The Long Polar Watch and Canada's Changing Defence Policy 1957-1963
Perhaps the most surprising element upon reviewing two books addressing US-Canada security from the 1960s - The Long Polar Watch by Melvin Conant and Canada's Changing Defense Policy 1957-1963 by Jon B. McLin - is how thoroughly they have disappeared.1
Prior to undertaking this analysis, I spent 50 years as a student of political science and international relations, a practicing US diplomat specializing in politicomdlitary affairs, and a researcher-author on topics relating to foreign affairs and, most relevantly for this assessment, spent almost 20 of those years devoted to US-Canada relations, including four years as the political minister counseUor in the US embassy in Ottawa. But never during these years did I encounter either book. Indeed, neither was present in the admittedly sparse embassy Ottawa library of Canadian- U S books, but nor are they carried in the Department of State's sophisticated diplomatic-oriented library, let alone in local Washington area collections. Nor do I recaU the names of either Conant or McLin passing the lips or inscribed by the pens or computers of the hundreds of speakers, lecturers, authors, or other pertinent interlocutors on Canada-US bilateral relations that I encountered over the past two decades.
Indeed, so little mark did they leave on Canadian- U S studies that Conant's obituary does not even mention The Long Polar Watch as part of his life's body of work.
Such an observation is not to dismiss the quality of the Conant or McLin works, but perhaps to acknowledge with unaffected humility to those who may know and love these books that my own studies and experience remain Hmited. However, it is also useful (and prospectively humbling) to recognize that very litde academic writing survives the first set of reviewers, let alone anywhere near 50 years. Frequently, it dies either with the author or with his or her original students and readers. For example, two of the few examinations of the bilateral U S -Canadian relationship that have survived even a decade after publication, Forgotten Partnership: US-Canada Relations Today (1983) by Charles Doran and The Nine Nations of North America (1981) by Joel Garreau, are stiU only approximately 30 years old. Nor is such dismissal restricted to academic work. The iconic text of the early 1940s, The Unknown Country by Bruce Hutchinson, is long out of print. The polemic screed Lament for a Nation by George Grant (1965) may be of slight contemporary interest as Grant was recent Liberal leader Michael Ignatieffs uncle. And even Hugh MacLennan's "great Canadian novel," Two Solitudes (1945), is virtually never referenced in contemporary commentary on Québec-Canada relations, despite the continuing reality of these solitudes.
Thus it was a pleasant surprise to find that the Conant and McLin books were not written in slumber-inducing turgid or ponderous prose. They were no longer current affairs, but the U S -Canadian defence and security issues with which they engaged had remarkably contemporary themes. To be sure, that reality should not be particularly surprising. While there have been immense changes over the past 50 years in global postcolonial political arrangements, economic activity, and technological innovation, we may be surprised at what has not changed - particularly in North American security policy.
Essentially, the political-social-economic structure of Canada and the United States continues unaltered. There have been no political revolutions: the structures of government remain the same - we even have the same Queen Elizabeth II. The countries have not changed geographic boundaries: "Canada" is still one country and not separated into two or more nationstates; the "United States" likewise remains territorially unaltered, an unum and not a pluribus. And the global security arrangements of 50 years ago remain structurally recognizable. …