The Overstretched Superpower
Does America Have More Rivals Than It Can Handle?
CANADA is today enjoying her full share of the abounding prosperity of the North American continent. At the end of 1950 her population, augmented by the inclusion of Newfoundland in 1949, showed its greatest increase for any decade--2,500,000 or roughly 22 percent--and reached 14,000,000. In that year the value of her national production and her national income attained the record levels of 17.5 billion dollars and 14 billion dollars respectively. There are odd patches of unemployment due to seasonal conditions, but elsewhere there is full employment at good wages for every worker and in some industries a serious shortage of labor. Discoveries of rich oil fields in Alberta and immensely valuable deposits of high grade iron ore in northwestern Ontario and in Labrador will fill serious gaps in the national economy and promise a large increment for the nation's wealth. The outlay of 4.5 billion dollars on capital investment planned for 1950 suggests a continuance of the present high level of prosperity for some years ahead.
The political situation remains very stable, as the Liberal Ministry of Mr. St. Laurent is firmly entrenched in power at Ottawa, with commanding majorities in both Houses of Parliament. The wide divergence in the views and policies of the three parties in opposition prevents any effective combination for the expulsion of the Liberals. But the optimism about Canada's future, which such a happy domestic situation would normally generate, is tempered by grave anxieties about the struggle in Korea and apprehensions that it may prove the seedbed of a third world war. As a result, the international situation and a program for adequate defense against Communist aggressions preoccupy the minds of the Canadian people and their government to a greater extent than ever before in their history.
The foreign policy and defense of Canada remained responsibilities of the British Government for half a century after confederation. It is true that during this period Canada sometimes negotiated commercial treaties through her own representatives, but a separate Department of External Affairs was not constituted at Ottawa until 1912. At the close of the First World War its staff numbered only six, and its only agents abroad were the High Commissioners in London and Paris. Britain's trusteeship for the foreign relations of Canada was in the main satisfactory to the Canadian people, but there were recurring complaints that British Governments were too ready to sacrifice vital Canadian interests for the purpose of keeping in the good graces of the United States. In 1903 there was a nationwide outburst of indignation when Lord Alverstone, the Chairman of the Alaska Boundary Commission, voted with his three American colleagues against the two delegates of Canada to sustain most of the American claims about the frontier. Defenders of Lord Alverstone contend that on the evidence submitted to the Commission his vote need not necessarily have been governed by political considerations, but undoubtedly his course of action stimulated the nationalist spirit in Canada and planted in many Canadian minds the conviction that Canada ought to assume as soon as possible the management of her foreign relations.
However, no serious move in this direction was made until the close of the First World War, when Sir Robert Borden, a Conservative Prime Minister of Canada, who had always been counted a strong imperialist, took the lead in asserting successfully against the opposition of British Tory imperialists like the Marquess Curzon, who was to become Foreign Secretary in October 1919, the right of the Dominions to sign the Treaty of Versailles and subscribe to the Covenant of the League of Nations as separate autonomous nations. Canada thus acquired control of her foreign relations. In the period 1900-14 there had been a very large inflow of immigrants from Britain. A substantial element of the native-born Canadians were the children or grandchildren of British immigrants who still had strong sentimental ties with the mother country. Accordingly, a considerable body of Canadian opinion was still so convinced of the superior wisdom of British statesmanship that it expected Canadian governments to acquiesce in the foreign policies devised by Downing Street. On the other hand a sense of physical detachment from the continent of Europe had inevitably nourished isolationist sentiment among elements like the French Canadians, who had no racial or sentimental ties with Britain, and after 1899 French Canadian dislike of British imperialism had been fanned by the treatment meted out to another racial minority under the British flag, the South African Dutch. But from Confederation onward the need for friendly relations with the United States was the most deep-rooted instinct of the Canadian people about their foreign policy, and such relations were the constant objective of all Canadian Ministries regardless of their party label.
As far back as 1874 Sir Richard Cartwright, who was then Canada's Minister of Finance and who held office in every Liberal Ministry up till 1911, besought Lord Carnarvon, who was then the British Secretary for the Colonies, never to forget that Canada lived cheek by jowl with another great Anglo-Saxon nation; and he reminded him that by the end of the nineteenth century there would probably be at least 80,000,000 English-speaking people in North America. At a later date Mr. Henri Bourassa, who organized the Nationalist Party in Quebec and opposed the Taft-Fielding reciprocity treaty in the election of 1911, propounded the thesis that "there is not a single problem of either internal or external policy that we can settle in Canada without reference to the policy of the United States." The validity of his statement has never been seriously challenged by any political party.
