In Postmedia outlets across Canada today, MLI's Brian Lee Crowley writes that if Canada wants to be a great nation, Canada must be a strong nation.

Finding Peace Through Strength

By Brian Lee Crowley, Ottawa Citizen April 27, 2013

Whether Edmund Burke actually said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, there is no disputing the aptness of the sentiment.

At a time when North Korean megalomaniacs brandish nuclear weapons while Iranian ayatollahs look on with scarcely concealed missile envy, Syrian strongmen toy with chemical weapons of mass destruction and China gleefully goads Japan with gunships over the Senkaku Islands, bad people the world over are proving yet again that evil, like rust, never sleeps.

Bullies are a fact of life, among people and among nations. They despise the effete practice of respecting the beliefs, persons and property of those who stand between them and what they want. They regard invitations to talk, to work out our differences, to try and get along, as a sign of weakness, but a weakness they are perfectly willing to exploit for their advantage.

Living in the West, where we respect the rule of law and generally resolve our differences peacefully, it can all too easily appear that all the world's the same. And if that were true, then much of the world's spending on arms and defence would indeed be a wasteful travesty that enriched the arms industry for no worthwhile purpose.

We hear this argument made over and over again, especially in hard economic times, in America, in Canada and in Europe. We have heard our fair share of it here at home as critics have attacked plans to acquire new fighter aircraft, re-equip the navy or buy new helicopters. As one such American critic once quaintly put it, "It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber."

Alas, though, in a world with bad people in it, the idea that we can choose between schools (or health care or pension or welfare) and muscular defence isn't just a mistake, it is a dangerous delusion that exposes us to great risks.

The Romans stated the underlying principle succinctly: peace through strength; that policy is just as right today as it was then.

For bullies will only submit to the rule of law, only agree to resolve differences through discussion rather than intimidation, when they see that breaches of the rules will be punished. Disarming the good people of the world is merely an invitation to the bad ones to throw their weight around secure in the knowledge that no one can stop them. A different way of thinking about this is that peace without justice is just submission, and so anyone who elevates peace as the single overriding value, the one that should trump all others, is offering to trade away both peace and justice for a world where the strong make the rules to suit themselves.

If the West did not hew to this line of peace through strength, today the Falklands would be under Argentine military rule, Islamists would be in charge in Mali, Somali pirates would be attacking more ships, not recovering after punitive raids, Saddam Hussein would not only still be in power but would have absorbed Kuwait, Iran would be using nuclear weapons to dominate the Middle East and South Korea would be under the heel of a madman in Pyongyang, to name but a few recent instances.

Genuine peace is only possible when good people take responsibility to protect it from those who would abuse and destroy it. We'd all like it if that job could be done by talking alone, but it can't.

And for those who think Canada should carry more weight in the world, that its voice should be heard more loudly in the concert of nations, consider this. The nations of Europe with highly developed welfare states and shrinking militaries matter less and less because they increasingly lack the means to carry their share of the responsibility for peace and the rule of law. With the occasional exception they are ceasing to be players and becoming mere spectators.

Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and India, by contrast, matter ever more because they have the means and the will to put themselves on the line for what they believe in, as the Japanese prime minister recently announced his country would do in the face of Chinese aggressiveness over the Senkaku islands.

Yes, being strong carries dangers, and we have to guard against abuse; but being weak is far worse.

In the years ahead Canada must decide which camp it's in; whether it wants to be a player, a force for peace and justice, or just a moralizing kibitzer that can safely be ignored. Canada can be a great nation, but taking its share of responsibility for the maintenance of world order is the unavoidable price.

Brian Lee Crowley ( is managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent non-partisan public policy think tank in Ottawa:




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