Far Eastern Tour:|
The Canadian Infantry in Korea 1950-1953
by Brent Byron Watson
Tolerant Allies: Canada and the United States 1963-1968
by Greg Donaghy
An Inside Look At External Affairs During:
The Trudeau Years: The Memoirs of Mark MacGuigan
by Edited by P. Whitney Lackenbauer
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|Canadian Foreign Policy¨plus ca change...
by Rondi Adams
Depending on your point of view, Canadian foreign policy since the Second World War has either gone shamefully to hell on a handcart or reached a long dreamed of state of independence, with Ottawa taking orders from neither Washington nor London. With the Canadian military's systematic castration over the years and our troops, such as they are, conspicuously missing from Operation Iraqi Freedom, one might feel inclined to think we've taken a wrong turn. For any state of "independence" we feel we've achieved will surely reveal itself to be nothing more than a house of cards should we ever come under attack. At that point we would turn, no doubt, to our long nemesis/protector, the United States, and give a big, doe-eyed plea for help.
The following three books, read in chronological (of the times they cover) order, give an idea of where exactly we began to take that turn down the path to a false sense of self-reliance, and also offer up some interesting portraits of the key public figures who guided the country during those years. They also show, with embarrassing clarity, how some aspects of Canadian foreign policy, in particular our at times pathologically adolescent relationship with the United States, have simply never changed at all.
Far and away the best written of the three has to be Brent Byron Watson's narrative of Canada's little-studied and somewhat ill-fated involvement in the Korean War. In a scenario that seems to prove the old "plus ca change" truism, the Canadian military after the Second World War was, as Watson points out, "only a shadow" of its old self (p3). "This skeleton of a force was responsible for the defence of the entire Canadian land mass and, in the event of an overseas war, the mobilization of the militia" (p3). Canadian foreign policy makers seemed convinced that any future battles would be in Europe and would be similar to what had gone before. Canadian forces were not, in 1950, ready for a combat situation in Asia, as they were not, two years ago, prepared for Afghanistan, and are not, today, prepared for a desert war theatre.
On June 25, 1950, the forces of North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel into the Republic of Korea in the form of a full-throttle invasion. As a result, we had one hell of a bumpy ride ahead of us. International response was immediate. The Security Council of the United Nations met on the afternoon of June 25 and called for withdrawal of North Korean forces to the 38th Parallel. When it became clear that North Korea had about as much respect for UN resolutions as Saddam Hussein, the United States made the commitment to support South Korea by every means possible.
In true Canadian fashion, Ottawa agreed "in principle" with the actions of the UN and the US, but would not show its cards with respect to troops and equipment. Interestingly, though, contemporary media coverage suggested "that most Canadians strongly favoured going to war in Korea"(p4). As a result, three Canadian destroyers were dispatched to Korean waters to serve with the UN, and ultimately they played a significant role in the evacuation of Inchon. A Canadian Air Force Squadron followed and as tensions rose throughout the summer, the government got off the stick and on August 7, 1950, authorized general recruitment.
Watson's account starts the following day, on the 8th, when all of the major Canadian newspapers carried full-page advertisements announcing that "The Canadian Army wants men now...to meet aggression in accordance with the United Nations Charter."
In late 1950, the games began, when Canadian troop ships docked at Yokohama. "If the Canadians' initial impression of Japan was generally positive...their initial reaction to Korea hovered between apathy and contempt...the first thing the newcomer to Korea noticed was the rugged topography"(p55). By mid 1951, the Canadian Brigade became part of the newly formed British Commonwealth Division, the first of its kind in history. It spent that summer patrolling the Imjin River, but by the autumn the Commonwealth troops were fighting to guard the supply route to the Chorwon River, and forged their way across the lower Imjin to attain better defensive positions. This line stood more or less firm until the end of hostilities two years later.
Using first person accounts as well as traditional archival research, Watson provides almost a sociological account of the Canadian experience in Korea. All points are covered and not cleaned up. From the shambles of recruitment to the inadequate training to some of the less than noble behaviour of Canadians overseas, to, of course, the bravery¨it's all here. In total 26,791 Canadians served in Korea and another 7,000 stayed on to serve between the cease-fire and the end of 1955. United Nations' forces fatal and non-fatal Korean War casualties numbered about 490,000. Of these 1,558 were Canadian. The names of 516 Canadian war dead are inscribed in the Korea Book of Remembrance. Ultimately, it is a lack of Canadian remembrance that haunts many veterans of Korea. "The difficulty many men experienced in coming to terms with their Korean experience was not made easier by the Canadian public's apparent indifference towards the war" (p176). A step in the direction of rectifying that indifference would be reading the much readable Far Eastern Tour.
