If Americans today know anything about Canada, says Dr. Joel Sokolsky in this study, it is that in March 2003 the Government of Canada believed it unneces- sary to support the United States in the war in Iraq. Not that Canada’s participa- tion would have affected the war’s outcome or given Ottawa influence over its conduct or the subsequent rebuilding of Iraq. Indeed, Canada would have been inconspicuous by its presence. Yet, in the end, says Sokolsky, Canada was con- spicuous by its absence, and this profoundly soured bilateral relations. For many Canadian observers this was just the latest, saddest chapter in a pattern of behav- iour that reduced Canada, under Chrétien, to international irrelevance and need- lessly strained relations with the United States. For Sokolsky, Ottawa’s decision to forgo participation in the Iraq war was not only inconsistent with traditional Canadian foreign policy, but at odds with the Chrétien government’s behaviour, both before and after September 11, 2001.
The view that since the end of the Cold War, Canada’s international stand- ing has eroded because of reduced spending on foreign affairs, especially cuts to the Canadian forces, ignores the underlying realism that has long guided Ottawa’s approach to international security relations. Even during the “golden era” of Pearsonian diplomacy, when Canada fully embraced collective security through the United Nations and, more importantly, collective defence through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and bilateral security arrangements with the United States, Ottawa’s response to the question “How much is enough mil- itary expenditure” tended to be “How much is just enough?” While Canada could and did contribute effective and highly regarded military forces to multilateral operations, the level of its contributions did not determine its influence, which was inherently circumscribed by the very nature of the international security environment.
Sokolsky maintains that in the disorderly world of the post-Cold War era, Canada, despite reduced defence spending, remained an active, even hyperactive, player in major global events. Worldwide, Ottawa worked closely with the United States in the diverse peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions where the Canadian forces were deployed. Indeed, under the Chrétien government, Canadian defence policy tended to enhance interoperability with the American forces.
In his paper, Sokolsky describes the pattern of cooperation as continuing into the post-September 11 era, as Ottawa dispatched forces to Afghanistan, joined in the war on terrorism, and initiated measures to convince Washington that Canada was no security liability in this new global struggle. Canada’s response, he argues, reflected more than just concern with possible terrorist attacks. It was well understood in Ottawa that with over 80 percent of Canada’s trade dependent upon keeping an open border with the United States, Canada had to act. This, says Sokolsky, was realism at its most basic.
Whichever party wins the November 2004 US presidential elections, says Sokolsky, America will still expect allies to contribute forces to the US-led inter- national coalitions to secure it’s own as well as broader Western interests. And like other allies that were reluctant to support the American war in Iraq, Canada now seeks improved relations with the United States. Ottawa’s recently announced increases in defence expenditure and its specific acquisition plans signal its intention to improve the Canadian forces’ capacity to participate in future overseas operations.
But, unlike other allies, Canada is directly involved in the security of the American homeland. The United States’ creation of Northern Command, the ongoing and new roles of the North American Aerospace Defence Command and the current emphasis on maritime security all place new demands on the Canadian forces vis-à-vis Canada’s domestic security and its bilateral cooperation with the United States in the war on terrorism. A range of intelligence and pub- lic safety agencies will be called on to track internal threats, protect critical infra- structure and ports, and secure the free flow of trade across the border.
Given these circumstances and Canada’s limited defence budget increases, Sokolsky argues, it is realistic to reduce the tempo of Canadian overseas commit- ments in favour of domestic and North American roles. This approach will be a hard sell in Washington and in some Canadian quarters where the dispatch of troops to far-flung lands is too often the prime measure of allied loyalty. But if in the war on terrorism the first goal of US defence policy is to protect the American people, Canada should occupy a unique place in the global calculus of US strategy.
Just before the Second Gulf War, noted Canadian historian Jack Granatstein recalled the remarks of Canadian economist and humorist Stephen Leacock from the late thirties: “If you were to ask any Canadian…‘Do you have to go to war if England does?’ he’d answer at once, ‘Oh no.’ If you then said, “Would you go to war if England does?’ he’d answer, ‘Oh yes.’ And if you asked, ‘Why?’ he would say, reflectively, ‘Well, you see we’d have to.’”1
If Americans today know anything about Canada, they know that in March 2003 the Government of Canada did not feel it had to support the United States in the war in Iraq. It was not as if Canadian participation in this war would have had an impact on its outcome, or given Ottawa any influence over its conduct or the subsequent rebuilding of the country. In any case Canada would have been inconspicuous by its presence. In the end, though, it was conspicuous by its absence. And this profoundly strained bilateral relations.
Prime Minister Chrétien had been anything but consistent. Canada had wel- comed the resolution of the United Nations (UN) that called on Iraq to admit inspec- tors and to fully disclose the extent of its weapons programs or face the consequences. Yet Chrétien was publicly cool to the use of force if Iraq did not comply, even though it had accepted the UN resolution and it was evident that the build-up of American forces had persuaded Saddam to allow the inspectors in. As war approached, Ottawa tried to craft a compromise that would give the United Nations’ weapons inspectors more time and a fixed deadline. But the initiative was ignored by the Americans and those on the Security Council opposed to Washington’s actions.
At the same time, according to published reports, senior Canadian military leaders, working with US Central Command, planned for, and told the Americans that Canada could contribute, a battle group of 600 to 800 troops. The government then abruptly changed its mind, and decided to send a force of some 2,000 troops to Afghanistan in response to an earlier American request to replace the Canadian units that had left in the summer of 2002.2 It appears that Prime Minister Chrétien was reacting both to the strident rhetoric from President Bush, who had begun speaking openly of “regime change” even while the United Nations’ inspectors con- tinued their hunt for weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and to Canadians’ anti- war opinions. There was speculation, too, that Chrétien was concerned about the forthcoming provincial election in Quebec, where opposition to Canadian partici- pation in the Iraq war was particularly strong.3
Of course, the government was somewhat embarrassed when it became clear that Canada — with its 31 personnel on exchange with US and UK forces in Iraq, its ships in the Persian Gulf and its aircraft in the region — actually had a larger com- mitment to Operation Iraqi Freedom than the other “coalition” partners. And US Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci was quick to compound the government’s unease by publicly pointing this out to Canadian audiences. President Bush then can- celled his long-planned visit to Canada, where he was to address Parliament, and, to emphasize his displeasure, invited Australian Prime Minister Howard, whose country had contributed troops to the war, to his Crawford (Texas) ranch. The US government made no secret of the fact that it was looking forward to a regime change in Ottawa with the prime minister’s imminent departure from office at the end of the year.
Some Canadian analysts contended that the prime minister deserved these snubs. After all, the United States was Canada’s closest ally — a country that had been terribly attacked less than two years before and had asked for Canada’s help and support, only to receive months of official obfuscation punctuated by nasty, insulting remarks from senior civil servants and backbenchers who questioned the president’s intellectual ability. Others argued simply that Canada should have sup- ported the United States in the Second Gulf War, if only for the sake of maintaining good bilateral relations and avoiding the wrath of the present US administration.4
But worse than being criticized, Canada was ignored. And this, according to the critics, was just the latest and saddest chapter in a pattern of behaviour that had reduced Canada, under Chrétien, to international irrelevance and need- lessly strained relations with the United States.
This paper looks at the Chrétien legacy in foreign and defence policy, par- ticularly as it relates to security relations with the United States. It begins with an assessment of the arguments concerning the decline of Canada’s international standing, followed by a discussion of Canada’s global position in the post–Cold War era. It then turns to a review of the relevant issues and policies dealing with the bilateral security agenda. It concludes by arguing that while both countries have a stake in fighting terrorism “over there” in the Middle East and elsewhere in collaboration with other allies, both Canada and the United States must address the more immediate and unique security situation “over here” — in the North American homeland they share.
Any assessment of the past, present and future of Canada-US security relations must avoid the sentimentality of “good neighbours” and “undefended borders.” Nor should it embrace the standard stereotype of Canada as the peacekeeping mouse constantly dodging the United States’ war-fighting elephant. Nor should it join in the recent chorus of criticism that claims Canada’s international stand- ing has declined as the result of 10 years of Liberal mismanagement of security relations with the United States. It is necessary, too, to discard the easy assump- tion that if only Canada’s political leaders had had a better understanding of strategic matters they would have changed their ways. All these approaches belie the tradition of realism that has governed Canada’s approach to security relations with the United States in the past and must, in the future, underpin them still if bilateral relations are to remain friendly and mutually beneficial.
Often, the rhetoric of neoconservatives and others in the United States accuses the allies not only of weakness, but also of failure to conduct realistic for- eign policies. The problem, of course, is that from the allies’ perspective they are following the dictates of realism. They are simply doing for themselves what the United States does for itself — attempting to further, and enhance, their own interests and values as determined by their governments. Canada has historical- ly done the same, and under the Chrétien government as well.
