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Systematic Analysis in the Study of U.S.-Canadian Relations ROGER FRANK SWANSON The similarities between the contemporary study of U.S.-Canadian relations and the pre-World War II state of the discipline of international relations are striking. As J.N. Rosenau pointed out in International Politics and ForeignPolicy,the mid-1940's constituted a fundamental turning point in the study of international relations. Prior to that time, the discipline had been primarily concerned with solving problems and reforming institutions, an emphasis which very much characterizes the study of U.S.-Canadian relations today. After the mid-1940s, however, the study of international relations became more an attempt to 0 [understand] processes and [identify] causation." The realization that international relations not only could, but ought to, be examined more methodically resulted in a new phase which is best characterized by the word systematic. There are several excellent historical analyses which have concentrated on specific aspects of U.S.-Canadian relations, as well as several outstanding contemporary studies. In a general sense, however, the study of the relationship between the two nations has tended to be goal-oriented, involving problem-solving preoccupations instead of systematic analysis. In other words, the relationship has not been examined sufficiently within the discipline of international relations, but rather has been examined as an aspect of practical national and international politics. This is not to dispute the necessity of the problem-oriented approach for operational purposes. However, this approach should not be a substitute for systematic analysis in the scholarly study of the relationship. The high degree of rhetorical content, the persistence of unproven assumptions, and the consequent methodological difficulties in current analysis suggest that the U.S.-Canadian relationship has not been rigorously subjected to methods of analysis - behavioral, quantitative, and systems - available in the discipline of international relations. Typical of the rhetoric recurring in the scholarly analysis of U.S.-Canadian relations are such overused phrases as "undefended border/' ugood Reprinted by permission of the S.A.I.S. Review. Copyright 1970 by the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. II, NO, 2, FALL 1971 neighbors," and "increased dialogue." Also illustrative of the political rather than scientific nature of much of the analysis is the unusually frequent use of analogies. For instance, such contradictory personifications as "Siamese twins," "fat uncles and small boys," and "football players dancing with delicate sophomores" have been used to characterize the relationship. A good example of the unexamined assumptions prominent in the writings is Melvin Conant's statement in The Long Polar Watch that there is a "basic agreement on [the U.S.'s and Canada's] fundamental definition of national purpose."' In 1959 in The Atlantic Triangle and the Cold War, Edgar Mclnnis discerned "a fundamental identity of views on the basic issues that confront our present age:'' Contemporary academic research is subject to these same phenomena. A perfect example of the convergence of rhetoricJ unproven assumptions, and methodological difficulties occurred recently when an American doctoral student was examining the defense relationship between the United States and Canada. He spoke of a "trust relationship" rather than of mutually perceived reliability. When the student identified sharp U.S.Canadian differences on a specific issue, he not surprisingly regarded them as a "betrayal" of this trust rather than as divergent perceptions. Serious methodological difficulties in the present study of U.5.-Canadian relations further illustrate the extent to which the problem-solving preoccupation, with its normative emphasis., has been substituted for systematic analysis. There is, for example, the tendency of scholars to concentrate on listings and documentation of U.5.-Canadian problem areas, which are, of course, useful on an operational level. However, in an analytical sense, assumptions tend to remain unexamined, and the really substantive questions remain unasked because an understanding of processes and causation is not attempted. An additional tendency can be discerned. The question that generally arises from this goal-oriented analysis is: How can we make U.S.-Canadian relations ubetter"? Posing the question in this manner defines the task of analysis as one of identifying and emphasizing those U.5.-Canadian common interests...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 102-105
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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