Korean War Influences In Canadian Foreign Policy History Essay
Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional academic writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.
Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Canadian diplomats have sought to constrain American influence in Canadian politics. From 1945 to 1957, Canadian foreign policy began to emerge and become noticeably separate from the United States’ policies. The Korean War has thus become part of a larger historical controversy concerning the nature of Canadian-American relations. These factors are often disputed by historians and diplomats, and thus should be discussed in greater detail. To what extent did the Korean War influence Canada’s foreign policies? Specifically examining the extent of which Lester B. Pearson’s role influenced Canada and the United Nations months prior to and during the Korean War. An analysis of Pearson’s methodology, the differences between Canadian policy and US policy and Canada’s involvement in the war will be used to explore the extent of the Korean War’s contributions to Canadian foreign policies. Attention to the origin, substance and conduct of Canadian diplomacy during the war will be emphasized. Through analyzing the extent of Canadian involvement in the Korean War, we are able to further understand how Canadian foreign policy began to take shape. This study will analyze primary sources, such as novels written by Pearson, himself, and documents quoted from council meetings with the United Nations and public announcements, as well as secondary sources from historians studying the life of Pearson and Canadian international diplomacy, such as W.E.C. Harrison and J. L. Granatstein. Through this process, we find that the basis of Canadian foreign policy sparked from Canadian desire to create a separation between American and Canadian international policies.
Canadian foreign policy began to emerge and become noticeably separate from American policies through their involvement in the Korean War. From 1945 to 1957, Canada became a truly sovereign, autonomous nation and began to receive recognition on the international stage. However, before this time period, Canada’s external relations were influenced by the Great Powers, such as Britain and more importantly the United States. Despite Canada’s participation in the Korean War, the political aspects are overlooked in Canadian history. Canada’s involvement in the Korean War is often overshadowed by the abundant amount of opinions solely referencing to the United States plate in Korea and Canadian military aspects of the hostilities have already been treated in the official histories published. The Korean War acted as a prologue to the main act in future Canadian foreign policy. An analysis of Pearson’s methodology, the differences between Canadian policy and US policy and Canada’s involvement in the war will be used to explore the extent of the Korean War’s contributions to Canadian foreign policies. Attention to the reactions and perspectives on Canadian diplomacy during the war will be discussed. Through analyzing the extent of Canadian involvement in the Korean War, we are able to further understand how Canadian foreign policy began to take shape. The Korean War acted as a prologue to the main act in future Canadian foreign policy.
Canada’s Involvement in the Korean War
Canada initially fought in the Korean War under the auspices of the United Nations, in support of the principle of collective security. Once it was announced that North Korea committed a breach of international peace and security and a violation of international law, the matter was brought accordingly before the United Nations’ Security Council, an institution established under international agreement for the explicit purpose of ensuring the maintenance of a peaceful world order. The council called upon the parties involved, North Korea and South Korea, to terminate their hostilities, and asked North Korea to return peacefully to their own territory. North Korea failed to comply and the council was forced to take extreme measures. Making full use of its constitutional authority, it asked all members of the United Nations to contribute to the defence of the invaded power and to the restoration of peace and security in the affected area. Ultimately, it assigned the United States responsibility for establishing a unified military command, to which the forces contributed by other powers, in fulfilment of their obligations under the United Nations Charter, were asked to report to.
What is Foreign Policy?
Foreign policy in Canada holds a very significant relationship with other governments and peoples. Foreign policy is the diplomatic policy of a nation in its interactions with other nations, designed to build effective political, economic and social progress in the developing world. Failure to achieve this will have an impact on the country in terms of both long-term security and prosperity. Canada’s most important relationship is with the United States, famously sharing the world’s longest undefended border. However, Canadian governments have traditionally maintained active relations with other nations, mostly through multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations (UN), Commonwealth of Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
It is important to evaluate the implications of the Canadian government’s view and approach in the Korean War. Through the reactions of the parliament and how they employed their political strategies, Canada began to try to separate their foreign policies from the United States. There is an emphasis on how Canadian government officials, including Lester B. Pearson, wanted to distinguish a separation between Canadian and American policies. From evaluating the Canadian government’s perspectives and response, we begin to see where and how Canadian foreign policies begin to emerge.
