Category: Cdn Politics

Cdn Politics

Where did the alliance go?

With Howard’s loss last week in Australia, Prime Minister Harper has found himself as a somewhat reluctant, and one might say lonely stalwart of the Bush driven Atlantic alliance.  Particularly on Climate Change, but also to some degree on Iraq, (he is in denial of the former and was in favor of the latter), he now stands in notable contrast to both British and Australian governments.  With all likelihood, the US will also soon diverge on both.

Lucky for him, the lack of international temptation will probably serve him well at home, as the Canadian public is largely more sympathetic to the new emerging Atlantic consensus.  The main question is whether Harper will stick to his principles or buck to popular pressure.  For what it’s worth, my bet is that his conservatisms runs deep and will not be easily shed despite electoral temptations.   Bad news for the Conservative Party, good news for the Liberals.

Cdn Politics, Global Issues

The review I wish I’d written

The best book reviews are those that avoid the easy shots, the type of superficial critiques that can be made of any book, and go straight for the gut. Such reviews don’t quibble with details, or point out obvious biases, but rather go after the central thesis of the work. They challenge the core principle.

Such a blow is struck in Leslie Campbell’s review of Naomi Klein’s new book, The Shock Doctrine, published in the Literary Review of Canada.

In much the same way Potter and Heath nailed it re. No Logo, Campbell’s review is so powerful because it fundamentally challenges the central tenant of Klein’s new work, that she is providing a progressive alternative to the conservative market forces driving, in her view, global inequality. Moreover, it does so from the heart of the left – The author is linked the to the federal NDP.

Campbell’s core critique is that Klein is not progressive at all, she is actually a conservative. As he puts it:

“A hankering for the old days (in Klein’s case, the era of John Maynard Keynes) and suspicion of change are the hallmarks of true conservatism. Reminiscent of the Canadian Tory wag who once quipped that the Magna Carta was “too much, too soon,” Klein’s admiration of Keynes and the “mixed, regulated economy that created the New Deal” can sound quaint and dated. New Deal economics transformed North America, but positive innovations since then, many based on encouraging entrepreneurial wealth creation and liberalizing trade arrangements, deserve more attention. Also, in critiquing selected international economic transitions—most notably Russia, Poland, South Africa and Iraq—Klein occasionally sounds nostalgic for a past that was, for many people, at least as negative as the present.”

This can of course be said of much of the left writ large, where nostalgia has in many regards replaced progressivism, in any meaningful and historically accurate sense of the term. Certainly in Canada, there can be little doubt that the NDP are the most conservative party in the country (save perhaps the Bloc’s view of Quebecois Nationalism).

Understandably, conservatives are not too pleased with their new bedfellows, but on the central point, Jonathan Kay agrees with Campbell:

Leslie’s got it right: As with many anti-corporate activists, Klein’s vision for the world is essentially old-fashioned and sentimental. She imagines workers organizing into small-scale collectivist cottage shops of the type that globalization and technology rendered obsolete generations ago. The economic model Klein wants for developing nations is essentially the same one our own grandparents eagerly cast aside when modern capitalism made them rich after the Second World War.

Kay goes on to provide some useful clarity on conservatism and capitalism re. the Klein review, but this is somewhat tangential to Campbell’s critique.

I will avoid the temptation to go further, only to say, there is an emerging progressivism that moves beyond the highly conservative restraints of the socialist left. Something these guys are early champions of. As Campbell concludes, it is tired and out of date:

The book winds down with a rather familiar defence of “democratic socialism” (good socialism as practiced by Hugo Chavez) as opposed to “authoritarian Communism” (bad socialism as practiced by Stalin) or social democracy (cheap sell-out of socialism practiced by Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder and their ilk). To those in left-wing circles this is a hoary and tired debate, but Klein resuscitates it as brand new, quoting 1970 memos from Kissinger to Nixon like newfound gems. To have the young and talented Klein, hero to a generation of wired, plugged-in idealists looking for a place in the world, concluding that the political future is “markets existing alongside the nationalization of the banks and mines” is almost as discouraging as having to fight the powerful, unaccountable multinationals she skewered so skillfully in No Logo.

