As the government of Canada cuts back on defense spending after years of significant increases, critics lament the supposed lack of a “grand strategy” when it comes to military expenditures. But the current reductions are actually a return to traditional Canadian grand strategy, albeit one that is not that “grand.” Put in retail shopping terms, Canada has tended to follow an economizing Walmart approach to defense spending as opposed to a more upscale Saks Fifth Avenue style. Though often criticized as nothing more than “free riding,” this approach may be more accurately described as “easy riding.” It is one that was deliberately and carefully chosen by successive Canadian policy makers, acting in accordance with “realism Canadian style.” It allowed the country to achieve security at home and to use the justifiably highly regarded Canadian Armed Forces to participate in a limited, yet effective and internationally appreciated manner in overseas military engagements as a stalwart Western ally without endangering the economy and social programs by spending more on defense than was absolutely necessary. While the Walmart approach can be taken too far, in these times of fiscal austerity when national budgets are difficult to balance without cutting defense spending and when interventionist exhaustion is afflicting many Western governments, including the United States, the lessons from the Canadian experience should resonate with policy makers and analysts well beyond Canada.
- defense policy
- military spending