Fearful and hopeful

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first speech to a US audience was, as one might expect, filled with “sunny ways.”

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It becomes easy to be fearful,” Alexander Panetta reports him saying to an appropriate audience at an event hosted by ‘a progressive think-tank at an art gallery,’ “It becomes easy to turn in on ourselves. But we know from history that it’s much more important to turn outwards. And to draw out the best of each other. And to understand that whenever people get together regardless of how different they may seem there are always more things that we have in common.” Mt Panetta reports that the prime minister went on to tell the audience that America needs “to be at its most generous, to be at its wisest, to be at its most innovative… To learn to draw from the populations that come here from every corner of the planet.

Sunny ways, indeed.

1297762074586_ORIGINALWell, I am fearful … fearful that we have elected another neo-isolationist leader who is, potentially, even worse than the last one … if that’s possible to imagine; and who is protected by a media that is charmed by his charisma and sheer, real, “likability” factor. One can, at least, forgive Pierre Trudeau for being afraid of the separatist threat. They were real, even dangerous domestic terrorists and they needed to be confronted and defeated. He may have trampled on the precious civil liberties of all Canadians, but Pierre Trudeau did not have a terribly deep sense of our English based notion of individual liberty; his personal philosophy seems to me to have been rooted in many of the very illiberal continental European traditions. Justin Trudeau appears, to me (and I admit to being highly biased) to have no philosophy at all, he’s just like a sock-puppet on the hands of the Dalton McGuinty/Kathleen Wynne cabal from Ontario.

But I am hopeful, too.

This fills me with hope …

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… it is the Conservative Party of Canada caucus (thanks Larry Miller, MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, for that picture) and in it I see brains and ability, diversity and representation of all Canadians, real leadership, and hope for our country.

Just get it over with …

11451382It seems pretty clear that Defence Minister Sajjan has been muzzled. A week or so ago his department mused, publicly, about acquiring unmanned aerial vehicles for Canada; his Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, backed him up, explaining how useful they can be in a variety of roles, not just against Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS. But, of course, the Canadian media, which is famously ill-informed about anything military and most things technological, simply played up the fear angle (US “control,” civilian casualties, etc) … because most Canadian journalists are not qualified* to write about anything else. But, just days after reports suggested that Canada was in the market for the unmanned aircraft the CRC reports that “Canada’s defence minister says it’s too early to say whether the Canadian Forces should be equipped with armed drones.

In fact, as David Akin reports in his (always informative) “On The Hill” blog, says, “During a 90-minute grilling by Tuesday morning MPs, including Liberals, on the House of Commons defence committee, Sajjan hemmed, hawwed, and stumbled through his testimony, declining to provide any details on the CF-18 replacement process; the use of armed drones, Canada’s cyberwarfare abilities; how Canada help defend North America against Russian aggression or any other topics he was asked about … Sajjan’s excuse? Canada’s defence policy is under review, a review that will not be complete until the end of the year.

In other words, I think it’s safe to say that Minister Sajjan has been muzzled by the PMO. Either that or, considering all the “hums” and “haws” in the video on Mr Akin’s blog, one might suggest that he came to the Commons Defence Committee without any idea at all about his portfolio. But I don’t think that’s true … I think he’s just been told to say nothing, except, now and again, to dampen any expectations that anything good might happen to the Department of National Defence.

The firm Liberal promise to maintain defence spending has already been, quietly, broken … and I don’t expect to see too much more in the media about that.

Further, rumours are already circulating the the Liberal defence policy review will not bother with such petty distractions as public consultations … it seems pretty clear that the “fix” is already in and it is only the scale of the cuts to defence that need to be announced.

The rumour mill also suggests that Canada will “take over” the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti ~ “Canada is planning to take over command of the UN stabilization mission in Haiti and replace the bulk of troops on the ground from Brazil with its own,” is what a report from Agence France-Presse says. There are over 2,000 Brazilian soldiers in Haiti. Given that Prime Minister Trudeau mused aloud about a “need” for more French speaking soldiers for peacekeeping (although people who have “kept the peace” in Haiti say that the local language is Haitian Creole, which is based, loosely, on 18th century French, so interpreters are necessary, even for French Canadians) that should pretty much use up le 5e Groupe-brigade mécanisépromises_made du Canada from ValCartier, which is Canada’s main French language army formation and which represents about ⅓ of the Canadian Army’s combat power. But that is, very much, in the line of the common “promise made, promise kept” mantra (which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau learned from a master of very selectivedownload
promise keeping) and, presumably it will “offset” the broken promises about deficit amounts and maintaining the defence budget. A renewed, big commitment, like peacekeeping in Haiti will, also give Prime Minister Trudeau an excuse to decline any “invitations” to engage in operations against groups that really threaten the peace and Canada’s security. That’s another lesson that Prime Minister Chrétien taught Liberals, back when he sent the Canadian Forces to Afghanistan for the second time, in order to avoid being “invited” to help out in Iraq.

