Will It Work This Time? 19 April 2005
I’ve written about proposed changes to Canadian foreign affairs approaches, mostly here and there, and not really conveniently in one place. Now, what I mean is, the official, or party line, when it comes to foreign policy. There always has been, and I therefore strongly suspect, will be a very wide gulf between what Canadians say about the international community and how we actually interact.
But Canada’s birthday is only hours away, and for some reason I think now may be a better time than most to try to outline how Ottawa sees our role in the world. What I report, quote, cite, refer to, or discuss here is all available by visiting http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/cip-pic/ips/highlights-en.asp
, unless stated otherwise.
Now maybe the first thing one ought to notice is that some would have us believe that 19 April 2005 is, or at least ought to be, among the most important dates in the evolution of Canadian foreign policy. It was then the Liberal government tabled Canada's International Policy Statement: A Role of Pride and Influence in the World
. This document, known by its shorthand IPS
, promised two things: to serve as the blueprint for how this country will work in an international dynamic made much more intricate by problems “more complex and increasingly inter-related, blurring the distinction between ‘domestic’ and ‘international’” and to outline where and how resources are to be redirected to serve Canadian interests. For instance, foreign aid used to go to many countries, but after 19 April, the list was whittled down to about 25, a club that also had to pledge supporting strategic Canadian values before aid may be accessed. In the past, critics harangued that Ottawa tried to do too much, and that when it came to foreign affairs, aid money simply found itself diverted into many projects that yielded either no or counterproductive outcomes. Money and effort, in short, found itself wasted, sucked into black holes.
Was this merely a case of trying to do too much with far too little? If so, would not the logical objective be to target, with far greater precision, our interests abroad? In any event, back to the blueprint. It identifies four areas where focus is to be placed. These are, and I quote: diplomacy, defence, development, and international commerce. Just take commerce. On the one hand, the document suggests Canada will link ever firmer with traditional partners, especially the US, while also taking on the challenges of dealing with emerging superpowers, notably China, India and Brazil. It is the case that Ottawa expects to “Enhance our economic relationships with established partners like North America, Europe and Japan, and forge partnerships with new economic powerhouses, such as China, India and Brazil.” Is this objective really aimed at consolidating resources for a better plan of action, or is it just possible to interpret the statement to mean that on the one hand official Ottawa will work on a Fortress North America while at the same time trying to rip apart trade barriers? If Canadian resources were badly deployed prior to 19 April, just exactly what’s changed? Is IPS
just a pledge to keep Canada working on mutually exclusive, potentially irreconcilable objectives? And if 19 April is really a revolutionary day, should the news of IPS
not have made a bigger media splash back on 20 April?
When projects actually need to be handled, there will be a test of how viable IPS
is. Will the reckoning come sooner or later? At this point, there isn’t enough evidence to arrive at a conclusion. But data may start rolling in at any time. One of our commitments is to partake in the war on terror, to “combat terrorism and effectively deal with failed and failing states.” In the past weeks, Ottawa has named a new ambassador to Iraq, who will take up this portfolio, remain outside Baghdad, and continue holding other appointments. And just today, reports began circulating that Canadian forces have arrived in southern Afghanistan. In short, “Nearly 200 Canadian soldiers began heading to Afghanistan's violent Kandahar region Wednesday to establish a base for a reconstruction team that will depart in a few weeks” [National Post
, 30 June 2005. Cited in story posted at http://www.canada.com/national/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=9045249a-86f7-46f5-ad8f-30d333980489
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