Lloyd Axworthy has done what very few of his predecessors have done. He has written about his time as Canadian foreign minister. For that alone he deserves credit. He provides a record of his stewardship at Foreign Affairs and while it was not written as a reply to Andrew Cohen’s While Canada Slept, it clearly demonstrates that neither Axworthy nor Canada was asleep while he was foreign minister.

Axworthy not only looks back on what he did as foreign minister but also looks ahead when he suggests a course for Canadian foreign policy in the 21st cen- tury. As might be expected the future direction is consistent with the policies he espoused as Foreign Affairs minister: human security; soft power; ”œthe respon- sibility to protect”; making multilateral- ism work by re-wiring the UN; promoting the International Criminal Court; the need to promote nuclear disarmament on the earth and in space; using constructive engagement with ”œrogue” states as an alternative to military force and big- power bluster; the creation of a World Environment Organization.

Axworthy also accurately describes many of the challenges, opportunities and dilemmas faced by the internation- al community and by Canada, includ- ing how to deal with human rights violators. But there is a strong under- current of anti-Americanism to this book which reflects his long-time ani- mus toward the US, which coloured many of his positions while in office and in his book.

Axworthy recalls that in the early 1980s then Vice President Bush came to Ottawa and asked Prime Minister Trudeau what was the problem with test- ing unarmed cruise missiles in Canada. Trudeau answered Bush by turning to Axworthy and saying ”œask him.”

Axworthy asks many of the right questions: ”œhow best to use our assets; what initiatives lend themselves to our particular strengths; when do we simply go along and when do we strike out on our own?” But some- times he just fails to provide an answer, like on the issue of whether the Ottawa process for land mines is replicable on other issues or was it just a one-off exercise. Sometimes the answers he provides demonstrate a very clear anti-American bias and are not grounded in a clear understand- ing of what fundamental Canadian interests are at stake as opposed to so- called Canadian values.

His chapter on relations with the United States (which also permeate almost every chapter of the book) is enti- tled ”œHow to Make Love to a Porcupine,” which he qualifies as ”œa test of how to tread a path between a good ally and joining in the fight or following our own lights in trying to create an internation- al system that controls the use of force and advances the rule of law.” The idea that these two options are mutually exclusive is one of the most troublesome aspects of Axworthy’s book. American cooperation and leadership is required in the creation of any international system which controls the use of force and advances international law. American absence from the League of Nations helped bring about its demise and has- tened the Second World War. American absence from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Kyoto Accord or even the Ottawa Land Mines Treaty renders them ineffective or less effective than they should be. Axworthy says that ”œour proximity, friendship and interdepend- ence with the US creates a relationship of incredible diversity, complexity, prosper- ity and security, but it also causes an unremitting torrent of pressures, which has the cumulative effect of calling into question our ability to choose the shape and contours of our community and how we relate to the rest of the world.” On the last page of his book he admits that his alternative road map ”œtakes into account that under different leadership the US is capable of using its immense power to create strong institutions and uphold the rule of law.” It is a pity that he did not devote more time to how best Canada might help encourage US. lead- ership in this direction.

Axworthy claims that the price paid by the Chrétien government for staying out of the Iraq War was to accept Canadian participation in mis- sile defence at a time when the changed strategic conditions made missile defence less relevant or necessary. I agree with this latter point, but he miss- es an even larger one: What do you do when your neighbour decides to pro- ceed anyway and puts you in the box of having to either acquiesce or see 50 years of our involvement in joint North American aerospace defence coopera- tion go out the window? The issue was and is totally independent of Canada’s position on the Iraq War.

Axworthy’s prescriptions for dealing with the new threat of terrorism are less than convincing. ”œSoft power” was never intended as a substitute for hard power. Harvard University Professor Joe Nye, who invented the concept of soft power, told me recent- ly he is coming out with a new book on the subject this spring because he says that some people have misunder- stood and misinterpreted his idea. Axworthy claims that he does recog- nize the role for hard power, but then proceeds to outline an agenda which focuses mainly on soft power.

Despite loudly proclaiming the need to respect rules and international law, Axworthy is critical of officials in Foreign Affairs during the turbot war with Spain as being ”œout of step with the prevailing view in Cabinet and the country.” The Chrétien government’s handling of this so-called ”œvital issue for Canada” was in clear violation of international law and the lawyers in DFAIT did not hesitate to point this out to their political masters, who were fired up by the jingoistic performance of Brian Tobin. Axworthy’s respect for international law is not therefore unconditional but is yet another man- ifestation of Hans Morgenthau’s famous principle that ”œit all depends on whose ox is being gored.”

Similarly his explanations as to why Canada agreed to participate in the Kosovo War without an author- izing UN Security Council resolution (I agree this was the right decision) and why he decided to take the whole land mines issue outside of the exist- ing UN machinery (I agree it was nec- essary to save it from a slow death) demonstrate clearly that neither Axworthy nor the Chrétien govern- ment always supported the primacy of the UN as proclaimed during the Iraq crisis of 2003.

Axworthy’s book also ignores the extent to which Canada’s influence in the wider world comes in part from having a special relationship with the United States rather than always trying to take issue with it.

There are many other aspects of Axworthy’s book which deserve atten- tion and many others which are plain frivolous. There are striking similarities between Axworthy’s arguments of the need for intervention when states fail to protect their citizens and those used by President Bush to invade Iraq.

Axworthy seems to forget that in idolizing Lester Pearson as ”œthe model” for his bridge-building role during Suez, for which he was award- ed the Nobel Peace Prize, Pearson wasn’t exactly staking out an inde- pendent Canadian role in opposition to the United States; in fact he used an American draft when putting his proposals on the table at the UN and supporting the US position. In so doing, Pearson was accused by the Conservative opposition as being ”œthe chore boy” of the United States, a label which didn’t stick to him, but which Axworthy tries to stick on those of us who believe that good rela- tions with the United States should be Canada’s top foreign policy priority.

Axworthy also forgets that his views on relations with the United States don’t quite parallel those of Pierre Elliott Trudeau whose 1971 ”œCanada-US Relations: Options for the Future” started out by saying that ”œthe challenge of living distinct from, but in harmony with, the world’s most powerful and dynamic nation, the United States, was one of two inescapable realities, both crucial to Canadian policy needs.” The other was national unity. Axworthy is strong on the distinctiveness but parsimonious on the need to live in harmony with the United States

Axworthy’s book should be read by those interested in the history of his time as foreign minister and in his prescriptions for the future of Canadian foreign policy, even if some of them may not be in Canada’s best interests. He has clearly outlined some of the dilemmas and pitfalls to be faced by the new Martin government in foreign policy and it will be inter- esting to see how Martin navigates through many of the shoals identified by Axworthy. 

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