Canada’s deliberate responses to the Korean War shows that the parliament, under King’s and St. Laurent’s leadership, wanted to steer away from American policies. Although there is a discrepancy between the prime minister’s opinions in the level of Canada’s participation, they share a common goal of wanting to expand Canada’s international role in the post World War II world. Thus, it is within their desires to become separate, that foreign policy began to emerge.
Although the United States’ response to the outbreak of hostilities in Korea was clear under the Security Council of the United Nations, the Canadian government temporized. Canada would send some aid, but no ground forces. King chastised his external affairs department for agreeing to the membership on the United Nations Temporary Commission in Korea. He did not want Canada as a participant. His government was reluctant to fight Asia. King was more worried about conscription and national unity. If King continued to be Prime Minister, Canadian participation would have been unlikely in Korea.
However, Canada’s involvement in the Korean War took a dramatic turn when St. Laurent took office. The principal deployment for Canadian troops was the state funeral of Mackenzie King in 1950. On the train back to Ottawa from King’s burial in Toronto, the cabinet discussed the Korean situation. Demands from newspaper that Canada contribute something more tangible than a few ships and transport planes placed pressure on King to be active in Korean War. Public opinion was not opposed to firmer action. On August 7, Prime Minister, St. Laurent, and Brooke Claxton, Minister of National Defence, went on radio to announce that Canada would raise a special army brigade to go Korean or anywhere else that necessity might dictate. In a public address, St. Laurent encourages volunteers to join Canada’s newly created Special Force, separate from Canada’s regular army, whose sole purpose turned to national defence. The Canadian Army Special Force (CASF) intended primarily for service abroad with the United Nations and NATO. (CBC Laurent’s speech) Canada had more confidence in the strength of Canada’s unity with Louis St. Laurent as Prime Minster, over Mackenzie King.
Through this, Canada succeeded in establishing a difference between American and Canadian involvement in the war. Their initial reluctance to not become thoroughly involved in the war showed their focus in Canada’s best interests, rather than basing their decision on what the United States decided to do. Under St. Laurent, Canada would not fight for Korea or the United States, but for the United Nations and the principle of collective security. Collective security is one type of coalition building strategy in which a group of nations agree to not attack each other and to defend each other against an attack from one of all others if such an attack is made. Canada argued that collective security encourages international cooperation, while balance of power deterrence leads to competition and conflict instead.
Government Opinion on the United States
American recourse to the United Nations Security Council had profound implications for Canada. Without this formal involvement of United Nations, the government in Ottawa would most likely not have involved itself in the Korean conflict. To this extent, American policy makers were successful in recruiting through the United Nations an active support of a foreign government. Canadian officials felt it was more essential to moderate and constrain the course of American decisions because American desire to maintain policy of containment in Asia was too strong. The government had reservations with American policies in Asia. Canada followed the United States in refusing the recognize Communist China, but continued to be deeply concerned about the possibility that the war in Korea would turn into a total war after the Chinese entered it. American General and commander of the UN forces in Korea, Douglas MacArthur, spoke openly about extending the war. In response, Canadian officials publically criticized American policy, stating that the United Nations must not be the “instrument of any one country”. (10 April 1951 Pearson in Toronto) He expressed his belief that the “days of relatively easy and automatic political relations with [United States] are, I think, over”. Pearson described MacArthur’s behaviour as a “threat to the free unity of the world” when MacArthur crossed the Yalu River and triggered a massive Chinese intervention (John Herd Thompson, 195).
Canada’s Involvement in the United Nations
Although, Canada continued to maintain commitment to multilateral organizations, Canadian involvement was under the impression of the United Nations, to appease the general public, but was in fact an American run operation. The United States, being the most directly involved, was in the forefront of the United Nation moves connected with the Korean conflict. It became apparent that Canada became involved in Korean-American foreign issues, not due to their interest in them, but because of their lack of interests. This was the basis of Canada’s reputation for objectivity and independence, if not neutrality, in foreign affairs. Canada accepted responsibility for shaping these affairs since they decided to maintain impartiality in global affairs. Now Canada was playing its part in the world, bargaining actively and with skill in negotiations with other countries. From 1947 onwards marked Canadian foreign policy golden years.
