(A disclaimer: I'm certainly no expert on Canadian foreign policy.
For readers who want a more informed view, I'd suggest reading
Arthur Andrew's "The Rise and Fall of a Middle Power.")
1. For geographic reasons, Canada's security has been closely tied to
the security of the United States and of Britain. In particular,
if a single country were to succeed in overthrowing the existing
balance of power in Europe and Asia and dominating the entire
continent, it would be in a position to attack Britain and North
America as well. Therefore Canada, like Britain and the United
States, has a vital interest in maintaining the balance of power
in Europe and Asia.
Canada fought against Germany during World War I and against
Germany and Japan during World War II, and opposed the Soviet
Union during the Cold War. Canada's military power doesn't
compare to that of a Great Power, but it does have the strength of
a "middle power", including an effective military backed by an
industrialized economy and considerable natural resources.
(During World War II, 1.1. million Canadians, or 10% of the
population, served in the armed forces.)
2. Canada also has a very strong interest in peace and stability, for
two reasons: the threat of Quebec separatism, which is aggravated
by war (conscription was a major political issue in both World War
I and World War II); and the dependence of the Canadian economy on
trade, which is disrupted by war.
In short, Canadians are willing to fight, but only when it's
3. Canadian diplomacy is generally sober and realistic. On the other
hand, Canadians can also be smug, complacent, and judgemental,
particularly when it comes to the United States. (It's easy to
find fault with others when they're more powerful than you.)
Besides maintaining the balance of power, Canadian diplomacy seeks
to strengthen the rule of law, reflecting Canadian support for the
status quo. Canada is a strong supporter of the United Nations,
arms control treaties, peacekeeping operations, and more recent
initiatives such as the International Criminal Court.
Canadian diplomacy also supports humanitarian efforts in poor
countries, such as disaster relief and development aid. Canadians
feel that they have a certain level of responsibility to help poor
people within Canada; they feel a similar responsibility toward
So much for traditional Canadian diplomacy. Does all of this still
make sense? The United States has clear military superiority over any
conceivable rival. The most significant challenge to the status
quo, and threat to the West, comes from al-Qaeda, a conspiracy rather
than a state. If the US is now seeking to weaken the rule of law,
shouldn't Canada feel free to oppose the US openly?
First, I think it's important to distinguish between being opposed
to US power, period, and being opposed to the *imprudent use* of
of US power. Canada's interest is in greater US prudence, not
weakening of US power.
In Iraq, for example, it's definitely in Canada's interest for
Saddam Hussein to be disarmed; what Canada has a problem with is
the apparent US goal of *overthrowing* Saddam Hussein, not just
If Canada's objective is greater US prudence, how can we work
There's three elements of diplomacy: persuasion, compromise, and
threats. Obviously Canada isn't going to make threats against the
US -- the idea of Canada going to war against the US in the name
of international law, or for any other reason, is ludicrous. That
leaves persuasion and compromise.
Persuasion makes sense; greater prudence, self-restraint, and
support for international law would arguably be in the interests
of the US itself. There's already elements within the US
government that are pressing for greater prudence, such as the
State Department under Colin Powell. There probably isn't much
that Canada can do to support such elements, but it's important
for Canada not to do anything that would weaken them.
(Inflammatory speeches by government ministers comparing Bush to
Hitler, as happened in Germany, would probably fall into this
category. Who needs allies like that?)
What about compromise? Canada can offer or withhold diplomatic
support for the US. For example, Canada has said that it will go
to war with Iraq *if* authorized by the UN Security Council, but
hasn't said what it will do if the US goes to war without Security
Canada can also offer or withhold military support, such as
peacekeeping troops for Afghanistan; this is important because the
US military would need all the help it could get if it ended up
occupying Iraq. Here Canada would have greater influence if it
had a stronger military. The Canadian military has been cut back
since the end of the Cold War, and it's currently stretched by
existing peacekeeping commitments. Fortunately, there's money
available for increasing military spending, as well as public
Just to summarize, Canadian security is closely tied to US security,
and so it generally makes sense for Canada to support the US. Canada's
efforts to sustain the rule of law would be furthered by strengthening
Canadian diplomacy and the Canadian military.
alt.politics.international FAQ: www.geocities.com/rwvong/future/apifaq.html
Very nice effort. It's still a bit of a strange feeling (despite having
personally been interested in international policy as a hobby for years now)
how distance and geography seem to mean so little when it comes to defining
or understanding the policies of many of the US' closest allies. Your
description of the views of Canadian politicians and analysts fits so very
closely with the rationales bandied about in the same circles here in
Europe, that your explanations might be substituted for any of their foreign
policy considerations (except for the geographical closeness to the US,
obviously). It might actually be considered true that when the talk is
strictly about the formulation of a foreign policy line with regard to the
US, a sizeable part of the World (all of the NATO alliance countries, at
least) reacts as if US power was a unilateral size which must be treated in
exactly the same way by all.
