According to an article by Nathan Rochford of the Canadian Press, published in the Globe and Mail, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks that “Canada could play a key role in defusing the tense global standoff with the North Korean regime by working with Cuba, a course of action the prime minister says he discussed with Cuban President Raul Castro when the two men met in Havana last year.“
Surprisingly, to me, anyway, Prime Minister Trudeau does appear to have some faint grasp of the key issues because, he is quoted as saying that “Canada has taken a keen interest in North Korea’s aggressive stance because the outcome of that country’s development of missile technology could have a direct impact on Canadians … [thus, said] “If you look at the flight path, there’s potential challenges for intercontinental missiles from North Korea passing over Canadian territory” … [and] … “Nothing we have tried as a global community has really managed to prevent what we have now, which is North Korea getting closer to a point where they have nuclear weapons that are actually a threat to the region and to the world … It’s steadily getting worse.”” He’s right on all counts: North Korea’s aggressive, peace threatening missile and nuclear weapons programmes might have a “direct impact on Canadians” especially if, as I suspect is the case, Kim Jong Un’s target list would certainly involve sending missiles through Canadian airspace and Canada has a long-standing commitment to defend its share of the continental airspace against all comers ~ not just against Russian manned bombers.
But, Prime Minister Trudeau says, correctly again, the UN approved sanctions appear to not be working … but that’s not, as he suggests, because “the approach taken by the United States has included a combination of sanctions, diplomatic pressure and “flexing in unpredictable ways – military threats.”” Military threats were always part of the US led West’s case in the United Nations; look at the Resolutions from S/RES 1695 through to S/RES 2375 ~ for 20+ years the UN has imposed sanctions, added diplomatic pressure and flexed its diplomatic muscle but Russia and China, who both have vetos on the worthless UN Security Council, have blocked any serious threats: in both cases because North Korea serves their anti-Western interests, for the moment.
But Prime Minister Trudeau, after getting the facts mostly right then veers of course and suggests that “Canada has taken a different approach … [and, he said] … “These are the kinds of things where Canada can play a role that the United States has chosen not to play this past year.”” What arrant nonsense! Prime Minister Trudeau is an intellectual featherweight who is so afraid of offending the knee-jerk anti-American and anti-military mindset of the Laurentian Consensus which exists, mainly, in urban Toronto and “old Canada” that he cannot or will not see Canada’s best interests.
Trying to use diplomatic back-channels so that Justin Trudeau can, through Raul Castro, persuade Kim Jong Un to act like a responsible adult is, to be charitable, irredeemably stupid:
The wrong path
The only correct strategic course of action for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pursue is to join, soon, the US’ missile defence system so that it is also part of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and, therefore, serves Canada, too. But that is also the only choice that the big-money elites in Montreal and Toronto ~ the ones who pull M Trudeau’s strings ~ appear unwilling to allow him to take. (Thanks to Greg Perry of the Toronto Star for that Trudeau cartoon … I cropped it, to save space, and took out his signature.) Thus he is reduced to going out in public and talking nonsense to fawning Canadian audiences.
Now, let me be clear: having and using diplomatic relations with despicable, second-rate dictatorships like Cuba is not a bad thing … Cuba is not a whole lot worse than many other countries with which we maintain correct, even cordial relations, in terms of e.g. human rights abuses and disregard for the rule of law. There is no really good reason not to maintain correct diplomatic relations with Cuba, but to suggests that Cuba has some (any) sort or privileged access to the despot in Pyongyang is, in my opinion, a flight of fancy.
Who does have a strong voice in North Korea? China, of course, Russia, too. There are about two dozen countries with diplomatic missions in North Korea including several which, almost certainly, have louder voices and whose “good offices’ are better than Cuba’s?
Now, for a bit of a tangent …
Why single out Cuba?
A large segment of the Canadian political establishment has been enamoured with Cuba ever since the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. That faction practically wet its political pants with excitement when Pierre Trudeau was, quite clearly, equally enamoured with Fidel Castro ~ a cruel, ruthless and aggressive tyrant who abused his own people and waged aggressive warfare (a crime against humanity) in Africa as a Russian puppet. But none of that mattered; all that really mattered was that Nixon and Kissinger were opposed to Castro’s Cuba and the Laurentian Elites despised Nixon~Kissinger even more than they did Reagan~Shultz and, almost as much as later, they despised George W Bush and Condoleezza Rica. Once again it is the reflexive, almost instinctive, knee-jerk anti-Americanism and crypto-pacifism of the Montreal-Toronto axis that is to blame … and it seems to be part of the Liberal Party‘s DNA, hard-wired into the party’s mindset … it has animated the Liberal Party or half a century, from 1967 until today.
And so we find ourselves, thanks to the Liberal Party of Canada‘s half century old core values, in a situation where the leader of a G7 country is proposing diplomatic lunacy, and hoping, I guess, that no one will notice.