The Canadian Conservative Party had always been the special champion of the connection with Britain, but it was Sir Robert Borden, one of its leaders, who, according to the memoirs of David Lloyd George, served notice upon his British colleagues in the Imperial War Cabinet in 1918 that "if the future policy of the British meant working with some European nation against the United States, that policy could not reckon upon the approval or support of Canada." It was left, however, to his successor, Mr. Arthur Meighen, to force a reluctant British Government to a realization that Borden's declaration did not apply merely to relations with European countries. When an Imperial Conference, convened in 1921, discussed the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese alliance, it appeared that the great majority of Lloyd George's Coalition Ministry, and the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, strongly favored the continuance of the alliance. But Mr. Meighen was aware that Japan's occupation of Shantung, and her conduct in other matters, had very seriously strained her relations with the United States; and he insisted that Canada's fundamental need for good relations with the United States forbade the endorsement of an alliance which might involve hostilities with her neighbor. His powerful advocacy of his case achieved the abrogation of the alliance and, although his career in office was fated to be very brief, Mr. Meighen deserves gratitude for a courageous stand which averted a fissure of calamitous possibilities in the relations of the United States and the British Commonwealth.
Soon after Mr. Mackenzie King led the Liberal Party back to power, he made a similar assertion of Canada's right to take her own line in international affairs by refusing Lloyd George's summons to assist in the suppression of the Turks after they had defeated his protégés, the Greeks. After 1923, Canada, beginning with the pact with the United States known as the Halibut Treaty, signed all her treaties through her own agents. Then at the Imperial Conference of 1926 Mr. King was one of the chief architects of the document called the Balfour Report, which gave formal registry to the new order in relations of the British Commonwealth by defining the status of the Dominions in these words:
They are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate to one another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, although united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Mr. King, however, resolutely opposed all proposals for the establishment of any permanent machinery like an Imperial Secretariat for coördinating the policies of the partners in the Commonwealth, and with the appointment of a Canadian Minister to Washington in 1926 he began the creation of a separate diplomatic service for Canada. But his fears that Canada's membership in the League of Nations might involve her in another European war made him consistently lukewarm toward that institution. The policy of "no commitments," which he sedulously pursued, was designed to secure for Canada some freedom of action in the event of the recurrence of such a calamity. Yet, as the international skies darkened in the thirties this policy became indistinguishable from a timorous colonial subservience and the outcome was that his complaisant acquiescence in the policies of appeasement followed by Earl Baldwin and Mr. Neville Chamberlain landed the Canadian people in a second blood-bath.
The idea expounded by Senator Dandurand, Mr. King's chief French-Canadian lieutenant, during a debate on the Protocol at Geneva in 1924 that "Canada was living in a fireproof house far from inflammable materials" was rudely shattered by the devastating impact of the Second World War. Accordingly, soon after its start Mr. King proclaimed his complete conversion to the view that isolationism was an impracticable policy for Canada and that, after the war against Fascism was won, she must do her part in helping to build some more effective instrument of collective security than the defunct League. So he and his Ministry gave wholehearted support to the establishment of the United Nations and were active promoters of the North Atlantic Pact. And the only opposition to this assumption of international responsibilities for the preservation of peace and security came from a small body of French-Canadian isolationists and the Communists, now disguised as the Labor-Progressive Party.
A system of reasonably close liaison between the Canadian and British Governments was maintained after the war. But, while a frank exchange of views usually resulted in a reconciliation of such differences as arose, complete conformity in their policies and ideas ceased to be regarded as essential. Canada's foreign policy came to be governed primarily by her own interests and she refused to contribute any contingents to the Allied armies of occupation in Germany and Japan. So, when the cleavage between Russia and her satellites and the Western democracies became acute, and the United States assumed the leadership of the latter in the "cold war," it was almost inevitable that Washington should gradually replace London in the minds of the Canadian people and their government as the chief mainspring of effective policies for the frustration of Communism.
