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, January 29, 2013

Keystone Pipeline: What’s Obama’s Plan for Canada?

Does Barack Obama care that thousands of decent Canadiansas well as Republican House Speaker John Boehnerget up these mornings wondering what he’s planning to do about them? It’s impossible to know.

Canadians don’t cry in public like Republican Congressmen or have an American television network to flesh out their feelings. They don’t also fear that Obama wants to "annihilate" them by springtime. Actually, they can’t frighten like Republicans because they suspect he has other more exciting concerns on his mind.

Intelligent life up here in Canada is cold and unfair; Canadians are infatuated by an utterly inscrutable President. In his inaugural address, Obama could speak of the love Oscar Wilde could not name. Yet he couldn’t offer a wink, even a whisper, of solidarity for his starstruck northern friends. (These are friends, incidentally, who’ve more than simply offered themselves up in lopsided opinion polls that count for nothing in US elections. Canada’s government has echoed Obama’s every move as a world leader. Does he think the Government of Canada has been playing the field? Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, Libya today, North Africa tomorrow? Anyone in the Royal Family, anytime? Does he really think Stephen Harper wants to fly his F-35s or co-own his auto companies?)

Sure, Canadian politicianslike forward-thinking American business leaders ever since Richard Nixon was Presidentconstantly talk about globalization and quarterly trade statistics that report that Canada is a little “less dependent” on the US market.  But, they don’t ever say they want to be free, with no way home.

Seriously. In that speech, Obama made a significant statement about America’s more realistic place in the world:

“America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe.”

After the lobby against the Keystone Pipeline fails to persuade Obama’s officials that there’s an intolerable American environmental objection to going ahead, and after all those American states directly affected endorse the line, what is the American anchor to do?

The anchor of our North American alliancethe author of that fine statementcan’t blithely decide that he doesn’t like northern Alberta oil and that he owes it to the World and Hollywood to determine how Canadians develop their economy—all while meeting their international greenhouse gas obligations.

As a writer, a lawyer, and as a secure second-term President, Barack Obama will have no choice but to say yes. They’d be no mystery around this question if loyal Canada weren’t politically impotent.  


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