This would make a good TV thriller: a few years in the future, with the world in economic turmoil and the whole planet in a tense, uncertain mess, French-speaking Quebec finally breaks away from Canada in a dramatic, overwhelming referendum.
Canada grins and bears it. But then Quebec’s elected government is overthrown by ultra-nationalist fanatics, after violent riots in Montreal in which Chinese diplomats and politicians openly support the protesters. One minister from Peking is even recorded, on his phone, discussing the make-up of a new Quebec government with the Chinese ambassador to Montreal.
The new Quebec regime gives a hard time to the country’s remaining English-speakers, knowing perfectly well that this will infuriate English-speaking Canadians and Americans. It also makes a huge trade deal with Peking, and follows that by forming a military alliance.
Within a year or so, there are Chinese troops and aircraft in Montreal, just 370 miles from New York City. What’s more, China says it plans to site missile launchers in Quebec. It says these are purely defensive. But as it happens they could also be used to fire nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. ‘We wouldn’t do that,’ says China. But there is no treaty to stop it doing so.
What do you think the United States government would do in these circumstances?