Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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The word from U.S. President George Bush to Prime Minister Chretien on Iraq at their Detroit meeting on Monday was to listen to his speech today at the UN. This cold shoulder by the American president of a Canadian prime minister is indicative of how distant Washington has become from Ottawa.
And that should be a matter of concern to all Canadians.
What has brought about this situation is obvious. Canada is no longer seen as a reliable player in the vital game of nation-states where the currency is military power and peace is at stake.
Chretien's disregard for military power is reflected in the steady decline of defence expenditure as a percentage of Canada's gross domestic product (GDP) during his term in office. In 1993, defence expenditure amounted to 1.9% of GDP, and presently amounts to 1.1% of GDP. At this level, Canada sits at the bottom of both the G8 nations and the Western European members of NATO. Spain and Holland are ahead of Canada, as is Turkey.
The long years of neglecting Canada's defence needs amounted to taking somewhat of a free ride in the council of western nations. When the crunch came in the form of a shooting war, as in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, Canada could not sustain a military presence for the long haul.
Sept. 11 also exposed the hollowness of the idea of "soft power" diplomacy as a substitute for military power.
Those who spoke about soft power, as did Lloyd Axworthy, the former Canadian foreign minister - "influencing the behaviour of other nations not through military intimidation but through a variety of diplomatic and political tools" - were, perhaps, not being disingenuous as much as they were striving to mask their refusal to invest in Canada's Armed Forces.
Diplomacy in a quest for peace is only effective when supported by military power.
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