There seems to be a recurring theme coming from Conservative circles, that being we must repair our relationship with our southern neighbors. Any criticism of Harper's "outreach" to the Bush administration is countered with a criticism of past Liberal governments. What I find particularly distressing is the revisionist history people engage in to incorrectly place the blame for deterioration on our officials.
The problems we have had with the Bush administration are not isolated to Canada. I would argue that the Bush administration represents the most diplomatically bereft regime in America's history. There is no compromise, no search for common ground, merely unilateral action through a narrow black and white view. The American administration has scuttled a litany of international agreements, in turn alienating many in the world community. The American government has such disdain for internationalism that it found it necessary to send a UN ambassador to the the United Nations, that is on record advocating its destruction. Despite the will of the world, the Americans forged ahead with their reckless aggression in Iraq, ignoring compromise initiatives from countries like Canada. Pick an issue, and you will find a complete inability to play well with others.
Within this context, I find it remarkable that Conservatives think Harper's approach will pay dividends. Does anyone believe the softwood controversy is a function of the Liberals "divisive" posture? Most analysts agree, that if the Conservatives do find a solution, they will owe much of the leg work to the past government. Yes, there were tensions with the Bush administration, however it is disingenuous to suggest that the relationship was completely dysfunctional. I would frame the relationship as such, a government trying to find a way to deal with a tone deaf ideologue that lacked the "social skills" required for diplomacy.
Will Harper have better relations with the Bush administration? A resounding yes, simply as a function of Harper's preference for mimicking the American agenda. It is pretty easy to find agreement, when you essentially mirror the other parties view. This reality says nothing about effective leadership, only that we now have a government that is the "ideological twin" of the Bush administration. Canadians have little time for the Bush administration, increasingly Americans hold the same view. Berating our past governments for failure to deal with a belligerent bully is unfair criticism.
Which countries does the Bush administration get along with? Great Britain is America's closest ally at present. Has this "cozy" relationship allowed Blair the opportunity to influence the Bush administration? You will remember the frequent engagements on global warming, with Blair constantly pushing Bush on climate control. What does Tony Blair have to show for his efforts after years of effort- Bush has finally admitted that global warming exists (quite a coup). Nothing concrete, in fact many measures that go backward on the environment. My point, getting close to Bush doesn't guarantee results, in fact it means little in the overall scheme. For those that see a new era in American/Canadian relationships, they in fact see the Americanization of Canadian politics, because the other side will never move from its primitive outlook. The real opportunity for a changed relationship, that articulates the necessary compromises and good will, could possibly come in 2008. Before that time, common ground will be a by-product of simply adopting the American view. Harper seems eager to duplicate the Bush administration, so relations will probably improve.