Canadian leaders, including the previous prime minister, have often avoid- ed reference to the hard, realpolitik calculations that lie behind Canadian foreign policy; many a time they have laid down a smokescreen of super-liberal interna- tionalism for public consumption at home, which is then taken at face value abroad. Yet behind this rhetoric, Canada’s political leaders have for the most part adopted strategically sound and realistic approaches to the role of military force in the furtherance of vital national interests.
It has been said that “Canada’s defence problem is that it has no defence prob- lem.” But that is not entirely true, especially since 9/11. As Desmond Morton has argued, “when Americans feel really threatened, Canadians should feel threatened too.” In truth, then, Canada’s defence problem is to convince Washington that Canada is not an American defence problem.5 Fortunately, even today, this stance does not take much in the way of national defence resources. Thus Canada’s politi- cal leaders have been able to answer the question “How much is enough?” with the answer, “How much is just enough?” In other words, how much is just enough to keep the Canadian Forces (CF) roughly compatible with other allied forces? How much is just enough to demonstrate just enough support for allied calls for greater defence spending? How much is just enough to make a contribution when Washington rounds up the posse for its “coalitions of the willing”? And how much is just enough to send? How much is just enough to maintain close participation with the US in North American aerospace defence?6 And finally, today, how much is just enough to assure the Americans that Canada is not a “haven for terrorists,” so that the border can be kept open for the over 80 percent of Canadian exports that go to the US and upon which Canadian prosperity and its social programs depend.
In this wholly realistic assessment, Canadian leaders have proven extreme- ly adept at matching the limited real political benefits of defence spending to the limited contributions, particularly when it comes to overseas operations. Here, Washington seems to have adopted the “Woody Allen” approach to Canadian (and other small allied) contributions; that is, that “ninety percent of life is just showing up.”
Indeed, while it is very difficult for partners to match the sophistication of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)-transformed US forces, this has not prevented the US from seeking and cultivating cooperation. As part of the effort to extend and secure American influence, Washington makes significant efforts to include contributions from other countries in its operations, regard- less of their level of military sophistication and however these foreign govern- ments wish to describe their contributions. As Secretary Rumsfeld noted with regard to the war in Afghanistan, “our policy of accepting help from any coun- try, on a basis comfortable for its government, and allowing that country to characterize how it is helping (instead of our creating that characterization for it), is enabling us to maximize both other countries’ cooperation and our effec- tiveness against the enemy.”7
At the same time, it is clear that Washington intends to be the architect and leader of any coalition; and that, above all, allied contributions will not result in any influence over the conduct or objectives of the war. “Wars,” Rumsfeld notes, “should not be fought by committee. The mission must determine the coalition, the coalition must not determine the mission, or else the mission will be dumb- ed down to the lowest common denominator.”8 Thus although contributions are welcomed, the United States will not adjust the conduct or objectives of a mis- sion to accommodate the particular wishes of contributors. Moreover, it will be up to allied governments to explain their participation to their citizens. If the allies press too hard for influence over the mission, even for the purposes of jus- tifying participation to their publics, they may become “dispensable.”
Thus, in the interest of demonstrating that America can and does act mul- tilaterally, the US government has welcomed whatever Canada could send, regardless of numbers. Rarely has a Canadian contribution been turned away because of size or lack of sophistication. Moreover, given the high quality of Canada’s military and its ability to operate with American units, the contributions have proven tactically useful. The result is that Canada has not been so much a “free rider” as an “easy rider.”
This approach to allied commitments has “guaranteed that Canada will always prefer to undertake less of an effort than its great-power partners want it to, but not so little as to be eliminated altogether from their strategic decision making.” As David Haglund and Stéphane Roussel recently observed, this approach is an essential part of the Canadian strategic culture.9
Henry Kissinger, the quintessential realist, appreciated Canada’s diplomat- ic skill in maximizing limited military commitments:
Canada’s somewhat aloof position combined with the high quality of its leader- ship gave it an influence out of proportion to its military contribution…(It) was beset by ambivalences which, while different from those of Europe, created their own complexities. It required both close economic relations with the United States and an occasional gesture of strident independence. Concretely, this meant that its need for American markets was in constant tension with its temptation to impose discriminatory economic measures; its instinct in favor of common defense conflicted with the temptation to stay above the battle as a kind of international arbiter. Convinced of the necessity of cooperation, impelled by domestic imperatives toward confrontation, Canadian leaders had a narrow margin for maneuver that they utilized with extraordinary skill.10
It should not be surprising that Canada’s political leaders are skilled at the adroit and determined use of power for political ends. As any provincial govern- ment or backbencher will say, when it comes to domestic politics, particularly federal-provincial relations, Canadian governments, especially the Liberal major- ity governments of the last 10 years, play hardball. Furthermore, under Prime Minister Chrétien, the “friendly dictator,” power and policy has been centralized within the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office.11 The same approach and techniques used for domestic policy have been applied to defence and foreign policy.
The decision not to participate in the Iraq war was all the more surprising because, contrary to much of the current wisdom, it stood in stark contrast to the behaviour of the Chrétien government, both before and after September 11, 2001. It was, moreover, largely at odds with the traditional Canadian approach to important world events and crises. Whatever its idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies, Canadian realism has not often afforded the country the luxu- ry of isolationism.
Since it’s founding in 1867, and even before, Canada has been a player, if only a minor one, in the “great game” of international politics. Moreover, Canadian political culture has included the assumption that wherever there is an international issue or crisis Canada must somehow be there. And indeed, it has been. From South Africa at the turn of the nineteenth century to Bosnia and Afghanistan at the turn of the twentieth, Canadians have, by their own choice, sought to participate in global affairs.
The First World War, though fought for the British Empire, accelerated both Canada’s involvement in international affairs and its drive for independent status. It led to Ottawa taking a seat at the League of Nations, while at the same time resisting new imperial commitments. When Canada went to war in September 1939, it reaffirmed its loyalty to the Crown. But it pointedly waited a full week after England’s declaration to affirm its new, if somewhat ambiguous, status as a sovereign nation within the British Commonwealth.
As Canada emerged as a fully sovereign and independent international actor at the end of the Second World War, this penchant for globalism — an “interna- tionalist itch” — took it in two directions: the first, toward collective security through the United Nations; the second, as the Cold War set in, toward collective defence in alliance with the United States. Canada did take an active role in the UN and its peacekeeping operations. But despite the popular myths sometimes encouraged by Ottawa, in terms of defence policy and the posture of the Canadian Forces, it was the second path that dominated. Thus during the Cold War, Canada took full part in the defence of the West as an ally of the United States, embrac- ing the complementary policies of containment and nuclear deterrence. Canada also helped to found the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and joined with the US in the aerospace defence of North America through the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Together, these alliances con- stituted nearly the sum total of Canada’s national security policy.
The popular view is that, after the end of the Cold War, Canada abandoned its tradition of internationalism in the realms of both collective security and col- lective defence. The charge is especially leveled at the Chrétien government, whose preoccupation with domestic concerns, particularly its efforts to help reduce the deficit by cutting funds for foreign affairs and defence, resulted in a retreat from international activism and commitments. This notion of abandon- ment has entered the popular media. Written just after the bilateral dispute over the Iraq war, a Time (Canada) cover story asked, “Where Has Canada Gone?” According to the article, “the world’s second largest country is being swallowed up by its own irrelevance”;12 it pictured a sad, forlorn Uncle Sam looking for the Canadian friend and allied partner America once knew and respected. Noted correspondent Andrew Cohen provided a more thorough analysis in his recent work While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World.13
There is no doubt that budget cuts (instituted by Paul Martin when he was minister of finance) profoundly reduced Canada’s military and foreign service. However, it can be argued that critiques of Canada’s international performance in the 1990s have tended to distort, exaggerate and, indeed, mythologize Ottawa’s global influence during the so-called golden age of Pearsonian diplomacy. These critiques have also tended to ignore and minimize Canada’s post–Cold War activ- ities, especially those carried out in concert with the United States.
It is not surprising to find some Americans asking what happened to Pearsonian diplomacy during the Iraq war. For if there is one thing that distin- guished the golden age, it is that Ottawa was fully committed to the broad out- lines of US national security policy. What the United States needed and appreci- ated was not an independent Canadian approach to the great issues of the day, but support, and, if not support, sympathy with the very real problems and dilemmas America faced as the indispensable leader of the West. Yes, the Americans wanted and appreciated Canadian diplomatic activity at the UN and within NATO, but only when it meshed with US actions and policies, as occurred in the fabled Suez triumph of 1956. When, as was the case for Diefenbaker and nuclear weapons and Pearson’s infamous Temple University speech, Ottawa appeared to deviate openly from US policy, Washington let it be known that it regarded such expressions of independence, even if driven by domestic impera- tives, as unhelpful and, indeed, disloyal.