Lest anyone think I, or I think I can safely say Campbell for that matter, are arguing in favor of conservatism. Quite the opposite, as it is the very drift of much of the left that concerns me. More on this later though…

Cdn Politics, Global Issues

A Good and a Bad…

… move by the Harper government. First the good. Along with other Commonwealth members, and in notable contrast to Bush’s recent statements, Canada has led the way on suspending Pakistan from the Commonwealth.

Now the bad. The current government is trying to shut down the supervised injection site in Vancouver. The site has been an unqualified success, and serves as a portal to getting people into the health care system. If anyone thinks these people should just be locked up, watch this short but tragic globe and mail documentary. That’s right, just lockin’em up will do it. Nonsense. This gets directly into a discussion of the seriously flawed irradiation policy that will likely be undertaken this winter in Afghanistan. I’ll have more on this asap, but just to muddy the waters a bit, Canada exports almost as much illegal narcotics as Afghanistan. Perhaps we should start at home, or, shockingly, with the demand side of this problem.

Lest one think these are unrelated, the war in Afghanistan has brought to light wider international issues that directly effect our potential success. Both Pakistan and the opium trade are serious destabilizing forces in Afghanistan. Dealing with both is therefore critical to our continued involvement. As Dave and I argued, here, there are deal breakers in this war. The status quo on both Pakistan and the global opium trade, are unsustainable.

Cdn Politics, Global Issues

G&M Oped: Afghan Deal Dreakers

Dave and I had the following op-ed in the Globe today:

Kandahar deal breakers: The Afghan poll is not a blank cheque
TAYLOR OWEN AND DAVID EAVES
Special to Globe and Mail Update
November 2, 2007 at 1:03 AM EDT

The results of the poll of Afghans by Environics on behalf of The Globe and Mail, the CBC and La Presse were surprising to many. Afghans are broadly content with their government, happy that Canada is in Afghanistan, and believe the work being done is beneficial and effective. Canadians should be proud. We are making a difference.

What is potentially worrying, however, is the fervour with which the poll was greeted in Canada by some of the mission’s supporters. While a useful reminder of why we are in Afghanistan, this poll is not a blank cheque for any and all future engagement.

Future actions, by us or our allies, could alter the political conditions in Afghanistan, negatively shifting indigenous public opinion. Consequently, this poll should reaffirm the necessity of debating how we engage, and under what conditions we walk away.

Two looming scenarios could derail the mission.

Consider, for instance, the spraying of poppy crops. This winter, under the leadership of the former U.S. ambassador to Colombia, the Americans plan to spray opium fields with herbicides. Needless to say, the spraying will have little to no impact on the global availability of illegal opiates.

But the impact on Afghanistan will be dramatic. Opium is critical to the Afghan economy. Kill the poppies and you impoverish the farmers, their families and the communities they support. This will undermine Afghan support for the NATO mission and destabilize the Karzai government.

Perhaps most important, the U.S. spraying campaign undermines the agreed-on division of labour within the NATO alliance. Under the Afghan compact, Britain was given responsibility for counternarcotics. Unilateral spraying by the U.S. violates this agreement. Such actions call into question the terms under which the alliance agreed to function, and on which Canada agreed to sustain its presence in Afghanistan.

In short, a policy in which we have had no input, and we are not executing, will make Afghanistan more dangerous to our soldiers and less conducive to achieving a lasting peace.

A second possible deal breaker is also on the horizon. After the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the Americans are likely to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. The purpose, strategy and tactics of this surge will have dramatic implications on the nature and potential success of our mission.

This influx of American troops could secure the troublesome Pakistani border and enhance the security environment for reconstruction and development. Alternatively, this force, hardened in Iraq, could engage in the most counterproductive forms of counterinsurgency, driving support to the Taliban. In short, a sea change in the composition of American forces could alter the nature of the mission into one that is unacceptable to Canada.

