Articles

Where we REALLY stand with the U.S.A.

Today there are more grievances, irritations and misunderstandings between our countries than at any time since 1903. What are the chances our relations will get better—or worse? Here is a frank appraisal

BLAIR FRASER March 1 1958
Articles

Where we REALLY stand with the U.S.A.

Today there are more grievances, irritations and misunderstandings between our countries than at any time since 1903. What are the chances our relations will get better—or worse? Here is a frank appraisal

BLAIR FRASER March 1 1958

Where we REALLY stand with the U.S.A.

Articles

Today there are more grievances, irritations and misunderstandings between our countries than at any time since 1903. What are the chances our relations will get better—or worse? Here is a frank appraisal

BLAIR FRASER

WASHINGTON

More cruel jokes are going around Washington today than at any time since the early days of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Typical is the one about Jim Hagerty, President Eisenhower’s press secretary, running ahead on the fairway at Burning Tree golf course and saying to a slow foursome: “Would you mind letting the President play through? We’ve just learned that war has been declared.”

Under the grim humor is a genuine disquiet. Although no one there is saying much about it. there is the same disquiet in Ottawa. Ever since the Russians sent their first satellite aloft and exploded the myth of American technical supremacy, the Eisenhower administration has been gravely discredited at home as well as abroad.

Democrats argue quite seriously that Congress, which is under their leadership and control, must take over the job of policymaking that properly belongs to the president and his cabinet under the United States constitution. Republicans argue among themselves about the best way of getting rid of a president who cannot or will not recognize his own incapacity. In both parties, men who were lately the bitterest enemies of Vice-President Richard Nixon are now trying to think of a way to make him president.

The loss of confidence is due only indirectly to the president’s poor health. When he had a mild stroke last November he insisted. and did his best to demonstrate, that he was not disabled—showed within fortyeight hours that he could still go to church, still sign his name. The effect was to increase dismay, not diminish it. What the president was really proving, by his brave and pitiful effort, was not how much he could still do but how little he had been doing anyway. The White House continued to function normally, even with a sick president, and this could only mean that “the Regency” was in charge—the group of officials whose commander and symbol is Sherman Adams, former governor of New' Hampshire, an able administrator with a neat and tidy mind, but a man who has no constitutional status or function and who is therefore continued on page 48

continued on page 48

Where we really stand with the U.S.A. continued from page 11

“The gap between U. S. and allied opinion seems to have widened”

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responsible to no one.

On a foreign visitor the first effect of the new atmosphere is a kind of relief. At last, he thinks, the Americans are beginning to share the misgivings their allies have felt all along. The allies seem to agree with Sidney Smith, Canada’s minister of external affairs, that “we shouldn’t always say no or nyet to Russia’s proposals for negotiation.” Are Americans, too, now wondering if John Foster Dulles’ policy is too rigid? Do they suspect that the immobility may be not stern resolve, hut paralysis?

Very few conversations are enough to dispel any illusion of that kind. The gap between U. S. and allied opinion seems to have widened, not narrowed, since October. Seldom has there been more apparent need for that skill on which Canadians have always preened themselves, as interpreters of America to the world and vice versa. But our fitness for the role has been impaired—temporarily, no doubt, but evidently—by a malign conspiracy of circumstances.

The gap itself is unmistakable. The new misgivings in Washington are quite different from the older ones among the allies.

I talked to a United States senator who said that he personally thought more effort should be made to meet the Russians. But when I asked if he intended to press the point in the Senate or in its Foreign Relations Committee, he shook his head.

“I'd get no support,” he said. “On this question most people in Congress, in both parties, agree with Secretary Dulles.”

American and foreign critics both complain that President Eisenhower has not been firm enough with his cabinet, but they mean very different things. Foreigners are thinking of Dulles and his prejudice against negotiation with the Soviet bloc. Americans are more often looking back to the days of budget-minded George Humphrey at the Treasury, and hard-headed, thick-headed “Engine Charlie” Wilson at Defense, the two men now blamed for making the U. S. a bad second in military research and development.

