The latest challenge for conservative U.S. thinkers, it seems, is to invent new insulting names for Canada.
Pat Buchanan still leads the pack after coining the phrase "Soviet Canuckistan" last week, but the Nov. 25 issue of National Review offers its own contender by calling Canadians "wimps," and suggesting the country should be bombed for its own good.
In its lead story, "Bomb Canada: The case for war," the right-wing magazine makes a tongue-in-cheek argument that "it's quite possible the greatest favour the United States could do for Canada is to declare war on it."
The United States should perpetrate one of the most brazen sneak attacks in military history, according to the article, because Canada is hopelessly weak-kneed and introverted, worse than useless as a military ally and desperately in need of "a little invasion."
The intellect that reached this conclusion belongs to Jonah Goldberg, a young journalist with the magazine's on-line edition. Yesterday, Mr. Goldberg said he was joking, sort of.
"Do I think in all honesty that we should be bombing Canada? No," he said. "There is certainly sarcasm in it, but what I was trying to do is make a larger point."
Canada is not living up to its obligations in terms of national defence, peacekeeping and the so-called war on terror, he said.
"And yet you have this notion that somehow you're in a position to be lecturing the United States. . . . You can't just be in the peanut gallery shooting spitballs."
Canadians who read the article called it an amusing prank.
"It's pretty insulting," said Jack Mintz, president of the Toronto-based C.D. Howe Institute. "But some of the points he raised are right. The overall view worldwide is that Canada's a middling sort of country with high taxes."
Bernard Etzinger, a spokesman for Canada's embassy in Washington, said it is not uncommon for conservative media to criticize Canada and it rarely merits a diplomatic response. At the very least, he said, the magazine's cover picture of Mounties with the word "Wimps!" emblazoned across them was unfair.
Stephen Clarkson, the author of Uncle Sam and Us: Globalization, Neoconservatism and the Canadian State,said the article illustrates the "gross ignorance" some Americans have about Canada. But the article itself is not that important, he said, because National Review is not widely read and does not carry much clout.
"Some people will believe it. They believe that Elvis Presley is alive and well too."
Mr. Goldberg acknowledges freely that he cherry-picked ideas for his screed from newspaper columnists such as Margaret Wente and Jeffrey Simpson and David Frum and historian Jack Granatstein before whipping them up into one caustic stew.
Challenged on his written assertion that the United States "came out ahead" in the War of 1812, Mr. Goldberg said he was speaking of a "diplomatic" victory.
Asked about his assertion that hospital parking lots in Michigan are "full of Canadian licence plates," he said he had heard that from reliable sources.
And he was not sympathetic about the plight of Rohinton Mistry, the Indian-born Canadian author who cancelled his U.S. tour because of racial profiling.
"I have a real hard time believing that this guy wasn't looking to get pissed off."