We shouldn’t be surprised.

But it would be nice, even honest if Prime Minister Trudeau would just come out at say, Screen-Shot-2015-03-20-at-12.17.37-AM“Look, folks, my main aim, for the next few years, is to undo everything that evil monster Stephen Harper did to our beloved country (well to the country that is loved by 28% of us, anyway) and that includes getting our military out of US led “combat” missions and back into safe, comfortable, UN baby-blue beret type peacekeeping missions … even if they are most often useless and too often corrupt. Our, Liberal priorities are different from his and we need to spend your money on different things.” That would be honest and it would save a wee, tiny bit of “face” for his poor, hamstrung Minister of National Defence. So, c’mon Prime Minister, put us, the military community, out of our misery, make the cuts, you know you want to: just get it over with.

___

* Not all journalists are “unqualified,” I hasten to add; I have, in the past, singled out e.g. David Akin and Mercedes Stephenson as journalists who can fight their way past the “huff and puff” and the “fluff” put our by governments, the military and defence contractors, too, and get at the “meat” of a story. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. It’s not media bias, it’s just lack of depth.

Israel

I have not talked much about Israel except to note that:

  • It was a large bone of contention between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the bureaucrats in Foreign Affairs because they, the striped pants set in the Lester B Pearson building, objected to his principled stand, supporting Israel,  because they, probably correctly, guessed that his stand cost Canada a seat on the United Nations Security Council. I might have had some, a very tiny bit of sympathy for the bureaucrats if ~
    • I thought a UNSC seat was worth anything at all; and
    • If they had refrained from actively campaigning against the government they had sworn to serve. In my opinion the Canadian foreign service is a national disgrace; and
  • It is an even bigger bone of contention in the whole Middle East situation. Many, many Arabs (and others) believe that the very existence of Israel in the Arab ummah is offensive and that Israel must be destroyed and the Jews expelled … at least.

MFAJ0ca10Is-wb-gs-gh_v3The problem is that the Balfour Declaration (1917), and all that followed from it, is over and done with. Israel exists, and it is a vibrant, liberal democracy, isolated in a sea of (mostly) very, very illiberal dictatorships and absolute monarchies and oligarchies. Tiny Israel (population 8.5 million, only 75% of whom are Jews) has, since 1948, inflicted humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat on the score of countries with many hundreds of millions of people (there are over 450 million people in the 22 member states of the Arab League) that have gone to war against it. That’s another HUGE problem.

But the situation is that Israel is there, a successful, dynamic, democratic and productive state, surrounded by corruption and ineptitude and worse. It rose out of the ashes of one of the greatest crimes in human history …

… Israeli colleagues impressed upon me, again and again, that Israel has to win every war, almost every battle but, as they said, the Arabs only have to “get lucky” once.

In my lifetime our attitudes towards Israel have shifted … it was, just before I was born: “none is to many;”in the mid to late 1940s we, almost all of us, were, rightly, horrified (and that’s too mild a word) at what had happened in Nazi occupied Europe. In the 1950s and ’60s we were impressed with the plucky little country that was making the desert bloom …

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… then, in the 1970s, we were mightily impressed with Israel’s military prowess …

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… but then the tide turned. The Arabs, especially the Palestinian Liberation Organization, changed tactics. There were no longer willing (or able) to risk a tank on tank, battalion on battalion, conventional war with the Israelis: the results had been, again and again, the same. The Israelis were, very simply, too good, too efficient, too Germanic, in a word. They turned to terrorism, but even that didn’t work as well as they hoped ~ think about the Entebbe Raid and the Munich atrocity, which backfired, and so on ~ and then they launched an amazingly successful media campaign that turned Western public opinion back to what it was in the 1920s and 1930s.