In an effort to get away from the Pearsonian pro-US policies, Pierre Trudeau sought to conduct an active and more independent foreign and defence policy. But his efforts earned the wrath of the Nixon administration. Then in the latter 1970s, when Canada returned to the allied fold, relations with the Carter administration became quite positive. For his part, Prime Minister Mulroney earned the wrath of Canadians when, during the heightened East-West tensions of the late eighties, he gave his friends Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush the “benefit of the doubt” when it came to American national security policies. In this sense, Mulroney was essentially emulating the Lester Pearson policies that Americans liked so much.
It is important, however, to keep all this within the larger perspective and not to confuse diplomatic and military activities with influence and impact. During the Cold War, Washington did indeed appreciate Canada’s active role in global affairs. But Ottawa’s policies and actions were not of overwhelming impor- tance. From the US (and to a certain extent, the European) perspective, Canadian irrelevancy is not a post–Cold War phenomenon. One can read hundreds if not thousands of books and memoirs on American foreign policy during the Cold War and find there not one reference to Canada or Lester Pearson. Nor should this be surprising. The conduct of foreign policy, especially by a superpower looking to its historical record, necessarily focuses on the problems, be they with enemies or allies. Despite occasionally expressing minor differences and having chronically low defence budgets, Canada was simply not a problem for the United States. To be sure, Canadians might have appreciated more recognition of the assistance and support they gave. But they should not feel too bad about being largely ignored. After all, when a country is atop the American national security agenda, it is usually because it is in trouble with Washington — some- thing Canadian diplomats rightly, and mainly successfully, have sought to avoid.
All of this is not meant by any means to disparage Canadian efforts. In the context of the Cold War, there were not many middle (or medium) democratic allies of whom it could be said, “they had an impact in Washington or they con- ducted an influential independent foreign and defence policy which altered the course of events.” As Linus once said to Charlie Brown about Snoopy, “he is not much of a dog. But then again, who is?” In truth, in the bipolar nuclear peace of the Cold War, Canada performed well, given the interests and values it wanted to advance and the constraints it faced.
In the “unipolar moment” of the immediate post–Cold War era then, just where is the less-than-great power to which Canada was compared and found wanting? Where is the country or group of countries that displayed cogent and brilliant foreign policies? If the United States had not acted, Iraq would not be occupied today by the Americans and Kuwait would be occupied by the Iraqis. Faced with the horrors of Yugoslavia, the countries of the European Union — the group that was to take over management of Europe from the United States — proved feeble and divided. As for Canada, it may well share responsibility for what happened in Africa, but after Somalia no one else was prepared to make a major sacrifice of blood and treasure there. And while the Israeli-Palestinian dispute remains unresolved, it is hardly the fault of a Canadian lack of power or initiative.
Here again, the intention is not to belittle Canada’s efforts. Indeed, Canada has done more than its share for the cause of international peace and stability. And it is simply not true that Canada has been asleep for the last fifteen years. On the contrary, in the years after the end of the Cold War the world witnessed an active, indeed hyperactive, Canadian involvement in global affairs. If any- thing, Ottawa, especially when it came to the use of the armed forces, was over- committed given its real interests. If the truth be told, Canada was engaged at a level and scope of activity, especially military activity, that Pearson, the consum- mate realist, would have shunned.
In the first decade of the post–Cold War era, Ottawa dispatched forces to most of the hot spots in the newly turbulent world order, beginning with the First Gulf War and continuing on to, among others, Bosnia, Haiti, East Timor and Kosovo. With the advent of muscular multilateralism this commitment was par- ticularly evident, especially as “coalitions of the willing” and NATO became the United Nations’ peacekeeping subcontractors. By the end of the decade, the Canadian Forces had almost as many personnel in Europe as it had at the end of the Cold War. As Sean Maloney recently pointed out, Canada, despite the con- tinued belief that it only participates in peacekeeping operations, was heavily and continually involved during the 1990s in what were essentially wars of interven- tion.14 And with the “Americanization of peacekeeping,” increasing numbers of Canadian soldiers have traded in their blue berets for green helmets.15 More importantly, unlike the previous 40 years, the Canadian Forces became involved in actual military operations, increasingly, as the decade wore on, under NATO. Not surprisingly, therefore, Canada’s ability to operate with its NATO allies, espe- cially the US, became the focal point of military planning in the 1990s.
In actual fact, Canada did not have to participate to this extent because, in the broader geostrategic context, the Canadian contributions, while useful, were not decisive. Nor, during the 1990s, did the issues directly affect vital Canadian strategic or economic interests. But the Canadian Forces did so for a number of reasons: first, as a major industrial country, Canada’s fundamental well-being is inseparable from that of the West; second, it is a strong supporter of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treat Organization; third and above all, Canada is an ally of the United States.
To be sure, this was also the era of the former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy’s “human security agenda.” This approach to international relations placed an emphasis on the individual rather than the state; it drew criticism from the US and from within Canada. Nevertheless, Ottawa pressed ahead with what critics charged was nothing more than “pulpit diplomacy,” or moral posturing for the sake of antagonizing Washington and projecting an independent image abroad. It was the softest of soft power, without any hard power or real assets to back it up. Going beyond what Pearson would have done, Canada took the ini- tiative of championing the Landmines Treaty and the Rome Statute that estab- lished the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Yet while some of what Ottawa did under the human security agenda went against contemporary American positions on specific issues, it was, ironically, an approach more American than Canadian. In a word, it was Wilsonianism. After all, what is the Land Mines Treaty if not an open covenant openly arrived at? What is the ICC if not a reflection of American principles and ideals enshrined in international law and largely propelled by American insistence at Nuremberg? And how far off was Axworthy from the orientation of the Clinton administra- tion, whose efforts at “engagement and enlargement” were attacked in the US for confusing social work with foreign policy?16 In 1999, Coral Bell wrote that American unipolarity had led to “new norms” in international relations that were “Wilsonian rather than Westphalian. Eighty years after his disastrous defeat in 1920, the ghost of Woodrow Wilson bestrides the world.”17
The problem, of course, was not the message of human security but the messenger. To many people in the US, Axworthy had presumed to take America’s place as the moral leader and monitor of the international community, but with- out the ability to back up that leadership role. It was the presumed moral supe- riority of the powerless pitted against the moral arrogance of the powerful — a case of pulpit diplomacy versus the bully pulpit. Fortunately, as in many theo- logical disputes, there was more sound and fury than a clash of real interests and policies. Indeed, as already noted, the 1990s saw a deepening rather than a diminution of US-Canada military and diplomatic cooperation overseas in the face of regional crises and ethnic conflicts.
Moreover, while the human security agenda did reflect Canadian values and while it did provide a purpose to overseas peacekeeping and peace enforce- ment efforts, it was, essentially, a discretionary agenda, one that could or could not be acted upon. As the events in Rwanda demonstrated, not all people could be saved from their governments or fellow citizens. As in Washington, realism — a careful weighing of costs and benefits even in humanitarian causes — was never abandoned in Ottawa.18
But for all the emphasis that Axworthy placed on the human security agen- da, and despite all the major efforts Canada made in the 1990s to contribute to peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations, the main thrust of the Chrétien foreign policy, and the core of his government’s realist legacy, was economics. The government had, in 1995, explicitly made prosperity and employment for Canadians its top foreign policy priority. While Chrétien would, as noted above, actively participate in a broad range of international undertakings in the 1990s, for him, and especially for Paul Martin, realism in foreign policy began at home. This meant, above all, reducing the deficit and the debt and expanding trade abroad. It was the “team Canada” trade missions, more than the troops, planes and ships dispatched overseas, that most concerned the prime minister and his finance minister.
Anchored by the expansion of bilateral trade with the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which also helped foster growth at home, Canada went out in search of new markets. In this the country was moderately successful, and in so doing Canadian security was enhanced. Indeed, James Michener’s characterization of the missionaries who went to Hawaii and later became planters and merchants — they went into the world to do good, and did right well — might apply equally to Canadians in the 1990s.
The morning of September 11, 2001 ended the post–Cold War era. In its response to the war on terrorism, Canada drew upon both the legacies of the Cold War and the heightened cooperation of the 1990s as fashioned by the Chrétien government. Immediately, Canadian aircraft took the skies under NORAD. This was followed by the dispatch of ships to the Arabian Sea and a contingent of troops to Afghanistan, not to mention the introduction of numer- ous military and non-military measures to reinforce North American defence. In effect, these actions continue today, with over 2,000 Canadian troops based in Afghanistan and a continued air transport and naval presence in the region. This is in addition to the maintenance of troops in the Balkans. Note that all this is done with an army of less than 20,000 and a navy of 16 warships.19
Despite the fast tempo of its global activities in the 1990s, the course of events after September 11 showed that there had been a change in Canada’s position in the world and a diminution in its relative standing worldwide. But this was not so much the result of Canada’s own policies and approaches as it was the out- come of a profound transformation of the international environment brought about by the end of the Cold War and the emergence of the United States as a hyper-power. It was a transformation that even before the advent of the Bush administration and September 11 had altered America’s relations with its allies. And it was one that would dramatically come to the fore in the months preced- ing the Iraq war. In a country whose global position, policies and perspectives have always been shaped by how and where it stood vis-à-vis the United States, these changes would profoundly affect Canada-US relations.
