Saturday, June 02, 2018

America's Allies Redefined By One Man

In 2014 the National Post of Canada reported

Byron Greff never lived in his family’s newly-built home but his presence is everywhere.

There are countless photos; some show him proudly wearing his military uniform while other candid moments capture the zeal with which he lived, including his full range of goofy, comical faces.

He delighted in making people laugh. Greff might have agonized over memorizing his school work but he never forgot a joke. Even if it wasn’t funny, he would chuckle in its telling and then his family would laugh. Then Greff would howl at their laughter and they would laugh some more. It was contagious.

“He had a very big heart and was full of fun,” says his mother Candy. “Oh my goodness, we’d have sore sides from laughing.”

But there’s one photo missing, which the family dearly wishes could have been taken.
The family—parents Candy and Greg, siblings Chelsey and Dustin—planned to sit for a formal portrait when Byron returned from Afghanistan on leave at Christmas in 2011.
He didn’t make it home.

He didn't make it home because Master Cpl. Greff was killed when explosives blew up a NATO bus in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing seventeen people, including that one Canadian.

Greff was the last of 158 Canadian casualties fighting alongside Americans and other NATO allies in the war Washington launched inb A Taliban suicide bomber driving a car packed with 700 kilograms of explosives targeted the NATO bus and detonated the device in a fiery blast. Seventeen people were killed. Greff was the only Canadian casualty.

And now, this:

President Trump is imposing steep tariffs on steel and aluminum from three of America's biggest trading partners — Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

The trade penalties, 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum, take effect at midnight, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters Thursday.

President Trump wants to impose tariffs on Canada despite- or perhaps because

Chapter 148 of Title 10, United States Code (U.S.C.), addresses policies and planning related to the “national technology and industrial base” (NTIB) which it defines as “persons and organizations that are engaged in research, development, production, integration, services, or information technology activities conducted within the United States and Canada.

Jonathan Chait explains that the President can do this because

A 1962 law gives the president authority to impose tariffs for national security reasons. In the middle of the 20th century, control of natural resources and certain kinds of manufacturing determined the outcome of wars. Japan and Nazi Germany selected areas of conquest in order to acquire oil and other resources needed to fuel their militaries; factories that built cars and appliances could be converted to making tanks and fighter planes. The law allowing the president to set tariffs for national security reasons set few limits on how this alleged need would be defined, but that didn’t matter, because presidents used it sparingly.

Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada was not persuaded, and responded

Our soldiers who had fought and died together on the beaches of World War II … and the mountains of Afghanistan, and have stood shoulder to shoulder in some of the most difficult places in the world, that are always there for each other, somehow — this is insulting to them...

Cynics such as Canadian-American David Frum will observe

The trouble is that the most effective way to engage this president - pay him or his relatives- is usually illegal under the laws of democratic allies like Canada, Germany, etc

However, that only removes a deterrent to imposition of a tariff. Canada has been recognized by American presidents as a trusted ally, as usually has been the European Union since it came into existence in 1993. Trudeau's remark, then, might suggest an actual incentive for the imposition of tariffs. Fiona Hill noted in February 2015

In short, Putin wants Europe to understand—as he stated in a 2014 speech to Russia’s ambassadors––that the U.S.-led “unipolar order” is over. The United States trumpeted its victory in the Cold War. Now it is the West’s turn to be humiliated. And Putin intends to have Russia draw up the new borders of a Europe “free, whole and at peace” that the United States, NATO and the EU defined after 1989.

Canada is not as critical to geopolitical alliances as is the European Union. For the former, it might be simply that Trump doesn't see any potential there to increase his family's wealth, or that Trudeau and Obama got along well, so he cannot.  

But two things are clear: President Trump has far more interest in forging alliances with Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Il-un than with leaders of democratic nations. And that what Charlie Pierce wrote of American war dead applies even to the likes of Byron Greff and the other NATO soldiers who died fighting alongside the USA: they deserve more than to have the the free world sullied by a "dangerous and ridiculous man" who has squandered the peace and profaned the sacrifice of so many.

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