Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lloyd Axworthy Needs a New Globe Altogether

Former Foreign Affairs Minister espouses the evil of so-called "American Empire" -- but we can't have a global foreign policy without them

Lloyd Axworthy doesn't like the United States very much.

Need proof? Just read his February 16th op/ed article in the Globe and Mail. In it, Axworthy caricatures the Americans as imperialists, and suggests that Canada withdraw from Afghanistan in order to chase a dreamland foreign policy in some other corner of the world.

All this being said, the overall theme of his article actually stands true: this is the idea that a multi-polar world is emerging, and that Canadian foreign policy needs to begin considering the importance of emerging powers.

"The most important thing Canadians must do to respond to a changing world landscape is: Get a new map.

Our present international policy is guided by an outdated set of co-ordinates arising from a slavish adherence to the Bush administration's misguided efforts at empire building, military adventurism, continental border security and bilateral trade deals, while avoiding international collaboration on environmental and disarmament initiatives.

Ottawa has been so preoccupied with keeping in sync with these Washington missteps that we have lost sight of the global-sized tectonic changes that are altering power relationships. We have ignored the looming risks of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and abandoned the multilateral diplomacy that gave us a voice and influence on a wide range of significant issues.
Well, actually, no. We haven't.

In fact, this time last year Canada imposed economic sanctions on Iran in line with a UN Security Council resolution for defying UN resolutions that Iran discontinue its nuclear weapons program.

(While a recent report claimed there is no evidence that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, it's based largely on spurious evidence, including telephone conversations between Iranian generals which could easily have been faked.)

And the very same "evil empire" that Axworthy denounces has been in the forefront of wrangling North Korea's nuclear weapons program to the ground -- even if they've relied a little too heavily on the so-called "soft power" that Axworthy himself espouses so freely.

Perhaps nuclear proliferation (which remains largely yesterday's issue) hasn't occupied the dominant position in global foreign policy thinking that Axworthy would like it to. But to claim it's been ignored is more than a little bit of a stretch.

"Americans are eagerly anticipating the departure of their hapless President by engaging in a broad democratic debate on future directions. Emerging powers in Asia, Africa and Latin America are challenging Western-based notions of political hegemony and economic market practices. Europe is soon to change its political structures to provide more concerted and coherent leadership. Russia is flexing new muscles in security and energy arenas. Global-minded civil societies are mobilizing around new efforts to reduce poverty and contain violence against civilians, and multinationals are forming new practices to better fit the demand for corporate responsibility. As the charismatic Barack Obama says "change is on a roll." Everywhere it seems, except in the corridors of power that sit astride the Rideau Canal."
Of course, in order to believe this, one would have to forget that a new (well, OK, maybe not so new) government is in power in Ottawa. A government that has found the courage and moral wherewithal to couple a solid commitment to a vital mission in Afghanistan with "soft power" initiatives that Liberal foreign policy -- under Axworthy or otherwise -- never would have dreamed of.

Things such as confronting China over human rights issues (Jean Chretien could scarcely be bothered to even speak those words to Chinese Premier Zemin Jiang) and confronting Iran over the treatment of Canadian citizens (in particular Zara Kazemi) within its borders.

That would represent change. Even if it didn't, whom but himself -- who served as Mister of Foreign Affairs between 1996 and 2000 -- and individuals like himself would Axworthy have to blame?

For Axworthy, the issue clearly isn't a lack of change -- merely change that he isn't personally comfortable with.

"Well, the starting point for Canadians is right now. The place is Parliament. And the issue that serves as the catalyst is Afghanistan. Successive governments have allowed themselves to be pushed into making this faraway, disputatious land the centre point of our foreign, defence and development policy, chewing up vast resources ($7.8-billion and counting), endangering our Armed Forces, and constricting our abilities to play a useful role on any number of other global files. And, for what purpose? To support a government that is corrupt, run by warlords harbouring the world's largest heroin trade, and increasingly hostile to a mission that is seen as an occupying force."
Of course, Axworthy may want to take into account the fact that democracy doesn't emerge overnight. Democratic institutions can't simply be transplanted into countries where they don't already exist -- they need time to work out the institutional kinks, so to speak.

Sadly, corruption can be part of the pact -- provided that we are willing to provide the kind of guidance necessary for the Afghan government to eliminate it.

As for heroin and opiates, Axworthy's former colleague Keith Martin has some very good ideas about how to tackle that issue. Too bad Axworthy would rather simply wave the white flag.

"Parliamentarians must use the debate on Afghanistan to liberate ourselves from a one-note, obsessive military combat role that is not working; to redefine our actions in the region in realistic ways that fit the security needs of the Afghan people, not the failed strategy of the generals."
Of course, Canadian troops in Afganistan -- who've witnessed first-hand all the progress being made there -- might disagree with him.

"Doing so would free up the precious resources we need to chart our new course.

And what might be some guideposts to place on that map? Let's begin by rejoining international efforts to rehabilitate UN peacekeeping efforts using the Responsibility to Protect principle endorsed by the world summit in 2005. This involves rewriting the rules of engagement for the protection of people, primarily by setting up international means of prevention to support fragile states before they fall into turmoil, equipping regional and UN peacekeepers with appropriate equipment to suffocate conflicts before they grow, and providing major aid quickly to post-conflict regions as recommended by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown just a few weeks ago.
Of course, Axworthy may be forgetting that the war in Afghanistan is actually well in line with the R2P doctrine. The Taliban's recent attacks on Afghan civilians have demonstrated the complete lack of concern they have for their own people, and certainly demonstrate the lengths (virtually none) they are willing to go to in order to protect them.

Then, there's the oppression suffered by most Afghans under the Taliban.

R2P practically demands we remain in Afghanistan. Axworthy helped write R2P, and he should know this as well as anyone.

"Charting a new course means becoming a major participant in the initiative recently launched by a distinguished group of former American secretaries of state and defence to reinvigorate the search for complete nuclear disarmament."
Of course, perhaps it's only fitting that a man who served as Foreign Affairs Minister under yesterday's man be apparently so concerned with yesterday's issue, even while he advocates the abandonment of today's dominant security issue.

"It means searching for effective global governance to meet the challenge on climate change. The place we should show leadership is in the forging of treaties to govern the protective use of Arctic waters and to support the rights of indigenous people in the region, jettisoning the present pitiful and dangerous flag-waving sovereignty approach being followed by circumpolar countries, including our own."
Of course, Canada's sitting government has done more to deal with climate change in two years than the preceding Liberals did in thirteen years, and that the Stephen Harper Conservatives have been better for Arctic Sovereignty (and the subsequent protection of arctic waterways) than any previous government -- even according to arch-leftist Michael Byers.

"It means shaking up the dormant debate on how to shrink the poverty gap. We will all be greatly embarrassed when the UN's Millennium Development Goals are soon shown to have been only partially met."
Entirely wrong, Lloyd. We were embarrassed when the UN's Millennium Development Goals were shown to have barely been partially met years ago -- largely due to the same discredited foreign aid policy practiced by Axworthy himself, and promoted so vigorously by Jeffrey Sachs.

"It means getting on board a new rights-based legal empowerment approach being developed by a UN commission.

Finally, it means revamping our own tools for delivering global policy, putting Parliament as the central forum through which Canadians can learn about what is going on in the world and what our options can be, giving CIDA the resources it needs and freeing it up from bureaucratic sclerosis, restoring the Department of Foreign Affairs to a central role in policy-making and making it the central hub of a Web-based interactive, information system for tuning into global public opinion and citizen-based public diplomacy.
Yet at some point Canadians might want Parliament to maybe take some time to deal with the nation's business, instead of merely acting as an outlet for Axworthy's failed foreign policy philosophy.

"And ultimately, and most obviously, a new map certainly requires new map-makers."
Of course, this is something that Axworthy is actually right about -- but ironically, he doesn't really seem to understand why.

As Michael Ignatieff alluded in a recent speech at the University of Alberta, China and India are quickly emerging as global superpowers, and Canada's foreign policy may not be entirely cognizant of this.

"Canada is now faced the wrong way," Ignatieff intoned. "We're faced south. We need to face west. We need to face east. We'll always have a close relationship with the United States."

Of course, he's right about this. Canada needs to focus on building its relationship with China and India -- but cannot afford to sacrifice its commitment to human rights (as it regards China) in order to do so.

"I'm not talking policy, I'm talking what's in our helmet here," he insisted. "Until we realize that we're in a multi-polar world, in which all the action isn't in Washington, London, Paris, New York, but Delhi, Beijing, I don't think we're going to get a truly global foreign policy."

But a lack of knowledge about China and India among Canada's general population may emerge as an issue.

