Winter 2006 (Volume IV, Issue IV)
Promoting new understanding and improvement of Canadian foreign and defence policy.
In this issue:
- Message from the President – Robert S. Millar
- CDFAI 2006 Annual Ottawa Conference
- Article: The Challenges of Governing – Derek Burney
- Article: Backgrounder: Canadian Naval Ops in Southwest Asia, 1990-2006 – Richard Gimblett
- Article: Canada’s Homeland Security Dilemma – Frank Harvey
- Article: Festina Lente – Nelson Michaud
- Article: Nicaragua Turns Left-Again – Stephen Randall
- Article: The offensive against “Quebecistan” is on! And the “collateral damages” may be heavier than expected – Stéphane Roussel & Jean-Christophe Boucher
- Article: Terrorism is Politics – Denis Stairs
- About Our Organization
Welcome to the Winter 2006 issue of “The Dispatch” newsletter. As the year comes to an end, and given the challenges facing much of the rest of the world, Canadians have so much for which to be thankful. But is Canada doing its fair share of trying to bring peace and security to others who are less advantaged? Although Canada is performing abroad at a higher level of commitment than in previous years, much is still to be done. The Canadian Forces are heavily involved in trying to bring security to Afghanistan and elsewhere while our diplomats are working hard at making coalitions work better for peaceful conclusions. But how effective is Canada’s international aid at achieving our national goals while helping others? In Afghanistan this is still an open question. CDFAI will monitor all of these ongoing developments in the new year. A happy 2007 to all. In this newsletter there are seven fascinating articles:
The Liberal Party of Canada has chosen a new leader. It is likely an election will happen sometime in 2007. It is incumbent on all parties to provide Canadians with a vision of international action that Canadians can understand and buy into.
Graduate Student Symposium – Paper Award Winners
Foreign Policy Under a Conservative Government: An Interim Report Card
The Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute’s (CDFAI) 2006 Annual Conference on October 30, 2006 was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario. The conference, "Foreign Policy Under a Conservative Government: An Interim Report Card” looked at the Harper government's record on foreign policy, defence, and development.
Conference partners included the Centre for Security and Defence Studies at Carleton University's Norman Patterson School of International Affairs, the Institut québécois des hautes études internationales at Université Laval, Queen's University's Centre for International Relations, the Chaire de recherche du Canada en politiques étrangère et de defense canadiennes at the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Groupe d'étude et de recherche sur la sécurité internationale/Research Group in International Security, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Canada Institute.
In conjunction with the conference, CDFAI commissioned Innovative Research Group Inc. to conduct an online national survey of the views of Canadians on the performance of the Conservative government so far and on some of the major challenges before the government, such as Canada's role in Afghanistan, Canada-U.S. relations, and the Israel-Hezbollah conflict of the summer of 2006. The poll results can be accessed at: www.cdfai.org.
by Derek Burney
(Speech given to the Deloitte National Public Sector Industry Conference – Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, QC – November 15, 2006)
When Sal invited me to speak to you this evening he explained what the main topic was but added that I could really use that to say anything I wanted. A pretty “liberal” opening Sal.
I had thought of something like “Trust Your Income Trust” but Jim Flaherty eliminated that as an option on Halloween. (Scary, eh! A government that takes tough decisions.)
Let me turn to the topic – what I would call the “The Challenges of Governing” in today’s environment in the hope that what I say will not diminish your appetite and may instead stimulate some questions and discussion to accompany dinner.
When I served on the Transition team, I was struck most by the peaceful and orderly manner in which political power is transferred in Canada. May well be something we take for granted – doesn’t happen very often after all – and it is certainly an opportunity not all citizens in our global village enjoy. And yet, it is the essence of democracy, a reflection, too, of the ultimate civility of our own brand of political theatre. (Not what you might say if you watched the House of Commons on a daily basis which is why I say “ultimate.”)
I believe that a periodic change in political power is refreshing in itself, and not for partisan reasons (really!), but because it allows healthy change both in the direction and the implementation of public policy.
The fact that we may disagree over the changes as they evolve is also what democracy is all about.
Leadership in government flows first from clear political direction. Focus, a sense of purpose, a short list of priorities and the stamina to stay the course. There will always be – as Harold MacMillan once observed – “events, dear boy” that interrupt and divert attention and compel a prudent change of direction or emphasis; (Does anything come to mind?) but, if leaders operate from a platform of defined goals and conviction, they will have a rudder of sorts to navigate even the unexpected shoals of governance and remain more or less on course.
Mr. Harper probably would have preferred to ignore action on Income Trusts but “events” gave him little choice.
I remember that, when Prime Minister Mulroney invited me to become his Chief of Staff, I balked, initially, saying that I was, after all, a bureaucrat, not a political strategist. “Derek”, he explained “I am the political strategist. I want you to organize my office…” As I subsequently learned, there is a big difference between the two jobs.
Having a clear agenda and a sense of priorities in government can be as powerful as a good idea. And when elected politicians operate from a consistent set of principles, they will earn respect, even from some who disagree with the decisions they take. Ronald Reagan epitomized that example. Many Americans disagreed with some of the things he did but they were never in doubt about his conviction (and optimism) and they respected him for both. It helps, too, when leaders reflect confidence and clarity in articulating their positions.
Attempting to be all things to all people – saying what your audience may like to hear rather than what they need to know - is not the way to gain credibility or respect. Because, if everything is a priority, nothing really is.
A new Prime Minister begins with a reservoir of political capital and a limited amount of time. The manner in which he spends both will ultimately determine the success or fate of his leadership. With a minority government, the amount of available capital is circumscribed and the time available for action is even more uncertain.
Not only is there the need for collegiality in cabinet, and for consistent support from caucus (the Prime Minister’s “first constituents”), but also for reasonable compromise with opponents, where appropriate, provided, of course, that there is a mutual appetite for compromise and assuming, as well, that the government’s objective is survival, not re-election.
Majority governments provide not only more capital but also more time for tough prescriptions. (The decision on Income Trusts was certainly tough and it remains to be seen how much political capital it consumed.)
