This summer Canada restored the “Royal” prefix to the Canadian navy and air force. That was more than symbolic; it marked a new step away from the earlier vision of a single, unified Canadian military entity, in which navy captains were often formally colonels, and all three services shared a common logistics command. The earlier vision was executed under the leadership of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who wanted to save money by eliminating duplication. It reflected the very common view among civilians interested in national security that the different services are no more than warring tribes, more or less identical in outlook. Forcing them to work together should, many imagine, achieve great economies. Hasn’t interservice rivalry been a major problem? Wouldn’t it be better if everyone were forced to get along?
In the United States, the expression of this view was the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, but it was actually an extension of the service-unification ideas of the late 1940s that created the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force. Now that money is again tightening, perhaps it is time to ask whether unification, or jointness, has done much good.