It has been three decades since Robert Charlebois made his musical contribution to the long-running debate over whether Canada and the United States were on a path of convergence or divergence. Typically, as with the Charlebois song, ”œVivre en ce pays,” it takes a Canadian to raise the issue, and in a manner unsympathetic to the observed trend, should it be adjudged a convergent one. Though the dichotomy rarely gets presented so melodious- ly as it did by the Quebec singer, it has been a staple of dis- course among policy intellectuals in Canada for nearly as long as anyone can remember. Nor can it be expected to disappear any time soon.
Thus anyone contemplating the recent, current or future state of Canada-US relations can do worse than to resort to this familiar dichotomy, convergence/divergence. This binary distinction has been given a fillip by the recent success of Michael Adams’s comparative study of Canada-US social values. As readers of Fire and Ice will know, Adams and his associates, drawing upon survey data and a bit of creative interpretation, have managed to present a picture of near- total divergence between Canadians and Americans when it comes to those things they label ”œsocial values” ”” sometimes in the process appearing a bit too Procrustean in trying to demon- strate their thesis. For instance, an observer from svelter parts of the plan- et than our rather chunky North America might be tempted to discern that the two societies’ twinned obesity crisis surely constitutes evidence of societal convergence; not so, say Adams and associates, for whom the ever more porcine profiles of North Americans stand as proof of societal divergence, and this on the curious claim that Canadians, in bulking up, are doing so less fulsomely than Americans! Just as one person’s potato chip can be another person’s parsnip, so too can one’s divergence be in the belly of the beholder: consider that for Adams and company, 65 percent of Americans being overweight, as opposed to a mere 48 percent of Canadians, constitutes ”œ[a]nother indicator of the diverging lifestyles of Americans and Canadians.”
Still, it is hard to argue with the strong implication of the authors that they really are dealing with two separate societies, and it is equally hard to reject their conclusion that Canada is unlikely to disappear any time soon (though why they should think this needs to be said remains a mystery, at least to me). More interesting is whether divergence trends of today, such as they are ”” and Adams does present less-specious claims in respect of a variety of matters having little to do with caloric intake ”” should be seen as representing a departure from historical trends, a mere gloss on them, or even a relative reversal of them. For instance, anyone looking at our two societies during, say, that three-generation-long period of ethnic cleansing we know of as the Franco- British intercolonial wars, which took place between 1689 and 1763, would have been hard-pressed to detect much in the way of convergence, save that emanating from the mouth of a cannon, the blade of a tomahawk or the point of a bayonet. Nor would convergence have been the first image to pop into the minds of those observers of Canadian-American rela- tions during the period spanning the American Revolution and the Alaska Panhandle boundary dispute.
It has really only been since the founding of the Canadian-American security community in the early 20th century that the interrogations regard- ing societal convergence have taken on policy salience, and usually the concerns have been expressed by Canadians not Americans. This should surprise no one, given that for a coun- try like Canada, which lives next door to such a powerful America, there must always be reason to query whether ”œsovereignty” might be placed at risk should the two countries become too interdependent societally. For sure, there is also a sovereignty risk should the two countries become, in the realm of security and defence, too divergent, and we saw this on display early in the 20th-century when some Canadian leaders worried that an iso- lationist US might not be willing to guarantee Canada’s security against certain European powers, and more recently when the anxiety has revolved around Americans being thought only too willing to “help” Canadians should the latter be unresponsive to perceived threats to America’s physical security involving Canada’s territory or policies, or both.
Mostly, however, it is the sover- eignty implications of convergence rather than of divergence that set the tone of the debate, and the Adams book is no exception. Thus, to the extent that policy choices can work to facilitate, or at least celebrate, societal divergence, it has been Canadians more than Americans who have expressed interest in mak- ing such choices. One thinks, in this regard, of Canadian policies in respect of cultural protectionism: Canada is the policy initia- tor, and the desire clearly is to mitigate or reverse what- ever convergent patterns loom as threats. So it is not unusual, when we turn our binary lens toward other issue areas, to expect to see something similar; to the extent a proactive policy is invoked to stay or reverse the convergent trends, we should expect it to be more the work of Ottawa than of Washington.
