During the many years I resided in the Seattle area, I frequently drove up Interstate 5 to Vancouver, to eat at a favorite restaurant, visit friends, or just enjoy myself in one of the world’s most spectacularly beautiful cities.
At Blaine, Washington, where travelers along this route cross the border into Canada, I always took notice of the magnificent Peace Arch, which sits precisely athwart the border. On the U.S. side, its inscription reads “Children of a Common Mother,” and I was always bemused by what I took to be the implicit ethnocentrism of that expression. It seems to be the sort of thought that occurred naturally to WASP movers and shakers circa 1921, the year the monument was dedicated, but it certainly would not pass muster with today’s multicultural gatekeepers.
Be that as it may, I always relished the idea that the people of Canada and the United States had been peaceful neighbors for so long — memories having faded of U.S. attempts to conquer Canada at the outset of the War of Independence and at the outset of the War of 1812, not to mention the Fenian raids between 1866 and 1871 and the 1859 Pig War (certainly my all-time favorite war, inasmuch as no shots were fired, except the one that killed the pig). Because I have enjoyed so many warm friendships with Canadians and spent so many pleasant times in their country during the past forty years, I confess that the idea of warfare between the United States and Canada strikes me as flat-out preposterous.
So, I was somewhat taken aback when, searching for information on another matter, I stumbled upon a description of War Plan Red, which pertains to a war between the United States and the British Empire. The U.S. Army developed this plan, along with many other color-coded contingency plans, in the 1920s and kept it warm until the end of the 1930s, when new plans were made in which the United States and Canada would cooperate in military actions against common enemies, such as Germany and Japan.
War Plan Red envisioned primarily U.S. attacks on and occupation of various Canadian cities, including Halifax (to be subjected to a poison-gas first strike), Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Victoria. To imagine U.S. Army officers drawing up such a plan only a few years before I was born boggles my mind. What were they thinking?
As if War Plan Red were not bizarre enough, be advised that an enterprising Canadian soldier, Colonel James “Buster” Sutherland Brown (yes, Buster Brown — I am not making this up), drew up a plan in 1921 for Canadian forces to get the jump on the more powerful Americans before the Yankees could invade Canada. Brown’s Defence Scheme No. 1 called for quick Canadian military thrusts to seize various U.S. cities — Seattle, Minneapolis, and Albany, among others — before retreating from them in an orderly manner. The idea was to divert U.S. troops and buy time for the British Empire to bring more powerful forces onto the scene in Canada’s defense. The Canadian military abandoned the plan in 1928, which, strange to say, was shortly after the U.S. Army formulated War Plan Red, a design consisting, for the most part, of plans for an invasion of Canada.
For letting down its guard against a possible — nay, a planned — U.S. invasion, I blame Canada. I’m sure you know the lyrics for my indictment.
This originally appeared on the Independent Institute’s blog.
Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is also a columnist for LewRockwell.com. His most recent book is Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government. He is also the author of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.