Allan Gotlieb writes of Canadian foreign policy that it has at times been bipolar. Over the course of a the last few decades, there have been two distinct groups that have been working to secure their position. At times, and during most times, the realist side of Canadian foreign policy has predominated. Canadians, and the politicians who have represented them, have wanted national sovereignty and progress. When the rubber meets the road, they have been interested primarily in seeing to it that Canada’s interests are put first, whether it is in trade, in economic policy, in expansion of its coastline, and in a host of other areas. On the other hand, over the last decade or so, something new has emerged. That is the power of what Gotlieb refers to as an almost romantic group. This group of romantics sees Canadian values as being the most important thing. They must be fought for and pushed for, and more than that, they must be expanded and exported around the world. These individuals have focused much less on the things that Canada might do to push for its own national growth. Instead, they have focused much more on Canada’s role in the world. They have noted that Canada has something special to offer and that it must, even if this comes at the expense of some national sovereignty. As the author notes, the reality of Canada is that both of these urges are a part of its national DNA. The people want these things for reasons that are different but both fit into the fabric of what Canada is and what it has become, and not necessarily in bad ways, either.
Jennifer Welsh makes a different argument about Canada’s current posture in the world and with its foreign policy. She is demanding an answer on several important questions about the way that Canada will go. Namely, she is under the belief that Canada currently does not have a real foreign policy of its own. While Gotlieb argues that Canada has had two foreign policy ideas that have been warring with one another over the years, it is the position of Welsh fundamentally that Canadian politicians have actually followed the US to the exclusion of their own national goals. With this in mind, she believes that it is absolutely imperative for Canada to take action. The country has something to add in the world, and it must think specifically about what goals it wants to achieve. On some level, she is sympathetic to what Gotlieb talked about with the modern ‘romantic’ thinkers on foreign policy. She seems to believe that Canada should not just follow what the US does in part because Canada’s values are unique and specific to Canada. This is an interesting and important way of looking at things. In short, she is of the belief that Canada, with its position, its ideals, and the current climate in the world, would be better off figuring out if it is going to try to take that outward looking posture or not. While Gotlieb believes Canada has been concerning itself with these questions, Welsh believes the questions have not really been answered at all.
The position of Gotlieb appears to be the most credible in this instance. Welsh’s position rests on the idea that Canada has not had its ow active agenda or been able to define its own goals. In reality, she is just confusing a bipolar foreign policy with no foreign agenda at all. Just because two warring factions have been able to at times take control does not mean that Canada has abdicated goal setting and agenda making. Gotlieb’s position is thus the correct one.
- Gotlieb, Allan. “Romanticism and realism in Canada’s foreign policy.”‘POLICY OPTIONS-MONTREAL-’26, no. 2 (2005): 16.
- Haglund, David G., and Tudor Onea. “Sympathy for the devil: Myths of neoclassical realism in Canadian foreign policy.”‘Canadian Foreign Policy Journal’14, no. 2 (2008): 53-66.
- Welsh, Jennifer M. “Fulfilling Canada’s global promise.”‘POLICY OPTIONS-MONTREAL-’26, no. 2 (2005): 56.