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‘Our North’ Defence Policy

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A Defence Policy for Uncertain Times

From Our North, Strong and Free/DND

By Colin Robertson

POLICY MAGAZINE April 11, 2024

https://www.policymagazine.ca/a-defence-policy-for-uncertain-times/

An ambassador from a NATO nation, having served in Canada for several years, recently made the following observation to me: That for a country with immense landmass – second only to Russia – the longest coastline fronting three oceans, and the tenth-biggest global economy, Canada carries a remarkably small stick when it comes to defence. “Are you that certain of the American security umbrella?” asked the ambassador.

It’s a good question but not one our new defence policy wants to address, at least not head-on.

So instead, after the ritual identification of the threats posed by Russia, China and climate change, the new policy says that “The most urgent and important task we face is in asserting Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.”

Promising more attention to our Arctic and High North is something successive American administrations have encouraged Ottawa to do. Indeed, US Ambassador David Cohen quickly and formally endorsed the new policy. Perhaps this is sufficient affirmation of continued American protection. But what if, come January 20, Donald Trump once again takes the oath of office?

While the instinctive reflex to this scenario is to fixate on our southern neighbour, it is easier and probably more politically astute to focus for now on our North, especially given our romantic attachment to it.

The Trudeau government has already made a down payment in renewed northern security with its 2022 promise of a $38.6 billion plan to modernize North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), including Arctic and Polar Over-the-Horizon Radar systems over the next two decades.

In that sense Our North, Strong and Free is much more than an update to the 2017 Strong, Secure, Engaged defence policy. ‘Our North’ commits $8.1 billion over five years and promises another $73 billion over 20 years. If implemented, it will increase defence spending from 1.33 percent to 1.76 percent of GDP by 2029-30.

It’s not the 2 percent we agreed to at NATO’s Wales summit in 2014 and which has become such a point of contention in defence-spending debates but, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at the time, that 2 percent was ‘aspirational’. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recommitted to the 2 percent again at last year’s Vilnius summit and we remain committed to get there. Eventually.

To put it in perspective: NATO figures show defence spending as a percentage of GDP for NATO Arctic Council nations as: US 3.24; Finland 2.46; Finland 2.3; Denmark 2.0; Norway 1.8; and Canada 1.33. By contrast, Russia spends 6 percent of GDP on its military. China, an observer to the Council, spends 1.7 percent.

As its subtitle proclaims, ‘Our North’ is ‘a renewed vision for Canadian defence’. However, as with the 2022 announcement, the real or ‘cash’ money is much less than the promised funding. The future funding is a promissory note for future governments to honour (or not).

Past investments by the Harper and Trudeau governments mean we now have some of our new offshore patrol ships at sea, our new maritime patrol aircraft are in production, our new surface combatants are approaching production and components for our new fighter jets are being manufactured. And there is money to ensure, in the meantime, that our aging frigates and submarines remain seaworthy. Our run-down bases will receive $10.2 billion over the next 20 years for repair and refurbishment.

We are also to get maritime sensors for ocean surveillance, tactical helicopter capability, northern operational support hubs, and airborne early warning aircraft. This is all necessary kit.

It also underlines the commitment to invest in our defence production industries, with $9.5 billion allotted to ‘made-in-Canada’ artillery ammunition and $9 billion to sustain military equipment.

Procurement is to get another review and money for more staff to speed up the process, something long advocated by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries.

There is money to support the doubling of our NATO troop commitment in Latvia and for our participation in annual NATO exercises. The previously announced Halifax-based NATO Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic is also to be funded.

While our NATO allies and partner nations in the Indo-Pacific who are leery of China will privately grumble about the Canadian inability to get to 2 percent, they understand that politics is the art of the possible.

We will also acquire a comprehensive worldwide satellite communication capability and establish a Forces and Communications Security Establishment joint cyberoperations capability. Cybersecurity is generally a no-brainer, especially given the disturbing revelations coming out of the inquiry into foreign interference.

Investment in the people of our Forces has been long overdue. Our recruitment and retention crisis means there is shortage of over 15,780 in a Force of 71,500 – more than 20%. There is money for housing and child care and a promise to look at the terms and conditions of service. ‘Culture change’, once set as the top priority, is now secondary to Forces readiness and operational capacity.

