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  • On the Edge of Reality:Canada's Foreign Policies and Actions
  • Paul Jackson (bio)
The Afghanistan Challenge: Hard Realities and Strategic Choices. Ed. Hans-Georg Ehrhart and Charles Pentland. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2009. 250 pp. $39.95 (trade) ISBN 978-1-55339-241-5.
Creating a Failed State: The US and Canada in Afghanistan. By John Warnock. Winnipeg: Fernwood, 2008. 150 pp. $21.95 (trade) ISBN 978-1-55266-262-5.
Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army. By Christie Blatchford. Toronto: Anchor, 2008. 416 pp. $34.95 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-38566-466-0. $22.00 (trade) ISBN 978-0-38566-467-7. $19.00 (eBook) ISBN 978-0-30737-190-4.
An Independent Foreign Policy for Canada? Challenges and Choices for the Future. Ed. Brian Bow and Patrick Lennox. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. 240 pp. $24.95 (trade) ISBN 978-0-80209-634-0.
Mission of Folly: Canada and Afghanistan. By James Laxer. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2008. 168 pp. $22.95 (trade) ISBN 978-1-89707-137-3.

The studies under review in this essay all in some way address Canadian foreign policy and actions in relation to the United States or the American-led world order. In the first section, I propose a framework for the analysis of foreign policy and actions. Then I will review the arguments and analyses of a number of authors who assess Canada's foreign policy options within the American Empire. Finally, I will look at how analysts write about Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan in particular.

What strikes me about the books discussed here is how very rarely Afghans come into view. Afghanistan is one of the most demographically diverse countries on earth. Who would have the audacity to speak for everyone? That question [End Page 181] does not arise in the works under review only because there are very few analysts willing to speak for any Afghans. There is a well-trodden path in foreign policy paved with definitions of "Canadian interests." I leave that determination to others. Instead, I argue that Canadian analysts must hold their state responsible for its policies and actions in the world. That means that Canada is responsible for its effects on the environment and populations outside and inside of Canada. The notion of a "national interest" and even a clear distinction between domestic and foreign policies disappears in the context of the demand for accountability. As an analyst of Canadian foreign policy, I do not position myself as a supporter of the home team. Instead, I insist that the state that represents me account for all of its actions.

An Independent Foreign Policy for Canada? Challenges and Choices for the Future (2008) assembles a number of analysts to survey the nation's place in the world 40 years after Stephen Clarkson's volume asked Canadians the same question. The editors see the lack of a coherent national identity in 2008 as a crisis. Social fragmentation is a problem for the editors and contributors who have high expectations for the state and the nation. If the nation is united and represented by the state, then the "national interest" is much easier to define; foreign policy can be judged on the basis of how well it reflects that unified national interest. The divisions within Canada are historical and deep, however. They are not going away. Once the divisions are accepted, then our approach to foreign policy must shift. Labour and capital, First Nations and newcomers, French, English, and others, women and men, White and non-White are only a few of the divisions that contain within them ranges of interests and identities. There are also a number of philosophical or spiritual approaches to our relation with the territories that we occupy and the ecologies that we inhabit. These are only the divisions within Canada. The study of Canadian foreign policy must then incorporate into its analysis how these different elements of Canadian society enter into relations with equally complex systems abroad. In contrast, the contributors to An Independent Foreign Policy for Canada?—with one exception—assume the "national interest...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-0251
Print ISSN
0021-9495
Pages
pp. 181-200
Launched on MUSE
2010-12-19
Open Access
No
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