Some of my fellow Republicans clearly didn’t get the ‘Canada memo’

It has come to my attention that not every Republican has “gotten the memo” on our strategic partnership with Canada. This week, revelations in a book by chief national security correspondent for CNN Jim Sciutto quoted a high-level Trump senior advisor saying that Canada’s role in the NATO mission in Afghanistan — which cost the lives of 158 Canadian soldiers — was more to get on the United States’ good side than to actually support the global fight against terrorism.

This is a deeply offensive and ignorant statement — and a statement that the vast majority of Americans strongly rejects.

The United States’ future is tied to our relationship with Canada, and the vast majority of Republicans — indeed the vast majority of Americans — “got the memo” on how important Canada is to the United States.

Clearly White House Trade Advisor Dr. Peter Navarro did not.

For those of you who — like Navarro — have not gotten or have not read the memo, here it is:

  1. We have one of the longest international borders in the world with Canada, and our border has been at peace for longer than almost any other border in the world. Having little or no border disputes with one of your key neighbors is a great luxury that most countries in the world do not have.
  2. Canada shares a legacy of values, friendship, and trade ties for more than two centuries. The U.S. and Canada fought side by side by in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and in Afghanistan.
  3. Speaking of Afghanistan, Canada sent over 40,000 members of its Armed Forces and spent more than $3 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan for reconstruction and stabilization efforts.
  4. There were several reasons for Canada to get involved in Afghanistan. First was self-interest; 26 Canadians died on 9/11. The attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., were not only on the U.S.: They were attacks on the civilized world. Canada joined the efforts in Afghanistan because they are a NATO treaty ally, and allies help each other in times of need. There were many acts of generosity on 9/11 by the Canadians, such as when we had the diversion of American civilian airline flights. Many American airplanes were forced to land in small Canadian airports, including in Nova Scotia.
  5. Canada has been, up until recently, our number one trading partner. Only in the last 18 months has Mexico surpassed Canada, which still stands at our number 2 trading partner. We have a small number of trade disagreements with Canada, mostly revolving around issues relating to softwood lumber, labeling of Canadian beef, aluminum, and ongoing disputes and challenges around building an additional bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario — where the already existing bridge is one of the most traversed bridges in the world. Some of the conflicts we have with Canada on these issues are our responsibility, but as friends, we can talk, we can disagree, and we negotiate. It is important that we always do so respectfully.
  6. The U.S. greatly benefits from Canadian investment, tourism, and students. Canadian foreign direct investment to the U.S. in 2019 totaled almost $5 billion dollars, and is the second largest source of foreign direct investment for the U.S. Over 20 million Canadians visited the United States in 2019, spending almost $20 billion while in our country. In the academic year of 2018-2019, more than 26,000 Canadians came to the United States to study, bringing in over $1.1 billion. We also need Canada’s votes for important multilateral elections coming up in multilateral institutions. The Trump administration’s fourth pillar of their National Security Strategy is to advance American influence through various multilateral institutions. The Trump administration rightly wants to increase the number of U.S. leaders in these organizations. To achieve this, we must work with key like-minded allies. There are several elections including the presidency of the IDB and the Secretary General of the OECD where the U.S. has a candidate, and we will need help from our allies — including Canada — to win.
  7. Although many will disagree, I take at face value the Trump administration’s claim that they are strongly anti-Russian in their foreign policy. The U.S. has built up our military, provided lethal weapons to Ukraine, and have asked Canada and other NATO countries to spend more on defense. If you believe that the U.S. has a strong anti-Russian policy, you should thank Canada. Canada, with its large Ukrainian diaspora, has spent billions of dollars on restoring democracy and rebuilding the economic sector in Ukraine. Having an independent Ukraine is a critical component of an anti-Russia policy.
  8. The Trump administration has spoken about a policy of “energy dominance,” a policy I subscribe to. The U.S. has only recently become a major exporter of oil and gas. If you add up the contributions by Canada and Mexico, then, yes, North America is absolutely energy dominant. If you want to counter Venezuela, Iran, and Russia by flooding the oil markets and making those countries poorer, then we need Canadian oil sands to do that.
  9. The Trump administration in its National Security Policy said we are in an age of great power competition. I agree. If we want to win the competition with China, we need Canada. For example, the CFO of Huawei, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder, is currently being held under house arrest in Vancouver. The Chinese have retaliated by arresting Canadians living in China on trumped-up charges. Canada is holding the CFO at the request of the United States, and, is facing enormous external pressure from China.
  10. Speaking of China, one of the most important things we can do in this great power competition is to win the future on the critical but obscure topic of strategic minerals. Electric cars, telephones, and national defense equipment require strategic minerals and so-called “rare earths” for electronics and batteries. A lot of these minerals are in Canada. China has recently had a lock on the strategic minerals market because China is willing to produce these minerals in dirty ways. The best mining companies and best mining practices come from Canada, and if Canadians mine these minerals with clean methods and follow the best mining practices, which they soon will do, then the West’s technological edge will be secured.
  11. In the Americas, we need Canada as well. Canada has been the top supporter of Haiti at the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. Bureaucrats at these institutions would rather not work on Haiti because Haiti is a hard case, but Canada has been Haiti’s top supporter in assisting this fragile state. Americans need to remember that when things get bad in Haiti, Haitians get on boats and show up in Florida — an important state in American politics. Canada helps with intractable problems like Haiti, which directly affects the United States. 

Canada has also helped with Venezuela, being one of the first countries to recognize Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim leader of the country. It was very important that they recognized the Guaido government given the progressive “cred” that Prime Minister Trudeau has in the world. Canada’s decision helped persuade other countries to recognize Guaido. Canadians have also been generous donors in trying to assist the Venezuelan refugee crisis, which has topped numbers of over 5 million. If there is ever a negotiated settlement with Venezuela, Canada will be one of the key actors at the table.

Problems of migration in Central America will not just be solved with border security. People stop migrating when societies reach an income of $8,000 per capita. The U.S. cannot solve problems of Central American development and bad governance alone. Canada has been a longtime and reliable partner in this region.

Let me come back to Dr. Navarro’s alleged comment.

The answer is, if you see a Canadian in military uniform, as an American, you should stop what you are doing, look them in the eye, and say very sincerely a quiet “thank you.”

What makes America special is our ability to partner and work with friends and allies.

My mother taught me that to have a friend you must be a friend — having a Grand Strategy is useless if you don’t have friends.

The U.S. needs to remember that Canada is a great friend.

Originally published on on August 28, 2020.

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