Neither the opium problem nor the insurgency can be solved with magic bullets. The appropriate policies are complex and long term. There are, however, things we should clearly not do.

In order for us to effectively react to, or ideally influence, these scenarios, it is not enough to be clear on our strategy and objectives. Canada must also outline to its allies the policies that so harm our actions that they negate our involvement.

This is not an empty threat. As Canadians already know, no one is willing to take over our role. Either our work in Kandahar is valuable to NATO, in which case we have influence, or it’s inconsequential, and we should be reconsidering our involvement. If the former, then we possess political leverage with which to shape the mission. What’s more, it is an aberration of responsibility to deploy our troops in the field but allow others to determine the course and strategy of the mission.

The Afghan poll gave us reasons to stay in Kandahar and to be proud of our role, but it is not a blank cheque. We must use our hard-won influence to negotiate with our allies on the terms and implementation of the mission. Poppy spraying and widespread use of aggressive counterinsurgency tactics should be deal breakers. Our military has won Canada real influence in Afghanistan; will our diplomats use it to ensure the mission’s success?

Cdn Politics, Global Issues

Africa is not a Liberal idea

David and I published this piece in Embassy Magazine this week. They’d asked for our reaction to PM Harper’s speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.


Embassy, October 3rd, 2007
OPED
Africa is not a Liberal Idea
Taylor Owen and David Eaves

“It was clear that he had a particular feeling about the continent (Africa) and particularly that underdog feeling of Mulroney’s where you want to come to the defence of the beleaguered. It was a fascinating dimension of the man which is not widely appreciated by Canadians.” – Stephen Lewis on Brian Mulroney

Of all of Prime Minister Harper’s remarks at the Council of Relations last week, what was most important, and revealing, was what he didn’t say. Amid the platitudes over US-Canada co-dependence and shared values was a noticeable omission.

Not once was Africa mentioned.

For an hour and a half discussion that covered the breadth of Canada’s Foreign Policy agenda, this is remarkable. For just over 20 years, Canada has progressively increased its presence in Africa. Largely driven by CIDA funding, but also through the support of peacebuilding missions and humanitarian relief operations, we have developed tremendous experience and expertise in African development.

And for good reason.

For a country that balances its foreign policy between the promotion of values and national interests, and that defines these values in notably humanitarian terms, there is no better place to project our resources and influence than Africa.

However, it is no secret that the current government sees Africa as a Liberal idea. Canada’s “New” Government has sought to distinguish itself from the past whenever and wherever possible, and Foreign Policy is no exception. This has manifested as a major regional shift in policy towards Latin America and a corresponding thematic shift to democracy promotion and trade liberalization.

This is of course the Prime Minister’s prerogative. There are, however, real costs to this regional and thematic shift. Moving to Latin America means both rebuilding our in-house regional expertise, and devoting resources to developing a new skills, networks and institutions focused on democracy promotion and trade liberalization rather than on local development and humanitarian relief. It also shifts our limited resources from a continent struggling with extreme poverty, communicable disease and war, to one much further along the path of development.

The sad irony of course, is that Africa was never a Liberal idea. If anything it was a Conservative one.

Both Chretien and Martin were certainly strong supporters of Canada’s role in Africa. But Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was there first. Prompted by a public outcry to the devastation they saw on their televisions, he led the world in responding to the Ethiopian famine in 1984. More importantly, this leadership wasn’t just financial. Canada acted diplomatically, breaking ranks with its Western Allies and becoming one of the first countries to talk to Ethiopia’s then-Marxist government. In addition, it is widely accepted that Mulroney took special interest in tackling apartheid and again broke ranks with our allies by pushing for tougher sanctions.

More ironic still was how Prime Minister Harper’s partisan-influenced remarks stand in contrast to much of the American Foreign policy discourse, driven in no small part by the Council on Foreign Relations. The Council has been critical in enabling America to discuss its role in the world within a bipartisan community. In the US, the promotion of national interests and values are seen as largely non-partisan issues, with many foreign policy issues discussed with a degree of centrist objectivity.

The Prime Minister however, did the very opposite. He went to great pains to point out that whereas he wants to lead by example, previous (read Liberal) governments, were content to lecture the world. Ignored in this twice repeated sweeping generalization was: the Land Mine Treaty, Responsibility to Protect and the International Criminal Court. Together these foreign policy successes have become symbols of our role in the world and of our national identity. They are representative of multilateral tradition and our capacity to mobilize the international community.

More than a partisan oversight, this slight by the Prime Minister is emblematic of an underlying insecurity among many conservatives towards foreign policy. By viewing past initiatives like our focus on Africa, through a partisans lens they risk implementing reactionary and counterproductive policies that will marginalize past successes and impede future accomplishments.

More importantly, however, this insecurity is unnecessary. Many of our great foreign policy initiatives, such as the response to the Ethiopian famine, the Acid Rain Treaty, and the fight against Apartheid, were led by conservative governments. Like the Mine Ban Treaty, the ICC and R2P these were not partisan, but national accomplishments..

Rather than lead Canada out of Africa, the Prime Minister could use the network, infrastructure and expertise Canada has developed to – by his own words – lead by example. His successes would be celebrated by Canadians as national, rather than partisan, achievements for which we can all be proud.

Cdn Politics, Global Issues

Canada and Iraq: A Looming Foreign Policy Challenge

Yesterday, David and I had the following oped in the Toronto Star.  Let me just add that the point is not that we should be sending in troops, but that the current default positions of pretending the crisis does not exist and blaming the Americans for screwing it up, are simply untenable for a country that seeks to have a voice in the world on humanitarian issues.  Also problematic is leaving the fighting to other nations while we do the humanitarian relief.  Either we think there should be force, and therefore there is no reason we should not be contributing soldiers, or we don’t, in which case we should be advocating against others doing so as well.  While Afghanistan is probably best described by the former, on Iraq, I think the latter applies, although there may be a case for a peacekeeping force at some point.


Iraq suddenly appears on Canada’s radar screen

Aug 29, 2007 04:30 AM
Taylor Owen and David Eaves

For the past five years, Canadian leaders have had little to say about the Iraq war. Content not to be in but careful not to be too
critical, most have adopted a laissez-faire position on the conflict. This position is unsustainable.

In just over a year’s time, Americans will elect a new president. Regardless of whether the victor is a Democrat or a Republican, the last ardent defender of the Iraq war will have left the international stage and the world will look at Iraq through a new lens. The Iraq war, “Bush’s War,” will be over. Iraq the humanitarian crisis will be in the ascendant.

In anticipation of this emerging shift, the Security Council last week voted unanimously to increase the UN’s role in Iraq. The
international body will endeavour to do what it – and notably not what the U.S. military – does best: engage in essential diplomatic, negotiation and humanitarian activities.

And this is only the beginning. While the departure of U.S. and British troops will undoubtedly remove one aggravating factor,
sectarian strife, a humanitarian crisis and a failing state will remain.

Within a year, Iraq will have shifted from a precipitous and ill-executed American invasion and occupation, into an
internationalized humanitarian crisis.

And a crisis it is.

According to a recent UN report, there are 1.8 million internally displaced persons and 2 million refugees in neighbouring countries, with an additional 40,000 to 50,000 leaving per month; 54 per cent of the population lives below the extreme poverty line of $1 a day; 43 per cent of children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition; inflation is 70 per cent, and in 2006 there were 34,452 recorded civilian deaths and 36,685 recorded civilian injuries.

Compare these numbers to Kosovo and East Timor, and add the regional consequences of a prolonged Iraqi civil war, and surely there is a case for active international engagement.

As the recent Security Council resolution indicates, a global strategy is starting to take shape. There will be calls for still
greater UN intervention, possibly even a peacekeeping force. Over the next 12 to18 months, an international plan for dealing with Iraq will likely emerge.

Will Canada help shape it?

We could opt not to. That would be politically expedient, although it would confirm our declining status on the international stage.