There is a promise (but no banked money) to explore options for a new fleet of submarines.  Mr. Trudeau seems to suggest nuclear-powered submarines may be an option but, at an estimated $8 billion apiece, any future government will likely reach the same decision as the Mulroney government did in 1988-89 when we last explored this option with the Americans. While we may have AUKUS envy, technological collaboration on AI and other areas is probably the easier way into that tent.

While our NATO allies and partner nations in the Indo-Pacific who are leery about China will privately grumble about the Canadian inability to get to 2 percent, they understand that politics is the art of the possible. For the Trudeau government, its priority from the get-go has been social justice – $10 a day child care, doubling of money for Indigenous reconciliation, dental care, school food programs, and money for a range of housing-crisis fixes.

Defence spending has never been a Trudeau government priority. So, getting what we got is a testament to that minority of ministers – Anand, Blair, Champagne, Freeland, and Joly – who recognize the requirement for hard power, and a Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs who speak truth to power. They are aided by dedicated civil servants as well as editorials and a series of recent public opinion polls that demonstrate ordinary Canadians also recognize the changing threat environment. All of this combined with increasingly less subtle pressure from the US and other allies helped to get the new policy and funding over the line.

Given the effort that went into defending our north, it is surprising, especially given this government’s commitment to a ‘whole of government’ approach, that we did not also see a more comprehensive strategy for the North. While our Arctic Council NATO partners have comprehensive strategies for their north, we are still waiting for the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, announced just prior to the 2019 election, to be fleshed out.

Going forward, the government pledges to update the defence policy every four years (the normal life of a government) in “a more regular cycle of review and investment” and to bring forth a national security strategy with threat assessments. It would be the first since 2004 and it would bring us into alignment with our allies.

Notably missing from the 2017 defence policy was anything on ballistic missile defence. Now, we face the threat of hypersonic missiles. ‘Our North’ simply says “more work is needed to defend Canada and Canadians against growing air and missile threats.”

Peacekeeping, that many thought would be the hallmark of ‘Canada is back’ after the 2015 election, gets a totemic mention in reference to the 2017 Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping.

This is unfortunate, as we could have opened the door to a re-endorsement of the 2005 adoption at the UN World Summit of ‘Responsibility to Protect’, or “R2P”, a very Canadian creation that complemented the Chrétien government’s magnificent Human Security Agenda (Land Mines Treaty, Child Soldiers Convention, and International Criminal Court).

But that was a time of muscular, Pearsonian initiative, led by a committed prime minister and skilled ministers, prepared to invest time and capital in initiatives aimed at prevention and mitigation of conflict. They also invested in relationships built through a robust development assistance program and a motivated, activist diplomatic service. A future government should once again champion human security and responsibility to protect, now more necessary than ever. That would signal ‘Canada is back’.

‘Our North’ is a transactional start in rearmament. While timid in ambition, lacking in urgency and quick to put off until tomorrow what should be done today, there is at least greater realism in its appreciation of our defence and security situation.

Geopolitics and climate could change for the better. The world could become kinder and gentler. And pigs may take flight. But in the meantime, more investment in defence bolsters deterrence and is our insurance against calamity.

Contributing Writer Colin Robertson, a former career diplomat, is a fellow and host of the Global Exchange podcast with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa.

NATO 75 & Canada

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NATO at 75 and Canada’s New Defence Reality

https://www.policymagazine.ca/nato-at-75-and-canadas-new-defence-reality/

The 2023 NATO Vilnius Summit/NATO

By Colin Robertson

POLICY MAGAZINE April 3, 2024

NATO, the longest-enduring alliance of democracies, turns 75 on April 4. The formal celebrations will take place in June when the leaders meet in Washington. The most welcome tribute from Canada would be for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to lay out in the April 16 budget Canada’s plan to meet the 2 percent-of-GDP defence spending commitment. The government’s long-promised defence policy update can spell out the specifics.

