Courtesy Reuters

Canada and the United States in World Politics

About a decade ago a Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs created a furor on both sides of the border by saying that "the days of relatively easy and automatic political relations with our neighbors are, I think, over." Nourished for years, as we all had been, on post-prandial pap about the unfortified frontier and the capacity of North American good will to mellow away all differences, Americans and Canadians were unduly shocked. They disregarded the fact that Mr. Pearson had not said relations were deteriorating; he merely said they had become more complex. They had become more complex be cause they were no longer a simple matter of line- fence disputes over borders and waterways. We had both ceased isolating ourselves from the troubles of the world and, for that reason, we were likely to have differences on a great many more subjects than in the past. Mr. Pearson aimed to persuade people on both sides of the border to adopt an adult attitude to our relations, to abandon the persistent North American illusion that good will without understanding was adequate and that problems could be smiled away in intercommunity singing, to recognize that any two countries in close proximity were bound to go on having disputes and differences and that the mark of intelligence was not to pretend they did not exist but to approach them tolerantly, judiciously, and unemotionally-and, in a sense, to take them for granted.

The truth of Mr. Pearson's prediction has been demonstrated by the history of the past ten years. The sense of partnership and common purpose between the United States and Canada is, I think, stronger than it ever was. Nevertheless, we argue about a lot more things than we used to because there are many more things to argue about. Our most acute differences are as likely to be about distant places-China, Cuba or Laos-as about tariffs and waterways. There is, in fact, an edge to these arguments about faraway places

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