In his now celebrated book Of Paradise and Power, Robert Kagan looks at the “gap” between the United States and Europe and declares that “Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus.”20 The refusal of several major allies to support the United States in the Second Gulf War has only reinforced this view. For most observers on both sides of the Atlantic, Canada is not even in the uni- verse, much less in the solar system. As one American commentator has noted: “For everyday, non-political Americans, Europe is simply not a preoccupation one way or the other. It is Canada with castles…a nice place, but hardly the fur- nace where our future will be forged.”21
This is not a new view. Nor is it surprising, given the United States’ approach to global affairs ever since the Second World War. As Charles Doran observed in 1984, while the “political-strategic dimension” dominates American foreign policy, “from the Canadian perspective, this dimension is sec- ondary to the economic and commercial dimension.” This means that the United States has tended “to look at the Canada-US relationship through the lens of global politics, whereas Canada has tended to look at global politics through the lens of its relations with the United States.”22 The result of these differing prisms is that whereas from Washington’s viewpoint Canada more often than not looks small and unimportant, from Ottawa’s perspective the United States is an unavoidable colossus. Thus, “for Canada, good bilateral relations with its giant neighbour to the south are a sine qua non for pursuing any other foreign policy issues.”23
In the present war on terrorism this divergence of perspectives has con- tinued even more markedly. From Washington’s perspective, as Ambassador Cellucci recently stated, security “trumps” economics. But to Canadian eyes, eco- nomic security concerns, especially as they relate to the US, cannot be as easily distinguished from traditional security considerations. In the present struggle, as before, Ottawa knows that its relations and actions in the wider world must be viewed through the prism of its ties with Washington.
A number of Canadian analysts, including Michael Ignatieff, believe that, in order to enhance its standing in the world and to convince Washington that America’s security future does include Canada, Ottawa must spend more on defence. He contends that spending 1.1 percent of GDP (US$8 billion) is not enough if Canada wants “to have any influence in Washington” or “any legitima- cy as a multilateralist.”24 Or as Hugh Segal has recently argued, “enhanced deployable military capacity joined with our key post-conflict transitional abili- ties and infrastructure is what Canada, as a sovereign nation, and our relation- ship with the US would benefit most from now.”25
Although the Canadian Forces have performed well in the post–Cold War era, it is clear they will need greater resources if they are to continue to serve as an instrument of government policy at home and around the world. The gov- ernment seems to have been pressing the “how much is just enough” approach beyond what the Canadian forces can bear and the Americans will accept.
It is not entirely self-evident, however, that allocating more national wealth to the Canadian Forces, especially for US-led multinational operations overseas, will give Ottawa the kind of standing and influence that many analysts are con- vinced should be the case. Behind the easy realism that equates defence spend- ing with stature abroad is a much harder, uncomfortable truth. It is that, given the nature of American national security policy, especially in a post–September 11 world, plausible increases in Canadian defence spending, while understand- ably expected by Washington, would afford Ottawa no measurable increase in its ability to influence the direction of American policy. To be sure, the participation by Canada and other allies in US-led coalitions should be encouraged. It helps relieve some of the burden on the United States, is in the interest of allies and, moreover, helps endow those operations with a certain legitimacy that Washington seeks. But neither multilateral approval nor the rounding up of “coalitions of the willing” can disguise the inescapable fact that such activities rely upon American power and are undertaken to secure American interests.
In effect, US multilateralism has always been a tool to be employed when it suits American interests. This was the case with the multilateralism of the 1990s, including the wide-ranging use and involvement of NATO and of the United Nations when military force had to be applied. Allies were comforted by the fact that they were being consulted and given a voice. But as Coral Bell argued in 1999, this was only the “pretense of concert.”
Resolutions must get through the Security Council and consensus must be sought in other organizations to “legitimate” the policies that are deemed to be in the US national interest. Of course, the policies could be followed without seeking their legitimation by the “international community,” but the advantage of securing it are worth the diplomatic labor it takes. A resolution or consensus eases consciences both in America and abroad, and helps protect US allies from their respective critics at home (though not in Washington, of course).26
Ottawa latched on to this pretense prior to the Iraq war, when it claimed that force could be legitimately employed only pursuant to a Security Council resolution or, as in the case of Kosovo, when NATO adopted a unified response.27 But the American- supported UN and NATO multilateralism of the 1990s, which undertook a number of laudable humanitarian interventions, not the least of which, in Kosovo, worked, was successful partly because American vital interests were not at stake.
In reality, President Clinton was no less anxious to perpetuate US domi- nance. As Michael Mastanduno observed in 1997, the Clinton administration “followed a consistent strategy in pursuit of a clear objective — the preservation of the United States’ pre-eminent global position.”28 There was, though, a differ- ence in tone on the part of Clinton’s Washington and, therefore, in the receptiv- ity on the part of its old allies and adversaries to America’s unipolarism. Far from alienating other countries in the 1990s, the United States seemed capable of maintaining its traditional ties and forging new ones; moreover, it sought to engage itself across the globe, especially in Europe. Clinton somehow made oth- ers believe that “preserving the unilpolar moment” was in everybody’s interest. It was unilateralism with smile.
Thus, even before September 11, 2001, the neoconservatives dominating the Bush administration had adopted unilateralism with an attitude. They were prepared to give up even the “pretense of concert.” And after the attacks, it was unilateralism with a vengeance. Analysts argue that what looks like a widening gap between the United States and its allies, including Canada, may be more of a “Bush-gap” — an unease among some European leaders and their populations, not with America, but with the “Americanism” as it is expressed and practised by the current administration in Washington. The Bush administration, although the beneficiary after September 11, 2001, of the greatest outpouring of sympa- thy for the United States since the Kennedy assassination, has managed to alien- ate some of America’s oldest allies and their populations. As George Soros recent- ly observed: “September 11 introduced a discontinuity in American foreign pol- icy in terms of the unabashed pursuit and use of American power. The abnormal, the radical and the extreme have been redefined as normal.” As he puts it, in the past the US has secured its dominant position “by not abusing its power.”29
It is not entirely evident, however, that this is just a temporary phenome- non, one that will disappear with a change in attitude (or regime) in Washington. It is easy to paint a caricature of a super-patriotic, gun-toting, bible-thumping president leading his country on a series of dangerous cavalry charges around the world to explain US actions. But as amusing as this may be, it obscures rather than clarifies the fundamentals of American policy. For as the United States responded to the most immediate and real threat to its security since the found- ing of the republic, it reached “back to bedrock,” to the fundamentals of unilat- eralism and the protection of liberty at home that had long been the basis of American national security policy.30 As Robert Kagan has noted, “America did not change on September 11. It only became more itself.”31
Owen Harries has argued that many in Europe and elsewhere still do not understand the America they think they know so well. And one of the things that they do not yet fully understand is the profound impact that September 11, 2001, has had on the United States and American national security policy. As Harries observed a year ago:
After the outrage of September 11, I do not believe that the United States could have reacted in any way other than as she did. But doing so will carry a cost. The long-term significance of what happened…may be that it forced America decisively along a course of action that — by emphasising her military domi- nance, by reducing her to use her vast power conspicuously, by making restraint and moderation virtually impossible, and by making unilateralism an increasing feature of American behaviour — is bound to generate widespread and increased criticism and hostility toward her.32
In his argument, written before the war began, Ignatieff sees the Iraq ques- tion as the test case for multilateralism. This is not correct. The Second Gulf War became the litmus test of loyalty to an America that he himself acknowledges “is an imperial power engaging in a particularly unilateral definition of its foreign policy.”33 When the US Ambassador to Canada says he wants Canada to be more active, he is not calling for Ottawa to put more energy and resources into cham- pioning the cause of the weak and the poor nations of the world; nor would America feel comfortable if Ottawa increasingly lined up with France and Germany in their present disagreement with Washington or poured billions into aid as opposed to armament. When American leaders say they want to see Canada take a larger role in the world, they mean alongside the US and in sup- port of American policies. Washington is not looking for advice from Ottawa or other allies; it is looking for the assistance it believes it deserves.
Although the capacity of allies, such as Canada, to restrain the Bush admin- istration given its present mood is decidedly limited, the ability of the American people, led by Congress, to check and balance the executive’s use of US power should never be underestimated. While the United States has the military might, determination and talent for “imperial” adventures and the American people will support those efforts, especially once the battle is joined, public support is not a blank cheque. Thus it is unlikely that the American public and Congress would back new confrontations with North Korea or Iran. The situation in Afghanistan and Iraq may well remain unsettled for some time, with US forces continuing to battle resurgent elements and taking casualties. With a presidential election this year, a domestic backlash against unilateralism is already apparent with regard to imperial policing. This explains the Bush administration’s efforts to secure a Security Council resolution endorsing its postwar Iraq reconstruction and coun- try-building efforts, one that would provide for an expanded UN role.
