That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

World asks Canada to talk to hand

And, Canada lost the vote. Or, in Michael Johnson sprinting style, we pulled out before we had the chance to lose.

As I say in the last post, this isn’t so much a lost opportunity to showboat our diplomatic finesse, or compel the Permanent 5 to take our priorities on board. Instead, it’s a reflection of the losses we’ve already chalked up in the past few years.

We don’t have international priorities of any coherence to impress on the Council. We don’t have a recent record of diplomatic finesse. I can’t help but wonder whether cocking-up relations with the UAE so spectacularly on the eve of the vote might have been a straw on the camel’s back here. “Canada can’t hold good faith negotiations with a Gulf State? Canada’s Afghan logistics are what now?” It demonstrated our incapacity to manage a relationship, and it certainly won’t have helped us to retain Arab League votes in the General Assembly today.

I’m a fan of the old Pearsonian Legacy. I’d wear Pearson’s face on a t-shirt, Che Guevara style, if someone would only print them. But for Canada to waltz into the UN today and trot out the long-standing legacy as evidence of our international merit in the year 2010, sorry, it’s just coasting on fumes. We need a new and rejuvenated internationalist legacy, and it’s got to begin before we reach for the status symbols.

Anyhoo. Any bets who Harper will pass the buck to? Because it certainly doesn’t stop with him.

1) Ignatieff bad-mouthing Canada. I guarantee we’ll hear that pop out. Which suggests a) that nations of the world listen more carefully to Michael Ignatieff than they do to the Canadian PM, but mostly b) that Harper cannot accept responsibility for his government. Blame the Liberals, blame the newspapers, blame the alignment of the stars.

2) China and Russia. They didn’t bring their friends to the vote they way we thought they would. But they’re unpredictable and malevolent powers anyway, which is why we’re buying these jets, see?

3) Liberals. Not just Canada’s Liberals, you understand, but the whole concept of liberalism. Those European liberals who epitomise it, with their dope-smoking elitist ways, and their opposition to seal clubbing. Europe is elitist and liberal, and it’s clearly anti-Canadian. Just like Toronto.

Any other possibilities?

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , , , ,

Spare me the seat

Before ascending to the UN Security Council, methinks that Canada needs a little Insecurity Counselling.

Sorry to say it, but Ottawa’s last-minute sprint (and the associated G&M OMG dramatisation of it) towards a possible temporary UN Security Council seat seems a bit sad to me. Like just one more occasion for neurotic ultra-patriots to drown themselves in the sticky-sweet syrup of false national glory. The race is framed much less like advancing a clear agenda for Canada’s role in the international community, or a plan for how we might contribute something useful to international peace and security. It seems more like a big, old-fashioned Own The Podium flag-waving parade.

And of course. Stephen Harper may not know what he’d like to do with a seat, but he knows winning it could “prove” to voters that he’s doing a good job out there in that big old world, whatever the Liberals or the media say.

But the mainstream media are helping to play along, such is the attraction of a ticker tape parade. the fact is, though, there are 10 temporary Security Council members at any one time, plus the five permanent members. How many of them trumpet themselves as being somehow more important, more “nationally mature,” more loved and lauded than other countries? Are they really much better recognised for being “part of the inner sanctum” of the UN for two years?

The overriding interest in Canada’s press (and Official Ottawa) is: “how will the world (and voters) think of Canada if we win?” O.K. To get a sense how an SC seat would impact the world’s view of Canada, how many current temporary Security Council members can you identify right now (yes, without Googling)? That’s a good barometer for how many people around the world will notice Canada’s place on the temporary council, or Portugal’s, or anyone else’s.

I’m not dismissing the Security Council or the role it plays, or the UN, or anything of the sort. But unfortunately, like in many instances, well-meaning but insecure cringeworthy flag-wavers miss the point about what constitutes an effective role on the international stage. A Security Council seat would be a little extra bauble, a useful platform from which we could potentially contribute.

But it won’t counteract the reality that our international reputation continues to diminish on the issues that count. We’ve already scuppered the global environmental file, we’ve been patronising and ideological on development and maternal health, and we’ve done nothing constructive to advance peace or human rights. We do have some shiny new jet planes on the way, of course…

We need to apply our energies to international goodwill much more consistently – and not just lunge for a sparkly trophy because it’s politically flattering.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , , , ,


October 2010

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