Robert Bothwell. Alliance and Illusion: Canada and the World, 1945-1984. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2007. 480 pp. $93.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7748-1368-6; $38.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7748-1369-3.
Reviewed by Matthew Trudgen (History Department, Queen's University)
Published on H-Canada (July, 2008)
Delving Past the Illusions
Even at the peak of its influence in the years after the Second World War, Canada could never be considered a major power in the world. However, during the Cold War, Canada was able to cast itself as a "Middle Power" and as an influential member of the world community. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Canada generally pursued foreign policies that served the interests of itself and its allies, and never occupied the position of being an unbiased peacekeeper that its rhetoric sometimes implied. This is an important lesson for Canada's policymakers of today that sometimes gets overlooked. Therefore, it is good to see that Robert Bothwell, one of Canada's leading diplomatic historians and experts on the Cold War, has produced an excellent examination of Canadian foreign policy from the end of the Second World War to 1984.
Bothwell begins his work with the political and economic situation in Canada in 1945. He also chronicles Canada's part in the founding of the United Nations, the rapid increase in tensions between the Communist Bloc and the West, and Canadian efforts to adapt to a postwar world with the British Empire in decline. Moreover, he discusses the Canadian response to the growing Soviet threat and the emergence of the United States as a world power. In general, the first chapters of the book highlight what can be considered the "golden age" of Canadian diplomacy under Louis St. Laurent, prime minister, and Lester Pearson, secretary of state for External Affairs. The most notable accomplishments of this era were Canada's involvement in the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 and Pearson's role in resolving the Suez Crisis in 1956.
The book then moves on to examine the years when John Diefenbaker served as prime minister and the various difficulties that he had with foreign and defense policy. These problems included the controversies over both the creation of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) and the cancellation of the CF 105 Avro Arrow, as well as Diefenbaker's poor relations with the Canadian military and the Department of External Affairs. Bothwell also touches on Diefenbaker's relations with Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and how they developed throughout Diefenbaker's time in office. Bothwell's main argument is that Diefenbaker was responsible for his government's mishandling of the decision to acquire nuclear weapons. He outlines how this indecision caused great difficulties with Canada's relations with President John F. Kennedy and the United States, which, in the end, doomed Diefenbaker's own government.
With the fall of the Diefenbaker government in 1963, the focus of attention shifts to Pearson who served as prime minister until 1968. These chapters describe how he faced a number of serious difficulties, such as the influence of the Vietnam War and the rising tide of Canadian nationalism in relation to the Canadian-American relationship. This discussion includes the fallout from the Gordon Budget of 1963. Walter Gordon, Pearson's minister of finance, introduced this budget, which included a number of measures targeted at reducing American foreign investment in Canada. These were withdrawn after pressure from both the Canadian business community and the U.S. government. The fact that Gordon had used experts from outside of the civil service to produce the budget was the subject of much controversy in the House of Commons. This chapter also examines Pearson's speech at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1965, in which Pearson called for a halt of the bombing of North Vietnam, which greatly angered American President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson later took out his frustration on Pearson when the prime minister visited Camp David. Finally, Bothwell details the growing problems with French Canada, and Canada's troubled relationship with French President Charles De Gaulle. He outlines how this relationship culminated with De Gaulle's infamous "Vive le Quebec libre" speech in Montreal in 1967.
At this point, the work shifts focus and devotes one chapter to Canada's involvement in the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC) in Indochina. This body, more commonly known as the ICC, was established by the Geneva Conference of 1954. In particular, Bothwell discusses the impact of Canada's involvement in the ICSC on the "special" relationship between Canada and India.
The last section of the book chronicles Pierre Trudeau's time in office and his desire to reshape Canadian's foreign and defense policy. These efforts included the withdrawal of half of Canada's NATO contingent from Europe in 1969, and the attempt by Trudeau and his advisors to make changes to the Department of External Affairs. Bothwell addresses Trudeau's efforts to deal with the problem of an international role for Quebec and the prime minister's varied relationships with U.S. presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. The author also discusses the growing problem of oil in the 1970s and its influence on the Canadian-American relationship. The issue of oil first emerged after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) boycott of the West for its support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. This action led to shortages and a dramatic increase in oil prices. The Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Shah in 1979 further exasperated this problem. Bothwell's conclusion, titled, "Multilateral by profession, Muddled in Nature," provides a succinct summary of Canada's foreign policies in this period.
Bothwell has produced a thorough and detailed account of Canadian external relations from 1945 to 1984. It is particularly strong in its treatment of Canadian foreign trade policies and Canadian diplomatic maneuvers, and in helping the reader to understand the influence that different prime ministers and their ministers and officials had on the development of policy. He effectively details the impact of public opinion on different governments, and how domestic political realities often shaped Canada's foreign relations.
