The American polity is cracked, and might collapse. Canada must prepare
The U.S. is becoming increasingly ungovernable, and some experts believe it could descend into civil war. What should Canada do then?
THOMAS HOMER-DIXON SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL December 31/21
EXCERPTED FROM ARTICLE:
A terrible storm is coming from the south, and Canada is woefully unprepared. Over the past year we’ve turned our attention inward, distracted by the challenges of COVID-19, reconciliation, and the accelerating effects of climate change. But now we must focus on the urgent problem of what to do about the likely unravelling of democracy in the United States.
We need to start by fully recognizing the magnitude of the danger. If Mr. Trump is re-elected, even under the more-optimistic scenarios the economic and political risks to our country will be innumerable. Driven by aggressive, reactive nationalism, Mr. Trump “could isolate Canada continentally,” as one of my interlocutors put it euphemistically.
Under the less-optimistic scenarios, the risks to our country in their cumulative effect could easily be existential, far greater than any in our federation’s history. What happens, for instance, if high-profile political refugees fleeing persecution arrive in our country, and the U.S. regime demands them back. Do we comply?
In this context, it’s worth noting the words of Dmitry Muratov, the courageous Russian journalist who remains one of the few independent voices standing up to Mr. Putin and who just received the Nobel Prize for Peace. At a news conference after the awards ceremony in Oslo, as Russian troops and armour were massing on Ukraine’s borders, Mr. Muratov spoke of the iron link between authoritarianism and war. “Disbelief in democracy means that the countries that have abandoned it will get a dictator,” he said. “And where there is a dictatorship, there is a war. If we refuse democracy, we agree to war.”
Canada is not powerless in the face of these forces, at least not yet. Among other things, over three-quarters of a million Canadian emigrants live in the United States – many highly placed and influential – and together they’re a mass of people who could appreciably tilt the outcome of coming elections and the broader dynamics of the country’s political process.
But here’s my key recommendation: The Prime Minister should immediately convene a standing, non-partisan Parliamentary committee with representatives from the five sitting parties, all with full security clearances. It should be understood that this committee will continue to operate in coming years, regardless of changes in federal government. It should receive regular intelligence analyses and briefings by Canadian experts on political and social developments in the United States and their implications for democratic failure there. And it should be charged with providing the federal government with continuing, specific guidance as to how to prepare for and respond to that failure, should it occur.
If hope is to be a motivator and not a crutch, it needs to be honest and not false. It needs to be anchored in a realistic, evidence-based understanding of the dangers we face and a clear vision of how to get past those dangers to a good future. Canada is itself flawed, but it’s still one of the most remarkably just and prosperous societies in human history. It must rise to this challenge.