Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama and Clinton May Want to Hold Their Abrogatin' Horses

Renogotiating NAFTA may be a good idea, but it may not be what Americans really want

In a presidential campaign in which -- depending upon whom you ask -- the Democrats appear poised to seize the presidency (that is, if they can maintain their momentum of the past four years), it was only a matter of time before the North American Free Trade Agreement came up.

And now it has.

During last night's Democratic debate both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama declared their intention to abrogate NAFTA unless it's renegotiated.

"I have put forth a very specific plan about what I would do. And it does include telling Canada and Mexico that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labour and environmental standards," Clinton announced.

"I think actually Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right," Obama agreed. "I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labour and environmental standards that are enforced."

As noted previously, Obama and Clinton actually have a pretty good point there. NAFTA is in definite need of labour and environmental standards. To this end, it isn't alone: most free trade agreements do.

Solid environmental standards implimented via, and enforced by, NAFTA, could be infinitely more effective in curbing such issues as climate change than dead-end treaties like Kyoto could ever dream of.

And any changes to NAFTA that would make it more difficult for short term profit-seeking corporations from shipping manufacturing jobs abroad into the world's cheapest labour markets would be a boon not only to the American and Canadian middle class, but ironically to those companies themselves (although shortsighted profit-seeking motives blind them to it).

There is, of course, one other excellent reason to renegotiate NAFTA -- one that no American president should be altogether comfortable with. That reason is that the Americans themselves have rarely fully abided by it.

American economic protectionism -- particularly under Democrats -- has long been established. And while such protectionism generally springs from mercantilist modes of economic thought that are actually incompatible with the concept of free trade, that hasn't stopped the allegedly pro-free trade Americans from refusing to abide by their own agreements.

The softwood lumber dispute is the greatest case in point. While the American government accused Canada of maintaining an importing advantage by allegedly indirectly subsidizing Canadian lumber by keeping stumpage fees low.

Various trade commissions ruled in favour of Canada, all while the United States continued to defy virtually every ruling, ocassionally deferring back to their own trade commissions for rulings that -- quelle suprise! -- tended to be in their favour.

Thus, the position that the Americans would find themselves in under the conditions of a renegotiating of NAFTA: their economy desperately needing imports of Canadian resources (lumber, steel, oil and water, amongst a myriad of other items) and simply having not engendered the good will with their trading partners to wrestle any disproportionately favourable conditions out of them.

Of course to pretend that Canada or Mexico should be eager to put a squeeze on the Americans in a NAFTA renegotiation overlooks the undeniable interdependence of our three economies. After all, having resources is one thing -- you have to be able to trade them, and it's a looooooooong (and expensive) boat ride to China.

Which is precisely why we as Canadians -- as well as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- should accept Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's words of caution.

"[They] should recognize that NAFTA benefits the U.S. tremendously," Flaherty warned. "Those who speak of it as helpful to [just the] Canadian or Mexican economies are missing the point."

As are we if we view NAFTA as only benefiting the American economy (and it certainly has).

The idea of renegotiating NAFTA need not necessarily be a non-starter. But both Obama and Clinton need to keep in mind what they need to bring to the table -- greater compliance, not economic protectionism -- in order to get what they want (which just so happens to be what we should want).

If they don't they may find themselves in a very uncomfortable position, even if that discomfort won't be theirs alone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jason Cherniak and his Freudian Slip

Cherniak: Liberals good, Conservatives & pornography bad

In a recent post at his blog, Jason Cherniak seems to think he's stumbled upon the scoop of the year.

In hindsight, however (such things being 20/20) it would seem otherwise.

In a specious little post entitled "Conservative Pornography", Cherniak alleges that the Conservative party stole an image featured in a "Freak out your ex" ad from Stolen Porn Videos, an online pornography website.

As his evidence, he offers a couple of screen caps that feature the same shocked-looking young woman.

From the (notably hillarious) Conservative party ad:

From the porn site itself:

And finally (and allegedly most damning) from the CPC website itself:

So, Cherniak alleges (although not clearly explaining what he was doing at that site) the Conservatives simply must have stolen the image for the ad from a porn website! Those fiends!

Of course, one then suspects that Bored With Ironing is stealing their images from porn websites as well. After all, the expression on her face may be slightly different but by god that's the same young woman!

So, it would seem the image in question is nothing more than a stock image purchased by both the Conservative party and the porn site in question.

Of course, that hasn't prevented various internet dumbfucks from jumping for joy at the prospect of what they think is a juicy scandal.

If this is what passes for scandal amongst this particular bunch, one has to weep for the state of political discourse in this country.

After all, the Conservatives may have apparently coincidentally purchased the same stock photo as some porn site. But it isn't as if they stole hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer's funds, is it? (Great call on that one, by the way, Jason.)

Of course, one may wonder what Cherniak (or his alleged anonymous source) was doing at that site to begin with? Pornography being such a bad thing, apparently.

At least now we know what Cherniak's favourite porn site is.

Six Unimportant Things About Me

Fuck! I've Been Tagged!

Anyone who reads the Nexus on a regular basis has probably noticed that I try to keep this blog largely impersonal. But when you've been tagged, you've been tagged.

So apparently I'm supposed to share six unimportant things about myself, courtesy of Raphael Alexander. So, here goes:

1. I own an obsene number of hockey jerseys - More than 30, in fact. It started off during my first year of College (right before I transferred to University) when I discovered I could actually make an equally obsene amount of money delivering pizzas part-time (before gasoline was expensive as all hell). Let's just say that when I go with a group of people to a hockey game, I can outfit a small army of fans.

2. I'm an in-person type of person - I hate discussing important things over the phone, and I refuse to do my banking over the internet. Some day in the near future when human bank tellers are finally rendered obsolete, my bills will probably remain unpaid for months and months as I avoid paying them by internet.

3. I'm something of a book worm - I typically have to spend at least an hour-and-a-half per day busing to and from the University. So in a good week I tend to read at least one extra book aside from my studies. This is actually helpful, though -- it basically keeps a person one step ahead of their classes.

4. I feel no shame in shopping at thrift stores - But I won't buy just anything. More or less, I relegate myself to buying used books and neckties (provided that they aren't butt-ugly). Say what you will, but I find it to be a slightly more selfish method of supporting charity (in that I get something tangible out of it), and I don't plan to stop.

5. My patience can run thin - I can't stand it when people have clearly run out of things to talk about, but keep talking. I tend to force myself to be polite and stick it out with them, but I'm probably already looking for an escape route. Unless you happen to be an attractive young lady. Then I'm probably staring at your breasts (at this point, I think I'm entitled. No, it's okay. Just keep on talking about your cats. I'm listening...)

6. I still watch cartoons - And not just The Simpsons or Family Guy, either. I'm also an anime enthusiast (although I draw the line short of being otaku), and am perfectly content to watch Teletoon for hours on end. My guilty pleasure in this regard? Kim Possible. If anyone can figure out what the hell Rufus (pictured left) is, feel free to let me know. I want one. Also, my very own the Cheat.

Now, all this being said, it's my turn to some tagging, it would seem. As such, I tag:

Bruce Stewart
Werner Patels
Kevin Millard (is this guy still alive or what?)
Steve Smith (MIA again, I fear.)

Dallaire to Canadian Youth: Become Activists Again

Retired Lieutenant General and sitting Senator impresses need for Canadians to get involved in foreign policy

By almost any regard, Romeo Dallaire is a hero.

Moreover, Dallaire is one of the few examples of individuals hoisted up to this hallowed status by virtue of having tried but failed to prevent an inhuman massacre.

Of course, it helps that his failing was not of his own making. In 1994, severely undermanned and underequipped, Dallaire led a United Nations peacekeeping mission into war-torn Rwanda. When Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana was assassinated. (Sitting president Paul Kagame -- a Tutsi, and former leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front that effectively ended the genocide in Rwanda -- was fingered as responsible for the assassination by a recent French report, but that is a story for another time.)

