The Lamb and the Tiger

From Peacekeepers to Peacewarriors in Canada


Chapter 1


When I began to reflect on the transformation of Canada from peacekeepers to warriors, or Orwellian “peacewarriors,” mirroring the tendency in recent years to blur the distinction between warmaking and peacemaking, William Blake’s intriguing poem The Tiger (or Tyger) popped into my head:

Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night. ..
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

For most of the period from the end of the Second World War until the first decade of the twenty-first century, an era dominated by Liberal governments, Canada was a lamb, its reputation as a peacekeeper celebrated both at home and abroad. With the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party in 2006, accompanied by a rapid expansion and rebranding of the military as a fighting force, the lamb had mutated into a tiger, although the genetic seeds for the fearsome creature had been sown by Paul Martin’s short-lived Liberal administration.

Several excellent studies sharply critical of the shift in the Canadian military from peacekeepers to warriors, plus the wider ideology of the Conservatives, already exist, including McQuaig, Holding the Bully’s Coat (2007), Nadeau, Rogue in Power (2011), and especially the perceptive portrayal of the militarization of Canada by McKay and Swift (2012). Of course, apologists for the military and the Conservatives have not been twiddling their thumbs, particularly two prolific historians who enjoy the stature of public intellectuals: Jack Granatstein, Whose War Is It? (2007) and David Bercuson, Significant Incident (1996), plus their joint autopsy of the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan, Lessons Learned (2011). Drawn into the fray have been several well-known journalists, with Lawrence Martin, for example, making a case for peacekeeping and the Liberals (2010), and Paul Wells cosying up to the Conservatives (2013).

My angle into the debate about what kind of military we want and what kind of country we want (these are almost the same question) revolves around resistance – a theme with a long and rich history in anthropology. Opposition to a militarized Canada was substantial. In the decades following the Second World War there were periodic efforts by the international community to promote peace over war, and in Canada the military was starved and sidelined by unsympathetic governments. Yet within the past decade such has been the rise in the fortunes of the Canadian military, inspired no doubt by the horror of 9/11, that it sometimes has been lauded as the country’s most important and respected institution.

Obstacles to a right-wing drift in the political realm were equally daunting: the entrenched liberal values of Canadians, especially robust support for the UN, a love affair with the peacekeeping tradition and welfare programs such as universal health care, and a dedicated commitment to minority rights. Yet the Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper managed to impose an ideology and political culture that lodged the nation within the orbit of the most extreme elements of America’s Republican Party.

How did the military on the one hand and the Conservatives on the other surmount formidable barriers in the way of their ambitions? The first thing to point out is that their interests coincided; the Conservative agenda nourished the military, and a strengthened military reinforced the Conservatives. Men and women in the military were less than enamoured with peacekeeping. They were trained for war, and as one high-ranking soldier who had served in Afghanistan told me, his troops craved to be tested on the battlefield, to be “blooded. ” The Conservatives poured funds into the military, set it loose in war zones, while at the same time mothballing its peacekeeping role.

In turn, the newly muscular military’s adventures abroad in hot spots like Afghanistan contributed to the government’s success in nudging the nation away from the UN and towards narrower Western institutions and interests such as NATO and American foreign policy. These forays into enemy territory also enhanced the government’s capacity to prioritize security over citizen rights and freedoms, and the accompanying culture of fear provided a cover for what appeared to be an onslaught on the nation’s democratic traditions. Certainly there were additional factors in the Conservative Party’s victory such as the weakened and fragmented opposition parties, and the clever, disciplined, and relentless partisan leadership of Harper himself. Yet it was the reciprocal benefits of the military and the Conservatives, possibly more than anything else, that enabled each of them to triumph in the face of resistance.

In this study the lamb and the tiger will be employed as metaphors. The lamb: soft power, peace, internationalism, tolerance, relativism, and compromise. The tiger: hard power, aggression, provincialism, intolerance, absolutism, and ideological rigidity.

It may be wondered why realism hasn’t been added to the list attached to the tiger, and idealism to that of the lamb. After all, people in favour of hard power are often labelled realists, while soft power advocates are more likely to be described as idealists. Yet ideals and values animate the Conservative Party: individual rather than group rights, small rather than big government, liberty over justice, hierarchy over equality, and the associated belief that individuals – not society – are responsible for their achievements or lack of them in life. Conservatives also look favourably on the military virtues of loyalty, duty, discipline, fortitude, honour, and patriotism. Finally, there is their absolute faith in unbridled capitalism, along with the conviction that almost no greater harm can be saddled on people than to drag them into the clutches of the welfare bureaucracy.

Table of contents

1 Introduction

Part One: Disputed Visions
2 Peaceful Kingdom
3 Warrior Nation

Part Two: Why War?
4 Genetic Basis of War
5 Cultural Basis of War

Part Three: The Canadian Dream
6 Gender, Aboriginals, and Resistance
7 Lamb Power and Tiger Power



Structured around an anti-war perspective, The Lamb and the Tiger critically examines the ageless genetic and more recent cultural (civilizational) explanations of war, concluding with a close look at the impact of war and right-wing politics on women and Indigenous peoples. The Lamb and the Tiger encourages Canadians to think about what kind of military and what kind of country they really want.


"The Lamb and the Tiger presents an interesting and well-presented critique of the Harper Government while appealing for Canada’s return to a major role in international peace efforts. The anthropological assessments and framework effectively contribute to the author’s arguments and offer important concepts and ideas that are useful to anyone advocating for Canada to play a more active role in the international community’s efforts towards world peace. The book is readable for those without an anthropological background, making it a worthy selection for anyone interested in Canadian foreign policy and international peace studies. "

- Stewart Kerr