The success of these recent efforts does not, however, represent a funda- mental change in American policy, nor in the position and opinions of nations, including allies, who opposed the war. What has happened is that the White House, anxious both to secure Congressional support for additional funds and to respond to growing public criticism of its handling of the postwar situation, has rediscovered the importance of the “pretence of concert.”
In spite of their differences, Republicans and Democrats agree that the United States cannot pull out of Iraq. And the American people are behind them in this commitment. To be sure, both President Bush and Senator Kerry want to see an expanded United Nations presence and would like other countries to con- tribute forces to help stabilize the situation, including a possible commitment by NATO. For both, it is a matter of fostering international legitimacy and relieving the burden on American forces. Yet for both, although the Democrats will not be as explicit, a greater UN and/or NATO role and the participation of other coun- tries would be “multilateralism” in name only. With over 130,000 US troops like- ly to remain, with over 3,000 “administrators” shifting to the new US Embassy in Baghdad, with billions spent and with over 700 soldiers killed, the American gov- ernment and public will not surrender control over the future of Iraq to any inter- national organization. In Iraq and other locations, the US will act alone if neces- sary. As Ivo H. Daalder, who served on the Clinton National Security Council staff and is now with the Brookings Institution, argues, “the world is not going to be terribly different under a Bush and a Kerry presidency.” He contends that the United States “is the most powerful country in the world, and therefore the use of American power is going to be indispensable in getting anything done. Kerry will find, if he doesn’t know it now, that in order to get anything done, whether it is through the UN or through NATO, that the US is going to have to lead…using power, using coercion.”34 Indeed, the noted Walter Russell Mead, a fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations, observes that differences between Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential nominee Senator John F. Kerry, “are moving toward a merge” in their basic foreign policy approaches. In a second term, “the Bush administration would try to get more foreign support, and a Kerry administration would sometimes have to go it alone.”35
However, Washington was not alone in being less than forthright about its policies toward Iraq. Indeed, the allies supported the resolutions that threatened serious consequences if Iraq did not comply. Nor can it be doubted that the build-up of American forces persuaded Saddam to readmit the inspectors. In other words, the allies were fully prepared to rely on American power to enforce the Security Council’s will. Yet those who opposed the war, including Canada, said they did so because the use of force lacked the legitimacy of a UN mandate. In effect, if war was to be launched to compel Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction, the Security Council had to endorse it. Yet these same opponents who congratulated Washington on the capture of Saddam now claim that the UN should take over and are prepared, if the requirements of pretence can be satis- fied, to participate in the reconstruction effort.
But if the war was illegal, so is the UN-endorsed occupation and rebuild- ing. And if it was not right to launch the war in order to remove Saddam, why should the US be praised for capturing the dictator? In reality, of course, the war was all about the American desire for regime change. It was not that Saddam, once supported by Washington, was a bloody dictator; there are plenty of those around. It was that he was threatening American interests in the region and pro- moting the kind of anti-Americanism championed by bin Laden and other Islamic terrorist groups. The French and the Germans understood this, which is why they in fact opposed the American campaign. And behind this opposition to regime change was a growing unease with the exercise of American unilateral power, coupled with a profound resentment of the insulting comments that emerged from Washington and the American media. This too will not soon be forgotten, despite the diplomatic compromise reached in New York.
While those abroad may take some comfort in the continuing strife in Iraq and the growing criticism of the administration’s handling of the situation in the US, it would be a serious mistake to equate this with Congressional and public support for the abandonment of the goal of regime change. In this regard, although most analogies to Vietnam are exaggerated, one thing remains the same: America cannot simply walk away. There is no acceptable alternative to staying the course. Despite the voices now being raised in Congress and the media about how the Bush administration is handling the postwar situation, not to mention the revelations about the nature of the intelligence used to justify the war, few are calling for a retreat. It is telling and ironic that fabled broadcaster Walter Cronkite, whose celebrated decision to call for a withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam did so much to turn mainstream American public opinion against that war, believes that Washington has no choice but to stay the course in Iraq. America has “promises to keep.” Indeed, Cronkite has written: “However misled by scare stories and faulty, hyped intelligence, a large majority of Americans fully supported — and Congress overwhelmingly approved — the decision to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq. We don’t have the option of saying now that we can’t afford it.”36 Senator John Kerry as well has said that the United States has a “solemn obligation to complete the mission in Iraq.”37
Most Americans now want other nations to live up to their responsibilities. They feel it is important that others join in the effort to rebuild and secure Iraq, thereby legitimizing the war abroad and justifying its cost in blood and treasure at home. In adopting legislation in the fall of 2003 to make half the $20 billion for Iraq reconstruction in loans instead of grants, one senator said that the legislation “was designed not to saddle Iraq with more debt but rather to encour- age other nations, including France and Germany, to forgive debts incurred dur- ing Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. “How would they feel if the rest of the world had demanded repayment of Nazi debt, or Vichy debt?” he asked. And a Republican Senator who voted for the loans argued, “Why should the American taxpayer not be paid back if the taxpayer in France, if the taxpayer in Germany, if the taxpayer in Russia — countries that were not willing to support us when we were doing what was right in the world — why should those taxpayers be paid back and not the taxpayers of America?”38
In the eyes of the Bush administration and many Americans, Canada too failed the test of loyalty in the Second Gulf War and was subject to unusually harsh criticism from the White House and the US Embassy in Ottawa. Although in an election year some Democratic lawmakers might laud Canada’s stance and although Foreign Minister Bill Graham might have been quoted approvingly in an article in the New Yorker that called Ottawa’s opposition to the war “the act of a true friend,”39 this infidelity, like that of France and Germany, will undoubt- edly be forgiven, especially if Canada helps out in stabilization efforts in Iraq, but never entirely forgotten. It is noteworthy that, after his meeting with Prime Minister Martin, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, the top-ranking Democrat on the foreign relations committee, not only praised Canada for staying out of the war, but also urged it to play a “bridge building” role with other disaffected allies as a contribution to the rebuilding of Iraq.40
Canada is contributing $C300 million for reconstruction efforts in Iraq and is helping to train police officers and reform the justice system.41 Like other nations, it can now offer support to Iraq under the cover of the pretentious mul- tilateralism of a UN resolution. And as did other nations it praised the capture of Saddam, although as late as the Liberal leadership convention in November, out- going Prime Minister Chrétien received thunderous applause when he repeated Canada’s opposition to the war.42 Of course, the reasons for this are clear. Even before Paul Martin took over as prime minister, Ottawa realized that it had greater incentive than most to put aside its reservations about the war and American unilateralism and to support the pretense of a UN resolution. For Canada, it was a politically convenient way to assuage the Bush administration; it was a way, too, of putting to rest the bitterness of the Second Gulf War, while securing those all-important links with the United States at a time when North American military and economic security are so inexorably intertwined.
Is that hypocritical? Perhaps. But as the French philosopher La Rochefoucauld observed, “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice renders to virtue.”43 And in the words of that other great fount of wisdom, Michael Corleone, speaking in The Godfather Part II, “we are both part of the same hypocrisy.” In international relations it is all part of the “great game” of realpolitik, and both the powerful and the not so powerful, including Canada, play it.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of the Iraq war itself, both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien acted “straight from the heart,” while many on both sides of the border shot verbal barbs and abuse “straight from the hip.” The incident showed what can happen when Washington openly asks Ottawa to do something outside North America as a litmus test of Canadian loyalty to America, while Ottawa portrays the request as a litmus test of Canadian sovereignty.
More importantly, the unpleasant atmosphere surrounding the war obscured the intense and mutually beneficial bilateral security cooperation that had arisen in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, as well as the fact that American security relations with Canada must be approached differently than those with other allies. Between Venus and Mars is Earth, and in a profound sense the war on terrorism means that for both North American allies, security issues have come home.