Public consensus should not be overlooked, as a nation often has a lot of hold over their countries’ actions. Since Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy, the people of Canada are required to vote for their prime minister. It is important for the current preside ntial seating to appeal to the country’s wants, as to be re-elected again in the following election.
United States Policy and Threat of Communist Expansion
On 28 June 1950, Lester B. Pearson, Canada’s secretary of state for external affairs, believed that Canada had to respond to the North Korean invasion of South Korea through the United Nations and under US military leadership. Canadian public accepted and encouraged American leadership in resistance to the communist expansion. However, parts of the Canadian public feared that the United States were becoming driven solely based on their ideological differences, ignited from the Cold War. Canadians feared that Americans were too impetuous in defending the free world. Pearson therefore emphasized that Canada’s participation was part of the United Nations, and not under an American operation.
Here we begin to see how Canada’s performance in foreign policy tried to counter-balance public concern over the prospect of American domination over Canada’s decisions. Although cars and media may have been largely dominated by the American broadcasts, and industries were largely owned by American companies, Canada tried to steer a course that was firmly resistant to American pressures. This required the development of an entirely new diplomatic style, giving Canada a new important role in the politics of the world.
Initially Canada was unresponsive to United States participations in the Korean War. There was a consensus in Canadian society that the Korean War was worth fighting. Consensus was broader during the Korean War because French Canadians gave this war a more enthusiastic support. Pierre Trudeau, federal public servant in the Privy Council of Ottawa, and polls revealed that many French Canadians in Ottawa would have welcomed any expansion of the Canadian effort in Cold War alliances. Fighting communism was an issue which cut across traditional differences in Canadian attitudes towards foreign policy.
St. Laurent’s government was among the most nationally minded that Canada has ever seen. Its national direction reflected Ottawa’s strong position versus the remaining provinces. In 1948, Ottawa spent $1.7 billion, compared with the $810 million total spent by the other provinces combined and the $715 million spent by Canada’s municipalities. This was 50% of all government expenditures in Canada. In 1952, Ottawa spent $4 billion dollars against a combined provincial and municipal total of $2.3 billion. From these statistics, it becomes clear that the French Canadians in Ontario were more enthusiastic in their support in the Korean War versus the remaining provinces in Canada.
Lester B. Pearson’s Role
Lester B. Pearson, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States under Mackenzie King’s office, was Canada’s foremost diplomat and formulated Canada’s basic post World War II foreign policy. His strong interest in the United Nations promoted a closer political and economic relationship between Canada and its principal allies, the United States and the United Nations. It is important to discuss Pearson’s role, as this is where we begin to see his ascension in Canadian politics.
Pearson’s methodology played a significant role in United Nations decision to involve them in Korea. Pearson redirects Canadian role in Korea by stating that Canada will fight for the principle of collective security through the United Nations. Pearson showed discernment in promoting Canadian policy. He believed in strategy priority to collective defence through NATO and refused to abandon collective security ideals of the UN Charter. Pearson confirmed the absolute necessity of renewed multilateral approaches to peace maintenance through the United Nations.
“There is no effective alternative to the United Nations for [international political] arrangements […] They involve changes in attitudes and in relationships, a total enlargement in the horizons of our concerns and sympathies, and an understanding of the techniques necessary to affect political, social and economic and cultural change without recourse to force. It is within the United Nations that we must demonstrate our patience, skill and understanding of the problems of the present and our hope and faith for the future.” Pearson, Gross & Dean. “A Critical Evaluation of the United Nations,” pg 23-24.
