Essays on American politics and foreign policy

By Donald E. Nuechterlein

Donald Nuechterlein is a political scientist and writer who resides near Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of numerous books on American politics and foreign policy, including

  • Defiant Superpower: The New American Hegemony, 2005
  • America Recommitted: A Superpower Assesses its Role in a Turbulent World, 2000
  • A Cold War Odyssey, 1997


Donald Nuechterlein


MARCH 2005

President Bush's recent "charm offensive" in Europe partially allayed fears that his second term might be as defiant of European interests as his first. He seems to have persuaded French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that he now desires to work in collaboration instead of unilaterally in the Middle East.

Closer to home, however, things were not going so well.

Take Canada, for example. In a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced in late February that Canada would not participate in the president's high priority missile defense shield for North America. The

Washington Post [Feb. 25, A18] called the decision a "snub to Bush, who had sought partnership" and had pressed Martin on the issue during a visit to Ottawa last fall.

Showing U.S. displeasure, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled a planned visit to Canada. Washington also decided to continue with a ban on the import of Canadian beef, in which a few cases of mad cow disease had been found last year..

Deteriorating relations with Canada should be deeply troubling to Americans.

For sixty-five years, since 1940, Canada and the United States have cooperated fully on North American defense. The joint North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), located in Colorado, is the cornerstone of a shared U.S.-Canadian interest to prevent aerial attacks on any part of the continent.

To the south, Mexico reportedly pursues measures that make more difficult the job of the U.S. Border Patrol. News from Mexico suggests that, far from discouraging illegal immigration into the United States, government authorities are facilitating the flow by demonstrating how it can be accomplished without detection.

Mexican President Vincente Fox, whom George Bush considered among his best foreign friends in 2001, is frustrated with the Bush administration and Congress for not acting on his high priority project to arrange amnesty for millions of Mexicans working illegally in the United States.

One of the most contentious issues before Congress is a bill to deny drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. Were it to become law, millions of undocumented Mexicans and others would be unable to get to work unless their U.S. employers provided transportation. It would force many to leave or go on welfare. Meanwhile, illegal drug trafficking from Mexico continues unabated.

Most Americans are so absorbed with wars in the Middle East and the terrorist threat at home that they seem unaware of what is happening on our own borders. And the media gives scant coverage to political developments in Canada and Mexico. One reason is that no serious violence has occurred on those borders, unlike the situation in Iraq and in Palestine. Another is that we simply take these neighbors for granted.

However, it is a mistake to think they could not seriously damage the American economy, should they curtail the export of oil or the import of U.S. products. At present, Canada is the world's largest supplier of oil to the U.S. market and Mexico is not far behind. They are also the largest importers of American goods and services.

Venezuela, another major exporter of oil to the U.S. market, is a growing problem for Washington. Its anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, has tightened his grip on that country's democratic institutions while giving support to Marxist rebels in neighboring Colombia. Chavez also supplies low priced oil to his good friend, Cuba's Fidel Castro.

In Nicaragua the Marxist Sandinist Party, which dominated the country in the 1980s, has made a comeback and its leader, Daniel Ortega, could win the presidency in upcoming elections. Ortega was the leader that Ronald Reagan tried to oust in the 1980s.

In other Latin American countries--Brazil, Argentina, and recently Uruguay--leftist parties have won control of their governments through elections in which millions of poor voters rejected the policies of the conservatives. The new governments are less cooperative with Washington than their predecessors on foreign policy issues.

There seems little doubt that one reason for this new assertiveness in Canada and Latin American countries is the sharp decline in America's international prestige because of George Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Public opinion in Canada and Mexico strongly opposed his decision to defy the United Nations and important European countries. Neither government provided support for the war or the occupation. When Spain, with long cultural ties with Latin America, withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2004, the move had a ripple effect and reinforced the opposition to American policy.

The anti-Americanism in Canada and Latin America highlights the great difficulty the United States encounters whenever it goes to war without the support of the United Nations or key NATO allies.

It is a price America pays for being the world's hegemonic superpower.

File last modified on Monday, 15-MAR-2005 09:56 PM EST

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