By Scott Taylor
With the U.S.-Canada NAFTA trade talks currently at an impasse, maybe it is time that we as Canadians do a little rethinking as to how we appease our major trading partner. It has long been something of a given that Canada either supports or refrains from condemning U.S. military adventures around the globe, in the belief that this will garner us favours from our giant neighbour to the south.
We may have refrained from joining President George W. Bush and his tiny ‘coalition of the willing’ when America invaded Iraq in 2003. However, once it was abundantly clear that both the U.S, and UK intelligence agencies had lied about Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction in order to justify their attack in the name of self-defence. Canada and the rest of the international community remained silent.
Our two biggest allies falsified a threat to invade a sovereign country, which subsequently was plunged into violent anarchy, which continues to this day, and we uttered not a single word of admonishment. President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair committed a blatant war crime, which given their subsequent failure to resolve the unchecked, ongoing violence continues to grow in magnitude.
As we held back from Iraq, Canada chose instead to double down on our efforts in Afghanistan. As part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under a NATO command structure, Canada had a relatively minor role in Kabul from 2002-2004. Then we made the move south to Kandahar and increased our contingent to a full battle group.
Canadian soldiers were fighting to prop up the corrupt Afghan regime, which Americans had installed in Kabul in the misguided pursuit of democratizing Afghanistan.
During our 11-year commitment to that fool’s errand, Canada lost 158 soldiers killed, over 2,000 wounded or physically injured and an untold number of veterans still suffering from the invisible wounds of PTSD.
For the Colonel Blimps and tub thumpers in Canadian defence circles it mattered not that we had no chance to win in Afghanistan – the eventual solution will not be a military one – it was simply the notion that Canada’s brave sons and daughters were fighting the good fight and dying alongside those troops of our greatest trading partner – the U.S.
That sort of sacrifice was bound to generate good will for us at the trade negotiation table, no?
Well, now we have two separate contingents deployed into Iraq, one as part of a NATO training mission, and the other a Special Forces led initiative to fight the bad guys (whoever they may be this week).
One of the ironies of this current situation is that we have our boots on the ground in Iraq, because Canadians would not accept us sending our soldiers back into Afghanistan.
It was in fact Afghanistan that NATO wanted Canada to recommit to, but we chose instead to lead a futile mission to train yet more Iraqi young men how to kill in order to end the now fifteen year ongoing cycle of violence.
In 2003 we chose Afghanistan because it was not Iraq, and now we are choosing Iraq because it is not Afghanistan.
However, as events unfold at the NAFTA table, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is discovering that our soldiers’ sacrifice in the name of U.S. military adventurism amounts to jack squat when it comes to trade.
Mexico has its own bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. and they sent exactly zero soldiers to either Iraq or Afghanistan. They have also steadily increased their trade with the U.S. over the past fifteen years, without spending the estimated $20 billion that Canada will have spent on the Afghanistan mission alone, once you factor in the long-term health care costs of our veterans.
In 2015, it was China that elbowed Canada out of the pole-position as America’s number one trading partner, and they too, have committed not a single soldier to support U.S. military interventions.
As for Canada thinking we need to appease Donald Trump in his demand that NATO countries spend of 2% of their GDP on defence, let’s keep in mind that while Canada currently spends 1.32 on defence, Mexico spends only 0.7% of GDP on their military.
They have a signed trade deal. We don’t.
It is time to rethink the relationship.