The key was that a couple of giant American ad agencies were hired. Those folks really, really understood how to change, to manipulate opinions … they managed, in just a few short years, to move the Israelis, in a large part of the public imagination, from a  brave little liberal country, the darling of the left, under attack from all sides, to stormtroopers in jackboots, denying fundamental rights to the poor, innocent, peace loving Palestinians.

Now, there had to be some truth in the narrative … the Israelis had become, as I said, ruthlessly efficient soldiers and pretty good at the machinery of counter-insurgency campaigning, too. Some of their tactics do give one pause to ask if there couldn’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t be a better way. And the Palestinians do have legitimate complaints, even if most of their outrage ought to be directed at Arab states who exploited their suffering.

A couple of things turned my mind towards this, mostly an article in the New York Times by Roger Cohen, an Op-Ed columnist, about the Anti-Semitism of the Left that led me to another article, this one from the Autumn 2015 edition of Fathom, by Prof Allen Johnson, a self-described “person of the left,” who went on to explain what he calls “Antisemitic anti-Zionism.” It has, he suggests, three components: “a programme, a discourse, and a movement.

First, antisemitic anti-Zionism has a political programme: not two states for two peoples, but the abolition of the Jewish homeland; not Palestine alongside Israel, but Palestine instead of Israel.

Second, antisemitic anti-Zionism is a demonising intellectual discourse (as I outline in my chapter in Gabe Brahm’s and Cary Nelson’s book, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel). The Left is imprisoning itself within a distorting system of concepts: ‘Zionism is racism’; Israel is a ‘settler-colonialist state’ which ‘ethnically cleansed’ the ‘indigenous’ people, went on to build an ‘apartheid state’ and is now engaged in an ‘incremental genocide’ against the Palestinians.

And there is the ugly phenomenon of Holocaust Inversion – the deliberate and systematic Nazification of Israel in street placards depicting Netanyahu as Hitler, in posters equating the IDF and the SS, in cartoons portraying Israelis as Nazis, and even in the language of intellectuals.

Third, antisemitic anti-Zionism is a presence within a global social movement (the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS movement) to exclude one state – and only one state – from the economic, cultural and educational life of humanity: the little Jewish one.”

Roger Cohen say, very correctly, in my opinion, that “Criticism of Israel is one thing; it’s needed in vigorous form. Demonization of Israel is another, a familiar scourge refashioned by the very politics — of identity and liberation — that should comprehend the millennial Jewish struggle against persecution.

I will listen, respectfully, to anyone who criticizes Israel’s polices but I will stop listening when they demonize Israel, and Israel alone, for things that dozens and dozens of other countries do in the normal rounds of national and international political and military intercourse. Then I know that my interlocutor has stopped reasoning for him or herself and is, simply, quoting propaganda.

Israel is not a perfect country, neither is Canada.

It is a vibrant, liberal democracy surrounded by dangerous enemies. Israel has tried to make peace, with some success … it is, probably, not trying very hard right now because it is not clear that those who fund Hamas and Hezbollah are, in any meaningful way, interested in any sort of “peace,” except, for Israel, that of the grave.

On balance, I think my Israeli colleagues were right: Israel has to win every war, just to survive and, given the state of the attitudes ~ manufactured opinions ~ of a very large slice of the Western population, the need for a Jewish state, somewhere where “never again!” has meaning, seems pretty clear. The Arabs do “only need to get lucky once” and it’s all over. mathematics says that, sooner or later, the Arabs will have to “get lucky” and we will benefit from a couple of million well educated Jews who will flee for their lives … will we, yet again, when asked how many Jewish refugees should be welcomed in Canada, say “none is too many”?

There is an alternative, of course: Israel could make peace with more and more of its neighbours … the questions are: How? and With whom? I don’t have the answers.

Canada's Prime Minister Harper shakes hands with Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

There are two side to every story and the Antisemitic anti-Zionism of the left is just one of them; the other is the principled foreign policy that Prime Minister Stephen Harper pursued, despite being sabotaged by dishonest and disloyal civil servants. Not everyone agrees with those principles and that’s fine with me … as long as the disagreement is equally principled. But I fear that most often, as in the boycott and divest movemeKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAnt that is so popular on (too) many university campuses, it is just manufactured opinion, fuelled by the campaigns of big ad agencies, bought and paid for by Arab oil money. In other words I fear that too much of the anti-Harper policy is unprincipled.

