Polygonic

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

Baird’s Korea rhetoric leaves us in the cold

North Korea, despite its flagrant flouting of nuclear non-proliferation conventions, shall nevertheless chair the UN’s disarmament conference for four weeks – just like every country at the convention does. Imagine, a vitriolic loudmouth making an ironic mockery of the whole diplomatic system, eh John Baird?

Once in a while, the UN system throws up a scenario that can read as farce, it’s true. Libya had its stint chairing the UN Human Rights Commission, just as the DPRK now has its chance at the nuclear non-proliferation convention. It is silly on the surface. The United Nations, though, as a universal organisation, includes everyone. It’s a greater merit of the UN that we at least have a space where mortal enemies can at least purport to sit together resolving things. There are no surprises that governments we find distasteful have a kick at the can as well as our biggest trading partners. That is how the world works.

Canada’s having none of it, though, boycotting the convention over the course of Pyongyang’s four-week presidency. To what aim? This occasion could be one of the most important, if not the only, opportunity of the year where North Korea finds itself in the nuclear spotlight. It’s a chance for a framework besides the moribund six-party talks for the international community to roll up their sleeves and compel some kind of negotiation with the world’s most erratic nuclear power. The Six-Party Framework is, after all, rather a “superpower framework,” plus the two Koreas. Where do middle powers fit? What role can countries like Canada play in strengthening non-proliferation norms on the Korean Peninsula, and how might middle powers elicit a different type of response from a Pyongyang reared on anti-super-imperalist mythology? This could be just such an opportunity for us to build an agenda there, but Ottawa’s turning its back.

Baird’s case will be that he thinks the whole of the UN system has become preposterous, and that he’s trying to embarrass the organisation into reform, beginning with its convention chair rotation policy.

You know, if the Conservatives haven’t learned it yet, I don’t know that they ever will. You cannot effectively contribute to reforming an organisation that you repeatedly ignore and abandon. We have little sway there anymore. Our participation has not been valued for years anyway.

Canada in the UN these days is just like the underperforming whinger on a hockey team – the one who refuses to come to practice, who lobs insults at the bulk of his teammates, who spends more time in the donut shop than the gym, and then threatens to walk out on game day. In the hockey world, the team would say “goodbye!” And in the UN, I assume the response will be the same.

There are plenty of countries in the world not to our liking, and the UN system includes us all. Suck it up is what I’d advise the Baird Ministry. Diplomacy requires something more subtle than feigned outrage followed by the silent treatment. Sticktoitiveness and sleeverollupitiveness is a much more important part of the job, however much Baird can’t stand the smell.

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Filed under: Canada, Korea, Politics, , , , , , , ,

If only we’d trained Karzai’s assassin into ‘loyalty’

That Hamid Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali “Mr. Kandahar” Karzai, has been killed by the head of his own security forces, is one more violent expression of the single greatest Afghan challenge: getting to grips with loyalty.

Bob Rae and Stephen Harper alike maintain the naive conceit that the Afghan army is largely ineffective because they need our training. The Canadian Forces have some nifty fighting techniques that Afghans simply haven’t thought of or been able to employ. Once we show them how to shoot straight, we can leave the job of national defence to Afghans themselves.

Really? Really now.

I’ve posted this way again and again, but to repeat, Afghanistan is a mercenary landscape. Consolidating loyalties and lasting allegiances in the country is, at once, the greatest challenge to Afghan peace, and also the area in which international forces have the least sway and the least understanding. The suggestion that Karzai’s assassin, Sardar Mohammed, could have been trained out of his true allegiance by the Dutch and Canadians etc. would be laughable, if lives were not at stake.

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

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