Lawrence Cannon will be relieved that the G8 foreign ministers meeting has wrapped up and Hillary Clinton is back in Washington haranguing Bill. For the past two days, the Foreign Minister has worn the look of a man hosting a dinner party for his boss.
As was once said of Margaret Thatcher, Mrs, Clinton is democratic enough to talk down to anyone — and presumptuous enough to criticize her host for organizing an Arctic conference that didn’t include all countries in the region.
She told CTV that she wasn’t happy about Canadian troops pulling out of Afghanistan, and compounded Mr. Cannon’s misery at the closing press conference yesterday by contradicting the Conservative government’s policy on maternal health in the Third World, by saying any discussion had to address issues about abortion. It was clear to everyone by this time that Mr. Cannon was being smacked with the full weight of the Secretary of State’s purse.
The U.S. has not, by all accounts, formally asked Canada to keep its troops in Afghanistan post-2011, but it has made clear its displeasure at what some Americans see as Canada deserting the battlefield. As Charles Ritchie, the storied Canadian diplomat once noted, the Americans never listen — “the phrase ‘consulting with allies’ is apt to mean, in U.S. terms, briefing allies, lecturing allies and sometimes pressuring allies.”
Still, if we accept that the main business of Canadian foreign policy is maintaining good relations with the U.S. while preserving our self-respect, how do we retrieve the situation?