Monday, June 20, 2011

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby:: Canadian Foreign Affairs Under Harper

Stephen Harper makes an unsuccessful plea for Canada to be on the UN Security Council
Lysiane Gagnon had a piece in the Globe & Mail on Stephen Harper's lack of cosmopolitanism and how it affects Canada's foreign policy {h/t LinnyQat}. A big black eye was received last fall when Canada lost its bid to be on the UN Security Council to Germany and Portugal. Gagnon 
"Canada’s defeat was mostly due to the massive support of European countries and Latin America for Portugal, and to the Harper government’s enduring lack of sophistication in international affairs. 
If Mr. Harper had developed a wider network of allies abroad, and if he had encouraged Canadian diplomats to do so at their own level, perhaps Canada would have gained more votes at the UN. At least, it could have tried to turn the tide that favoured Portugal."
Gagnon brings up Harper's affinity for military deployments and questions them, but back in 2009, Nicholas Hirst has an interesting quote of Joe Clark's take on Harper in the foreign arena::
"The Harper government has increased military spending, but reduced spending on foreign affairs and aid. 'Why the double standard?' asked former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark. 'Why are we prepared to accept more of our share of the military burden than we are of the diplomatic and development burdens?'"
Save for Arctic sovereignty and Afghanistan, there is a perception that Canada has turned increasingly inwards and environmentalists are quick to point out the lack of leadership Canada has taken regarding Kyoto.

Why is this so? Politics. While it would be in Canada's best long-term interests to have more of a positive presence in world affairs and better ties with other nations, the political payoffs of better diplomacy are often unclear. In the logical calculus of elections in Canada, Harper knows he needs to speak to a specific 40-45% of the population that isn't necessarily going to see better diplomacy {versus military} as a win.

What's interesting is how the Republican hopefuls are moving away from military action, much to the ire of Senator John McCain, who is accusing them of isolationism. Again, I think this is more politics on the part of presidential candidates. They are differentiating themselves from Obama by ceding foreign policy to him. Currently, Barack is hard to undermine on the diplomacy, terrorism, or military fronts.

Without strong diplomatic relations {I think particularly with respect to BRIC}, Harper has few cards to play in the global arena, but probably more to the point is what does he really hope to accomplish, given the steep domestic challenges. Gagnon cites he's ill at ease playing the diplomacy game and I'm not sure Baird is up to the challenge as Minister of Foreign Affairs, given he has some growing up to do. I don't expect much movement towards diplomacy because of the political payoffs angle—even with respect to increased trade liberalization. An increasingly cosmopolitan Conservative Party would serve to undermine the NDP and appeal to the newly Conservative suburban ridings {districts} in the 905, but the thorny question and limiting factor is regional support for isolationism. In the end...how would cosmopolitanism play in the West?

Twitterversion:: [blog] Will Stephen Harper & #CPC foreign policy embrace cosmopolitanism & more diplomacy over the military? #cdnpoli  @Prof_K

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