In a column in the Ottawa Citizen, Michael den Tandt deals, briefly with the issue of charisma: who’s got it? Justin Trudeau, Kevin O’Leary and Michelle Rempel, he says. Who hasn’t got quite so much? Peter MacKay and Rona Ambrose, in his opinion. But his main point is to encourage Conservatives to get out there and talk about the Liberals three weaknesses, which, he says, are:
- “Security and defence. The Liberals, like every Canadian government since 1993 to a lesser or greater degree, have deemed defence spending to be a frill. Though we have not entered Decade of Darkness territory just yet, the government has shelved nearly $4 billion in military spending that should not be delayed. As the Ottawa Citizen’s David Pugliese has reported, this touches the Arctic offshore patrol ships, the CF-18 fighter replacement, Cyclone helicopters, the Integrated soldier system, and even the Halifax frigate upgrade, which was itself a means of extending the life of a rusted-out Navy. Meantime global security, especially in the Western Pacific, is increasingly tenuous. One U.S. presidential candidate, as I wrote last time, has made spending on defence by America’s allies a campaign issue. This is tailor-made for an opposition crusade.
- Spending in general, and the Liberals’ broken promise to keep their annual deficits to $10 billion. The $20 billion extra, yielding a $30-billion shortfall, is of course not enough to move a trillion-dollar economy one iota. The weak loonie and strengthening U.S. economy will do that. The deficit is not stimulative, therefore. It is political, a doling out of cash to satisfy key constituencies — call them, collectively, the Canada is Back crowd. The correct response is to shadow every penny, to call out waste and train a spotlight on boondoggles, which are certain to pile up. What could be more fun, for a Tory?
- Accountability. In his winning campaign, Trudeau torqued the bar on openness and democratic renewal, setting aside the risk of over-promising in favour of a bold appeal. Yet this government must now push legislation through the Commons and the Senate. It must control and manipulate its messaging, just as the Harper government did, or be consumed in the bonfire of 24/7 media. It must raise funds, which is extremely challenging given the legal limitations on the size of donations. These are necessary aspects of politics and they have their seedy, quotidian aspect. Yet the Liberals promised transformation — and explicitly tied this promise to their leader’s brand. When they fail to meet their own standard, Conservatives can be there to call them out — not in a nasty way, but simply by comparing Exhibit A to Exhibit B.”
I agree, especially about the security and defence issue, which I see as being tied, closely, to foreign policy. It seems pretty clear, to me, that this government wants the Canadian Armed Forces to just fade away, quietly. This is a government that campaigned on a very, very thin and narrow foreign policy agenda:
- Be greener than green ~ which motivated a large number of young Canadians, who do not normally vote at all, both to come out and vote and then to vote Liberal; and
- To return Canada to its traditional role as a UN peacekeeper. But, of course, the traditional role argument is, at best a misreading of our history, in my opinion most people who spout such nonsense know that it is a lie: a contrivance of a gang of lightweight academics and policy wonks (and yes, Lloyd Axworthy and Paul Heinbercker, it is possible to have a PhD from a prestigious American Ivy league university and to be head of a Canadian university or to have been a diplomat and senior civil servant and still be an intellectual lightweight) who wants to disarm Canada perhaps because they sincerely believe that Costa Rica is a “better” global citizen than Canada.
The problem with the Trudeau foreign policy agenda is, my opinion again, that it rests on a serious failure to understand what Soft Power is all about. Soft Power is very useful, very powerful in its own way, and it works, too. But it only works for those who have enough Hard Power (military and economic power) to convince others to listen to their soft entreaties.
Back in the early 2000s Prime Minister Paul Martin hired Jennifer Welsh, a Canadian academic who is Professor in International Relations at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Somerville College and, currently, occupying a five year professorship at the European University Institute in Florence, to help him write his White paper: “A Role of Pride and Influence in the World.” Professor Welsh understood that soft power must be backed up by hard (military) power and it appeared that Prime Minister Martin was ready and willing to (at least partially) rebuild the Canadian Armed Forces, but his policy was rejected by his own party. Everyone from Stéphane Dion to Michael Ignatieff wanted something different … by the first decade of the century the Liberal Party of Canada had, still has, pretty much completely, rejected the St Laurent-Pearson model of “Canada in the World” and had embraced the anti-nationalist, post national state, isolationist nonsense spouted by Pierre Trudeau in 1970. It, rejecting the truly traditional Canadian foreign and defence policy model, wasn’t done for principled or even, really, ideological reasons; rather it was decided, by the public relations professionals, that Canadians, by and large ~ at least those Canadians inclined to vote for a party other then the Conservatives ~ had bought in to the Pierre Trudeau myth and would be unlikely to support a return to St Laurent-Pearson vision.
About a dozen years ago I wrote on Army.ca that …
“I think we, Canadians, need to take a good, medium term look at the world around us as part of the process of reviewing, revising and enunciating our foreign policy.
The transitional era of one, lonely hyper-puissance will come to an end … we will return to a bipolar world in which superpower status will be shared by America and China. It will take China several decades to grow into a full fledged global superpower with global military, economic, political and even social powers, but it is, now, a major power – and not just a regional power.
