Canada Foreign Policy
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  Work In Progress

The world appears to be coming undone, and it seems the Gauls have a lot to do with that. On 29 May 2005 France’s voters went to the polls to deliver their verdict on a tome that was meant to be a united Europe’s constitution. Over 54% of those casting ballots delivered a resounding NON! Just how serious is this development? According to some reports, a defeated French President Jacques Chirac is already starting to “shakeup” his government in order “to save face at home” [AP, 30 May 2005. See]. Will the European Union’s 25 nations now ever really be able to get together, or have the forces of greater integration come to a grinding halt, and for all time? One account says “France and Europe reeled on Monday from a resounding French ‘No’ vote that could sound the death knell for a proposed constitution for the European Union” [Reuters, 30 May 2005].

Meanwhile in Iraq, violence continues, grows. On 29 May 2005 Iraqi forces started with Operation Lighting, the latest counter-insurgency campaign to be launched in Baghdad. So far there is little to suggest this is going to suffocate rebellion. AP on 30 May 2005 reports “Two suicide bombers blew themselves up Monday in a crowd of police officers south of Baghdad, killing up to 30 people and wounding dozens…The two bombers struck shortly after 9 a.m. in Hillah, 60 miles south of the capital, wading into a crowd of about 500 policemen who were demonstrating outside the mayor’s office to protest a government decision to disband their special forces unit…The bombers staggered the detonations to maximize casualties” [Cited in AP, 30 May 2005. Article posted at].

Half a globe away, in North Korea, there’s open discussion of conflict. It seems that in the absence of Axis of Evil rhetoric, the keepers of the Republic never hesitate to pick up the slack with their own talk of warfare. About a week ago, a statement from North Korea reiterated that Washington’s hostility led to the nuclear program and warned: “The United States should be aware that the choice of a pre-emptive attack is not only theirs” [cited in “North Korea Talks Pre-emptive Strike,” CNN, 25 May 2005. Posted at].

Back in Ottawa, an event took place that demonstrated Prime Minister Martin just might be responding to growing global insecurity with caution. That happened with the meeting of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. After seeing the President on 27 May 2005, Martin delivered on earlier promises, announcing the leader of the Palestinian Authority could expect about $12.2 million in aid. The PM called the sum a “downpayment,” adding the money was for such projects as rule of law reform, housing, and even scholarships [cited in CTV News, 28 May 2005. Posted at]. Only a few months ago, back in February, both the PM’s rhetoric and media coverage of the Middle East betrayed much more optimism, and conveyed a sense that Canada could play an even greater role. Back then Martin, issuing an invitation to Abbas, said “We as Canadians are going to have to involve ourselves . . . much more than we have before.” One report noted “Canada plans to play a significantly more robust role in the Middle East peace process” [cited, along with quote by PM, in CP, 3 February 2005. Posted at]. Is Martin consciously playing down Canadian involvement in foreign affairs, owing to a growing climate of geopolitical uncertainty? Is he merely acting in response to the pressures of being leader of a minority government, circumstances that may result in Canadian involvement in world affairs being relegated to the status of a work in progress? Or, is what’s happening merely a shift in the tone of how media cover the world?

Stan Markotich
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Friday, May 27, 2005
  As a few of you know, I believe film to be the premier art form of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Its range runs from the horrid to the enlightening. There’s much that can involve and inform, and any serious analyst of the geopolitical with an interest or background in sociology can take away valuable lessons. In a recent search of the web I came across two excellent projects run by Dr. Roland Atkinson. His work is not only outstanding, but also truly unique. His concentration is on bridging psychiatry and psychology, and film analysis. If you’re a social psychologist, or just someone with a deep interest in film, I recommend his work--highly. And yes, to the few of you who complained last month, there is a different take on Der Untergang. Go to:


Stan Markotich
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005


When I write about conspiracy theories, and that’s seldom, I do so strictly, only, for the purposes of entertainment. Unfortunately in the past I’ve had some people take me a little too seriously when I’ve slipped into that mode. So to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings, I need to make clear from the outset that my intent here is to, mainly, entertain. I stress ‘mainly’ since no conspiracy theory is entirely devoid of factual content; they’re just mostly suffering from its lack, which results in entirely too much creativity when analysis is attempted.

