Oh my, Canada. Our placid neighbors to the north revealed a violent streak this past week, when the Boston Bruins’ victory over the Canucks in Game 7 of the NHL finals led to rioting in the streets of Vancouver.
Is this anything more than an aberration, a one-off episode by disgruntled hockey fans too obsessed with hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup?
Maybe not, suggests a recent essay by University of Toronto public policy professor Irvin Studinin Global Brief, a Canadian international affairs magazine. Titled “Changing Luck and North America’s Wars,” the article says that, in the decades to come, new forces will emerge that could spark tensions between the the United States and Canada. Really.
Actually, the lack of conflict in the region over the past century, Studin explains, is a historical exception rather than the norm. North America (a term Studin uses to encompass Canada and the United States, but not Mexico) had been scarred by war in every previous century since the French and British showed up in the 1600s, from the Pequot War in 1637 to the U.S. Civil War. “For all practical intents and purposes, therefore, North America in the 20th century was the world’s luckiest continent,” the author writes. “This geopolitical luck meant that, while wars raged on other continents, North America could . . . calmly debate, plan and build prosperous societies.”
This luck — which Studin says has produced a “genetic national disinterest” within Canada for matters of strategy and world affairs — could be running out. The new century will present three forces that may upend old strategic calculations and behavior.
First, new technologies are giving more secondary or regional powers the ability to strike North America. (Such a prospect “focuses the mind,” Studin writes.) Second, the melting of Arctic ice means that “within a decade or two, foreign ships — private and military alike, friendly and hostile, competent and negligent — will begin to pass through the Northwest Passage and Arctic waters,” the author contends. The battle over the Arctic seabed’s natural resources, especially hydrocarbons, plus “popular paranoia about foreign interests promiscuously penetrating” the continent’s territory will force new thinking. And third, the United States’ relative decline as a superpower, which Studin considers likely by mid-century, will heighten North America’s perceived vulnerability and end the Canadian assumption that Washington would come to its aid in case of an attack.
What are the chances of such tensions and scenarios coming to fruition? Studin doesn’t specify. But if Scott Jones and Alexandra Thomas — the young couple famously caught on camera kissing in the middle of the riots — can keep things together in the face of their new notoriety, here’s hoping Ottawa and Washington can follow their example to make love, not war.