The two superpowers will be ‘attended’ by other major powers: the European Union might overcome some difficult demographic, economic, social and political problems and emerge as a cohesive global power; Japan and, especially, India will be major regional powers – sometimes with global reach in some areas. Brazil, too, will, eventually, get its act together and will be an important ‘power.’
What about Canada?
We must accommodate the reality that we will, likely, ‘decline’ from being – as we are now by almost every sensible measure – one of the world’s top ten[/b] to being one of the top twenty … probably ‘behind’ America, China, Britain, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan and, perhaps, Spain but still ‘ahead’ of Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, etc.
What shall we do?
The answer is simple and must be made clear by Canadians to politicians: we must pursue, promote and protect our interests; we must do so efficiently and effectively.
We can sum up (and grossly oversimplify) our interests in two words: Peace and Prosperity. Neither is a as simple as one word might appear and we have known, since Roman times, that the two are interdependent. Peace is more, much more than the absence of war and prosperity is only valuable when we can use it to improve the commonwealth of our families, communities, nations and communities of nations.
It may be easier to say what we need to avoid rather than to try to specify desired foreign policy outcomes. What we want to avoid, above all, is a global war between an American led West and a Chinese led East. We must use our ‘good offices’ to convince our American friends – and they are our friends, our best friends whether some Canadians like it or not – and our Chinese trading partners that they can have a competitive, even antagonistic relationship without slipping through adversary and into enemy status.
The first requirement is that we actually have some ‘good offices’ to use for that worthy purpose. These ‘good offices’ are earned and must be maintained through a combination of political actions, economic measures – including foreign aid and investment and defence ‘muscle’ – muscle which is used. This should be the first of series of explicit requirements for defence capabilities which need to fall out of our foreign policy.
We must, also, strive to maintain close, non-adversarial contacts in the emerging bi-polar world. We have several unique advantages which we must be willing and able to exploit:
+ First, and I repeat: we are America’s closest friend and they are ours – all the breast beating by a substantial minority of Canadians will not change that and must not be allowed to tarnish the relationship;
+ Second: we have good, historically friendly ties with China. We can and should disagree with China on various issues without prejudicing our overall ‘friendly’ relationship – the Chinese, like all major powers, including America, have neither use nor respect for lapdogs;
+ Third: we have good, historically, friendly ties with India and the European Union – two of the key ‘second tier’ players. Further, we have good relations with two important subsets –
o Globally: with the so called Anglosphere which consists of America, Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore, and
o Regionally: with the smaller Northern Europeans – Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
This is an impressive base from which to pursue, promote and protect our interests – but it is a base which needs a bit of shoring up … especially regarding its military foundation. We may wish to revise some alliances – like NATO – to emphasize our strengths and interests and pay more attention to smaller, more exclusive bodies like the Anglosphere where our voice is a bit louder – where we are a bit more ‘equal’ than in other, larger, fora. We should consider that our Atlantic and Pacific interests are, at least, equal albeit secondary to our North American ones. Our military resources should be applied, in order, to:
+ Continental issues;
+ Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific (including Indian Ocean) issues, equally; and
+ Other areas – including Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia
We should, explicitly, announce our willingness to join coalitions of the willing which, serve our interests and preferably, serve and include (but, at least, do not offend) our traditional partners, allies and friends. We should pronounce ourselves willing to be a regional actor – able and prepared to help in, especially, the Caribbean and Central America and, to a lesser extent, throughout the Commonwealth and la fracophonie. Such help will, of necessity, have a military component and our foreign policy must require that we have the defence capacity to give military weight to our foreign policy initiatives.
Canadians like Lloyd Axworthy’s human security agenda: it seems reasonable that middle powers like Canada – and Australia, Ireland, Norway and Sweden should be able to intervene when people are being starved and slaughtered. Canadians seem less able (or willing) to understand that such interventions require military muscle – expensive military muscle which we, as a nation, must be willing and able to use, in accordance with international law, when the situations requires. Our foreign policy must remind us, and our elected leaders, that we have ambitions in the world and that policy must remind us that our ambitions come with a price tag.
Above all: we must be free and fair traders. We must be proponents of globalization because it is abundantly clear that globalization works. The evidence, the hard data, is clear: there are fewer, many, many fewer really poor people than there were 30 years ago … most of humanity is measurable better off because of freer, fairer trade and globalization … the WTO does more for suffering humanity than the United Nations. We should argue, on the world stage, for global free trade, using a rules based system with a dispute resolution mechanism and we might even wish to argue that the WTO should, gradually, usurp the UN’s roles in many areas – for example: some UN members agencies like the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Labour Organization and the International Telecommunications Union would be ‘better’ under the WTO’s jurisdiction.”
I stand by 95+% of that. Now I think that Russia has re-emerged, since 2004, as a real threat ~ greater, in my opinion, that either Islamist terrorist groups or China. I think that Africa is growing, quickly, as both a problem and a potential source of prosperity. I think that Europe is on the verge of a possible breakup with enormously dangerous consequences. But I still think that our foreign policy needs to be grounded in, clearly, identifying our friends (not always the same as allies) and enemies and, above all, our vital interests.
I believe that we, Conservatives, need to explain the global strategic situation to Canadians and we need to show them why and how Justin Trudeau, Stéphane Dion and Harjit Sajjan are leading us down the wrong path.