Canada’s security is linked to that of the United States because the US has a stake in the security of Canada unlike that shared with any other NATO ally. The essence of the bilateral security relationship was best captured in an exchange of declarations between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King in 1938. Speaking at Kingston’s Queen’s University, FDR declared: “The Dominion of Canada is part of the sisterhood of the British Empire: I give you assurance that people of the United States will not stand idly by if domination of Canadian soil is threatened by any other Empire.” A few days later King responded that Canada too has obligations as a “…friend- ly neighbour, and that one of these is to make sure that our country is as immune from attack or possible invasion as we can reasonably be expected to make it, and that, should the occasion ever arrive, enemy forces should not be able to pursue their way either by land, sea or air to the United States across Canada.44
The two declarations reflected the Ottawa and Washington administra- tions’ growing apprehension about the deteriorating international situation and the potential threat to both countries. The declarations also bespoke the friend- ly feelings between the two countries and, indeed, between the two leaders. But the declarations also reflected the differing strategic perspectives based, as it were, upon complementary but not identical national interests. For the United States, the problem was that any British, and especially Canadian, weakness might endanger American security. In other words, Canada could not be allowed to become a security liability to the defence of the US homeland. For Canada, apart from concerns over its own vulnerability as part of the British Empire, the problem was how to satisfy legitimate American concerns without compromis- ing, however benignly, its own national sovereignty. This could be accomplished, King hoped, by Canada taking measures on its own to secure its territory, air- space and maritime approaches. The real issue was whether these would be enough to reassure Washington. Or would the US have to take measures in Canada to ensure the security of its northern approaches?
It is realism, not anti-Americanism, to point out that the US does not help Canada defend itself against threats to Canada. Rather the US helps Canada defend itself against threats to the United States. While sharing concerns about such threats, Canada is also wary about having to defend itself against American help.
In the post-September 11 international security environment, the nature of this reality is confronting Canada’s leaders as never before.
During the Cold War, the greatest threat to the US was the possibility of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. In the early days, this meant that Washington had to be concerned about bombers coming across the pole via Canada. This gave Canadian airspace a great importance. It made Canada, in the words of John Foster Dulles, “a very important piece of real estate.”45 But even then, the real defence of the United States (and Canada) was America’s atomic offensive capa- bilities. Air defence was really about defending the deterrent and affording suffi- cient warning for Strategic Air Command to get its bombers off the ground. Once the “missile became the message” and ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems were no longer deployed, Canadian airspace lost most of its importance. Moreover, even though Canadians continued to serve in NORAD and its com- mander-in-chief was responsible to Ottawa as well as to Washington, in the event of attack, it would be Washington that chose the response.
On the other hand, the NORAD arrangements put Canada in a unique position. After 9/11 when NATO sent AWAC aircraft to patrol American skies, CNN observed that this was the first time that non-American forces had helped defend the US. This, though, was not really the case.
No ally has been so involved in the direct defence of the American home- land, and for so long, as Canada. Moreover, Canadians have commanded, oper- ationally, American forces in the United States. So while some in Canada bemoaned the fact that NORAD made them “partner to a behemoth” or even a “powder monkey” for the US, subjecting their country to “annihilation without representation,” the fact is that it was in some sense American sovereignty that was being compromised. Thus, perhaps, it was just as well that outside of NORAD the arrangements were little known in the US.
Collaboration in NORAD was supplemented by a bilateral defence devel- opment and a production-sharing agreement that allowed Canadian defence firms to sell to the American military. Indeed, most of the country’s defence industries sold the majority of their products in the US. The United States and Canada also maintained an extensive military-exchange program, which saw officers from Canada serve in a multitude of posts within the American defence establishment. As well, various agreements provided for the use of military exercise facilities on both sides of the border and for the testing of some weapons in Canada.
With the ending of the Cold War, even Canadian air defence contributions were deemed of marginal use to the US. Accordingly, during the 1990s, both countries reduced the number of radars, bases and aircraft on active duty. In both figurative and real terms then, Canada was slipping still further down the American national security radar screen. But on September 11, 2001, Canada blipped back up.
While, as noted, Canada did respond quickly to the Bush administration’s call for support in the war on terrorism, Ottawa’s main concern was the imme- diate slowdown in the movement of trade across the border:
For Canada, the border after 11 September remained all about economics and the movement of goods and people essential to the country’s prosperity. For the US, it was all about security preventing new terrorist attacks from road, rail, sea and air. If Canada wanted any guarantee of access on the economic front, it would have to address the US security concerns with both money and action. Canada had to persuade the Bush administration that economic security and national security were mutually reinforceable.46
In this context, it is simply not true, as one recent study concluded, that “Canada can no longer trade geography for American defence because the value of geography has been drastically discounted” given that “‘forward engagement’ in the war on terrorism does not include Canadian real estate.”47 Quite the con- trary, given the importance of homeland security and defence in this war, Canadian geography does count for American security as never before. Indeed, the focus now is on specific, crucial parts of Canada’s real estate. The Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, for example, is the world’s busiest commercial land border, with 5,000 trucks entering the US from Canada each day. As Steven Flynn observed in his article “America The Vulnerable,” immedi- ately after the 9/11 attacks several automotive assembly plants in the US were forced to shut down, “because Canadian supplies were caught in an 18-hour traf- fic jam at the border” with each closure costing the American economy “$1 mil- lion worth of cars per hour.”48 And while it is true that most imports travel to the US by sea and that most Canadian exports to the US enter by road and rail, “a substantial amount of the cross-border cargo with Canada originates overseas. One half of the one million containers arriving in the Port of Montreal…is des- tined for the northeastern or midwestern United States.”49
Ambassador Cellucci is correct in saying that for the United States securi- ty trumps economics. But in the case of America’s relations with Canada, it is not an either/or question, given the importance of commercial relations with Canada and the inseparability of economic, military and other dimensions of security in North America. “With the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,” one recent study observes, “Canada-US relations may be entering an era of ‘forced linkage’ and the fusion of economics and security.”50
Taking the initiative, Ottawa did move quickly to get the border reopened; it also worked with Washington, especially the new Office of Homeland Security and the business communities, to develop the “Smart Border” plans dealing with such issues as the movement of commercial traffic, immigration and intelligence- sharing. But while the US proved responsive to Canadian concerns, it was still taking its own steps to protect the American people.
In April 2002, the United States created Northern Command (NORTH- COM). For the first time, there was to be an American unified command for North America involving aerospace, maritime and land forces and with addi- tional responsibilities for the support of American civil authorities in the event of an emergency. The area of responsibility for NORTHCOM includes the conti- nental United States, Canada, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean. Its sea bound- aries extend five hundred miles off the American cost. The commander of NORTHCOM is also the commander of NORAD, and the bilateral nature of this command has, for the moment, been preserved.51
But NORAD’s role in US security has changed since September 11, 2001. The command is now playing a larger role in the war on terrorism as well as American homeland security. Its “ground-based radar, airborne radar, aircraft, satellites and intelligence capabilities now focus within the United States and Canada as well as offshore…” On the US side, NORAD works closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service and the Transportation Security Agency. It now has “constant real-time communications with the Federal Aviation Administration” (FAA), so that “when they have concern about an air- plane — even before they determine that it is a problem — [NORAD] already knows about it.” Under Operation Noble Eagle, American and Canadian fighters have flown over 32,000 missions since September 11, 2001, with 1,500 of these involving what NORAD calls “targets of interest.” The airliner containing Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” who tried to blow up the plane on the Paris-to-Miami flight, was one such target.52
From an organizational viewpoint, the United States Space Command (SPACECOM), whose commander was the commander of NORAD, has been abolished and is now combined with the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the command responsible for US strategic nuclear forces. In addi- tion, SPACECOM’s missile warning and space surveillance assets, upon which NORAD relies, have been shifted to STRATCOM. Most importantly, the Bush administration is on the verge of deploying a Ballistic Missile Defense, which, understandably, it wants to integrate into NORAD’s warning and assessment role.
Some analysts posit that the most significant thing Canada can do to assure the US that it shares America’s concerns is to agree to the integration of BMD sys- tems into NORAD. Although talks on BMD have been going on for a number of years, the Chrétien government was reluctant to commit to incorporating missile defence into NORAD because of arms control concerns, particularly those relating to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the weaponization of space. For its part, the Clinton administration, which appeared unenthusiastic about National Missile Defense (NMD), did not press the issue.53 All this changed, however, with the events of 9/11,and President Bush’s decision to abrogate the ABM Treaty.
Consistent with expectations, the new Martin government has moved on the BMD issue. On January 15, 2004, Canada’s minister of national defence and US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld began exchanging letters that outlined “the interest of both nations in negotiating an agreement on the ballistic missile defence of North America.” After the negotiations, Ottawa was to assess its position, make a decision “on whether Canadians’ interests have been met” and “take a decision on Canadian participation in BMD.” In the meantime, an interim amendment to the NORAD agreement gave Canadian personnel access to US BMD-planning infor- mation.54 As well, the minister of defence has suggested that if an agreement is reached, Canada may be “making some of its geography in the north available in lieu of a major cash contribution,” thus allowing the US to station “rocket launch- ers and radar stations as part of a continental defence program.”55
Yet Ottawa has also reiterated that while Canada may favour BMD, it is still against the “weaponization of space,” which would come about if the actual interception of missiles were effected by space-based systems. Present US plans call only for land-based interceptors, none of which need to be based in Canada. Nor will the enhanced land-based radars associated with the planned system be located on Canadian soil. But dominance of space, like dominance of the seas and the air, is an important dimension of American military power and, as such, one of “the military foundations of US hegemony.”56 Not surprisingly, the Bush administration has not ruled out space-based interceptions in the future; no doubt this is a way of protecting and preserving their unfettered use for the United States. Thus, Canadian reservations may not be welcome in Washington.
