Surely we are just a small country, one with no enemies, one that just muddle through … aren’t we?
Prime Minister Paul Martin had it about right, back in 2005, when, in a policy statement, he said that Canada wanted and needed “A Role of Pride and Influence in the World.” Now, the “pride” bit was just window dressing, for internal consumption. What Prime Minister Martin understood was that Canada always needs more and better influence in the world. We are a big country, but there are only 35 million of us, not 65+ million like Britain or France, nor 100 million like the Philippines. Only 1.8 Canadians out of each 1,000 serve in our active military, not 3 per 1,000 as in Denmark or 4/1,000 in Finland or 5/1,000 in Norway. And, of course, we spend only 1% of our GDP on defence, not the 2% as Britain does and as Australia plans to do (and as we, hypocritically, agreed to aim (a euphemism for “think about,” maybe even “try,” eventually) to do in NATO. We do not have much in the way of the military “hard power” (which confers automatic influence) so we need to find ways to enhance our overall, integrated power in the world. But, we are not Belgium or Costa Rica, we are a G7 country, at the very least we are in the Top 10 or, at the very least, the Top 10% of countries in pretty much every measure that matters, and our influence ought to be commensurate with that. Muddling through ought not to be good enough.
It is no secret that I think our, Canadian grand strategy needs to be based on:
- Promoting and protecting real (not illusionary, illiberal) democracy in the world;
- Promoting and protecting free(er) trade amongst nations; and
- Doing a full and fair share of the (military) heavy lifting needed to keep (and often make) peace in the world so that free trade and democracy can develop and flourish for the greater good of the greatest number.
But there are obstacles.
Promoting and protecting democracy, and the values and institutions that make democracy possible, requires the sort of military “hard power” for which no government, since 1970, has been willing to pay. We have left the field open to e.g. these guys …
… and even to …
… other smaller countries (whose prime ministers are also featured in Vanity Fair) that aspire to “play” in the big leagues. We know what’s needed but, as successive governments have determined, by assiduous polling, Canadians don’t want to pay. The Laurentian Elites, the core of the Liberal’s support base, especially, oppose defence spending.
It’s also no secret that I believe that our grand strategy needs to shift our focus, especially on trade and economic opportunities, away from Europe and towards Asia and, later, Africa, all the while retaining our firm connection to the United States.
I think that, after the TPP is done and ratified, a free trade with China is both possible and desirable, but it will create real governing problems for a government that has, thus far, shown a lot more interest in campaigning than in governing. The Chinese want our oil, they want to own some of our oil productions and they really want a pipeline to a seaport.
The Trudeau government must, sooner or later, come to grips with the inherent contradictions in its stated general support for some pipelines and its support for first nations. The first nations don’t want to play the game by the Trudeau government’s rules; they have a different agenda that may have to be reconciled by a government that would much, much rather that the problem would just go away. I don’t know how the objections of first nations will be overcome: bribery will, I expect, do the job for many so-called “leaders” of first nations; offering real partnerships will work with some others; but a few will want more than any responsible Canadian government can give.
A month ago, two well known international trade lawyers, Allen Gotleib, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States and undersecretary of state for external affairs, and Matthew Kronby a former head of the federal Trade Law Bureau, published a good overview of Canada’s recent (post 1970s) trade history in the Globe and Mail. They see obstacles to expanding our trade:
“Foremost, therefore, is the requirement to build infrastructure that enables Canada to exploit its natural resources and serve new and growing markets in Asia and elsewhere. If our resources are available in only a single export market, our lack of leverage will make it impossible to realize their true value.
We will not succeed in building the necessary infrastructure without strong, assertive and far-sighted leadership on the part of our new federal government. Within Canada, the development of our natural resources faces significant legal, political, regional and local obstacles as well as the intervention of deep-pocketed and ideologically motivated foreign lobbies.”
Those “deep-pocketed and ideologically motivated foreign lobbies” are US groups, masquerading as environmentalists and funding Canadian anti-pipeline groups, but their real aims include trying to shut down Canadian oil production for the benefit of US and Arab interests,including e.g. “clean coal.” Some groups in our environmental movement and some of the the politicians who rode it to success in 2015 are, de facto, doing the dirty work of foreign governments who are operating against Canada.
And there is, also, a deep seated Canadian fear of free trade with anyone, but especially with China.
The kinds of “feel good” quasi-military, UN peacekeeping operations the Liberals seem intent on doing, if they have to do anything at all, are not going to to do us or the world much good. UN peacekeeping has devolved into a sort of system of global welfare fraud whereby the UN uses first world money to pay third world countries to “keep the peace” in other third world hell holes. That’s the reality. Eventually, inevitably, when the “blue helmets” fail, someone capable, like the French Foreign Legion, is sent in to make peace, too often the “blue berets” are recycled for another try, then, sooner or later a coalition of willing and able nations will have to take over and “make” a durable peace. The world, with reason, expects Canada to be part of that ad hoc coalition of the willing and able. We are rich, we are sophisticated, we can provide useful, meaningful help to a world that needs it. We just would rather not.
Absent a realistic, interest based foreign policy backed up by a bigger, better military, we will watch as our influence declines further.
- We will promote democracy, but few will bother to even pretend to listen.
- We will make trade deals, but they will not be as advantageous to us as they could and should be.
- We will participate in UN peacekeeping, but it will be a sham.
We will, in other words, become “just a small country, one with no enemies, one that just muddle through …” a country with little real influence in the world and even less ability to assert the influence it might have.
Just like he wanted. Welcome back to 1970.