I said before that one of my military heroes was a man, B.H. Liddell-Hart, who didn’t do much fighting but did a lot of reading, thinking and writing, including writing about the indirect approach. I don’t think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is much of a reader, especially not about strategy, but he would do well to consider learning something (anything, actually) now because President Donald Trump has triggered a review of NAFTA and while Foreign Minister Freeland says she’s ready and while officials are already talking about cancelling the purchase of the Super-Hornet fighters to retaliate for Boeing’s trade complaint against Bombardier, it is now time for an indirect approach.
We must remember, first, that we are on the tactical defensive ~ the USA is attacking NAFTA …
… so, what is the indirect approach for Canada?
It is to fight a tactical defensive action, against the USA, and, simultaneously, launch a strategic counter offensive using a series of “flanking” attacks …
… essentially, while a team led by Minister Freeland, ably assisted by Andrew Leslie and first rate officials deal with the USA ~ who will be tough, skilled negotiators ~ Prime Minister Trudeau and Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne should be on a splashy world tour ~ to Australia, Britain, China, Europe, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and South Africa, and, and, and … ~ exploiting Prime Minister Trudeau’s acknowledged but fading popularity to shore up the Canada-EU trade deal (CETA) and to promote free(er) trade deals with the others, including a comprehensive CANZUK deal, as proposed by Erin O’Toole, and a Canada-China free trade deal and trying to get Canada into the RCEP.
It will be too soon to conclude any such deals but the very act of going out, into the world, to broaden and strengthen our trade relations with other trading partners, large and small, will show the Americans that they have a lot to lose.
Our tactical counter-attack on the USA should not be just negotiations in Washington, Mexico City and Ottawa: we should be “attacking” through lobby groups, in state capitals … remember this image? > … and in cities, service clubs and trade associations and, especially, in the media. We should ask Americans, through their TV screens if they really want to buy their oil from the people who funded al Qaeda or from the people who sheltered Americans, took them into our homes and hearts, on 9/11? President Trump may have a self destructive, protectionist agenda, but it is not clear that a majority of Americans, state governors or national legislators (in the US Senate and House of Representatives) share his views and want to screw up one of the world’s better trade deals … just because Donald Trump is an ignoramus doesn’t mean all Americans are.
For now, it is time for Justin Trudeau to “work the phones” with Rodrigo Duterte, Theresa May, Narendra Modi, Malcolm Turnbull and Xi Jinping and so on, and tell the RCAF to get the fancy prime ministerial aircraft ready for a lot of use, and get off his butt and do some “wheeling and dealing” of his own to engage President Trump in a strategic counter offensive, using the indirect approach.