More importantly, given the consolidation of SPACECOM’s warning assets into STRATCOM, any further Canadian hesitation over BMD could well persuade the Bush administration to disestablish NORAD as a bilateral command. Its mis- sile warning and attack assessment roles, along with its space surveillance func- tions, would be assumed by STRATCOM. The air defence role — where Canadian territory still counts and which has taken on a new importance since September 11, 2001 — would fall under NORTHCOM for American forces, with arrangements being made with Canada for air defence collaboration similar to those in existence prior to the 1958 establishment of NORAD. This would sim- plify things for the United States, inasmuch as both the missile warning and BMD systems would be under an American-only command. For Canada, not only would this be a politically and symbolically important reduction in its direct links to American missile and space defence activities, but it would also exclude Ottawa from access to information about a potentially key component in its own defence — that of protection against ballistic, and perhaps cruise, missiles.
Yet while the establishment of NORTHCOM might result in a decrease in bilateral collaboration in missile and space defence, it could also herald an expansion and formalization of cooperation in other dimensions of North American defence. It is the intention of the United States government to bring the land, and especially the maritime, aspects of homeland defence under NORTHCOM. For example, the United States Coast Guard will be the lead US agency in NORTHCOM’s missions. Heretofore, maritime collaboration between the two countries lacked a central organizational structure. On the east coast, the two navies worked with NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (SACLANT), while on the west coast, the Canadian Navy cooperated on an infor- mal basis with the United States Pacific Command. This factor, combined with NATO’s disestablishment of SACLANT and the shifting of responsibility for Atlantic security to the new Allied Command, Operations, under the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, suggests that American maritime security may well become even more exclusively a US undertaking, with Canada required to find a new role and relationship.57
As well as giving more attention to the implications for NORAD of BMD and to its role in NORTHCOM, Canada will have to pay more attention to mar- itime security. At a recent hearing by the Canadian Senate, it was revealed that the Canadian Coast Guard “doesn’t have the mandate or the ability to do much more than provide search and rescue services and fisheries support outside Canada’s 200-nautical-mile (370-kilometre) economic zone. In cases when the coast guard becomes aware of a suspicious vessel through observation or shared intelligence, it has to alert other officials such as the RCMP.” As one senator observed, “The coast guard is misnamed (because)…. it’s not there guarding the coast…”58 There is also a need for a “risk/threat assessment” of the situation along the St. Lawrence Seaway system and other waters shared with the United States and in land water- ways.59 In its report, the Standing Senate Committee on National Defence and Security noted the sorry state of maritime security in Canada and the implications for bilateral security relations. Calling Canada’s three coasts and ocean approach- es “the longest underdefended borders in the world,” the committee recommended a comprehensive overhaul of Canada’s maritime security efforts.60
To be sure, the final architecture of US homeland security and defence remains to be seen. There is still a measure of uncertainty and bureaucratic jock- eying within the American government. Nevertheless, the Canadian government is aware that the creation of NORTHCOM fundamentally changes the nature of its security ties with the United States. The two countries have established a bilat- eral planning group to work out the future of all aspects of cooperation with NORTHCOM. The planning group, headed by the Canadian deputy NORAD commander, is looking into expanding bilateral cooperation to the maritime and land areas, including postattack coordination. Despite the disagreement over Iraq, at the working level both countries are moving to address bilateral defence issues on a coordinated basis. Once again, Canadians are being accorded a meas- ure of respect and responsibility that few other allies are afforded.
Here we have the long-standing Canadian dilemma. On the one hand, Ottawa cannot afford to install the United States’ structure and plan for home- land security without some input and participation from Canada. On the other hand, there is concern that too much integration with NORTHCOM, a US-only command, could well lead to a single command for North America in which Canada, although a participant, would have only limited influence. This raises fears about Canadian sovereignty. There is, however, no reason to suppose that Canada cannot manage this dilemma as it has others in the past, especially given America’s focus overseas and Washington’s need for collaboration with Canada.
But the real solution to the sovereignty dilemma lies in Canada’s having sufficient military capability. Capability will matter more than organization when it comes to enhancing bilateral military cooperation without endangering Canadian sovereignty. As Dwight Mason of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a former US foreign service officer and former chair of the US Section of the Canada-US Permanent Joint Board on Defence (PJBD), has argued: “The less Canadian military there is and the less capability it has, the less military cooperation there can be with the United States (and other allies). Yet Canadian help and cooperation looks more important to the United States than it did before September 11, as it is clear that a threat to the United States can come from across or from Canadian land, air and sea space.”61
At the same time, Canadian military resources, given modest defence spending increases and better organization, are certainly capable of handling their North American defence responsibilities. The existing inventory of CF-18 fighter aircraft and the North Warning System Radars (built in the 1980s) should be sufficient for contributions to air defence. Plans to make greater use of the Canadian Army reserve units in Canada to respond to possible terrorist attacks would further enhance domestic security and potential expansion of bilateral cooperation on the ground in the event of an emergency. At sea, the Canadian Navy will remain primarily focused on overseas operations, but it too has a long tradition of providing for the defence of ocean approaches and for aiding the civil powers in coastal defence; moreover, it is working to bring its surveillance and other capabilities to the assistance of the homeland maritime defence role. Although the Canadian Navy’s four submarines can provide extended coastal sur- veillance, more is required if the navy is to contribute fully to North American maritime defence and work closely with the United States Coast Guard (USCG). In effect, the Canadian Navy should forgo replacing the four Iroquois Class destroyers in favour of building a modern coastal defence fleet with short- and longer-range vessels similar to those being constructed under the aegis of the USCG’s Deepwater project.
Given the nature of the terrorist threat and the fact that Canada relies to a greater relative degree upon its professional military for domestic roles than does the US, an argument can be made for giving domestic roles priority in future development of the Canadian Forces. This was the conclusion of a recent Defence Science Advisory Board report, which noted that “the nature of the threat — terrorist activities — is…very different from the traditional air, sea and land threats that, until now, have driven Canada’s defence strategies and plan- ning.” The report says that “for the first time since 1945,” the country is con- fronted “with a direct and very different type of threat within the boundaries of the country itself.” The report draws attention to the impact of the emphasis on American antiterrorist efforts to meet this threat. “Canada can no longer rely upon US help to the degree previously enjoyed, not only because of the very nature of the threat but because the attentions and resources of the US may very well be focused elsewhere.”62
In the bilateral security relationship, non-military cooperation will become more important than traditional military cooperation. The other, non-military, dimensions of North American security which emerged in the wake of September 11 have overshadowed the concerns about NORTHCOM and the future of NORAD. Everything from immigration and border control to domestic countert- errorism is included therein. Indeed, these issues are perhaps more relevant to the direct security of the American public than the traditional military aspects of homeland security. They are also vastly more salient for Canada, given the possi- bility that American concerns about Ottawa’s ability to monitor potential terror- ists operating in Canada could impinge on the flow of Canadian exports across the border. Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the early 1990s, Canada’s prosperity, standard of living and the basic well-being of its citizens depend upon unfettered access to the American market. This is “national security” at its most basic.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the majority of Canada’s efforts to provide assurances to the United States — not to mention the greater part of the increas- es in Canadian security spending since September 11 — have been outside the military sphere. Ottawa has agreed to review its immigration policies and aug- ment its domestic counterterrorism capabilities. As well, the two countries have sought to address the border issue by instituting the “Smart Border” program, which seeks to maintain the free flow of goods, services and people while addressing American security concerns.
Upon taking over as prime minister, Paul Martin moved quickly to address issues directly related to North American security and Canada’s role. He
As Wesley Wark has noted, this is a “surprising and ambitious agenda,” one intended “to address the many deficiencies in Canada’s domestic security practice and international role.” The new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, although not as large as the US Department of Homeland Security, has a large mandate and defines security as embracing “not only terrorist threats, but other dangers to civil society, including health pan- demic, natural and manmade disasters.”63 While the proposal presents a “strate- gic vision” for the first time, it is consistent with Martin’s past approaches. In the December 2001 security budget, for example, Martin “showered money on secu- rity and intelligence agencies,”64 but provided much less for the armed forces. This approach has continued. The recently released statement, Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy (NSP), adopts a comprehensive approach that places a high priority on policy and budgeting for domestic and, by extension, North American security roles.65 And the new Marine Security Program addresses deficiencies in maritime homeland security.
