SUMMARY:Canada has had, since the end of the Cold War, a relatively easy run in managing its foreign and defence policy. The country is sheltered by vast oceans on three sides and, to its south, by the United States, the most militarily powerful and economically prosperous country in the world. Canada’s strong and cordial ties with its southern neighbour have brought it major benefits: as complicated as these bilateral relations are, and as frustrating as they often are for Canadians and their governments, they have significantly contributed to the country’s security and prosperity. Canada is also an active member of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, arguably the most successful defence alliance in history. Coddled by geography, Canada has remained far away from most of the world’s conflicts.
This benign context has heavily shaped Canadian foreign and defence policy. When Canada has made major foreign and defence policy decisions such as intervening in a conflict during this period, it has been mostly as a result of choice, not necessity. Two key categories of variables have shaped these foreign and defence policy choices. First has been the priority of international alliance management: details vary from one issue to another, but Canada’s foreign policy equation always ascribes important weight to the variables of relations with the United States and, to a lesser extent, with other close allies, especially in NATO. Second, the relatively low level of direct threats to Canada’s defence and security has implied that domestic variables, such as the ideology of the government of the day, diaspora politics, and other partisan considerations have also typically played an important role in shaping Canadian foreign and defence policy. This applies to Canadian foreign and defence policy writ large, and in particularly to the Middle East.
How has the interplay of international and domestic priorities shaped Canadian foreign and defence policy in the Middle East? And how are the important changes that have been sweeping through the globe and Middle East in the past decade, from the wave of Arab uprisings to the rise of more assertive rulers, impacted Canada’s interests in the region? These are some of the questions that this roundtable will explore. The roundtable will bring together many of Canada’s best experts on the region; most are contributors to a forthcoming edited volume on Canada and the Middle East.