Cablegate: Canadian Opinion Leaders Enthusiastic About New
PP RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #0634/01 2302103
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 182103Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9762
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000634
STATE FOR WHA/CAN, WHA/PDA, S/P, G, AND R
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAO CA AF
SUBJECT: CANADIAN OPINION LEADERS ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT NEW
U.S. FOREIGN POLICY TONE BUT LOOKING FOR ACTION
1. (SBU) Summary: Canadians have noted a new tone in U.S.
foreign policy and have responded enthusiastically, according
to a group of Canadian opinion leaders who met with the
Charge on August 13. They praised the Secretary's recent
Council on Foreign Relations speech and commented the new
rhetoric from the administration has built an enormous
reservoir of Canadian good will. However, they see less new
substance in the specific policy proposals in the Secretary's
speech, and find many policy statements by the new
administration to be consistent with those of the Bush
Administration. They commented that most Canadians will be
looking closely to see whether the U.S. change in tone is
matched by action. Some expressed concern that the U.S. is
too consumed with domestic priorities at present to exert
sustained global leadership. Despite continued Obama-mania
in Canada, Canadians overwhelmingly believe their own leaders
should resist any U.S. request to extend Canada's combat role
in Afghanistan. End summary.
2. (SBU) The Charge d'Affaires hosted nine national opinion
leaders on August 13 for discussion of the new
administration's foreign policy direction, drawing particular
attention to the Secretary's recent speech to the Council on
Foreign Relations. The participants, all of whom are high
profile international affairs commentators, offered uniformly
strong praise for the new administration's changed tone
compared with the Bush administration. They singled out for
special praise the new rhetorical emphasis on multilateral
consultation, the use of international institutions, and
increased consultation and coordination with allies. One
national columnist said, "It was hugely important for
Canadians to set a new tone. You can't underestimate that
because (President Bush's rhetoric of) 'for us or against us'
and 'wanted: dead or alive' went over very badly in Canada."
Many also gave strong praise to President Obama's Cairo
speech, noting that it was "widely and favorably noted in
3. (SBU) While highly enthusiastic about the good will and
intentions expressed by the new Administration, many observed
that they found nothing "really new" in Secretary Clinton's
speech. Others contrasted the speech's claim to a bold new
direction with the many policy continuities with the Bush
administration or its "incrementalism" where it does strike a
new direction. One academic commented that new
administration had talked a great deal about climate change
and energy security, but that "Canadians are waiting to see
some sort of new agenda, rather than a re-hashing of old
problems." In lamenting that the new administration seems to
be "writing off everything associated with the Bush
administration," one guest asked "Why has the Millennium
Challenge Corporation gone so far off the radar?" U.S.
public diplomacy on the importance of robust diplomatic and
development engagement has penetrated into Canadian
consciousness, according to many attendees, who commented
that "U.S. diplomacy seems to be 'back' and well resourced."
One criticized the speech for having "very little substance"
in references to development issues.
4. (SBU) Iraq was a central topic of discussion among the
group. One academic asked whether the U.S. can achieve a
"stable political system" in a country that is "very fragile
with lots of unresolved issues." He questioned whether the
U.S. and Iraqis can "reconcile those significant fractures to
allow the U.S. to stay out." He noted the "confident"
Qallow the U.S. to stay out." He noted the "confident"
references in the Secretary's speech about U.S. withdrawal
and said, "I don't understand where that confidence comes
from." Another noted that the U.S. drawdown is "clearly
diminishing the U.S. ability to influence events in Iraq."
Another wondered whether the U.S. timetable for withdrawal is
"a real one or a negotiating tool." A pollster commented
that Canadians feel a "collective sense of Schadenfreude"
about their country's decision to defy the U.S. on the
invasion of Iraq, believing that "We got that one right and
you got it wrong." He underlined that experience is coloring
Canadian views of Afghanistan, with the majority of the
public believing that the international community is unlikely
to achieve its objectives in Afghanistan, as it failed to do
5. (SBU) Most participants expressed a keen desire to
understand better what the Secretary means by a "new global
architecture." One said, "The Secretary talks about engaging
allies, but what does that mean concretely for the North and
the South?" All participants noticed the lack of references
to Canada, Western Europe, or any Western Hemisphere
countries -- except Brazil. One said that the Secretary
seemed to be "writing off everything except Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Pakistan. You seem to have forgotten Africa
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and Latin America." Another chimed in that "the Millennium
Development Goals seem to have been sacrificed to the war on
terror." Another questioned whether the U.S. will "truly
take into account the views of others or whether it will
continue to be a 'G-1.'" Another opined that "We've heard
this tune before from another Clinton, and it all came to
6. (SBU) An academic commented that "during the Bush years,
Canadians came to question U.S. values and competency;" now
"they no longer question whether the U.S. is leading for the
right reasons...(but) ... the question remains whether the
U.S. can change the perception of its competence, especially
when it is taking on so much on so many fronts," including
important U.S domestic priorities in economic recovery and
health care reform. Several agreed that they had been
seeking in the speech some recognition by U.S. officials that
"the world is expecting it to deliver" results. One claimed
to have found only "a little acknowledgment" of that need.
7. (SBU) Another argued, in contrast, that while the
Secretary's rhetoric is "recycled," the administration's
actions are "bold and wise, especially as related to Latin
America." He noted that the U.S. "measured reactions" to
events in El Salvador and Honduras are a stark contrast with
past Republican rhetoric and actions, notwithstanding the
Bush administration's "very skillful handling of Chavez." He
expressed regret that U.S. foreign policy "really has changed
but you don't see that reflected in the words of the new
administration." He praised the "new outreach to Cuba" as a
"major change to be applauded."
8. (SBU) A pollster observed that Canadians had feared being
overwhelmed by the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. More lately,
however, Canadians fear being shut out of the U.S. agenda.
Canadians want to engage the U.S. and wonder if the U.S.
recognizes the strong hand it has in Canadian public opinion.
He noted that President Obama has a job approval rating
consistently over 70 percent in Canada, which is more than
double that of any Canadian politician. Another observed
that Canada "needs a partner on the other side (of the
border) to be successful, and unfortunately, that partner has
huge economic problems and trade preoccupations right now."
The pollster cautioned that President Obama's vast popularity
does not in and of itself translate automatically into
approval for new U.S. foreign policy initiatives. He noted
especially that 80 percent of Canadians consistently express
the opinion that their own leaders should resist any Obama
administration requests to extend Canada's combat role in
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