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Canada Foreign Policy

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Autor:  anton  09 March 2011
Tags:  Canada,  Foreign,  Policy
Words: 2154   |   Pages: 9
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After September 11th there was the reemergence of security as a top priority for policy makers: both U.S. and Canadian. In practice, the Bush administration has changed the way nations and international institutions do business. This Bush administration after 9/11 was not afraid to harshly criticize other nations if in their eyes that nation wasn't doing business they way the United States saw fit. The U.S. more or less "drew the line in the sand" and divided the world into two categories: "good" and "evil." This sharp stance held by the U.S. thus presented their allies with a dilemma and therefore nations needed to decide how closely they would ally themselves with the increasingly radical and aggressive United States.


A month after the attacks of September 11th (October 7th 2001) , the Bush administration began the "war on terror" and the initial battleground of this war was Afghanistan. Nations involved in the invasion and campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime were major NATO members: United Kingdom. Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Italy and France. Overall there was a total of 136 countries who offered some form of military assistance to Operation Enduring Freedom. By 2002, Canada had 750 soldiers deployed along U.S. troops as part of the U.S. Army task force. Like Bosnia and Kosovo, the U.S. forces and Canadian forces combined to form a multilateral fighting force, in Afghanistan "the Canadians were fully integrated under U.S. command." (Clarkson, Banda)

In Afghanistan not only was the Canadian response supportive of the U.S., the Canadian reaction was almost identical. Afghanistan was viewed as yet another example of Canada being subservient to the United States in areas concerning defense and foreign policy. One possible reason for this subservient behavior by Ottawa can be attributed to economic motives. "Despite its slow initial response, Canada's intervention in Afghanistan thus wrote another chapter in a long story of subservient defense cooperation with its neighbor in which Ottawa collaborates, spending as little as it can manage while still expecting economic favors from Washington in return." (Clarkson, Banda) It has been noted that Canada often backs the U.S. in military endeavors expecting economic favors from the United States. In the case of Afghanistan and the War on Terror, Canada was "met with higher U.S. duties on British Columbian lumber and prairie wheat." (Clarkson, Banda)

In other NATO endeavors, economics played a far smaller role, thus it should be noted the economic reasons are not the only reasons for Canada-U.S. cooperation. The historical relationship of Canada and the U.S. as NATO members is one of mutual defense concerns and participation in numerous multilateral military units. It may sound odd, but many times in history Canada has played the "little brother" role to the United States for defense reasons and in international peacekeeping.

Canada's reaction to the post 9/11 policies of the United States remained in essence, the same as always, generally supportive for the United States. Of course, the support for the U.S. by Canada is not ever present, certain U.S. policy would compel Canada to differ with U.S. military action. Post 9/11, the United States policy is characterized by pre-emptive military action, a doctrine Canada is far less comfortable in participating in. One notable and visible sign that Ottawa is not as committed to military action as Washington is Canada's military budget. Although Canada usually sides with the United States we are seeing and will no doubt continue to see a trend of Canada aligning themselves less and less with Washington policy, enter the war in Iraq.


In 2003, the U.S. was no longer in favor of using diplomacy when dealing with Iraq. The war in Afghanistan was the Bush administrations first application of their new preemptive military policy. The Wolfowitz doctrine and the neo-conservative ideology was finally in full swing in Washington D.C. After years of sitting back in U.S. politics, military hawks like (Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney) finally had the chance to enact their hard-line military policies. There was a new struggle in Washington between the old Reagan administration members and Washington moderates, with the neo-conservatives ultimately winning out. This struggle in Washington would also bring a military debate to Canada as well. Canada's foreign policy is far from the new neo-conservative policy enacted in Washington. Where Canada is still strongly committed to diplomacy, the United States under the Bush administration was straying farther and farther away from the model of diplomacy.

As the United States looked for support from the international community, they maintained a level of credibility by using the United Nations. The U.S. policy initially appeared legitimate and supported in the initial dealings with Iraq. It appeared to the international community that the U.S. would utilize the United Nations as a means to deal with the Iraq situation. "Once it became obvious that American diplomacy at the UN was merely aimed at securing cover for a war that Canadian diplomacy was trying to avert, the discrepancy between the U.S. and its unwilling partner's policy hierarchies became fully apparent." (Clarkson, Banda) When it was obvious that the U.S. was merely going through the motions and ultimately intended on attacking Iraq, no matter what the UN or international community had to say, Canada decided that the war was not one they would support.

The Canadian policy is one of non-intervention, respecting the sovereignty of other nations and proclaiming that these nations have a right to self-determination. Washington however was determined to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime, clearly a policy is at odds with the tenets of a policy of non-intervention. The invasion of Iraq and the post 9/11 interventionist stance held by the U.S. shows the clear and principal difference in the foreign policies of Canada and the United States.

The Iraq situation was handled by Canada with diplomacy, a tradition that Canada strongly values. "Multilateral diplomacy, respect for international organizations, primacy of international law, trade, and aid" (Clarkson, Banda) are the focal points for Canadian diplomats. Canada was desperately seeking a resolution in the UN concerning the Iraq situation.

Canada and Mexico, the United States' NAFTA partners, sought each other out in an effort to establish a diplomatic alternative to a looming war in Iraq. Prime Minister ChrГ©tien drafted a diplomatic proposal and presented it to Mexico's President Fox and even contacted Chile's President Vargas, another member of the UN Security Council. In a visit to Washington the following week Mexican Foreign Minister presented the Canadian proposal to Colin Powell but it was largely ignored by the Secretary of State.