While Dallaire pleaded for a UN intervention force, various countries central to the UN refused to intervene for a variety of -- largely domestic -- political reasons.

Against nearly impossible odds, Dallaire struggled to keep his troops and Tutsi civilians alive in the midst of a country that very much had declared war against them. When the genocide was finally over, Dallaire returned to Canada suffering from a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In time, Dallaire managed to conquer his demons -- although he himself notes they'll always remain with him -- and in 2005 was appointed by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin to the Canadian Senate.

On Thursday, February 21, Dallaire addressed an audience at the University of the Alberta as a keynote speaker for the Global Voices conference. This is what he had to say.

"Today, we're going to be talking about you and about the environment we're in, but not necessarily the environment of the planet and how the planet and human beings are attempting to keep a communion going between them and not the friction that can lead to catastrophic failures for both in the future. We're going to talk about the environment in which humanity is now, we hope, evolving, and where humanity is in need of support and assistance.

Particularly, the large portion of humanity that are, in fact, living in inhuman conditions. My target audience, if I will be permitted, tonight, will be those that are called "youths".

If we are talking in UN parlance, a youth is under the age of 25. I tend to think of the youth of a nation as up to 30. In the '60s, we never trusted anyone above 30.I talk to youths up to 30, and in particular, anyone of the age of 18 and beyond.

I want to talk to you because you hold the balance of power in the country. You literally hold the power of the politics and the orientation in this country.

It's a numbers game.

After you (of course) decide to vote, the voting population between the ages of 18 and 30 in Canada represent about 35% of the total volume of population. However, to start I speak mostly of the federal situation, although at the provincial level it's quite similar, but at the federal level, only about 15% of that startling number vote.

Imagine if all of you decided to vote. Imagine if you, all of you youths of this nation, who's future is not something 25 years down the road. When I was 22 or 23, some older individuals said to me "well, what do you want to do with your future?", well to me, that was something like 45 years old. Something like that.

Today, because nothing is constant, because we are continuously in flux, because we're not in a state of change, we're approaching a state of
revolution; by technology, by globalism, by grander designs, and so on.

Your future is five, six, seven years down the road. It's shifting that fast.

What you do now, while you're still a youth, is going to significantly influence your life while you're still a very young person.

So you can go out, and actually start a new party. Say "we want a party that's going to do
this. It's going to do this inside the country, it's going to do this outside the country."

"We're going to create a party that's going to answer the question: what will we do with Canada?". Or "What is Canada for?".

Is it because we have citizens and we are taking care of ourselves and we are responding to our own ambitions? Or is there something else that has happened to Canada in this era? That all of a sudden has it stumbling beyond its borders? And is stumbling into areas that are uncertain? Sometimes uncharted, and what has happened?

Technology today is being mastered. There is no seemingly fear of going to those other borders or other areas, but we're not sure exactly what to do.

Churchill said "when great nations acquire power they also acquire a responsibility beyond their borders."

And so, ladies and gentlemen, you could create a party that does what you want it to. Or you could shift some of the parties that exist now to what you want it to do, if you massively coalesced to vote.

That is the raw, real power that you have that is not being exercised.

In this country, you are having all kinds of opportunity to exercise it. Just watch the numerous federal elections, one after another. And you're allowed to sort of ponder one party or another because what happened is the political parties really responded regarding you youths.

You've shown them! We've been well managed over the last years. We have been able to continue to stabilize our own internal capabilities and we're working on the outside on the economics and so on, and we're working on the outside. We're working in different realms of internationalism.

But we've been well managed. And so it's okay. And when you look at the campaigns of the last while, at the federal level, how many politicians have come out and said "what do you think we should be doing on the planet? Where do you think we should be going?"

"What grand focus, what grand design should we have, or do we need one?"

Or let's go on, let's do what we've been doing so much, working on our regionalism. On our parochialism. On our taxations, and so on, meeting our needs.

That being of a great needing middle power in the world?

We are not the 160th country out of 194 in the UN. We are part of the nine most powerful nations in the world. This province is participating in that power base. Even if only by the energy capability.

Our north has been touched. What happens when we open up the third big canal in the world? Suez canal, Panama canal, and the Northwest Passage? What happens then?

There is seemingly no limit to the potential here, intellectually and as far as its recourse base and its ability to sustain it, through the technology and application of knowledge.

You can't belong inside this incredibly powerful nation with its belief in human rights, it's vast technology, it's worth ethic -- its strong work ethic -- and without this desire to subsume anyone else, to be an imperial country -- we, messed up how we've handled the first nations and the aboriginals, but we have no grand design anywhere else in the world to take over any place.

The fundamental law of the nation is a Charter of Human Rights. And it says all humans, no just those who have the cash, are human. No one is more human than the other.

And so, this nation is this era of the post-Cold War, in this complex era has stumbled upon the responsibility beyond its borders which it hasn't risen to, necessarily. It hasn't articulated its grand design into this global, and at times volatile, environment.

It hasn't come to you, the youth of the nation, and said "how are we going to maximize the incredible potential that you and this nation have to do significant changes in the world?".

I'm not talking to couch potatoes tonight. In the end I hope to give a little more energy to that finer point that you have in regards to your perception of what you should be doing in this world.

I hope to be able to create activists.

Imagine if Canadian campuses suddenly became activists. Like in the '60s. That doesn't mean you take over the President's office every week. But every now and then you could give them a little scare. You could say "hey! We don't agree with this, and we want to do something about it."

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I'm talking to you not as people who are aloof, it's not in the nature of the beast in this country. I'm not talking to people who are void of any potential. I'm talking to you as individuals who have not yet maximized the synergy of our collective capabilities by your individual commitment, and have not even come close to maximizing what this nation has as a responsibility in the world.

We're talking here not here in past tense. We're not seeking to study history, we're seeking to grasp history, and it's a little farther than CNN -- further than last week, but not
that far back.

We want to project ourselves into the future. One thing's certain about the future: it's all uncertain. [Yogi Berra] really had it. There's no small reference anymore. And yet he said ["the future ain't what it used to be"] sixty years ago. So you could imagine if he were around today and trying to figure out what was going on today.

That's what we're trying to work with. Now, you can either bounce around in the future that somebody else is making for you or you can participate. You can mold it. You could actually become leaders in that future.

For somebody to do the implicit thing -- to try to vision, to try and get a feel for something, to get proactive -- that's what they do. And so, they don't survive the future, they maneuver. They take the advantage to advance what they hope they believe is right.

And so, this era in which we find ourselves is not an easy era. It is not easy like the old days when we were all eurocentric and all we had to worry about were millions of Warsaw Pact troops and nuclear weapons on the other side. We had a whole bunch of people and we just balanced that out, and that's over there in Europe and we can just keep on doing our thing and every now and again we just invest a little bit more in the military and the diplomats and conferences but essentially it was out there -- way out there.

However, that all shattered when the Cold War ended. When it shattered, it created a whole new era. Not what George Bush senior said -- an era of order -- a world order I would contend is

We have become more and more conscious that 80% of humanity are living in inhuman conditions. We're conscious of that when we realized we believe in and were established under the law of human rights, humanitarian law, and 80% are in inhuman conditions.

And they keep doing this. Even some pretentiously say "hey, look at that, we're off into space, we're out to Mars".

The only reason why the Americans are off to Mars is because the Chinese are going to the Moon, and they want to stay one step ahead.

Because we're mastering technology, we're actually saying that humanity's advancing? How is that, when 80% are in inhuman conditions? How is it that the 20% are so pretentious that they say humanity is advancing? And ignoring the fact that they're not looking at all this, they're just looking to be treated as human beings.

We've not only seen and become aware of that suffering, but we've also seen how it's been destroying itself. Massively. And we've even participated or watched it these catastrophes that we thought had gone away.

Like the Holocaust! Certainly we aren't going to go into these massive catastrophic failures.

