There is a pointed reminder, in this morning’s Globe and Mail, that our strategic firm base (to use an army tactical term) is, in this dangerous world, North America and Michael Kergin, former Canadian ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, former Mexican ambassador to the United States, and Anthony Wayne, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico recommend a “pivot to North America”
Some facts the authors provide to support their thesis:
- About $2.7-million in trade passes between the United States and its two neighbours each minute;
- Mexico and Canada are the two largest U.S. export markets, buying a third of all that Americans send abroad;
- Millions of jobs depend on the trade and investment networks across our region; and
- Our economies could add $8-trillion (U.S.) to our gross domestic product by 2040.
The authors note that: “politicians give surprisingly little attention to strengthening North America’s foundations, let alone to recognizing the importance it already plays in our common well-being and security.”
Why is that?
In my opinion the first problem is my previously stated contention that the US’ strategic vision is cloudy, even lacking and its leadership is weak because the “traditional organs of power” are either broken or mistrusted. The US focus tends to shift, with popular opinion, rather then being properly focused, as Lord Palmerston (and Henry Kissinger, too) recommended, by self interest.
Now, of course, geography makes us permanent neighbours ~ permanent in human, political time, anyway ~ and history has given us shared interests, and we ought to be looking after our interests, here in North America, first, including our common defence interests.
But America is too easily distracted by the “enemy of the month,” and Canada, especially when there is a Liberal government in power, too often panders to the knee-jerk anti-Americanism that animates one (sadly large) segment of the Laurentian Elites.
Our relationship with the United States is, head and shoulders, the most important of any and all. As I have pointed out, before, we are TINA²:
- Trapped In North America; and, insofar as our society, economics, culture and security are concerned
- There Is No Alternative.
America is more than just the indispensable ally and the leader of the West, it is our best friend (even though some Canadians, especially those in the Laurentian Elites who support the Liberals, don’t like that), our greatest trading partner ~ there is no “third way,” and the bedrock upon which our security rests. We have to get the relationship right.
Back in the 1988 election campaign the Liberals ran a really good attack ad; it played to our long standing fears of an American takeover:
The notion of erasing the border really was a concern and, in many respects it still is a bête noire for many Liberals and most of the NDP.
But, in some respect we do need to erase it. It is almost trite, but always true to say that, after 9/11 security trumps trade for the Americans … in fact, security trumps almost anything, and our American friends look with suspicion on all outsiders, Canadians and Mexicans included. The image of the twin towers is seared into their brains and it will not be driven out by kind words or, even, by not quitting the bombing campaign in the Middle East. We need to help Americans to both feel and to be more secure, and we can do that by more closely coordinating our border (and that includes immigration and refugee) security systems. That means harmonizing both the content and conduct of our border security ~ and that will drive e.g. the federal privacy commissioner crazy when we need to share e.g. airline passenger manifests ~ but our aim should be to “erase the border” for everyone who is a legal resident of Canada and the USA. Any Canadian, including any person who is a lander immigrant should be able to travel freely to and from the USA and work there, too, and the same should apply to any American and anyone with a US green card ~ they should be allowed to travel to and work in Canada. That will drive out trade unions crazy, but it will also improve opportunities and prosperity for people in both countries. And it, securing our borders, would not be a one-way street. In some cases American regulations, for tourist visas, for example, would have to be tightened to conform to our standards.
Many, many years (decades, actually) ago an elderly colonel ~ well, he was only around 50, but that seemed ancient to a bunch of 20 something subalterns ~ taught us the principles of war. One of them was “security” and the colonel explained why it was always a bad idea to launch an attack before one had made sure that one had a good, secure “firm base.” North America is our “firm base” and, as Messers Kergin, Sarukhan and Wayne point out there is a lot we can do to secure it before we go abroad and swat our enemies.
There are, of course, many other things that can be and need to be done, but securing our firm base, to improve our mutual security, would be a good start.