The degree to which the Tories are able to demonstrate competence in implementing their agenda, and establish credibility as a government, will determine whether their fundamental political challenge is met, namely re-election, preferably with a majority – one that would enhance both their capital and their time for policy implementation.
The policy challenges for any Canadian government tend to centre around three basic issues: unity, where the pressures are essentially internal; prosperity and security, both of which have external as well as internal dimensions.
As very much a country of regions in search of a binding identity, Canada can, on occasion, be obsessed with the issue of national unity. Quebecers debate persistently whether they will remain in Canada. Their governments push the limits on provincial jurisdiction often obliging other provinces into a ‘me too’ routine of demands. This issue is relatively quiet these days but, if Mr. Igantieff wins the Liberal leadership, or we see a change of government in Quebec, the constitutional debate is likely to be reignited in some fashion.
There is much talk about a “fiscal imbalance” but that is actually more than a Canada/Quebec issue. Increasingly, there is concern about the burgeoning imbalance between Alberta and all the others. Think of this. One-third of all the new jobs created in Canada last year were in one province, Alberta. That is a real imbalance, with profound consequences that are just beginning.
In any case, talk about “fiscal imbalance” tends essentially to be a debate about money because we have a situation in which the federal government taxes more than it spends while the provinces spend more than they tax. Any solution will likely involve a decision on how much more the federal government will pay and for what.
What would be better is some clarification or realignment of roles between levels of government. There is too much overlap today and, as a result, a chronic avoidance of direct responsibility. Genuine accountability will only come from clearer lines of responsibility. Here I am explaining accountability to accountants. But take health care as an example. (Someone, take it please!)
Part of the problem with debates on things like the fiscal imbalance or health care, is that we have difficulty at times distinguishing between myths and reality. The myths tend to frustrate national debate and objective decision-making. As you know better than most, the blurred lines of accountability are the worst defect of today’s shared cost programs. They simply add fuel to the prevailing myths.
In Australia, GST revenues go exclusively to the States while income taxes go to the Federal government. That would be too radical, I am sure, for Canada but it has the advantage of simplicity and clarity for the payees, the taxpayers.
Beyond the perennial concerns about Quebec’s future, and the somewhat dubious debate about a fiscal “imbalance”, I suspect that the underlying national unity issue which cannot be ignored too much longer is the plight of our aboriginal people. Here again, the talk (and many of the half-baked solutions) is mainly about money. And yet, as with health care, the more we spend, the worse the situation seems to get. More money is not an effective answer to either challenge. Expediency over principle.
The solution to the aboriginal question involves harder issues of jurisdiction, and contemporary, versus traditional approaches to administration and accountability. The major obstacles are an unwillingness to exert political capital at one level of government and a reluctance to relinquish any at another. Regrettably, there is not much evidence of change coming soon on either front.
But, if anyone thinks we can engage in another debate on constitutional reform without addressing the aboriginal dimension, I have some land for sale in Northern Ontario.
I am not sure whether our somewhat complacent approach to federalism will provide real answers to this issue or to the broader issue of role realignment. Some suggest a Royal Commission to provide wisdom and spine for the changes needed – to shatter some of the myths in the debate. But studies or commissions are not ends in themselves and, in the absence of follow through, they simply provide more process without purpose. The only answer is leadership. Using political capital selectively but firmly.
Governments do have a responsibility to lead and shape public opinion – to move beyond the whim or myth of the moment and exercise political will in a deliberate fashion that will inspire more efficiency and more accountability at all levels of government. But, in a federation such as ours, this requires commitments on which several political leaders, not just one, are prepared to take a stand and make common cause. I am encouraged that Ottawa seems more ready to respect provincial powers while focusing primarily on its own areas of jurisdiction. The quid pro quo, however, would be long overdue undertakings by the provinces to enhance our economic union.
Canada’s fiscal situation is sound and the short term economic prospects are positive so the prosperity dimension of the policy trinity appears to be in good shape, at least for now. The global economy is humming along at a level of 4% growth for 11 consecutive quarters – the strongest upturn in 30 years. Inflation is at an historic low, despite unprecedented prices for oil and oil products.
As always with the dismal science, the underlying question is how long will it last? The U.S. fiscal situation is anything but sound and there are already signs that the economy on our southern border is slowing down. We all know what that will eventually mean for Canada.
There may well be more to Canada’s prosperity agenda than the U.S. market but getting things right with our neighbour is a critical starting point. On that, I think the government has earned good marks. Now that softwood lumber has been settled, however, we need to inspire a more positive focus on, and adherence to, NAFTA, using the strength and the substantially integrated nature of our North American economies to bolster market access elsewhere. Regrettably, the elections last week are not likely to help on this or on trade more generally.
With the collapse of the Doha multilateral round of trade negotiations now almost certain, Canada needs a clearer, more concentrated and results-oriented trade agenda, specifically targeting the emerging giants in Asia that are rapidly becoming the new economic centre of gravity in the world.
Think about this. In the past six years, the United States has concluded Free Trade Agreements with more than a dozen countries. Canada’s score is zero in the same time frame. Drift is not a practical option for a country highly dependent on trade.
Australia does not have the luxury of immediate proximity to its major market and so works diligently at maintaining a pragmatic relationship with the United States while, at the same time, cultivating closer economic ties with China, Japan, India and Korea. A coherent, focused effort linking all levels of government with the private sector, generating real dividends for Australia’s economy. It is a model Canada should consider.
Beyond trade, our government should be preparing the ground for an increasingly competitive global economy when natural resources will not be sufficient and when times will not be as good.
The exceptional strength of our fiscal situation should enable some sensible adjustments to corporate and income tax policies designed to spur investment and innovation. Decisions with objectives that go beyond short term, political expedience.
We would benefit, too, from more tax harmonization and from tangible reductions of both internal barriers to trade and impediments to mobility of labour between provinces. What Alberta and B.C. have done together should be extended on a truly national basis. Imagine that. Free Trade within Canada!