With even better reason Americans deplore the lunatic rivalry in their own armed services, and the limp compromises by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that waste money and effort by splitting everything three ways. But there, in the main, the home criticism stops. The reproach is that the administration has put too little stress on military power, not too much. Few Americans of influence are saying, with any ring of conviction, that military power can never be enough, that military supremacy of either side can never be more than temporary, and that the end of such a race is suicide.

One of the few, though, and by far the most effective, is the ailing President Eisenhower himself.

Canadians who attended the NATO meeting in Paris in December were even more thankful than they expected to be that the president was able to go. Dulles, they said, seemed determined to keep a solid front against negotiation. It was Eisenhower who realized the strength of allied sentiment against this view, Eisenhower who brought flexibility into the U. S. attitude, and thus Eisenhower more than anyone else who made the Paris meeting a success.

These observers don’t suggest that Eisenhower in his present state of health is able to carry the terrible burdens of his job. They, too, think he should retire. But their point is that Eisenhower’s retirement would not remove, and might even intensify, the disagreements and distrusts that now imperil the Western alliance. The opposition to Eisenhower and his “Regency,” if it should prevail in Washington, would not bring the U. S. nearer to its allies and might draw it farther away. Indeed, part of the opposition sentiment in Washington is a resentment of carping “ingratitude” abroad.

“I'm quite sure my country has abandoned isolationism for good,” an American foreign-service officer said, “unless” —and he emphasized this by saying it twice over—“unless we get the feeling that all of our friends have deserted us.”

They see the world through us

On that point, he felt, Americans now need reassurance.

Nobody is so well placed to give or to destroy that reassurance as Canadians —not just the government and its officials, but all Canadians. Four and a half million Americans visited Canada last year and about the same number of Canadians visited the U. S. Except for Mexico ours is the only foreign country and wc are the only foreigners that most Americans ever see. To a sobering extent their impression of what foreigners are thinking must depend on what they hear from us.

So it is more than unlucky, it is tragic that today there are more grievances, more irritations and more misunderstandings between the U. S. and Canada than at any time since the Alaska boundary

dispute in 1903. These have been political shuttlecocks in one Canadian election campaign, and it’s already plain that they will be so used again this year.

One is the fifteen-percent cut in oil imports to the U. S., a hard blow to Alberta which had counted on selling more and not less to American customers. The cut was announced in Washington on Christmas Eve, an ironic sequel to the NATO meeting a week before where the usual lip service was paid to “economic co-operation.”

Now the oil cut has become a political issue. Liberals sneer at the Conservative talk a year ago about “standing up to the U. S.” and boast that they themselves “stood up” more effectively. They hint that the fifteen percent off oil imports might be a kind of retaliation for Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s aim to shift fifteen percent of Canada’s imports from the U. S. to Britain.

This is poppycock. Both Canadian governments, the old and -the new, know the facts of the oil problem. Both have taken exactly the same attitude from beginning to end with much the same effect.

North American oil is high-cost oil. The average well in Venezuela produces ten times, and in the Middle East a hundred times, as much as in Canada, and even Canada is well above the average of all 550,000 producing wells in the U. S. Most of these are operated, not by the big firms that dominate the oil industry of the world, but by “independents” who outweigh them in numbers and in influence with Congress.

Cheap imported oil (mostly owned by the big U. S. firms) has been a growing threat to the independents. Their lobby demanded and got protection. To elude treaty obligations the restrictions were

imposed on the ground that oil imports were “impairing national security.”

Canada protested from the start, and the Liberal protests of 1955 and 1956 were exactly the same as the Conservative protest of 1957: First, that no restriction at all was justified: second, that if it was dangerous for the U. S. to rely on seaborne oil, at least this was no reason to bar Canadian oil. In other words, Canada asked for special treatment.

And under each government in turn, Canada got special treatment. The first restriction was imposed last July, too soon for the Conservatives to deserve either credit or blame; imports were Cut in four out of five districts, but District Five, where almost all Canadian oil is sold, was exempted. Score one for the Liberals.

Alas, the system didn't work. All the cheap foreign oil began to pour into District Five in the U. S. Pacific northwest, threatening a price break that would have put Canadian as well as American producers out of business. So the import cut was finally extended to all five districts.

