May 13

So much for all those nasty threats to our Arctic sovereignty:

Harper’s tough talk on the Arctic less stern in private

Despite the military photo ops and defiant words aimed at the Russian Bear in the Far North, U.S. diplomatic cables indicate that Stephen Harper doesn’t believe there’s a threat of military conflict there: He told NATO it is not wanted in the Arctic because there’s no likelihood of war.

The cables, released by website WikiLeaks, indicate that the U.S. embassy in Washington saw much of the Conservative government’s aggressive public statements on the Arctic as a partisan strategy to win votes rather than substantive government policies. In private, the cables indicate, Mr. Harper was more “pragmatic.”

The massive potential for oil and gas discoveries in the Arctic has countries scrambling for offshore turf, but those claims are largely being settled by United Nations legal arbitration. Nonetheless, Mr. Harper’s government has often hinted at potential military encroachment by Russia and stressed the need for beefed-up military hardware to defend the Arctic…

…there’s a populist reason to take such stands: Although defence experts often dismiss the idea that Canada’s Arctic is actually under foreign threat, many Canadians seem to think it is. A 2009 Environics survey found that 60 per cent of people living north of the 60th parallel (and 52 per cent of those south of it) believe there is a security or sovereignty threat to the northern border…

The release of the cables came as the Arctic Council – which includes Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland – signed its first legally binding treaty to divide responsibilities for search-and-rescue activities in the Arctic. The deal sets aside the trickier questions of territorial claims to provide for legally entrenched functional co-operation [more here and an American view here]…

…U.S. diplomatic cables express skepticism about whether Canadian Arctic policies live up to the Harper government’s rhetoric. A 2009 cable on Canada’s defence policy describes the plan to build six Arctic Patrol ships for the navy as “an example of a requirement driven by political rather than military imperatives, since the navy did not request these patrol ships. The Conservatives have nonetheless long found domestic political capital in asserting Canada’s ‘Arctic

Sovereignty.’ ”…

Latest on those vessels:

How Slow Can One Procure Navy Ships?

And as I wrote earlier:

…Then there are 6-8 Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (the government’s idea, not the Navy’s - their capabilities have been reduced too, the blinking things are neither fish nor cetacean), supposed to be built over the next few years…

I also wrote this:

The Misguided Emphasis on “Defending” Arctic Sovereignty

It does look as if the US government may have given the Conservatives a bit of political help:

U.S. agreed to hold off on Arctic sovereignty claim during 2008 election

More on the document in question, just following our lead I’d say:

Bush Directive on Arctic Policy Stresses U.S. Sovereignty

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

May 10

Covering the waterfront, as it were:

Canada was hoping [2010] to train Afghan security forces in Russia: U.S. diplomatic cables
British opposed Canadian’s [Gen. Ray Henault] nomination to top NATO military post: U.S. diplomatic cables
DiManno [a very good reporter]: Adrenalin and a deadly responsibility for Canadian pilots in Libya
Red tape mires Libyan mission
[US] Military Draws Up Afghan Exit Plan [5,000 July, 5,000 more by end of year, see this also]
Changing Needs Influence Warship Design [see also, esp. “Comments”: “U.K., Canada Discuss Joint Frigate Development“]

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Apr 29

Our media have lost all serious interest, to the extent that they ever had any.  And it takes the US embassy in Ottawa to point out that our opposition politicians have not taken the work of the mission itself seriously either (I’m not sure the government has been all that much better–see this earlier post elsewhere, “Afstan to the back burner“).  Damn good diplomatic reporters those Americans, as many others have noted including Andrew Potter in this Maclean’s blog post:

You mean the Americans pay attention?

Glen McGregor… is trolling through today’s [Aprikl 28] Wikileaks dump of cables from US missions in Canada. He’s crowdsourcing the job and is collecting the best of them. My contribution is this cable from the US embassy in December 2009, reporting on the presentation of the sixth quarterly report to parliament on the mission in Afghanistan [text here]. >From the cable’s summary (my emphases):

Signature development projects move forward, and border security dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan is expanding, with Canadian facilitation. The media and Parliament, however, remain more obsessed with allegations that the government ignored credible reports of abuse of Afghan detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces in 2006 to Afghan authorities (ref c), and largely ignored the mostly discouraging news in this latest report. End summary.

