Respect Us, Eh . . . or We'll . . . We'll . . . ?
Canada's thoroughly Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin compounded his bold declaration not to participate in any American missile defense system by stating that, of course, the United States would need to ask Canada's permission to overfly the sovereign tundra of the great White North before defending itself against an incoming missile.
The withdrawal from the Strategic Defense Initiative surely came as a relief to Pentagon officials who dreaded the prospect of "partnering" with the Canadian military on a mission of military importance. But today's announcement is laughable.
I can hear the Joint Chiefs of Staff now. "Yeah, sure, we'll definitely being calling Ottawa as soon as we spot an incoming thermonuclear device. What's the area code up there again?"
It's getting pretty hard to hide behind soft power in a hard power world. I sympathize with my Canadian friends. Their government is cheating them and putting their lives at risk.
By trying to act tough and defend his nation's atrophied pride with Bushesque cowboy posturing, Prime Minister Martin only draws attention to the utter powerlessness of the Canadians. Does anyone doubt for a moment that any sane American national security official would delay shooting down a hostile supersonic missile until our neighbors to the north are okay with it? And what if they're not okay with it?
Believe me. If that scenario unfolds the U.S. is going to take its chances and run the grave risk of a hockey puck shortage as Canada severs relations in the ugly aftermath of a successful missile interception over Saskatoon.
The second Bush administration will go along with the charade. After all, the neutered Canadian government, like the neutered Old European governments, only want the respect that accords to nations of world standing. They don't actually want the standing or the responsibilities that go with it.
Martin addresses this embarrassment by claiming Canada has a "very large defence budget, which is designed to protect our coast, borders and Arctic sovereignty and also make sure we can play a role in the world."
Protect Canada's "Arctic sovereignty" against what and with what? As it is now, Winnipeg is entirely vulnerable to attack from a squadron of armed snowmobiles like those frequently deployed by S.P.E.C.T.R.E. against James Bond.
Canada's place in the world? The cold and dark periphery.
The Canadian Government, like many of the governments of Europe, clings to the pretense that military strength and armed conflict is passe in the 21st century and that when push comes to existential shove their good will and affirmative intentions will protect them from all the bad things in the world.
The United States enables that pretense by protecting Canada from the bad things, and preening like Martin's helps Canada bank more good will which is safely locked away in the good intentions lockbox.
Of course, Canada's bold new policy was not even covered in the U.S. media because 1) it's absurd on the face of it, 2) no one really cares, and 3) we save up all the news from Canada and present it all at once in a single News From Elsewhere program that's traditionally broadcast the morning after New Year's Eve.
Anyway, it's good to know that while we sleep peaceably in our beds, rough Canadians stand ready in the Arctic to do violence against invading penguins and seals.
Unfortunately for the Candians, their government is aligning them with a failed and reactionary approach to national security as practiced by the cynical Old World . . . reactionary in that the ministers in Ottawa, Brussels, Berlin, and Paris define their policy as anything that differentiates them from the United States.
Seems a little immature for a world leader, eh?