It's now clear how the Bush administration sees things: Canadian sovereignty exists only at its pleasure. If we do what Washington wants, we retain our sovereignty. If we don't, all bets are off.
This is what U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci clarified last week in his angered response to Paul Martin's announcement that Canada won't join the U.S. missile defence scheme. Cellucci noted that Washington would simply deploy its anti-missile system over Canadian airspace anyway, and expressed puzzlement over Canada's decision to "in effect, give up its sovereignty."
No doubt the Soviets felt similar puzzlement as they rolled into Czechoslovakia in 1968. What's with these crazy Czechs? Don't they get it? All they have to do is co-operate with Moscow and they can retain their "sovereignty."
Canadian advocates of missile defence have long argued that joining the scheme is the best way to protect our sovereignty — the logic apparently being that Washington is going to intrude into our airspace anyway, so it's better if we look like that's what we wanted all along. It's only rape if you resist.
Fortunately the Martin government, under enormous pressure from the public, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, ignored this convoluted logic. After months of dithering on the issue, Ottawa showed surprising spunk last week in standing up to the American empire — a spunkiness that will only improve our standing in a world increasingly alarmed by U.S. unilateralism.
Accommodating Washington would have made sense if Washington were addressing real security needs. But this isn't about defending America; intercontinental missiles are the least likely means of attack that a "rogue" nation would resort to.
This is about Washington reviving and gaining the upper hand in the arms race, presumably to position itself well for what it sees as its eventual superpower showdown with China.
Washington sees gaining control of space as key to maintaining global military dominance, and missile defence is part of the strategy.
The U.S. plans to eventually have missile defence systems based in space (as well as on land, air and sea). This is part of America achieving "space superiority," a goal unabashedly described in the 2004 U.S. Air Force document Counterspace Operations, which argues the U.S. must have "space control" and be able to "deny an adversary freedom of action in space."
The prospect of the arms race moving into space may thrill Washington strategic planners, but it's long been dreaded by most of the world. In 1967, ninety-seven nations signed the Outer Space Treaty banning weapons from space.
Since then, there's been pressure for a tougher ban. In fact, Canada has played a key role pushing for that tougher line at disarmament talks in Geneva. Virtually all nations now support a proposed new ban.
But the U.S. does not. Instead it wants to take control of space to achieve lasting military dominance. And it wanted Canada — and our good name as a strong arms control proponent — to be linked to the missile defence scheme, softening its aggressive image.
So Canada's gutsy refusal to go along was the right move — and one that, incidentally, will win us higher standing in the world.
Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited