Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Avoiding Armageddon Canadian Military Strategy and Nuclear Weapons, 1950-63

By Andrew Richter

9780774808880 UBC Press

$32.95 224 Pages

Published in association with the Canadian War Museum as part of the Studies in Canadian Military History series

The advent of nuclear weapons in the 1940s brought enormous changes to doctrines regarding the use of force in resolving disputes. American strategists have been widely credited with most of these; Canadians, most have assumed, did not conduct their own strategic analysis. Avoiding Armageddon soundly debunks this notion.

Drawing on previously classified government records, Richter reveals that Canadian defense officials did come to independent strategic understandings of the most critical issues of the nuclear age. Canadian appreciation of deterrence, arms control, and strategic stability differed conceptually from the US models. Similarly, Canadian thinking on the controversial issues of air defense and the domestic acquisition of nuclear weapons was primarily influenced by decidedly Canadian interests.

Avoiding Armageddon is a work with far-reaching implications. It illustrates Canada’s considerable latitude for independent defense thinking while providing key historical information that helps make sense of the contemporary Canadian defense debate.

Nuclear weapons were long the untold element of Canada’s military in the 1960s and 70s with the BOMARC surface to air and GENIE air to air missiles as part of NORAD, the RCAF CF-104 purchased for the NATO nuclear strike role in Europe and the RCN’s purchase of the ASROC nuclear ASW torpedo launching system. The most famous result of these programs was the still controversial cancellation of the Avro Arrow jet interceptor by the Deifenbaker government.

Canada has traditionally thought small in defense matters but occasionally aspired to greatness. This book covers well the behind the scenes planning and thought processes behind thoughts on what was and still is a controversial topic.

I was quite happy to see the UBC Press publish this work by Andrew Richter. Although the finished product would have been much improved by the inclusion of illustrations, it is still recommended.

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