The diplomatic effort helmed by Canada failed to serve its intended purpose despite having some of it's elements being touted by Tony Blair.

ChrГ©tien's ultimate decision to not participate in "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was met with verbal disdain from the neo-conservative establishment in Washington and the U.S. media, but the concern was primarily about how this would effect Canada-US relations overall.

Where else would Ottawa disagree and oppose Washington policy? Economic policy shows where the Ottawa is not as aligned with the U.S. as it once was. The budget shows that Canada has no intention of following neo-conservative whims in Washington and that it is focused on socio-economic issues not military spending.

Militarily, Canada decided to no longer be a bi-lateral force along with the United States. In 2003, troops deployed to Afghanistan were not under American military command. Canada looked toward NATO to allow its troops to play a peace-keeping role, a role more suitable for the stated ideological goals of Canadian foreign policy.

Canadian Opinion of Canada-US Relations and Foreign Policy

The Canadian response to the U.S. Iraq policy was vocal and highly critical of the Bush administration, Canada was clearly upset about the disregard of diplomacy and the United Nations. This strong criticism of the U.S. by Canada was unexpected and met with mixed responses both at home and in the United States. Canada's policy was strongly debated domestically, the House of Commons faced rigorous debate where some members voiced their support for the Iraq War. Initially 48% of Canadians supported the war in Iraq.

Many people in Canada openly oppose the U.S. policy and there disgust with the U.S. seems to be the prominent agreement among citizens. Many Canadians are upset that in the Afghanistan campaign Canadian troops were initially fighting under the U.S. troops. Canadians are also disgusted by the U.S. disregard for the United Nations, disregard for international law and the overall U.S. policy and aggressive military action.

Also after a particular "friendly fire" incident that caused the death of Canadian forces, involving American forces, "President Bush issued an offensively belated apology." (Clarkson, Banda) All of the aforementioned have made the Canadian involvement in Afghanistan extremely controversial, public opinion and the opinion of party leaders is divided.

Despite divided opinion, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor insists that Canada is still committed to the Afghanistan mission. O'Connor recently stated that the Canadian government will remain committed militarily until 2009 and will also involve itself in humanitarian efforts until 2011. Still NDP leaders suggest that the Conservative government is simply following Washington and insist that Canada should not be involved in Afghanistan. NDP leaders have numerous times called for the pullout of Canada's roughly 2,000 troops in Afghanistan. (Stastna)

The Overall Influence of the U.S. on Canada

The United States and Canada obviously have a long history, one marked with heavy U.S. influence. It can be argued that Canada began to drift into the U.S. sphere of influence even before Canada's independence. It can be argued that Canada has long admired the United States and that in some ways the U.S. has served as a model for Canada. Canada admires the influence that the U.S. has and wishes to stay good terms with their more dominant neighbor to the south.

It is necessary for the United States and Canada to cooperate because of their geographic location and all the responsibilities that relationship brings. Defense and trade are the primary motives for mutual cooperation between the nations. However the relationship is characterized most often my U.S. pressure on Canada. Canada feels enormous pressure to behavior like the United States concerning matters of foreign policy and international affairs. When pressured by the U.S. more often than not, the actions asked of Canada benefit the United States in matters of foreign policy, the economy, trade, and defense.

The historical military and defense relationship between Canada and the U.S. dates back to World War II. Now the relationship is becoming stressed. After more than 50 years of U.S. pressure Canada began to show signs that they might become more independent in their foreign policy.

Middle Power Status

Canada's independent stance on foreign policy has given it the designation of being a "middle power." The term "middle power" originated in Canada to describe the level of influence Canada was expected to exert in foreign affairs following World War II. Through the United Nations, Canada strives to involve itself in humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts. Now it is argued that Canada is losing its "middle power" status and that there foreign policy may drastically change in the future.

Canada holds the belief that nations will have international law on there side and/or an alliance, thus Canada demonstrates a strong tradition that mixes respect for international law and institutions as well as a desire for alignment with other nations. In practice Canada's beliefs are demonstrated in their role in the United Nations as well as their relationship with the United States.

Historically it was argued that it would be difficult for Canada to differ from the U.S. on defense and foreign policy issues. The following quote is from a 1953 defence study: "it may be difficult indeed for the Canadian government to reject any major defense proposals which the United States government presents with conviction as essential to the security of North America." Also it can be argued that Canada's aligning with the United States has lead ultimately to a loss of de facto sovereignty. (Leeson)

Analysts argue that it would be beneficial if Canada can begin to move away from associating itself with the United States, economically and militarily. This suggestion may well be under way as Canada attempts to strengthen its economic ties with foreign nations besides the U.S. and as they participate less and less with the United States militarily.

September 11th 2001 and its influence on U.S. policy forces Canada to reevaluate their relationship with the United States. As the U.S. changes radically, so does the rest of the world and Canada must learn to adapt to the post 9/11 international political landscape. Canada must adapt in a way that best serves their interests, their sovereignty, and their commitment to their strong tradition of respect for international law, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. Canada has had an important impact on the world because of its commitment to their core values and they can continue such tradition, but they must remain weary of U.S. influence.

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