The three rules to understanding Canadian-American relations

canada.jpg In the wake of Canadian memos flying about on what exactly Obama’s chief economist told a Canadian consular official, Noam Scheiber asks a befuddled question: What is it with these Canadians? Are they running some sort of entrapment operation up there? Why do they keep trying to torpedo Democratic candidates? Based on my extensive ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
589964_93368742_canada2.jpg
589964_93368742_canada2.jpg

In the wake of Canadian memos flying about on what exactly Obama's chief economist told a Canadian consular official, Noam Scheiber asks a befuddled question: What is it with these Canadians? Are they running some sort of entrapment operation up there? Why do they keep trying to torpedo Democratic candidates? Based on my extensive experience with the people of the Great White North, I'll be happy to answer Scheiber's question. All understanding about Canadians are based on based on three very simply rules of thumb: 1) Canadians are the most polite people on earth. Really, compared to Americans, it's just embarrassing at times. Canadians never lose their temper in meetings, ever. This is deceptive, however, because..... 2) Canadians are also the most passive-aggressive nationality on earth. For their entire lives, Canadians have had to cope with the fact that everyone assumes they're essentially just like Americans -- including Americans. The best way to make a Canadian blow a gasket is to mistake them for an American. There are other dyads that have this kind of dynamic as well (Russia-Ukraine, Australia-New Zealand), but among Canadians it leads to this kind of resentment boiling just beneath the surface that, if ever unleashed, would look like a scene from 28 Days Later. This has a profound effect on Canadian behavior vis-a-vis the rest of the world, because just when you think a Canadian is on your side, s/he does something that completely gums up the works of a policy initiative. In the case of Canadian-American relations, this is compounded by the final rule.... 3) Canadians are really schizophrenic about American attention. On the one hand, countries that are the focus of lots of American attention don't necessarily fare all that well. Canadians like the fact that their country is often below the radar. That said, I'm always surprised when, every four years, Canadians ask me, "So will Canada be an issue in the presidential campaign?" Every time, I say, "no chance in hell." Clearly I've been proven wrong this year, but this is because the Canadians themselves lengthened the news cycle. So to answer Noam's question: the Canadians are doing what they're doing because they don't want any Americans taking Canada for granted. But they'll do it as politely as possible. Try applying these rules whenever one deals with Canadians -- they're easy, and fun!

canada.jpg

canada.jpg

In the wake of Canadian memos flying about on what exactly Obama’s chief economist told a Canadian consular official, Noam Scheiber asks a befuddled question:

What is it with these Canadians? Are they running some sort of entrapment operation up there? Why do they keep trying to torpedo Democratic candidates?

Based on my extensive experience with the people of the Great White North, I’ll be happy to answer Scheiber’s question. All understanding about Canadians are based on based on three very simply rules of thumb:

1) Canadians are the most polite people on earth. Really, compared to Americans, it’s just embarrassing at times. Canadians never lose their temper in meetings, ever. This is deceptive, however, because….. 2) Canadians are also the most passive-aggressive nationality on earth. For their entire lives, Canadians have had to cope with the fact that everyone assumes they’re essentially just like Americans — including Americans. The best way to make a Canadian blow a gasket is to mistake them for an American. There are other dyads that have this kind of dynamic as well (Russia-Ukraine, Australia-New Zealand), but among Canadians it leads to this kind of resentment boiling just beneath the surface that, if ever unleashed, would look like a scene from 28 Days Later. This has a profound effect on Canadian behavior vis-a-vis the rest of the world, because just when you think a Canadian is on your side, s/he does something that completely gums up the works of a policy initiative. In the case of Canadian-American relations, this is compounded by the final rule…. 3) Canadians are really schizophrenic about American attention. On the one hand, countries that are the focus of lots of American attention don’t necessarily fare all that well. Canadians like the fact that their country is often below the radar. That said, I’m always surprised when, every four years, Canadians ask me, “So will Canada be an issue in the presidential campaign?” Every time, I say, “no chance in hell.” Clearly I’ve been proven wrong this year, but this is because the Canadians themselves lengthened the news cycle.

So to answer Noam’s question: the Canadians are doing what they’re doing because they don’t want any Americans taking Canada for granted. But they’ll do it as politely as possible. Try applying these rules whenever one deals with Canadians — they’re easy, and fun!

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.