As Canada's 151st birthday passes by, Canadians enjoy the usual swell of patriotism. No wonder, as our nation is pretty great. The last two years has found even the least-patriotic Canadians being proud. Even those curmudgeons have to admit... "At least we're not the United States."
Canada still, and always will, have its share of issues. That is to be expected. Unlike some other nations, we still have an air of optimism about us. Things are good and we hope that we can make them even better.
One only has to take a cursory glance at the rest of the world to realize that not everyone shares Canada's optimism. Not only are people taking a pessimistic view... But they are looking for someone to blame.
It is for this reason that Canadian as a whole must make a renewed commitment to its own sovereignty, lest we get bogged down with the same division.
One need only look to our southern neighbor to realize how a nation can lose its way.
|Impossible to ignore and full of hot air.|
While US politics have never been a game for the timid; recent years have seen a very clear trend towards divisiveness. Neither political party aspires towards national unity, only energizing their 'base' while demonizing the other side.
Witness the current American government.
Its accent into power was not predicated on a popular leader unifying the masses. Far from it. The American President's political rise was built on hateful racism. He would go on lose the popular vote... Only to win the White House.
The American House of Representatives' approval rating rarely breaks 20%. The US Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is the least popular member. Yet incumbents are almost always favored to win thanks to the longstanding practice of gerrymandering.
With sitting president who is being investigated for possible treason, inhuman treatment of asylum seekers, and countless other scandals the USA has become a divided nation. Yet despite the outcry, the upcoming midterm elections could be anyone's game.
One could be excused for thinking the United States of America is headed towards a second Civil War... Even in jest.
So what does a sitting president do when he's accosted by scandal? Divert attention by convincing the populous that there is some nefarious external threat. Since the "War on Terror" is old news (and more of George W. Bush's thing) Trump has decided to point his finger at... Canada?
For years, Canada and the US have enjoyed a close relationship. Sure, we have had our share of rivalries and minor disputes, but a trade war? That never works out for anyone.
After embarking a trade war with Canada, Trump feels it is also the right time to tell Canada it needs to spend more on defense... Even though the current government has already committed to do so.
Perhaps Trump has a point... But not for the right reasons.
Trump would likely prefer Canada and other NATO nations to spend more on military so as to benefit American defense contractors. His motive is clear. If NATO nations want the world's largest military force on their side, they have to pay for it. Forget about moral authority or being a force for righteousness. Trump has turned the most powerful military force in history into a mercenary band.
Worse still is evidence that while the USA is willing to sell other nations its cutting edge military equipment, that equipment is never truly theirs.
This has placed Canada in an awkward position. The current American leader is on friendlier terms with the Russian leader than he is with ours. Would Trump be willing to send US troops to our aid if Russia decided to annex some of our territory?
Perhaps Canada should be more fearful that the United States of America will annex some of our territory instead. Normally this would sound ridiculous. Not today. The age of Trump should make it clear that the rule book has been thrown out.
Trump's own draconian enforcement of immigration policies have resulted in U.S. Border Patrol agents boarding Canadian vessels in Canadian waters off the Grand Manaan Island off of New Brunswick. Not exactly neighborly behavior.
This may sound like a rallying cry for Canadians to take up arms and prepare for a possible incursion. It is not. Merely a warning that our traditional codependence on the USA is no longer a sensible strategy. Good relationships are based on trust, loyalty, and dependability. America is unable to provide any of those things right now.
Perhaps the Trump era will end up being a momentary blip in American history. Perhaps the 2016 election was simply a perfect storm that led to a reality star ending up being the most powerful individual in the world. Perhaps Trump's rise to power was the "dead cat bounce" of a disappearing aspect of American society.
Either way, it has become clear that while Canada should exercise a little more independence when it comes to our national identity. Canada's experience in Afghanistan should be reason enough to put the days of blindly following the USA's example behind us. Instead, we should do our own thing. Presenting Canada as a global role model that exercises self-reliance and high morals.
As an example, we need look no further than Sweden. Despite a defense budget that is a fraction of what Canada spends, Sweden is able to field a enviable military force with some impressive combat aircraft, submarines, and other assets. Better still, Sweden maintains the capability of designing and building its own military hardware. It has not shied away from global participation when called for.
(Does it sound like I'm a fan of Sweden? I am.)
Just remember that sovereignty does not mean nationalism. A nationalistic approach, like the US under Trump or the UK's Brexit, only serves to alienate the rest of the world. Trump and his ilk have the mistaken belief that life on earth is a zero-sum game where the more you let someone else have, the less you get to keep for yourself. This is simply not true. Globalization is a controversial issue, too complicated to simply break down into "winners" and "losers".
There is also the question of NATO.
Despite some deriding NATO as "obsolete", it still has its benefits. It could use some serious retooling to align with a post-Cold War world, but it certainly is not worth abandoning. Article Five, which treats an attack on one NATO nation as an attack on all, is still a powerful deterrent. One would do well to remember that in NATO's 69 year history, its only use of Article Five was in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11... Enacted by the USA, no less.
One could easily argue that America's questionable commitment to NATO is all the more reason to keep it. A NATO nation that can no longer rely on American intervention would still be well-defended with the remaining NATO forces coming to its aid.
We are now living in a time where the American president has a better rapport with authoritarian leaders like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin then democratically elected allies like Angela Merkel, Theresa May, and Emmanuel Macron. Despite the vitriol directed at long-standing allies, Trump is encouraging them to "buy American" when it comes to military spending. This seems like a rather odd sales tactic. The recent cancellation of Canada's Super Hornet buy, Italy pulling the plug on the JSF, and the rise of new fighter programs like the Tempest seem to indicate that America's allies have grown weary of being seen as cogs in the American Military Industrial Complex.
The weariness goes far deeper than that, however.
In the years following the Cold War, America was still seen as the benevolent superpower. Sure, it got its hands dirty plenty of times, but this could be excused as necessary for the greater good. Things took a turn after September 11, 2001, however. While a response was certainly justified, the never-ending "War on Terror" committed America to a dark path of unwinnable and unjustified wars and occupations. Allies that walked alongside the U.S. down this path were soon rewarded with little else but casualties and blemishes to their own moral code.
Years of supporting the USA throughout the Cold War and the following War on Terror have taken its toll on America's allies. That loyalty and commitment has seemingly been taken for granted by Trump and his ilk. America's allies are not seen as partners in their eyes. Instead, we are seen as subservients (at best) or parasites (at worst) prospering only because the U.S. lets us.
To put it simply, America's allies have tired of this "American Exceptionalism".
Trumps tough talk may appeal to his base (uneducated conservatives looking for a scapegoat) but it is absolute poison to anyone else. The USA did not become the most powerful nation in the world in a vacuum; quite the opposite, in fact. American history is built on its international relations. Generations of immigration, two World Wars and a Cold War helping to build up its economic and military have led to the USA becoming the "hub" holding the rest of the world together. Now that hub is beginning to crack and split apart.
In order to prosper (possibly even survive) the upcoming chaos, America's allies will need to reduce their codependence on the US and strengthen their bonds with each other instead. Instead of being spokes around a hub, we become an interconnected mesh. Like a spider's web, if one of those bonds happen to break, the mesh remains strong.
The current state of American politics may be nothing more than a brief "blip" following the Obama years. Then again, it may not. Recent primaries have shown that American politics have changed... Possibly not for the better. What is important for Canada and our allies right now is to put ourselves in a position where America's anguish has little to no effect on us.
That is true sovereignty. When the blustering of another nation DOES NOT MATTER.