Second thoughts from the anti-Harper wing

It is no secret that the now oh so pretentiously named Global Affairs Department was liberal-cabinet-20151106.jpgless than satisfied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper; in fact who can forget the wholly unprofessional display of partisan glee when, in early November 2015, the newly elected prime minister was swarmed by cheering civil servants when he visited the Lester B Pearson Building. He was so “Not Stephen Harper” and many were thrilled with just that.

One of the more fervent ‘Harper Haters’ was a pretty senior diplomat named Daryl Copeland, author of Guerrilla Diplomacy (2009), a book in which, inter alia, he protested against the “marginalization of diplomacy” by people like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Stephen Harper. It is a good read, by the way, even though I disagree with some (but not all) of his diagnoses of the problems and his proposed solutions.

Now Mr Copeland is having second thoughts about Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s view of Canada in the world, as he explains in an opinion piece in iPolitics.

maxresdefaultReferring to Ms Freeland’s June 2017 address to parliament, about which I commented, he says that “she has offered a decidedly hawkish, defence-centric and U.S.-oriented appreciation of Canada’s international prospects, replete with disturbing echoes of the warrior-nation wannabe associated with the Conservative era.

The Laurentian Elites are disappointed. They wanted a full blown return to Pierre fidel-castro-and-pierre-trudeauTrudeau’s left wing, viscerally anti-American, rather Francizied foreign policy of the late 1960s, when Canada slashed its commitment to NATO, and the early 1980s when Prime Minister Trudeau, managed to convince himself that the shooting down of an innocent Korean airliner by the Russians was, somehow, America’s fault ~ because the Russians were blinded by Cold War fears. It appears, now, to critics like Mr Copeland (and others) that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is just running the global version of a high school popularity contest, oh-the-horrorquite devoid of principle, while Foreign Minister Freeland is taking shots at the Russians and, perforce, the Laurentian Elites fear,  cozying up to the Americans. Oh, the horror! All this talk of tanks and guns and standing up for classically liberal principles and democracy. No wonder Mr Copeland is upset … it is so like Stephen Harper all over again!

Among [the] key points” that were missing from Minister Freeland’s analysis, Mr Copeland says, are: “the abject lack of a commitment to re-investing in diplomacy or diplomatic capacity; the absence of an international science policy (Naylor Report refers); and silence on the need to address the vexing constellation of  issues which imperil the planet and human survival … [because] … When it comes to the new threat set, climate change is but the tip of this iceberg … [we must deal with] … Diminishing biodiversity, management of the global commons, resource scarcity, drought and desertification, food and water insecurity and environmental collapse represent just a few of the global challenges for which there are no military solutions. Inattention to this complex and sprawling agenda is difficult to justify.” His complaints might, I think, resonate amongst many Liberals and, even more, amongst the millions of (generally younger) voters who either came out to vote for Justin Trudeau’s vision (or, at least, for what they dreamed his vision might be), often switching away from the NDP to do so. But Minister Freeland and her senior officials ~ the folks in the adoring mob in the foyer of the Lester B Pearson Building don’t get much “one-on-one” time with ministers ~ are faced with the world as it is, right now … with a world dominated by:

Who can blame the prime minister or the foreign minister and the senior officials for being less concerned with “sunny ways” than they are with real, imminent threats to global peace and security?

Mr Copeland adds to his litany of complaints. Where, he asks are this government’s plans to address; “UN Security Council electoral strategy; Peacekeeping prospects; Attainment of UN sustainable development goals; Asia-Pacific engagement; Science diplomacy; Arctic sovereignty; Indigenous contributions; and Investigation of possible war crimes associated with the treatment of Afghan detainees? Let  me be clear, as with his first list, which includes resource scarcity and water insecurity, I do not disagree with all of the concerns he lists … some do matter, a few mater a lot. But how much can we do if Xi and Putin and Trump remake the “world order” in ways that are terribly illiberal?

The Harper Haters, like Mr Copeland and many in the Laurentian Elites, are victims of the same myopia they attribute to Minister Freeland; she, Mr Copeland says, “has offered a decidedly hawkish, defence-centric and U.S.-oriented appreciation of Canada’s international prospects, replete with disturbing echoes of the warrior-deAdder_Feb15_1602112rchrnation wannabe associated with the Conservative era.” He has, in turn, has offered a decidedly dovish, environment-centric and European-oriented view … exactly what Justin Trudeau promised in 2015. It’s not that Mr Copeland is 100% wrong, nor are Ministers Freeland and Sajjan 100% right; Canada is a rich, sophisticated, G7 nation: we should be able to craft and pursue a responsible, principled foreign policy that addresses the entire range of our vital interests in the world. We should, as an old army saying goes, be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

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