Watching events unfold across the globe (and closer to home) these days is somewhat akin to taking part in a Pinter play. (To save those of a younger age the trouble of checking Google, Harold Pinter was a British Nobel Prize winning playwright whose biting politically charged works often bordered on, if not dove headfirst into, absurdity.) All bets are off and some world leaders (read primarily POTUS) seem determined to play piñata with the Sword of Damocles or some kind of ill-advised game of chicken.
Leaving the current political environment at Queen’s Park behind us for a moment, there will be plenty of time for pondering that particular set of conundrums later, this week we have seen the US step away from its traditional role as leader of the free world, bulwark of the G7 and staunch Canadian partner and ally and into a scenario typically more familiar in an unsupervised children’s playground.
After hitting Canada, the US’s largest, most integrated trade partner and staunchest ally, with tariffs on steel and aluminum (which is basically a balanced exchange) on the bizarre basis of national security, then referencing the burning of the White House during the War of 1812 by way of justification, “sleeping in” and trying to slip unnoticed, like an errant school boy, unnoticed into the G7 meeting to the ridicule of those who were able to make it in before the opening remarks and then leaving the meeting early, reacting with outrage and insults when Canada’s prime minister refuses to bow to bullying tactics and finally, railing with rage about dairy supply management when his own farmers in Wisconsin remain unconcerned about the issue—one can be forgiven for thinking the portrait of global politics has turned into a painting by Dali.
This isn’t artistry or philosophical positioning, it’s just plain goofy. And just about the last thing the world needs right now is a one-up-manship populist upending the chess board in an ill-considered temper tantrum—especially one with a finger on the buttons. Can we take some comfort in the thought that Donald Trump has likely not read the operating manual on the nuclear launch codes?
The world has witnessed a xenophobic leader of a major world power who operated solely on brinksmanship backed by a megalomaniacal belief in the supremacy of his own resources not all that long ago. It turned out badly for a very large number of people.
We stand by our prime minister’s retort to this generation’s globe threatening maniac. We will not be bullied.
Shutting down trade between Canada and the US might have some long-term benefits to shoring up US industry, but the short term impact on the people of both of our countries will be severe and made even worse for the fact that it is totally unnecessary. What worked in the 18th century to build up American industry when everything still moved at a horse-drawn pace is hardly a dependable blueprint for success when things now move at the speed of electrons.
Isolating the United States and alienating its closest friend, indeed pretty much all of its friends, is more likely to be a recipe for disaster.
The fall of US global hegemony will not likely happen overnight, but we may well be witnessing the beginning of that slide. Rome was not built in a day—but its decline came about with mind-bending swiftness in historical terms. History abounds with lessons that the US leadership had best heed if they do not want their empire to follow its predecessors into the dustbin.
It’s time to rein in the clowns.