Canada still got a special break, though. Deliberately, the restriction formula was based on the 1956-57 average of imports—the period of the Suez crisis, when Canadian sales were at an all-time high and others the lowest in years. Fifteen percent off that average means only seven percent less than Canada's estimated sales for the first half of 1958. Other oil-exporting countries will be down as much as thirty-seven percent below expectations. For that special privilege the Conservatives get credit, if any Canadians do.

“Look what we did”

Canadians are still dissatisfied, and some Americans agree with them. They say the cuts were indefensible from the start, a clear violation of America's treaty commitments, and that if the specious excuse of national security is to be used at all. at least it should be carried to its logical conclusion by exempting Canada altogether.

On the other hand, some Canadians agree that the U. S. did all it could safely do to favor Canada. After all, Venezuela is an ally too. and a shaky one. The Middle East is where the U. S. is trying hardest to win friends for the West. Open discrimination is a poor way to do this.

Up to that point it's a friendly argument. What does annoy Americans is to be told they have simply ignored Canadian interests.

“Look what we did,” said one. “We consulted you at every step. We did all we dared to stack the cards in your favor, took a chance on losing every friend we’ve got in Venezuela and the Middle East. What happens? You Canadians tear our arm off, and beat us over the head with the bloody stump.”

The same argument develops over another Canadian grievance, the U. S. program for disposal of farm surpluses.

Under Public Law 480 the U. S. has given away, without charge of any kind, more than a billion dollars’ worth of food to victims of flood, famine and other disasters in the last three and a half years. Other large amounts have been “sold" for local currencies; in effect, this means an iaterest-free loan, usually to poverty-stricken countries that can’t pay cash. With the one exception of Japan, no beneficiary of these schemes has been a substantial customer of Canada. Canadians do complain, and Americans admit, that “giveaways” tend to seal off commercial markets and prevent further expansion of Canadian wheat

sales abroad. But so long as only poor and half-starved peoples are getting them, Canada can't make too much fuss about American gifts and interest-free loans of food.

The real Canadian protests have been made against two things. One is barter selling, which was threatening the whole wheat market, including even the British. The other is the system of so-called “tiedin sales,” the provision that to get a gift or a loan of surplus food a country had to agree to continue buying a fixed amount of American food for dollars.

Again, Liberal and Conservative governments objected to the same things for the same reasons. Again they got roughly the same results.

Barter sales were sharply restricted after a decision taken last May. Whatever share Canada had in the decision may be claimed by the Liberals. Lately there has been new pressure from Congress to go back to the old system: Canada is still protesting, apparently with effect.

Tied-in sales w'ere reformed a few months later, more or less in line with

Canadian suggestions. Our officials had been making the suggestion for years: it wasn't taken until after the Conservatives had won the election, partly by denouncing the “American giveaway program.” They can fairly claim credit for the change.

But to listen to the average political speech, a Canadian wouldn’t know there had been any change. This worries the handful of Americans who follow Canadian affairs closely. They're beginning to wonder whether we are merely concerned with a few particular grievances, or

whether we’re developing a fixed antiAmerican bias and looking for things to justify it.

By pure ill luck, this dawning suspicion has been fed by the mix-up over the joint command of North American air defense—NORAD.

Canadian political parties don’t really disagree about NORAD. All accept the principle of joint defense and joint command. All want Canada to retain as much sovereignty and freedom of choice as she can without impairing her security.

Joint command in wartime has been taken for granted since 1941. Soldiers, or rather airmen, have been more enthusiastic than civilians about joint command in peacetime. It is certainly tidier, and gives a better chance for testing the organization we would use in war. It also has the real merit of creating a new post for a Canadian air marshal and so easing the promotion problem that’s chronic in a small air force. But civilians tend to feel it’s just a little too neat, makes it too easy for Washington to make decisions without consulting Ottawa. They are happier when the line of authority is clearly set forth in a signed document, like the North Atlantic Treaty.

If it hadn't been for the election we'd never have heard about NORAD until after such an agreement had been signed. But the Liberals went out before their cabinet had dealt with the project. The incoming Conservatives were told, quite correctly, that the Liberal defense minister, Ralph Campney, had approved it. So they put it through without much scrutiny, apparently, and thus started a firstclass row.