Dishonest nonsense

As if my earlier examples were not enough evidence that Prime Minister Trudeau’s “climate change is all that matters” agenda is doing real, measurable damage to Canada, I see, in this morning’s Financial Post, a report that “Malaysia’s Petronas is frustrated that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate-change priorities are introducing new uncertainty for its proposed $36 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project in northern British Columbia and has threatened to walk away if it doesn’t get federal approval by Petronas_Progress_Pacific_Northwestern_LNG_Competitive_FEED_project-mapMarch 31.” The project, according to the article, “… received a largely favourable assessment from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) last month, was greenlighted by the British Columbia government in November, 2014, and received conditional corporate support — or a final investment decision — from Malaysia’s state-owned company and its partners in June of last year,” but, now, the report goes on to say “the new federal Liberal government is toughening up environmental reviews of major energy projects to regain “public trust” and as it strives to meet international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

This is nonsense; in fact it is dishonest nonsense that pits the petty, partisan, political objectives of the Liberal Party of Canada ahead of the national interest.

More home truths

gwyn-morgan_250x350The Cambridge Dictionary defines a “home truth” as: “a ​true but ​unpleasantfact about yourself that another ​person ​tells you.

A couple of months ago I commented on a newspaper column by Gwyn Morgan, a distinguished Canadian business executive, that had some “home truths” for Canada.

Two things caught my eye yesterday:

  1. Another newspaper column by Mr Morgan, in the Globe and Mail, (the column is behind a “pay wall,”so, in the interests of an open discussion I have quoted from it at some length under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act) about the current government’s folly ~ there’s no other word, I’m afraid ~ as it tries to appease its anti-pipeline base in the Laurentian Elites and also tries to make some gains in the West at the same time. He offers a few more “home truths;” and
  2. A CBC News report that yet another train carrying crude oil has derailed in Northern Ontario.

The latter item, first: this is, the CBC News report says, “the third CN oil train derailment in northern Ontario in less than a month;” and this is despite the fact that CN confirms that the train cars “had been retrofitted with protective shields to meet a higher safety standard known as the 1232,” which was mandated after the Lac Megantic disaster. That goes beyond “unfortunate,” shipping oil by rail is playing fast and loose with Canadians’ health and safety.

Now, it’s easy to blame these people …

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Transport Minister Marc Garneau

… but we might just as well, better actually, blame these people …

… they’re the ones, after all, who have given the anti-pipeline, indeed the larger anti-Canadian oil narrative, its current “respectability.” But it’s not really them, either; they, and large parts of the environmental movement, including first nations and groups supporting them, are bought and paid for by these folks …

… who are the ones who really want Canada to remain unable to get its oil, safely and effectively, to Canadian seaports so that it can be sold globally.

Going back to the first item; Gwyn Morgan asks:

What is the relationship between the following three events?

  • Foreign Affairs Minster Stéphane Dion says in February that the government won’t stop the controversial $15-billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia despite what he terms the Kingdom’s “terrible” human rights record because “very surely … the equipment in question would be sold to Saudi Arabia by a country that has fewer scruples, and this would not change one iota the situation of human rights in Saudi Arabia.”
  • In 2015, Eastern Canadian refiners import hundreds of thousands of barrels a day of crude oil from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Angola, countries ranked badly by Human Rights Watch.
  • The federal government announces a nine-month extension to the 18-month Energy East regulatory process to study whether the pipeline would increase greenhouse-gas emissions and to allow for additional consultation with aboriginal and other interest groups.

He also asks: “So why are we microscopically scrutinizing the environmental impact of our own oil production, while giving imported oil a free ride? Should we not also consider these countries’ deplorable treatment of women, persecution of dissidents, repression of journalists and discrimination against minorities in comparison with the freedom and social justice record under which our oil is produced? How do we factor in the human cost of enabling the purchase of arms by the fighting factions in what is a perpetual war zone? Finally, why would Canada choose to be dependent on foreign oil when we don’t have to be?

These reasons alone are enough,” Mr Moran explains, “to make the Energy East project a national priority, but,” he adds “even more compelling are the economic implications. Canada produces 3.8 million barrels of oil a day. World prices have fallen by about 70 per cent over the past year. That’s bad enough, but few Canadians know that our oil is sold far below the world price, owing to lack of pipeline access to world markets.