We require actions across the board that will make us more competitive in an increasingly competitive global society. Many also suggest that Canadian business leaders need to be less cautious, less risk averse and more entrepreneurial. Roger Martin of the University of Toronto has observed that our executives and Canadian capital markets “overestimate the risk of going global and underestimate the risk of staying local.” (Now I am talking to accountants about more risk-taking! Dangerous ground.)
In short however, if we continue to rest exclusively on our admittedly abundant natural resources, don’t be surprised if sclerosis sets in!
Our productivity challenge is exacerbated by demographic changes. With one-third of our population expected to retire by 2020, there will be much greater pressure on our tax system to support already stretched budgets for health-care and age-related benefits. Something will have to give when we have more and more retirees paying less and less income tax. (Younger members in the audience should take note.)
Some see increased immigration as an answer and yet, if we simply expand the volume of immigrants, using the current system, we will, I suspect, increase the social burden without improving the productive capacity of our economy.
The security (and stability) of our nation is any government’s over-riding responsibility and is actually where the policy trinity comes together. Unity or stability bolsters prosperity and a more prosperous Canada is likely to be a more united Canada. But, security, in its most fundamental sense, faces entirely new challenges in this young century, both internal (as we have recently learned) and external.
We are vulnerable to a new kind of war. Irrational terrorist acts which strike without warning, are aimed at innocent bystanders and cannot be contained by traditional military or security defences.
The enduring myth of Canada as a peace-keeper is somewhat at odds with tasks in places like Afghanistan that go well-beyond the blue beret model. That image and the comfort or softness of our affluence seems to be engendering an aversion to war-fighting as well as a false sense of immunity among Canadians about the global terrorist threat. We need to ensure that our strength as an open democracy, and the justifiable pride we have for tolerance and diversity in this country do not become sources of weakness, easily exploited by those with the intent and the means to undermine the stability, the unity and the potential that Canada enjoys.
Central to any leader’s challenge of governing and to all three basic policy pillars is the manner in which we choose to manage relations with the United States. It is never easy, even in relatively good times. After all, the Americans are #1 and they know it. And there is no longer a real #2 in the world, one reason why, I believe, anti-Americanism is flourishing almost everywhere. The Americans can play hardball and not just in baseball. Their system of government is different and can be difficult to fathom – even for Americans. And, after last week’s elections, governance in Washington is likely to be even more difficult all around.
“All politics” as they say “is local” and Canadians, as I was often reminded, do not vote in the United States. The attention span in Washington on issues of concern to Canada is spasmodic at best. Difficult to gain, even more difficult to sustain. Besides, any “dividends” on the home front derived from a constructive approach can be elusive. Ask Brian Mulroney. Ask Tony Blair.
As a former diplomat, I am often asked whether leaders can really make a difference in managing this all pervasive relationship. The diplomatic answer is that countries have interests that transcend the personal influence – good or bad – of individuals. The more candid answer, based on direct experience, is that leaders can make a decisive difference … when they choose to. I can tell you one thing for certain. We would not have secured a Free Trade Agreement without the firm, mutual commitment of Prime Minister Mulroney and President Reagan. But the importance of the relationship extends beyond personalities of the moment and should not be measured by simplistic standards of who is liked or disliked at any given time.
The real challenge for any Canadian leader is to try to reconcile the practical need for persistent engagement with Washington in order to articulate, promote and defend our substantial security, commercial and environmental interests while also responding to legitimate aspirations in Canada that we act, and be seen to act, as a distinct entity in North America. The first part of this equation requires vigilance and perseverance; the second calls for creativity, finding ways in which Canada can make a difference or a significant contribution. It is what some see as the “Canadian conundrum” in foreign policy even though it is a conundrum that many countries envy.
I also believe that, if we can establish a mature, constructive partnership on this continent with the United States and manage it in a coherent, manner (with minimal emotion), we will also be better able to address and influence other global objectives.
Canada’s security on this continent is guaranteed by the United States, as we are wont to say, “whether we like it or not.” But, consider this and I quote: “Canadians want to benefit from the United States nuclear umbrella but they do not want to hold onto the handle.” Do you know who said that? Pierre Trudeau in 1983 when he explained to the public his decision to allow Cruise Missile testing in Canada. We could use some of that candour in today’s North American security debate.
As the Nuclear non-Proliferation regime becomes less certain, with the antics of North Korea, among others, are we too smug to reconsider the merits of missile defence? Does anyone seriously think that a missile fired from North Korea or Iran will distinguish between Seattle and Vancouver or between Toronto and Buffalo?
And yet, with all three Opposition parties firmly opposed to reconsider the issue of missile defence, the myth will prevail. Does that make any of you feel more secure? When you live next door to someone ten times your size who has unprecedented military fire power, you have a tendency to niggle or whinge about their behaviour almost as a birthright. But, the luxury of our “virtual dependence” should not prevent us from adopting a realistic outlook about our own security nor should it relieve us of the responsibility for contributing at home and globally as an ally, as well as a neighbour.
The best way to move beyond mythology, whether on security, or health care, or fiscal imbalance, or similar challenges is leadership, unfettered leadership based on conviction and a determination to make good use of the political capital and the time available. That is what I see as the essential challenge for any Canadian government.
by Richard Gimblett
Before the summer of 1990, the region was not a typical theatre of operations for the Canadian Navy. The first RCN vessels in the area were the cruisers Uganda and Ontario en route operations in the Far East with the British Pacific Fleet in the last year of the Second World War. Similarly, in the postwar period, destroyers would occasionally transit the area en route operations off Korea. When the carrier Magnificent transported UNEF I to Sinai in 1956 it did not pass through the Suez Canal; neither did Bonaventure when transporting the initial UNFICYP contingent in 1966. In the ensuing decades, no Canadian warships entered the region.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the initial assumption was that Canadian participation would be limited to a post-hostilities peacekeeping contingent. Instead, with the imposition of UN Security Council sanctions against Iraq (UNSCRs 661 and 665), a naval task group was dispatched to join the Multinational Interception Force (MIF) embargo, under the codename Operation FRICTION.1 The aging destroyers Athabaskan and Terra Nova, and the supply ship Protecteur were hastily upgraded with new weapon and C2 systems obtained from the CPF and TRUMP projects, and took up station on the frontlines in the Central Gulf to board and inspect transiting vessels. An air task group of CF-18s was subsequently dispatched to provide Combat Air Patrol of the coalition naval forces under the coordination of the USN. The emphasis on the seaborne sanction enforcement allowed the Mulroney government to maintain the distinction that it was operating under UN auspices vice those of the American invasion forces. Indeed, during the war phase of Operation DESERT STORM the Canadian task group commander was delegated TACON of the Coalition Logistics Force in the Gulf, the only non-USN officer accorded the status of an independent Warfare Commander.