The Liberals are, of course, desperate to “change the channel” away from broken promises, Bill Morneau’s patently obvious ethical problems and Prime Minister Trudeau’s equally obvious disconnection from the middle class that he promised to help. And what better forum than a little known but still mildly prestigious lecture series on “the State of Canadian Confederation” to announce something different?
How did the Liberals get so far from what many people might agree is reality and reason?
I have explained before how I believe Pierre Trudeau changed Canada, perhaps irrevocably, and why I think he believed in a “post-national state.” In short, I believe that Pierre Trudeau saw nationalism as THE problem and he, like many well-meaning and totally naive people, agreed with Lincoln Steffens’ infamous comment “I have seen the future, and it works.” We now know, as Pierre Trudeau may not have in, s communism did work.ay, 1960, that Lincoln Steffens support for communism and the USSR waned in the 1930s as he saw that the evil of Marxist-Leninist communism was not temporary, as he had thought in 1919, but is, in fact, part and parcel of it. We do know that Pierre Trudeau visited China twice, as a private citizen, once in 1949 as part of a wooed tour and then again, in 1960, as part of a tour group which included five French Canadians of a “leftish”inclination. His visit came during the “great leap Forward” which was anything but great or forward but i have no doubt that he was, properly, impressed with the changes that Zhou Enlai had already made in bringing elementary education, primitive medical care and some semblance of economic equality to hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants … indeed it may have seemed to a young (then only 41 years old) Pierre Trudeau that communism did work and could work elsewhere. In any e vent we now know that as many as 30 million Chinese were killed ~ many millions by forced starvation ~ during the Great Leap Forward but that was, probably, not visible to Pierre Trudeau.
Even more of a tangent
The problem for Pierre Trudeau, and for many others, is that they tend to think in linear terms ~ the believe (just hope?) things happening in equal steps ~ when the world, and especially human progress, is, generally, logarithmic …
… the progress from zero (what existed in 1949, at the end of the Chinese civil war and, say, about 2 or 3 which is where Zhou Enlai had pushed and pulled China to by 1960s was impressive, even amazing, but it was, in fact the easy part, as nations, like Canada, which are trying to get from, say, about 8.9 to 9.1 can attest. The problem with a logarithmic world (the real world) is that the logarithmic world is a bit like a contour map ~ when the lines are spaced far apart the ‘slope’ is easy …
… we can see this in social policy: Zhou Enlai’s barefoot doctors (really just poorly trained nurses) were able to work what seemed like miracles, at the time, lowering the infant mortality rate in rural China from, say, 1:3 by a full order of magnitude to something like 1:30 ~ a far cry from good, but amazing progress, all the same. But here, in Canada, we can see that the problems of trying to “lift” the (relatively very few) chronically homeless out of their desperate situations defies the best efforts of hundreds of good, earnest hard-working people in dozens of (usually (government run) agencies with large budgets ~ it’s a lot more than “just” a roof over some heads and some meals in some bellies ~ the problem is akin to that of moving up the very steep slope from, say, 8.9 to 9.1 on the logarithmic scale.
I think Liberals from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau, the darlings of the Laurentian Elites, are looking for the “easy slope” the gentle “flight path” to peace and prosperity and that includes looking for ways to make Canada “look good” without actually expending any effort … things like using a diplomatic back-channel through Cuba to talk some sense into North Korea. But that’s never going to work because Canada has nearly zero leverage.
Most people seem to be aware of Soft Power but few seem to have actually read the book or they might understand that Professor Nye said that while sot power, which includes innovative, back-channel diplomacy, works, it does so only when someone is willing to listen and for that the country ‘deploying’ the soft power needs to have enough hard power to have already persuaded others to listen to what it wants to say … Canada has, since 1968, steadily squandered and wasted its hard (military) power until now, in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, we must back away from even very, very modest UN peacekeeping tasks because they are too big for our modest military power and to dangerous.
Deploying and using soft power is another element that is up on the 8.1 to 8.9 level on the logarithmic scale: pretty difficult to manage … a steep slope. Britain, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did it, then America did it, now China is doing it. Europe and India want to do it but both seem unsure of how to proceed. Germany can do it, I think, but not with most of the EU in tow … so can India, but it’s hard to compete with China right now. Canada does not have the means to deploy effective soft power and would not have much even if we had the requisite hard power. Canada is, in too many respects, too much like a pale imitation of America … like the somewhat timid younger brother of the high school star athlete and bully. Even Australia has greater soft power potential than Canada because it is not so completely overshadowed by anyone else. That isn’t a criticism of Canada or its government, it is just a simple fact with which we must cope.
There is no easy flight path to safety for Canada: we cannot sweet-talk our way out of danger. Kim Jong Un’s North Krea is a clear, present danger and asking Cuba to make soft, soothing noises on our behalf is not going to change that. If prime Minister Trudeau perceives a North Korean threat, as he should, then he must take saensible steps to protect his country ~ joining the US missile defence scheme is the first, obvious and best one.