Middle-school diplomacy

In the midst of a report on yesterday’s big meeting between President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, and Mexican President Vicente Fox, The Washington Post caught a nice bit of maturity from our leadership:

Martin recently rejected Canadian participation in the U.S. missile defense system, and when he tried to explain, Bush did not return the call for more than a week.

Ah, because what we really need are more world leaders acting like petulant teenagers. Anyway, this whole flap over missile defense has never made much sense to me. After Bush’s re-election, the president asked Martin if he would give carte blanche support for the missile defense system now underway.

But Martin balked. No doubt it didn’t take the prime minister long to imagine the state of affairs ten years from now, when the missile defense shield isn’t just to thwart a few minor threats from Iran and North Korea, but rather as a continent-wide defense against China. Martin knows full well that the complete Pentagon vision involves linking up missile-defense to air and sea systems, as well as possible space and satellite systems, possibly with the aim of making China’s nuclear deterrent functionally useless. A carte blanche endorsement from Canada now would endorse this entire vision, and endorse the day when Canada can no longer conduct its own international affairs and high-tech weaponry is floating around throughout space.

So Martin’s position is understandable. But here’s the thing: Bush didn’t even need to ask for a blanket endorsement of the missile defense system. The thing is still in its infancy, it still hasn’t passed a single test, and even the Republican-controlled Congress hasn’t endorsed any further steps for the Pentagon’s broader defense vision. This would be like asking Martin to endorse a future army of super-intelligent cyborg warriors: there’s just no need right now. In the meantime, Bush could be discussing more important things with Canada, like border security or trade disputes or reconstruction in Afghanistan (Canada is playing a key role in the NATO force there).