But Canada's independence was still qualified by certain links with Britain, which implied a status of subordination to the mother country. The elimination of these ties has become an objective of the Canadian Liberal Party. In 1947 the abolition of the right of appeal to the Judicature Committee of the Privy Council was accomplished. An enlarged Supreme Court of Canada is now the final court for all Canadian litigants. This reform was followed by a move to secure for Canada full control of her own constitution, which has remained embalmed in the British North America Act, a statute passed by the British Parliament in 1866. This British control of the Canadian constitution has long been only nominal, as constitutional amendments endorsed by both Houses of the Canadian Parliament have always been incorporated in it without question at Westminster. But its survival is a patent anomaly, resented by Canadian nationalists as a badge of political inferiority which invalidates Canada's claim to the status of an independent nation. All British parties would gladly be rid of this archaic trusteeship, but the French Canadians always opposed its termination, unwilling to leave their special privileges about language, religion and education, explicitly guaranteed by the British North America Act, at the mercy of a Canadian Parliament in which English-speaking Protestants held a decisive majority. However, French-Canadian fears on this score have been modified by the increase of their political influence at Ottawa and by the assurances of Prime Minister St. Laurent, a member of their race.
Accordingly, early last year the Federal Government arranged a conference with all the Provincial Governments for the purpose of tackling the thorny problem of constitutional reform. The initial session of this Dominion-Provincial conference produced a unanimous agreement that it was desirable for Canada to secure complete control of her constitution, provided adequate safeguards for the basic rights of French Canada were preserved. A subcommittee, consisting of the Federal Minister of Justice and the Attorneys General of the ten Provinces, was instructed to explore in consultation with the Provincial Ministries all the varied facets of the constitutional problem and devise a solution acceptable to all parties. Optimistic communiqués suggesting that good headway is being made have been issued, but the general impression among informed observers is that there has been very little progress. The present Federal Ministry feels strongly that it must secure an enlargement of its authority, partly to obtain sufficient funds to finance its ambitious program of social security, partly to cope with such problems as the need for firm economic controls in the present crisis and the effective suppression of subversive activities; in particular it seeks a modification of Section 92 of the British North America Act, which vests the Provinces with exclusive jurisdiction over "property and civil rights."
Certain provinces, notably Quebec, remain adamant against any such concession on the ground that it would reduce the Provinces to complete vassalage to Ottawa. And at least four of the Provincial Premiers argue that a constitution framed in 1866 has now become hopelessly antiquated and wholly inadequate to the present needs of Canada, and that the procedure suggested by the Federal Government would merely patch up in unsatisfactory fashion an outworn political garment. They urge that the British North America Act be scrapped and a new constitution adopted. The St. Laurent Ministry does not reject the idea of a new constitution, but it wants the Dominion-Provincial conference to complete its assigned task of making the Canadian constitution amendable in Canada, and holds that this change would facilitate the drafting of a new one.
These controversies have produced a temporary deadlock, but solution of the constitutional problem cannot be postponed indefinitely, and, when it is achieved, the only remaining political link with Britain will be the representative of the British Crown, the Governor-General. Today the selection of the Governor-General rests with the Canadian Government, which is offered a list of possible choices by the British Government. Heretofore the office has always been reserved for eminent personages from Britain, but there is now a large body of Canadian opinion, well represented in the present Cabinet, which favors the selection of a native-born Governor-General.
One difficulty about this change, however, is that the French Canadians would certainly claim an even share of the appointments to this office, and could not be denied it. Viscount Alexander, the distinguished Irish soldier who is Governor-General today, was due to retire next spring and it is an open secret that the St. Laurent Ministry gave careful consideration to the appointment of a native-born Canadian as his successor. But there were peculiar political risks for a French-Canadian Prime Minister in assuming responsibility for the severance of a traditional tie with Britain, which many English-speaking Canadians value, and the problem was shelved temporarily by the prolongation of Viscount Alexander's term for another year. But now that both Australia and South Africa have native-born Governors-General, it is only a question of time when their example will be followed at Ottawa. The stage therefore seems set for the abolition of all formal political ties between Canada and Britain.
