps because of, the hundreds of millions of dollars the US has spent helping the Russians dismantle much of their old Soviet nuclear inventory.
Yet from all the signs, the US might be entirely willing to abrogate the treaty – if not just bend it all out of shape – to develop and deploy a working missile defence system.
There are going to be problems with the development of BMD – even the Peace Movement can’t always be wrong. The project will be expensive (something like $130 billion US has been budgeted so far). While the development of new technologies and weapons systems tends to be costly, no doubt there will be the inevitable peaceful spin-offs that always attend the development of new knowledge. Yet the costs are always up front and potential new civilian products and jobs are at the back-end of the project.
Critics of BMD also allege it won’t work. The same complaint has been heard every time the US develops a new weapons system… the M-1 Tank, the F-117 Stealth Fighter and the Aegis Cruiser were described as expensive and useless boondoggles too. If anyone can make BMD work it would be the Americans, and much of the program is already based on tried and proven systems. Although BMD has a long way to go, in the most recent test of an intercept on a ballistic missile warhead, everything worked – including the ability to differentiate between a warhead and a decoy.
Where critics of BMD are the most wrong is in the inevitable cry that the project will provoke a new “Arms Race”. This is a complaint that has been raised endless times and – as was proved in the last decade of the Cold War – is usually wrong. Totalitarian societies can almost always outstrip democratic nations in raw arms production. Although Nazi Germany’s “military industrial complex” was badly organized, the German military never ran short of weapons and ammunition (they ran out of fuel and manpower first). It should also be remembered that the Soviet Union rivaled the US during 1941-45 in the production of combat aircraft and surpassed them in the production of armoured vehicles and artillery.
Since the Second World War, the liberal democratic nations, where innovation and flexibility are more encouraged, have chosen outstrip totalitarian ones by producing better arms. For example, during the 1950s to the 1980s, the Soviets built more artillery pieces and more tanks than the rest of the world combined. Faced with a massive quantitative inferiority by the mid-1970s, the NATO nations produced hundreds of tanks and field pieces to the thousands of Soviet ones… and produced much better models indeed.
The allegation that the deployment of the Pershing II missile and the Ground Launched Cruise Missile (in response to the Soviet deployments of hundreds of SS-20 missiles in Europe) would also result in an arms race was likewise wrong. Instead, the Soviets realized they couldn’t stay in the intermediate range missile game and folded that hand. Within five years of the NATO deployments, intermediate range nuclear missiles were banned from Europe.
Today’s world lacks the tension of the East-West confrontation of the late Cold War, but that does not mean it is any safer. Canada, for all its pretence at being an international boy scout, has fired more shots in earnest since 1990 than it did between that year and the end of the Korean War.
The US is aware that there are many smaller regional powers that do not love the Western developed nations, and who especially loath America and all of its works. Many of these nations – like Iran, Iraq, Libya or North Korea and Syria have backed lethal terrorism against Western nations, have acquired weapons of mass destruction and missiles to deliver them.
The Americans, with some help from their main allies, are busy developing Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) systems that can knock down incoming tactical or short ranged ballistic missiles and might have a decent shot at knocking down an intermediate or intercontinental range missile. The US Navy’s “Theatre” range BMD system is expected to be able to knock down an ICBM if within easy range of its launch site. One should remember that design range also reflects the speed and trajectory of an incoming missile. Short-range missiles are much slower than long range ones. Even the early Patriot SAM – an air defence missile – was capable (just) of hitting extended range SCUD missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. American/Allied TMD projects like THAAD and MEADS are being adapted to easily handle short-range missiles and perhaps knock down ICBMs in the vulnerable few minutes right after launch.
What is causing the fuss is the American intention to deploy a National Missile Defence System. Admittedly, North Korea is seemingly developing a ballistic missile that just might reach Vancouver, but the threat of ‘Rogue States” (e.g. Iran, Iraq, et, al) with ballistic missiles is a thin one now and probably for the next dozen years or so. The Americans have also discussed the possibility of accidental launches – or deliberate ones by amok commanders. But this threat seems distant too.
So who or what are the Americans really worried about? A smart guess might be China.
