Sunday, January 02, 2005

Canada's Glaring Errors in Foreign Policy begining to Appear to Even the Toronto Star

The Red Star

Ironically it would appear even the left is begining to figure out that they can't accomplish their foreign policy objectives with meetings and speaches. I can only say - "Welcome to reality, you may soon develop a nodding acquaintance with it."

Soft power' isn't working


Has our "soft power" gone soft?

That Canada has precious little hard power, or the stuff that comes out of the barrel of a gun, has been clear enough for a long time.

Which for the most part is why we can't accomplish anything. Its like coming to a poker game with no money to buy chips and constantly claiming "that your good for it."

In part compensation, but mostly because that's the kind of society that we are, we've instead emphasized our so-called "soft power," or that amalgam of our international reputation and image, our capabilities in everything from diplomacy and foreign aid to the specialized know-how we can command because of our multiculturalism and diversity.

In any discussion of Canadian foreign policy, it's become a commonplace to declare that it should project and export "Canadian values," that is everything from our passionate commitment to human rights to the prime importance we attach to tolerance and the acceptance of diversity.

I'd say its more a cop out to make ourselves feel good about doing and accomplishing nothing in the world. After all we play nice and work with the UN and its an effective means of implimenting positive change in the world right? (I can't even keep a straight face while typing that as a rhetorical question)

This "soft power" foreign policy has become exceedingly popular in Canada.
It gives us an international identity that is clearly different from the far more aggressive one of the U.S. It gives us a sense of purposefulness; as Bono famously said, "The World needs more Canada."

The world needing more Canada is assuming the world needs to remain absolutely static. Why? because Canada's ability to enact positive change is exactly zero. So Paul can jet all over the place and shake hands and kiss babies. However, at the end of the day what's he done? Absolutely nothing worth speaking of. On the other hand Australia is certainly exerting influence far beyond what a nation of only 20 million or so normally would - because they are willing to foot the bill to make their voice heard and to match words with deeds.

Additionally, Bono should stick to singing.

Soft power, though, needs to be hard itself. This is to say that soft power has to be wielded efficiently and it has to be well-financed. Otherwise it becomes little more than self-indulgent, and self-congratulatory niceness. It can also become an excuse for avoiding the hard, and sometimes risky, decisions that are involved in exercising actual hard power.

This would be the Canada's reasoning for embracing soft power "an excuse."

Our soft-power policy reached a peak around the century's turn during the term of then-foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy. We were the prime movers in two major international accomplishments, the international treaty on land mines and the international criminal court.
Even then, there were signs of a softness at the centre of our policy. We were, we kept on telling ourselves, the world's principal peacekeepers. In fact, we'd largely frittered away this legacy of Lester Pearson. Among contributors to United Nations peacekeeping missions, we now rank 35th, behind tiny Nepal and bankrupt Bangladesh. (empahsis added)

So much for our status as a leading peace keeper. We're number 35! We're number 35!

In his book, While Canada Slept, Andrew Cohen has described how we in effect hollowed out our standing by slashing our spending, not just on our military but on our foreign aid and on our diplomacy.

One cost to us is that we've missed the chance to play a leading part in one of the most progressive of international developments in the last few years. This is the spread of democracy far beyond its core areas of Europe and North America into regions and societies with no historical experience of it.

The overwhelming credit for these political transformations goes to the people of Georgia and Ukraine. But some share of the credit — the payoff of years of patient education and training — is due to the work of two American organizations, the George Soros Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy.

For lack of funding, no Canadian equivalent to these organizations exists. Indeed, a number of Canadians worked for Soros and for the National Endowment in Georgia and Ukraine because this was the only way they could get actively involved in promoting international democracy.

So we're doing soft power work in a soft way. And while the world does need more Canada, there are, in this greatest of all humanitarian disasters in perhaps a century, no Maple Leaf flags out on the front lines so that everyone, and we ourselves, can now say that we are out there doing good in the Canadian way.

Apparantly we can't even cop out of a real foreign policy properly.


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