At the same time the strong economic tie between Canada and Britain has been weakened, since Britain's shortage of dollar exchange forced a drastic curtailment of her imports from Britain. In 1939 the ratios of Canada's exports shipped to Britain and the United States were respectively 36 percent and 40 percent. The trade figures for 1950 show that Britain's share of these exports had shrunk to 15 percent and the share of the United States had risen to 69 percent. As a consequence Canada is today much more dependent upon the American than the British market. On the other hand there has been since 1946 a progressive increase in British exports to Canada, their value in 1950 being $404,200,000 as compared with $114,000,000 in 1939. The pressure of Canadian manufacturers, aggrieved by this intensified competition, recently induced the Canadian Government to revive its anti-dumping laws, which had been suspended for automobiles and other goods in order to enable Britain to earn more Canadian dollars. Other Canadian manufacturers and natural producers, like the apple growers of Nova Scotia, also resent the restrictions imposed upon their exports to Britain and her colonial possessions. And while this attrition of Canada's ancient links with Britain has been proceeding, a huge inflow of American capital for investment in mining, pulp and paper, and manufacturing enterprises in Canada, together with the plan for the coöperative development of the St. Lawrence Deep Waterway, have been intertwining the economic fortunes of the two countries more closely than ever.
Accordingly, it is much more difficult than it was in 1921 for Canada to pursue a foreign policy unpalatable to the Government of the United States. When the Korean war broke out, the determining factor in Canada's international policy was a desire to march in step with the United States. When, under American leadership, the Assembly of the United Nations took action to resist Communist aggression in Korea, Mr. Lester B. Pearson, Canada's Secretary for External Affairs, gave his Government's unqualified endorsement to this move. But unfortunately, Canada's profession of zeal for the cause of collective security has not so far been matched by her practical actions. Her original meager contribution of three destroyers and a group of transport planes to the struggle in Korea aroused such severe criticism in Canada herself, and such caustic taunts from American papers like the Chicago Tribune, that the St. Laurent Ministry was impelled to raise a special force, about 12,000 strong. It was at first placed at the disposal of the U. N. for service in Korea, and later had its theater of operations enlarged to include Europe.
The St. Laurent Ministry now proposes to spend 1.6 billion dollars upon its program of defense during the fiscal year beginning April 1, 1951, and an almost equal sum in each of the two following years. It also plans as far as is within its power to accelerate the production of raw materials, which will be a very important contribution to the common cause. Recent discoveries seem to assure that Canada can become a large producer of iron ore, uranium, titanium and oil to supplement her very substantial output of copper, nickel and other metals; and her production of food is also capable of considerable expansion.
The Canadian Government, however, has not been completely subservient to Washington in regard to the Asiatic policies of the Truman Administration. If it has not followed the example of the British Government in giving formal recognition to the Government of Mao Tse-tung, it has been frankly critical of Chiang Kaishek's régime, and has dissociated itself explicitly from the pledge given by President Truman to defend Formosa. Its acquiescence in the decision to authorize General MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel was qualified on November 6, 1950, by a confidential expression of misgivings to Washington about the reported intention of MacArthur to carry his campaign to the Yalu River. The creation of a buffer zone in northern Korea was also proposed.
When the United States began to press for the condemnation of Communist China as an aggressor, the first pronouncement of Mr. Pearson upon this move was that it was "premature and unwise." After the United Nations "cease fire" committee, of which he was a member, failed to achieve a basis for peaceful negotiations with the Chinese Communists, and the United States agreed to modify the terms of its original resolution, he cast Canada's vote for the condemnation of the Peiping Government. But, when Mr. Pearson reviewed the international situation in the House of Commons on February 2, he emphasized that his Government had not abandoned hope of a peaceful settlement, and had made its view abundantly clear that "this resolution does not give anyone on one side any excuse for rash or adventurous courses or anyone on the other any shadow of excuse for refusing to discuss an ending of hostilities or a peaceful solution of the problem." Moreover, when Mr. Attlee visited Ottawa, he found the St. Laurent Ministry in complete sympathy with his efforts to persuade the Truman Administration that the commitment of the Western democracies to a full-scale war against Communist China would play into the hands of the Russians and might well have calamitous consequences in Europe. At the moment Canada therefore has a greater community of views about Korea and the international crisis with Britain than with the United States.