A lot of people dismiss the idea that China might be a threat to the United States specifically, and the Western World generally. But then, this opinion also often comes from those who belittled the aggressive nature of the Soviet Union. Moreover, China can present a confusing picture to outside observers. There is the China that is eager to become engaged in the wider world, to trade and build and create. There is the China that is proud of its culture and anxious to display it. There is the eternal China made up of those who, like all the rest of us, want to make their own way in the world and perhaps leave it a little better off for their children.
But then there is the China that strategists see… and listen to. It is overcrowded and needs resources like oil, more arable land and water. Its government must maintain its authority through the relentless exercise of force. Historians should bear in mind that China has always been like this, and the Party Dynasty is no different from its predecessors – all of whom had to behave likewise.
At the same time, while China’s culture is an ancient and distinguished one, the country’s institutions are quite immature. Many Chinese feel, given their strength of their own culture, little need to adhere to Western conventions – but China’s long (and traditional) withdrawal from the rest of the World means that it is often quite unsure how to act. The recent affair resulting from the damaging of a US Navy reconnaissance plane by an inept Chinese fighter pilot provides a case in point.
China believes it should be one of the world’s leading nations in a multi-polar world, and that this is its natural due given the size of its population and economy. This feeling is reinforced by more privately expressed series of opinions inside China that reflect some traditional – and very uncomplimentary – attitudes about Non-Chinese and their natural place in the World. The notion that China is the “Middle Kingdom”, underneath heaven and above everyone else, is far from dead.
Given widely held notions of cultural superiority, a desire to compensate for historical grievances, a craving for stability, a lust for resources, and a traditional expectation of regional hegemony and deference, China is emerging as a twitchy problem for the 21st Century. Also, there is a sizeable body of opinion inside its governing circles that a confrontation with the US is inevitable.
China wants to compete with (or perhaps even defeat) the US, but is a long way from being able to do so with conventional weapons. Notwithstanding its purchases of leading Russian military technologies (and “acquisitions” of American/Western ones), its Navy, Air Force and Army all lag far behind those of the United States in terms of technological and doctrinal quality. The nuclear field remains wide open.
The Chinese understand that if they make a major investment in the strategic nuclear forces, the Americans will have to become deferential. This would give China far more room to act in the manner to which they would like to become accustomed. And, by any reasonable strategic calculation, if the Soviets were truculent actors in the Cold War, the Chinese would be both dangerous and clumsy actors in this new century.
Enter ABM. If China thinks it can turn to a major investment in strategic nuclear weapons in order to play the Great Power Game, they would be extremely disconcerted if the Americans move the goalposts. Moving the goal-posts in the great power game should be worth a couple of hundred billion dollars any decade.
A version of this column was originally run in the Ottawa Citizen a week before the IOC awarded the games to Beijing. What was then a moot point is now a real issue.
Should Canada go to a Beijing Olympiad?
Adolf Hitler turned the 1936 Olympics into a showpiece for Nazi propaganda. Moscow held the games in 1980, only to find out that much of the World refused to show up on account of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan – an invasion which helped add another million corpses to the USSR’s leading score in the 20th Century’s Totalitarian games.
Hitler’s bronze-medal placing with 21 million murdered civilians and POWs is well remembered, it was a short and very violent performance that also killed about 15 million soldiers and civilians during the fighting to get him off the podium. The Soviet Union played a longer game – from 1917 to 1991 -- and so turned in a clear gold medal score of over 60 million people in purges, death-camps, deliberate famine and other instances of progressive social engineering.
Now the silver medal finalist is putting in a bid for Olympic glory in the hopes that the glitter of the games might hide the tarnish of its history. Canada was among the many nations to boycott the Moscow games and, had we been the least bit prescient, we probably would have boycotted Berlin too.
In China’s defence it must be said that the first half of the 20th Century was not kind to China – foreign exploitation, revolutions, protracted civil wars, a ruthless (and incompetent) dictator, a genocidal invader and a final round of civil war. The stability China has experienced since Mao marched into Beijing has not been easy either. While Mao was alive, the most reasonable estimates (those of Nobel Peace Prize nominee R.J. Rummel) placed the human cost of his rule at 34.4 million deaths. The scholars behind The Black Book of Communism place the total at far more than that. These deaths resulted from mass-murders, deaths by culpable negligence through deliberate famine and in the Laogai labour camps.