As one of the ceasefire conditions, the MIF mandate was formalized under UNSCR 687. The Canadian government wished to maintain a presence in this situation, but the state of the fleet (in transition from the old steam destroyers to the new frigates) limited the effort, and only Operations FLAG (northern Gulf) and BARRIER (in the Red Sea) were undertaken before the deployments were discontinued.
When the supply ship Preserver was dispatched in 1992-93 to Somalia in support of Operation DELIVERANCE, it was initially under UNSCR 794 (Chapter VI mandate), acting as an afloat Joint Headquarters (JHQ) to the mission commander and more general support to Canadian Forces ashore (the Airborne Regiment Battle Group). This logistics support broadened to include other coalition naval forces as the mandate changed to UNSCR 814 (Chapter VII).
The introduction to the fleet in the mid-1990s of the highly capable new Halifax-class frigates suggested opportunities to renew deployments to the region. Operation PROMENADE was purely an effort to assist in the promotion of Canadian technology at various locations in the Gulf States. With Operation TRANQUILITY, Canada rejoined the MIF after a three-year absence, as much again to showcase the new hi-tech frigate as to support the embargo. However, with the ongoing transition of the fleet, it was two years before another frigate could participate, under Operation PREVENTION.
The continuing non-compliance of Saddam Hussein with UN inspection requirements soon led to a more forceful and sustained Canadian presence. A flurry of UNSCRs in 1997-98 culminated in the coalition (primarily US-UK) Operation DESERT THUNDER, for which the Canadian frigate assigned to STANAVFORLANT was diverted to the Gulf in support of the MIF (Canadian codename Op DETERMINATION).
Saddam’s compliance was short-lived, so the Chretien government undertook to bolster its commitment to the MIF, beginning with Operation MERCATOR, which saw the first of the frigates to be fully integrated into a USN carrier battle group (CVBG). The difference from previous deployments was that by now the level of Canadian technical and communications interoperability with the USN (especially on the classified SIPRNET system) was sufficiently high that the Canadian ships could replace Americans one-for-one in the order of battle.2 The success of that effort led to the practice being regularized. Operation AUGMENTATION saw annual deployments of a frigate (for a six-month period) integrated in a USN CVBG. Saddam’s intransigence towards the UN increased such that HMCS Winnipeg (the last frigate so deployed) had to perform several con-compliant boardings through the spring and summer of 2001.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 Al-Qaeda attacks, NATO invoked Article 5 of its Charter and the UNSCR passed a series of resolutions authorizing collective action against terrorists. Within hours of the Chretien government approving Operation APOLLO, the frigate with STANAVFORLANT was detached to join a USN CVBG in the Arabian Sea, and within the month, the frigate preparing to deploy under Op AUGMENTATION sailed to join another CVBG. The main effort was the dispatch of a three-ship task group from Halifax, which upon arrival in the Arabian Sea in November 2001 was assigned responsibility for the close escort of the USN amphibious ready groups, a rare signal of USN trust in an ally. By January 2002, there were six Canadian warships in the region (one-third of the entire surface fleet), and their role in the expanding war against terrorism soon included the command of all other coalition warships in the Arabian Sea, culminating in the prestigious multinational task force command appointment of CTF 151. For Operation Apollo, the Canadian Navy kept a task group deployed at probably the most extreme distance from Canada, with minimal direct shore support, for the better part of two years. It was the largest sustained Canadian naval operation since the Korean War, and the CTF 151 appointment was the first operational-level command exercised by a senior Canadian officer in an active theatre since the Second World War.3
After the end of Operation APOLLO in December 2003, the Canadian Navy took an operational pause to re-group. Within the year, however, it resumed a regular presence in the region, participating in lower-scale but on-going counter-terror ops. To date, three frigates have deployed under Operation ALTAIR, the latest being HMCS Ottawa.
Continued engagement in the region under Operation ALTAIR accomplishes a number of objectives. For one, these deployments achieve national political objectives by demonstrating an enduring interest and engagement in a strategically important region, a region where we need awareness and knowledge to ensure that we can influence and shape events when required to do so. In addition, it considerably strengthens our ties at the strategic, operational and tactical level with our Allies that also operate in that region, allowing us to promote military cooperation with regional states and to develop key regional knowledge that will be important for dealing with any future crises in the area. Finally, working with a US Navy Expeditionary Strike Group increases our experience base of manoeuvre operations in the littoral, as the CF explores new transformational concepts of operation for the 21st century battlespace.
There is no question that Southwest Asia is of interest to Canada, given the strategic importance of the region’s energy supply, the global war on terrorism, the proximity of events in Afghanistan, and the regional instability generated by Iran’s nuclear program. Our Navy deploys to regions of the world like this because Canada’s national interests are directly affected by what goes on there. Having a navy capable of independent action on the world stage significantly enhances the range of options open to government in responding to overseas crises at the time and place of its choosing.
by Frank Harvey
Clearly the most interesting percentages are those compiled following the arrest of 17 terrorist suspects in the Toronto area in June, 2006 -- 71% of those polled believed an attack on Canadian soil was now likely. This result was produced after what was believed at the time to be one the most important counter-terrorist successes in Canadian history. Oddly enough, threat perceptions after this “success” were higher than those following a major “failure” in London a year earlier (July 2005).
1 Pollara, July 8th, 2002: http://www.pollara.ca/Library/News/terrorsubsiding.html
by Nelson Michaud
Dr. Michaud would like to thank his Research Assistant, Joelle Paquet for assisting with this submission.
