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No White Knight Will Save You

Brent Cameron is a Senior Advisor with Concierge Strategies, and a local councillor in Ontario, Canada. The second edition of Brent H. Cameron’s 2005 book, “The Case for Commonwealth Free Trade: Options for a new globalization” is available on Amazon worldwide – both in paperback and in Kindle e-book formats.

For an inordinate amount of time, the world has been seized with the ongoing drama of an event that we have no direct stake in or influence on.

To be a non-American viewing the US election – and its rollercoaster-like trajectory – is akin to being a person watching the Super Bowl from the comfort of your own home. You can paint your face up, put on a jersey, cheer and groan on cue, but nothing you do will sway the result. You will not get dunked with a cooler full of Gatorade, nor will you get to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy over your head, and no sideline reporter is going to ask you whether or not your now going to Disneyland. You won’t get sprayed with champagne, nor will you get an enormously gaudy, diamond encrusted ring to show off to your friends and neighbours. You will turn off the TV, go to bed, then call in sick the next morning because the combination of copious amounts of beer and jalapeno poppers have weighed you low.

Regardless of who was going to win the White House, the Senate and the House, none of them are likely to have us foremost in mind. If the punditry on both sides are to be believed, most of those elected are accused of ‘not representing all Americans.’ If that is true, then where would a Canadian, Australian, Briton or New Zealander sit in the pecking order?

It is true that the United States has been the indispensable power in the building and maintaining of the liberal democratic international order that came out of World War II. It is also true that the United States is a highly self-interested actor and does not readily agree to any terms that would lessen or restrict its ability to act as a sovereign independent. Study the history of America from Washington to the present, and you can find Presidents even more nationalist and ‘America First’ than Donald Trump. You will also find that Joe Biden is just as unlikely to put the interests of someone in London, Sydney or Toronto above those of a truckdriver from Hoboken.

This is neither a complaint nor a criticism. It is right and proper that the leaders of nations should place the wellbeing, safety and security of their own citizens on a higher priority than those beyond their borders. One should suspect that the leadership of every country should look out for their own people. It is encoded into the DNA of the job description.

The problem for the rest of us is this means that the United States is likely to become even more focused on internal matters – healing the wounds that separate red states from blue, rich from poor, and average Americans from one another based on what they look like or how they pray.

The US is, in essence, going to more resemble the European Union – more fixated on deepening internal ties and strengthening the union than looking beyond its borders.

Unfortunately, at the same time America and Europe turn inward, Russia continues its erratic behaviour and China asserts its influence in the world in none too subtle a way.

Back in 2009, I had the privilege to have a long, private chat with someone whose name would be readily recognized by anyone reading this piece. I said to them that I felt Canada was a bit like the “Blanche Dubois of international affairs,” and that we tended to rely on “the kindness of strangers.” This takes nothing from the contributions of Canadians – both collective and individual – in helping win wars and maintaining peace. Canadian soldiers have always performed with distinction against great odds, but we have never done it alone.

From the moment Jacques Cartier dropped anchor in 1534 to the Plains of Abraham in 1759, we were part of a larger French Empire and able to leverage that for our benefit. Then, up to the end of the Second World War, we were part of a larger British Empire, with a status within that evolved from colony to self-governing dominion. Then, after 1945 we became part of a liberal international consensus led and backstopped by the United States. That means that from 1534 to today, Canada has been a part of a bigger, stronger collective effort, led by a bigger, stronger power.

That is, until now.

At present, we have an ascendant dictatorship in China and a quasi-rogue state in Russia – both with ambitions beyond their borders – and both America and Europe are pulling back from leading and defending the rules-based liberal democratic order. This is where we find ourselves.

People are welcome to believe that replacing Donald Trump with Joe Biden or getting a final resolution on Brexit and further EU integration is somehow going to save the day. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know it will not make a difference.

There are, on offer, two alternatives for us. One is a continuance with the status quo, where we resolve that if only we grow closer to China and Russia we can make them more reliable and convince them of the benefits of liberal democracy, that they will undertake the reforms necessary to be better partners. The other is to accept that they will not change and that, for the moment, America and Europe will not lead us out of this situation.

If you ascribe to the latter view, you have but one plan on offer – CANZUK.

Building a deep partnership among the four CANZUK countries creates a new liberal democratic pole in a multipolar world. Then, by aligning strategically with other Commonwealth countries, like India and Singapore, as well as with other like-minded powers, such as Japan and South Korea, you gain the critical mass necessary to ‘hold the line’. Eventually, as in the last world war, the US will resolve itself to join in the defence.

We can watch the drama unfold on our televisions, root for whoever we prefer to prevail, but the result will be like the big game – with nothing to show for it but a hangover and indigestion. There is no white knight who will ride into the castle to save us from our circumstances. But we can resolve to solve our problems ourselves, by our own hearts and heads, and our own efforts.

Canadians, Australian, New Zealanders and Britons may be powerless to affect the results of vote counts in Georgia or Michigan, but we are not powerless in affecting the course of global events. Rather than wait for leadership that won’t be coming anytime soon, let us resolve to be leaders ourselves.

 

About Brent Cameron

Profile photo of Brent Cameron
A writer and commentator on Commonwealth trade issues, Brent Cameron is the author of 'The Case for Commonwealth Free Trade' (2004, 2018) and numerous essays and articles. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of Commonwealth Exchange, a London, UK-based research group. Cameron worked as Telecommunications Coordinator for the Federal Ministry of Labour in Ottawa, Canada before joining SES Canada Research (now Nanos Research) as a Research Associate. He also worked as an assistant to former Ontario MPP Harry Danford, Member for Hastings-Peterborough and Parliamentary Assistant to Ontario's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Cameron was a member of the Advance Team for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney during the 1988 Canadian federal general election. During the 2007 Ontario Referendum on Electoral Reform, he acted as Coordinator for the 'No MMP' campaign for eastern Ontario (excluding Ottawa). Cameron has also served as a member and contributing columnist on the Community Editorial Board of the Kingston (ON) Whig-Standard newspaper. He holds an honours degree in politics from Queen's University and a Certificate in Municipal Administration from St. Lawrence College (Kingston, ON). In 2014, Brent Cameron was elected to the municipal council for the Township of Central Frontenac, in southeastern Ontario, Canada, and serving as Deputy Mayor in 2017.

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