The concluding remarks are rather astute as well:

While the media covered the December 10 release by Minister Day, virtually all of the questioning related instead to the on-going controversy over the treatment of prisoners handed over to Afghan security forces by Canadian soldiers and what the government knew when…

The three opposition parties are united in seeking to embarrass the government over this issue and have vowed to call into session the Special Committee on Afghanistan even during the holiday recess (which began December 10), but have indicated no interest in debating the actual Canadian mission in Afghanistan and the successes – or failures – of Canada’s role as documented in the quarterly reports.

Moral outrage trumps all for the opposition.  Which relates to this previous post by Jack Granatstein on an earlier WikiLeak on Canada:

Alice in Wonderland is right

The purloined WikiLeaks cables have caused a sensation all over the world, and Canada has been no exception. The former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Jim Judd, told a senior visiting US State Department official in July 2008 that Canadians had an “Alice in Wonderland world view,” suffered from “knee-jerk anti-Americanism,” and would fall into “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty” at the drop of a hat. Judd had much more to say, but these comments are worth consideration…

Also relevant:

A Tale of Two Commons

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 06

Like most historians, I believe in the freest possible access to information. But the WikiLeaks phenomenon has persuaded me that I do not believe that all information should be splashed over the front pages, Diplomacy needs privacy for its effective conduct.

But the latest release of the US telegrams that detail the critical infrastructure in nations such as Canada that could cause most harm to American interests if destroyed takes me beyond my anger at WikiLeaks’ other releases. These cables are not merely embarrassing to outspoken envoys; these are criminal. The list of critical points is a gift to terrorists everywhere, put out in the open on Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks’ website. It demonstrates now that Assange’s aim is to cause harm, not merely to embarrass. There is no doubt that this is criminal incitement by one man who thinks he is Sampson in the temple, pushing at the pillars.

We are now at the point where the New York Times and The Guardian, for example, should stop publishing WikiLeaks’ material. We are now at the point where those who cooperate with Assange should be charged with aiding and abetting terrorism. It is time, indeed long past time, to bring this destructive farce to its end before people are killed as a result of Assange’s insane egotism.

J.L. Granatstein is a Senior Fellow with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute

Dec 03

Two compilations by Foreign Policy magazine; no wonder we have that inferiority complex:

1) Who’s Who in WikiLeaks

The world leaders embarrassed by Cablegate

No Canadian.

2) The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers

Foreign Policy presents a unique portrait of 2010’s global marketplace of ideas and the thinkers who make them.

Three Canadians: Malcolm Gladwell (68), Steven Pinker (69) and Louise Arbour (71). But from reading the entries one would have no reason to think they are Canadian - one would assume that the first two are American and probably that Mme Arbour is Belgian.

Meanwhile the world isn’t paying much mind to the flap over our Ambassador to Afghanistan, William Crosbie, less here.

Mark Collins is a prolific blogger at Unambiguously Ambidextrous

Dec 03

Special to the Ottawa Citizen Dec. 3, 2010

The purloined WikiLeaks cables have caused a sensation all over the world, and Canada has been no exception. The former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Jim Judd, told a senior visiting US State Department official in July 2008 that Canadians had an “Alice in Wonderland world view,” suffered from “knee-jerk anti-Americanism,” and would fall into “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty” at the drop of a hat. Judd had much more to say, but these comments are worth consideration.

First, there is little doubt that knee-jerk, anti-Americanism is scarcely unusual in Canada. Why? Because anti-Americanism was the founding myth in Canada and remains the de facto state religion, accepted, tolerated, and even encouraged. Canadian nationalism historically was and today remains anti-Americanism from St. John’s to Quebec City to Vancouver. Canadians measure themselves against the United States, glow when they do better (as during the recent financial crisis) and mutter darkly when they do worse - as when an American hockey team beats Canadian men’s or women’s side.

