Courtesy Reuters

Growing Independence in Canadian-American Relations

The most significant fact about the Canadian-American relationship may prove to be that the United States is growing less dependent on its allies- including Canada. That Canada is growing more dependent on the United States is a more frequent assumption, especially of Canadians, who make a political sport of accusing each other of abetting this deplorable trend. The United States cares less and less what Canada does because it has a declining interest in our territory for its defenses in a missile age. This trend is unlikely to strengthen our bargaining power in Washington, but it leaves us freer to follow our own course. American independence of Canada encourages Canadian independence of the United States. It tempts us to "neutralism"-if "neutralism" means much in a world shifting from alignment to duopoly, when the "neutralist" heretic General de Gaulle could be outflanked by President Johnson on the road to Moscow.

The term "neutralism" will be flung as a red herring in the debate shaping up on Canadian defense and foreign policy. For Americans, this debate is closer to home but not dissimilar from the reappraisal of the "unequal alliance" made in other allied countries of which the United States grows independent. The language of the fifties fits the United States-Canada relationship little better than it fits that between the United States and its European associates. An unspoken assumption behind the principle of joint continental defense was, for example, that whether we like it or not, if the United States was at war, Canada was bound to be at war. Now, the United States is, de facto, at war, and Canada is not. If the United States were to declare war formally on North Viet Nam, embarrassing questions would arise over joint military measures. What language will fit this curious relationship in a period of transition and exploration is uncertain.

It is Canada's good fortune that its behavior normally escapes notice by its benevolent and otherwise preoccupied neighbors, but the mood could

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