Since 1975, the rate of mass-murder slowed down enormously, but Mao’s heirs are far more interested in stability than in alien concepts of human rights and democracy. Rummel estimated that about 80,000 Chinese people died during the average year between 1976 and ’86 in the Laogai, repression in minority regions, as a result of the enthusiastic suppression of riots and disorders, and through other causes. The total from draconian birth control policies, whatever it may be, probably means that the figure of 80,000 annual ”deaths-by government” still holds true.
At any rate, China has long passed Nazi Germany to clinch the silver medal spot.
For all the antiquity and splendor of China and the greatness of its people, China’s history as a nation is quite recent and Beijing finds itself in an awkward position. The maturity of China’s culture has not been reconciled with the immaturity of its governing institutions – which in turn cannot balance Beijing’s desire for stability at any cost with its craving for international respectability.
In China, if everything is not in harmony, then disharmony is the unhappy result. Beijing’s desire to keep its people firmly under thumb while getting an international thumbs-up is going to lead to disharmony.
Olympic Games bring respectability and – like Hitler’s Berlin and Soviet Moscow -- the Beijing government will try to put its best face on when it hosts the games. The results can be safely predicted. Reporters will be welcome to shoot ‘wonderful place’ stories in Beijing and China’s major cities, with ample supplies of happy children and cheerful elders to show how good life in China really is. Journalists who wander off the beaten track will helpfully find themselves levered right back on to it by polite policemen -- and if they don’t take the hint, by less polite policemen.
It is safe to say that the camera lights in Bejing will not reach the Sinkiang labour camps or into Tibet. But then, the camera lights in Berlin didn’t reach Dachau, and those in Moscow didn’t reach the dissidents imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals or the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
The entire point of the Olympiad is to honor the human spirit. The Games shouldn’t go to those who try to crush it. For the most part, the games have rightly had their home among people who nurture the human spirit – the citizens of liberal democratic nations. Excepting the 1936 Games and Moscow in the summer of 1980 (and Sarajevo in the winter of 1984), free peoples have always hosted the Olympics.
The award of the games to Beijing ‘completes’ the triad of ultra-lethal totalitarian hosts for the Olympiad, but it is an honor that the People’s Republic of China should have gone without. But if a free people are not hosting the games, then the athletes of the free peoples should not attend.
Democracy? The games shouldn’t have a home without it.
Robert Conquest, perhaps the finest historian of the Soviet Union’s underside, has recently written another book: Reflections on a Ravaged Century. In contrast to his detailed histories, this book is a series of essays and explorations of ideologies, mass murder, and the lame reactions to these phenomena in Western cultural circles. In reading the book one can find oneself musing about two of the greatest types of villain in the 20th Century: these being the murderous criminal who embraces an ideology so that he can exercise his furies on the helpless, and the moronic salon revolutionary who excuses or justifies these behaviors.
The first is all too easily found, and may be lurking in every society waiting his chance. The goon exercising his (or her) “democratic” right to protest at a G-8 or WTO conference by rioting is a case in point. So too is the apologist for same that insists a “lack of access” by protestors is what provokes the violence. What is actually evident is the old partnership between the angry intellectual who doesn’t dare to get his hands dirty but who admires those who do; and the violent criminal who has found that embracing a “cause” can give a validation for violence. Both can feed off each other, with the revolutionary gaining access to the electric excitement of the mob, and the criminal gaining license to act.
This partnership was first evidenced in the French Revolution. The Jacobins and their leaders like Robespierre and Saint Just were excited by violence and encouraged it by creating the conditions that allowed the Terror to emerge and become a blueprint for other authoritarian ideologues in coming centuries. Robespierre harped on ‘Civic Virtue’ and an ideal society on one hand, while encouraging the elimination of all rival powers among the Revolutionaries. His bloodthirstiness was purely intellectual, for when it came time to display physical courage during his arrest in August 1794, it was readily apparent that he had none. He botched his own suicide and screamed and whimpered all the way to the Guillotine.