Or we could see this as a diplomatic opportunity where we are uniquely positioned to lead. Canada is an ally of the United States and Britain but had the integrity and self-confidence to not participate in the flawed invasion. Canada is not burdened with a colonial or imperialist past in the region. Unlike Germany and France, Canada has had limited financial interests in Iraq. And, in contrast to Russia and China, Canada possesses a relatively well-respected record on human rights.

By helping to develop a solution that could bring stability to Iraq, the region and the international community, Canada could shine. Indeed, the parallels to the event that launched Canada’s much vaunted but greatly diminished status as an international peace broker are noteworthy.

During the 1956 Suez crisis, the world’s powers were equally hamstrung. What made us so useful then is what could make us so useful today.

This potential is, of course, complicated by our role in Afghanistan. It could reasonably be argued that Afghanistan is our
primary international commitment and that we simply do not have the resources to contribute to two major peace-building efforts. But military constraints need not curtail our diplomatic role in a new UN-led effort in Iraq.

Any future mission in Iraq will require a legitimacy that the U.S. invasion lacked. Our position within the UN, coupled with our unique standing in the international community, could make sure this is achieved.

As a country, we need to remember that, regardless of the causes, Iraq today is a humanitarian crisis and a geopolitical time bomb, a country whose collapse or breakup could destabilize the immediate region, and potentially much more.

Here’s hoping Canadian humanitarianism helps shape the way forward.

Taylor Owen is a doctoral student and Trudeau Scholar at the University of Oxford. David Eaves is a frequent speaker, consultant and writer on public policy and negotiation.

Cdn Politics

Fisk on O’Connor’s letter to Rumsfeld:

Not sure how well this will play north of the border.

Hands up those readers who know that Canada’s Defence Minister, Gordon O’Connor, actually sent a letter to Rumsfeld two days before his departure in disgrace from the Pentagon, praising this disreputable man’s “leadership”. Yes, O’Connor wanted “to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your many achievements (sic) as Secretary of Defence, and to recognise the significant contribution you have made in the fight against terrorism”. The world, gushed the ridiculous O’Connor, had benefited from Rumsfeld’s “leadership in addressing the complex issues in play”.

O’Connor tried to shrug off this grovelling note, acquired through the Canadian Access to Information Act, by claiming he merely wanted to thank Rumsfeld for the use of US medical facilities in Germany to ferry wounded Canadian soldiers home from Afghanistan. But he made no mention of this in his preposterous letter. O’Connor, it seems, is just another of the world’s illusionists who believe they can ignore the facts – and laud fools – by stating the opposite of the truth. Bush, of course, is among the worst of these meretricious creatures. So is the late Tony
Blair.

Anyone know here there is a copy of the letter?

Cdn Politics

Wither Public Debate, Wither Public Policy

David Eaves and I have the following op-ed in today’s Toronto Star:

Prime ministerial power stifles decision-making

Last week Prime Minister Stephen Harper boldly reversed his position and proposed that the renewal of the Afghan mission be contingent on cross-party consensus.

If, however, the Prime Minister is serious about developing an Afghan consensus, he will need to radically rethink how foreign policy is developed in Canada. For more than a decade, the creation of foreign policy has become more opaque and less discussed as it shifted from Parliament, ministers and mandarins to the advisers in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Jean Chrétien’s decision to pursue Kyoto – without an implementation plan – and to stay out of Iraq – without a strategy for managing the U.S. relationship – occurred with minimal parliamentary or even cabinet debate.

Paul Martin’s decision to move forces to Kandahar was made without widespread public discussion or parliamentary approval. More recently, Harper’s China strategy was formulated in isolation and ignored the wisdom and experience of the Department of Foreign Affairs on the issue.

This trend has profound policy implications. In each case, a closed and unilateral approach produced poor outcomes: We’ve failed to meet our Kyoto targets, relations with the U.S. are poor, the counter-insurgency mission in Kandahar is struggling and Chinese engagement is at a new low.

