Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies

Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies

Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies

Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies

Synopsis

"Canada and the United States offers a current, thoughtful assessment of relations between the two countries. Distilling a mass of detail concerning cultural, economic, and political developments of mutual importance over more than two centuries, this survey enables readers to grasp quickly the essence of the shared experience of these two countries."

Excerpt

The first edition of Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies, published in 1994, began with our comment that “the inclusion of a volume on Canada in a series on The United States and the Americas is an ironic reflection of changing international realities.” Since we wrote that sentence, the justification for discussing Canada as an “American” nation has become much more obvious. Canada’s manifest ties to the Western Hemisphere grew more evident with the 1987 Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States, with Canada’s decision to join the Organization of American States, and most particularly with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) encompassing Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

For more than two hundred years, the relationship between the United States and what gradually emerged from the Second British Empire as the Canadian nation-state has been intense. Substantial and minor conflicts, bilateral and multilateral institution building, tranquility and turbulence have marked those two centuries. Since the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, the term “undefended border” has fallen from favor. Many scholars and politicians, however, stoutly maintain that a “special relationship” links Washington and Ottawa. They assert that the U.S.-Canadian relationship is unlike any other international interaction, and that the fundamental maxim of international relations—that nations have no friends, only interests—does not apply to the United States and Canada.

These platitudes belie the dissonance of the nineteenth century and exaggerate the harmony of the twentieth; as the twenty-first century unfolds, they seem archaic. We argue in Ambivalent Allies that the notion of a special relationship is more useful for after-dinner speeches than for historical analysis. What is most important for historians who would understand the binational relationship is to appreciate the shifting international context in which it evolved and continues to evolve.

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