January 24, 2005

'Why are we paying to defend Canada?'

George Bush asks the $64,000 question:

"But Bush did confront Martin and used the sort of language that sets Canadians on edge. "He leaned across the table and said, 'I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, 'Why are we paying to defend Canada?' " said the senior Canadian official who was in the room and noted that he had been assured by Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell personally that Bush would avoid the subject.

"Most of our side was trying to explain the politics, how it was difficult to do," the official said. But Bush "waved his hands and said, 'I don't understand this. Are you saying that if you got up and said this is necessary for the defense of Canada it wouldn't be accepted?'"

Paul Wells portrays this as a clash between the Bush Doctrine and the reality-based world, but Canadian defence policy has been clashing with reality for, well... forever, actually. For its entire history, save a blip in the 1940s and previously in the 1910s, Canadians have been free riders on defence of somebody, be it France, or Britain, or now the States. Rightly or wrongly, regular Canadians instinctively see the world as threat-free. That's unlikely ever to change. For the last three years, this blog has been posing a similar question to Wells's friend Jack Granatstein (what would it take to convince Canadians of the utility of military spending?) I have never heard a good answer.

Posted by BruceR at 04:23 PM