With the lessons of closed decision-making increasingly clear, the Prime Minister’s decision to seek consensus on the Afghan mission should be embraced by all Canadians. However, building this consensus needs to begin today, not in 2009, and the PMO must lead the way. To put force behind his proposal, the Prime Minister could take several simple steps.

First, the PMO should release an uncensored version of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s report on prisoner abuse. When Parliament last tried to investigate, the government sought to prevent witnesses from testifying to the ethics committee.

When witnesses finally arrived, Conservative MPs walked out of the committee, effectively shutting it down. Canadian democracy relies on Parliament’s powers of investigation and oversight. Allowing Parliament to perform its function would go a long way to signal the Prime Minister’s commitment.

Second, the minister of defence, responsible for military operations in Afghanistan, must be allowed to answer questions about the mission in the House of Commons. Gordon O’Connor’s rare responses during Question Period have been reduced to short dismissive statements, and his relations with the press are highly restricted. An accountable and effective policy debate is impossible if the mission’s key leader – the minister of defence – is silenced.

Finally, the PMO should release its grip on government bureaucrats working the Afghanistan file. Astonishingly, the PMO must clear all communications and policies relating to Afghanistan – effectively shutting out input from policy experts both within and outside government.

While controlling a debate is often confused with leadership, nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to our country’s most important policy decisions, such as the war in Afghanistan, the government must draw on the collective wisdom of the whole country, not simply the ideas of a handful of PMO staffers.

This means allowing government to interact openly with those it represents. There are numerous emerging networks, particularly in the academic community, that the government could draw upon for collaboration on the Afghan mission. Send them the signal that they have a partner in Ottawa.

In short, Canadians will look to their Prime Minister to reach out and engage everyone, even those who disagree with him, to become a consensus builder.

Brian Mulroney, another Conservative prime minister, demonstrated such leadership during the first Gulf War. Recognizing the gravity and sensitivity of the situation, he invited the opposition leaders – even those who’d openly opposed the war – into his cabinet. He even deputized Audrey McLaughlin into the Privy Council so she could read classified information.

Disagreements persisted, but the debate shifted from being partisan to solution-oriented. At the moment, few could imagine Harper opening up the cabinet discussion to Jack Layton, Stéphane Dion and Gilles Duceppe. The current implausibility of such a suggestion is the canary in the coal mine of the Prime Minister’s proposed new, open foreign policy debate.

If Prime Minister Harper is serious about developing an Afghan consensus, he will need to start now, not in 2009.

Cdn Politics, Global Issues

G&M Oped: Conservatives misunderstand Canada’s Foreign Policy History

David Eaves and I have an op-ed, here and below, in today’s Globe and Mail.

Beyond Vimy Ridge: Canada’s other foreign-policy pillar

This is a hallmark year for Canadian foreign policy. 2007 marks the anniversaries of two events through which Canada contributed significantly on the international stage: the Battle of Vimy Ridge and Lester Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize. This is a wonderful coincidence. These two moments, and the values they imbue, are defining pillars that have guided our foreign policy.

Sadly, these events and the principles they represent are frequently held up as opposing ideological doctrines between which an absolute policy choice must be made. In reality, the very opposite is true. Not only are Vimy Ridge and the Nobel Prize both real and important achievements, but the policies and values they embody function far better in collaboration than in isolation.

The first pillar, Vimy Ridge, is a defining moment in Canadian foreign policy. It compels us to remember, and give thanks to, Canadians whose sense of duty and sacrifice contributed to a greater cause.

Equally important, Vimy personifies a Canada that stood by its allies and contributed more than its share. It created a lasting legacy of values that continue to serve us well: courage, allegiance to allies, steadfastness, valour, bravery.

However, we must also remember that the First World War reflects an enormous breakdown in political leadership. It is an example of what happens when great powers allow their rivalries to run unchecked.

Wonderfully, Canadian foreign policy responded to this deficiency, and evolved to include a second foundational principle: Pearsonian diplomacy.

By providing an innovative solution to the Suez Crisis and preventing its allies from stumbling into a global conflict, Mr. Pearson’s prize reflected a different set of values than those of the First World War: honesty, integrity, leadership, principle and a willingness to question and check our allies. The Peace Prize honours a tradition of diplomacy that prevents us from having to commemorate another Vimy.

