Contemporary analysts of Canadian national security policy generally fall into two camps: those fighting a rearguard action to protect the reputations of anyone involved in Lloyd Axworthy’s dubious ”human security” and ”soft power” policies, and those who dissented from the implementation of such constructs. One argument made by those pushing ”soft power” is that Canadian involvement reflects Canadian ”values” and that this should be the primary motivator for international involvement, particularly when it deals with the projection of Canadian military power into regions like sub-Saharan Africa. These proponents suggest that Canada is merely ”projecting Canadian values,” yet they do not clearly define what these values are, nor do they adequately demonstrate that their conception of Canadian values is, in fact, valid. Canadian values are simply assumed. What role should ”Canadian values” play in the formulation and execution of Canadian national security policy? The crisis we face after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 presents us with a new vantage point on such matters, a vantage point critical to the debate over continued and even expanded Canadian military involvement in the Middle East and Central Asia.


This piece proved to be a piece of precognition, three months after 9-11. I was warning readers that we should ensure that we had better have all of our national policy ‘ducks in a row’ before deciding what we were going to do in Afghanistan and that the loudly-trumpeted ‘soft power’ enthusiasts and their arguments should not automatically hold sway as they did in the 1990s. Indeed, over the years the cultural mavens jealously guarded ‘Canadian values’ and either ignored or dismissed as snidely as possible those who had other values that conflicted with theirs. It was now time for them to step aside and that a more realistic view take over. The new environment we were dealing with suggested that ‘soft power’ views were obsolete and even potentially dangerous. “Canadian Values and National Security” was in some ways a sequel to “Helpful Fixer or Hired Gun?” and should be read together with it.  There were some howls of derision from the usual suspects, but my attitude then and now is, who the hell are they to arrogate to themselves the determination of what constitutes ‘Canadian values’?

Originally published in Policy Options