Sleeping with the elephant

So three things caught my eye this morning:

First ~ The Globe and Mail reports that President Obama called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau his “heir to his own liberal legacy on climate change and social justice.

Second ~ The Telegraph reports that “Barack Obama has blamed Britain and France for the chaos in Libya, saying David Cameron was too “distracted by a range of other things” in the wake of Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster to help contain the crisisthe US president suggested it was a mistake to trust America’s European allies to be “invested in the follow-up” after the 2011 coalition intervention that led to Gaddafi’s toppling.

Third ~ MacLean’s reported, last December, that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled with that word he was dropping the fig leaf of impartiality, and promptly took a swipe at U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

These three items lead me towards two issues:

1805a772f8ab922cc8a584ad889be2c2First: the United States is never wrong ~ whenever something goes wrong in this world, as “something” almost always seems to do, it is because someone else, some foreigners, someone “unAmerican” screwed up. Neither the US president nor the Pentagon can ever make a mistake. American grand strategy and US political judgements are always right.

Obama-Red-LineSecond: Barack Obama will not be president for much longer, which is, probably, a very good thing for this sad old world because his chronic weakness and dithering, on issue after issue after issue, have made the world, from North Africa and the Middle East through to the South China Seas, more and more dangerous. He is very, very good a blaming others for US foreign policy blunders but the fact is that he, not David Cameron or the President of France, is the “leader” of the “free world,” and I doubt that anyone would, honestly, say that the free world is stronger or safer today than it was in early 2007 when he announced that he was a candidate for the office of President of the United States.

GTY_hillary_clinton_donald_trump_split_jt_150912_16x9_992It is very possible that Prime Minister Trudeau (and the leaders of every other country in the world) will have to deal with one of these two. Senator Clinton is more or less predictable: she’ll campaign from the left and govern, generally, from the right ~ in the interests of Big business, the Big banks and Big labour and she’ll be a trade protectionist, which will be bad for Canada and the world. Mr Trump is harder to “read.” He is, I think, part of an old but not very honourable trend in American politics towards nativismisolationism and protectionism

… and that will be bad for Canada (and the world) too.

I agree with David Akin that Prime Minister Trudeau’s status as a minor celebrity in the US media can be a good thing for Canada. It might mean that we will be taken somewhat less for granted in the corridors of power … or it would if the prime minister acted like a grownup …

12439067_553478951484970_1981521271436392092_n

… but his current policy is still all about the campaign against Stephen Harper, not about using his celebrity status to advance Canada’s vital interests in the world.

x354-q80Notwithstanding the Canadian election, the world remains a dangerous 2345384B00000578-2839307-image-31_1416317975881place. There are people and movements who have declared themselves, by word or deed, to be against Canada and its vital interests. The United States, as a nation, and the Americans, as a people, are good friends and trusted allies, no nation could ask for better. But the American government will act in what it perceives to be its own vital interests and, increasingly, those are defined by US partisan, domestic political considerations, not by a rational debate amongst sober minded, thoughtful Americans. It is, I believe, “just a phase,” but, while the Americans get whatever this is out of their system they are very, very likely to make even more mistakes ~ and, heaven knows, American strategy since about 1960s has been, with a very few exceptions, just one blunder after another, committed, equally, by both main parties. In the meantime these fellows get a free(er) hand …

… and someone, absent real, productive, constructive leadership from America, the “leader” of the free world, has to be prepared to do something. I have argued, over the past few months, for one vision or version of that “something,” but even I am not so full of myself as to believe that it is the only, best or even a really good vision.

But, when considering the Americans, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should remember something his father said, back in 1969, (when addressing the Press Club in Washington) to Americans, about Canada’s relations with the USA:

Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.

The praise that President Obama lavished on Prime Minister Trudeau yesterday  is just another friendly “twitch,” but it can be, will be in an instant, as British Prime Minister Cameron discovered (also yesterday), replaced by a quite unfriendly “grunt” when there is a need to burnish the president’s “legacy.” Let’s not be distracted by the gestures, let’s focus on the realities of American power and the impact it will, after this fall’s US elections, have on us.

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