Little fault can be found with the policy of the St. Laurent Ministry about Korea, but the very slow pace at which it has moved for the fulfillment of Canada's obligations as a member of the United Nations is less satisfactory. The reasons for the hesitancy are not obscure. Prime Minister St. Laurent is a French Canadian, and some 90 of his supporters in the House of Commons are either French Canadians or owe their seats to a bloc of French-Canadian votes. In the later stages of the First World War the French Canadians banded together in a solid racial bloc to resist the imposition of military conscription by the Borden Ministry. They were subjected to persistent indoctrination by the leaders of the Canadian Liberal Party to the effect that conscription was a monstrous injustice perpetrated against the French-Canadian people by wicked Canadian Tory politicians acting as servile agents of aggressive British imperialists. There are few British imperialists of any kind left today, but a process of political miseducation, which was no credit to Canadian Liberalism, has planted in the minds of most French-Canadians the idée fixe that they should be privileged to enjoy immunity from participation in overseas war because such conflicts always brought the hated draft in their train.
There had been some expectation that the powerful influence of the Roman Catholic Church would be exerted in Quebec to persuade the French Canadians that in any war against Communists its fortunes were at stake, but the editorial comments of the French-Canadian papers upon the Government's decision to support the United Nations intervention in Korea ranged from outright condemnation to lukewarm approval. The recruiting returns for the special U.N. force showed a smaller proportion of volunteers from Quebec than from any other province. Under these circumstances the St. Laurent Ministry felt that it must keep its commitments for the common pool of defense within limits which would not arouse violent opposition in Quebec. It secured authority at the special session to spend $300,000,000 in providing equipment and munitions for the European partners in the North Atlantic union; spokesmen of the Ministry from Mr. St. Laurent downward have been arguing that such supplies would be a quicker and more effective contribution to the defense of Western Europe than a contingent of Canadian troops.
The Ministerial contention is that the cost of maintaining a Canadian force in Europe is much greater than the cost of an equivalent force of Europeans, and that Canada can give as good value for money spent on equipment and munitions as any other country in the world. But this specious plan of making armaments rather than manpower Canada's chief contribution to the defense of Western Europe does not seem to many Canadians an honorable fulfilment of Canada's obligations. Influential papers like the Toronto Globe and Mail support the demand made by the Canadian Legion and other organizations of veterans for some form of compulsory selective service and total mobilization of the nation's resources. The Government also has critics within its own party. On the eve of the opening of the Federal Parliament on January 29, Mr. Bruce Hutchison, the editor of the Victoria Times, who is the ablest Liberal journalist in Canada, was moved to write: "In times like these not only the Government, not only Parliament but the people who nourish them are on trial. And since we have fallen so far behind our partners in defense and since we are the most fortunate nation in the world and have suffered less than anybody, many outside foreign eyes are watching us with interest."
However, it was to the credit of Prime Minister St. Laurent that in the opening debate he faced the issue squarely with a declaration that his Government was not opposed in principle to conscription or selective service. "As far as I am concerned," he said, "this is not a matter which should be decided on sentimental grounds. It is one which should be decided strictly on its merits and with regard to what will make for the efficiency and effectiveness of our contribution to the joint efforts that have to be made by the 12 nations joined together." He also argued that Canada's contribution of manpower was a question for the collective decision of the members of the United Nations and cited the statement of General Eisenhower that the prime need of Western Europe was arms rather than troops.
But Mr. George Hees, a young veteran, who was elected last summer as a Progressive Conservative, proceeded to expose the degree to which Canada lagged behind both the United States and Britain in her contribution of manpower. According to his figures, Canada with a population of 14,000,000 is today 7,000 men short of the establishments of 69,000 authorized for her regular forces. But the United States with 11 times the population of Canada will have 3,500,000 men under arms by June 3, or 60 times as many as Canada; and Britain, with a population three and a half times as large as that of Canada, had 1,023,000 men under arms last October, or 16 times as many as Canada has. He maintained that such comparative data made nonsense of the claim that Canada was shouldering her fair share of the common burden.
In short, Canada remains the only member of the North Atlantic union which has not some form of military draft. Her Government is ready to enforce it, if the international situation deteriorates so much that her partners demand a larger contribution of manpower from her. But as long as the Canadian Government will spend upon defense only a much smaller proportion of the national income than do both the United States and Britain, and balks at the enforcement of conscription, Canada can expect continuous criticism both at home and abroad for the inadequacy of her contribution. However, if reports are true that the Roman Catholic clergy of Quebec have been preaching from their pulpits that the youth of French Canada must not be laggard in the struggle against Communism, the Government may find its prime difficulty about the enforcement of some kind of compulsory selective service greatly eased.