A recent poll of Canadian attitudes towards American foreign policy
finally illustrates that when it comes to the war on terrorism Canada
does not in fact stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States as
Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien once pledged.
Although nearly half of respondents believed that as the world’s sole
superpower the United States had a responsibility to ensure global
security, nearly seven in 10 agreed with the statement that America was
“starting to act like a bully with the rest of the world.” Further, the
poll found Canadians lukewarm about the prospect of a war against Iraq.
The poll, said experts like Michael Sullivan of Strategic Counsel,
showed that while Canadians shared many of the same priorities as
Americans, such as combating terrorism, they didn’t necessarily share
many of the same values.
“As Canadians, we take pride in our role as peacemaking and
peacekeeping. I think that that is part of our personality. We take
pride in medicare; we take pride in our peacekeeping role. And when we
look at the U.S., we don’t see those kind of values necessarily
reflected,” said Sullivan.
Canadians pride themselves as being members of the world’s only “moral
superpower,” one that exercises a “soft power” when it came to world
affairs. Why employ soldiers where endless conferences might do the
trick? It’s an attitude which has sparked an arrogance no less
pronounced then the one Americans are accused of possessing.
Unfortunately, unlike America’s alleged arrogance, ours is based on
little more than wishful thinking.
Ashbrook Center analyst Robert Alt recently remarked that Canada played
the role of the United States’ little brother, the “kid who would get
beat up by every passing punk, but for the fact that his brother is the
biggest kid on the block. No one really respects the little brother,
because they know that there is no merit in this accident of birth.”
Without the United States, he wrote, Canada would be little more than a
third world country with a thriving hockey league.
They’re the kind of comments that get the backs up of Canadians, but
unfortunately they’re not far from the truth. Thanks to the bulwark of
America, Canada is essentially isolated from having to make the tough
decisions that America’s leaders have been forced to make every day
since Sept. 11, 2001. When it comes to the war over values and
morality, it is Canada that is losing each battle.
That was best illustrated by the prime minister’s comments this past
September during an interview in which he suggested that the blame for
Sept. 11 rested in part on the United States due to global economic
disparity. Before that, Chr?tien refused to commit soldiers to the war
against the Taliban for months until it was clear that the United States
and Britain didn’t particularly care if Canadians were involved. Only
when the request came reluctantly did the Canadian government commit our
forces to the war.
As for our reputation as peacekeepers? It is the United States which
commits the bulk of soldiers for United Nations missions. Currently over
200,000 American soldiers are stationed around the world, a force more
than twice as large as the entire Canadian Armed Forces. And before the
peacekeepers move in, it tends to be American soldiers who, in Alt’s
words, have the “nasty habit of doing the heavy lifting of actually
creating the conditions for peace, leaving it to those nations like
Canada whose moral indignation at the unpleasantness of international
conflict prevents them from displaying the moral resolve necessary to
make difficult choices.”
We may be proud of values like medicare and peacekeeping, but it may be
more telling that al-Qaida attacked the United States and not Canada. It
is because the United States represents the values of the West to the
world, values which men like Osama bin Laden find to be so threatening.
Occasionally nations must flex their muscle in order to defend those
values. That means while American soldiers are fighting across the
planet to defend the ideals that Canadians once held dear, our leaders
will be at yet another international conference enjoying the cr?me
br?l?e and decrying the bully to the south of us. How lucky we are to
have a neighbor that gives us that opportunity.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.