This discount currently amounts to about $10 a barrel, meaning we forfeit $38-million every day Energy East is deferred. That means the $250-million injection from the federal stabilization fund promised by the Prime Minister in his recent visit to Alberta wouldn’t even offset one week of market access losses. It also means the cost of his government’s nine-month regulatory deferral is a staggering $2.7-billion. And since 90 per cent of Canada’s production is exported to the United States, that amounts to a $2.4-billion subsidy to U.S. consumers.

But that still doesn’t reflect the full impact of this unnecessary regulatory delay. In the days following the Energy East deferral, oil and gas companies announced thousands more layoffs and further cutbacks to 2016 capital investment, bringing the total to $15-billion, more than 20 times the $700-million infrastructure funding Mr. Trudeau announced in Alberta. And let’s not forget the substantial tax revenues that $38-million a day and $15-billion annual capital investment could have created. Instead, we have the Prime Minister’s spending promises that taxpayers will have to repay.

wtyrLqLmontreal-que-january-26-2016-canadian-prime-ministerThose are pretty mind boggling numbers and they, along with the all too frequent oil spills from “safe” rail cars, are, really, just self inflicted wounds. Our government, acting at the behest of the politically partisan environmental movement, corrupt first nations, greedy and debt ridden provincial and municipal governments, the whole, all too familiar, NIMBY crowd, and the US administration has decided that pipelines and energy security and tax revenues from the profits from the sale of our resources abroad are less vital than their ongoing re-election campaign. It appears, at least it does to one with a suspicious mind, that our prime minister and his government are also bought and paid for by the factions, in the USA and elsewhere, who want to keep Canada from being able to sell its resources to the world at world prices.

Pipelines are, indeed, a “no brainer,” even for an unfocused government that is still in campaign mode, nearly five months after it won the election. Why, one needs to ask, is the Trudeau regime apparently intent on doing real, measurable damage to Canada while it kowtows to the American climate change lobby?

In another context I asked “cui bono? Who benefits from stirring up trouble within Canada? Why do groups as diverse as the American petroleum industry lobby group and the Arab sheiks and a pretty hard left lobby group want our oil confined to the US market? Why does Prime Minister Trudeau support them and not Canadians? Those are all (perhaps unfair) questions, but I’m afraid the answer will be morehome truths,” an unpleasant fact about ourselves, as Canadians, that someone else has to tell us: maybe something like the fact that just last year we elected an inept, irresponsible government.

Canada and the Philippines

Gray location map of Philippines, highlighted continent.Over the past few weeks I have mentioned the Philippines on several different occasions. I have suggested both moral and substantive (financial) support is in order as they try to face down a regional bully.

My very personal assessment is that of the three Asian middle powers, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, the Philippines is the one most likely to benefit from the sorts of important but “invisible exports” that Canada can send its way. When I look at the three (and I have visited all three in recent years) I see distinctly different histories. The British, as early as the 1920s, began to understand the need for and even, in the late 1920s, to plan for the eventual independence of India and of all the remaining colonies. It, Indian self rule, was why Winston Churchill was “in the political wilderness” in the early 1930s; he opposed it. But farsighted British politicians were considering it and, eventually, ‘self rule’ for Malaya and all the other Asian and African colonies, too, and they began to “plant” the institutions which would make (largely) successful statehood possible. The Dutch, on the other hand, liberals though were socially and politically, saw their Indonesian colonies as, essentially, commercial ventures rather than as potential countries. The Americans, the colonial masters of the Philippines,  were in the middle: they wanted to grant the Philippines independence but they did not “plant” especially strong institutions. My (personal) sense is that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines all have very, very similar indigenous cultures but quite different  institutions ranging from strong in Malaysia to weak in Indonesia.

It seems to me that the Philippines, especially given its often difficult relationship with the USA (which many Canadians understand very well), is likely to benefit from stronger socio-economic and political ties with Canada.

Phillipines-Pajarons1

There is another politically important factor shown on this spreadsheet: Immigrants 2. The Philippines is now the third largest source of immigrants to Canada, and Filipinos are proving to be excellent citizens. About 30,000 people from the Philippines have been arriving each year and they are proving to be just the sorts of immigrants we want: hard working, entrepreneurial, moderately conservative in their values and willing (and able) to adapt to our social structures. They, the hundreds of thousands of new Canadians of Philippines origin, have, of course, connections ~ business and familial ~ in the Philippines and they are ready to help make further, strionger and deeper connections.

