There was a commando group established during the Second World War that eloquently testified to the familiar, jocular relationship between the United States and Canada. The 1st Special Service Force was a combined unit that put together soldiers from the U.S. and Canadian military.
They trained, drank and fought together — like best buddies. “The Devil’s Brigade” was eulogized in the 1968 film of the same name that starred William Holden as the commanding officer of the unit.
I had the opportunity when I served in Canada’s military to meet one of these veterans, a soft-spoken but articulate man who told me he “was doing the same job that hundreds of thousands of others” were doing during the war.
But they did it damn well.
I was wondering this week, as I heard Donald Trump trash Canada and NAFTA, whether he knew about the Devil’s Brigade. I have heard him reference how Americans and Canadians have fought in wars together — as recently as Afghanistan and as far back as the First World War.
Clearly, the relationship had become febrile. While Trump claimed Canada was continuing to hurt the U.S. through its supply management dairy policy and other unspoken trade sins, he took time to praise how “great” Mexico has been in this whole process.
When’s the last time Mexicans fought alongside Americans in any foreign war? Does Mexico belong to any of the joint security organizations to which the U.S. and Canada belong — like NATO or NORAD? Does the U.S. have a shared continental defense posture with Mexico as it does with the U.S.? Does Mexico participate in U.S. military operations and exercises on a regular basis? Could Mexico, even for a minute, pretend to be America’s closest ally?
OK, those are all national security issues you might say and have nothing or little to do with trade issues. But as the president trumpets his bilateral trade deal with Mexico, is cognizant that America’s biggest trading partner is Canada and hundreds of thousands of jobs are continent upon free trade with that country?
Trump’s dressing-down of Canada on Wednesday night at his New York news conference may have been the final word of preserving NAFTA. The president claimed to have “many friends” in Canada but I’m here to tell him that he doesn’t. I’m one of the few Canadians in a public forum who will defend Trump and his policies. Every poll taken over the last year reveals the depth of Canadian hostility towards the president.
That’s unfortunate because I really believe Trump does “love Canada” as he claims to love just about everybody. But he doesn’t like Trudeau and he has just cause for not doing so.
Trudeau has persistently insisted that his social agenda of labor rights, gender equality and climate change legislation be included in the NAFTA deal — despite these pet issues having little or nothing to with cross-border trade. He deliberately embarrassed Trump at the G7 conference in Quebec last summer by deliberating pushing his left-wing agenda and pushing the president’s buttons.
Trump doesn’t like Trudeau’s chief NAFTA negotiator either — and again, he has good reason not to. Flighty and frumpy academic Chrystia Freeland has never missed an opportunity to muse on how regressive the American president is and how he has been edging American society closer to some nefarious authoritarian regime. At times, there is little distance between Freeland’s rhetoric and the absurd fancies of lefty filmmaker Michael Moore.
So, of course, Trump is mad at Trudeau and Freeland. He’s weary of Trudeau’s sanctimonious finger-jabbing, progressive fantasies and identity politics.
But so are many Canadians who increasingly wonder if Trudeau is deliberately sabotaging our trade relationship with the U.S. in order for the Liberal Party to run on an anti-Trump campaign theme in the 2019 federal election.
If Trudeau continues to fiddle at the United Nations while the NAFTA pact burns, he could well succeed in tanking the Canadian economy and be left with nothing with which to seek reelection except his ill-advised legislation to legalize marijuana.
Look past Trudeau, President Trump, because a lot of Canadians are also doing that.