As David Haglund has pointed out, this is an approach that should find favour in Washington. The United States, he notes, “should concentrate on what it really needs from Canada, which is obviously not military assistance overseas” but rather that Canada take the necessary steps to ensure that it is not a security liability for the US in this age of terrorism. In this regard, Canadian “military spending levels are less significant than budgetary allocations made to other departments and agencies with a more immediate role in homeland security.” These allocations include intelligence and counterterrorism, and Haglund notes that “cross-border intelligence cooperation functions more closely than did coop- eration between the United States’ FBI and CIA prior to 9/11 and perhaps since.”66
Indeed, one of the factors that has allowed bilateral security cooperation to work since the war on terrorism, and work well, is the prior existence of an extensive and multifaceted network of collaboration at the bureaucratic level between the law enforcement, intelligence, health and public safety agencies of the two governments.67 These long-standing functional ties, which have been so important to bilateral relations, provide Canada with further advantages for mak- ing significant contributions to American homeland security.
It appears that Washington is reaping the benefits of Ottawa’s regime change as the Martin government moves quickly to repair ties with the US. No doubt Martin’s standing south of the border was helped by the fact that he had left the Cabinet by the time his predecessor made such a show of not going along with the US in the Iraq war. At the same time, the revelations about “intelligence fail- ures,” the inability of the Americans thus far to find WMDs and the ongoing bloody struggle to stabilize Iraq should help Martin’s standing north of border, particularly now that bilateral security relations is a key component of foreign and defence policy. To this extent ironically, Ottawa’s decision to stay out of the Iraq war will make it easier for the new government to support Washington in the continued war on terrorism both at home and, especially, abroad. In effect, had Canada followed the US lead, Prime Minister Martin would today be facing the kind of questioning that Prime Minister Blair is now confronting.
The approach Martin is taking, the signals he is sending and the decisions he is making are not new. They build upon a legacy of realism in Canada’s approach to relations with the United States. For example, the decision to send Canadian forces to Haiti, despite questions about how Washington persuaded Jean-Bertrand Aristide to leave and objections from other Caribbean nations, is reminiscent of Mulroney’s inclination to give Washington “the benefit of the doubt.” Interestingly enough, it is also similar to Jean Chrétien’s frequently criti- cized tendency to quickly dispatch forces overseas at America’s request, despite the existing strains on the military.
While placing domestic issues at the top of the policy agenda, the Martin government has recognized the need to increase defence spending. Hence, even in advance of the new white paper, Martin has promised $7 billion in new spend- ing. Included in this new spending are funds for systems directly related to over- seas roles, such as new support ships for the navy and a mobile gun system for the army.68 At the same time, the NSP rightly points out that given limited budgets Canada must, in the future, “be selective and strategic when considering the deployment of our armed forces,” and that such efforts need to be assessed on the basis of which ones are “of greatest relevance to our national security interests,” and whether the forces “have the capacity to meaningfully contribute to a successful outcome.”69
Canada should be prepared to support and contribute to American-led multilateral operations in the war on terrorism. It should not do so with the expectation that military contributions will mean influence in Washington. Even in the war on terrorism Canada will remain, as Christopher Sands recently observed, a “minor ally.”70 It should do so because American unilateralism, how- ever it might be dressed up as multilateralism, offers the best chance for victory in the war on terror and world order. Moreover, Ottawa should do so because its own national interests, especially economic, rest in maintaining good relations with Washington.
At the same time, it is not sufficient for Washington to simply ask Ottawa to spend more on defence. Pressure from the US, combined with the state of the Canadian Forces’ equipment, has already resulted in increases in Canadian defence spending. It is simply unrealistic, however, to expect that any govern- ment in Ottawa, including one led by Paul Martin, will augment military expen- diture significantly. Any “regime change” in Ottawa will not change the funda- mentals of Canadian politics and economics. Continued demands for spending on health and social programs will absorb most of the present and future budg- etary surpluses. Moreover, even if the Canadian public is now expressing more support for higher defence expenditures, no Canadian government, especially one with a majority in Parliament, will feel compelled to act on such concerns in order to stay in power. In Canada, defence spending never trumps domestic poli- cies and politics.
Measures designed to secure the border — so necessary for the mainte- nance of the free flow of goods, services and people across the border, and of such immediate relevance to the safety of the American people at home — must be the focal point of the bilateral security relationship. Thus, in addition to press- ing for more spending on defence and security, Washington and Ottawa should discuss where Canada ought to be putting more of an effort in order to make bet- ter use of what will always be a limited Canadian defence budget.
A case can be made for the reduction of Canadian overseas commitments. A recent poll done for the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, in which Canadians were asked about their foreign policy spending preferences, reported that in only two areas did a majority of those surveyed advocate greater expen- diture: “fighting terrorism here in Canada” and “defence.” Spending on “fighting terrorism in other countries” ranked near the bottom.71 However, Washington will always look to Ottawa for overseas contributions, as it is now doing with regard to Haiti. When it comes to Canada-US security relations and especially the war on terrorism, Ottawa cannot avoid playing in the “away game,” no matter how much it increases its contributions to the “home game” in North America.
At the same time, it will be important that the Government of Canada means what it says in its new National Security Policy, that it is “selective” in deploying forces overseas. There will be demands that it not be so. These will come from groups who want to impress the broader international community by taking a greater role in multinational peacekeeping and country-building efforts, as well as from those who want to impress the United States by sending more combat forces to US-led coalitions. Both groups will demand larger overseas deployments and generate new demands for costly equipment. Given limited defence budgets, however, this will only draw resources away from the more immediate, critical domestic and North American defence roles.
As NORTHCOM/NORAD Commander General Ralph Eberhart, USAF, noted recently, the mission of homeland security is like playing an “away game and a home game.” In war, just as in sports, it’s the away game that you want to win, but it is the home game that you must win.72 Thus while retaining an over- seas capability, the Ottawa administration should, as part of the new plans to enhance security measures, impress upon Washington (and the American pub- lic) the more important contribution being made by Canada to the security of the United States through its military and non-military efforts to secure the American homeland. A Canadian approach to national security and defence that has as its focus, in both policy and posture, the defence of the Canadian homeland — and by extension of North America — will best serve the vital interests of not only Canada but also the United States.
This approach will be hard to sell in Washington where, regardless of which party is in office, allied loyalty, including that of Canada, is too often measured by the dispatch of troops to the far-flung lands where the United States must go to defend its interests. But if the first goal of US defence policy is the protection of the American people — their physical and economic well-being — then in the war on terrorism Canada should now at least occupy a special and unique place in the global calculus of US strategy. And why should Americans now care more about bilateral security relations? Well, because, like Canadians, they now have to.
Parts of this paper have been used in previous papers and presentations, including a recent speech to the MIT Strategic Studies program, “The Power of Values or the Value of Power? America and Europe in a Post 9/11 World,” Columbia International Affairs Online — Case Studies (August 2003), www.ciaonet.org; “Between Venus and Mars: Canada and the Transatlantic Gap” (forthcoming, Connections 2003); and “A Hard Bilateral ‘Moment of Truth,’” in Independence in an Age of Empire: Assessing Unilateralism and Multilateralism, ed. Graham F. Walker (Halifax: Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, February 2004). It was also pre- sented at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Earlier versions were presented as papers at the Atlantic Council of Canada Spring Conference, Toronto, 21 May 2003, and the conference on “Canada and the Globalizing World,” Seventh Biennial Conference, Russian Association of Canadian Studies, Institute of the USA and Canada, Moscow, 25-27 June 2003.
For Immediate Distribution – Tuesday, June 8, 2004
Montreal – Increasing defence spending to boost “international standing” should not be the primary focus of defence policy, but defending the Canadian homeland should. The Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP.org) released today a study by Joel Sokolsky entitled, “Realism Canadian Style: The Chrétien Legacy in National Security Policy.”
The study looks at the Chrétien foreign and defence policy legacy in the context of Canada’s security relations with the United States and demonstrates that far from being asleep in the last fifteen years, Canada was overcommitted once its real interests are factored in.
Sokolsky, Dean of Arts and Science at the Royal Military College of Canada and a Fulbright scholar at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts this year, applauds the recent National Security Policy for indicating that Canada needs to be more “selective in deploying forces overseas” and urges the government to implement it forthwith.
The author sees no problem in reconciling foreign and domestic security-related interventions. “While retaining an overseas capability, the Ottawa administration should, as part of the new plans to enhance security measures, impress upon Washington (and the American public) the more important contribution being made by Canada to the security of the United States through its military and non-military efforts to secure the American homeland,” concludes Sokolsky.
It is in our interest, argues the author, to defend the Canadian homeland. On the one hand, it will convince Washington that Canada is not an American defence problem. On the other, it is necessary as he states “for the maintenance of the free flow of goods, services and people at home.”
“Realism Canadian Style: The Chrétien Legacy in National Security Policy” is the latest Policy Matters study to be released as part of the IRPP’s Canada and the World series. It is now available on-line in Adobe (.pdf) format on the Institute’s Web site (www.irpp.org). Please find the summary attached.
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