Andrew Cohen is journalist and professor. He worked for the Financial Post and for the Globe and Mail. He is now teaching journalism and international affairs at Carleton University. In his 2002 book While Canada slept: How we lost our place in the world, he describes the decline of Canada in the world and its challenges forthe future. He thinks today’s Canadian international Policy is to be reviewed. Its budget shall be raised and the policies adjusted in order to affirm Canada’s traditional values and voice on the international scale.
In his book, Andrew Cohen refers to a “Golden Age for Canada’ Policy” (5). The Golden Age refers to the decades of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Yet the decline began approximately in the1960’s with Howard Green, the head of minister of External affairs saying that “the time had come “to drop the idea that Canada’s role in world affairs was to be an honest broker”” (132). Andrew Cohen focuses on the diplomacy practised during the Golden Age that “brought Canada influence and stature” (9). He is nostalgic of the generation of the “Renaissance Men” – Hume Wrong, Norman Robertson andLester Pearson – who represented the face of Canada’s international policy during the Golden Age Era. That Age was also characterised by a powerful army: in 1945, Canada had the fourth largest army in the world with 1.1 million soldiers. In 1951, Canada invested 6.6 per cent of its GNP in his international policy whereas today it spends only 1.1 (44).
Andrew Cohen says: “The problem begins withmoney and manpower” (47). We will focus our analysis, first, on the “manpower” Andrew Cohen points at; then, we will concentrate on the “money” concern. The analysis aims at answering the question: Was the “Golden Age” for Canada’s International Policy that Andrew Cohen refers to so golden and shall Canada really regret that “Golden Age”?
In his book, Andrew Cohen focuses on the type of menthe “Renaissance Men” were. “They were special, the renaissance men, and they were noticed” (130). They are described as elite men who were well-educated, well-mannered, good speakers, humanists, “modest, sardonic, confident and unsentimental” (125). They “lived in the Republic of Ideas and Letters” (128). They were internationally appreciated. The Golden Age seems to be triumphant thanks to thesetalented men, who managed to give a voice to Canada on the world scale.
However, the Golden Age was also the Age of the exclusion of talented persons on the basis of gender, sexual preferences or religion. “The foreign service included no women until 1947” (146) and “The department was hostile to homosexuals.” (146). Also, minorities –such as Jews- did not fit the model of the Renaissance Men.In 1955, a cabinet directive declared those with “defects of character” (148) –such as homosexuality- incapable of being civil servants. I therefore think that the Golden Age was an age of discriminatory irrational exclusion of talented individuals. That is why it does not seem to be so golden and praise worthy to me.
Times have changed and the challenges of today are different from thechallenges of yesterday. The nature of peacekeeping is different. As Andrew Cohen says: “In reality, peacekeeping is no longer peaceful. It is often more like combat. As imagined by Lester Pearson, it no longer exists.” (61). Peacekeeping is far more expensive and dangerous than it was during the “Golden Age” and some modern wars –such as the Iraqi and Afghani ones- are questionable and unsolvable. CanCanada afford these kinds of wars and this type of peacekeeping? Not only I do not believe that Canada can afford this but I also think that this situation does not seem to be in any way favourable to its interests. Andrew Cohen seems to be envious of the American war power and to its role in the world. Canada is not the United States and does not intend to be.
Andrew Cohen says: “We must...