From my perspective, it appears to be a first sign that the White House is catching onto the reality that their "go-it-alone" approach to things on the world stage just might not be working as planned. Not only is the mess in Iraq remaining stubbornly unresolved, but other aspects of the US relations with the rest of the world aren't going exactly as planned either. (Witness a plummeting US greenback, and distant relations at best with most of the EU; an alienated Middle East; China and Russia bristling at the US "Missile Defense" posture, among other things)
George Bush and Co. really do seem somewhat surprised that the world isn't welcoming their 'Six-Shooter Diplomacy' with adulation. What started in 2001 as "The War on Terror" seems to have been derailed by parties who have more extra-territorial agendas rather than any concrete interest in actually shutting down terrorist organizations.
I won't accuse our government's actions with regards to GWB & Co. these past few years of being particularly well advised. You might think Bush is an idiot (and he certainly isn't the brightest candle I've ever seen), but generally such opinions are best spoken with the inner voice, not verbally. Jean Chretien wasn't exactly very tactful in this regard, and that no doubt alienated Bush and many of his handlers. However, Bush hasn't exactly given Canadians any reason whatsoever to like him - under his tenure, US attitudes towards Canada have been as condescending and rude as I can remember under any President.
Of course, with Dubya visiting, everyone is expected to be on our "best behaviour". No slamming the President - no matter how daft he looks; keep the criticisms of US foreign policy to a minimum; etc. In short - smile and play nicely.
In my travels on the web this morning, I found Peter Worthington's column in the Toronto Sun. In it, Mr. Worthington is going on about all of the faux-pas things that Canada has done in the last few years with regards to the US. About mid-way through his line of reasoning, I went mildly ballistic reading this paragraph:
In fact, what this visit means is a return to square one, and a bid to restore cordial relations between our two countries.
That said, the real burr under Bush's saddle remains Canada's (read, Chretien's) reaction to the war against Saddam Hussein which Bush felt vital in the war against terrorism.
Sorry, Mr. Worthington, Iraq had EXACTLY ZERO TO DO WITH TERRORISM. That was so painfully obvious when Bush starting thumping on his war drums it wasn't even funny. If there was anything to do with terrorism in that invasion, it could have been no more than the thinnest of veneers over the real intentions. Every single justification put forth vis a vis invading Iraq has been disproven time and again. Saddam Hussein did not have any WMD's, he did not have any significant nuclear capabilities, the evidence about relations with al Qaeda is incontrovertibly negative. There can only be a few explanations that make sense - either US "Intelligence" failed miserably; or the Bush administration knew they were trying to sell a pack of lies. (I'd wager on the latter more so than the former - even at its most inept, the CIA has more information available to it than most of us can imagine. Keeping tabs on what a klutz like Hussein is doing isn't that difficult)
But we didn't. We made not joining the war against Saddam a virtue. Chretien (and others) indulged in the absurd notion that we can only go to war if the UN Security Council approves.Sorry, but here again, I must disagree with the underlying assumption of Mr. Worthington's logic. The assumption being that going to war is something that can be justified even when the apparent threat is even more 'smoke-and-mirrors' than a dot-com era business plan. Not going to war _WAS_ and _IS_ the correct decision. Hussein represented a threat only to those who displeased him within his borders. No evidence beyond that has ever emerged to my knowledge. If making a decision, and standing by it is a bad thing, Mr. Worthington, I suggest to you that Mr. Bush is guilty of the same fault. He made a decision to invade Iraq, even in the face of resistance from around the world.
Canada, for those who forget, sided with France and Germany in their hostility to the war. France's opposition was especially jarring, considering how it (and Russia) profited in the UN's "oil for food" program with Saddam -- as did the UN in agent's fees.Ah yes. France profiteered from the Oil for Food program. Therefore, anyone who argued against invading Iraq must be sharing in France's questionable politics. Sorry pal - that's the simplest kind of straw man argument I've ever seen. The implicit assumption is FALSE to begin with, and therefore the whole argument is self-contradictory. France's motives in arguing against invading Iraq do not invalidate every other country that is arguing along similar lines. Canada was not (to my knowledge) engaging in any trade to speak of with Iraq, and yet was making similar arguments, as were China and a number of other countries.
No - sorry - if Mr. Worthington wants to go lick GWB's boots in apology, he's free to do so. Perhaps the one major decision that Chretien ever made that I agreed with was to stand his ground and tell the United States that invading Iraq was the wrong thing to do. If GWB doesn't like that, and wants to continue to act the petulant child over it, he has a great deal to learn about relations with other countries. If you truly respect freedom and all that entails, you must respect the right of your closest neighbors and allies to disagree with you in the strongest of terms.