There are two separate issues I want to address. First, what happened in Ottawa over the past week or so and, second, the very important and perhaps somehow related implications that that has on Canadian foreign policy.

Now I don’t recall the source, but I seem to remember some years ago at least one writer/analyst referring to Canada as a “post-modern” state. I did not and still do not have a clear idea what that means, but there may just be a connection with the concept of post-modern performance art. I say this because of how recent events over the past 5-6 weeks, culminating in a no confidence vote, have been variously described. Some have opted to say events represented a clear break with tradition, something altogether new. Others, less charitable, have dubbed Ottawa affairs a circus, a farce, a comic-opera, while still others have used a whole host of unflattering terms.

So it may well be that Canadians are truly living in a post-modern political climate. How we got here isn’t really all that certain. But what happened is all too established. It seems to have hinged on Tory rage and moral indignation at what corruption and wrongdoing the Gomery Commission was uncovering. At some stage, Tory leader Stephen Harper decided this was simply all too much, and that the Liberals had lost the moral authority to govern. Linking morality and politics would be Harper’s undoing, and he should have seen that. In any event, the sovereigntist Bloc agreed it was time for the Liberals to go. The fact the Bloc appears likely to sweep Quebec if an election were called right now really explains Gilles Duceppe’s eagerness to face the electorate. The other social democratic party, Jack Layton’s New Democrats, sided with the Liberals. Layton did profess his disgust with what was being unearthed by Gomery, but concluded the timing for an election was off. Big labour’s lack of preparedness to face the polls ensured the NDP would lobby for changes to the budget legislation, and the gamble worked. In order to secure Layton’s backing, PM Martin succumbed, and amendments amounting to an opening wide of the purse strings were included.

But things looked tense for a while. The outcome of any confidence vote would depend on a handful of independents. For days, the contest seemed too close to call. And then came the bombshell. On 17 May 2005, high-profile Tory MP and novice parliamentarian Belinda Stronach crossed the floor, joined the Liberal Party. Her reward, becoming the newest Minister of Human Resources. She defended her actions by stating she did it all for the country. The Tories, out of control, had made an alliance with the Bloc that threatened national unity. It was the case that “The country must come first…I cannot exaggerate how hard this was for me, but the political crisis affecting Canada is too risky and dangerous for blind partisanship,” said Stronach [cited in “Conservative Stronach Joins Liberals,” CBC News, 18 May 2005. Posted at].

There were two key motions before the House on 19 May 2005. The first, dealing with the original budget, passed without any problem. The second, dealing with the amendments, resulted in a tie, broken only after the Speaker kept with tradition and sided with the government. Stronach’s vote, along with that of independent Chuck Cadman, proved indispensable. But even more importantly, Stronach’s behaviour demonstrated that Harper could not rule his caucus. Stephen Harper, it is suggested by some, dictates with an iron fist. Not a problem, if one remembers to wrap the iron fist in a velvet glove, if only every so often. It appears Harper may still be asking what a velvet glove is. Instead of continuing to dwell on alleged Liberal improprieties, could Harper not have done the obvious political thing? If the Liberals had lured Stronach, what’s to keep the Tories from welcoming two defectors from Liberal or NDP ranks? Impossible? What am I missing? Are Tories unable to welcome outsiders just because of philosophical differences, or is there an awareness and wariness of Harper’s style of forging caucus consensus?

In effect, what the Canadian political elite did, our Illuminati, was to suggest they would rather tolerate a Belinda Stronach crossing the floor than allowing Stephen Harper to bring down the government at this time. Is there any more direct way of saying that Harper’s political leadership is unwelcome in the circles that matter? Would the same have happened if in fact Harper were adept at managing diverging opinions and ideas that do not readily accord with his own? Would the result have been the same if the Tories were capable of making a distinction between politics and morality? I’ve been asked and have asked why the Conservatives fail to employ even the most basic strategies that might improve their electoral fortunes. For instance, why doesn’t Harper spend much more time in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, where he’s unknown? And why doesn’t Deputy Leader Peter MacKay spend much more time in the West and British Columbia, where he remains an unknown commodity? Maybe MacKay has just figured these things out. Is he, in fact, waging his own stealth campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party? When Stronach walked across the floor, she tossed not only the Tories, but also her personal relationship with MacKay. For his part, the Maritime Tory handled the whole affair with all the new age sensitivity and brooding befitting a post-modern leader. At one point he mentioned he would wish his former colleague well, and said he would retreat to his property back home to pet the family dog, a being that truly understands the meaning of loyalty. MacKay, seemingly only one sack of granola, a pair of sandals, and a T-Shirt declaring SAVE THE RAINFOREST short of broad appeal on the West coast, may indeed have launched his own stealth campaign last week, whether or not that was the intent.

