Command without Control?

Now that we’ve survived another election, I’m going to apply my Pollyannaish thinking, click my heels three times, and hope that Ottawa can now focus on what really matters.

It seems the United States may already be heading in that direction with the release of a critical document that doesn’t seem to have garnered as much media as would be warranted, even though it makes the case for, and then provides, a new narrative for the entire country.

It is a narrative that answers the same kind of questions Canada should be asking in this time of rapid and universal change. Where is our country going in the world? How can we get there? Do we have a common vision that will reflect our values, transcend the divisiveness of our political parties, and give us the confidence to fulfill our potential as a nation?

Titled “A National Strategic Narrative,” the US document was written by Capt. Wayne Porter of the Navy and Col. Mark Mykleby of the Marine Corps.

The authors point out that the existing US narrative is based on policy established in 1946 outlining a strategy of containment that saw them as the world’s most powerful nation and “leader of the free world” who would serve as a bulwark against communism and fascism.

While it may have been valid at the time, America’s policy and decision-making, like much of Canada’s, has failed to evolve since the fall of the Soviet Union. And, as is becoming clear, dominance and control is becoming more and more difficult to sustain as complexity grows.

As a result, new leadership and direction needs to emerge if the US is to reverse doubts about their ability to lead or prosper as a result of their declining education system, crumbling infrastructure, jeopardized health care, and eroding self-confidence. 

While the full document can be accessed online, the core of the new narrative is that the US wants to “become the strongest competitor and most influential player in a deeply inter-connected global system, which requires that we invest less in defense and more in sustainable prosperity and the tools of effective global engagement.”

While that one sentence represents a major shift in policy and direction, my guess is that it will resonate with citizens in the US and beyond. While in part it will resonate because it points out that the United States has erroneously embraced military aggression and economic controls instead of political and collaborative solutions, it also suggests that credibility and leadership needs to be earned. Influence will come when we embrace prosperity and well-being for all nations. Rather than the modus operandi of the past that was more about command and control, today command can exist without control in essence moving from containment to sustainment.

It is also acknowledged that none of that will happen without a shift in spending away from military defense and toward civilian engagement and a healthy dose of competition.  And, as everyone knows, to compete in today’s world, citizens need to have the tools and resources to make that happen. That of course begins at home with quality health care, social services, and education. Ironically these areas are too often the first targeted for cuts at all levels of government.

Why is the US experience important for us as Canadians? It is a reminder that we must evolve and grow if we are to be a bolder, more responsible nation.

Our domestic and our foreign policy needs to reflect our values as Canadians including our compassion, human rights, freedom, respect and tolerance, belief in social justice, education, peace and stability, a sustainable environment, integrity, cooperation, and collaboration.

Until Canadians see government policy and direction that reflects these values, there will continue to be a general mistrust of government and elected officials. And, perhaps most importantly, Canada will only be as effective on the world stage as they are at home.

For the full US National Strategic Narrative see


Posted on 05-02-11


No doubt, Brenda.  That’s just it - is Canada going to come out of this election as a nation known for ‘our compassion, human rights, freedom, respect and tolerance, belief in social justice, education, peace and stability, a sustainable environment, integrity, cooperation, and collaboration’?  I just had to repeat these… or will we lose what it means to be responsible (and evolving) global citizens?

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  05/03/11  at  10:57 AM

Add your Comment here:






Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:

Next entry: Burned by a Blame Thrower

Previous entry: A One-Size-Fits-All Solution for Large Scale Change?