We've also seen the introduction of a new weapon they call terrorism, and how that has created an incredible paranoia in the developed world. It has created a massive paranoia in our neighbours to the south.

Which is not easily comprehended, particularly, by the Europeans. We're figuring it out.

In 2004 when George Bush was being reelected I was at the Kennedy School at Harvard, and I was amazed that even that sort of liberal environment how little America's population really questioned the very right-wing position that was being taken by the Bush administration. There was no debate because the Americans had been found vulnerable. They feel, in their soul, a vulnerability that had never existed there before.

That vulnerability has created a paranoia which ultimately has created a panic with all kinds of things like the Patriot Act, and Guantanamo Bay, and civil rights being thrown left, right, and center, and so on.

This paranoia has advanced. If a world power is in paranoia, of course it's going to influence the rest of the world, including the developed countries, including us. They've found themselves vulnerable.

I've gone to speak in American military colleges, or war colleges. I like to go there. They have these huge stages, and there 1000 to 1500 students in these big institutions. When I go there, I like to imitate Patton. Not pretentiously, but really George C Scott in the movie
Patton. If you remember that, he comes on the stage with this humongous American flag behind him and he's got all of his bells and whistles on and he stands there and he says "the aim, gentlemen, is to make the other poor bastard die for his country."

And that's what it was. The old, classic war, up to the end of the Cold War, which was attrition warfare. The side that was left standing won.

So when I go there I used to have my bells and whistles, but now I've retired so I go and I walk up to center stage but as I'm coming on stage I've got a huge Canadian flag behind me. And I go up there and I say "I come from a country that beat you guys twice." Now, you could actually hear the gears turning. "What? When was that?" So I say "1775 and the war of 1812".

However, some of them will say there was a time some would say that both sides won the war of 1812. I say "no, no. We won." I said "because you guys came up to Canada and burned down this place called York, you know, Toronto -- I'm from Montreal, I don't really bother too much about that -- we went to Washington, burned the place down, it was built on a swamp and you guys rebuilt again! I mean, you guys don't learn."

The Americans are vulnerable. In their soul. And that vulnerability is creating panic, still, today.

Global terrorism is part of that instrument of panic that's out there, and with that we are seeing all kinds of responses, even legalizing mercenaries. I mean, we actually hire people to do jobs that should essentially be done by soldiers under the normal law of conflict, but no, we hire these guns out there and they'll do whatever is required under the contract. The use of force without the same rules of engagement. Not the same liabilities, nor the same responsibilities.

Governments use them because its cheaper and its less political. If a mercenaries dead, hey. If a soldier's dead, that's a different story.

And so we've sort of skitted aside some main and fundamental laws that we've created over centuries and tried to establish and now we're fiddling with them because we're worried about this era and how we're going to handle it.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we're in an era where we've sorted out massive war. Nations at war, massive armies and so on. And we're in an era where we're not too sure about all these imploding nations left, right and center, and all these humanitarian catastrophes.

But there's another one that has snuck in there, is still in there, and is rarely raised today. If I asked you "do you believe there are still nuclear weapons out there?", I suspect the answer would be "yes".

What if I told you there were 27,000 nuclear weapons out there today? What if I told you that nearly 3000 of them are on 30 minutes notice to be launched? And they're not aimed at big military targets because they don't exist anymore. They're aimed at civilian cities. What if I told you that if we launched four to five of the humongous ones we can forget about environment, because there won't be any atmosphere left.

And yet, not only are countries massively investing in improving them, into the trillions, but they are preventing other countries from acquiring it for their own defense on the argument that there should be no proliferation.

However, when you turn to them and say "maybe leadership by example would be you disarming a bit. Maybe if you start disarming they won't feel that they have to acquire nuclear weapons."

And so we've seen the big powers, still today, with this incredible arsenal, which is absolutely and totally obsolete, modernize obsolescence, out there, asserting all kinds of funds, keeping a lot of technology busy, but putting the whole exercise of our existence under constant threat.

I think that's an abuse of my human right to security, the fact that all of that stuff still exists.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, how many have been out there saying that Canada -- yes, we could build nuclear weapons, we had the technology in the '50s, we decided not to -- but we're very beaten path in this country. We know how to maneuver. We say "no, we're not going to get nuclear weapons", but we'll stay in the alliance that uses them in the fundamental defense of their organization, NATO.

Now, either we're very smart or we're hypocritical. I'm not sure yet, I'm working that out.

But how is it that is there, but no one's talking about it? No one's talking about it.

Everything worth debating in environment is for not if a couple of these idiots, like Dr Strangelove, launches a few missiles.

And so, an incredible vulnerability that is in the backdrop, and we're just letting it go. Well, why don't we try to look at some of these complexities and see whether or not we have room to maneuver.

Well, we've got peacekeepers! Maybe that's an instrument that can still be used. This is the one good mission: Chapter Six. Good guys in two groups and we stand there as a referee, but no red card, no penalty box, but we can stand there between them if they want to do it right. We're there to observe, and so on. And what happened in the '90s is that met with catastrophic failure.

There is no more peacekeeping. We in uniform were amazed at their reaction when Canada sent troops into nations in conflict or nations imploding, and they're using force, and Canadians are like, "hey! We changed our army. We've changed our philosophy. We are into international involvement."

During the Cold War, when peacekeeping started, in the '50s, Pearson and so on, peacekeeping was only 3% of our activity. 97% was preparing to fight World War Three in central Europe and northern Norway.

We were training to fight World War Three and doing this peacekeeping on the side. Except that in Canada, it acquired 97% of our publicity.

And then when Chapter Six peacekeeping disappeared, all these nations going at each other, imploding nations, where people from the same country are into civil wars inside a country. The Rwandan genocide was done by Rwandans. These nations are imploding and the old methodologies of a time to keep a separation between the combatants and separating the combatants from the civilians is done because the civilian population is one of the principal weapons of conflict now.

Massive abuse of human beings, moving them massively, creating scenarios that make it impossible for resolutions to come to. And so we don't have peacekeeping anymore. It's not there.

So we don't have these big wars we have these new situations behind us, and all of a sudden we don't have peacekeeping. People are not negotiating, they're going at each other by ethnicity, by tribalism, by power-sharing. And so we find ourselves studying and acknowledging, "what are these catastrophic failures of our era?"

"I mean, we've been working at it for the last 10, nearly 15 years, we've seen what creates these reasons for why people go at each other. We could actually watch it. We've studied it. We've actually created genocide and prevention structures."

We've looked at it. But how are we doing so far? In Darfur?

And so we've not only found the tools that don't seem to be working, but we also see tools out there that are, in fact, creating massive disruptions, catastrophic failures within humanity.

There are two and a half million people in Darfur with nothing. I've been there twice. It's been over four years and they still have nothing, and the women are being raped and being slaughtered and the men are being killed, and the kids are dying of malnutrition. The humanitarians can't get in and we aren't even close to solving it through the normal processes.

It's not because we're insensitive. Do you remember the Tsunami? Tusnami. Boxing day. This natural disaster, there's a certain vulnerability, so we poured millions of dollars for all kinds of people there. The media went nuts on it. It was incredible.

Did you know there were more people killed and injured, internally displaced and raped in Darfur than all of those countries [affected by the] Tsunami and not a plug nickel went to Darfur.

Not only that, a year later the media went back to see how things were a year later. And during that whole day that they reported back on that Tsunami there wasn't one mention of Darfur.

Is it because it's man-made, we don't seem to be able to respond. If it's man-made, we should be able to control it! If it's a natural disaster, we're all vulnerable to that.

So we've seen massive problems. But we see in particular the youths, the children. In the UN parlance, a child is up to 18. How is it that children seem to be one of the most obvious targets of this era -- of the last 15 to 16 years? They are massively destroyed, orphaned.

In Rwanda they don't even understand the concept of an orphan. There was always somebody taking care of them. Between HIV/AIDS and the genocide, they ended up with over 500,000 orphans. They have no concept of how to sort this out.

The refugee scenario -- I was in my office working with CIDA on orphans and children. The door smashes open and these three guys come in and they have big red noses on them. And I wasn't too sure about this, so I said "what's all this about?"

They said "we're here because we need your support."

I said "well, what are you?"

He said "we are Clowns Without Borders."

And I said, "you're serious?"

And he said "yes."

What they do is they go into refugee camps and they teach children how to laugh. They actually teach them games. They teach them how to be able to forget the environment. How to build walls. And this is my intro to the NGO [(Non Government Organizations)] world, ladies and gentlemen.

Not that they're clowns. I'd get enough critique about that.

The NGO world: I hope that by the end of this evening I will convince you that the NGO world will become the super capability that will in the future influence, massively, public opinion and policies of governments. If it matures, and if it coaleseces. And those are big gifts.

The NGO world is a new part that is exploding out there and looking for recruits and capabilities.

And so we've got not only victims, but in a direct way, participants. We've actually created, in this era, child soldiers. We've always had young boys in these environments, but not being a principal weapon of war.

There are about 300,000 children that are always out there fighting in over 30 countries either for the government or for other organizations or for rebellious structures and they are principal weapon because the machine gun is so easy to carry and shoot and maintain. And it is the most sophisticated low-technology weapons system available today. There's all kinds of light weapons, and hundreds of millions of them. And ammunition.

There's all kinds of children. You just go and swipe them from their school and so on. And you take them and you drill them and you incorporate them and they eat less and they're less problem if you have to get rid of them, there's lots of them.

And in response to everything, it's up front, shooting and aiming, boys and girls. In some of these male-dominated societies where they don't want the midwives in the camps, they're also the sex slaves and the bush wives. You can't find a weapon system that complete.

It's out there. They've been in massive existence since the late '80s. Not only that, but they're being used in Sri Lanka and in a number of countries in armed conflict. Kids: 8, 9.

Some are being used in the drug wars. I was in Rio and thousands of kids are being maimed and killed in the drug wars. They're 8, 9, 10, 12. Boys and girls.

And so, a new weapon, and not much reaction. They're just letting it continue. And so what happened with all the great work we did? I mean all the rules are there.

All the rules are there. There's just one small problem. We've entered an era in which one side is not playing by the rules at all.

During the Cold War we knew who was going to push that button on that nuclear weapon on the other side. We knew what their doctrine was. We knew what their ethos was. We knew that their training was. We knew what their ambitions were.

We have no real grasp of what's out there today that that is creating all this havoc, coming to this rage in the developing world. We've seen it in the Muslim world. There's absolutely nothing that prevents the African world from doing exactly the same. We've been raping them for over 200 years.

The big change in this era is that one of these two sides is not playing by any of these rules and they're dragging us down the same road.

How do you control torture? You're allowed to pull out their toenails but not fingernails? How do you actually control torture? And how far do you push the abuse of civil rights? And how many conventions do you throw out the window because they aren't suiting the requirements? Because we don't have the response to that threat that they've created.

And so they're winning, massively, because we're starting to move down the same road in the panic that has been created in this era. It is not an easy era.

It is not an easy era just looking at what's happening, but also, how we're responding.

We have actually created, in this era, a pecking order in humanity. We actually created a pecking order in humanity. We actually, with all the great concepts and applications of all our laws, the protocols, the humanitarian law, we've said "no, everyone is equal," except sometimes some aren't just as equal. Maybe, sometimes, some human beings on this planet are not as human as us. Maybe we count more.

During the genocide, the extremists used to use very young children to stop the convoys. And if the kids didn't stay on the road to block the convoy, they'd kill them. And then when the convoy arrives, the kids were there and they'd stop and were ambushed. They'd kill everyone, steal everything.

So one day I'm negotiating with people and moving between the lines. I'm in the no man's land between the two warring factions. And up ahead, about two or three hundred meters, is a little boy, a local. So I think maybe it's an ambush. We slow down, nobody should be here. We stop, jump out, no ambush.

So we hunt around and go looking for somebody to take care of the child, and all we find are bodies decaying from being massacred weeks before. While we're looking for somebody to take care of the child, we lose the child. So we go back and find him in a hut where two adults and and kids are all decaying and he's just sitting there.

So I took him and I brought him to the road and my vehicle and I look at him. His stomach is bloated and he's scarred and he's dirty, mangy, there are flies all over. However, I looked into his eyes. And what I saw in that child's eyes, that three or four year-old boy, was exactly what I saw in my four year-old son when I took off for Africa.

They were the eyes of a human child.

They were the eyes of a human child. That is the overriding factor. And so we find ourselves discussing whether or not we should actually consider these people who are killing each other as equals to us. Should we risk? What's in it for us? Why would we want to go and involve ourselves, particularly in an era where we know that rage is fomenting in enormous amounts of frictions in the international community?

And it's got the world leader -- I mean you can't live without them, but sometimes you can't live with them -- "hey! They're our neighours. We have to sort that out."

We've got to stop crapping on them and figure out a way to influence our American neighbours. Because if we don't, no one else is going to do it.

We've got to be proactive in trying to get in there in the entrails of them and influencing them, particularly in this era where there's power flowing, all those components of what we've created over these centuries are scattering to the wind.

And so we find ourselves in an era where we're debating the humanity, these human rights, our commitment and what is in fact influencing the decisions.

What is the political will out there? Were we going to Darfur to fight? To save two and a half million people? What's in it for us? And so the big powers, the ones who have capability the more self-interested companies -- Americans going into Iraq, not sanctioned by the UN. And so why are they there? "Well, they're there because of oil. It's a strategic resource. Oh, they're making democracy. I think maybe they're building bases to surround China. We did it with the Russians in the Cold War." Maybe they've got a perspective out there that they're moving on.

But we're not sure right now. It's not clear why they're there in that operation.

Where's the self-interest? There wasn't the transparency and impartiality of the UN. It was a single-nation-led coalition. So what's our self-interest? Are we dominated by self-interest? Are our politicians guided by self-interest?

Well, Bill Clinton pulled out of Mogadishu in 1993, (those who've seen the movie
Black Hawk Down) when he lost 18 professional soldiers in a mission, out of millions in uniform, turned tail because he felt that people would not support his government going into a country where there's no self-interest, the only reason was humanitarian.

Like in Rwanda -- they didn't come in because there was no strategic value, and practically no resources. The only thing that was there were human beings and there's too many of them. It's overpopulated. That's why we're not going. Self-interest.

How do we get them to look beyond that? How do we get them above casualties? How is it the debate around Afghanistan surrounds our casualties versus the real goal? How much are we capable of handling? Are we willing to pay not just the blood the sweat and the tears and the cash and the part of our youth not for self-interest but because of humanitarianism?

And so, ladies and gentlemen, we are in an era of enormous legal and moral and ethical dilemmas. There's no more good guy/bad guy. It's not simple anymore. It's complex. It's ambiguous.

So how do you deal with ambiguity? How do you work with ambiguity?

One of the things is you don't sit there and wait for that to happen to you. You have to find solutions. You can sit there and hope that nobody will come, and you can isolate yourself. That's what a lot of Canadians believe.

When I was commanding the province of Quebec, and visiting all the infrastructure in Quebec, a platoon of not-very-capable individuals could go and destroy all the electrical transmission lines going from all those power dams, some to New England states, to Montreal, and so on. We built the infrastructure of this nation with no sense of security.

Real security, we have no sense of it.

Nobody's going to attack us, so we can sit back and say "we're not engaged, we're not involved." All we can do after 9/11, which was a big movement then, we'll build a wall around North America and we won't let anybody in. If you have a black mustache, you're not in. We'll build a police state.

That's really sorting out the problem.

Or we could go for resources. And try to resolve the problem. Go to the source of that rage, and attempt to support a solution in there.