The old Latin motto “rush slowly” [Festina lente] is no doubt an appropriate label to define the Harper government’s attitude towards foreign policy. On the one hand, his first nine months introduced us to an active prime minister who showed his support of Canadian troops by visiting them in Afghanistan shortly after he was sworn in, who warmed up Canada’s relationship with Washington, who recognized the legitimacy of Quebec’s international role, who went to the North to reaffirm Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, and who did not hesitate to authorize important expenditures to revamp Canada’s military equipment and capacity. On the other hand, we are still looking for unequivocal foreign policy guidelines: his summer declarations over the Middle East crisis and his performance at the Francophonie summit in Bucharest may very well be portrayed by his close guard as a show of strength and decisiveness, but it also demonstrated a lack of diplomatic sensitivity and, in Romania, of knowledge towards the institution and its key members. As for his speech at the United Nations, it focussed on one item; the role of Canada in Afghanistan, an omnipresent issue in foreign policy speeches by all members of his government. Does this mean that Canadian foreign policy will largely be translated into a Pentagon-style militarization to the detriment of all other priorities? This would be unwise, and Stephen Harper knows it. How he will shape Canadian foreign policy, however, remains to be seen. What, then, is the future orientation of Canadian foreign policy? What will the government do to let Canadians and the world know where it stands?
Actions before Words
Obviously, Stephen Harper does not want to fall into the trap a statement could lay for him: on the one hand, to avoid making choices, as Martin did, would attract the same kind of criticisms, while on the other, making choices means that those who will not see their suggestions carried out might be upset and desert the government. Both options are situations a minority-government prime minister does not want to address. But there seems to be more to Harper’s reluctance to favour foreign-policy-stated positions.
First, one might see here a chosen modus operandi, as David Malone so effectively described it in his seminal article on foreign policy reviews published in the International Journal. Citing a British diplomat, he stated: “We don’t review foreign policy, we do it.” This approach is reminiscent of a practice originating in the common law: there is no need to write down principles that are known to all, as their application in the past reveals much more than do their catchy phrases. But is it, in fact, the best approach?
The Role of Values
Here, the relationship with Washington comes immediately to mind. And if rearmament of our military was a necessity that even a Liberal government was to face sooner than later, there are other positions that signal a change that is not without consequence. For instance, the Canadian absolute faith in multilateralism is now worded as support for “effective multilateral institutions.” In itself, this could be considered a wise judgement and a sure guide to avoid spending scarce resources over too many forums, as Canada tended to do in the past, but it is nevertheless a subtle and important nuance being brought to a value that dates back to the Pearsonian golden age of Canadian foreign policy.
This type of nuance, though it could be seen as a positive evolution, needs to be better documented. As I have argued elsewhere, the nature and role of values in Canadian foreign policy need to be clarified. Values are defined differently by the bureaucrats and foreign policy apparatchiks than the average Canadian might define them. Since the government sees them as a cornerstone of foreign policy – as the Prime Minister noted in his speech to the New York Economic Club at the end of September – it is therefore important to better characterize them.
Indeed, in this speech and elsewhere, the Prime Minister and his government’s key foreign policy spokespersons refer to values and interests on a regular basis, but it is difficult to see what these consist of. In some instances, a definite list of values is presented, while at other times, such as in Minister Josée Verner’s speeches, values are presented as … interests. At most, we could grasp only a glimpse of what is intended from the government’s official discourse,. Am I right in thinking that freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are universal values that Canada wishes to promote on the world scene? Does the government bring the universal character of these values to bear to avoid the accusation of imperialism that undermined Canada in the World’s third pillar? For their part, could Canadian interests be defined as security, prosperity through global trade, a strong and mature partnership with the United States, and “effective multilateral institutions”? This distinction could become a major component of Canadian foreign policy, yet it has not been consistently articulated in public speeches and even less so in a policy statement. To this author, clearer government guidelines should replace any individual’s interpretations.
To give an idea of the confusion that exists, one might examine this speech delivered by the Prime Minister before the Economic Club. In it, we find an outline of a Conservative version of the 1995 three pillars: a strong economy based on the energy sector (vs. prosperity), a strong continental partnership based on prosperity and security (vs. security), and the promotion of our values and interests (vs. promotion of Canadian values). Later in the speech, “our” values turn into “common” values, the interests are dropped, and the section covers military procurement. The least we can say about this is that it is difficult to get a clear message regarding the government’s foreign policy. Actions are not enough.
A Need for a Policy Statement?
What the Harper government needs to do is articulate its foreign policy stance in a concise, albeit precise statement that will inform the Canadian public as well as Canada’s partners around the world of the principles from which the new team intends to operate. This could be done through a departmental document, or in a speech delivered by the Prime Minister in an appropriate forum.
On the one hand, in the first nine months of his tenure as prime minister, Stephen Harper was swift to act on several foreign policy fronts, most of them related to security. On the other hand, he is slow to deliver the framework from which Canada will act in the world under a Conservative mandate.
It is sometimes wise to apply old Latin precepts. In this case, however, Canada needs to send clearer signals, as words will help everyone better understand the true meaning of actions undertaken.
by Stephen Randall
One might have expected that with the end of the Cold War and the electoral defeat in 1990 of the Sandinista National Liberation Front and Daniel Ortega, its perennial Presidential candidate, Nicaragua would have moved out of the headlines as well as into more prosperous times. One would also have anticipated that the United States government would have demonstrated little concern for the course of political events in what is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (after Haiti). After all, Nicaragua has only slightly more than 5 million people; it possesses no strategic materials, is essentially an agriculturally based economy tied to a few export products such as coffee and sugar, and its only strategic importance is its potential threat to its more peaceful neighbour Costa Rica.
What might have seemed logical on the surface proved otherwise during the national elections on November 5, 2006. Although the international media attention, security, number of international election observers was less significant that it was in 1990, there was still a remarkable degree of international attention to the election. Canada was one of four countries that provided funding in support of the Carter Center observer group, through the Canada Fund administered by the Embassy in Costa Rica. The United States Congress did not provide funding for this mission to the Carter Center. The European Union sent a substantial team of senior observers as did the Organization of American States, the latter of which was funded largely by the United States. There was also considerable international media attention.
What accounted for the attention? A variety of factors are at play. The most significant has been the continued success of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to irritate the United States and to curry favour with a range of other leftist governments in Latin America, from Fidel Castro to Luz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil and more recently Evo Morales in Bolivia, whose nationalization of oil properties has evoked memories of a more nationalistic, anti-capitalist and anti-free trade, as well as more authoritarian Latin American environment. In the case of Nicaragua, there have been concrete reasons for the United States to be concerned about the return of the Ortega faction of the Sandinistas to power. Chavez has been providing fuel to Sandinista mayors in Nicaragua and has been as outspoken in his support of Ortega as he has been in his criticism of the United States over the past several years.
The outspoken U.S. Ambassador in Managua, Paul Trivelli, made public the fact that through USAID the United States had provided approximately $12 million in technical support for the election, primarily to the Supreme Electoral Council for voter education, training of electoral council staff, inventory, advertisement and delivery of education cards, and investment in a public campaign to promote verification of the national voter registry. USAID support also included 3.1 million to support the electoral observation process for the regional election of the Atlantic Coast last march 2006 and for the November 2006 national elections, and some 3.4 million to support the civic education campaign.
As a somewhat pathetic reminder of role that Nicaragua played as something of a Soviet-Cuban surrogate in the 1980s, the tarnished Cold Warrior of the Reagan administration, Oliver North, made a surprise visit to Managua in a show of support for José Rizo, the Liberal Party candidate. The prospect of an Ortega victory horrified Mr. North. He told Nicaraguan television it would be "the worst thing" and was cause for concern. "My hope is that the people of Nicaragua are not going to return to that. That's not good for your country. That's not good for my country."
North does not believe that Ortega has changed to a more moderate position, accepting of capitalism, democratic processes and such agreements as the Central American Free Trade Agreement, contending that Ortega, whom he describes as “the old Kremlin ally” “is still a wily authoritarian who could form a leftwing front with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Bolivia's Evo Morales.”
"If he wins,” North told the Nicaraguan media, “Ortega will have key regional allies - men who, by themselves, present no immediate threat to our security but who together could create problems aplenty for the US and its democratic Latin American allies," the former marine wrote in an article earlier this month. "Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan is gone, and today Nicaragua looks like a case of 'back to the future'."
North thus made a two day visit to Managua in the week prior to the election to promote the ruling Liberal party's conservative candidate, José Rizo, whom North contended had the best chance to stop Ortega. The pair posed for photographs and exchanged compliments. "Oliver North is a person who risked his political future for Nicaragua," said Rizo.
Yet, Daniel Ortega, on this his third attempt to return to the Presidency, was successful, carrying in what are yet not final results approximately 38% of the popular vote against the candidate of the ALN (Alianza Liberal Nacional), Eduardo Montealegre, a former banker, member of a prominent Nicaraguan family and former Finance minister in the previous government of President Bolaños. The ALN is an alliance of diverse political groups who have left the traditional Liberal Party (PLC) because of the massive corruption associated with former president Aleman, not serving a twenty year prison term, combined with the Conservative party and parts of the former Nicaraguan resistance. The focus of the ALN has been on political and constitutional reform to bolster democracy, combat corruption and pursue conservative economic policies.
The failure of the ALN to be able to garner sufficient support from the other parties enabled the FSLN to win a minority popular vote, but that failure to unite the opposition, a formula that worked well in 1990 to defeat the Sandinistas, was not possible in 2006 because of the strong distrust of the traditional Liberal Party which continues to be dominated by the disgraced former president Arnoldo Alemán. The PLC or Partido Constitucionalista, the traditional Liberal party’s candidate was José Rizo, a wealthy coffee grower, former official in the Alemán government and vice-president under Bolaños. Rizo was simply too tainted by the Alemán corruption to be seen as a worthy ally by Montealegre or by the other major anti-Sandinista party, the MRS, Alianza Movimiento de Renovacion Sandinista, which is composed mainly of politicians who left the Sandinista party after Ortega’s defeat in 1990 and which also now includes such small splinter parties as the Socialist Party, Social Christian party, and the Autonomous Women’s Movement. Its policies are similar to the ALN although it is seen to be more progressive on social and economic issues.
The opposition to the FSLN was thus split, and the FSLN was able to capture the Presidency, vice-Presidency and control of the National Assembly, even though it will hold only a minority control in the legislature. If one wants yet more irony in this process, Ortega’s running mate for the vice-presidency was Jaime Morales a former Contra leader.
The new government will take office early in the new year (2007) and the direction that the Ortega government takes, since it will have control of the legislature, will be important for the stability of the Central American region and in particular for the future of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Ortega has indicated in his election statements that he will honour the free trade agreement and work constructively with the international financial agencies and the private sector. In the weeks leading up to the election he met on numerous occasions with private sector interests, including the Chamber of Commerce, to assure them of his good intentions. It remains to be determined what direction he will actually lead the country. His former vice-president observed the day after the election that Ortega remains an authoritarian personality but that with the end of the Cold War he constitutes little danger to the region. The Cold War and regional security is not really the critical issue for Nicaragua. The country is desperate for development, political and economic stability. Decades of civil war prior to 1990, followed by a series of either ineffective or corrupt governments, have done little good for what could be a prosperous society. It is difficult to imagine that an FSLN government under Daniel Ortega could perform less well than his corrupt predecessors.
by Denis Stairs
In a short, almost pithy, address to the United Nations General Assembly on 21 September 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper quoted the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as having observed that terrorism “is a direct attack on the core values the United Nations stands for: the rule of law, the protection of civilians, mutual respect between people of different faiths and cultures, and peaceful resolution of conflict.” That, Mr. Harper added, was why the U.N. had “the responsibility to defeat terrorism.” It was also why Canada, in Afghanistan, had “answered the call.” In having recourse to this vocabulary, the Prime Minister was obviously picking up on the now pervasive rhetoric of the so-called “war on terror” – a rhetoric initiated in Washington, but replicated in the declaratory policy of a number of western powers, as well as the NATO and U.N. organizations collectively. But this way of describing the conflict in which so many governments are now engaged seems in some respects rather odd. The parallel is not perfect, but it appears analogous to describing World War I as a war against those who use machine guns or bolt-action rifles. That’s because ‘terrorism’ really amounts to a pejorative designation that we give to a particular battery of war-fighting techniques – techniques that the ‘terrorists’ themselves are enticed into using simply because other techniques (e.g., the mobilization of large armies equipped with high-tech weaponry) are not readily available to them. For various reasons, combat activities that are subsumed under the rubric of ‘terrorism’ are techniques of which we disapprove. In part, our disapproval may simply be a manifestation of the anxiety that comes from knowing that such techniques can be alarmingly effective as a way of debilitating even the most powerful of established military forces, along with the high-value assets (both human and capital) that such forces are ultimately trying to protect. At that level, however, describing the behaviours that concern us in the negative terminology of ‘terrorism’ reminds one of the need for the illumination that came with the old saw that used to circulate among authorities on arms control and disarmament whenever they tried to struggle with the distinction between offensive and defensive weapons. “Whether you regard a weapon as offensive or defensive,” it went, “depends on whether you are standing in front of the trigger or behind it.”
To put the point another way, the choice of language in such a context is itself a political act – designed on the one hand to demonize the adversary, and on the other to mobilize support for a violently defensive response, together with a willingness to accept the hardships that this will require, and the compromises of the normal principles of politics that the effective conduct of war usually demands. As Brian Flemming observed while making a very similar point in a thoughtful and measured address at the Dalhousie University Law School on 16 October 2006, this is the sort of thing that warrants a careful re-reading of George Orwell’s discussion, in his essay on Politics and the English Language, of the way in which English-speaking politicians are given to abusing their tongue for political purposes (not that the habit is confined to speakers of English). In the current context, making the ‘terrorism’ the primary object of our attention encourages us to believe that our simple purpose is to counter ‘terrorists’ – that is, people whose identity we associate in the first instance with their methods of action, and not with their motives or objectives. In consequence, we spend surprisingly little of our intellectual time on the ‘cause’ they may be pursuing, even though that cause is what gives them the motivation to act so selflessly – and sacrificially – in the first place. The purpose of this observation is not to build a case for asserting a moral equivalence, or to challenge the need for a vigorous response to so-called ‘terrorist’ attacks when they occur. It is, however, to suggest that the people we call ‘terrorists’ think of themselves (just as we think of ourselves) as being engaged in a ‘war’, holy or otherwise, and that being so, it may be useful to remind ourselves of Karl von Clausewitz’s famous dictum to the effect that war is simply “the pursuit of politics with an admixture of other means.” Assertions of this kind can be, and commonly are, countered with an argument to the effect that ‘terrorism’ is generically different from other methods of war-fighting – so different, in fact, that it warrants being made the target of defensive action in and of itself. Of course it makes no sense to talk about a war against those who are armed with “bolt-action rifles”, any more than it would make sense for our adversaries to talk about a “war against CF-18s”, or a “war against Leopard tanks”, or whatever other conventional weapon of choice they might choose to use as a metaphor for our essential being. These, after all, are instruments of normal war-fighting activity, whereas terrorism is abnormal, a manifestation of a kind of sickness. Or so the counter-argument might go. There are two primary reasons for thinking of terrorism as aberrational in these terms.
The first comes from the fact that the behaviours we associate with terrorism are often aimed at the innocent. Their victims, moreover, are sometimes chosen completely, or almost completely, at random. Certainly there are exceptions, and in any case what constitutes ‘innocence’ in these matters is itself open to political debate. It is not surprising that Viet Cong guerrillas concentrated their assassinations on village fonctionnaires, whose connections with Saigon meant that, from the terrorist point of view, they were the equivalent of what radicals in Latin America not too long ago would have described as ‘comprador elites’. The Mau Mau presumably did not think of the white families they attacked on the farms of colonial Kenya as ‘innocents,’ even if some of the people they killed were unarmed women and children. It is possible that those who flew aircraft into the Twin Towers in the middle of the New York financial district did not regard the inhabitants of those two buildings as ‘innocents’, either – even if we in our world find it difficult to blame an office secretary for whatever sins might conceivably be attributed to the workings of a secular and highly materialistic western capitalism. But when all such qualifications are in, it is still clearly the case that many terrorist attacks are not concerned with issues of distributional justice at all, but only with creating a dysfunctional atmosphere in the hope that it will eventually generate political responses of which the terrorists approve.
The second feature of terrorism that can lead to its being regarded as abnormal is that it is now frequently conducted in a way that requires the perpetrators to commit suicide. From the western point of view, such behaviour appears to be totally irrational – a product of a kind of ‘brain-washing’, often buttressed in practice by the malevolent indoctrination of mindless certitudes that in turn are rooted in excessively literal and highly selective interpretations of religious literature. The conclusion is clear: When people are led to think like that, there is nothing to do but kill them, or incarcerate them. Given the mind-set, negotiation with them is impossible. We can be certain of only one proposition: if they are left at liberty, they will persist in the launching of random acts of death and destruction. There is obviously some truth in both these sets of observations, and for the comfortable residents of comfortable countries, there can be little difficulty in choosing sides. We all know where we’re at! Having said that, it is useful in attempting to assess the politics of these matters to turn the analysis around, and examine ourselves. Consider, first, the question of the targeting of the innocent. It is certainly true that the advance of modern weapons technology has vastly improved the capacity of military establishments to limit what they so blithely describe as ‘collateral damage.’ There is no doubt either that, given their much-improved capacity to avoid hurting bystanders, the armies of liberal societies will do everything they reasonably can to achieve precisely this result. In normative terms, they know it to be the right way to proceed. They also know that in most cases it is advantageous to the pursuit of their underlying political purpose. It may not win ‘hearts and minds’, but it may help at least to avoid losing more of them than is absolutely necessary.
