Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks and the thick Canadian border

Canadian government officials assure us that the current relationship between Canada and the United States governments will not be damaged by the release of a 2008 private conversation between a US official and Jim Judd, head of Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service. The status quo in Ottawa is as solid as the ice on the Rideau Canal. 
Unfortunately, that relationship isn’t producing effective change, and stereotypes that limit reform are only reinforced by what we’ve been told by Wikileaks.
Every Canadian news outlet reported Judd’s complaints: Canadian courts were tying his agency “in knots” and making it more difficult to prevent terror attacks. If only to be agreeable, he also bemoaned the “Alice in Wonderland” world view and “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” of Canadians. Click on:
In Canada, if not everywhere else, gossip bears down heavily on our policy options. Snippets of private conversations—“send cash” and “a roll of the dice,” for instance—defeated prime ministers and new constitutions. While piecemeal, the snippets of Mr. Judd’s private remarks crystallize the hostile images that Canadians and Americans have about each other.
Our thick border is undermining our trade relationship daily because the US government can’t say: fellow Americans, Canada is doing everything we think is necessary to keep us safe from potential terrorists. Americans can now ignore the border because Canadians are acting just like us. Mr. Judd’s remarks only reinforce the opposite suspicion.
Indeed, what’s most striking about the tone of Mr. Judd’s remarks was his defeatism—a complete absence of any effort to assuage American concerns about Canadian security efforts. The conversation took place two years ago and the administration of justice wasn’t Judd’s responsibility. However, where were the counter arguments? Are officials in Ottawa taking no new steps to reduce the impasse at the border?
Two democracies, with entrenched constitutional civil rights and the same common-law traditions, ought to be able to harmonize security and judicial practices in order to contend with terrorist threats—if that is recognized to be of mutual strategic importance. However, successfully putting forward that proposition today is made that much more difficult by the knee-jerk anti-Americanism that the leaks by Wikileaks are, in fact, fueling.

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