Daniel W. Drezner: A modest proposal for the U.S. to buy Canada

Daniel W. Drezner.jpg
Daniel W. Drezner

In recent days, the mainstream media reported on President Donald Trump's interest in acquiring Greenland, which is a "constituent country" within the kingdom of Denmark. The Wall Street Journal broke this story Thursday, with follow-up reporting from The Washington Post and the New York Times. Greenland has responded with an emphatic, public and polite refusal. This has been manna from heaven for political scientists, who have proffered many useful takes.

If there has been a dominant theme in the mainstream media coverage, it has been that not even Trump's staff can take him seriously on this point. The Journal's story noted that "the few current and former White House officials who had heard of the notion described it with a mix of anticipation and apprehension," and that was one of the more positive responses. Reuters reported, "The notion had been laughed off by some advisers as a joke but was taken more seriously by others in the White House." The Washington Post's Damian Paletta and Colby Itkowitz reported, "The presidential request has bewildered aides, some of whom continue to believe it isn't serious, but Trump has mentioned it for weeks." The Times's Maggie Haberman and Michael Shear reported, "Privately, Mr. Trump's advisers are highly skeptical that such a move could ever happen. But instead of telling him they do not think it is possible, the advisers have agreed to investigate the matter."

All I can say is, thank God Trump's more stalwart defenders have taken pains to point out the president's keen insight in wanting to buy the island. On Sunday, Trump's economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, a brilliant man who always stays in his lane, said on television, "It's developing. We're looking at it. . . . I'm just saying the president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look."

The Washington Examiner's crackerjack editorial team has defended Trump on this question, pointing out that, "don't laugh - an American purchase of Greenland could represent an extraordinary deal in terms of America's national security, economic interests, and environmental protection. . . . Americans of all political stripes would benefit from Greenland and its 56,000 inhabitants joining our national family."

I won't lie, I was initially dubious about the Examiner's enthusiasm for this acquisition. The more I thought about the logic of that editorial, however, the more convinced I became that Greenland is for small-timers. The Examiner argued Greenland "has extraordinary strategic value" and "abounds with resources." True that, but this just means the Trump administration needs to think more ambitiously. If the 45th president really wants to think big, he should make an offer for an even bigger, richer, more strategic and more passive-aggressive Arctic ally. I speak, of course, of Canada.


Here's my proposal: The Trump administration offers Canada and the Queen of England the following deal:

$20 trillion in cold, hard cash - $10 trillion to the Crown, $10 trillion to be distributed among the residents of Canadialand.

A one-for-one exchange of the loonie for the greenback.

Each of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories would be admitted as a state in the union, with representation in the House and the Senate.

While we're admitting new states, D.C. and Puerto Rico get statehood as well, bringing the United States to 65 states in total.

This is one of those rare win-win-win-win-win deals in international politics. The United Kingdom would win from the cash reserves it would receive from relinquishing sovereignty - and, let's face it, it's going to need the money. Canada would win from unification with its Southern neighbor, combining forces for an economic and Olympic powerhouse. No longer would Canadians have to truck with this "middle power" nonsense, they'd be part of the hegemon, baby! Finally, they would have some proper security forces for their strategic maple syrup reserve.

I listed five wins, however, and the remaining three are in the United States. The Trump administration could secure multiple wins with this deal. In acquiring the second-largest country by geographic size, Trump would cement his name in the history books. He would also engage in some bank-shot expansionary monetary policy. See, if the $20 trillion was just printed, Trump would have discovered a way to inject massive amounts of liquidity into the system at the exact moment when markets have been getting jittery. He would not acknowledge this, but the reduction of trade barriers between the two countries would be another boost for economic growth.

What is great about this deal, however, is how even in a polarized moment, both Republicans and Democrats would enthusiastically endorse it. For Democrats, the electoral math is simple. The center of political gravity in most of Canada's provinces is to the left of the median U.S. state. In acquiring Canada (as well as turning D.C. and Puerto Rico into states), the Democrats would enhance their ability to control Congress for the next several decades. For Republicans, the political logic is even more simple: Trump wants to buy Canada. Also, most Canadians are as white as Republicans. Stephen Miller is probably salivating over the racial possibilities!


Would a purchase of Canada be free of problems? Gosh, no. The boost in hockey coverage would be annoying, and I suppose the rising anti-Americanism in our neighbor to the north might be a bit of a problem. Also, I hear territories are not for sale.

It will require a great dealmaker to close this sale in as swift a manner as possible. Go for it, President Trump. Show us the art of the deal, eh?

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

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