Wednesday, December 5, 2012

No nuance in Ottawa's foreign policy

Tim Harper: Stephen Harper’s lightning quick foreign policy overhaul

By Tim Harper, Toronto Star, December 4, 2012
Canada essentially stands alone in the world today, silently nodding or mouthing platitudes while Israel forges ahead with the construction of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as punishment for the Palestinian victory.

The Conservative government has taken Canada so far from its foreign policy roots and exposed this country as such a high-profile outlier, it defies explanation.
But it should not be a surprise. Stephen Harper told us his foreign policy would see us pick our friends, stand by them and ignore those who don’t like it.
“We also have a purpose,” Harper told the Conservative convention weeks after winning his 2011 majority, “and that purpose is no longer just to go along and get along with everyone else’s agenda.
“It is no longer to please every dictator with a vote at the United Nations.
“Now, we know where our interests lie, and who our friends are. And we take strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations whether popular or not . . . and that is what the world can count on from Canada.”
Harper essentially told the convention that the days of Canada as honest broker, or “global boy scout,” were over. Anyone who doubts this country is being fundamentally transformed under this government should look at this stunningly quick overhaul of foreign policy.
It has meant slavish devotion to Israel, breaking ties with Iran, embracing our colonial roots, giving the back of our hand to the UN when it serves our purpose and using foreign aid to promote Canadian economic interests over poverty relief.
When it comes to the Middle East, it is highly debatable whether this country ever had any influence during its years hewing to the double-barrelled two-state solution.
But at least Ottawa did not get in the way of peace.
Today, its lack of balance under this government has eliminated any constructive role in the Middle East peace process, a role it abdicated with its silence as the punitive settlement building proceeds.
The U.S. voted with Canada on last week’s Palestinian motion, but that did not prevent Washington from being harshly critical of its ally.
“We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two-state solution,’’ said Jay Carney, spokesperson for U.S. President Barack Obama.
Five European nations summoned their Israeli ambassadors in protest over the settlement construction push.
France, Britain, Sweden, Spain and Denmark accuse Israel of undermining peace efforts.
Monday, Canada was one of only six nations in the UN General Assembly to vote against a resolution that called on Israel to quickly open its nuclear program for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. As usual, we stood with the U.S., Israel, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau.
Tuesday in Ottawa, Baird, along with International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino, met with his recalled heads of missions from Geneva, New York, Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
After 90 minutes, the government’s position had changed little. There was no condemnation of the Israeli action.
“Unilateral action on either side is unhelpful,” said Baird’s spokesperson Rick Roth. “The Palestinian Authority’s actions and provocative rhetoric at the UN General Assembly would obviously elicit a response from Israel. Neither is helpful to advance the cause of peace.”
Roth said Ottawa is concerned about a potential Palestinian move to take Israel to the International Criminal Court, but said the government will work with the Obama administration at the UN as it plots its next step.
Baird has appeared to shelve his foolish threat to cut off the $300 million aid Ottawa provides to the Palestinians, although not all of it may be spent and it will be up for review when the current agreement ends.
But he will not do what friends do — tell the Israelis that their most recent move is damaging to peace prospects.
If you work so hard to make good friends, you owe it to them to tell them they are making a mistake.
It was George Dubya Bush who famously uttered the words, "I don't do nuance!"
Stephen Harper, John Baird and the current talking heads in Ottawa apparently graduated from the George W. Bush Diplomatic Finishing School. In the not-so-distant-past, Canada was often characterized by the words, "If America gets a cold, Canada gets pneumonia!" Now, it seems that we get pneumonia a decade plus after the U.S. has recovered her diplomatic and geopolitical health and wellbeing.
Obama's nuanced, balanced and mature foreign policy course now stands as a beacon of hope in a world gone uber-complex, and exploding under the weight of so much bigotry and religious perversion, not to mention rising global temperatures, falling economic prospects and controls and exploding bombs and bodies in the name of some kind of god that most cannot imagine.
Harper's kindergarten narcissism, in foreign policy, is not a mere turn of the ship of state's wheel of a degree or two, it is a turn-around from which we will spend decades recovering, as we will the fiscal policies Harper has bequeathed the country.

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