“Why are Canadians fretting?”

Now, of course, the formal agreement has been worked out. Since it was negotiated by the same professional diplomats who would have done it anyway, it is probably much the same as it would have been if the Liberals had won the election. But the fog surrounding its origins, and particularly the discovery that the new minister of external affairs knew nothing about it in December, raised some perfectly genuine fears in Ottawa. These in turn raised doubts and fears in Washington.

I spent two hours in the Pentagon building with an American officer who knows all about NORAD. The agreement at that time was still uncompleted, but he answered all the questions I could think of: yes, General Partridge in Colorado Springs reported to Ottawa as well as to Washington; no, NORAD didn't have any offensive function, its sole purpose was to repel attack; and so on. He was patient and courteous, but I could see he was also puzzled. What were these Canadians fretting about, anyway? We were all in this thing together, weren’t we—or were we?

1 talked to a couple of congressmen, one just back from a brief visit to Canada and the other about to make one. Both trips were prompted by what they had heard about a new and cooler atmosphere in Canada, and the returned visitor thought he had found one all right. But when I asked whether the American attitude toward Canada had changed on this account, they both looked a little embarrassed.

"Frankly, not enough of our people know about it,” said one. “Even in Congress. I doubt if there are five men besides the two of us who have any idea of any change in Canada.”

Of American officials, though, the opposite is true. They are very keenly aware of the new climate, more aware

and more solicitous of Canadian opinion than they were before.

When, for example, a Bulganin letter arrived in Washington just a day or two after Sidney Smith’s remark that “we shouldn’t always say nyet,” an anonymous state-department spokesman made the usual statement that the letter was mere propaganda. Within hours, a message came from the state department: please tell Dr. Smith that this statement was quite unauthorized, that it had not been a snub either to Bulganin or to Smith, that in fact the U. S. administration was taking the Bulganin letter very seriously indeed.

feut although most Canadians in Washington seem to think that the change has done good rather than harm up to now, they also think that it has gone far enough. The last time Sidney Smith made a speech in the U. S. officials from the Canadian erhbassy asked: “Are you going to be tough with them again?” (Smith hadn’t been tough before, but Finance Minister Fleming had.) When Smith said no, they were visibly relieved.

Not that they object to tough talk about real and specific grievances. If higher tariffs are threatened on fish, or on lead and zinc, Canadian protests are as vigorous as ever; they’re expected to be. Sometimes they are heeded, sometimes not, but they are always heard.

Canada can still make them heard at the highest level, too. Prime Minister Diefenbaker proved that when he carried the Canadian protest on oil restrictions straight to President Eisenhower, and got the announcement delayed ten days to allow further discussion at Paris. Canadians have always had a certain entree in Washington: the new government,

strangers all to their American opposite numbers, showed that this is a national and not a personal privilege, and that frank 'alk does it no harm. What does do harm is the vaguely and generally hostile air that seems to be growing on both sides of the border.

A Canadian who spent Christmas in New York noticed a headline in a tabloid one morning that read, he says, something like this:

“DIEFENBAKER CONTINUES ANTIU. S. ATTITUDE.”

He was startled enough to read the story underneath. It was nothing more than the news that the prime minister was off to Nassau for a holiday, but it noted that Louis St. Laurent used to spend his winter vacations in Florida.

One such example stops a Canadian in his tracks. Americans in Canada say they notice much more serious signs of that kind of bias in Canadian newspapers all the time, and in radio programs, TV' shows, speeches and crowd reaction to speeches.

One thoughtful American who knows Canada well, and is worried by the new climate he senses here, said: 'The danger is that on both sides of the border a lot of different and unrelated acts will suddenly begin to look like a pattern, a sinister pattern.

“Once we start thinking we see that pattern, all sorts of things will seem to fit into it. We'll start scolding each other, maybe retaliating — God knows where it might end. 1 think it’s terribly irresponsible for politicians or any public men to trade on this feeling of hostility, as some of them are doing.”

Then he added the remark I quoted earlier: “I’m sure my country has abandoned isolationism for good, UNLESS we get the feeling that all of our friends have deserted us.”

It’s a thought worth bearing in mind, for Canadians as well as Americans, ir