Another excellent feature is that the book addresses the influence of ideology, first Keynesianism after the Second World War and then neoliberalism in the late 1970s. In addition, Bothwell does a fine job of discussing the impact of Canadian nationalism on public policy, particularly from 1945 to 1957. In that period, Canadian politicians and officials, having gained the ability and means to have an independent foreign policy in the 1930s and during the Second World War, were not interested in becoming a quiet and complacent ally of the United States. This is a very important point that is often overlooked in the literature, because the nationalist beliefs of this period are overshadowed by the dominant influence of Canadian nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s.
The book has a number of particularly good gems, such as the revelation that one of the authors of the National Energy Program (NEP) had written a doctoral dissertation on the development of socialism in Tanzania. The author also provides a number of candid and interesting comments about several individuals ranging from Pearson to Chester Ronning. Another excellent feature of the work is that Bothwell is able to keep the book interesting, even after it is apparent that much of Canada's influence had dissipated by the late 1970s and beginning of the 1980s. This fact is apparent when the main highlights of Canadian diplomacy in this period include the efforts to ensure that the British House of Commons would approve the repatriation of the Canadian constitution and Trudeau's peace initiative. Finally, the work has a number of other good aspects including a useful historiography essay and a brief chronology of events.
Despite the overall quality of the work, there are a few problems. The most serious of these is that, due to the need to cover so many different events from 1945 to 1984, there are some topics that should have had more coverage. For example, while Bothwell examines Canadian defense policy, more depth to the discussion was necessary, especially when compared to the one that he provided on economic policy. Indeed, there should have been more examination of such influential figures as General Charles Foulkes, who played a key role in shaping Canadian defense policy in the 1950s. Foulkes had served as a senior Canadian army commander in Europe during the Second World War; in the postwar period, he served as the chief of the General Staff from 1945 to 1951 and the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee from 1951 to his retirement in 1960. In addition, such issues as the Canadian-American defense relationship and Canada's NATO policies in the mid-1970s could have been addressed in greater depth. Other events that could have had been discussed in more detail include Pearson's visit to the Soviet Union in 1956, Canada's recognition of the Peoples Republic of China in 1971, and Canada's role behind the creation of the peacekeeping mission in Cyprus in 1965.
Another problem is the discussion of Diefenbaker. While these chapters are interesting and well written, Bothwell's criticism of Diefenbaker is somewhat overdone, especially since he was not solely responsible for all the problems in his government's foreign policy in this period. Indeed, circumstances and other individuals, most notably the secretary of state for External Affairs, Howard Green, and the undersecretary of External Affairs, Norman Robertson, contributed to the chaotic policies of the period. Bothwell's criticism of Paul Martin Sr., Pearson's secretary of state for External Affairs, is also a little too harsh. Certainly, Martin gained a hard-earned reputation for being overly ambitious and overestimated Canadian influence in the world; however, many of his successors exhibited these flaws. Furthermore, under Martin's watch, Canada signed the Auto Pact with the United States in 1965, and Canada led the charge for the Cyprus peacekeeping mission, which helped to prevent a rift on NATO's southern flank between Greece and Turkey.
Despite these flaws, Alliance and Illusion is an excellent work. It is a must read for anyone interested in the history of Canadian foreign relations and Canadian international history, and it will be a valuable resource for historians for many years to come.
. Bothwell is currently the director of the University of Toronto's International Relations program at Trinity College. He is the author of several works, including Nucleus: A History of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); Canada and the United States: The Politics of Partnership (New York: Twayne Publishers; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992); and The Penguin History of Canada (Toronto: Penguin, 2006). He is the coauthor of C. D. Howe: A Biography (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1979) with William Kilbourn; Canada 1900-1945 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987) and Canada since 1945: Power, Politics, and Provincialism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989) with John English and Robert Drummond; and Pirouette: Pierre Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Policy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990) with J. L. Granatstein.
. The ICSC was organized to supervise the withdrawal of French forces from Indochina. Later in the book, Bothwell discusses Canada's role in the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS), which emerged from the Paris Peace Accords that formally ended the American involvement in the Vietnam War in 1973. In the end, neither commission actually accomplished much due to the political situation on the ground, and the realities of the Cold War.
. During the 1970s, Trudeau and his Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Pitsfield, sought to improve the managerial structure of External Affairs. They also shifted many senior officials from External Affairs to fill positions of authority in other government departments.
. One would have thought that this fact would have set off alarm bells in the head of the Minister of Finance, Allan MacEachen, but then you do not become the worst finance minister in Canadian history without having significant errors in judgement.
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Matthew Trudgen. Review of Bothwell, Robert, Alliance and Illusion: Canada and the World, 1945-1984.
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