None of the above should even suggest that recent Liberal successes are viewed uncritically by the Illuminati. It’s unlikely they regard Prime Minister Martin as a political genius, without whom our confederation is doomed. Should liberalism face another crisis, should that ideology fall on hard times, it’s impossible to imagine the Illuminati interrupting a working crisis-management meeting until Martin can make the time to attend. Nevertheless, his dithering is proving useful. While he and the Liberals continue to talk about foreign policy, reiterating Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping, the real task of getting involved in world conflicts can plough ahead unimpeded, by stealth. With any luck, the public at large is diverted and soothed by rhetoric of peacekeeping and declarations of a world teetering on democratization, while the real work gets done.

In the 25 April 2005 issue of the National Post there appears Chris Wattie’s Afghanistan piece, “Avoiding ‘the Big Bad Americans.’” Wattie says, quoting unnamed military sources, “Hundreds of Canadian soldiers [are] preparing to deploy to restive southern Afghanistan this summer [and] will likely be housed at a significant distance from a large, well-protected U.S. base ‘for reasons of optics.’” Canadians are, to be sure, already in Afghanistan. But Wattie writes about the southern part of the country. And could that be just about peacekeeping? According to the Post description of the place, areas just outside of the city of Kandahar are where "the security situation remains tenuous at best.” Defence Minister Bill Graham is cited, as he had “speculated last February that in addition to the PRT Canada could send a battle group -- between 700 and 1,200 troops -- to the Kandahar region early next year to join Task Force Bronco in combat operations.”

Finally there’s the case of Africa’s war-torn Darfur region. Only a few short weeks ago Ottawa said Canada was prepared to spend some $170 million in assistance and to deploy at least 100 military intelligence officers. In very short order, the message sent back was thanks, but NO thank you. According to reports that surfaced around the middle of the month, Martin’s old friend Moammar Gadhafi could instead go ahead with his mediation efforts. According to one source, “Seven African leaders meeting in the Libyan capital have rejected any intervention by non-African countries in Sudan's western Darfur region, and have authorized Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to carry on trying to get conflicting parties to reach a settlement” [cited in CP, 17 May 2005]. Now, did the PM’s old friend Gadhafi really have to tell Martin that Canada’s resources could be put to a different, perhaps better, use?

Stan Markotich
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005
  What's that old joke about the Tories being able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Looks like the latest punch-line involves Belinda Stronach going over to the Liberals and securing a Cabinet post. Read the details:

What might Peter MacKay do next?

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Monday, May 16, 2005
  It’s a “Review and opinion on contemporary events. Progressive, literate, highly spiritual; range of subjects as broad as everything in daily life.” Do check out:

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Friday, May 13, 2005

Carl Bildt, who served as Sweden’s Prime Minister from 1991-1994, recently launched his own web log, providing invaluable insights and commentary on international affairs. In addition to his tenure as PM, Mr. Bildt has served as Special Envoy for the Balkans, and continues to do extensive work on a range of issues, including foreign policy, terrorism, and security matters. It is with Mr. Bildt’s kind permission that I post one of his recent analyses, in which he cautions that continuing to push Balkan issues under the radar is done at the international community’s peril.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

New Balkan Beginnings?

“The time when the Balkans can be on the back-burner in terms of policies is fast coming to an end. It’s no longer enough just to handle the crisis of the moment, but necessary to deliver a strategy for the entire region that is comprehensive, clear and credible.

For too long, the talk was mainly about devising an exit strategy for NATO, when the key task is really to develop an entry strategy for the European Union. Increasingly, there is the realisation that without such a strategy the tactics of dealing with the individual challenges from Macedonia to Bosnia will simply not succeed.