How can we help?

First: we should take positive measures to increase immigration from the Philippines. We don’t need to change any rules, just move some (not all, not even most) immigration officers from places that produce few and less than ideal immigrants (e.g. from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, for example) to places (like China, India and the Philippines) that produce “better quality” new Canadians so that we can process more applications and process them more quickly;

Second: we should encourage more, better and stronger trade and commercial ties ~ making better use of the talents and connections of new Canadians of Philippines origin; and

Third: we should undertake both some immediate and some longer term military aid to and cooperations with the Philippines.

3007277069_230e99a2e6_zAs a start, we should transfer two of our Kingston class coastal defence vessels (which, as I understand it, we cannot operate ourselves due to crew shortages) to the Philippines navy. We should also announce that when, not if, we build a new minor war vessel to replace the Kingston class ships, we should offer to build two for the Philippines Navy, too. In the meantime we should send a frigate and a long range patrol (CP-140) aircraftRIMPAC 2014 to the Philippines every year, beginning soon, in late 2016, to conduct combined training with the Philippines armed forces and to work with them to help them patrol the Philippines’ territorial waters. When, not if, we buy new LiveLeak-dot-com-6e4_1408391338-Canadian-Heron-UAV_1408391330unmanned aerial vehicles we should offer one set to be based, with Canadian operators, in the Philippines, for regional reconnaissance, over and above our other requirements.

These are costly endeavours, but they will pay HUGE dividends in influence: far out of proportion to their dollar values. They will send messages to all the Pacific nations, including America, Australia and China, that Canada is engaged as a full member of the Trans Pacific community. It will not weaken our influence with China; they will understand that we are supporting a friend, even if we act to help check China’s expansion into the parts of the South China Seas that are, rightfully, Philippines’ territory. In fact China might even respect us more for taking a stand.

 

Propaganda (including government information)

My friend, The Regimental Rogue, offers a very and important insight from General Douglas MacArthur:

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We, politicians, officials, admirals and generals and citizens, alike, need to grasp this quite fundamental point. Wars may still be won (and lost) at sea, in the field and in the air, even, arguably, on the factory floor, but they can only be fought if the people agree.

One of the most important foundation stones of our, English, parliamentary tradition is that we, the people, control the sovereign, the government, by controlling how she/it can raise money and spend it. This is what Magna Carta and Simon de Montfort’s Parliament and the Glorious Revolution and, and, and were all about: the government, the executive (cabinet) can only do what parliament (our representatives) vote the money to do. If the government wants to fight a war it must get the money from parliament.

Now, a Canadian majority government is, pretty much, an elected dictatorship: as long as it, the prim minister’s governing party, can keep the loyalty of its own members then it can vote itself pretty much whatever it wants. But we, by our opinion, can influence how the party members react to government decisions and, as we have seen in Britain and Australia in the fairly recent past, the party caucus, the backbenchers ~ the “nobodies as Pierre Trudeau called them, can rise up in revolt and change the prime minister and, therefore, the policy.

The role of the media is huge. It goes far, far beyond being just a or even the primary source of information, it is an opinion maker in its own right. All the data I have seen supports this recent (2014) survey that says that TV is, far and away, the more important source of news for most people …

Politics_TVB-People_Talking_Politics_Chart1

… but similar data also suggests that it is changing …

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… and I will not even discuss the relative reliability of news/opinion sources …

What we must understand is that governments ~ our own and foreign governments, friendly and enemy foreign governments; special interest groups ~ including departments and agencies of government, itself; political parties and churches and so on, will all use propaganda ~ they will all try to propagate ideas and information (some of which will be true but all of which will be “situated” or “spun” in a certain way, in ways designed to make us think in certain way) to convince us to support or oppose a course of action.

That is what I am doing with this blog: trying to convince you to support social, moderation; fiscal prudence and a principled foreign policy that is backed up by a strong military. I am a propagandist. I try to provide you with factual information but I “spin” it to support my point of view.

The point is that we must all understand that propaganda, including information propagated (and “spun”) by our own government and by agencies we usually think of as unbiased, is all pervasive and it is all designed to to make us support or oppose something. Even e.g. the Canadian Coast Guard or Health Canada “spin” their public information so that you will be inclined (persuaded) that what they do ought to be a very high priority for the cabinet ~ high enough to survive cuts. The Canadian Armed Forces does it, too.

