For the sake of argument

Canada is becoming a mouse that roars

PEYTON V. LYON June 18 1960
For the sake of argument

Canada is becoming a mouse that roars

PEYTON V. LYON June 18 1960

Canada is becoming a mouse that roars

For the sake of argument


Canada has done more bragging in the past year than any other country in the world, with the possible exception of Cuba. According to our official spokesmen, Canadians are uniquely virtuous, intelligent and lovable. Canada, they claim, is rapidly emerging as a "world power,” destined to lead the nations along paths of sanity and brotherly love.

Listen to Howard Green, minister of External Affairs:

"... Canada is growing in stature by the hour as a world power, and this is exactly what we aim to be, a world power.”

"... Canada can play a vital part in world affairs today, perhaps just as vital as any other nation in the world.”

"I believe we can make a greater contribution to world affairs than any other country in the next ten years.”

"Above all [Canada] is a nation with an idealistic, unselfish approach ...”

“Add Canada’s good record generally . . . and the courage, common sense and God-fearing character of her people, and you will agree with me that we can give leadership in the finest sense of the word.”

Frantic boasts, foolish words

1 could go on — my hobby is collecting “Greenery” — but the outline of the new Canadian selfportrait is clear enough. What’s wrong with it? Why not frankly admit that we are the most virtuous and intelligent people on earth, and that Canada is the saint among nations? Why shouldn't we claim "world power status,” whatever that implies?

What is wrong, in my opinion, is that these frantic boasts and foolish words are not merely making Canada look silly, they are destroying the quite genuine influence this country has, or used to have, in the councils of the world. This would be a pity because our influ-

ence has usually been on the side of the angels. If our voice becomes less effective, or changes character, w'e will not be the only losers.

Especially shortsighted is the squandering of our influence in Washington, the seat of power in the free world. The trump card in the Canadian diplomatic hand is our ability to talk to the Americans as neighbors, loyal allies and understanding friends. This card is vital because a wrong decision taken in Washington could spell disaster for us, and the world. Instead of cultivating our uniquely close relationship, however, our leaders, like Castro, have preferred the posture of David defying the American Goliath. The applause from south of the border has been less than deafening.

I am not suggesting that there have been significant changes in the basic foreign policy charted by St. Laurent and Pearson. Quite the contrary. If Sidney Smith aspired to be known as a worthy successor to VI ike Pearson, Howard Green seems resolved to be more Pearson than Pearson! Our diplomacy has been less active and professional, but that must have been bargained for by the voters when they decided in 1957 to hire a new team. In view of the colonial - minded Diefenbaker-Green line on foreign policy as late as Suez, when they were leading the official opposition, their present loyalty to Canada’s postwar policies is cause for relief and satisfaction.

But if the broad lines of policy are unchanged, its presentation has altered radically. The product is much the same; the wrapping is altogether more pretentious. This may make it more attractive to Canadians, but does it help sell our ideas to others? To answer this question, let us review the sources of the exceptional influence wielded by Canada since 1945 — the influence which enabled us to play a promi-



continued from page 8

“What distinguished us as a nation was a desire to help. We left the preaching to others”

nent role in the drafting of the United Nations charter, in the establishment ot NATO, in the various commissions to negotiate disarmament, in the enlarge ment of the United Nations, and in the containment of the Indo-Chinese and

Sue/ crises. I ribules to our helpful contributions came first when our External Affairs minister was elected president of the General Assembly of the United Nations and later when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. History will record

that our contributions behind the scenes were even more substantial and constructive than those the world has recognized.

Our ability to play this useful role did not stem from economic or military power. True, we have until recently been

wealthy enough to pay our own way. even to spare a modest amount for others. However, in terms of effective power, our vast, largely empty real estate is more a liability than an asset. And our heavy reliance on foreign trade makes us vulnerable rather than influential. What might the Soviet Union, or the United States, do to our markets if they set out deliberately to ruin us?

Militarily. Canada is insignificant and growing more so. The relative strength of our military potential is declining with the recovery of countries like France. Japan. Germany and Italy. Further, the shift to missiles and nuclear warheads has caused even the United Kingdom to give up its pretentions to be militarily independent. With the Arrow and Bomarc so painfully fresh in mind, there is surely no need to labor the fact of Canada's decline in the field of modern weaponry.

