This would be a serious Canadian foreign policy:
Among the upper echelons of Canada’s political and diplomatic circles, this query has quickly become the million-dollar question. What has happened to the respected leadership Canadian diplomats were once heralded for throughout the halls of international power and, more importantly, how do we get it back?
With his recent book From Pride to Influence: Towards a New Canadian Foreign Policy, Michael Hart, the Simon Reisman professor of trade policy at Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, has joined the growing chorus of former Foreign Affairs officials and policy-watchers lamenting Canada’s fall from grace. Incorporating the perspectives of many professors and former ministers and diplomats into his text, Mr. Hart explores what he sees as the root causes of Canada’s decline, and how to re-orient its foreign policy for the better.
In Mr. Hart’s assessment, Canada’s foreign policy has been lost in a “drift,” caught up in false ideals of a romanticized golden age of diplomacy that has long since faded and does little to serve Canadian interests. For too long, he believes, political leaders have been largely constrained by an ongoing and distracting obsession with re-affirming a Canadian identity separate from the Americans, which Mr. Hart sees as a frivolous and unhealthy habit.
At the heart of Canada’s waning influence globally are the botched jobs both Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did handling foreign policy. Espousing harsh criticisms for both, Mr. Hart argues that the Liberals’ misguided attitudes towards George W. Bush’s “muscular foreign policy”—which included decisions to not support the invasion of Iraq, to remain outside the coalition of the willing and to withdraw from the National Missile Defence plan—resulted in a loss of access and influence in Washington, which Mr. Hart insists is absolutely fundamental to Canadian interests.
Although not a new idea around Ottawa, Mr. Hart has aggressively ratcheted up the argument that a safe and prosperous Canada relies on an intimate and all-encompassing relationship with the United States, a country he predicts will remain the world’s only superpower for decades to come [well, there is China, if it stays stable, more here – MC]. A solid Canadian foreign policy, he says, is one that first and foremost serves the interests of Canadians, primarily in the areas of security and material well-being.
It is with the argument that foreign policy must be based on the national interest that Mr. Hart unleashes against Liberal internationalism [“Boy scout of the world”; “Canadians bloviate while Darfur burns”], described as the religion of the foreign policy elite, in favour of a “realist” perspective. At the core of the debate around Canada’s foreign policy, he writes, are two differing schools of thought: on one side is Liberal internationalism, and on the other is realism, also called “continentalism.”
Traditionally, Canadian governments pursue disarmament. A good question is whether there’s ever been such silence on nuclear proliferation and arms stockpiling as we’ve had from Team Harper…
…by and large, Ottawa is ignoring causes for which it would usually be engaged. Africa is largely forgotten. In Darfur, the International Criminal Court is pursuing a sitting head of state in connection with genocide. But as former justice minister Irwin Cotler points out, Canada – a force in creating the ICC – has shown little interest. The same, he says, is the case in Rwanda, where our foreign assistance for the indemnification of the horrors of 15 years ago has been cut…
Instead, Mr. Hart believes Canadians will be better served by a foreign policy focused almost entirely on its bilateral ties to the United States and in exploring further economic opportunities within the Americas and Asia. Africa and Europe, he says, are marginal to Canada’s future.
Carrying the torch for the realist school, Mr. Hart’s partisan colours are exposed through unusual praise for the foreign policy of Mr. Bush and the more recent policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whom he credits for a pragmatic and level-headed approach to the United States.
Mr. Hart is impressed by Mr. Harper’s handling of the Afghanistan file, largely because he believes this has renewed Canada’s worthiness as a security player with the U.S. He is equally impressed by Mr. Harper’s focus on democratizing the Americas—although he flatly states that Mexico is not part of the North American set of shared values—and the collection of free trade agreements being secured there, ensuring, he writes, “Canada’s irreversible commitment to a hemispheric future.”
For the politically engaged reader, and especially for students of politics and foreign policy, Mr. Hart’s book From Pride to Influence is an enjoyable and informative read. Mr. Hart has produced a very well-written and solidly factual text, organized into 11 chapters that explore the basics of conducting foreign policy in Canada and the U.S. His arguments rely on analyzing at great length the many intricacies and challenges that define the current Canada-U.S. relationship, further underscoring for the reader just how invaluable he believes the U.S. to be for Canada’s national well-being and the urgency required to solidify this relationship…