The intellectual assault on Canada’s military

Department of National Defence

John Robson, Western Standard, February 22, 2024

Canada’s military is in a heap of trouble. Far too few people, except at DND headquarters, with far too little equipment that’s far too old and morale in freefall.

It might seem an odd time for the brass to go full metal woke, including an infamous issue of Canadian Military Journal, “the official professional publication of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.” But those who wonder at the timing need to ponder the profound truth that people believe their beliefs.

A critical lesson of history is, as a 1948 book by Richard Weaver put it, Ideas Have Consequences. Many hold the contrary cynical view that people shape their ostensible beliefs to benefit their private interests, making them prone to conspiracy theories about what anyone who claims to disagree with them is really up to.

Thus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a puppet of sinister WEF forces plotting to destroy Canada, or part of those sinister forces, rather than precisely the trendy progressive he sounds and acts like — and is. (And let me add here that the problem isn’t that he’s “ideological.” Everyone with a coherent worldview is ideological. The problem is he has the wrong ideology.)

Others have noticed the power of ideas, most famously, John Maynard Keynes. I agree with almost nothing the late Lord Keynes wrote except this: “soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good and evil.”

And right now, our political and chattering classes are suffused with the ideas of wokeness, the cluster of beliefs that your group identity determines your thinking, that victims are inherently virtuous and that resentment is a positive force in human affairs. But there’s no conspiracy: The self-touting, all-knowing classes do not conceal their plan to impose wokeness on us but regularly announce it.

I don’t deny the human capacity for greed and cynicism. Indeed, we wage a constant and often futile struggle to rise above them. But as David Hume put it, “Though men be much governed by interest, yet even interest itself, and all human affairs, are entirely governed by opinion.” In other words, ideas matter.  

Back to the Canadian Military Journal which in its last issue offered up the usual woke litany of woe, none of which had to do with equipping a modern military to fight wars.

Instead, the magazine was full of articles suffused with the tone of the opening CMJ editorial claim that: “Sexual misconduct is widespread, as are discrimination and hostility towards women, two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, inclusive (sexual minorities), Indigenous, Black and People of Colour military members.”

That obsession with collective identities is why, in the National Post, Tristin Hopper complained about that CMJ issue, “There’s not a single reference to the recruiting crisis, which has left vacancies of up to 40 per cent in some departments.” That crisis is severe and, one might think, front-burner urgent.

Annual recruiting fell by 35% last year alone and far more people are leaving the Forces than joining. Even the top brass, long supine about political mismanagement, are breaking silence, including its commander saying our navy’s in “critical condition” which “could mean we fail to meet our force posture and readiness commitments in 2024 and beyond.”

So was this a bad time for CMJ to salvo what Hopper called “a series of 13 essays all devoted to what an introduction describes as a ‘feminist intersectional trauma-informed approach to reimagine and transform CAF culture’ ”? Not at all. At least not if you think patriarchy ruins everything. Which they do.

CMJ’s editors and authors might admit the old way worked pretty well in two world wars. But only in that bigoted, patriarchal men fought successfully for patriarchal bigotry, which they don’t think you even could do today, nor should you want to.

Thus, Hopper flags one essay starting, “Canada’s military faces a complex, multi-layered problem with its culture”, howls about “patriarchy, colonialism, white supremacy, heteronormativity, ableism and classism” then prescribes “an anti-oppression framework that builds on a set of critical theories including feminist, decolonial, critical race, queer, critical disability and critical political economy theories”.

Remember, it’s the same approach using the same boilerplate rhetoric that ‘leaders’ in universities, business, government, the voluntary sector use to express such radically faulty ideas including that wealth comes from privilege, identities explain outcomes, ‘systemic’ racism is rife and what some call “so-called Canada” is neither salvageable nor worth salvaging. And if the authors of those Journal articles meant every word, why can’t the prime minister? There’s no plot. There’s a widespread belief.

Thus our problem is not that the prime minister aims to subject Canadians to foreign conquest, or is indifferent to our security. Rather he, and those around him, are genuinely convinced that in the long run only a truly ‘woke’ society can ever be secure. They actually believe social justice warriors will fight better than traditional warriors. And in case they don’t, everyone will love us so it won’t matter.

Profoundly bad ideas have profoundly bad consequences. Remember that before the Second World War people went around calling Hitler a statesman and Churchill a madman, or chanting “scholarships not battleships.”

When people say something you don’t agree with, and do something you don’t agree with, it’s because they think something you don’t agree with. And if they’re wrong, it has consequences. As in Canada’s current, crumbling “woke” military.

John Robson is a Senior Fellow with the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy, an author and a documentary filmmaker.

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