NATO embodies the two basic pillars of Canada’s global policy: our relationship with the United States and multilateralism. Canada was instrumental in the design and creation of NATO and it remains a cornerstone of our defence and foreign policy.  NATO’s Article 2, which commits members to “strengthening their free institutions” and seeking to “encourage economic collaboration”, is known as the ‘Canadian Article’.

Source: NATO Defence expenditures and NATO’s 2% guideline March, 2024

Today, Canada is alone among the 32 NATO allies in not meeting the 2 percent spending bar and the requirement to spend 20 percent of that expenditure on equipment.

We are, says Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre, “in a time of profound change”.  With Russia and China not differentiating “between peace and war”, the world is “more chaotic and dangerous than at any time since the end of the Cold War”.  Eyre, who retires this summer, told members of parliament that Canada’s control of its Arctic is “tenuous” and “there’s just not enough Canadian Forces to be able to do everything.”

The Trudeau government committed significant investments as part of its 2017 defence policy and the 2022 NORAD modernization to pay for new ships and fighter aircraft. But defence preparedness requires more investment in weapons, submarines, defence production, and in our Forces. We also need the kind of creative involvement Canadian leaders demonstrated at NATO’s inception.

The public gets it. By a two-to-one margin Abacus says Canadians want their government “working with allies to promote and defend democracy.” Angus Reid says the percentage of Canadians prioritizing military preparedness has more than doubled over the past decade while EKOS says 66 percent say more dollars should be going to defence.

The public support is there but where is the political will to make it happen? A start would be for the 95 members and senators of our NATO Parliamentary Association to demand action within their respective caucuses.

NATO’s first secretary general, Lord Lionel ‘Pug’ Ismay, famously quipped that NATO was created “to keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”

A defensive alliance, its members were sworn to stand together against aggression. Codified in NATO’s Article 5, an attack against one would be an attack against all. The only time that Article 5 has been invoked was after 9-11. US NATO ambassador Nicholas Burns told me it was Canadian ambassador David Wright who took the lead in mobilizing NATO council members.

NATO’s original fourteen member nations have expanded to 32, adding Finland last year and Sweden in March. Leaders from key ‘partner nations’ – Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand – are now regularly invited to the leaders’ summits, giving the Alliance an optic on the Indo-Pacific.

Overall, NATO has succeeded: weathering German rearmament in the 50s; President Charles de Gaulle’s partial French withdrawal in 1966; the placement of intermediate nuclear weapons during the 70s and 80s; the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; interventions in the Balkans (1992-2004), Afghanistan (2001-21), Libya (2011), and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is returning to collective territorial defense.  At last year’s Vilnius summit, the leaders’ communique identified the direct threat of Russia and the vital importance of supporting Ukraine, the asymmetric threat of terrorism, and the ‘ambitions and coercive policies’ of China.

National service is enjoying a revival. The Baltics and Nordics are already on board and the Germans and British are now debating it. So should Canada, especially given the crisis facing our Forces in recruitment and retention.

When they meet in Washington this June, the allies will reaffirm the Harmel principles (1967) ensuring defence and deterrence, with confidence-building and cooperation when adversaries demonstrate that they are willing to abide by the basic principles of the UN Charter.

NATO is growing its response force by eightfold and working to establish collaborative defence procurement with resilient supply chains. Canada will continue to lead and double our troops in our enhanced forward-deployment NATO mission in Latvia.

NATO is also revamping its procedures and systems. To help this process, the Alphen Group of strategists has just released its ‘Trans-Atlantic Compact’ with specific capacity benchmarks, metrics and a roadmap. Its recommendations include a European-led NATO Allied Command Operations Heavy Mobile Force consolidating all Allied Rapid Response Forces into one single pool of forces. It would also strengthen operational capacity by combining multidomain conventional forces, missile defenses, nuclear deterrence, space support, cyber defenses, and protection against multi-form hybrid threats.

The way the alliance spends money is problematic, especially when it comes to duplication, readiness, and a lack of deployability. These will be top internal priorities for Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s successor as he steps down in October 2024 after 10 years.

Inevitably, the US election and a return of Donald Trump will be the elephant in the room. Here, the contrast between Joe Biden, an Atlanticist to his core who rallied the alliance over Ukraine, could not be more stark with Trump, who looks at alliances as a protection racket.

For Europeans and Canada, who have relied for 75 years on the US security umbrella, the implications of any American withdrawal or retreat from NATO would be profound. At a minimum, it would ignite debate in Germany, Japan and Korea about acquiring nuclear weapons.

European leadership is increasingly convinced, in a way they weren’t before the war, that Russia is a military danger to them. Between Ukraine and Trump, this means more self-reliance and more equitable burden-sharing and arecognition that 2 percent is just a floor. Our allies in Eastern Europe are now spending even more, recognizing the continuing relevance of the Roman adage: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

This means more defence investments, in line with NATO’s 2030 Agenda. Canada should collaborate with European allies in joint defence production.

National service is enjoying a revival. The Baltics and Nordics are already on board and the Germans and Britishare now debating it. So should Canada, especially given the crisis facing our Forces in recruitment and retention.

After two world wars, Canadian leadership vowed “never again”. We were a key partner in creating NATO because a multilateral alliance of democracies based on collective security was the most cost-effective means of ensuring Canadian security and advancing our values. When the Cold War ended, Canada, like other allies, took the peace dividend. But global geopolitics has changed. The world is more dangerous. Now we need to rearm and reinvest in defence.

We should push for, not against, NATO involvement in the Arctic (all Arctic Council members but Russia are NATO members) and more closely align NORAD with NATO. NATO is also the best way to broaden our security partnerships as a hedge against unpredictability in the US.

The argument for NATO remains as valid today as it was in 1949. Canadian leadership needs to wake up. Complacency is not an option. On April 16, Finance Minister Chyrstia Freeland needs to set forth the plan by which Canada will meet its NATO commitments and actively re-engage in NATO renewal.

Contributing Writer Colin Robertson, a former career diplomat, is a fellow and host of the Global Exchange podcast with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa.

Joe Nye and the American Century

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A Life in the American Century

By Joseph S. Nye Jr.

Polity Books/2024

Reviewed by Colin Robertson

POLICY MAGAZINE March 15, 2024

Joe Nye and the American Century

While the scholar-practitioner model for harnessing intellectual capital for public purpose is not uniquely American, no country does it better than the United States.

Since Franklin Roosevelt brought his “brains trust” (it evolved into “brain trust”) to Washington in 1932, successive administrations have called on their “best and brightest” to translate ideas into practical policy. And few have done it better over the decades than Joe Nye, as he chronicles in his memoir, A Life in the American Century

Nye, now 87, was four years old when Henry Luce famously proclaimed the start of the ‘American century’ in a Life Magazine editorial in February 1941. Luce urged Americans to forsake isolationism and embrace the role of ‘Good Samaritan’ in promoting democracy at home and abroad.

Nye — as part of that cohort of American thinkers that ruled the world intellectually after the ‘greatest generation’ took off their uniforms and came home to find their country was now a superpower — has personally lived up to that aspiration but without Luce’s missionary zeal.

Schooled at Princeton, Oxford (as a Rhodes scholar in 1958), and Harvard, Nye inherited Henry Kissinger’s Harvard office (but not his politics), eventually becoming dean of the Kennedy School. Author or contributor to dozens of important books and an equal number of studies, he continues to be an active commentator in print and in person.

As a leading proponent, with Robert Keohane, of neoliberalism in international affairs, their Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (1977) maintains that environmental and economic issues deserve commensurate attention with military might in a globalized world. They also argued presciently that while states matter, transnational actors such as multinational corporations, foundations, terrorists, religious groups, and nongovernmental organizations must also be fitted into the equation.

Nye’s memoir describes his own activities in support of democratic internationalism as both scholar and practitioner. The Nye ‘method’ — developing a superb network that crossed party and international lines — comes through in almost every page. So does his cultivation of his many contacts and connections to develop public policy that served Americans and the global community, beginning with his postgraduate work in East Africa.

Nye is perhaps best known for his work in defining ‘power’ as more than military might. If power is defined as “the capacity to affect others to get what you want, that can be accomplished in three ways: coercion, payment, and attraction.” Given its heterogeneous and merit-driven culture, Nye assessed the US as uniquely placed to persuade others.

In Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (1990), Nye developed the concept of “soft power”; the ability to influence others through attraction rather than coercion or payment, writing that “If you can get others to want what you want, you can economize on sticks and carrots.” Nye told me, when I questioned him in a forthcoming episode of the Global Exchange podcast on the balance between hard and soft power, that hard power is essential. Middle-power Canada has soft power but it needs to invest more in its hard power.

Nye tested his ideas — notably on the linkage between politics and economics, nuclear non-proliferation and then his formulations on hard, soft and smart power — through his teaching and active participation in associations bringing together the best thinkers and doers of town and gown from the US and around the world.

Given its heterogeneous and merit-driven culture, Nye assessed the US as uniquely placed to persuade others.

Nye played a leading role and remains active in groups such as the Trilateral CommissionAspen Strategy GroupCouncil on Foreign Relations, the American Ditchley Foundation, as well as the Global Commission on Internet Governance and the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace. His memoir provides snippets of their conversations, debates and discussions, drawing from his diaries and reports.

But Nye acknowledges that the views and advice of the scholarly community only go so far. “Launching policy ideas from outside government is like dropping pennies into a deep well. Sometimes you hear a splash; sometimes you think you hear it but are just fooling yourself.” So, says Nye, you settle for indirect influence through your students, or as a public intellectual; or, you get into the ring of politics and governance.

Nye stepped into the ring, providing foreign policy advice to various Democrats and doing real jobs within government, observing that “government differs from academia in its enormous pressure on time and the power of being able to make decisions. It is intense but narrow. University life is less directly concerned with time and power, and that allows one’s curiosity to range more broadly and provides a chance to ask deeper questions.”

Nye served in the State Department during the Carter administration as Undersecretary of Security, Science and Technology, and chaired the National Security Council Group on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. He found practical ways to contain nuclear proliferation, and non-proliferation remains one of his continuing pursuits.

Nye differentiates among hawks, doves and owls, arguing that neither the “hawk’s position of peace through strength and military build-up nor the dove’s position of peace through disarmament was sufficiently stable, and both involved great risks.” Instead, Nye came down with the owls, focusing on risk reduction rather than the number of armaments or weapons, and suggested a practical list of “dos and don’ts”.

In the Clinton administration, Nye was chair of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and then at the Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Policy. During the Obama administration, he sat on the Defense Policy Board and the State Department’s Policy Advisory Committee. While Nye’s name was not as widely known beyond the political or diplomatic spheres as Henry Kissinger or Richard Holbrooke (Nye recognized it was better for his family and himself living in New England than the hothouse of Washington), it has been a measure of his influence that every Democratic president from Carter onward invariably sought the advice of Joe Nye.

Nye’s observations on policy versus operations are trenchant: “It was like choosing between the temptations of omnipotence and omniscience. In policy, you have your hands on the levers but lack the time to see the broad perspective; in intelligence, you can see everything but are not supposed to touch the policy levers.”

As NIC chair, Nye set about improving the quality of intelligence estimates with better procedures for warning and planning, including basic economic reasoning, bringing in outsiders, including women, from the research community and other government agencies, and better use of sources outside the intelligence community, including open source intelligence that he likened to “the picture on the cover of the box of a jigsaw puzzle.”

This result was shorter, sharper NIC reports, with brief summaries and assessments in a box of the probabilities that they thought might unfold outlining possible conditions that might make the analysis wrong. But still, there were frustrations because in important meetings “Intelligence officials are supposed to behave like good Victorian children, seen but not heard unless asked.”

Nye was particularly interested in Japan (and was offered the job of US ambassador in the Obama administration) China and the rise of the Indo-Pacific.

Is the American Century over? It is a question that Nye has reflected on throughout much of his career and when I posed it to him recently, he said the US is ‘in a trough’…but his current assessment is still ‘No’.

Structuring the chapters of his memoir around presidential administrations, Nye provides portraits of successive presidents.

Initially intensely critical of Richard Nixon, who “destroyed any residual faith” he had “in the Republican party”, Nye now sees him as having “redeeming features as a thoughtful and perceptive analyst of international relations. Pure evil and pure good are rare in this world.”

