Foreign Policy

  • Look At Those Cavemen Go

    This August, barring catastrophe, a robotic rover named Curiosity will be climbing a mountain on Mars. The six-wheeled explorer will parachute down to the Martian surface, cross a plain and ascend a mountain slope, sampling rocks and atmosphere as it goes. Though each day's new robo-call revelation is revealed to us as the gravest imaginable threat to Canadian democracy, at summer's end we will certainly have been provided whiffs of equally ominous instances of corruption and depravity.

    As Canada's media and political exhibitionists scandalize themselves with tales of robo-dialed phone calls, real robotics overhead have humanity on the further edge of wonder.

    This August, barring catastrophe, a robotic rover named Curiosity w...

    Read more...

  • Condemnations, contradictions, and rich ironies

    Some see the plant's closure as just another example of blood-sucking foreign companies who come into Canada, ignore our unions, buy our plants, and leave the workers, the provinces, and the country to clean up the mess. Ken Lewenza, the head of the union representing the workers at the EMD plant, suggests that the closure "open[s] a door for multinational corporations to feel confident they can do whatever they want, to destroy communities and the lives of people and get away with it." A commodities boom has driven the Canadian dollar from a 62¢ U.S.

    The talk about last month's move of the Electro-Motive Diesel plant from London (Ontario) to the United States reveals much about the way we treat economics in Ontario and in Canada.

    Some see the plant's closure as just another example of blood-sucki...

    Read more...

  • Don't let the smallness confuse you

    And while panicked lobbies have been misreading last year's rotting leavings for an absent social agenda, quietly—incrementally—the Prime Minister has been outlining a smaller picture of Canadian federalism, both at home and abroad. It will come, as with all important things in our consumerist times, through the back door of the federal budget.

    The hamsters are whirring on Parliament Hill, quietly squeaking, softly padding . . . but peek inside a cage or two and you will see a busy bunch of bureaucrats and wonks scampering for what pundits suspect is the first, outright articulation of Prime Minis...

    Read more...

  • The Virtue of Small Charities

    the top 1% account for 59% of revenues received; 42% of the charities have revenues of less than $30,000 and collectively account for just 1% of revenues; 40% of charities have no paid staff 37% have just 1-5 employees 64% of charities operate in local communities with local mandates Last week Cardus submitted a brief to the House of Commons Finance Committee regarding tax incentives for charitable giving.

    Of Canada's 161,000 incorporated non-profit and voluntary organizations . . .

    the top 1% account for 59% of revenues received; 42% of the charities have revenues of less than $30,000 and collectively account for just 1% of revenues;...

    Read more...

  • Union Metaphors

    In closing: "When you're marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you're in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    President Obama opened and closed last night's State of the Union with a series of auspicious military metaphors. In opening, "These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America's Armed Forces. At a time when too many of...

    Read more...

  • How we think of religious freedom

    The irascible Gerald Caplan's article begins well. There is "much work for Canada to do" with regard to championing religious freedom. Caplan highlights a short list of religious persecutions, violence, and ignorance around the world, taking particular delight in a fight between monks wielding brooms in the church of the Nativity.

    Well, it didn't take long for articles about religion in the public square to make their way back into the news cycle. In the span of a week—in what must be the most bang for the buck ever seen by a government office with no staff, no structure, no plan, an...

    Read more...

  • There can be no peace, after Westphalia

    The politics of Epiphany can be easily forgotten, a forgotten feast drowned out by the pounding of a cultural Christmas hangover. But it is striking how political Epiphany, and its attendant liturgy can be. Oliver O'Donovan recalls the same in the prologue of The Desire of the Nations, quoting the second stanza of the Te Deum:

    Epiphany is here, and on it we remember the Magi, the wise, and the powerful, bending the knee as one to the Christ. Its opening sentence in the lectionary is from Isaiah 60:3, "Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising."...

    Read more...

  • Hidden Costs of Prosperity

    Mr. Crowley proposes a planned disintegration of North American borders in favour of integration of economies. To wit:

    Brian Lee Crowley's piece in yesterday's Financial Post is the most provocative piece I have read in some time. It not only contains one of the most open challenges to Can...

    Read more...

  • Another Evangelical Conspiracy, The Office of Religious Freedom

    And of course there are plenty of reasons to be bitter at the government. Despite holding broad consultations (on the true breadth of which we have only their words of assurance), very little on this Office has been promoted or even talked about. There is, naturally, the indignation of religious communities and non-governmental associations that were not invited in these first rounds, upset partly because of the important appearance of inclusivity but mostly because they didn't get invited to the parties. This especially shouldn't surprise anyone at Amnesty International, given its recent and public exchanges with Minister Jason Kenney. Their invitation probably didn't get lost in the mail.

    The CBC seems to be alleging there is yet another evangelical conspiracy afoot, since Prime Minister Harper's government continues to disappoint conspiracy enth...

    Read more...

  • Foreign Affairs, Version 2.0?

    No longer. Moving Minister John Baird onto the Foreign Affairs file was a clear signal that the Conservative government was going to get more serious about foreign policy. If legacy issues weren't at stake, at least the prudential management of the slow, international economic collapse was bound to push this government global.

    At least, that's what The Mark is calling the political and bureaucratic churn on the Hill this Fall. For the Conservatives, foreign affairs has been a relatively straight forward series of policies in...

    Read more...

  • Is all foreign policy missiology?

    The secularization thesis was premature, though not impossible. It didn't just get the empirical data wrong, but it was based on a wrong-headed slate of assumptions. The most significant poor assumption is that secularism implies a morally and ontologically neutral way of understanding the world. So, then, I beg the question: is all foreign policy, all extension of statehood and state interests, really a kind of missiological projection of liberal moral order? Is liberal state building—schools, roads, markets—a work of conversion? Is, in fact, the work of secular foreign policy really not so secular at all, but a kind of evangelical mission to defend and transform the world into a Westphalian moral order? .

    God is back, or so the pundits say. The real question, though, is not whether or not God is back, by why we ever thought he went away.

    The secularization thesis was premature, though not impossible. It didn't just get the empirical data wrong, but it...

    Read more...

  • A global spring with no happy ending in sight

    In the early months of 1848, European monarchs were on their heels reacting to revolutions. Napoleon had been defeated in 1815 and Metternich, the great icon of nineteenth century Austrian conservatism, held court over an increasingly unstable Europe. When, on March 15 of that fateful year, he quietly slipped out of Vienna past an angry mob, the old order crumbled with him.

    It's always been easier to tear down than to create. And truer words have never been spoken, says Foreign Affairs' Jonathan Steinberg, of the sweeping regime change around the globe, dubbed the Spring of 2011. In "1848 and 2011: Bringing d...

    Read more...

  • Defending Idealism in the Legacy of 9/11

    But the intensity of American self flagellation caught me by surprise. As a Canadian, there is no shortage of smug anti-Americanism in my midst, but it was odd—maybe even disconcerting—to hear more and more Americans parroting these sentiments in a way that struck me as not only unfair, but also untrue.

    Tyndale University College in Toronto cancelled an appearance by President George W. Bush short weeks ago, around the time of the tenth anniversary of September 11. The sentiment of Tyndale supporters echoed the calls south of the border on that anniversary...

    Read more...

  • War gaming

    Every generation has its war games, which have probably been around since human beings first picked up a wooden stick as an imitation sword. By the fifth century B.C. the ancient Greeks were playing petteia, one of the first modern board games modeled on war. Chess was invented in the sixth century A.D.

    I've always loved war games, probably out of a combination of tactical curiosity and moral failure. Risk and Axis and Allies are still family favourites at my parents' home. My university days were punctuated by campus-wide competitions in the...

    Read more...

  • Doomed to Repeat the Past?

    And yet I can't help but look at the news in recent months and years and think that we may be headed on a path similar to one of the very darkest points in our history, World War II. The recent tragedy in Oslo, Norway that saw an extremist right-wing terrorist blow up a government building and attack a youth camp is evidence of a much larger and disturbing trend in Europe and the wider world.

    Through my time studying history and political science at McMaster University, I've been immersed in the events that have shaped our lives today. I've been taught about the rise and fall of great civilizations, lectured on the great leaders and influencers ...

    Read more...

  • Budget Deficit, the Debt Ceiling, and the Fifth Horseman

    This is not the first time the United States has adjusted its external financial obligations in favour of domestic concerns. Other, more seemingly sanitary devices, like currency manipulation or—for example—the abandonment of the gold standard in 1971, are strategic forerunners. These are a kind of default, where while the U.S.

    The hysteria of Armageddon, once reserved for apocalyptic super disease, invading aliens, or meteor extinction, has found its way—via the American president—into the debt debate. And with the deal for the American debt ceiling floundering, it seems reasonab...