Of course, this is a truth requiring some modification, because when the
individual relationships between the US and its allies are examined closely,
they do show a great deal of individual variety. Unilateralism is never more
than at best a superficial description of reality, but as a concept for
policy formation it does seem to hold great attraction for some of the more
power-happy politicians in the US political establishment.
In your deliberations, the following phrases did strike me as especially
interesting at this juncture of history, on the eve of a US (unilateral,
pre-emptive) War of Aggression against Iraq.
Quoting you, Russil:
"First, I think it's important to distinguish between being opposed to US
power, period, and being opposed to the *imprudent use* of US power.
Canada's interest is in greater US prudence, not weakening of US power."
By that logic, Canada wants the US to adhere to the strictures of
international war and work with the UN to prevent wars, conflicts, human
generated disasters from taking place. As you correctly say, this means the
Canadian support for a unilateral US war is actually non-existent (just like
in Europe [minus the UK Government]). Then you go on to say that Canada and
other close and traditional US allies can use their opposition to US actions
to prevent the US from carrying them out (or at least modify them or
possibly reconsider them). In your words, "...working for greater US
Now, that is undoubtedly what the Governments of Denmark, Norway, Sweden,
the Netherlands, Germany etc. hope for, too. But what if the US Government
persists in carrying out actions which its allies or NATO or the EU consider
ill-advised or possibly illegal? Wouldn't the proper reaction be to condemn
the actions of the US outright (after appropriate attempts at diplomacy had
failed)? And if condemnation results in estrangement and open conflict (as
has already happened, but so far 'only' in the areas of trade and
diplomacy), what would the proper response of the allies that have to be?
You know the old saying, "the pitcher goes often to the wall, but is broken
at last." It might happen! And what might then follow?
PS. OT-remark. Have you noticed a Mr. M.J. John who's just appeared here at
[api]? What do you think about his ideas? Highly interesting is my reaction!
> It's still a bit of a strange feeling (despite having
> personally been interested in international policy as a hobby for years now)
> how distance and geography seem to mean so little when it comes to defining
> or understanding the policies of many of the US' closest allies. Your
> description of the views of Canadian politicians and analysts fits so very
> closely with the rationales bandied about in the same circles here in
> Europe, that your explanations might be substituted for any of their foreign
> policy considerations (except for the geographical closeness to the US,
Hmm. Interesting. I thought that France, at least, has followed a much
more independent foreign policy.
> But what if the US Government
> persists in carrying out actions which its allies or NATO or the EU consider
> ill-advised or possibly illegal? Wouldn't the proper reaction be to condemn
> the actions of the US outright (after appropriate attempts at diplomacy had
That *is* diplomacy. But I don't see how that would be constructive; I think
it would simply strengthen the hard-liners and weaken the moderates in the
> PS. OT-remark. Have you noticed a Mr. M.J. John who's just appeared here at
Yes, I've posted a couple of responses to him.
> What do you think about his ideas? Highly interesting is my reaction!
I'm afraid I'm skeptical of the possibility of transforming human nature or
society. I think the struggle for power is going to continue, like it or
not; our problem, then, is how to maintain a stable balance of power, so
as to prevent destructive conflict.
The need to increase military spending is pretty much a
in Canada now and is fast becoming a major issue in the next federal
Even the Defence Minister admits, in a sort of "mea-culpa", that the
Liberal government has neglected and overstretched the military. Of
course, it would be unrealistic to believe Canada could or should
quickly build up its military strength to levels comparable, let愀
say, to those of the UK or France. However,it is realistic to expect a
small, but effective (lethal and high-tech) fighting force capable not
only of defending the Canadian territory, but also of projecting power
in an offensive role within the framework of a multinational
"Defending Canadian Territory" ? From what would you need to defend
it? Sure as Hell, the US doesn't need Canada, we have enough problems
on our own without adopting yours as well. That leaves who? I don't
think you are in any great threat of invasion unless the Inuit decide to
No doubt that's what we all thought in the 1920s. :-) Or should that be :-(?
During World War II, there were German submarines operating in the Gulf
of St. Lawrence, sinking Canadian shipping. Canadians weren't fighting
overseas out of pure altruism -- if the Axis had defeated the Allies
overseas, North America would likely have been next. (It would have been
too much of a threat to leave alone.)
So build up your coastal defenses a bit. If memory serves me correctly,
the reason subs actually operated near your shore was that the resources
you did have were busy escorting convoys to keep England from starving.
Yes, I assume that's what Marcelo was referring to.
> If memory serves me correctly,
> the reason subs actually operated near your shore was that the resources
> you did have were busy escorting convoys to keep England from starving.
In terms of logistics, American troops and Canadian troops work
together better than, say, American troops and Pakistani troops. The
transaction costs are lower.
It does help if troops speak the same basic language. <although I can
guarantee that hearing "eh?" on the end of nearly every sentence gets a
bit annoying and some Southern boys are still trying to figure out what
the "fridge" is>