The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Canada’s Pathetic Preparations for US Collapse or Fascist Takeover

The Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper had a great article on why there’s reason for Canada to be worried about US collapse or fascist takeover or both. It runs through various scenarios and is excellent, you should read it.

What I want to talk about is…related. Let’s start with the conclusion, after the case is very well made (if late, since the actually-prescient people noticed this a long time ago.)

But here’s my key recommendation: The Prime Minister should immediately convene a standing, non-partisan Parliamentary committee with representatives from the five sitting parties, all with full security clearances. It should be understood that this committee will continue to operate in coming years, regardless of changes in federal government. It should receive regular intelligence analyses and briefings by Canadian experts on political and social developments in the United States and their implications for democratic failure there. And it should be charged with providing the federal government with continuing, specific guidance as to how to prepare for and respond to that failure, should it occur.

Can you think of anything more pathetic? A committee!

Here’s what I was arguing back in the 90s: To start with, we need a deterrent. It doesn’t have to be nuclear, if that gets our heinies in a twist; there are conventional explosives almost as dangerous, and we manufacture missiles.

We make lots of them — Canada is a big country. Put them on trucks, in grain silos, on trains, and move the mobile ones around a lot. Done properly there’s no way to take them out with a first strike before a lot of them launch (Israel couldn’t find Hezbollah’s launchers in a much smaller country).

Warn that, if the US invades, we take out not just their cities but hit some nice exurban/suburban spaces so the sort of people who want war know that they’ll get hit no matter what.

Canadians have spent a lot of time pretending Americans, who routinely invade, bomb, and assassinate in other countries, would somehow never do it to us. This is delusional — and always has been.

Next: We have a long border, and it has to be hardened. I’m willing to take American refugees, but I want control over it and I don’t want militia yahoos. We need more boots and surveillance, and that takes some time.

Finally, change economic policy and start doing everything possible to build our industry back up and to diversify our trade ties, while making and growing as much of what we need here. That’s eminently possible.

Of course, the US will not want us to do any of this. Having a compliant defenseless nation on their northern border is obviously in their interest. Indeed, the Chinese dream for Russia is to make it into their Canada (but less defenseless); an entire border that is completely safe.

We have no reason to take the safety away from the US; war with the US will never be in our interest. But we, have plenty of reason to get rid of being defenselessness — especially since we don’t know who will be in power in the US in the future.

Back in the 80s, the USSR ambassador to Pakistan is said to have said something like, “I do not know who will be in charge of Moscow in the future, but I know that Russia’s interests are always the same, and therefore we can be trusted. With America, what they want changes with the wind: they don’t seem to have a consistent set of interests, and so they cannot be trusted.”

The US is not a trustworthy country, even by the admittedly sleazy standards of international relations. It is becoming less and less trustworthy. Canada is rich with resources — especially water. This means we could easily re-industrialize if we simply accepted that it is in our interest to do so, rather than be a completely dependent and defenseless satrapy.

Oh, and finally, finally, we need to do everything we can to remove US cultural and political influence. As American politics has become more and more right-wing and crazy, so have ours. We have one-tenth the population of the US and a smaller economy. It is easy for US influences to swamp our politics and radicalize our population in Tea-Party-esque ways, and they have done so already, just not to the same extent as in the US heartland.

We were fools not to resist this with all our force, and if we don’t start now, it won’t matter. Like Austria when the Germans went bad, we’ll just go bad briefly afterwards.

It’s up to us. We can remain supine in the victim’s posture of, “Please don’t hurt us, we’re harmless and will do almost anything you ask!” or we can act to defend ourselves. Even if we do so, the US will remain to us what Russia has often been to Finland, and we will both have to make clear that invading or overly bullying us will HURT, but that we are no threat.

That’s just realpolitik, and we need to stop living in la-la-land and engage in it.



Again, on Omicron & “Just Give Up and Let Everyone Get It”


Covid and China’s Victory


  1. BobbyK

    The saddest thing is that supposedly America has a Democratic party that will pull the country back from the maniacal right ward drift. Instead at every inflection point, Democrats helped it along.

  2. anon

    “Next: we have a long border and it has to be hardened. I’m willing to take American refugees, but I want control over it and I don’t want militia yahoos. We need more boots and surveillance and that takes some time.”

    All countries should do this with all refugees, and that includes Americans if that ever happens. I’m a progressive liberal who voted for Bernie twice, but I am more conservative when it comes to immigration and accepting refugees. It’s politically incorrect to state that openly among liberals, but any country should be concerned with accepting “yahoos” and people whose way of life and culture are vastly different from its own.

    I lived in a community that was accepting a large number of (non-Muslim) refugees from a certain country I will not name. Gradually, more upwardly mobile Americans of various races moved out, including my family. Sorry to say, but their behavior and way of life were unacceptable. I have never been racist or xenophobic towards anyone, but when it comes to the sanctity of my home and my safety, I will not tolerate low-class behavior, and that includes from my own fellow Americans.

    Last night, I told a friend who lives in another country that I don’t blame non-Americans who shun Americans and avoid them like the plague, pun intended. The US is currently a disease ridden country with a significant number of its population refusing to do basic things in a pandemic like wearing a mask. Would you want to accept these sort of people into your civilized country? I wouldn’t.

  3. Keith in Modesto

    Just some typos to edit:

    2nd paragraph: “Let’s start with [the] conclusion, …”

    5th paragraph: “Canada is a big country, put them on trucks, in grain [silos]…”

    7th paragraph: “This is delusional and always ha[s] been.”

    10th paragraph: “Indeed the Chinese dream for Russia is [to] make it into their Canada…”

    13th paragraph: “Canada is rich with resource[s], and especially water.”

    14th paragraph: “As American politics ha[s] become…”

    I may be off on the paragraph numbering and I don’t know how to do strikethroughs.

  4. Ché Pasa

    We’ve all seen the obsessive/compulsive replays of the Jan 6th Uprising that have been permeating all the news outlets lately. Those who want to laugh at the bourgeois yahoos because they failed to replace the Mensheviks with the Bolsheviks and the White Army still holds the Winter Palace, well, they may want to reconsider.

    There is a real risk. Not that it will happen again — it probably won’t, at least not in the same form — but that seeds have been dispersed widely, and a gradual or sudden replacement of the sick and frail system of rule we’ve been under (and incessantly complain about) is taking place regardless of any of wants or needs you or I might have.

    Most of the states are under rightist control regardless of the voters. Democracy, in other words, has failed. The federal government is largely in the hands of rightists and crypto-fascists, despite nominal “leftists” in charge, and the opposition, such as it is, is slow-walking rectification or outright defying the People. A cascading series of crises affects all of us — except those on top who count and hoard their increasing wealth, power and privilege like there’s no tomorrow.

    Canadians are right to feel alarmed at the collapsing American Experiment to the south of them.

    If Canada were truly a separate political, cultural and economic entity than the United States, then some form of defense would be required. But is Canada truly separate, or is it more like a great big US state? If Canada is as enthralled to its rightists as the US and so much of the Western World is, what perceptible difference would there be if it all falls under the fascist banner? We’re already two-thirds of the way there, aren’t we?

  5. Ian Welsh

    Thank you Keith.

  6. mistah charley, ph.d.

    “Appoint a committee” is not an exciting suggestion – but forming a multiparty consensus for precautionary action might be effective. It’s not clear just how much Canada can “go our own way” – we will always be neighbours – nevertheless, the extent of entanglement might be reduced – in a no longer politically correct metaphor, John Ralston Saul called us a “Siamese twin”.

  7. Ian Welsh

    Yes, tripartisan consensus would be good… I just know what almost always happens to things sent to committee in Canadian politics…

  8. Daniel Lynch

    The U.S. only invades countries that refuse to kowtow. So far Canada has been more than happy to kowtow, and more than happy to sell its natural resources no matter the environmental cost, so I’m not seeing an invasion happening.

    Another issue is that the U.S. military is increasingly weak. The U.S.A’s bloated military budget does not translate into effectiveness because most of the money goes to corrupt corporations that produce products or services that don’t work. I don’t see that changing any time soon — if you throw more money at a corrupt system, all you get is more corruption. So yeah, the U.S. could send its antique B52’s to bomb Canada, and that would be painful, but it takes a lot of boots on the ground to actually control territory and the U.S. sucks at that.

    To deal with the B52’s, I suggest that Canada buy the Russian S-400 defense system.

    Future wars will be decided by missiles (though controlling territory will always require boots on the ground), so as Ian suggested, it will be useful for Canada to buy or produce some decent offensive missiles as well as decent missile defenses. Economically it will probably cost less to purchase the weapons from Russia. If Canada decides to build their own I suggest state-owned-enterprises rather than the corrupt U.S. system of private for-profit military contractors.