    Read more...

  • A Eulogy for Atlantis

    The space shuttle Atlantis rolled to a stop shortly after 6 am Thursday at the Kennedy Space Centre, closing a chapter on one of the most far-reaching super-power confrontations in human history: the cold war space race. The decommission of Atlantis, and of the space shuttle, its service, and its legacy is only faintly heard today over famine in Somalia, economic meltdown in Europe, and midnight deficit deals in the United States itself.

    Photo: The Independent

    ...

    Read more...

  • Watching the Watchers: Religious Freedom for Whom?

    It's a good political step. But two questions loom in its implementation: who will control it, and how broad (domestic or foreign) will its mandate be?

    Last week's Throne Speech minted for Canada an Office of Religious Freedom, an election time carrot for the Conservative base but also a prudent first step to studying and applying the many lessons of the global resurgence of religion to Canadian policy mak...

    Read more...

  • The BRIC Shift: Decadence and Decline or "The Rise of the Rest"?

    is essentially that the West has not failed, but that it has reached a plateau. Multi-polarity, as the Rest catch up, will be the coming order. Albeit, Zakaria does save some sharp criticisms for what he considers the highly dysfunctional nature of the American political system, suggesting that the "the rise of the Rest" is facilitated partly by lost opportunities afforded by archaic administrations in the global north. All this will be bad news for America, but it could also be great news for global poverty. Spreading around the extreme concentration of wealth and power that has been endemic of the international system in the last decades might make a better justice. America has slowly bled that wealth and power of the last generation to the so-called BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India and China. . Optimistic estimates say that by 2022 those living in poverty will be a minority for the first time. As the middle class dwindles in the West, it's exploding abroad. How will international relations be transformed by the injection of hundreds of millions of Indian, Brazilian, and Chinese families into a global middle class? Will middle class itself come to take on a new meaning, and what will be the implications for the often less than desirable governance conditions of these countries? But most intriguingly, these shifts will give a good grilling to the economic orthodoxy that wealth produces well-adjusted, democratic, and tolerant citizens. Will a wider distribution of wealth inspire revolutions in culture and politics in otherwise marginally tyrannical regimes, like Russia and China? People like Zakaria and Francis Fukuyama argue that democracy can only be sustained in countries with a per capita GDP threshold of around $6000. It's hard to overestimate the importance of a stable economy, and the underlying social architecture that sustains it (just laws, property rights etc), but whether a wealthier world will be a more democratic, peaceful, and just one is another matter. Where rising middle class BRICs are spending their money and priorities today may give us a window into the world of tomorrow.

    Fareed Zakaria has long argued that it is not so much that the West is in decline, as that the Rest are in extraordinary ascent. His argument in The Post-American World

    is essen...

    Read more...

  • The Great Divorce: Superman and American Foreign Policy

    The influence of popular culture on foreign policy is a subject of long, whisky-driven debate among international relation scholars. You can draw pretty neat parallels between the universe of Star Trek and developments in American foreign policy, like in Grab a Phaser, Ambassador and even, more disturbingly, actual American torture policy and Fox's popularization in the Bauer of suggestion. How we think about foreign policy is usually more driven from the stories we read and watch than the actual practice of international relations. And why shouldn't it be? Most people will never be international relations experts, and it's a big world. Pop representations, dishonest as they may be, give a more comfortable, armchair explanation of our role in the world. "I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy," the character says in a story that sees him flying to a Tehran protest.

    This morning as groggy-eyed monarchists celebrate Will and Kate's nuptials, a more odious headline is hitting republican rebels south of the border: Superman wants out...

    Read more...

  • Where did the Foreign Service Go?

    The mystique that surrounds "NGO's" has never been stronger. Why? What is about these decentralized, charity funded outfits that fires the imagination of the next generation of culture makers? Why aren't they—for example—fired by a similar vision for the once heralded Canadian foreign service, whose admission standards and training were once considered the gold standard of developed countries? .

     

    I'm back in the saddle teachin...

    Read more...

  • Who Hurts the Most in Recessions?

    Joe Clark—a once (Conservative) Prime Minister of Canada—argues the poor will feel this recession the worst for four reasons:

    Answer: the already poor, and especially the recently upwardly mobile. Recession economics aren't fair: the brunt isn't borne by the already wealthy and industrialized. America, and middle power countries like Canada, will continue to attract foreign...

    Read more...