We could go and maybe, one day, prevent conflicts. Because if we don't become experts at crisis response, that's all we've been doing for the last 15 years since the end of the Cold War.

We've also become pretty good at picking up the pieces and investing. I couldn't get 200 million dollars for two years for my UN mission. Within three months of the end of the genocide we had invested over two billion in humanitarian aid. That is not a good business plan. Plus the destruction that it did.

The ultimate aim is preventing conflict, not trying to respond to a crisis. Not picking up the pieces afterwards. But the highest risk is in prevention. Because if you go in and it doesn't go well you could be accused of having instilled it, and if it does go well, you'll get accused of wasting valuable resources.

Well, we're not near prevention. We're not even close to that. We're still fiddling at crisis response. We're still debating it.

We're in an era where we absolutely need reforms. We need multi-disciplinary people. We don't need diplomats who just do a lot of tough diplomatic work. We don't need generals who only know how to fight. We need people who are multi-disciplined, who can bring that stuff together.

We need a whole new set of commitments to the UN. We need to give up a bit of our sovereignty to the UN -- make it an effective capability.

We need to mature the NGOs. They have a new concept of their independence and their neutrality and their employment.

We might want to create a coalition of little powers to offer the UN other options than just the big boys who trip over each other, make a mess of it all, or little guys who, when we give them tough jobs, absolutely can't accomplish it, like in Darfur right now.

Justice and the elimination of intruders: the International Criminal Court is designed to go after those who commit crimes. And so we need a whole new way to get in there and solve these problems. We need ways to help them, bring to justice and eliminate impunity.

We can do that, if we pursue it.

For example, the Americans have not signed up to the International Criminal Court. However, as the case with Rwanda, or number three of the genocide, no one could find him. When the Americans put five million bucks on the table, three weeks later the Angolans turned him in to the tribunal.

So maybe they're not in it. But they're not totally out of it.

And so we must build that capability of responding, of paying that price. And ladies and gentlemen, we invented the new tool. I'm talking specifically about the NGOs.

We invented the Responsibility to Protect. We invented it in 2001, it was approved by the General Assembly in 2005, as the fundamental principle of commitment from nations when people are massively abused of human rights.

There is no such thing as absolute sovereignty anymore. You can't hide behind your borders. We'll go after you to attempt to help suffering people.

So how do we move down the road of prevention? Of trying to, possibly, stop these frictions amongst the different components of nations that degenerate into conflict?

I believe that first and foremost, is that in many of these male-dominated societies, we absolutely have to put power in the hands of women. But that just won't sort it out. They're just too tired of their existence in their culture in the background, even with the child soldiers.

When we demobilize child soldiers, the boys are demobilized and they're integrated easily because they did that warrior thing.

And the girls have been raped and abused and they're shunned. They're totally shunned. And so there's a difference of how to reintegrate them. Their societies are struggling to evolve with the power bases they have and so I absolutely believe that we've got to deal with male-dominated societies by empowering women.

The second thing we've gotta do is we've got to educate, educate, educate.

A few years ago they had the Conference of the Americas in Quebec City. I was delighted at the end of the week to speak to the youth who had come. And so they presented to me their resolutions. The first one, by far ahead of anything else, was education.

"Give us the power to discipline our minds. To be able to master our destiny." That's what they want.

They'll sort it out. Give them that ability to maximize their intellectual potential. So educate them.

I totally disagree with the concept of tolerance. I think it's pretentious. I think respect is the basis and we have to use the term throughout and base much of our arguments on that. And, finally, we have to be prepared to go beyond our borders to prevent, I hope, the massive abuse of human rights. That's absolutely critical. And so this gang ([the NGOs]) is now the new weapon.

When I say that to NGOs, they go nuts. "We are not weapons." You're right, you're not a weapon. But I speak in military parlance. You're an essential instrument of bringing about, ultimately, the prevention of conflict, by a whole series of capabilities. Now, please, cover the whole spectrum of humanity and its needs.

And so, what do you do? Support the NGOs. Don't just throw cash at them. Throw a bit of your brain power at them.

Get involved. Get these movements going. Get them going making peace. Get them into the schools where they can link up internationally.

Harass the politicians. We don't do that. We let the media harass them, and we bounce around with whatever they cover in a day. We don't harass them. How many of your have written your MP day an email? Just say "what are you doing about Darfur? What are you doing about Iraq?"

Every day. Every one of you. Blow apart their servers. You tell them what you want them to do. And not just the little political structures.

In a county, you may have 100,000 people. You probably have about 600 or 700 people who are card-carrying members. They're the ones who are going to decide who's going to represent you and who has the power to change our lives. They have it.

You just pick and choose. And we don't even do that. And so, ladies and gentlemen, you harass the politicians. You get out and tell them we need to have the capability to have a responsibility towards humanity. And in so doing you can bring that humanitarian face to them.

Get involved in the field. Go out there and get your boots dirty. Smell it. Taste it. Feel it. See it. Sense it. You don't have to be there four years. I'm not talking about missionary work. I'm saying you need to go see what 80% of humanity is.

One of the problem we have when we come back from our missions is we have trouble discerning what is reality. Is reality the opulence here or is reality the abject destruction of human life out there?

What is the true reality of humanity?

You go touch it, get your hands and boots dirty, come back. You will never be able to forget it. It will influence you and that influence is absolutely essential.

Our role is leading this middle power into its role in the advancement of humanity and human rights. It is essential. And so, become an activist. Become part of the process.

This is us, ladies and gentlemen. And 50 years from now, historians will say "what a great country. But what did they do? How much did they really put behind the great theories and concepts? Did they suffer to bring about for the other human beings the opportunity to be treated equally?"

We can't hide from it. Because, ladies and gentlemen, we have as the fundamental premise of this nation the belief in human rights. And it says all humans are human. Not one of us is more human than the other.
Senator Dallaire's speech was followed by an hour-long question-and-answer period which will follow in later days.

In the meantime, Dallaire's words give Canadians much to think about. History has long ago come to the point where simply saying we believe in human rights simply isn't enough any more. It's time to start going out and, as Michael Ignatieff put it "put our money where our mouth is".

Opportunities to do this like Rwanda have long since passed us by. Afghanistan demands the same attention, but meanwhile, a similar opportunity in the Sudan is also passing us by.

Canada has to learn to meet the challenges of this new era. Our professed belief in human rights demands it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Countering the Blog Burst on the Fetal Homicide Bill

It could be said that nothing is more infuriating to unreasonable people than reasonable ideas.

That very thought has become thematic today as a number of pro-abortion bloggers have staged a blogburst in order to denounce Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Bill, which will be up for debate -- and a vote -- in the House of Commons this week.

Various pro-abortion activists have been bending over backwards in order to denounce the bill.

The arguments have been somewhat predictable. They argue that the bill won't protect women or unborn children. First off, they argue that this is merely a "back door" attempt to recriminalize abortion, and is thus an attack on women's rights.

But is it really so?

Well, first off, these people have clearly forgotten the law's role as a deterrent. Certainly, no law will deter all crimes, but so long as it deters even one, it has served this role.

As it pertains to abortion, the bill explicitly states that it only applies in situations where a crime has been committed. Abortion is not a crime in Canada. It's been legal for decades. So on this count alone, this particular talking point is simply counter-factual.

So clearly, the objection to the bill really can't be about abortion. It may be an excuse to push abortion as an issue to the forefront for political gain, but it's really about something else.

This seems to be revealed by the argument that the bill is an attack on women's rights. This particular point seems to intersect directly with their objection to granting "legal personhood" -- or any form of rights whatsoever -- to unborn children, or "fetuses", as the pro-abortion lobby prefers.

But is it really so? Can rights for unborn children really only come at the direct expense of their mothers, or is this merely frantic demagoguery from the pro-abortion lobby?

Well, first off, never before in history has it truly been the case that granting rights to one particular group of people has come at the expense of another group's rights.