  9. StewartM

    Ian, I agree with you (I think) in that the first disaster that will hit us will be the rise of fascism in the West, particularly the US. Other bad things (economic, climate-related, etc) will follow, and sooner after that than later, as the fascists are determined it seems to accelerate them (like Bolsonaro in Brazil, as climate too is a culture wars issue).

  10. Mark Pontin

    Daniel Lynch: “I suggest that Canada buy the Russian S-400 defense system.”

    I like it!!

  11. someofparts

    I am so sorry that this misbegotten crime scene of a country is such a menace to Canada and all the other poor souls around the world that we terrorize.

    If I were creative enough to write novels, it would be interesting to do a story set in the future where the climate has gotten warmer and native Canadians have beefed up trade alliances with Russia and moved farther north to escape the hordes of Americans crossing their borders in the southern part of the country.

  12. different clue

    What will deter America’s future OverLords all depends on which OverLord wannabes take over, if any specific ones do.

    Secular fascist materialist OverLords would be deterred by the things which Ian Welsh mentions.

    Would Christian Fascist OverLords? Does it depend on what particular kind of Christian Fascist OverLords?

    The Air Force Academy is still, so far as I know, dominated by Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, so far as I know. Some years ago I remember being at an extended family function along with my Colorado-based younger Air National Guard brother. When doomer scenario politics came up, I mentioned that parts of the Air Force, perhaps the parts with the plane-borne H-bombs, were pretty influenced by Fundamentalist Evangelicals, and some of them might be Rapturanian Armageddonites. The Rapturanian Armageddonites would rather drop H-bombs on New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco than on Moscow or Beijing ( I said). Parts of the table asked my younger brother in some disbelief . . . ” that can’t really be right, can it?” And younger brother said something like: ” I have interacted with some of these people, and older brother is factually literally correct. They would like to drop H-bombs on New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco if they could”.

    If the particular successor government over America is a ChristiaNazi Fascist government with Rapturanian Armageddonite leanings, and Canada said ” if you attack us we will bomb some major cities” . . . . such a government might well submit Canada a list of disfavored American cities to “please bomb first”.

    Such a government would need a different kind of deterrent, but I don’t know what that would be.

  13. Astrid

    I agree with the no invasion scenario, Canada is too much of a poodle and Canadians are too much like Americans to allow for the American good guy rescuer narrative. Even in a horrid harvest year, US can still easily feed and power itself with just a little bit of belt tightening. There’s no reason to invade unless Canada grows a backbone.

    What’s more likely is that the US will increasingly become what Mexico is to the US or Turkey/Belarus is to the EU. Climate and economic refugees flood in as illegals and are denied access to stressed social services and the formal job market. They become a criminalized underclass living at the fringes of Canadian society. Right wing anti-immigrant parties will proliferate.

    People keep talking about Russia and China turning against each other, but I actually see a greater likelihood in 20-50 years that the two (maybe with Mexico) will work to divy up Anglo North America, perhaps under the by then reasonable sounding auspices of peacekeeping. If they’re smart, they will study the British in India playbook very closely.

  14. Purple Library Guy

    I have been saying for quite a few years now that in our times the core political project of Canada is to untether our little boat from the Titanic one circling the whirlpool, before we get dragged down the drain with it.

  15. Todd Ernst

    i am pretty sure the plan is to invade Mexico. They have oil and brown people, so it’s a go.

    Canada is safe…. for now.

  16. JBird

    (Please pardon me if this is somewhat incoherent.)

    It is very important, even critical, to worry and prepare for what the United States might do in the future. Canada might have to become a Finland.

    However, as an American let me give everyone a warning. There has been a lot of effort put into having Americans fear everything and everyone both because it is very, very profitable for the congressional-military/security-industrial complex and because it is way to bring the empire home. Both the Democrats and the Republicans have use this fear to demonize, silo, and make stupid everyone in the country. The only differences are the targets as they have split up the country for the old divide and rule.

    Every empire, at the end, uses the tools of empire and the American regime will use them so that it can control the population should we get any silly ideas like freedom, fairness, or the rule of law. The ruling class uses the weapons or tools, created for empire or ostensibly to keep the country safe, on the very people they are suppose to protect. Any weapons and fear makes people give the authority to the ruling class to use those weapons.

    Do not let fear, or more likely the use of fear by the elites, control you and make you do things you will later regret. Instead be concerned or worried. Much like Manzanar in the past, the current American Gulag Archipelago, or the regime’s current security state along with the destruction of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, once something is done or lost finding it against is much harder than its original creation; all were done in the name of safety while making us unsafe.

    Yet, I fear that Canadians will see what we are doing for “safety” and not think it bad, rather “That looks like a great idea!” First the terrorists, then the criminals, followed by troublemakers like socialists, NAACP, or the SPCA, next political opponents, and finally those not enthusiastic enough supporters. Perhaps they will start on those wishy-washy believers in civil rights and the rule of law. Do not believe me? Look at the Palmer Raids, the Red Scare, the cavalry and machine guns used on striking miners, or the assassinations of the 60s. COINTELPRO. All to keep us safe. Most of the victims were completely unarmed and often law abiding, but they threaten the ruling order, were demonized, and dealt with.

    And even if you regain your soul and make an effort to give recompense those harmed, just how would you make whole those who lost years, decades, perhaps all the days of their very lives? Maybe your own life, your family, or even your friends. “Sorry we put you in prison for your entire adulthood, old man. Our bad, here’s some cash.”

    Do not, do not, bring the empire home or commit to an endless attempt to keep yourself “safe” or “free” because you will have neither. It will not happen overnight. It will be slow and pernicious just like with the United States over the past thirty years. Having a Fortress America has not keep us safe, but it has enriched some while destroying many. The same will happen with a Fortress Canada. You will have given up what makes you Canadian (much like Americans have) and become something you will not recognize.

  17. Trinity

    A not-necessarily-political committee receiving immediate intelligence sounds about right to me. This is so much better than going straight to the very top of your government (no matter who it is) or worse, the military. The committee acting as advisors to the military etc., would be the best for everyone. The military usually has one agenda: to increase their budget. (No offense intended to current or previous soldiers or marines, both my husband, three brothers, and my son served.)

    The US will not invade Canada, they are more likely to buy it and then destroy it environmentally. A nearby war would be a war in which an elite oligarch might actually be affected, so I cannot see that happening. Besides, Canada has all the future oceanfront property. Most of the northern US will be livable for another generation or two, until the center turns back into an inland sea. And furthermore, the oligarchs won’t want to ruin Canada’s natural resources until they have extracted every effing penny they can possibly put in their own pockets. Never poop in your own pool, in other words.

    Definitely plan for the worst, hope for the best, and that is true for all of us.

    Climate refugees are the most likely, including from the US south and west. I can’t see any political refugees, given there is really only one very large political party (from their perspective). Soon there will be no one to complain about anything at all, it’s all high living for them and everything is a breeze.

    Trump is operating exactly as every narcissist does: pick a theme to rally people to him and his cause, pick scapegoats, and then reward anyone who treats that target badly to ensure more will join in. Lie through your teeth, make shit up as well, and focus on getting your followers to destroy your enemies (the scapegoats). So far, he is operating by the book. The only ideology such people believe in is their own greatness, but he will use others’ ideologies if that will help him achieve his dream of being acknowledged as perfect in everything he does. As a narcissist, he is literally unable to acknowledge that he lost the election (or face any real truth about who and what he is) and he will not stop until the situation is rectified and his perfection is acknowledged.

  18. James

    This just silly. Canada is a resource colony, and a place for rich immigrants to hide money. There is zero social cohesion, the political system is at best a charade, with the opposition parties run by spies like Paul or WEF flunkies like Singh. Anyone with talent leaves for better opportunities and less authoritarianism in the states or abroad. That doesn’t leave Canada with much but cities full of cheaply built condos and houses used to hide money. The prairie provinces are eventually going to want to leave and the natives are growing in number but have little jobs, education and opportunities and history teaches us what will happen. The USA has its problems still has produces far, far more technical innovation, goods and everything else. I am far more optimistic about the USA’s future than Canada.

  19. Ché Pasa

    Money laundering has momentarily come to the fore in both Canada and the United States as primary underpinnings of their politics and economies. I say “momentarily” because even though it’s been common knowledge for a long time, actually saying it out loud or in print has been… erm… frowned upon.

    But we’ve been seeing more and more chit-chat about it, especially since the advent of the Trumpist-fascist movement, driven by questions about why he in particular was protected all his life from legal consequences, and further, where did his money come from after he squandered his inheritance?

    But it’s not just him, is it?

    Of course not.

    Canada’s oligarchs no doubt have their equivalents.

    The more I ponder Ian’s conception of a defensible Canada — defensible against the rage and collapse of the USofA leading to some kind of invasion/take over of Canada — the more it seems to resemble a version of the Defensible Ukraine idea. Which to my mind is ultimately a contest between oligarchies in which the People(s) are ground to dust to serve the overriding pecuniary interests of their Overlords.

    Fascist against fascists, much like Europe in the ’30s and ’40s.

    Canada would more likely be absorbed by the USofA like Austria was by Germany back in the day, or like the Ukraine may well be (again) by Russia one day. Absorption is always preferable to invasion and conquest, isn’t it?

    What’s pathetic is the constant saber rattling of the “West” which probably signifies nothing in the end. For what it’s worth, I don’t see anyone rattling their sabers over what may be just over the horizon in North America.

    It’s as if the global oligarchies couldn’t care less. Hmmm….

  20. Willy

    Canada may have many times the oil reserves of Mexico, but it’ll probably be the friendlier temperatures the refugees want. On the plus, these refugees will mostly be the more intelligent of Americans since the faith-based America-great anglo-culture-supremacists will prefer to prep it out in the American heartland until Jesus arrives.

  21. Mary Bennett

    Ian, What you Canadians need to be worried about is who is going to control 20%, or more if you factor in Canada’s other large lakes, of the world supply of fresh water.

    The Koch brothers already made a play at establishing a kind of business satrapy in the upper Midwest. That was back when a group of hard right governors were elected with Koch backing in upper Midwest states.

  22. Mark Pontin

    Ché Pasa: “Money laundering has momentarily come to the fore in both Canada and the United States as primary underpinnings of their politics and economies. ”

    Money laundering is foundational to pretty much most major economies in a era of instantaneous capital flows via global electronic networks.

    In the case of a business-owner like Trump, however, it could work pretty straightforwardly and legally — somewhat as Musk or Bezos personally doesn’t pay much tax because their worth is all in their business, they take a low official salary, and just borrow against their business when they need cash.

    Somewhat similarly, Trump can buy a golf course resort or hotel in another country, which usually welcomes the investment and gives him sweet terms. After that cash flows within the different branches of Trump International work however they work, though I don’t know the technicalities there because IANAL.

    On a smaller scale, whenever you see a Chinese nail salon, say, that usually doesn’t seem to have much traffic but which stays in business year after year — and I see lots of such businesses — it’s about the money laundering.

    If someone is astute and has good legal advice about investing in a business in another country, then moving money between countries without the authorities taking their wack _can_ be fairly easy. And at the other end of the scale, the small fry can just walk cash across borders–you’d be surprised how easy it is even in the 21st century as long as you exercise some sense.

    As in most things, it’s the vast mass of folks in the middle who really have the problems moving money internationally and some really conspicuous oligarchs trying to move multi-million sums that just aren’t easy to hide — and even then those latter usually find a way.

  23. mistah charley, ph.d.

    In the comments section for his piece at the Globe and Mail, Thomas Homer-Dixon wrote:

    “As I wrote, I knew the individual points weren’t enough in themselves to justify the claim I was making in the opening sentences, but when taken together they created a compelling argument supporting that claim. And I think that’s one reason many people aren’t recognizing the danger in the US; they’re seeing bits and pieces of the picture, but not the whole thing.

    I’d originally planned to spend more words detailing recommendations for Canada, but as I wrote I realized that I needed, first, to carefully build the “case” that there’s a substantial likelihood of a collapse of democracy in the US. Otherwise people could say–legitimately–that I was simply being alarmist. (Of course, some people will say that anyway, but they’re the ones who generally won’t bother to read the full article or respond to its specific arguments.)

    More detailed recommendations will follow in a later article; I’m getting lots of helpful advice on that front already. “

  24. different clue


    Most of the “oil” Canada has isn’t oil at all. It is Alberta Tar Dreck.

  25. Synoptocon

    Amazing that people consistently fail to internalize that non-military problems are generally not amenable to military solutions. Deterrence is neither relevant nor possible here. In fact, overt deterrence signalling increases the risk rather than decreasing it. Covert measures would (and do) have some utility, but that requires a higher level of mastery than is common in today’s Ottawa.

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