The agents of the Terror were usually the angriest and most vicious of the criminals from the Parisian underworld. Execution is normally a dispassionate affair, and most executioners are either professionals or pariahs (often both) isolated from society by their calling. The Tribunals of the French Revolution were content to let the executioners handle the ‘normal’ workload from their exertions, but when intensive work was called for, out came the criminals. These were the men and women capable of the prison massacres in which hundreds of inmates (of all kinds) were murdered with clubs and pikes – often having been raped or otherwise brutalized first. Executioners, in the traditional sense, are seldom capable of behaving with such viciousness.
In defence of hangmen, it must be pointed out that most of the professional executioners of history found that an enthusiasm for their work was immensely self-destructive. They also discovered that most of the rest of humanity had little time for them, and so often remained as perpetual exiles within their own societies. They tend to be reserved and dispassionate instruments of the hindquarters of the legal system (or whatever might pass for one). Enthusiasm for murder and mayhem comes from the mob and the criminal elements within it.
Conquest points out that the Soviets and the Nazis were alike in recruiting criminals in the early days of their movement, and were quick to unleash them when they achieved power. The Bolsheviks admired the revolutionary authenticity of a good bank robber (such as the young Stalin) and happily excused his less sterling qualities. Hitler often admired the tough street brawlers of the Brownshirts – at least before and after the years in which Ernst Rohm had become a real rival. Many were promoted far beyond their meager abilities in the German Reich, and tended to get better access to Hitler’s sympathies than more educated Nazis did.
Yet these thugs were more cruel than mere street brawlers and bank robbers. Conquest (although not in the essays of Reflections) and many other historians have reported on the eruption of criminal violence that attended the Bolshevik and Nazi seizures of power. Dachau, the Nazi’s inaugural concentration camp, was run in its first months with a direct and vicious hands-on sadism by some of its staff – something which was also a feature of the sundry “wild camps” springing up around Germany in 1933-34. Even the Nazis found this to be slightly disagreeable and later would take pains to produce a degree or two of isolation between the SS Concentration Camp staff and the inmates – letting other inmates undertake most of the personalized cruelty within the camp system.
The Cheka (later the OGPU and still later the NKVD) was also quick to bring violent and cruel criminals into its ranks – and to use them to staff its prisons and interrogation centres. Again, like the Nazis, the NKVD eventually used prisoners within their camps to add the final refinements of cruelty to other camp inmates, but the true nature of the NKVD would frequently emerge at other times.
In 1992, a Russian archeological team took advantage of the chaos attendant on the collapse of the Soviet Union to investigate a boneyard in a forest near Smolensk. The site had been the place where hundreds of prisoners were executed before they could face the dubious liberation offered by the advancing Germans in 1941. The archeologists noted that the uppermost layer of skeletons in the pits consisted of unclothed young females, and were able to deduce how the execution squad kept itself amused between arrivals of truckloads of other prisoners. Given some of the tales from Gulag inmates, this may have been typical behaviour.
This wedding between ideologues and violent criminals has also been observed in almost every other revolutionary episode of mass murder in the 20th Century.
It might seem far-fetched (to some) to compare the rioters of Seattle to Genoa to Brown-Shirts, NKVD execution squads or the thugs of Pol Pot, Idi Amin, or Saddam Hussein. Likewise, the articulate cause-pushers who also attend these demonstrations do not seem to be in the same league as the ideologues who backed or excused their more murderous brethren.
However, very few people are born to be killers. It takes a fair amount of work or conditioning to be able to murder strangers on a point of principle. It takes even more to be able to kill with abandon. The best starting point for a person who wants to be able to club strangers to death, is to work oneself into a rage while convincing oneself that those we would kill are less than human and only the mere representatives of an abstraction that should be hated. Street punch-ups and vandalism are good working up exercises for this sort of thing. From all accounts, it would seem that the Anti-Summit protestors are off to a good start in this direction. One cannot doubt that a few of them will go far indeed.
With the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings in the Second World War, many people are apologetic or sorry that the attacks occurred. Not me.
The bombings have been mythologized, and many only think of WW-II in terms of the Nazi Death camps and the dropping of the Atomic bombs. This can give the impression that they are matched in terms of morality.
The 20.9 million civilians and POWs murdered by the Nazis were innocent victims. The same cannot be said of the Japanese; who still often refuse to acknowledge their crimes of 1931-45. Professor R.J. Rummel, the scholar on mass murder whose statistic is cited above, found that the Imperial Japanese murdered at least 5.9 million people -- and believes the real toll is much higher. Nobody can say that the civilians of Nagasaki and Hiroshima deserved to die; but why remember them more than the millions of people who were beheaded, bayoneted, gang-raped, starved and brutalized by their husbands, fathers and sons?
Those who criticize the nuclear attacks often declare that Hiroshima was not a military target. However, the city was used to marshal the Japanese fleets that sallied out to attack Midway in 1942, and to attempt to stop the liberation of the Philippines in 1944. Of course, by August 1945, Japan’s Navy was almost destroyed but this concedes another point.
We often assume that all people think like us -- which defies experience and history. The Japanese militarists who began the Pacific War were not rational in any modern liberal sense. The ideology they constructed insisted that willpower and courage could compensate for material shortfalls -- and the Japanese military was short of much when they began the war. Admiral Yamamoto, who led the Imperial Japanese Navy to Pearl Harbor, warned his colleagues that attacking the Allies would be a losing proposition unless they could force a ceasefire within six months. Japan had low fuel reserves, inadequate military technology, and could not replace ships faster than they were sunk. But they attacked anyway, and from mid-1942 onwards were inevitably crushed by the material superiority that Yamamoto feared.
The Pacific War covered a sixth of the planet, but one feature on every front was that of Japanese soldiers trying to use grit and naked courage to compensate for other shortcomings. From Attu to Guadalcanal to Burma, Allied soldiers learned that Japanese, drilled in a merciless ideology, seldom surrendered. The British novelist George MacDonald Fraser, in his autobiographical account of his time as an infantryman in Burma recounted seeing a near-naked and emaciated Japanese soldier come after him with a bamboo spear. Another soldier in much the same state charged the future author while clutching a land mine.
A few in the Japanese government hoped to negotiate a peace in 1945, but too many civilian leaders had been assassinated by the militarists for them to hope to succeed, and the Military was gearing up to defend the Home Islands. They had not been dissuaded from this course by conventional bombings (including a Tokyo raid that killed more people than either atomic bomb did), and Allied planners knew an invasion would be met with the usual fanatical resistance.
Japan’s defiance was vaporized by the atom bombs. The ease with which Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed provided undeniable evidence that defeat could not be prevented by individual heroics. Japan’s surrender spelled life for hundreds of thousands of Japanese, and tens of thousands of Allied troops that were gearing up for the invasion.
Among the Canadian infantry preparing to invade Japan was my father. Unlike his older brothers, he was too short to lie about his age and could not be shipped overseas until after his 19th Birthday -- in May 1945. No war in Europe and, with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no war in Japan.
Initially, he felt disappointed on missing the great adventure. Only in retrospect did he realize his fortune. One brother flew anti-submarine missions for six years. The other also beat the odds by surviving from Normandy to Holland in an infantry battalion. The family’s luck would not have covered a third son in combat.
On August 6th and 9th, I wonder how many millions of people – in Japan and around the world --owe their existence to the atom bomb. I know I do.
The following three quotations come with our thanks to the May 2001 newsletter of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. One might guess at the scorn they heap on the Kyoto Treaty…
“Man’s ability to influence the world climate now or in the future … [is about the same as] my ability to increase the velocity of a tornado by blowing my breath into it.”
- Kent C. Dixon
“During my 40 years of teaching physics and astronomy, I have seen fads come and go. The media hop on each and every new theory as though it is a pronouncement from God”
- Patricia Doxtater
“An even greater danger [than a policy requiring radical changes in lifestyle] is the acceptance and approval afforded pseudo-science by policy based on its conclusions.”
- A.M. Laurie
John Thompson is Editorial Director of the Mackenzie Institute which studies political instability and terrorism. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org