Important exports

Yesterday I wrote that Canada should be “promoting and protecting real (not illusionary, illiberal) democracy in the world.”

Now, right on time, Transparency International, a pretty highly regarded organization, publishes its Transparency Perceptions Index for 2015 (in which Canada ranks 9th, behind Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore, but ahead of Germany (10), Australia (13) and the USA (16)). Transparency International suggests that  some exemplary countries, it singles out Sweden, are actually exporting corruption because e.g. Swedish companies pay bribes to corrupt “leaders’ in ethically weak countries in order to secure contracts.

Canada should not, ever, condone corrupt business practices by Canadian companies anywhere in the world. We should insist that our companies do business abroad just as they are meant to do it here. We know that some Canadians companies have, in the past, at least, failed this test. Canada should use its laws and regulations and aid policies, including the criminal code, to go after Canadian companies that lie, cheat and steal. But, Canada should also, use trade rules (in whatever ways those rules allow) to reward Canadian companies (and their foreign customers) that win contracts the right way. We should, in other words, export honesty and fair dealing. They are amongst the institutions I described a few weeks ago.

steel

justice statue with sword and scale. cloudy sky in the backgroun

If we want to trade more freely in an increasingly more peaceful and more prosperous world then we need to help ethically and culturally weak countries help to strengthen themselves. We can do that by exporting our values along with our grain, lumber, oil and ore, subway cars and engineering and financial services.

Upping the ante

The Defence News website reports that “The U.S. Navy has dispatched a small armada to the South China Sea.”

I have complained, in the past, that China is getting a “free ride,” at the expense of e.g. The Philippines and Vietnam, in the South China Seas. I have, also, suggested that Canada should, inter alia, join the US Navy in conducting freedom of navigation exercises, despite the very real risk of offending China.

My assessment remains that China does not want a fight. It is out there making mischief but, unlike Russia and the various Muslim extremist groups, it is not willing to risk battle.

635926147864001219-stennisThe Stennis battle group may be enough to deter China, but I rather doubt it. My guess is that the Chinese guess is that the US doesn’t want a fight either so they will “play bumper cars,” potentially even  risking the occasional minor clash, and the Chinese will, in fact, up their ante, too, and install more sophisticated, anti-stealth radars and add another airfield or two. The prize is control of a vital sea lane and, therefore, the power that comes with being the dominant power in a region. The Chinese have the advantages of geographic proximity and a head start. The US has the advantage in absolute power.

Canada should be there to remind our friends in the region and the Chinese (and the Americans and Australians, too, for that matter) that we are a Pacific nation with interests in the region.

A Grand Strategy for Canada (3)

I have addressed a grand strategy more than once, and  specifically one for Canada twice now. But the question is: why?

Why bother?

Surely we are just a small country, one with no enemies, one that just muddle through … aren’t we?

'Strategy' highlighted in green

Prime Minister Paul Martin had it about right, back in 2005, when, in a policy statement, he said that Canada wanted and neededA Role of Pride and Influence in the World.” Now, the “pride” bit was just window dressing, for internal consumption. What Prime Minister Martin understood was that Canada always needs more and better influence in the world. We are a big country, but there are only 35 million of us, not 65+ million like Britain or France, nor 100 million like the Philippines. Only 1.8 Canadians out of each 1,000 serve in our active military, not 3 per 1,000 as in Denmark or 4/1,000 in Finland or 5/1,000 in Norway. And, of course, we spend only 1% of our GDP on defence, not the 2% as Britain does and as Australia plans to do (and as we, hypocritically, agreed to aim (a euphemism for “think about,” maybe even “try,” eventually) to do in NATO. We do not have much in the way of the military “hard power” (which confers automatic influence) so we need to find ways to enhance our overall, integrated power in the world. But, we are not Belgium or Costa Rica, we are a G7 country, at the very least we are in the Top 10 or, at the very least, the Top 10% of countries in pretty much every measure that matters, and our influence ought to be commensurate with that. Muddling through ought not to be good enough.

How?

It is no secret that I think our, Canadian grand strategy needs to be based on:

  • Promoting and protecting real (not illusionary, illiberal) democracy in the world;
  • Promoting and protecting free(er) trade amongst nations; and
  • Doing a full and fair share of the (military) heavy lifting needed to keep (and often make) peace in the world so that free trade and democracy can develop and flourish for the greater good of the greatest number.

