Ambivalent Ally: Culture, Cybernetics, and the Evolution of Canadian Grand Strategy
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Canada consistently balances competing inclinations for proximity and distance with the United States. Yet the extant literature on Canadian foreign policy has rarely focused on this particular behaviour trait or readily accepted that such an ambiguous stance is actually underpinned by a strategic logic, let alone the crux of a purported grand strategy. And the few that that are open to the notion of a Canadian grand strategy often overlook the domestic decision-making determinants of behaviour, are largely empirical-descriptive in content, or are chronologically limited to either the early Cold War or a few key foreign policy episodes. This dissertation rectifies these shortcomings by providing a theoretical-explanatory and empirically-informed account of Canada’s post-war grand strategy, in which its domestic origins, strategic policies, and cultural predispositions are all carefully explored. It does so by applying the cultural-cybernetic model of behaviour, which combines strategic cultural factors that guide policy-makers on security matters with cybernetic policy processes, through which beliefs, inclinations, and policy choices are standardized and regularized as distinct doctrines across a range of foreign, defence, and security policies. It tests this model on two key cases of Canadian grand strategy in the post-war period: (1) Canada’s policy responses to American preferences on strategic (air and missile) defence over some six decades, and (2) its policy responses to US – and to a lesser extent British – strategic preferences on NATO defence strategy during the Cold War. The findings reveal that Canada’s strategic policies fluctuated between the two Standing Operational Doctrines in its policy repertoire: continental soft-bandwagoning and defensive weak-multilateralism. These two doctrines span the range of feasible policy options – the “goldilocks zone” – required to ensure that any trade-offs between security and sovereignty, as the central values being pursued in the cybernetic process, are minimized. It is for this reason that Canada’s strategic behaviour has a high degree of policy continuity, patterned consistency, and is best described as the goldilocks grand strategy.