Brian Bow

Do Canada and the United States share a special relationship, or is this a just a face-saving myth, masking dependency and domination? Recent tensions over the Iraq War and missile defence have resurrected this perennial debate and raised alarm about whether the US might make coercive linkages between issues to force Canada to change its policies.

To reveal the reality behind the rhetoric, Brian Bow examines bilateral bargaining in four high-stakes disputes. He shows that the US did not resort to coercive linkages in confrontations over nuclear weapons (1959–63), Arctic waters (1969–71), oil and gas (1980–83), or the Iraq War (2001–4). But The Politics of Linkage explains that the bases for US restraint have changed over time. During the early Cold War years, American negotiators subscribed to a special set of “rules of the game” for bargaining with Canada, but that diplomatic culture was effectively displaced in the 1970s by domestic political changes in Washington. Today, the bilateral agenda – and thus the nature and limits of Canadian autonomy – is defined by interest group politics in the US, and by formal institutions like NAFTA and the WTO.

Books By Brian Bow