Yesterday I wrote about the Alliance For Multilateralism which I believe is:
- Harmless, at worst; and
- Likely off to a shaky start because it already (see link above) includes a few (which is too many) countries which are either weak democracies or hardly democratic at all.
That being said, Canada belongs in it because we do not shun large “talking shops” even when they are filled with autocrats and despots ~ after all, we are active members of the Commonwealth, La Francophonie and the United Nations, aren’t we?
I believe that our foreign policy matters. It is one of the main tools we use to promote and protect our vital interests in the world. Foreign policy is about what we do about, with, for and, occasionally to other countries, but it is mainly about what we do to serve our own best interests.
Our foreign policy should rest on three foundations:
- Unilateral (which are, most often, bilateral) actions;
- Alliances; and
- Collective institutions.
Our single most important vital interest is our bilateral relationship with the United States. It is, to all other policy issues, as 10 is to 1. Like it or not, the USA is our most important trading partner, by more than an order of magnitude. We trade 15 times as much with America as we do with China; 30 times as much as we do with Britain and 50 times as much as we do with Mexico. America is, also, our “best friend,” whether millions of Canadians like it or not. America guarantees our security and sovereignty ~ it does so, of course, because our security is one of its vital interests, but it also does so because it is, traditionally and officially, a “good neighbour.” Managing our bilateral relationship with the USA must, always, be Priority 1 for any government.
Our next interest is in maintaining good relations with traditional allies ~ NATO matters, of course, but we have much more durable, albeit less formal alliances with Australia, Britain, Denmark, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway, to name just a few. Unfortunately, because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland are strategic stumblebums, our relations with many of those traditional allies are sour, at best. Any government’s (including the current regime’s) Priority 2 task must be to repair and restore good relations with traditional allies, especially with India which is a growing great power and vital strategic counterweight to China. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been grossly incompetent in his dealings with India.
Canada needs to strengthen its economic and military ties with Europe. The CETA ~ negotiated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper ~ is a good deal. Negotiating a new free(er) trade deal with Britain must be a high priority task for Canada’s diplomats and politicians, too. To make our voice stronger, to have a bigger, better seat at the various tables, Canada needs to refurbish its hard power, without which our soft power is ignored. That means meeting, not just “aspiring” to meet NATO’s agreed defence spending goal of 2% of GDP. Canada needs a bigger, better military which it is ready, willing and able to use ~ not just for NATO, but anywhere in the world.
That means major changes in fiscal, defence and procurement policies are also high priority tasks.
Canada needs to be an active and productive player in many international fora. That means being more than just “nice.”
We should begin with the United Nations. Canada’s highest priority re the UN should be reform, especially of the Security Council, not on joining the UNSC. The United Nations is a wonderful thing ~ it has been humanity’s dream for more than a century ~ but, in its current form, it is corrupt, inept and largely useless. Several of its many member agencies, like ICAO, the ITU and the WIPO, do excellent work, while others like the UNWRA are little more than fronts for terrorism and/or official ways to shovel money to despots. Reform of the United Nations should be a major, well-publicized goal of Canadian foreign policy ~ Conservative or Liberal ~ it should be a hallmark of Canadian diplomacy in all sectors. Organizations like the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which issued a damning report on Canada without any investigation, should be publicly and officially ridiculed by our Prime Minister and by Canadian diplomats, speaking in the UN, itself and in sundry international fora. It is clear that the UN (and some other organizations) are beyond reasonable criticism; only outright ridicule will do.
Canada should be a mighty advocate for democracy and the rule of law, everywhere. We should never, as the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien proposed, agree that our rule of law is something we can trade away, even for the liberty of Canadians. Too many men and women have died to protect our liberty and democracy; it’s not something we can ever take for granted … it can not be a bargaining chip. We should be trying to set good examples to the world: showing them how strong institutions, the rule of law, capitalism and democracy make life better and better for more and more people. We should use every forum we are in, including the Alliance For Multilateralism, the United Nations, the Commonwealth, la Francophonie and NATO to beat that drum.
The Canadian diplomatic service needs to be revitalized. It was, in my living memory, the envy of the world, and it served the country exceptionally well. Good diplomats are actually quite cheap and they are mightily effective tools. The foreign service must recruit and train nothing but the best. There is no room, none at all, for social engineering or quotas: not for sex, not for language and not for ethnicity. We should not care in every recruit in an annual intake ‘class’ is a female Francophone of Arab ethnicity so long as they are the cream of the crop … but that clearly means that the reverse must be true, too.
Finally, foreign aid should be increased, modestly, not cut, as Andrew Scheer proposed during the recent election campaign. But any foreign ais needs to have popular support. Governments need to explain why and how Canada provides aid. Canadians understand that some aid is really needed and they do not begrudge helping those in need. Canadians also understand that a lot of direct, government-to-government aid is really just a diplomatic bribe and that a lot of our hard-earned money ends up in the Swiss bank accounts of the world’s worst dictators. Most Canadians understand that bribery is how we garner needed international support for some worthwhile things, but I think that few Canadians support much in the way of direct government-to-government aid. Channelling aid through Canadian non-governmental organizations that have broad public support and operate in ways that, generally, support Canadian policy objectives ~ i.e. not supporting Hezbollah and Hamas and similar abominations ~ is a better and, I believe, more publicly acceptable way to send needed aid to those who really do need it.