This might not be the best of times to talk about starting bringing new members into the European Union. There is a noticeable enlargement fatigue in many of the existing EU members. At the same time, it is obvious that several of the countries in the region are at a considerable distance from meeting the Copenhagen criteria of readiness for membership negotiations.

But ten years after the peace in Bosnia, and more than five years after the end of the war over Kosovo, it is as obvious that only European integration can bring the peoples of Southeaster Europe along the road of reconciliation as it once was for the peoples of France and Germany. It’s a leap into the unknown, for sure, but the unknown brings hope of something better, while the known unfortunately brings very little.

The recent report of the International Commission on the Balkans does recognize the necessity of both dealing with the painful and unresolved status issue of Kosovo and of devising a coherent European strategy for the region and sees the intimate link between the two. It’s only within the framework of the later that the former can be handled.

There are obvious risks in the Kosovo situation. At the moment we see the economy declining at the same time as frustration is building up. It makes little sense to make the UN the scapegoat – the UN mission was set up for failure when the key powers for years simply refused to deal with the status issues. As has happened before, the UN was ordered to implement a policy that just as well could have been devised by an ostrich as by the Security Council.

Seen in isolation, we might well be on our way towards setting up a failed state in Kosovo. There is talk of it as a centre of organized criminality, and in view of the absence of honest alternatives for the rapidly growing population this would hardly be surprising. The political system seems to be driven by an unhealthy tendency towards revenge for real or imagined events in the past.

Nevertheless, there aren’t very many other alternatives than to continue along the path of state-building in Kosovo, and in the view of the European perspectives of the region, the aim ought to be that Kosovo gets the its full independence as it enters the framework of interdependence of the European Union.

In the meantime, the present holding operation of the UN should be replaced by a more focused member state-building operation under the direction of the EU, although still with the authority of the UN.

There will also have to be a far more effective effort at integrating all the economies of the region – irrespectively of if they met the political criteria for become candidates for membership or not – with both each other and the European Union. The extension of the customs union of the EU to the entire region, certainly including also Kosovo, could be as positive for its economy as it proved to be for Turkey during an earlier stage of its road to Europe.

Serbia and Croatia remains the most significant countries of the region, and it is only to be hoped that their leaderships can sort out their remaining issues with the Hague war criminal tribunal so that both of them can proceed on their European paths. A customs union arrangement for the region would make the earlier membership of Croatia into more of a possibility than a problem for the region, and create better possibilities for Serbia to speed up its progress.

If Serbia and Croatia moves forward along a European path, this should easy the situation for Bosnia as well. As it approaches the 10th year anniversary of the Dayton agreement, it is high time to close down the Office of the High Representative and hand powers to the elected representatives of Bosnia, making them responsible also for the new constitutional deals that may be necessary to move the country towards its European destination.

There are no easy or fast solutions to the remaining issues on the table. But if Kosovo status issues and customs union arrangements are sorted out during the period of this European Commission and Parliament, a fast track for membership for those ready for it should be perfectly realistic during the coming five-year period.

It was in the summer of 1914 in the Balkans that a long period of relative prosperity and peace for Europe come to its end, and we entered the horrible 20th century of wars, dictatorships and genocide. It should be in the summer of 2004 – with perhaps the possibility of also most of the peoples of the Balkans having the possibility of electing their representatives to the European Parliament – that Europe can finally but those horrors behind itself.

It’s possible, but it requires far-sighted and determined policies – and it requires them now.”—Carl Bildt

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Tuesday, May 10, 2005
  Lots going on. First off, I'm just wondering if there's even a government left in Ottawa:

I'll be extremely busy for about the next 8 weeks. I don't know how often I'll get around to posting during this time, but I hope to have at least 4 pieces up by mid-July, including one essay maybe sometime within the next week and another that may be done around 30 May.

Meantime, I hope you're checking in with

Stan Markotich
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Sunday, May 08, 2005
  How bad is it?

Stan Markotich
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A discussion of geopolitics and Canada's role in the world. A series of essays to examine the components of Canadian foreign policy making. Psychological, sociological, historical, and cultural variables impacting Canada's perceptions of the world.

03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 / 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 /

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