Sunday, September 29, 2013

The International Gasbag

Bob Rae writes that Canada now conducts its foreign policy using a megaphone. It didn't used to be that way. And it doesn't have to be that way now:

Imagine a different approach. Imagine if we'd kept our small embassy in Tehran open, with a seasoned diplomat and a couple of bright political and legal officers. Imagine if they'd kept open a window on potential change, as Robert Ford did for years in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.

Imagine we'd brought together our most experienced ambassadors to discuss the Arab Spring as we should be doing...and then been able to intervene more usefully than we have.

Imagine if we had diplomats who were allowed to explain to Canadians what is happening. And imagine if the Prime Minister actually picked up the phone and asked for their opinion and advice.

Imagine if our political intelligence on Iran allowed us to separate the rhetoric from the reality, to understand the differences in the complex theocracy - the impacts of the sanctions, the pressures to ease the economic pain.

But the Harper government doesn't conduct business that way. It believes that its vast knowledge and expertise give in the right -- no, the moral imperative -- to lecture the rest of the world:

Instead we have the megaphone, the Prime Minister telling the American President in his own country that "he won't take no for an answer" on Keystone, John Baird on Saturday expressing skepticism but having no information and no knowledge to assess what is actually happening in Tehran. Just the megaphone.

In my recent travels and discussions with seasoned foreign policy experts and politicians in the U.S. and Europe, I haven't met one who took Canada seriously anymore, except as a posturer, a poseur, a political game player. And these are people who remember a different kind of Canada, and a better approach to diplomacy and politics.

The root of the problem is the prime minister's aversion to people. Consider his recent outburst over the Keystone XL Pipeline. Rae writes:

Remember - Stephen Harper never led a team Canada delegation to Washington to make the case in a reasoned, coherent way. His fear of the face to face means he has no choice but to shout. It won't work.

Our prime minister has developed a far from flattering reputation in the international community. Canada has gone from being an honest broker, Rae writes, to a "right wing gasbag."


Anonymous said...

Harper was Policy Chief for his, Northern Foundation of 1989. How can anyone be puzzled as to what, Harper really is? Harper's bizarre behavior fits right in, with being a Dictator.

At every meeting of the Nations, Harper is the trouble maker every time. Other countries detest Harper's bullying and his hissy fits when, he doesn't get his own way.

Harper was named a, petty gasbag, arrogant, stubborn, impossible to work with and co-operates with no-one. And, that description fits Harper's personality, right to a T.

Owen Gray said...

As innumerable kindergarten teachers have said of many of their charges, Anon, he doesn't play well with others.

The Mound of Sound said...

The louder we harangue the easier it becomes to ignore us

Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, that's true, Mound. Harper has always been able to talk. I'm not sure he ever learned how to listen.

the salamander said...

.. its actually becoming hard to determine much difference in many or most emanations from the Harper Government.. Spokespersons, secretaries, communications directors, PMO mouthpieces, MP's, Ministers.. etc

The messages or propaganda or spin or attack all blend with the Conservative Party, pundits, lawyers, consultants, hacks et al

Perhaps even more surprising is how well both Government and Party braying attunes to the shrill, cynical, partisan braying of trolls, media, pollsters, lobbyists, bloggers etc etc

The we have the 4th group .. the corporations & their lobbyists, advisors, opinionators, faux researchers

I've pointed out at times, that Stephen Harper's actual quotes, especial without a TelePromper or reading written notes, are perhaps the most bizarre of all. He certainly strains and flails with grammar, repetition, verbiage and stilted language.. not to mention fact or truth, ethics or coherence.. It most often comes out as impossible to interpret.. babble, rhetoric and noise..

Any competent social worker, parole officer, detective or 5 year old can tell you what the body language, expressions and eye contact combined with such oral evasion mean.. Glib, denial, fabrication, avoidance of responsibility .. scamming & grifting

Owen Gray said...

Orwell pointed out long ago, salamander, that the English language -- having been hijacked by propagandists -- amounted to nothing more than the quacking of ducks.

You're right. The present government of Canada is nothing more than a duck convention. And its mission is to duck responsibility.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Bards comments on Iran are shocking for their ignorance and propaganda points that are repeated time and again without any effort to seek the truth. The Iranians have consistently declared they are not building a bomb. It would be unislamic to do so. The frequent inspections have not proved that they are moving in that direction. They have refined fuel only for electical generation or for a reactor to make medical isotopes. This latter is about 19% concentration. A bomb requires about 95%. The Iranians have a right to peaceful use of nuclear power because they have signed the non proliferation treaty, unlike the Israeli. Bard says the Iranians lie about their intentions but does not seem to condemn Israeli lies about the bombs they have. All Nations play fast and loose with the truth at times. Iran is a peace loving country. It has a long history of not attacking its neighbours. It is a well educated modern society that we should be able to deal with, face to face. It serves no cause, certainly not peace to stand on the sidelines and throw verbal stones that have no relationship to reality.

By the way, Iran never said they would destroy Israel. This is a twisted view of a comment that Israel would eventual disappear (perhaps like the soviet Union disappeared). Iran is one of the few Middle East countries that has a significant Jewish population as well as some very ancient Christian communities.

I think Canada's government has taken such a harsh line against Iran in order to curry favour with Israel. Canada is out of step with almost every other industrial society on the wrong side of history.

Owen Gray said...

Canada used to work to solve disputes between nations, Philip. Now all we do is pour gasoline on the fire.