Making it worse is that so many Canadians have emigrated to the “States.” The great Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock wrote in his Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town of an old man telling his friends that the time must come when “I…must make my way toward that goal which no traveller returns.” There was a deep hush, Leacock added: “It was understood to imply that he thought of going to the United States.”

We all have relatives in the US, and for most it was and is a land of opportunity (and better weather). But the detestation of our neighbours alarms visiting Americans. Although the election campaign of 2005-’06 was mild in its expressions of anti-Americanism (compared to, say, 1963 or 1988), Anna Morgan in the Washington Post reported that “the United States and all its evils” were a “familiar demon” used “to heat Canadian voters to a frenzy.”

The curious fact is that Canadians still believe their anti-Americanism is harmless. That issues such as softwood lumber - issues that might have been resolved by intervention of the executive branch that Canada always counted on to fix relations with Congress - could drag on forever somehow was not connected in the public mind to Canadian governmental and popular expressions of disdain for the US. David Jones, a former American diplomat who served in Ottawa, however, warned of “residual resentment” in the US at the “shiftless brother-in-law, when you know he will never pull his weight.”

“Canadians,” he went on, “continue to assume that the US will remain benign, and the essential elements of their sovereignty will remain intact.” But, he said, that could not continue forever.

Alongside anti-Americanism goes the moral outrage of which Judd spoke. Canada may not be a military or economic superpower like the US, but in Canadians’ eyes, it is a moral superpower. We are peacekeepers, we say, ignoring the facts of history, and the Americans wage wars. We love the UN and they don’t.

Gerald Caplan expressed this moral idiocy perfectly in his online article on the Globe and Mail website on Nov. 26, enumerating all of America’s “permanent wars for peace,” even including the two world wars where victory could not have been won without the US. Caplan’s granddaughter, to whom he addressed his lament, would have been speaking German or Russian without the United States.

Add up Canadian anti-Americanism and the national assumption of moral superiority, and its amounts to an Alice in Wonderland world view. Canada did its share in the Cold war and it has done more than its share in Afghanistan, but grudgingly. How much better if the money wasted on defence spending had gone for day care or better medicare. That there would have been only a Soviet-style wasteland everywhere if the United States and the other democracies had not stood together against Moscow is scarcely considered. That Islamism today threatens the West is only dimly perceived.

As Alice said, “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would.”

Jim Judd had it exactly right, but politicians have already called his remarks “whining” and he is lucky that he has retired from the public service. Judd’s punishment for telling the truth could only have been dismissal.

J.L. Granatstein is a Senior Research Fellow with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Nov 30

According to CBC-TV, some 85 percent of those voting on whether WikiLeaks should release huge numbers of US State Department documents believed it should. The CBC said the number of responses - 60,000 - was one of the highest ever for its self-generated (unscientific) polls.

Is the 85 percent of CBC website users correct in its call for total openness? Is it important to have everything a government does, says, or thinks made public? Are we all voyeurs treating government confidential materials and actions as if they were of no more consequences than Lindsay Lohan’s latest titillating brush with substance abuse?

This WikiLeaks release of 250,000 US documents (including 1,958 sent from Ottawa), rolling out in installments all week, is in fact a disaster, putting forth American secrets for all to see, including frank comments made by officials about foreign leaders. Diplomacy relies on confidentiality, but now some lives may be put at risk and some policies may be endangered, a high price to pay for WikiLeaks’ self-assumed mission of putting all secrets on display. What is certain is that officials ever after will likely feel unable to report or speak bluntly for fear their despatches or comments will be published. It will be much like the effect that Access to Information legislation had on Canadian bureaucrats who, once the law came into force, began to keep their real records at home, away from their ministry’s access coordinators’ scrutiny.

The fallacy here is the widespread belief that the crowd is always right, a view much encouraged by Wikipedia and its users. WikiLeaks does its thing, essentially protected by the cheers of the 85 percent. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ devil-in-chief, somehow escapes prosecution because he has popular support and lives in hiding. It is long past time to bring this man down. Even governments have some rights to privacy, and someone must educate the crowd to realities of diplomacy and the meaning of simple rights and wrongs.

J.L. Granatstein is a Senior Research Fellow with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute