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.Well, actually, no. We haven't.
Our present international policy is guided by an outdated set of co-ordinates arising from a slavish adherence to the Bush administration's misguided efforts at empire building, military adventurism, continental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."
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.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.
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."
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.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.
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."
"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.