But there are obstacles.

Promoting and protecting democracy, and the values and institutions that make democracy possible, requires the sort of military “hard power” for which no government, since 1970, has been willing to pay. We have left the field open to e.g. these guys …

… and even to …

Cover-Vanity-Fair-47-2013-Matteo-Renzi_305x380

… other smaller countries (whose prime ministers are also featured in Vanity Fair) that aspire to “play” in the big leagues. We know what’s needed but, as successive governments have determined, by assiduous polling, Canadians don’t want to pay. The Laurentian Elites, the core of the  Liberal’s support base, especially, oppose defence spending.

It’s also no secret that I believe that our grand strategy needs to shift our focus, especially on trade and economic opportunities, away from Europe and towards Asia and, later, Africa, all the while retaining our firm connection to the United States.

I think that, after the TPP is done and ratified, a free trade with China is both possible and desirable, but it will create real governing problems for a government that has, thus far, shown a lot more interest in campaigning than in governing. The Chinese want our oil, they want to own some of our oil productions and they really want a pipeline to a seaport.

The Trudeau government must, sooner or later, come to grips with the inherent contradictions in its stated general support for some pipelines and its support for first nations. The first nations don’t want to play the game by the Trudeau government’s rules; they have a different agenda that may have to be reconciled by a government that would much, much rather that the problem would just go away. I don’t know how the objections of first nations will be overcome: bribery will, I expect, do the job for many so-called “leaders” of first nations; offering real partnerships will work with some others; but a few will want more than any responsible Canadian government can give.

A month ago, two well known international trade lawyers, Allen Gotleib, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States and undersecretary of state for external affairs, and Matthew Kronby a former head of the federal Trade Law Bureau, published a good overview of Canada’s recent (post 1970s) trade history in the Globe and Mail. They see obstacles to expanding our trade:

Foremost, therefore, is the requirement to build infrastructure that enables Canada to exploit its natural resources and serve new and growing markets in Asia and elsewhere. If our resources are available in only a single export market, our lack of leverage will make it impossible to realize their true value.

We will not succeed in building the necessary infrastructure without strong, assertive and far-sighted leadership on the part of our new federal government. Within Canada, the development of our natural resources faces significant legal, political, regional and local obstacles as well as the intervention of deep-pocketed and ideologically motivated foreign lobbies.”

Those “deep-pocketed and ideologically motivated foreign lobbies” are US groups, masquerading as environmentalists and funding Canadian anti-pipeline groups, but their real aims include trying to shut down Canadian oil production for the benefit of US and Arab interests,including e.g. “clean coal.” Some groups in our environmental movement and some of the the politicians who rode it to success in 2015 are, de facto, doing the dirty work of foreign governments who are operating against Canada.

And there is, also, a deep seated Canadian fear of free trade with anyone, but especially with China.

image9The kinds of “feel good” quasi-military, UN peacekeeping operations the Liberals seem intent on doing, if they have to do anything at all, are not going to to do us or the world much good. UN peacekeeping has devolved into a sort of system of global 3888welfare fraud whereby the UN uses first world money to pay third world countries to “keep the peace” in  other third world hell holes. That’s the reality. Eventually, inevitably, when the “blue helmets” fail, someone capable, like the French 20150613_np_sangaris04_pciat_comops_jaune-20-legion-150Foreign Legion, is sent in to make peace, too often the “blue berets” are recycled for another try, then, sooner or later a coalition of willing and able nations will have to take over and “make” a durable peace. The world, with reason, expects Canada to be part of that ad hoc coalition of the willing and able. We are rich, we are sophisticated, we can provide useful, meaningful help to a world that needs it. We just would rather not.

So what?

Absent a realistic, interest based foreign policy backed up by a bigger, better military, we will watch as our influence declines further.

  • We will promote democracy, but few will bother to even pretend to listen.
  • We will make trade deals, but they will not be as advantageous to us as they could and should be.
  • We will participate in UN peacekeeping, but it will be a sham.

We will, in other words, become “just a small country, one with no enemies, one that just muddle through …” a country with little real influence in the world and even less ability to assert the influence it might have.fidel-castro-and-pierre-trudeau

Just like he wanted. Welcome back to 1970.