A source of considerable Canadian influence has been an able team of diplomats. headed by one of the world's most experienced foreign ministers. The team is largely intact, and our recent foreign ministers have done their best to make up in moral fervor for what they have lacked in experience. I consider most unfair the newspaper that referred to Green as our "minister of affairs which are foreign to him." He has shown disarming candor about the gaps in his knowledge, and considerable capacity to learn. He could become an outstanding foreign minister.

No axe to grind

However, the most important source of our influence, by a long shot, has been the reputation for disinterestedness. The general belief that Canada had no axe to grind distinguished us from almost all other states and created for our representatives an exceptionally receptive audience. both in the United Nations and NATO. Most countries, like Russia and the United States, have interests which clearly set them apart from others and render their proposals suspect. Others, like India and Italy, have been so intent on gaining prestige that they have made themselves not only suspect but crashing bores.

Canada had been almost alone in seeming to be motivated solely by a desire to be helpful. We left the preaching to Dulles. Nehru and Tito. We displayed little interest in headlines although, ultimately, our contributions received recognition in full measure. Max Freedman. a Canadian who is Washington correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. said recently: "If there is such a thing as the Canadian tradition in diplomacy. it consists in not seeking national recognition for the ideas we have put in the common pool. '

Canada achieved influence not because of its power; rather Canada achieved influence, prestige-—and even power — very largely because it acted as it it were indifferent to prestige and power. In a world of would-be prima donnas, the voice of a well-informed but modest nation was listened to with extraordinary respect. It is this vital element in Canadian influence which the pretentious presentation of our policies is needlessly tossing away.

Recently 1 read the following quotation from Green in Die Zeit, one of the most influential German periodicals: "The French have convinced me that we [Canadians] are a great power." This appeared in a column devoted to "comical sayings of the week."

If Green's politique de grandeur provoked only mirth. 1 should not complain. The world could stand more laughter. But there are less happ> consequences. Our posturing must be inclining foreign governments either to ignore Canadian proposals or to examine them with new skepticism. Instead of being taken at their face value, as in the past, the question is probably being asked, behind our backs: "Is this Canadian proposal a

genuine effort to be constructive, or is it yet another bid to impress the world with Canadian importance and virtue?

Take, for example, the Canadian suggestion of a year ago for a United Nations' presence in Berlin, to be set up after the solution of that knotty problem. It was a helpful proposal, even if modest and premature. The loud fanfare which was sounded by Canadian ministers, however. caused incredulity in diplomatic circles when the details were explained. Surely, it was asked, the C anadians had more in mind than that?

Signs of waning influence

I his Berlin suggestion was not the only Canadian initiative ot recent years to have suffered through over-selling. Others were our proposal in the United Nations for the pooling of information on radioactive fallout, and the negotiation of a compromise between Poland and I urkey in the contest for a temporary seat on the Security Council. Useful activity, certainly, but did it rate the publicity drummed up by Canadian spokesmen. No longer do we seem content to insei t good ideas unobtrusively into the common pool, or even to persuade mote powerful allies to adopt them as theii own. Our slightest move is the occasion for ¿i press conference and vociferous, self-congratulation. Unless there is the prospect of public acclaim, we seem tinlikely to act. Is it any wonder our precious reputation for being disinterested is fading away?

A decline in Canada's stock is suggested by the cold shoulder received by Prime Minister Diefenbaker when lie issued his public invitation to the great powers to hold their summit meeting in Quebec; the failure of the C anadian proposals for a new law of the sett aftei Greens confident prediction that they would carry the day; the choice of Moscow' over Montreal for the site of the 1967 World Fair; the necessity for our government to learn from the newspapeis of such developments as the German talks with Spain about bases, and the risky Allied decision to defy the Soviet Union by flying aircraft into Beilin at an increased altitude.

1 rejoice that Canadian diplomats arcgiving of their best to make the disarmament negotiations a success. But does their minister ease the task by suggesting publicly that agreement with the Russians would be simple if our sitie only tried, that Western proposals do not go far enough, and that it is time to accept Russian protestations of sincerity at face value? Green s views may be right. However. he is a newcomer to the disarmament problem. It is hard to imagine his public exhortations being kindly received by the veterans of years of wrangling with the Soviet Union over this exceedingly complex issue.

Boasting, preaching, oversimplifying—

one need not be a Dale Carnegie to recognize this formula as an uncertain way to win friends and influence nations. Have we forgotten the self-righteous Dulles so soon? There is. of course, a distinction between Green and Dulles. Dulles really did speak for a world power.

Canadians, myself included, are charmed bv the vision of their country emerging as the leader and spokesman of the middle and small powers. Many seem to think we have already achieved this attractive status, but it is hard to say on

what they base their belief. The results of an international Gallup poll, or popularity contest, might be sobering. The real thoughts of the decision makers in other countries are rarely made public, and we are showing ourselves extremely susceptible to flattery. Foreign ambassadors are usualh willing to oblige. Green does not seem to have been told that diplomats. b\ definition, are gentlemen sent abroad to lie for their countries.

In any case, the price of greater independence. or even—assuming we could have it — the leadership of the lesser

powers, would be excessive if it entailed a weakening of our exceptionally close and friendly alliance with the United States. Indeed, a good deal of our influence in other countries derives from the belief that we are persona grata in Washington. Green recently asked: ". . . would not Canada gain more respect . . . and . . . influence if she forgot about this role of being a middleman or honest broker?" The answer is "no." If we wish to be influential, we should exploit our genuine assets, and leave to others the sterile pursuit of prestige and the shaky illu-

sion of independence in the Nuclear Age.

We need not be subservient in order to play to maximum advantage the trump card of our unique status in Washington. In private we should always express our views forthrightly. Whenever the issue warrants it, our reservations or objections should even be made public, as they were during the Suez crisis, or in the Herbert Norman case. However, we cannot expect to he heeded as a close and candid friend if we advertise every difference in the world press, or show little sympathy for the devastating load of responsibility being shouldered by our American allies. So far as possible, our differences should he kept behind the scenes, as is customary among friends. This was the practice during the Pearson era, and our restraint paid worthwhile dividends.

We should remember that the constant scold, especially if the scolding is public, soon finds the welcome mat worn thin. We could so alter the American attitude toward us that we should simply not be informed of impending vital decisions. In the light of recent Canadian statements about the United States, is it surprising that we have had to complain increasingly of "lack of consultation"? And on such significant matters as the decision to hold a summit conference?

Now it’s “Ike and .lohn”

Consider Green’s statement quoted by the London Free Press last October: “We no longer are a vassal of the powerful United States ... It is only too obvious that we have adopted a more independent attitude toward our friends and neighbors across the border ... In fact we are independent to the extent that in . . . the battle between Turkey and Poland for a Security Council seat, we have consistently voted for Poland, while Britain and the United States are supporting Turkey.” Canada’s decision here was correct, but Green suggests we took it, not on its merits, but to establish our independence. Surely it would be preferable to let our actions speak for themselves, or at least to express regret when we consider it necessary to differ publicly with our closest friends. We have been assured that all is well between Ottawa and Washington — that it is now a case of "Ike and John,” "Chris and Howard.” However, I wish there were some tangible evidence that Canadian influence has increased in the free world's capital. Most indications point to a contrary conclusion.

Green's magnificent obsession with Canadian virtue and greatness could be of some advantage if it proves infectious and stirs more support in the cabinet and country for an active Canadian foreign policy. Further, without a delusion of grandeur, he himself might not have the courage to play a vigorous role in the current disarmament talks; goodness knows, they need all the impetus they can get. naïve or otherwise.

Nevertheless, one hopes our foreign minister will soon realize that the prospect of playing a useful role — perhaps even a “world power" role — would be enhanced if Canada reverted to a more modest presentation of its case. To be influential with modest means, one needs to be modest in demeanor.

In diplomacy, moral fervor is no substitute for intelligence. For Canada’s particular role, a brass band is no substitute for quiet persuasiveness. Let us tread softly and carry a bulging briefcase of bright ideas! We should then reduce the risk of being mistaken for a mouse that roars. ^