Politics: The Wife of an Alcoholic
One of the problems in considering the relationship between Canada and the United States is that it's very easy to feel that anyone who complains about it is a whiner, and anyone who likes it is a sycophant. Not much consideration of what the relationship actually is, especially to the rest of the world.
Traditionally, Canada has been a broker for the US in negotiations with NATO and the UN and the G7. It's a simple reason: we share much of the culture, while at the same time having closer ties to Europe by the simple expedient of not having gone to war with them for our liberation. There was no radical break, so no need to deliberately distance ourselves. We didn't even have our own charter until 1982, almost finalising the break from England (we kept the Queen for some reason: no biggie, it's not like she has any power). Since we're seen as a lesser power (certainly true!) , often smaller nations will look to Canadas ambassadors for guidance in dealings with the US, formally or informally. We try to get along, to be diplomatic; it's a trend that has given us a huge part of our identity. We are desperate to remain distinct from the gigantic force to our South, while the reality is that there is no possible way to seperate that nation from our own.
The opposite has been true, as well. Since Canada has the internatial reputation that we do (that of frantic peacemongers), we have been approached by the United States to "soften" their image, something like a warm-up comic for a talk show host. Frequently, the US hasn't needed the help, like with Presidents Clinton and Bush Sr., both quite acomplished in international negotiations. In other times, though, it's tougher to explain away the bad behaviour: Bush Jr. and Reagan were disasters for international relations. Here's a hint, if you can't tell the differece beween a diplomat and a loose cannon: declarations of other nations as "Evil", a perverse joy in war (declared or otherwise), and being unable to tell if you were actually in a war or not when you were younger.
"But he's such a nice guy, most of the time. When he's not... You know..."
The only thing Canada has to trade in on in these situations is that quite nebulous declaration, "moral authority". Well, big whoop. What the hell does that mean, anyways? It means that when soon-to-be ambassador to the US Frank McKenna said that Canada was already taking part in the Missile Defence program, it touched off a minor contreversy. It's fairly well known that Prime Minister Martin was in favour of taking part in the program while he was finance minister (economics being his only consideration then), but as the head of a minority government, even a small backlash could be disasterous for him. Reading the reaction accurately, Martin has since declared outright that Canada will not be a part of the program.
But let's not kid ourselves here. If the US ever has a missile launched at it, there will be war, and Canada will go to war with Americas attacker. And Canadas involvement with the supposed missile shield will make no difference to the plans the US has for it, domestically speaking. So why did the US care what we thought?
With Canada in its side, the US could go to any other government that protests the deployment of this program with an ally that has a reputation for moderation and negotiation. If even Canada is comfortable with it, it must be all right.
Well, we decided we weren't comfortable with it, and America is going to do it anyways, and there won't be any change to anyones budget or domestic policy. It was the right decision, and any long-sighted Americains should be glad for it. Canadas reputation remains intact, and that makes the explanations to the rest of the wold a little easier.
"Just give him four more years to sleep it off. Really, he'll be better when he wakes up."