The re-election of George Bush at least clarifies things. Within the strict confines of what passes for democracy in the United States today, the American electorate has affirmed the rogue imperialist policies of Bush and rejected the more traditional imperialism advocated by Kerry. This outcome reflects profound changes not only in the nature of America’s politics, but in its whole economic and social order. As such, it holds grave implications for Canada and the rest of the world. Within the United States, Bush’s re-election represents the consolidation of a right-wing plutocracy backed by the soldiers of God over American politics and society. Grave damage, or even the outright end of the corrupt American political democracy, can be expected. Regressive social and economic policies, including the gutting of the Social Security System, are likely.
Foreign affairs prudence would dictate that Bush return to a more moderate imperialism, since his new and aggressive neo-con version has turned out to be a disaster in Iraq, while alienating the rest of the world. But we can expect no such moderation. The invasion of Iraq in part grew out of an increasingly arrogant unilateralism that followed American victory in the Cold War. It is driven by growing American desperation stemming from ongoing economic stagnation and the looming erosion of American financial and industrial supremacy. Further, the deep social and cultural contradictions of America are being projected onto the rest of the world and it is unlikely that such atavistic and destructive forces can be muted.
To put it bluntly, Canada’s choice is to throw in its lot with this monster or to resist alongside the rest of the world’s nations. Liberal defence minister Bill Graham is signalling that economics dictate that we must go along with the United States in its fabricated war against terror and its so-called missile-defence or “Star Wars” program. And now we have a Canada-U.S.-Mexico task force to establish a continent-wide customs union with a common approach to trade, energy, immigration, law enforcement and security that would virtually eliminate existing national borders. Headed by former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley, this abandonment of whatever little is left of Canadian sovereignty has the full blessing of Prime Minister Paul Martin.
It is our opinion that, faced with an increasingly belligerent and menacing America, putting as much distance as possible between the United States and Canada, it turns out, is the prudent thing to do. The United States has chosen the road of predatory imperialism. Pragmatic economism will not serve as policy under such circumstances. Is Canada to be swallowed without resistance? Does anyone seriously believe that Canada can moderate American agression by going along with it? Are the lives of Canadian citizens to be imperilled at home and abroad forever because we are forced to fight wars not of our own choosing?
Canada signed NAFTA to sell our exports into the American market. Did we really have to sign NAFTA to sell our electricity, petroleum, natural gas, lumber, minerals, farm products and lower-cost automobile manufactures to the Americans? But vested American interests determine what we can or not sell – NAFTA or no NAFTA, NAFTA-plus or no NAFTA-plus. When they need our products we can sell them and when they don’t we cannot. Witness lumber and cattle. There can be short-term difficulties, but in the longer term they will buy because they can’t do without what we produce. In any event, other markets like China and East Asia are opening up to us in a significant way allowing us more political and economic choices.
NATO has no long-term future. The Cold War is over and danger comes not from the East, but from being politically and economically dominated by an aggressive and paranoid America. Whatever politicians like Tony Blair might like, the Europeans, including Britons, detest and fear American imperialism, and will force the political elites to take their distance. Canada needs to search out European, Asian and Latin American friends who will not easily accept subjugation.
But aside from negotiating trade matters more aggressively and seeking allies, how else can Canada resist? It can resist by building a counter-society to the United States based on economic and social justice and deeper democracy. The recent Health Care Agreement between the federal government and the provinces is a case in point. The health agreement has many imperfections, but what a contrast to the desperate health-care situation in the United States! Moreover, Prime Minister Martin didn’t come up with this agreement because he wanted to. Rather, he did so because he heads a minority government under democratic scrutiny, with health coalitions across the country mobilized against privatization and for re-establishing funding.
The agreement reflects what can be accomplished when citizens actually have some say in politics. It’s in the direction of deeper democracy and social and economic equality that Canada must head, setting an example for the beleaguered citizens of the nation to the south.
This article appeared in the November/December 2004 issue of Canadian Dimension .