IN recent months Americans have viewed with some bewilderment the course of Canadian foreign policy, which they consider to be inexplicably erratic. How, they ask, is it possible for Canada to permit and even encourage the complete interlocking of North American defenses, and then to jump like a startled hare at the prospect of an anti-Communist war in the Far East? Are not these things inseparably linked? And yet Canada's Secretary of State for External Affairs, on March 24, told the House of Commons, "We have accepted no commitment to share in the defense of either Formosa or the coastal islands, or to intervene in any struggle between the two Chinese governments for possession of these offshore islands. . . ."
Canadians, of course, are equally puzzled by the seeming ferocity of Mr. Dulles whenever he deals with any problem arising on the vast containment perimeter. Should not these separate cases, ask the Canadians, be dealt with in terms of existing power possibilities and nationalist sentiment in the particular areas?
It may seem odd that two neighboring nations, who appear to European visitors to be as similar as two peas in a pod, should so little understand the basic conditions which really make them quite different. Within the United Nations, Canada and the United States appear superficially to have followed virtually identical policies. Yet, occasionally, as with Mr. Pearson's recent statement, basically different assumptions appear. How is this to be explained?
The question may best be answered by first conceding that the United Nations should not be judged (any more than an individual nation) solely by its own definitions. United Nations members have created a mythology about the purposes of their organization. Now a mythology may be (as is shown in the history of nations) useful in establishing and retaining loyalties. It can also obscure realities. The frequent use of the term "peace-loving" to describe this or that group of nations is a clue to the nature of the United Nations' mythology. The term is
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