While both pillars are critical to an effective Canadian foreign policy, many on both the left and right would prefer to celebrate only one of these great events. Each claims that either Vimy or the Peace Prize imbue “true Canadian values.” Both are mistaken. It is the interplay between them that makes Canada a credible and recognized actor in global politics. Notably, this is accomplished by being neither militaristic hawk, nor unwavering peacenik.

There is no doubt that diplomacy was ultimately what prevailed in the Suez crisis, yet it shouldn’t be forgotten that it was backed up by a credible military presence. An idealistic dependency on diplomacy has limits, as Roméo Dallaire is quick to point out. Sometimes, it is the threat of force that is required to keep or build the peace.

Likewise, the use of military force also has its limits. Washington’s predisposition to rely on force often taints the legitimacy of U.S. military interventions. In contrast, countries respect Canadian interventions because they know our diplomatic history and leadership in avoiding unnecessary conflicts. Recent achievements continue to demonstrate the value of carefully weaving together these two pillars. For example, Canada did not participate in Iraq because we rightfully believed diplomacy had not run its course.

Ambassador Paul Heinbecker’s Pearsonian resolution at the United Nations, proposed on the eve of war, assuaged legitimate international concerns by balancing credible weapons inspections with the threat of force. Had it been adopted, and no weapons found, a disastrous war might have been avoided. Countless lives might have been saved and Canada might have been in the running for another peace prize.

Contrast this to the first Persian Gulf war, where diplomacy was allowed to take its course. An important norm of the international system — the unsanctioned use of force — was defended. Canadians fought valiantly alongside our Anglo-U.S. allies and with the legitimacy of a broad 30-member coalition.

In both of these cases, the Vimy and Pearson pillars worked in tandem and resulted in principled international action.

Sadly, we may be drifting toward an overemphasis on the Vimy pillar of Canadian foreign policy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government appears overly romanced by our military tradition and negligent of our diplomatic history. The UN Peace University in Toronto has recently been closed down and funding for the Canadian International Model UN has been cut. More telling — and in sharp contrast to the months of time, energy and money that were appropriately dedicated to the Vimy celebrations — the government’s plan for the Pearson anniversary are unclear.

The Prime Minister’s treatment of the peace prize milestone will be telling. If he believes that the second pillar of Canadian foreign policy is indeed symbiotic with the first, the same priority will surely be placed on celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall.

Cdn Politics, Global Issues

Afghanistan Op-ed

Apologies for the light posting of late, it has been a hectic work month. I have an op-ed in today’s Toronto Star (written with friend and colleague David Eaves), the slightly longer and unedited version of which is below:

Getting Back on Track in Afghanistan

Success in Afghanistan remains as vital today as when the government first sent troops, aid workers and diplomats to Kandahar in August 2005. Many Canadians, however, feel unsure about the mission and want to be assured that our government has a strategy. On February 6th, Prime Minister Harper promised as much, stating his government will table a report summarizing the progress and challenges to date, and will make a significant announcement about our next steps. This is an opportunity to clarify our strategy and to unite both Parliament and the country around the largest deployment of Canadian forces since the Korean war.

First, let us be clear. Canada has an unambiguous purpose in Afghanistan. Failure to secure and rebuild will leave the country as a failed state, a neo-Taliban led fundamentalist regime, or a training ground for terrorists. Any of these would fundamentally threaten Afghan human security, regional stability, and our Canadian national interests.

Prime Minister Harper must reaffirm our commitment and clearly articulate our way forward. We suggest that his report must address three critical areas that if left unchecked, will cause the mission to deteriorate and could cause it to fail.

1. Return to a strategy that complements counterinsurgency with reconstruction and the imposition of the rule of law. Over the past year Prime Minister Harper has increasingly relied on failed US policies and rhetoric, compounding existing problems and creating new ones. In a battle for the hearts and minds of southern Afghans, an aggressive approach will do more harm than good.