One of the press releases for Tolerant Allies states that "Greg Donaghy challenges the prevailing view that relations [between Canada and the US] during this turbulent period [1963-1968] were primarily marked by mutual hostility, the product of growing Canadian nationalism and differences over the war in Vietnam." What Donaghy, a historian with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, argues, is that the bulk of the 1960s were spent cementing a powerful economic partnership between Canada and the US, tying us together "more tightly than ever before." What I think would have been more prudent¨and accurate¨for Donaghy to argue, was that both evolutions (or devolutions, contingent upon your politics) took place at the same time.
It is not as though two people, two countries, two anything, cannot at once pull together and pull apart. And to some degree, Donaghy concedes that bifurcating views on domestic and foreign policies may have had an impact on US-Canada relations.
Tolerant Allies opens with a scene to enrage any self-respecting refugee from the 1960s¨poor Mike Pearson being taken to task by LBJ over comments he made about Vietnam. Of course, many of Canada's companies and universities were doing research and creating or developing projects that were funded by the US military during the 1960s. The Canadian government was heavily involved in this effort. But no matter. "Vietnam" is a word that means more than just "an Asian nation." It has come to signify so much more and the fact that we did not become directly involved with the US during that endeavour appears to be something that many Canadians need to hang onto. Donaghy, a shrewd historian, recognizes this. "For many Canadians, this compelling image [Pearson being dressed down by LBJ] of bilateral conflict neatly and indelibly captured the fundamental differences"(p3) between the countries nearly forty years ago.
Focusing on the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the Autopact, Donaghy's extremely well-researched work, relying on newly and recently declassified documents, explains how such economic agreements came about, who negotiated them and just how complicated a process it could be. "The debate in Cabinet raged quietly, but fiercely, throughout 1964. [Finance Minister Walter] Gordon stood out against both the Autopact and the Kennedy Round, certain that they would reduce Canada's freedom to shape its economic future" (p177). It is surprising, perhaps, to think that economics could inspire passion or stubbornness in anyone, but one learns a good deal here about the strongly held views of some of our seemingly bland leaders.
One also learns that the "tolerant" allies were both parties¨for once, we are shown that American policy-makers often adjusted their goals to accommodate northern sensitivies¨startlingly different from the generally held view in Canada that we constantly give in to our powerful neighbour. For policy wonks or students of economics, this book, though a little ponderously written, is a good investment.
Reviewing a memoir is never easy. It must be taken in context. And chances are the memoirs of a former public servant, Cabinet minister and judge will not sing off the pages the way the memoirs of, say, Napoleon or Elizabeth Taylor might. No substance abuse here, no plans for world domination, no torrid love affairs (at least none written about)¨but depending on your area of interest, the memoirs of someone so deeply involved in the various Trudeau regimes may be cut out just for you. Operation Iraqi Freedom is practically over and those who decry Canada's lack of involvement seem either to blame our current prime minister, or the man who wore the rose in his lapel.
Mark MacGuigan, who was Canada's Secretary of State for External Affairs from 1980-1982, writes that "I have to admit that it is not easy to divine his [Trudeau's] fundamental orientation in foreign policy" (p13). Indeed. For¨far from his reputation as someone who listened to no one but himself¨Trudeau's foreign policy seemed to fluctuate depending on who he was listening to at any given moment. According to MacGuigan, it was either Allan Gotlieb or the more altruistic and high-minded Ivan Head. MacGuigan also describes a man far more "hard-boiled" (p13) and less morally inspired than he may have wanted us to think. His fondness for cozying up to dictatorships (China, Cuba) should have helped us twig to that.
In chapters devoted to people (Trudeau), events (the olympic boycott, arms control, the constitutional question etc) and geo-political divisions in the world (north-south, the pacific rim, the middle east), these memoirs covers a wide range of national and international issues, bringing in some cautiously painted, though certainly revealing of MacGuigan's personal biases, portraits of political figures.
General Alexander Haig, for example, is treated somewhat dismissively, as some sort of knee-jerk rightwinger, incapable of nuanced thought. "He [Haig] offered no reaction as to how the West should respond [to martial law in Poland in 1981], except that we shouldlay the responsibility at Moscow's door" (p54). One wonders where else the responsibility belonged? Allan and Sondra Gottlieb, on the other hand, are praised for their "wit" and "sheer intellectual power," qualities some may not be so willing to attribute to them. Still, it is a memoir, and taken as such, it is fairly interesting to those keen to learn about the manipulations of foreign policy from a ministerial point of view.