A Brave and Modest Nation

Paul Prescod paul@prescod.net
Mon, 29 Apr 2002 14:17:31 -0700

Gordon Mohr wrote:
> 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.

You're right, but I don't know why you choose those three. Russia's WWII
casualties swamp any other country's.

Insofar as I have no relatives that were even in Canada at the time, I
am disclined to bother arguing about WWII. Canada's more recent
peacekeeping activities are clearly disproportional and probably,
measured in those terms, exceptional. America's "peacemaking" force is
also clearly disproportional -- no one would suggest otherwise.

> 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.

There is no such thing as "pure charity" but at the same time consider
that Canada's interests are sufficiently aligned with those of other
Western nations that our geopolitical interests would be served by
letting other people do the work of peacemaking. Canada does
peacekeeping to buy moral authority. It's like cleaning up around the
house so that you have some influence when it comes choice to choose the
curtains. We typically spend our moral authority on efforts like the
treat against land-mines and the convention on the rights of the
children. Of course our efforts are often frustrated by American vetos.

As far as Nazis: why was it in Canada's national defensive interests to
fight the Axis in September of 1939 and not in the US's until 1941?
Could our interests have really been that far misaligned?

> 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"
> (Paul paraphrased).

There is no doubt that living beside the world's largest military allows
Canada to slack off quite a bit in its own military.

As far as "difficult, enemy making stances": the US has decided it wants
to be the world's policeman. Canada has constantly agitated in favor of
a world run according to laws instead of might makes right. When times
are good the US is unwilling to cede one iota of its power or rights to
international bodies so it is *by your own choice* that you bear the
full cost for maintaining international peace and making enemies.

> 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.

That's one view. Another view is that America's defense policies cause
as many problems as the solve for the whole world -- or at least they
have since the end of the cold war. If Americans cannot come to
concensus on the virtues of American hegemony, can you really expect
Canadians to agree that it benefits *us*?

 Paul Prescod