Pearson’s Doubts in American Actions
Pearson was a product and creator of Canada’s distinct diplomatic style, civilized, moderate, scholarly and sophisticated. He attempted to steer an independent course between Canadian and American policies. Pearson told Toronto audience:
“The days of relatively easy and automatic political relations with our neighbour are, I think, over. While we are most anxious to work with the US and support her in the leadership she is giving to the free world, we are not willing to be merely an echo. Americans should not attempt to tell us that until we do one-twelfth or one-sixteenth or some other fraction as much as they are doing in some particular enterprise, we are defaulting. It would also help if the US took more notice of what we do, and indeed occasionally of what we say. The only time the American people seem to be aware of our existence is when we do something they don’t like.”
Pearson is referencing to American pressure for major Canadian contribution to the Korean War effort. Most Canadians applauded Pearson’s approach towards the Korean War. Pearson became sufficiently popular because of his work as a civil servant, and was asked by Mackenzie King to enter politics. He served St. Laurent most impressively as the Secretary of State for External affairs.
Pearson played a key role in discussions of how to make peace between Western allies and Korea. His object was to bring a quick end to the conflict, which he saw as an increasingly unnecessary diversion of attention and resources from the central European front. He had doubts on the wisdom behind American policy, as he felt it was too belligerent and unyielding. Americans, in turn, were furious at the “ingratitude and obstruction” of an ally whose contribution to the Korean War was already minuscule. Pearson’s relation with some American diplomatic counter parts would never be the same again.
Pearson showed in skills at the UN in negotiations that had led to cease-fire in Korea, an action that angered some in the United States. Pearson was the considered to be the master of the compromise phrase; aligned to reach two sides into a multi accommodation that would leave no one happy but all or more less satisfied. During this time, it seemed as to demand new virtues and a want to respect others than to dominate them. To work with others, not to direct and lead from above. Mutual trust. This idea is where Canadian policy of neutrality comes from.
Prevented spread of war into China, by exerting his influence in the MacArthur policy of carrying the war into China. Pearson agreed that UN had to recognize unprovoked aggression and condemn it, but not all cases should follow with economic/military sanctions of support. Limitations in enforcement action has to be recognized in general strategic/political situations. Fearful that the imposition of sanctions would only spread war to China, instead of keeping it localized in Korea. MacArthur’s policy is not needed.
Criticisms of Canada’s Foreign Policy
The strong goal of Canadian government trying to separate their policies from the United States is often criticized by politicians. People have found that anti-Americanism or anti-American sentiment, the actions and opinions critical of or opposed to the United States government, policies or people, found in Canada has unique qualities. Canadian historian, Kim Richard Nossal, believes that a low level of attenuated form of anti-Americanism permeates Canadian political culture, “designed primarily as a means to differentiate Canadians from Americans”. (Brendon O’connor) Although J. L. Granatstein, in his history of anti-Americanism in Canada, concluded that anti-Americanism was dead in Canada, there is anecdotal evidence that it still flourishes and that it continues to nourish the Canadian sense of identity. William Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent were both Liberal governments, which tended to encourage anti-American sentiments (O’Connor 71).
Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, published in his book True Patriot Love, that Canada is a “somewhat frustrated, reflexively anti-American, middling power that has becoming something of a pretender on the world stage.” (Macleans) American leadership appeared in Canada to be over-sensitive and often misconceived, as it was not always greatly respected nor greatly loved. This demonstrated how freely it was possible to work with the United States in a proximity and relationship so close to ours. “It was no less a Canadian requirement that we continue to explain our situation to an American public still incredibly ignorant [Canada], and to put the liberal professions of American foreign policy to the test by our fearlessness in being critical whenever necessary”. (Harrison, 181)
The Korean War is one of the most robust of expressions of Canadian foreign policy. Focus, vigilance and relevance should be the watchwords guiding future foreign and economic policy decisions. Human rights, democratic principles and tolerance are the hallmarks of Canada’s evolution. Canada’s advantage is in their prosperity, as they will prevail if they continue to be pro-active in global affairs, harness the benefits of proximity to the United States and selectively nurture other global prospects most amendable to our interest and our assets. Through Canada’s persistent participation in the United Nations, they were able to successfully achieve the basis and beginning in future foreign policy, which plays largely into the Arab-Israel conflicts of 1956.
Cite This Work
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below: