A Brave and Modest Nation
Mon, 29 Apr 2002 01:18:49 -0500
Lessee if I can tiptoe through the piles of invective and put forward
a coherent position.
FIRSTLY, thank you Canada! You've been a loyal ally and a valuable
member of the winning team the last few big conflicts.
Now, I wasn't even born when Canada's key contributions were made.
I do not speak in any official capacity for the USA. I may not be
representative of the average American's views towards Canada,
tending instead to be more pro-Canadian, as my direct male-line
ancestors were Canadians of note.
(There's a small town in Ontario called "Mohr Corners", a "Mohr
Island" in the Ottawa river, and I've been told the Quyon Ferry
outside Ottawa was originally "Mohr's Ferry" and still docks a
short way from a place called "Mohr's Landing". The first Mohr
over was apparently a logger of note, and further my grandfather
was a Canadian citizen who enlisted in the US army for WW1. Family
lore has it that they didn't ask or didn't care that he wasn't
a U.S. citizen. I suspect all these people were "brave and modest"
folk, excepting their propensity to slap the Mohr name on everything. :)
So for what it's worth, if you think Canada is due greater thank
yous, well then consider one more delivered. Thank you.
SECONDLY, the loss of the Canadian peacekeeping troops was a
tragedy. While in one sense it's a horrific, freakish accident --
our best friends cut down not long after they arrived, while in a
training area -- in another sense, it's almost mundane. In a war
zone, a misdirected bomb killed people it wasn't supposed to.
We've already lost more than four Americans to similar mishaps.
I suspect dozens of our Afghan allies have been killed by mistake.
Perhaps hundreds of noncombatant Afghan neutrals and civilians
have been killed in regrettable incidents. Now Canadian soldiers
have joined the 5+ Canadian civilians who died at the WTC as
fatalities of this war.
It's awful, but it's also unlikely to stay near the top of
non-Canadians' minds, or have any significant effect on peoples'
views, sensibilities, or choice of topics/issues to discuss. It
is unrealistic to expect people to tiptoe around Canadian
sensibilities because her soldiers recently died in a war zone.
That's what has happened, is happening, will continue to happen.
THIRDLY, Paul Prescod writes "Considering the nation's size, Canada's
historical sacrifices in the defense of other people's countries
are wildly out of proportion."
I remain unconvinced. The isolated tidbits in the forwarded article
attempted to give that impression, but provided insufficient
context. 60,000 WW1 deaths? 15,000 landing at Normandy? The 3rd
largest navy in 1945? More UN Peacekeeping missions (maybe!) than
any other nation? None of this proves exceptional sacrifice beyond
that of other nations, except to a domestic audience receptive to
I could be convinced. But it would be tough sell, for three reasons:
One, in human terms, I don't think any North American nation can claim
to have incurred sacrifices anywhere near those felt by the countries
in direct proximity to the conflicts in which Canada played a role:
Britain, France, Germany.
Two, I don't think at any point Canada was acting in a purely charitable
fashion, for the sake of "other people's countries", accepting
disproportionate costs for the benefits received. I suspect everywhere
Canada has participated, they were accurately perceiving their own
national defensive self interests -- for example, in defeating the Nazis.
Three, I think Canada is currently getting somewhat of a free ride
on the positive externalities of being the USA's friend and neighbor.
Because your mainland and your international interests are so highly
correlated with America's, you don't have to take difficult,
enemy-making stances, you don't have to invest your full share of the
costs of your sheltered existence. You can, however, sit on the sides
and say things like "we're a peaceful nation, we face no threats"
(Owen paraphrased) or "Canada wasn't attacked and wouldn't be targetted"
Sure, but without the stability and implicit subsidy provided by the
USA's defense policies, you'd be (a) poorer; AND/OR (b) at the mercy
of various other less savory aggressive nations and ideologies which
would be competing for dominance in the USA's absense; AND/OR
(c) targetted soon enough, if you actually stood up to other threats
without the USA's lead.
So while you may be comfortable in your belief that Canada has, and
continues, to contribute beyond its proportional duty, you'll have to
do a lot more work to convince non-Canadian, and especially American,
FOURTHLY, to reiterate my initial potshot that started this
conflagration, the idea of Canadians and French quibbling over
peacekeeper mission counts and forwarding boasts about their
one-off aircraft carriers remains hilarious.
FIFTH AND FINALLY, Owen Byrne has been a pissy example of the worst
kind of hateful and ill-tempered sentiments that Canadian
nationalism could possibly engender.
He wants others to show deferent respect for the recent loss of
Canadian life in the line of duty, while he ridicules that duty --
Canadian participation in joint efforts -- as a sign of no "backbone
to withdraw from NATO" and "enjoying the bumfucking too much".
Americans are "morons" and "warmongering bullies" whom Owen hopes
"kill each other for a few years". When American forces suffered
their first significant combat losses in March, he could hardly
hold back a Nelsonesque "Ah-ha" (cf. his sarcastically headlined
post 3/25, "That invincible US infantry").
Owen, count to one-thousand before hitting "send".