Surprisingly, given its insistence upon the theme of divergence, Fire and Ice accepts that convergence can and does dominate in other, quite impor- tant, spheres of policy, and that notwithstanding such convergence, the social-values gaps Adams identifies can be expected to grow larger. I say ”œsurprisingly” because recent evidence (e.g. the Iraq war) might suggest less security and defence convergence than Adams detects. But even if the Iraq war turns out to be just a bump on the road to greater interoperability between the US and Canadian mili- taries, it might still be argued that if ”œsecurity” policy embraces ”œforeign” policy, then the recent trend in this sphere constitutes prima facie evi- dence for the divergence thesis.
Even more than in the case of social-values divergence, the impe- tus in security and defence divergence primarily stems from within American rather than Canadian society. But when it comes to policy responses intended to cope with societal devel- opments, it is the US, rather than Canada, that sets the pace, and in so doing introduces a marked differentiation in foreign policies with- in North America. In other words, America turns out to be the divergent partner in this issue area; it goes where Canada cannot follow. This is so because of the emergence of the one element in America’s strategic culture that finds so little echo in Canada ”” a strategic-cultural element bearing the label ”œJacksonianism.”
Many observers have remarked on how much America’s foreign policy seems to be parting company from the policies of most of the country’s tradi- tional allies, Canada among them. Some see the divergence as being a function of relative capability, a thesis expounded most suggestively by Robert Kagan’s 2003 essay, Of Paradise and Power, in which it is argued that America, these days, is from Mars, while Europe (into which grouping we can place Canada) hails from Venus. The planetary symbolism stands for an America possessed of great power and intending to wield it, and a Europe/Canada bereft of military prowess, hence naturally inclined toward more pacific means of problem solving.
Other observers turn to different, non-celestial families of symbols in their bid to ascribe strategic-cultural meaning to trends in American foreign policy. Whereas Kagan makes strategic culture a variable dependent upon relative capa- bility, these other analysts claim it is the culture that conditions the policy, not the reverse. Walter Russell Mead, for instance, offers us cogent insights into that policy through the use of eponymy, taking the names of personages in American history as a shorthand means of expressing powerful claims about contending policy approaches. In the following section, I am going to apply Mead’s four-fold categorization of US policy approaches to the Canadian con- text, in a bid to show that the recent ascendancy of one of those schools, called by Mead the Jacksonians, goes far to explaining the divergences of the day between US and Canadian foreign and security policy. I would argue that in this issue area, divergence really does capture contemporary trends more accurately than convergence. It is the US, not Canada, that is responsible for the gap, because Jacksonianism happens to be, alone of the four policy orienta- tions, the one that has historically found little resonance in Canada’s own strategic culture.
Before we can apply Mead’s epony- mous schema to the Canadian case, we need to ask, In what does it consist? Mead titled his book, Special Providence, after a quip Bismarck is alleged to have made about God having a special provi- dence for fools, drunkards and the United States of America. He invokes this not because he agrees with the Iron Chancellor, but because he believes that a legacy of policy wisdom enshrined in four traditional schools, or paradigms, accounts for America’s having done so well for itself in the international state system, considering that it began life in the anarchical society as a skinny little waif and managed to grow into a strapping geopolitical specimen; this had little to do with luck, or providence, and nearly everything to do with sound public policy as provided by contending schools of wisdom. Those schools, Mead names Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian and Jacksonian. Though the second bears the name of a political figure, Woodrow Wilson, associated more with the 20th century than with the early years of the republic, Mead insists that all four schools have been present since the founding of the country.
The Hamiltonians represent the first of two dominant strands of what has been labelled the ”œAnglo-American tradi- tion” in foreign affairs. It is a tradition whose principal preoccupation has been upon fostering global economic and political order, in contradistinc- tion to a continental European tradi- tion of Realpolitik, with its stress upon zero-sum competition for economic and geopolitical stakes. For Hamiltonians, it was indispensable that American foreign policy be as closely aligned as possible with Britain’s, so that together the two states could pursue a vision of world order in which rules-based institutions could ensure the spread of trade, pros- perity and good international gover- nance via institutions congenial to American interests; during the 20th century, Hamiltonians often represent- ed the dominant trend in America’s foreign policy, and did so as recently as the administration of the first President Bush.
The Wilsonians constituted the second strand of the Anglo-American tradition, and if their stress upon working closely with Great Britain resembled that of the Hamiltonians, their reasons for doing so differed in emphasis placed upon the ends, not just the means, of policy. Whereas the Hamiltonians wanted a rules-based world open to American economic interests, the Wilsonians wanted something in addition: they sought a world order in which other countries’ systems of government might come to resemble America’s own democratic practices. The Wilsonians drew inspi- ration from nonconformist British political and religious figures of the mid-19th century and after, and insist- ed upon an American duty, as well as right, actively to reform others. At times during the 20th century, Wilsonianism would set the tone for American foreign policy, most recently during the Clinton era with its deter- mination to use America’s might to help expand the zone of peace in Europe, and perhaps even outside of Europe.
Decidedly less enamoured of either of the two globalist tendencies described above are adherents of the third school, the Jeffersonians. For them, the best foreign policy a country such as America can adopt is a modest foreign policy, for to Jeffersonians the primary duty that Americans have to themselves and to the world is to perfect democracy at home, and not seek to export it. Mead provocatively terms them the ”œStalinists” of the American revolution, not because of any nasty disposition they might have toward civil liberties (just the reverse, they are champions of civil liberties!) but because of their insistence upon the urgency of perfecting the (dem- ocratic) revolution at home, and not to do what the ”œTrotskyites” ”” i.e. the Wilsonians ”” want, namely to internationalize it. To use imagery provided by a histo- rian of pronounced Jeffersonian leanings, Walter McDougall, America should concentrate upon attaining the ”œpromised land” and resist the temptation to style itself a ”œcrusader state.” Usually, Jeffersonianism has been a minoritarian perspective in modern American diplomacy, but it did achieve pre-eminence during the interwar years.
The fourth school is Jacksonianism, now attaining policy prominence in George W. Bush’s administration, and in post 9/11 America. It is the Jacksonians, Mead tells us, who are the least understood of the four schools, largely because of a tendency of so many policy analysts and other pundits to denigrate the social origins and folkways of this grouping, which finds itself with very little representation among the coun- try’s chattering classes. Jacksonians represent a populist, and muscular, approach to life in general and foreign policy in particular, one that corre- sponds at times with the Jeffersonians’ injunction to stay out of ”œforeign” quarrels, but easily rises to the chal- lenge whenever American interests, institutions or communities are exposed to attack; in those cases, the Jacksonians reveal themselves to be the country’s warrior caste, and when they make war, they believe in com- pleting the job, hence do not shrink from total war.
Although all four tendencies are marked with an evident Anglo- American stamp, it is only in the case of the Jacksonians that great attention is paid to ethnic roots. They are, in so many ways, representative of America’s ”œfolk ideology,” as opposed to the ”œbook ideology” that is Jeffersonianism. Specifically, they incarnate folkways that have their ori- gins in the long-disputed border region of northern England and southern Scotland, whence came scores of thousands to America, with some stopping on the way to establish residence in Northern Ireland before resuming their journey westward in the fourth, and last, great wave of British immigration to America during the 18th century, lasting from 1718 to 1775. Hence the name given, with some ethno-cultural inexactness, to the group as the Scotch-Irish (often Scots-Irish). Once in America, these border folk migrated to what was then the western frontier, what we would later know to be Appalachia, or the Southern Highlands. There, folkways and customs of longstanding were given ample opportunity to reproduce themselves on the part of an ener- getic, disputatious and xenophobic people who constituted a ”œdistinct society” within early America’s other- wise Eurocentric, and heavily Anglo- Saxon, population.
What is noteworthy, for contem- porary policy purposes, is the existence of a Jacksonian ”œcode” that continues to structure societal rela- tions among the grouping. Its core features include an unusual prominence accorded to ”œhonour” (meaning that one ”œdisses” a Jacksonian only at some peril); populist emphasis upon social equality irrespective of one’s level of income; tenacious defence of individ- ual liberty; financial ”œesprit,” in the sense that spending beyond one’s means is not considered improvident but simply one’s entitlement as an equal citizen; and, most importantly, a willingness to kill and to die for one’s country.
It is this last trait, stemming from the lengthy legacy of conflict in the Jacksonians’ original hearthstead of the Scottish-English border, that so warrants our attention. As cultural his- torian David Hackett Fischer explains in Albion’s Seed:
The border derived its cultural character from one decisive his- torical fact. For seven centuries, the kings of Scotland and England could not agree who owned it, and meddled constantly in each other’s affairs. From the year 1040 to 1745, every English monarch but three suffered a Scottish invasion, or became an invader in his turn. In the same period, most Scottish kings went to war against England, and many died ”œwith their boots on,” as the border saying went….. Dynastic struggles between the monarchs of England and Scotland were only a small part of the border’s sufferings. The quarrels of kings became a criminal’s opportunity to rob and rape and murder with impunity…. This incessant violence shaped the culture of the border region, and also created a social system which was very different from that in the south of England.
For Jacksonians, the golden rule is ”œdo unto others as they threaten to do unto you.” To Jacksonians, one can do much worse than to mete out justice according to the lex talionus, adjuring an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Although it would be wrong to see in the foreign policy of the current Bush administration total Jacksonian domi- nance, the impact of this folkway on contemporary US foreign and security policy remains considerable. And it is this, more than anything else, that has led recently to the apparent reversal of the convergence in security and defence policy that had been charac- terizing Canada-US relations through the Clinton administration.
When commentators remark upon the phenomenon of ”œred state” America, by which they mean those states on televised electoral maps car- ried by George W. Bush in the 2000 election (Al Gore’s victories being coloured blue), they are mainly talking about Jacksonian America. This is not the first time that Jacksonianism has featured largely in American foreign and security policy, but it is probably the first time since the era that gave it its name that it has mattered so much, to America and its allies.
Canada, no less than America’s European allies, has a stake in these strategic-cultural changes, as I intend to demonstrate in this section, taking a methodological leaf from Fire and Ice. Adams and associates have ”œplot- ted” Canada on the social-values ”œmap” they drew up on the basis of American societal values as those could be induced from survey data. In Adams’s words,
[u]ltimately, my data-crunching colleagues and I decided that, for the sake of both accuracy and simplicity of explanation (how rare that those two criteria demand the same solution), it would be best to plot Canada passively on the US map. When I say ”œpassively,” I mean that Canadians’ responses to our questions are not used in the calculations that bring about the construction of the map itself; they are just used to situate Canada within the American socio-cul- tural landscape…. So, in plotting Canada passively onto the US map, we are essential- ly treating Canadians as a subset of the US population.
Accordingly, what I propose here is that we ”œplot” Canada on a strategic-culture map fashioned along the lines of Walter Russell Mead. When we do so, we notice how awk- ward a fit there can be between the Jacksonians and the schools of American foreign policy that Canadians find more congenial to their interests. And while some profess to detect a distinctive Canadian ”œway” in foreign policy, it might be more helpful to suggest that there are a set of North American foreign policy dispen- sations within which Canada’s own preferences can be variably nested, more or less comfortably. At the time of impending German unification in 1989, Ernst Weisenfeld asked the French what kind of Germany they wanted, in a book entitled Quelle Allemagne pour la France? The answer to a similar question put to Canadians would find them responding, ”œjust about anything other than Jacksonianism would work for us.”
For if we contemplate Mead’s other three schools, what is striking is not how divergent they are from Canadian preferences and instincts, but rather how much each of them has found an echo in Canada’s own foreign and secu- rity policies. Consider the Hamiltonians, who represent Canada’s longest-lived foreign-policy orienta- tion. From Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy to Brian Mulroney’s Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, it has been axiomatic that Canada find eco- nomic succour within the bosom of a large, English-speaking ”œempire.” Sure, the identity of the principal partner might have varied between 1867 and
1989, but the principle was constant: to find for Canada a place in a rules-based international system within which the country’s commercial and other eco- nomic interests could flourish. With the cementing of Anglo-American soli- darity in the 20th-century, the heights of bliss were scaled for Canadian Hamiltonians, not a few of whom even claimed that Canada’s own service as a linchpin connecting the Anglo-Saxon democracies made a material contribu- tion to their solidarity.
Nor have Wilsonians been missing from the Canadian strategic-cultural landscape. Lester B. Pearson can be taken as emblematic of the more insti- tutionalist, pragmatic side of Wilsonianism, with his well-known fondness for multilateral institutions as the mechanism best suited for the promotion of Canadian interests. And Lloyd Axworthy represents the idealis- tic extreme of Wilsonianism, in which the objective switches from simply making the world institutionally ”œsafer” for democracy to making it actually more democratic, if need be by interfering directly in the affairs of sovereign states in a bid to get them to treat their own people more in keeping with Canadian desires. For if the logi- cal extension of Wilsonianism is the proclaiming of a duty as well as a right to intervene, then what is the doctrine of ”œhuman security” other than Canadian wording for Wilsonianism?
Finally, although it flatters us to think of Canada as a leading ”œinterna- tionalist” state, there is also another side of the story, measured not in terms of what we say but of what we do. For though talking the talk of Wilsonianism might be as easy for Canadians as skating, things are other- wise when it comes actually to muster- ing the resources needed to render the talk ethically palatable. ”œLimited liabili- ty,” a Jeffersonian injunction par excel- lence, did not disappear with the end of Mackenzie King’s long reign over Canadian foreign policy; rather, it con- tinues today as a constant, though sel- dom acknowledged, aspect of Canadian strategic culture, epitomizing the least salubrious aspect of Jeffersonianism: its meanness of spirit and its hypocrisy. But there is also a more positive face of Jeffersonianism, one that insists we must always take the good with the bad: its emphasis upon intervening only when one really has to, and its insistence that the cardinal rule of for- eign policy is to preserve individual rights and liberties at home. In many (though not all) ways, Pierre Trudeau represented that positive face of Jeffersonianism. And, though it will come as a surprise to many to hear it suggested, Jean Chrétien could also be regarded as a Jeffersonian, of both the less and the more positive kidney.
Where the search for Canadian cognates becomes more difficult is when we turn our attention to Jacksonians. Perhaps in this respect Kagan is correct: relative capability explains strategic culture. Perhaps there can be no robust Jacksonianism in Canada because the country is too short on the ”œaggregated capability” required to make the martial option in defence of honour and interest an appealing one? I suspect there is something else to the puzzle that we need to explore, and in my con- cluding remarks I briefly touch upon this.
There are two problems raised by the claim that Canadian and American divergence is largely a function of America’s recent drift toward Jacksonianism. The first is a policy puzzle, the other more of a scholarly conundrum.
Take the policy puzzle, best summed up in this question: ”œIf the prob- lem is Jacksonianism, what is the solu- tion?” Here when we speak of ”œproblem” we mean the impact upon Canadian interests of changes in America’s policy, and the ”œsolution” consists in the adaptation(s) possible to imagine that might render less stressful America’s recent divergence from Canada’s preferred US foreign policy. Obviously, the answers will vary accord- ing to the analyst, but let us posit a ”œgood news ”” bad news” distinction. In the most ideal case, Canadian policy- shapers really need do nothing other than wait for the November elections in the US, and hope that John Kerry will return America to any of the three more congenial policy orientations discussed above. A criticism one often hears in red state America of Kerry is that he is from Massachusetts; from the perspec- tive of the Michael Adamses of the world, this is extremely comforting, for does not Adams conclude Fire and Ice by acknowledging the basal similarity between Canadians’ social values and those of residents of the Bay State? In reflecting upon a future American inter- est in absorbing Canada as the fifty-first state, Adams takes comfort from the thought that Canada would simply prove too difficult, societally, for America to swallow: ”œCan you imagine American conservatives allowing in their midst one huge Massachusetts?”
Suppose the ideal case does not materialize? Here the policy options fac- ing Canada would seem to involve learn- ing to put the best possible face on divergence, assuming that the Jacksonian persuasion is going to enjoy a longer run than its critics wish for it.
Space does not allow any discussion of what those options might be, but here I only wish to point out that if foreign and security policy divergence can at times be a good thing from the point of view of ”œidentity” enhancement, it can be a very bad thing from the perspective of interest (including sovereignty) protec- tion. So if Jacksonianism does endure, Canadian policy planners will be very busy designing ways in which this least ”œCanadian” of all US policy dispensations might get a modicum of Maple Leaf wrapped around it.
That it will not be easy to do this leads us to the scholarly conundrum: why, in a country such as Canada that is said to been so heavily settled by people of British, including Scottish, origin, has this one Anglo-Saxon folkway that we call Jacksonianism been so inconspicu- ous? I have no ready answer to this question, though several responses suggest themselves, including one drawn from historical learning ”” namely, that it could hardly be expected that Jacksonian symbolism, in large part a function of the American victory at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, could have much appeal to Canadians.
An earlier version of this article was presented at the confer- ence, ”œThe Canada ”” United States Relationship: Convergence or Divergence?” co-sponsored by the McGill University Institute for the Study of Canada and the Center for the Study of Canada, Plattsburgh State University, May 2004.