For human beings, there is only one universal constant that defines our species on a daily basis: friends. Sure, some of our closest confidents may be many kilometres away, or that our friends make decisions that puzzle and frustrate us at times, but you stand by them no matter what they do.
Canada and the U.S. have that kind of relationship – a dynamic, ever-changing friendship among nations, governments and individuals.
Both countries enjoy a “special” relationship that few countries in the world have. We’re tied to each other in ways that no other country – not even the United Kingdom – can appreciate or understand. And sometimes, our opposing interests create conflict not just between governments, but the population-at-large. Anti-Americanism is a major theme in Canadian social life, mostly because Canadians, in our relentless struggle for a national identity, find solace in the “I’m Not American” mantra of geopolitics.
Here we are, in 2004, and Canadians are now leading the world in Anti-Americanism. It’s trendy to hate America now. After 9-11, I, along with the vast majority of Canadians, suddenly realized that hating the American way of life just because it was “American” was silly and immature; indeed, the rush of sympathy for our neighbours to the south after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington didn’t emerge out of our national self-interest – we felt the Americans’ pain because it was our pain too.
Today, that goodwill has been lost. The entire planet is awash in hatred of all things American, given the actions of the Bush Administration since those very dark days of September 2001.
Many people make the miscalculation that the United States and the United States government are one in the same. This is not true. There is a lot to admire about America, especially in its remarkable development of business and technological infrastructure over the last 200 years. And while many American organizations have done as much evil as they have done good in this world, how many countries can honestly say they are without sin? Can France and Germany say they’re absolved of any historical blunders due to their reticence to fight in the war in Iraq? Can Canada say that? No.
To be fair, I’m glad our government did not go to war in Iraq. That little imperialist adventure is quickly turning into a 21st century version of Vietnam. And Canada should not blindly do whatever the White House wants, given the sometimes-overwhelming spectre of U.S. interests both at home and abroad.
A phrase I heard once seems particularly appropriate to the current state of Canada-U.S. relations: “Small minds mistake opposition for disloyality.” Rational thinking indicates that, if a truly legitimate threat for Weapons of Mass Destruction existed in Iraq before the war, Canada would most definitely enter the conflict. Canada made this mistake before back in the 1960’s with the Cuban Missle Crisis. President Kennedy did present evidence that the Soviet Union was funding short and medium-range weapon silos in Cuba and the Canadian government waffled on activating NORAD in preparation for a potential war with the Russians. The Americans had every right to be angry at us for that. Since then, I’d like to think any decision the Canadian government made in going to war would be based on either a serious threat to North American defense or going through the United Nations.
In other words, national sovereignty, ideally, should be maintained without putting our allies’ interests in trouble. It’s a tough balancing act to maintain but is not impossible.
I don’t like the current Bush Administration and I’m willing to go on record saying that. The neo-conservatives have hijacked the Republican Party, turning the U.S. government into a weapon of imperalist, narrow self-interest.
No doubt, America was the only country hit by the worst terrorist attack in human history three years ago. Therefore, America does bear the brunt of the financial and political burden of fighting an abstract war against a shadowy terrorist network. Yet while America has every right to defend itself and its interests, there has to be a better way than this.
For Canadians, we have a moral obligation to upgrade our military and make it compatible with the American armed forces. We simply cannot pretend that peacekeeping is our only military goal. Being a Middle Power, loaded to the tilt with diplomats and U.N. sanctioned blue berets, doesn’t automatically ensure we have influence in the world. Our military needs major equipment upgrades and we must try to show our American friends that we do care about them and that we want to live up to the terms of agreements like NORAD once again.
That being said, we were better friends by not going to Iraq than we would have been if we had gone. Friends who refuse to tell others when they’re doing something wrong aren’t real friends – they’re wannabes, desperate for the approval of someone richer, more powerful. Blindly accepting the logic of someone without thinking about the long-term consequences is akin to jumping off a bridge because they did it too. It’s dangerous, passive and short-sighted.
We’re entering a strange time in history, a world that has become infinitely more violent and has war on our doorsteps. Canadians should do more to contribute to the War on Terrorism, no doubt. Yet don’t insist we do it blindly for what George W. Bush wants.