Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The 400 lb gorilla as emperor 

Pogge notes Lloyd Axworthy's latest rant -- Time to redefine ties with U.S. I'm not sure whether I agree with Axworthy's advice, to dump NAFTA and pursue global trade instead, but I can certainly agree that the 400 lb gorilla is throwing its weight around:
. . . we are dealing with an American political system currently steeped in the ideology of "empire." It recognizes few rules, adheres only to those treaties that are expedient to basic interests, and believes that the only political currency that counts is the exercise of raw power. In its mildest form, it practises a la carte bilateralism, co-operating only when it wants to, and when it suits short-term domestic or international objectives. In its bad days, it simply follows a strategy of "take no prisoners," "damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead," "don't tread on me," "America First," or any other of the clichés used by ultra-patriots. These are the extant policy directives from the White House. While most Canadians responded with dismay to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, few could quite grasp that the same cavalier, imperial attitudes exemplified in Washington's rejection of various agreements on disarmament, its fierce opposition to the International Criminal Court, its indifference to climate-change warnings, and its undermining of the U.N. would prevail in our continental relationship as well. There is a chronic and dangerous failure to fully appreciate the shift going on in the political demographics of the U.S. and how this change affects attitudes not only toward Canada but also to the broad U.S. approach to its international role. The reality is that political power is shifting to the south and west of the United States, bringing with it less understanding or interest in our country and certainly an anti-internationalist notion that the U.S. can and should go it alone. Growing, as well, is the attitude — especially prevalent amongst congressional Republicans — that the U.S. should legislate extraterritorially to compel other countries to abide by its decisions. Anyone who thinks that neighbourly proximity brings favours or privileges is living in a dream world. In the changing landscape of U.S. politics and policies, Canada lacks the necessary traction . . . Let's face it: This is a painful and uncertain time in our relations with the United States. Muddling through from crisis to crisis won't work. Neither will listening to the chorus of continentalist claptrap promoting more U.S.-Canada integration — look no farther than the present disputes to see where such policies have landed us — or the calls for protectionism and retaliation that can still be heard from the Left. It's time for new policies and tough action to shift our trade and security strategies away from a preoccupation with continental matters to a more global footing.
I think we will need more than just new trade policies to deal with this challenge.

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