Friday, April 30, 2004
This is excellent news. Since Pierre Trudeau's days, Canada has defined itself as the un-country - a nation perversely dedicated to the eradication of nationalism, indeed whose anti-nationalism was the essence of its national identity and the way in which it asserted its national independence from its American neighbor. Well, if the lightbulbs are beginning to go on in the heads of our neighbors to the north, that's excellent news.
The failure of the U.N. is an institutional failure, as well as a failure of an idea. The institutional failure is due to the U.N.'s structure: a fossilized Security Council that is the only organ with real hard power (however minimal), a General Assembly premised on the obviously false (that all nations are equal in significance, power or legitimacy), and a bureaucracy unaccountable to anyone. The idea that failed is world government.
We badly need international forums where the various world powers can negotiate and coordinate. Jaw-jaw generally is better than war-war, and sometimes can even prevent it. The G-8 serves a genuinely useful function. So would a similarly-constituted body designed to deal with threats to global stability that require international cooperation (e.g., terrorist financing, nuclear proliferation). Cooperation between states is very different from a supra-national government. If Canada's Liberal leader is inclining towards the former, that's excellent news for Canada.
No one should assume that a Canada more willing to think about its own national interests will be an American poodle. But I'd rather have a pricklier Canada capable of contributing to collective security than a doormat Canada who can't make trouble but also can't contribute. We want strong allies, not weak ones.