"I know nothing about Indian culture, to be frank," he admitted. "I know nothing about Chinese civilization. We've got whole elites in Canada that have the wrong helmet on. It's not just a matter of boosting the percentage of our economic activity, it's not a matter of recognizing their software industry dwarfs ours, it's a matter of taking off the old helmet and putting on a new one."

"A global helmet," Ignatieff concludes. "A truly international one."

And therein lies the rub. If we move away from the United States, as Axworthy seems to so desire, we may certainly manage to produce the kind of foreign policy he imagines.

But for Axworthy to pretend we can wipe our immediate neighbour -- with whom we share the world's longest undefended border -- effectively off of our radar screens and somehow parlay that into a more global foreign policy is a logical fallacy.

While embracing the increasingly multi-polar nature of the world would certainly work wonders for Canadian foreign policy, Axworthy needs to remember that most people's global maps still include the United States.

Perhaps one of his ideological contemporaries could find it in themselves to remind him of that.

Or at least buy him a new atlas.


  1. You say: While a recent report claimed there is no evidence that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, it's based largely on spurious evidence, including telephone conversations between Iranian generals which could easily have been faked.

    Exactly. The Iranians should be required to do, under the threat of bombing, exactly what Saddam was required to do: prove to the world that they DON'T have any WMDs. Of course, they can never "prove a negative" and it's a big country so no matter what they show us so we can always choose to believe that they are hidden somewhere else like Bush said about Iraq. Now, I know that 16 US intelligence agencies put their name to the National Intelligence Estimate for Iran (NIE) but you assure me that this is all based on "spurious evidence" so I'm happy to believe you.

    Besides we know that Iranians have a pathological drive to jihad. Never mind that even if they get one miserable nuclear weapon in ten years and take it to Israel on donkeys because they don't have a nuclear missile delivery system they know that downtown Tehran will be turned into a glass parking lot within 20 minutes. But (I know what you're thinking, don't get ahead of me here) Iranian mothers are different. They might look like our own mothers but this is the part that people don't understand -- because of jihad they are quite happy to see their children and grandchildren born with the wrong number of limbs from radiation poisoning. They accept this. That's why we need to be extra vigilant.

  2. Returning to planet Earth.....

    The US has consistently sought to demonise Iran and has rejected peace overtures from them. This from Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post (18 June 2006):

    "Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by US forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table - including full co-operation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups."

    The US rejected the offer. (There have been subsequent open-ended dialogue offers from Iran.)

    It is also a lie that Iran hates the West. Following 9/11, Iran gave the US extensive intelligence against al-Qaeda; they offered to provide training, uniforms, equipment, and barracks for as many as 20,000 new recruits for the nascent Afghan military, all under US supervision; and they assisted in the Bonn discussions. All this as gestures of goodwill to the West. The US State Department recommended a more formal agreement with Iran in response, but they were rebuffed by President Bush who, less two months later, described Iran as part of the "axis of evil".

    The US has consistently refused to provide Iran with any security guarantees against unsolicited US attacks, and many US leaders seek regime change in Iran regardless of any nuclear issues. Iran is not in breach of any of its legal obligations under the NPT. Two former high-ranking policy experts from the Bush Administration say the US has been gearing up for a war with Iran for years, despite claiming otherwise, and that it will be Iraq all over again. Alleged nuclear weapons development is just an excuse:

    "In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm -- not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years."

    Those are the views of Leverett and Mann.

  3. Oh, please.

    Where you have a fighter/bomber you have a nuclear delivery system.

    Yeah, you'd think that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a nice guy. Then you'd probably think again.

    Man, those peace overtures from someone who wants to wipe out Israel must be totally sincere!

    ...Wake up.

  4. Your "analysis" is just seat-of-the-pants nonsense Patrick Ross. I cite two of Bush's own senior foreign policy officials, you tell me you feel certain about your views and have a contempt for those who can't see the "obvious".

    You're not still believing that "wipe out Israel" garbage are you? Do you think these people are suicidal? Clearly the rest of the Middle East doesn't think so because when Bush tried to sell his "Iran threat" on his recent visit to the region the leaders all ignored him and invited Iranian officials round for coffee and conference as soon as he left.

    The only people who see an Iranian nuclear threat are Israel, a flew neocon blowhards and Bush. And then, it's only because they want their own leadership in Tehran. Other than a few conservative camp followers in the West, no-one else is buying it.

    Not impressed.

  5. I'll tell you this much: someone who speaks publicly in Iran about destroying another country sure as hell isn't sincere about peace. That's for goddamn certain.

    Besides, you think that Mahmoud Ahmaedinejad isn't looking at North Korea and seeing everything they're getting out of the West by stirring up some nuclear shit and thinking he can cut the same deal by doing the same?

    That isn't peacemaking. It's blackmail.

  6. And you can go right ahead and call my analysis "seat of the pants nonsense". I'm not the one playing apologist for some of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.

    So tell me some more about nonsense.

  7. I'll tell you this much: someone who speaks publicly in Iran about destroying another country sure as hell isn't sincere about peace. That's for goddamn certain.

    The translation was that he wanted to see "the passing of this regime". He was quoting somebody else. It was like someone saying "we look forward to the end of the Apartheid regime". And yes, there is a general hatred of Israel in the Middle East which I don't endorse per se. But Israel generates a fair amount of hostility towards itself by its mistreament and land theft from the Palestinians. I mean, c'mon, they're keeping UN relief convoys out, they're imprisoning several million people, destroying the economy and running a clear policy of hunger and controlled food shortages (they have admitted as much). They refuse to say what they want from the Palestinians by way of any peace deal other than that they should shut up, take what they're given and live in Bantustan style enclaves effectively ruled by Israel. It's a sick joke. And please don't give me that nonsense about how "if they'd only stop the terrorist rockets." Israel hits Palestinians harder and more frequently than the other way around. You've got to understand, the Palestinians cannot and should not beg from Israel. They're not dogs begging for bones. Enough already with this unjustified "Israel as victim" nonsense. It's crap. If you take away your "Israel always under threat from nasty Muslims" filters you will understand that Israel is bringing NOTHING to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. What are they supposed to do? Pretend they were only ever footnotes to Israeli history? The stuff about Iran threatening Israel is hyped nonsense. You want peace, then start offering it.

  8. Israel has the right to defend itself, whether you like it or not.

  9. ...and to starve and bomb a captive civilian population.

    You know, with you Israel Firsters I can read your stuff all day every day and NEVER, NEVER find an acknowledgment of the humanity of the Palestinian people or any admission that they may have political rights that are not derived from Israeli political interests.

    It's called racism.

  10. I withdraw that last statement as being impolite. But I have yet to see anything in your commentary about Iranians or Palestinians that reflects any acknowledgment that they may be reasonable human beings with whom one can conduct meaningful dialogue. It's all jihad, threats to Israel. They appear as no more than cardboard cutouts in an propaganda diorama. Apparently they are no more fiends and fools. What exactly do you like about these people? Or are they all bad unless they're prepared to roll over and be victims of US and Israeli foreign policy?

  11. You say ---In fact, this time last year Canada imposed economic sanctions on Iran in line with a UN Security Council resolution for defying UN resolutions that Iran discontinue its nuclear weapons program.

    Misreporting on the facts. I see you are prepared to read into UN resolutions what is not in fact there. The UN resolution 1737 does not admonish Iran over a nuclear weapons program because (a) there is no evidence of any such program and hence no legal basis for such a censure; (b) the fuel enrichment technology being banned is used in civil nuclear programs which Afghanistan is legally entitled to develop as a signatory to the NPT.

    The UN resolution, in effect, is a demand that Iran cease its civil nuclear energy program, a program that the very same UN sanctioned when Iran signed the NPT. It's like a store owner who sells you a kitchen knife and then reports you to the police as "carrying a weapon". It's intellectual and legal cods wallop.

    More importantly, the link you provide is to Iran Focus. Do you know who they are? This from SourceWatch :

    The domain name registration for the site is in the name of Mohammad Hanif Jazayeri, who is Iran Focus’ current executive editor. Jazayeri is a 21 year old student from Great Britain whose parents both have been members of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran PMOI, a political arm of the MKO. Hanif has been campaigning to have the PMOI removed from the UK list of designated terrorist organisations.

    I could go on, but essentially Iran Watch is an ideological mouthpiece for a group designated by both the UK and US governments as a terrorist organization, a group ideologically committed to the overthrow of the Iranian government. (see also here)

    You want us to believe that Iran is dangerous and as evidence you link to proven terrorists. Unbelievable.

  12. correction: that should read "Iran Focus" not "Iran Watch" in the 2nd last paragraph.

  13. Where you have a fighter/bomber you have a nuclear delivery system.

    Nuclear weapons require specialized aircraft delivery systems (just ask Pakistan...they bought theirs from the US in defiance of US laws prohibiting the sale courtesy of Donald Rumsfeld).

    Secondly, no Iranian fighter aircraft is going to get within 100kms of Jerusalem without being blown out of the air.

    So if Iran is going to use a nuke on Israel they need a specialized nuclear missile which they don't have and are unlikely to get. None of the big powers (inc Russia) is likely to sell it to them.

  14. "Nuclear weapons require specialized aircraft delivery systems (just ask Pakistan...they bought theirs from the US in defiance of US laws prohibiting the sale courtesy of Donald Rumsfeld)."

    No, they don't. All they need is a high-altitude aircraft.

    Familiar with the Enola Gay? You clearly need to pay attention in your high school history class.

    "Secondly, no Iranian fighter aircraft is going to get within 100kms of Jerusalem without being blown out of the air."

    That doesn't change the fact that Iran does possess the means to attempt to deliver a nuclear weapon.

    Not to mention that various missiles that could fairly easily be acquired on the black market (at least for a country with Iran's resources) can be modified to carry a nuclear payload (or perhaps secretly purchased from... oh, I don't know... Russia, perhaps?). So to insist that Iran could never use a nuclear weapon even if they did manage to develop it is entirely fallacious.

  15. What, nothing to say about citing a terrorist organization to support your case against Iran?

  16. No. I grant you absolutely no credibility in regard to those claims. They aren't even worth addressing.

  17. wtf! wtf! You gotta be kidding me! You cite from a web source that is set up and run by a listed terrorist with the UK and US and for which there is considerable evidence and you tell me...

    "I grant you absolutely no credibility in regard to those claims. They aren't even worth addressing."

    I knew you were uninformed and intellectually bankrupt but I had no idea you actually wore those titles as badges of honor.

    You're a fuckwit, pal, by your own admission.

    "...They aren't even worth addressing."

    You're a coward!

  18. You simply need to come to terms with the fact that, when you want to insist that Republicans are criminals by the virtue of merely being Republicans, when you insist that Vladimir Putin isn't such a bad guy despite the fact that he oppresses his own people and supports terrorism abroad, and insist that what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really wants is peace despite the fact that he's pledged to wipe another country off the face of the earth that you earn yourself a reputation for being little more than a frantic leftish whirling dervish and that your claims simply will not not be taken seriously.

    You can go right ahead and call names if you want. The simple fact of the matter is that neither you nor your world view are worth the amount of my time you seem to want to waste.

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  20. I don't need to justify anything.

    You, meanwhile, seem to have to bend over backwards to justify everything.

    I don't see too many facts in your analysis, either, and a whole hell of a lot more ideology.

    At least I can truthfully say that I read from both sides of the issues I focus on. You, on the other hand, embrace one side as dogma and dismiss the other outright.

    I just think it's ironic that you are everything you say I am. That's funny to me.

    As for whether or not I can go fuck myself: I would say likewise. One thing's for certain. I'm not going to allow you to waste any more of my time. Near as I can tell, that's all you've really been trying to do here.

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  22. If you really feel you have to fling accusations of racism where it clearly doesn't apply, then, yes, I'm just going to delete your little temper tantrums.

    When you learn how to debate like a big boy (or at least stop wasting my time), feel free to come on back.

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. And yet you keep on coming back.

    And evidently just aren't getting the point here. Tell me again about pathetic.

  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  26. You're really too stupid to get it, aren't you?

    No one here is defaming you. As a matter of fact, you're the one who's defaming me.

    As a matter of fact, that's why your comments are being deleted.

    Either grow up, or go away.

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  28. ROTFL!

    Yeah, you would be the kind of person to get off on that dimwit's garbage.

    Let me give you a little hint: you may want to find yourself a proper definition of the word "defame".

    For example, accusing someone of racism because you're having a little temper tantrum because they won't take your conspiracy theories seriously, and in explicit absence of actual racism, is actually defamatory.

    Then again, seeing as how you've discovered yourself a new bosom bud over at the site of the most defamatory piece of garbage on the internet, it's unsurprising to me that you wouldn't understand that.

    Regardless, don't let the door hit you on your conspiracy-theory-peddling little hateful, racist ass on your way out.

    (I've always thought that one vapid accusation of racism deserves another.)

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  30. I welcome the return of Russia, hopefully it will offset the neocon crazies in D.C.

  31. Ah, yes. The return of Russia, where they lock you in prison for having a political rally.

    Yep, sure glad they're back.


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