Accession Number:



Sleeping with the Elephant: A Canadian Strategic Culture

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report,01 Jun 2015,01 May 2016

Corporate Author:

US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



This paper examines the strategic culture of Canada and immerses the reader in the way Canada represents the world surrounding it. Many observers have described Canada as a country which cannot be successfully invaded, nor defended. Maybe in part because of this conundrum, commentators have argued that Canada does not usually get a choice as to how, and when, it employs its military forces. This is an intriguing proposition given that the employment of military forces is usually considered one of the most visible and profound element of a nations sovereignty. While many fields of studies explore the ramifications of this Canadian reality, the relatively recent concept of strategic culture offers new possibilities to analyze, and maybe understand Canadas primary strategic determinants. With the concept of strategic culture as the basis of the argumentation, this paper looks back at the history of Canada since the 1867 Confederation and a number of post-Second World War strategic documents in the search of the common experiences and accepted narratives that have formed a set shared of belief amongst Canadian leaders. The analysis demonstrates that Canadas geographical proximity, economical nexus and interdependent connections with the United States permeate all thinking to the point where the United States becomes the de facto center of gravity in any Canadian strategy-making processes. The study of these geographical, economical and interdependent factors confirms the presence of a powerful attraction force exerted by the United States which influences the development of Canadian military strategies and defence policies. These elements, through the years, became elevated to the ranks of axioms and now form the base of an integrated systems of symbols, pervasive and enduring, which Canadian military strategies abide by when formulating concepts for the role of Canadian military forces. This is Canadas strategic culture.

Subject Categories:

Distribution Statement: