Bordering on Aggression, Floyd W. Rudmin

Voyageur, 1993, 192 pages, C$14.95 tpb, ISBN 0-921842-09-0

An American invasion of Canada has long been a favorite topic for humor writers. While no one would seriously question the military superiority of the United States of America versus Canada’s mostly figurative military forces, it’s hard to imagine why the Americans would do such a thing. Canada and the States have been good buddy-friend nations for so long that the mere thought of a war between the two countries is enough to elicit giggles. US invading Canada (or the reverse) spawned one comedy film, CANADIAN BACON, and at least a few hundred “humorous” web pages.

But Floyd W. Rudmin is dead serious when he discusses the subject in Bordering on Aggression, a book examining motives, plans and means by which the US could, if it was so inclined, take military control of Canada.

The first myth that Rudmin destroys is the so-called long-standing friendship between the two countries. As most alert Canadian high-schoolers remember from their history course, Americans invaded Canadian soil in 1812 and again decades later during the Fenian insurrections. But Rudmin digs deeper in American military archives and starts uncovering detailed invasion plans all the way through middle twentieth century, the latest date at which such documents were declassified.

Why invade Canada? Well, if ever the northern neighbours get a bit uppity about selling their natural resources at a fair price, then the US might take away what it needs. If that’s too unsubtle for you, just consider that in the event of Quebec independence, the US might take steps in order to protect its borders by pre-emptively securing trouble areas. If that wasn’t enough, just consider the old Manifest Destiny doctrine…

Paranoid? Rudmin would rather maintain that he’s well informed. A large section of Bordering on Aggression details the military build-up at Fort Drum, ideally positioned to unleash a strike at the Canadian heartland. Rudmin argues at length that the official mission of the base makes no sense but is ideally suited to Canadian invasion.

A lot of what Rudmin advances does fall under the “contingency” header. Somehow, I’d worry more about a US military that does not plan for all situations, including trouble in Canada. But, as could be expected, Rudmin maintains that US preparations go well beyond simply planning…

While the above premise may still sound completely implausible, the book does a good job of developping the concept. Rudmin has included many sources and even though his sensationalistic bias is obvious, he should be able to instill a flicker of doubt in any reader’s mind. He’s most adept at anticipating criticism, though: He begins the book by warning us against the giggle factor inherent in discussing the subject, later stating flatly that “ridicule has historically been the technique favoured to dismiss concern” [P.179] Rudmin’s insistence to protect himself against almost all objections often make his argumentation seem somewhat defensive, but it also defuses many of the point that smart-alecky reviewers such as myself might be tempted to make.

Even the ultimate concern is addressed: While most Canadian would welcome the news of American military preparations with a fatalistic shrug (“What can we do anyway?”), Rudmin cleverly concludes his book by suggesting that all Canadians learn Civilian Nonviolent Defence, a set of passive strategies designed to promote civil disobedience and economic sabotage. Rudmin suggests that such strategies worked previously in Denmark, India and Eastern Europe, so why not do the only sensible thing left to us? It’s an intriguing conclusion to an interesting book.

Even if you’re not overly swept away by Rudmin’s thesis, the book appears too well-researched to be dismissed easily, and in any case makes several interesting points, independent to its main argument. The historical sections by themselves are fascinating. Worth a critical look.

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