A Defeat for Anti-Americanism

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

ACCORDING TO his opponent, Canadian Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper exposed "an agenda really drawn from the extreme right in the United States." He favored the Iraq war, opposed the Kyoto treaty on global warming, and is a social conservative to boot. He might just become -- heaven forbid -- "the most pro-American leader in the Western world." His victory would -- O, Canada! -- "put a smile on George W. Bush's face." Despite all those scary warnings, Mr. Harper and his party won Canada's election on Monday. That put an end to 12 years of increasingly incoherent and corrupt rule by the Liberal Party -- as well as the cynical and irresponsible attempt of its leader, outgoing Prime Minister Paul Martin, to use anti-Americanism.

Mr. Martin becomes the second G-8 leader in four months to exit from office after discovering that anti-U.S. demagoguery is no longer enough to win an election. Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, also tried to rescue his political career last fall by parading his differences with Mr. Bush; the result was the victory of Angela Merkel, who has moved swiftly to repair relations with Washington. Interestingly, both Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Martin won previous campaigns by playing anti-American cards, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. While it's not clear that the level of ill feeling toward the United States or its president has changed much in Germany or Canada, it's obviously not the foremost concern of voters fed up with domestic mismanagement -- or, perhaps, political venality.

Mr. Harper is not as pro-American as the Liberal attack ads made out: He doesn't plan to send Canadian troops to Iraq and will certainly continue to press trade grievances with the Bush administration. But he has stated the sensible position that "we should obviously have good relations whenever possible with our closest ally and our biggest customer."

Whatever their feelings about Mr. Bush, most Canadians probably agree with that sentiment. Canada sells 85 percent of its exports to the United States and depends on it for security as well as prosperity -- a fact that Mr. Martin opportunistically overlooked when he refused to join the U.S. missile defense program. His grandstanding merely gave Mr. Bush an excuse to ignore Canada's legitimate complaints about tariffs on softwood lumber and the impact of new border controls due to take effect this year.

Mr. Harper can be expected to stop the self-defeating flow of bile, to offer more cooperation on defense, and to seek to be heard on trade and border issues. If he is wise, Mr. Bush will make an effort to listen, and find compromises, as he did this month with Ms. Merkel. Foreign political leaders who stick to a platform of friendship and cooperation with the United States in the teeth of anti-American mudslinging ought to be visibly rewarded. As for Mr. Martin, perhaps he will be tempted again by the example of Mr. Schroeder, who has taken a job as an agent for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Does Hugo Chavez need another lobbyist?


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