For Canada to suddenly take this particular stance would actually have negative global implications for the advancement of human rights.

If one were to take Michael Ignatieff's word for it, Canada is a global innovator in the language of human rights. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was based largely on the kind of human rights language predominating in Canada.

Canada's human rights language has always been largely progressive in nature. But it's largely progressive in nature because it concedes that human and civil rights are not a zero-sum game. In other words, it was recognized that advancing the rights of particular groups did not come at the expense of other groups.

While agitation in favour of rights has been necessary from time to time, the advancement in the rights of women, aboriginals, homosexuals and other minority groups has not come at the expense of others.

Perhaps that is the greatest perversity of the insistence on behalf of pro-abortion activists: that unborn children (or fetuses, as they prefer in the language of dehumanization) cannot have any rights without damaging women's rights.

Women's suffragists never insisted their right to vote had to come at the expense of men's rights. Nor did Dr Martin Luther King and those who fought with him in the civil rights movement suggest that their rights had to come at the expense of white Americans' rights. Those agitating in favour of gay and lesbian rights ever would have dreamed that their rights would come at the expense of other Canadians' rights.

Furthermore, these groups have been granted equal (and in some cases, more than equal, but still appropriate) rights, which have never come at the expense of another group. History itself bears out the fact that human rights are not a zero-sum commodity.

So why is it that the pro-abortion lobby insists that the rights of unborn children (or fetal rights, as they would insist) can only come at the expense of women's rights, even to the point where they suggest that crimes of violence perpetrated against them should go unaddressed by law?

Never in human history have human rights (or any other progressive cause) been advanced by refusing to prosecute criminals for the crimes they commit. Never in human history have human rights been advanced by failing to seek justice against a criminal because their victim allegedly had no rights.

Truth Commissions in Rwanda, for example, did not decline to pursue charges against Hutu militants because their victims were Tutsis (or "cockroaches" in the parlance of the day). It was recognized that all human beings were human, and all were entitled to justice.

The inverse way of thinking has already written its shameful chapters of history. To allow it to do so once again under the guise of allegedly "progressive" thinking is an offense to progressivism.

But such has become the perversity of the most extreme pro-abortion activists in Canada: apparently their crusade to dehumanize unborn children so that they may do as they wish with them at any stage of their development up until birth has become so single-mindedly dogmatic that they have managed to conjure the audacity to insist that unborn children shouldn't be protected from violence. Moreover, they've managed to conjure the audacity to insist and that those who perpetrate violence upon them (vis a vis perpetrating violence upon the mother) shouldn't be brought to justice.

They've forgotten what it means to be truly progressive, to the extent that they embrace regressive means to advance what have truly become regressive causes.

Even so far as this issue could be argued to have anything at all to do with abortion reveals the increasingly regressive nature of their cause.

What they fail to understand is that law-of-the-jungle abortion (whereby no restrictions are put on abortion in terms of time or method) is no more progressive than the criminalization of all abortion was. Both are regressive in largely the same fashion. As is the opposition to the Unborn Victims of Crime act.

Would reasonable limits on abortion, that fairly balance the rights of both unborn children and their mothers be easy to establish? Certainly not. Would the legal status of abortion be easy to balance against the fact that fetuses very much are human beings? Absolutely not.

Clearly criminalizing abortion is not the answer: it's a demonstrable, historical fact that there will be abortions regardless of whether or not it's legal to have them. The only way to keep abortions "safe and rare" is to keep them legal.

Unfortunately, all too many pro-abortion activists refuse to recognize the need for reasonable constraints on abortion. And just because it won't be easy to determine what constraints would be reasonable doesn't mean it isn't worth the effort.

But "reasonable" has to be the operative word.

Whether the pro-abortion lobby is willing to admit it or not, Bill C-484 is a perfectly reasonable response to the recent rash of attacks on pregnant women and their unborn children.

It really all comes down to the simple, fundamental role of the law: deter crime and, failing that, punish and rehabilitate the offender.

There is absolutely nothing that is unreasonable about that, even if the pro-abortion lobby isn't willing to be reasonable about it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Iran, Rockets and Nuclear Technology... Oh, My!

Ahmadinejad apparently figures the west's just jealous of his toys

Oh, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When he isn't gathering the world's top Holocaust denial "experts" in Tehran or claiming "we don't have homosexuals in Iran", at least he can be counted on to wax ecstatic about freakin' amazing his new ray gun is going to be.

"They see the Iranian nation making progress -- just reaching the same scientific level -- and this is very difficult for them," Ahmadinejad announced in the course of a recent interview.

"The nuclear technology is ...the sort of technology that has been monopolized by a few countries," he added. "And they want to maintain such a monopoly, and they want to use it as an instrument of domination over the whole world."

This, of course, comes one day after the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that, while Iran has clarified numerous areas of its nuclear program, it may be just a tad too soon to dismiss any idea of Iran using it to produce a weapon.

Ahmadinejad, or course, views all of this as politically motivated. "We realized that as we give them more concessions, they come up with more expectations," he complained. "We acted in an honest matter."

But, of course we should trust Ahmadinejad, right? Right?

Maybe not. Even while Iran proclaimed a recent US intelligence report that denied any evidence of Iran having a secret nuclear weapons program as a victory, the report also noted that Iran had been trying to acquire a nuclear weapon just prior to 2003. Also, it was noted in 2006 that Iran had secretly assembled a team of nuclear specialists to infiltrate the Safeguards division of the IAEA.

So apparently, Ahmadinejad wants a nuclear weapon very badly. So what, right? I mean it isn't as if he could ever manage to deliver it to a target.

Aw, shit.

Not to mention the fact that Iran has researchers tinkering with rocket technology in a Kennedy-esque mission to conquer the moon -- the results of which could quite easily be weaponized (this becomes apparent when one considers how many NASA researchers were also instrumental in the development of ballistic missile technology.

So, despite the lingering doubts over whether or not Iran has really discontinued its weapons program, apparent efforts to contravene the very same organizations investigating Iran's alleged nuke program and efforts to develop weaponizable rocket technology (not hat they weren't already on their way to developing such technology well before their recent test launch), one has to wonder: what's to worry about Iran developing nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them to targets abroad?

Considering that this is an individual who has announced that Israel should be "wiped off the map", one would think it's obvious to a rational individual.

Just don't ask Ahmadinejad himself -- he's still mad that the west won't let him play with their toys.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The What the Fuck!? Files Vol. 4: Elmo Knows Where You Live

Tickle Me Elmo becomes Murder You Elmo

Parents of small children will probably never look at Sesame Street's cuddly and playful Elmo character quite the same way again.

In an apparent glitch in the toy, a Florida family discovered that changing the batteries in an Elmo doll that learns its owner's name can turn rather sinister.

"It's not something that really you would think would ever come out of a toy," said Melissa Bowman. "But once I heard, I was just kind of distraught."

It seems like the kind of glitch that would slip through the testing process at Fischer Price -- probably the last one anyone could ever expect. Really, the kind of thing that just makes one scratch their head and say "what the fuck!?"

Then again, such behaviour could have its upside:

We Hold the Answer

Ordinary Canadians need to become more involved with foreign policy

In the third and final installment of the What is Canada's Place in the World? series, blogger David Eaves stresses the importance of Canadian citizens becoming engaged abroad.

"For two decades, pundits have argued that Canada has lost its way in the world, that it no longer articulates a clear role for itself. But, in our search for answers, perhaps we've asked the wrong question. Rather than "what is our role," maybe we need to reaffirm "what is our goal?"

To this question, the answer is remarkably consistent. Canada's foreign policy has sought to model and advance the ideals of our national experiment: peace, order and good government. In a world too often governed by realpolitik, Canadians have worked tirelessly to preserve and promote an international system that, grounded in international law, allows peaceful people everywhere — including in Canada — to select their governments, to trade and to move about safely.
Of course, Canada's government hasn't always done the same. During his first encounter with then-Chinese premier Jiang Zemin then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien gently tried to drill him about "good governance and the rule of law". He couldn't even bring himself to say the words "human rights".

When now-Prime Minister Stephen Harper conjured the "audacity" to address human rights with China and Iran Michael Byers -- one of Canada's self-styled "top foreign policy 'experts'" -- indulged himself in a temper tantrum.

Canadians do believe in human rights -- intensively and passionately. Unfortunately, not all of those who claim to speak for us legitimately share those beliefs.

"For almost two centuries, we've pursued this objective. And yet, we've repeatedly redefined our role. In our efforts to improve and defend this system Canadians have, among other things: served as allies and fierce warriors, fighting in two world wars and one Cold one; operated as diplomatic honest brokers, inventing peacekeeping and preventing war between superpowers; and organized as human rights and human security activists, extending the benefits of stability and justice to those who've known little of either.

And yet the pundits and politicians want us to choose just one — we may yet have an election over this. But Canadians know better. We've been all these things, and are proud of them not for what they were, but for what they were in service of.
To this end, Eaves is certainly right. To pretend that we can either engage in peacekeeping or fight in wars is a false choice.

In fact, at this very moment, Canada has soldiers battling the Taliban in Afghanistan and peacekeepers in Haiti, Kosovo, and several other areas around the world. And when one considers the intensifying nature of foreign conflicts -- such as in Darfur and Kenya -- the ideal separation of peacekeeping from combat has faded more and more into the idyllic days of the Pearsonian era.

Canada can -- and should -- act as all of these things, as often as circumstance allows.

"More importantly, this diversity, and continuity, has never been more important. The challenges of the 21st century — international terrorism, global warming, ethnic conflict, weapons of mass destruction and collapsing eco-systems — are markedly different from those of the 20th century. Their dispersed and complex nature means no single actor — not even governments — can address them alone."
These very issues have made internationalism a vital issue. Global issues require global solutions. It's as simple as that.

But Eaves makes his greatest point when he considers the increasing role of Canadian citizens abroad.

"In the face of these challenges, Canada has, quietly, carved out a new role. As a country we may appear adrift, but, as individuals, Canadians are more effectively and successfully engaged than ever. Quietly, we've transitioned from a middle power — a plucky country whose government prevented conflicts and ensured stability — to a model power — a country whose plucky citizens innovate solutions to new global challenges.

In an era where technology enables individuals to self-organize, deploy resources, or simply get involved, Canadians have jumped at the opportunity. New groups such as Engineers Without Borders, Peace Dividend Trust, Journalists for Human Rights, help people channel their energy and focus on results. Broader still, the recent Canada's World poll suggests that Canadians gave $7.3-billion to internationally focused non-profits over the past year. This is more than twice CIDA's budget of $3-billion, and equivalent to 0.6 per cent of our GDP. And this doesn't even include the $20-billion in remittances sent abroad annually or the hundreds of thousands of hours in international volunteer work donated by everyday citizens.
This should serve as food for thought for individuals like Jeffrey Sachs who decry the Canadian government's failure to meet the 0.7% of GDP figure outlined by Lester Pearson.

In fact, Canadians far more than pull their weight in terms of foreign aid -- at least in terms of raw cash. 0.7% of GDP seems all and good. Canadians, between government and citizenry, have contributed 0.9% of our GDP to the cause of foreign aid -- effectively doing Mike Pearson one better.

Furthermore, the citizens who donate their money directly toward NGOs (Non Government Organizations) are certainly getting far more bang for their buck than under Sachs' model, which advocates heavily for direct transfers between governments.

All too often, dollars transferred between governments have had a tendency to disappear. At least when someone writes a check to the Foster Parents Plan or the International Red Cross they can expect that there will be some services remitted on the ground. It's proven to be a far safer investment than depositing cash that far too often has wound up lining the pockets of military dictators.

And this is all before we consider the Canadian volunteer manpower employed abroad.

We are truly leading the world in terms of meeting our obligation to help the poorest and most destitute people in the world -- Romeo Dallaire's "80% living in the mud and blood of human indignity".

"As a model power, Canadians enjoy their ability to strike out and serve as global citizens. Those I speak with are looking for — but not willing to wait for — leaders who will draw on our multiple identities."

Indeed. And one wonders what Canadians could accomplish using a peace corps-styled approach to conflicts such as Darfur -- although we would still expect the Canadian government to account for the safety of such a peace corps.

"Canadians want leaders who will be warriors when confronting those who would use violence to remake our world, diplomats when addressing the threats and opportunities in our global commons, and activists against anyone — even our allies — who would use their power to impinge on the rights and opportunities of others."
Certainly true. Canadians do want these things.

But to simply wait for such a leader to emerge from the fog will be too long a time coming. More Canadians need to step up and be these leaders. Canada is disturbingly short of Kennedyesque foreign policy leaders with the courage of their convictions.

Far too many Canadians appear eager to embrace Clintonesque foreign policy leaders -- not the direction many Canadians want this country to be moving in.

"Most of all, Canadians are looking for leaders who will empower each of us. As employees, consumers, business owners, investors, aid workers and, above all, citizens, the decisions we each make increasingly shape Canada's reputation and impact. The modern world is one in which the capacity to affect international affairs is shared among organizations and, indeed, among all citizens. A foreign policy that enables each of us to make better choices in pursuit of our common goal will create a role in which Canada and Canadians will thrive."
Eaves makes a solid point with all of this, but there is still more that needs to be said.

First off, more Canadians need to get involved with the debate over what Canada's role in the world should be. It's one thing to insist that Canadians become more engaged abroad. We also need to become more engaged at home.

Canadians need to become more active in influencing Canada's foreign policy. In a recent speech at the University of Alberta, Senator and retired Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire went so far as to suggest the audience "harass" their MPs into supporting the kind of foreign policy they want. You want Canada to become more involved in Darfur? Email your MP every day, and get your friends and neighbours to email your MP every day -- make your voices so loud they cannot be ignored.

While allowing politicians the freedom to decide how they would implement such an agenda is all part of the political game, Dallaire's -- and Eaves' -- message is clear: Canadians need to start setting Canada's foreign policy agenda.

If we don't, we'll have little leeway to complain if our politicians promote foreign policy that we don't like.

We, as Canadians, hold the answer to the question of "what is Canada's role in the world?"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Conservative Party Joins the Liberals for Lunch

Conservatives accept unfeasible Liberal amendments to Afghanistan motion

In an apparent bid to help avoid an election that the Liberal party likely doesn't want any way, the Conservative party has apparently decided to take clues from the oddly clueless Liberal party in regards to Afghanistan.

In an amendment to the Tory bill to extend the Afghan mission into 2011, the Conservatives have seemingly embraced a Liberal party amendment that would see Canadian troops withdraw from Kandahar in 2011 (albeit six months later than in the Liberal proposal) and focus on reconstruction on training instead of combat.

This right in the middle of a region that is, by all practical accounts, a combat mission.

Apparently, politics has come to trump practicality in regards to the war in Afghanistan, and Canadians should be very concerned about that.

One can only imagine the effect a shift of Canadian efforts to reconstruction and training in the midst of a mission in which the Taliban will not decline to attack them will have on the number of casualties suffered in Afghanistan, but one thing is for certain: it will not be positive.

Liberal Defense Critic Denis Coderre, in particular, appreciates the apparent agreement on an approximate end date for the mission. "There's progress that there's an end date," he said. "It seems that if they're taking our own wording it sends a clear message that we've been doing our homework and now there's room."

Well, not so much. Not really. The problem with time-oriented exit strategies is that they rigidly enforce a time frame on the mission in which it may not be possible to accomplish it. A task-oriented exit strategy could still include a time frame in which goals are expected to be accomplished, but at least would still allow Canadians to stay until the job is done.

Not to mention the critical questions of who will take over Canada's role on the front lines in Kandahar. The Manley report called for an additional 1,000 combat troops in Kandahar. If the Liberal party plan is put in motion, NATO will also need to replace Canada's 2,500 troops just to maintain its front line.

In a mission in which getting certain NATO members to contribute combat troops has been like pulling teeth (and heightened tensions in the Balkans certainly won't help in this regard), this could prove to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

The adoption of the Liberal party's unfeasible Afghanistan plan could lead not only to the end of the Afghanistan mission, but also to the end of NATO.

As with the Liberal plan, the devil will be in the details. If Prime Minister Stephen Harper can manage to make this plan work, Canada may yet still manage to succeed in Afghanistan.

If not, Harper will have to learn with the reality that he and his party have effectively thrown away the mission in Afghanistan in exchange for another year in power.

That's an awfully high price for Canada -- and the world -- to pay.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Chicken... Egg?

Consider this: Stephen Harper kicks Garth Turner out of caucus for airing what is said in caucus on his blog. Henceforth, what is said in caucus remains in caucus.

Garth Turner joins the Liberals. Henceforth, what is said in caucus is aired in the media.

Coincidence? One wonders.

Canada Has Permanent Interests, Permanent Friends

United States should be considered a permanent ally, but not the expense of Canada's other interests

In part two of the Globe and Mail's "Finding Canada's Place in the World" online series, JL Granatstein contrasts with Lloyd Axworthy's argument that the most important thing for Canada is to ween itself out of the United States' global orbit with a reminder that the role of Canadian foreign policy is to serve and defend Canadian interests, not satisfy the intellectual and political vanity of its progenitors.

Sometimes determining what those interests are can be contentious, even murky. But some of Canada's most basic interests are obvious.

"All Canadians want Canada to play a useful, credible role in the world. We all want us to be as independent as we can be in an increasingly globalized world. And we all understand that we must protect and advance Canadian national interests, even if we tend not to talk very much about them.

What are Canada's national interests? The first, the basic one common to every state, is obvious: We must protect our people, territory, and sovereignty. We must see that we remain united and independent. Then we must advance the economic well-being of Canadians. We must help protect North America and, as we are not now and never will be a great power, we must work with like-minded states to advance freedom and democracy around the world.
Of course, one supposes this relies heavily on how one defines "great powers". If we define "great powers" strictly in terms of their military capabilities then one supposes that Granatastein is spot-on in his analysis.

If, however, we define "great powers" according to the amount of influence they can exert on a global scale -- be it through military means or otherwise -- then Canada certainly has the potential to be a great power.

Canadians have always been at the forefront of leadership in the United Nations. Canadians were at the forefront of the Landmine Ban Treaty. As we speak, Canadians are preparing to lead the charge in negotiating an international agreement (be it a ban or otherwise) on the use of cluster munitions.

While significant (although not necessarily overwhelming, as is the case with the United States) amounts of "hard power" are necessary to back it up, one cannot afford to underestimate the potential of "soft power" to build the foundation of global influence that lies at the heart of great power status.

Simply by exercising leadership on a global scale Canada very much has become a "great power", although there is little reason why it cannot become greater still.

"None of those national interests should be controversial, though the last one may sound so. It's not. In fact, the spread of democracy and freedom has been Canada's basic goal abroad for more than a century and that is the reason we have gone to war against autocrats and dictators in the past. That is why we offer development aid to nations around the world today. Our values, our humanitarianism, our multiculturalism, and our belief in justice at home and abroad, spring directly from our national interests and our long history as a democracy.

To realize our national interests, we need an interested and involved population, strong political leadership, a capable foreign service, and a small but robust military that can operate effectively in benign blue beret peacekeeping, in counter-insurgency campaigns such as that in Afghanistan, and in wars fought by coalitions of our friends and allies.
Granatstein is entirely right about this. While many Canadians wold insist that fighting in wars is purely antithetical to peacekeeping, sometimes they are necessary.

Afghanistan stands out as one example. The Persian Gulf war of 1990-91 stands out as another example. Possessing the necessary hard power capabilities to contribute to these efforts is entirely necessary.

While soft power holds its obvious advantages, it's all too often proven to be ineffectual against those countries who aggress against their neighbours or oppress their own people.

We need the appropriate hard power capabilities to address these situations.

"These aims are hard to achieve, and some might believe that we have failed totally here. Curiously, for an unmilitary nation, we have likely come closest to achieving a small, capable Canadian Forces. Going to war, however, just as sending peacekeepers abroad, must serve our national interests."
And it must always be treated as a last resort, and resorted to only when necessary.

Thankfully, Canadian foreign policy has, to date, passed this test with flying colours. Not all countries can say the same.

"Above all, given our geographic location, we must have close relations with the United States. The U.S. is our best friend, as a now-forgotten politician said 45 years ago, "whether we like it or not." Strong in their anti-Americanism, Canadians took a long time to learn this, and some never have. But unless we can learn to eat grass to survive, we must have access to the American market, the largest, richest in the world. We need Americans' investment, and access to their brainpower and culture. We will need their military support in extremis. And the Yanks aren't going away — Canada is not an island, nor can we hide behind psychological or trade barriers.

Some Canadians foresee the Americans being surpassed in the coming years by others such as China, India, Brazil, or the European Union. If that occurs, and it may, then Canadians must realize that we will inevitably be forced even closer to the U.S. in our own economic and defence interests. The bulk of our trade will almost certainly continue to flow in a north-south direction, and we will only prosper if it does. Who dares to contemplate a future in which Beijing, say, occupies the economic role that the U.S. now plays for us? Could anyone, even the most fervent anti-American, believe that would be better for Canada?
Former British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston once remarked "Britain has no permanent friends, she only has permanent interests."

It was once suggested that Canada consider precisely the opposite: Canada has no permanent interests, only permanent friends.

The truth of matter is that Canada has both.

Canada has a permanent relationship -- geographical, economic and defense-oriented -- with the United States. Unless Canada does somehow become an island, we will always have this relationship. It's important to maintain a healthy one, and not allow empty anti-Americanism to spoil it, even if principled anti-Americanism can serve as a guide to what we want from our principle ally.

Likewise, Canada has a permanent relationship -- historical and, again, defense-oriented -- with Britain. And France. And with all the varying members of the Commonwealth and the Francophonie via a shared colonial heritage. These relationships, likewise, must be maintained.

Canada also has important relationships with countless other countries around the world through its membership in other organizations such as the UN, NATO and the World Trade Organization. We should strive to make these relationships as permanent as we possibly can, but we cannot afford to do so at the expense of our own interests.

"We can be as independent as we want to be, as interdependent as we must be. But too much independence or interdependence can carry a high price, and Canadians must weigh their nation's interests — and their own — in making choices about where we go.

Realizing what our national interests truly are may help.
Clearly the most pertinent question emerging out of Granatstein's analysis is: whar are Canada's national interests?

Clearly, promoting international peace and stability is one of them. When the world is at peace, everyone enjoys a so-called peace dividend -- especially prolific global traders like Canada.

The best war is the one you never have to fight. The most effective peacekeeping mission is the one you never have to deploy to begin with.

Advancing international trade policy can help advance this global ideal. Trade, as many economists note, provides an incentive for countries to maintain peaceful relationships with one another: obviously going to war with your neighbour precludes the possibility of trading openly with them.

One of Canada's permanent interests is clearly in advancing free (but fair) trade policies between states.

Canada would also be well-served to reclaim its "honest broker" role in the world, one that certainly hasn't been adequately served since the end of the Cold War. The world is in need of an honest broker in a few problem spots in the world -- between India and Pakistan, between Israel and the Palestinians, between the Sudan and the United Nations, as just a few examples -- and Canada can still fill that role, although that role cannot preclude acting in support and defense of our own interests, even aggressively wherever necessary.

Most of all, Canada needs to divest itself of entrenched dogmas in order to determine what its interests really are and pursue them. This will be a much stickier debate.

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.