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."