Militarily, the killing of even one civilian can do great strategic harm, turning entire villages against us. The Taliban use these casualties to great effect, so that some Afghans now fear international forces more than those who brutally ruled over them.

We need to rethink our counterinsurgency strategy, by relying less on military force, and more on innovative local interactions. As a start, we must curtail the use of air strikes, resume the policy of compensating civilian casualties and determine how our forces can best support reconstruction. The Liberal cabinet deliberately chose not to deploy Leopard tanks and CF-18’s, prioritizing interpersonal contact with Afghans over brute military might. The Prime Minister must explain why we deviated from this strategy.

Most importantly, we need to ensure effective governance. Support for the Taliban derived, in part, from their capacity to impose law and order. Many felt a draconian but predictable governance structure was preferable to chaos and anarchy. Afghan’s desperately want the stability and freedom that comes with the rule of law. If we want to win their hearts and minds we must enable them to establish a just and fair system as quickly as possible.

Diplomatically, the Taliban resurgence in the south remains unchecked. Our problem starts, not from lofty negotiations with Pakistan, but from our own polarised view of the Taliban. Like the failed de-Baathification of Iraq, categorising all who support the Taliban as “against us”, both radicalizes and creates enemies out of moderates whose political support could help stabilize the country.

2. Align Domestic and Foreign Policies. Support for US-backed counter-narcotics tactics endangers the Afghan mission. Poppy eradication destroys the livelihoods of many Afghans and fuels Taliban recruitment. Forcing farmers to shift from poppies, which generate $5,200 per acre, to wheat, which generates $121, is unrealistic. Farmers need a viable alternative. One that curtails the influence of warlords and reduces the global supply of heroin.

Internationally, the Canadian government should ally with the British to develop a regulatory regime that legalizes the purchase of Afghan poppy crops. These crops could be used in the legal production of codeine and morphine, which are scarce in the developing world.

The Canadian Government should also support the Afghan mission by curbing demand for opiates the one place it can – at home. In our globalized world there is a direct link between the poppy fields of Afghanistan and overdose deaths in downtown Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Domestic policies that reduce demand for illegal opiates – such as renewing Vancouver’s Insite safe injection site – diminish the market for these illicit crops and make it easier to shift Afghan farmers to alternatives.

3. Provide clarity of mission. Canadians must be provided with the necesary information to judge our strategy and progress in Afghanistan. When Canada agreed to the Kandahar mission it sought to balance development, military and diplomatic components. Prime Minister Paul Martin outlined this strategy on February 22nd, 2005 when he described how Canadian Forces “…will be assisted by aid officers, who will identify key assistance projects to help to reduce tensions, and by diplomats, who will work with the provincial and local authorities in building confidence with the local population.” Are we still implementing a 3D strategy? If not, why not? If so, what are the benchmarks with which we can measure our success and evaluate the balance between our defence, development and diplomatic efforts?

Transparency is particularly important for effective humanitarian assistance. Critical questions remain unanswered. Where is our development money going? How much are we spending, and on what? Are these programs symbiotic with our military and diplomatic operations?

The Government would be well advised to establish a development measurement framework with clear milestones, based on the Afghanistan Compact, enabling projects to be evaluated and held accountable. Canada could also appoint a Director of Reconstruction to serve as a counterpart to our military commander and charged with achieving our development objectives. Combined, these initiatives would enhance security by ensuring those programs that most positively impact the lives of local Afghans are prioritized and monitored.

While we are but one partner of a large coalition, smart, targeted Canadian policies can make a substantial difference. Because the Afghanistan mission is difficult and, at times, dangerous it continues to test our leadership. Harper’s report is timely, but will only be valuable if he addresses head on the critical challenges we face. Canada needs a clear strategy for success – one that builds trust, engages in development and reconstruction, and ensures the rule of law, simultaneously. Without such a strategy we risk defaulting to a US-style military approach, neglecting development and diplomacy. This is Canada’s mission – let us ensure we tackle it Canada’s way.