Vive Le Canada

Empire's Ally: Canadian Foreign Policy
Date: Friday, November 24 2006
Topic:


Empire's Ally: Canadian Foreign Policy
by Greg Albo

Since the coming into power of the Stephen Harper Conservative government in January of this year, there has been much gnashing of teeth over the foreign policy stance of Canada. In particular, Canada's relation with the U.S. on a phalanx of fronts has been at the center of controversy. One has been the softwood lumber deal cut by Ambassador Michael Wilson, which limits Canadian lumber exports to the U.S. and allows the Americans to keep $1 billion in duties ruled by trade tribunals as illegal. This has been judged by the government as a necessary step to re-establishing "good" bilateral relations to secure and deepen economic integration. A second has been Canada's Middle East policy, in terms of the deployment of Canadian troops into a major combat position in southern Afghanistan and the uncompromising support for the Israeli and U.S. positions on the summer assault of Lebanon and Gaza by Israel. These stances have been celebrated by the Right, especially the cynics who dominate the national media in defending U.S. policies at every turn, as bringing a new "ethical realism" to Canadian foreign policies.

But Liberal commentators have lamented the break from the approach of the Chretien regime (quietly ignoring the Martin interregnum). Indeed, the Liberal leadership race has a bit of a mantra: the "balance" of sending troops to Kabul to defend the new U.S. puppet Karzai regime and the navy into the Arabian Gulf, but not directly participating in the "coalition of the willing" in the U.S. invasion of Iraq or openly adopting the ballistic missile defense system. For their part, the social Left and the NDP have cursed the drift away from a "peacekeeping" role for Canada's armed forces (although the NDP backed the Conservative Party Parliamentary resolution on the Kandahar mission), and the bypassing of multilateral institutions to support unilateral U.S. policies to remake the global order. The NDP is now taking a soft position against the Afghan deployment, largely on the basis of an inappropriate mix of development, peacekeeping, and military objectives.

While the Chretien government maneuverings to allow some Canadian distance from U.S. policies should not be naysayed, none of these views come to grips with the way geopolitical alliances have shifted during the current phase of neoliberalism. Nor do they address the particular role of imperialist ally of the U.S. that Canada has long occupied, and the way Canadian foreign policy has been transformed with the changed geo-political context since 2001.

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