It is important to observe, however, that this kind of behaviour is a function more of the state of weapons technology than of allegiance to abstract moral principle. We know that this is so because of the evidence provided by the modern history of warfare. In the classical era of European conflicts, for example, it was often possible for armies to prosecute their campaigns by engaging one another on open fields, sometimes even with civilians watching the show, in comparative safety, from the sidelines. Once the military proceedings were over, plundering and rape might or might not quickly follow, but even if they did, there was still a sense that war itself was an enterprise for professionals, often aided by mercenaries, and that its bounds were therefore in some measure limited. All this began to change with the arrival of mass citizen armies and the related development of nationalist ideologies, which made it easier to rationalize decisions to include ordinary citizens in the targeting. But what made the real difference was the appearance of air power, long-range artillery, and other war-fighting devices of the ‘blunt instrument’ sort. Whatever may be said in defence of the bombing of Dresden, or of the nuclear assaults on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely none of us would presume to claim that the leaders of the day were unaware that infants, children, the disabled and the decrepit would perish along with the mature and able-bodied adults who, it could be argued, played a conscious and significant role in maintaining the state, sustaining a war-machine economy, and all the rest. The weapons technology of the day ensured that the ‘collateral damage’ would be very high, but the war – albeit with the great regret of the sensitive and the well-intentioned – was prosecuted anyway. During the height of the cold war, moreover – and arguably the condition still prevails now, although less obviously – both the eastern and western camps were perfectly prepared, in extremis, to subject large numbers of cities to total and indiscriminate nuclear annihilation in the service of their interests as they respectively saw them. This circumstance, too, was a product of weapons technology.
In our own time, precision-guided munitions allow us, once again, to do the job in more finely-tuned style, and political prudence invites us to do this to the very best of our abilities. The normative factor is also present, but it would appear to be a second-order consideration – a consideration that is quickly put to one side if military circumstances so dictate. A political price is paid when this happens (both at home and abroad), which is one of the reasons why the ‘terrorists’ (who can be described with greater analytical clarity as “guerrillas” – that is, as “little warriors”) follow Mao Tse-tung’s dictum that they should act like fish at sea, concealing themselves – and shielding themselves – by merging with the civilian population (the ‘innocents’). As an aside, moreover, it is useful to reflect on the fact that all war, and not just guerrilla war, is penultimately about imparting ‘terror’ (ultimately, as opposed to penultimately, it is about winning political objectives). Its immediate purpose is to change behaviour, which it attempts to do by demonstrating to the relevant adversaries that they will be much better off if they give in than if they refuse to budge. A strategy of ‘shock and awe’ is a strategy of terror by another name. The sound of approaching helicopters presumably imparted a sense of terror to the inhabitants of villages in Vietnam. The rhythmic chants of Zulu warriors approaching their enemies in Africa were presumably intended to achieve a comparable effect. The question of which classes of folk are to be the real object of the ‘terrorization’ effort is thus important, but the answer to it is a function of other circumstances, and these may vary. By contrast, the terrorizing per se is universal to the war-making activity.
The willingness to commit suicide in furthering the prosecution of hostilities is more unusual, perhaps. The pre-contemporary example that comes most obviously to mind is that of Japanese kamakaze pilots in the Pacific theatre during World War II. The Buddhist priests who immolated themselves in Vietnam offer another parallel (although they did not, of course, attempt to take others down with them). There have been cases throughout history, moreover, of soldiers who have been prepared to risk near-certain, if not totally certain, death in the prosecution even of conventional hostilities – not merely as individuals (e.g., in rushing machine gun nests), but as groups of hundreds or even thousands (e.g., in “going over the top” during World War I). This is not the place to discuss the complex reasons why this sort of behaviour has occurred. Suffice it to say that we do not regard it as psychotic. On the contrary, and with occasional exceptions, it has been sustained by perfectly understandable (even if sometimes ill-founded) sets of motivations. The same, clearly, is true of the ‘terrorist’ guerrillas with whom we now have to deal. It follows from all this that we should never forget that we are currently engaged, not in a war against ‘terror’ or ‘terrorism’, nor even in a war against ‘terrorists’. We are engaged instead in a war against unconventional warriors using readily accessible instruments of violence on a transnational basis in the pursuit of political objectives. These objectives may be ill-advised, and they may have been selected by untutored minds engaged in relatively primitive intellectual processes. They may vary widely, moreover, from group to group and from the top to the bottom of the pertinent organizational hierarchy (however loosely and eclectically structured it may be). But the political objectives are still there, and they are real. The behaviour that results is thus considered and purposeful. It is far from ‘mad’. I repeat that, in making these observations, my purpose is not to advance an argument for moral equivalence, nor is it my intention to become overly precious about the correct use of language for its own sake. Nor is it to mount, yet again, the familiar case for looking more closely at ‘root causes’. We certainly need to do just that, although we should recognize that it is quite possible that our findings would lead us to causal variables (e.g., the existence of Israel) that we cannot, or will not, remedy.
My intention, rather, is to remind ourselves that this ‘war’, like other wars, is ultimately a political activity, and it needs to be assessed in political terms. The British, in parts of Kandahar, have thus been able to negotiate a ‘deal’ with their Taliban opponents. It seems likely that their doing so required them to think outside the ‘war on terror’ box. Perhaps the conditions that made it possible for the compromise to be reached are purely local. Or perhaps the agreement was possibly only because it was purely local – a mutually convenient exception to the more general confrontation. But it does suggest that a close examination, even at the surface, of the political interests of our opponents might conceivably open up possibilities for lowering the temperature. Certainly we should not allow our distaste for their choice of tactics to get in the way of clarity of thought.
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CDFAI is a research institute pursuing authoritative research and new ideas aimed at ensuring Canada has a respected and influential voice in the international arena.
CDFAI is a charitable organization, founded in 2001 and based in Calgary. CDFAI develops and disseminates materials and carries out activities to promote understanding by the Canadian public of national defence and foreign affairs issues. CDFAI is developing a body of knowledge which can be used for Canadian policy development, media analysis and educational support. The Fellows program, a group of highly experienced and talented individuals, support CDFAI by authoring research papers, responding to media queries, running conferences, initiating polling, and developing outreach and education projects.
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