Sunday, May 24, 2009
JACK GRANATSTEIN: TAKING A PAGE OUT OF THE BOOK OF JOE McCARTHY
For years I have watched the illustrious career of Jack Lawrence Granatstein wend its way through my generation. I have read many of his writings (I admit I have to be up for it), and I have intently watched and listened to him on the tube and radio. Granatstein is a genuine political and military history scholar who has earned many university degrees from good schools including a PhD from Duke University. He served in the Canadian Army for ten years and so possesses much more than academic knowledge of that field. He has taught at universities and written over sixty books including some distinguished prize and medal winners. We see his avuncular personage frequently on our television screens providing mostly trenchant and wise observations of historical and current events. Honours and medals have followed him throughout his adult life. By any standard, he is a great Canadian. For more on Granatstein’s career read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fellow_of_the_Royal_Society_of_Canada.
Alas, he has his blind spots. For example, for some years now he has taken every opportunity to hector Canadians about what he sees as our endemic anti –Americanism, particularly from what he perceives as the Canadian left. He believes Canadian anti-Americanism exists, and he believes it is bad and unfair. He was at it again in a column that appeared in this morning’s Calgary Sun. Unfortunately, as of this writing it has not made it on line. However, I will review it and pass on my comments.
His entrée into the subject is Barack Obama's popularity in Canada. Granatstein asks the question, “How will his presidency sit with the great Canadian anti-American coalition, many Liberals, the New Democratic Party, the Greens, the Bloc Quebecois and all those raging grannies of whatever age who despise the United States and all its works?” His answer was, “Not well, is my guess.” He goes on to say that history leads him to believe that by the summer because of their innate anti-Americanism Canadians will be attacking Obama.
To back up his conclusion, he argues that even though Canadians were largely sympathetic to the U.S. Democratic Party, they denounced even John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton during their terms in office. He writes that Kennedy suffered the wrath of Canadians because of the Bay of Pigs Invasion and for risking nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis.
Well, if there were Canadians who felt that way, they were hardly on the radar screen. I was around in those days and paying some attention to the news. I never observed a helluva lot of antipathy from Canada towards Kennedy at any time. The only Canadian I recall as not having cared too much for Kennedy was John Diefenbaker, who was reported to genuinely dislike the man. But let's say there was a bit of it. Was that anti-Americanism or was it anti - American foreign policy on some level - like, say, the Bay of Pigs Invasion or the growing commitment to the folly of Viet Nam? In any event, at the time of the assassination Kennedy was overwhelmingly in the good books of the vast majority of Canadians.
About Bill Clinton, Granatstein says, “those on the left soon complained about NAFTA and his use of American troops around the world, and Prime Minister Chretien tried hard to camouflage his good relations with the Arkansan.”
Well, again, I recall some pockets of criticism in Canada, but it was hardly discernable, even from those on the left. As far as Chretien trying to hide from his buddy – buddy relationship with Clinton, that is pure bullshit and Granatstein surely knows it. And if there were some Canadians who opposed NAFTA or the U.S. led NATO bombing of the Balkans - and there were - does that make them anti-American, or anti - aspects of American trade policy or foreign policy?
Granatstein says, “The Canadian left sees the US. as the great Satan.” I suppose that explains why most Canadians are so hooked on American culture like its movies, pop stars, fast food joints and cities. He predicts that Obama will ask for further troop commitments in Afghanistan beyond 2011, and that “the response from the anti-American Canadian left will be as vehement as if it had been George W. Bush asking.” But whether people are on the Canadian left (as he describes it) or not, if they oppose such a request, does it make them anti-American? Or could they be merely opponents of come components of American foreign policy that is going nowhere and will likely go nowhere unless there is a troop commitment of some three hundred or four hundred thousand strong?
Granatstein continues his rant saying that when Obama does ask for the troop commitment, “The shouts won’t initially include the same sneers hurled at Bush, but Canadian critics, I suspect, will attack the U.S. and the Obama administration with equal fury. Over time, as Obama fails to live up to expectations - no one could meet the high hopes he has created – new personalist slurs will emerge.”
That is highly doubtful. Canadians whether on the left or right, recognize honesty and competence as paramount values in leadership. Obama has both in spades. Granatstein’s pal Bush, had neither.
After a little more haranguing and whining which makes him sound more like Rush Limbaugh rather than the scholar we take him for, Granatstein concludes, “Obama is on his Canadian honeymoon today, but tomorrow he is almost certain to become merely another target for those who reject America’s world view. Canadian attitudes almost demand this.”
That there will be Canadian critics of Obama’s policies there is no doubt. But they will certainly not be critics of the American people and probably not personal critics of the President himself, unless he is perceived to have done something dastardly wrong - like having lied about a war, or condoned torture.
To criticize U. S. policies is not being anti-American. It is to have an opinion about policies. Those who demonstrated in Canada against say, the war in Viet Nam or those who demonstrate today in Canada at the presence of Dick Cheney or G.W. Bush within their environs are not anti-American. They are demonstrating against American foreign policy, or rogues and charlatans who lied to the world. In fact, to paint such demonstrators or opponents of policy as anti-American is akin to Joe McCarthy calling all those on the left or moderate left, or merely those who got in his way, communists. Jack Granatstein, a Canadian icon, scholar, feted author, and so on should be so much better than this.