Of Carter, he concludes his “failure to articulate his larger strategy gave an impression of inconsistency” but “If Carter’s foreign policy were a stock, we might predict its price among historians to rise over time.”

Nye describes Clinton as a “B+” president who could have been an “A” if he had had more self-restraint but acknowledges his friend David Gergen’s response that, if so, “Then he would not have been president in the first place.”

If George H.W. Bush had one of “best foreign policies of the 20thcentury” then for Nye, George W. Bush “had one of the worst” with no experience and advisors who “failed to understand the limits of American power” and “succumbed to hubris”.

Obama, writes Nye, “promised youth, vitality, and progress on race relations–all good for American soft power” but the Nobel Peace Prize award to Obama, as the recipient himself noted, was “premature.” But Obama, who possessed perhaps the best emotional intelligence of recent presidents, “respected truth, and broadened moral discourse at home and abroad on major global issues.”

By contrast, Trump was a “difficult president because of his low contextual intelligence regarding international affairs and a high level of narcissism that limited his emotional intelligence.” But, writes Nye, Trump “intuited and mobilized a populist discontent about the uneven economic effects of global trade on parts of the country, and resentment of immigration and cultural changes, particularly among older non-college white males.”

Is the American Century over? It is a question that Nye has reflected on throughout much of his career and when I posed it to him recently, he said the US is “in a trough” that he called a “slough of despair”. But his current assessment is still ‘No’, because, he says, the United States consistently demonstrates remarkable resilience. He points to five key American advantages: its geography, i.e., absence of belligerent neighbours (due in part to Canada); its energy self-sufficiency (due in part to Canada); its large, transnational financial institutions and the international role of the dollar; its demographics thanks in part to immigration; and its lead in key technologies (bio, nano, and information) thanks to its universities.

Seen from Europe, writes Nye, the American century is a mixed blessing, with Europeans anxious about American economic domination but wanting American military protection through NATO.

Nye warns that American primacy in the 21st century will not look like that of the 20th century. He repeats what he wrote in 2015: “The greatest danger we face is not that China will surpass us, but that the diffusion of power will produce entropy, or the inability to get anything done.”

Looking to the future after a lifetime of advancing new ideas and sustaining networks to reinforce democratic alliances, Nye offers “guarded optimism” for the future. A sobering assessment, and like the man himself, it is fair and realistic.

A Life in the American Century deserves a place on the shelves of those involved or interested in policy formation and implementation.  Importantly, Nye’s memoir is a testimony to the American system’s superior capacity to bring its talented scholars into government. Its universities reward them when they return, recognizing the tremendous value of their practical experience for their students and their research. Canada should do the same.

Contributing Writer Colin Robertson, a former career diplomat, is a fellow and host of the Global Exchange podcast with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa.

Brian Mulroney

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With Mulroney in Hollywood: A Lesson in Diplomacy from the Great Networker

Colin Robertson

POLICY  MAGAZINE March 3, 2024

The flow of tributes to Brian Mulroney from foreign leaders, past and present, highlights one of the former prime minister’s many talents — his ability to personally cultivate and sustain international relationships to the benefit of Canada.

Diplomacy relies on relationships. Watching Mulroney in action was a lesson in the art of making connections and creating networks. As my diplomatic colleagues and I can also attest, he was only too happy to share these relationships knowing that for diplomats, as in politics, it’s about who you know and can reach out to.

In March 2001, Mulroney came to Los Angeles, where I was just months into my assignment as consul general. He was to give the annual Lincoln Address at the California Club.

I’d met Prime Minister Mulroney several times: during the negotiations of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, when I was part of the negotiating team originally assembled by Derek Burney and then led by Simon Reisman, with Derek having become Chief of Staff to Mulroney. My colleagues Michael Hart, Bill Dymond and I later wrote Decision at Midnight, about the negotiations, and Mulroney had generously endorsed it at the tenth anniversary tribute held in Montreal.

He and Mila had also come to Hong Kong during my posting to support our democracy rights initiatives after Tiananmen Square. It was tropically hot but Mulroney always looked fresh, impressing Hong Kongers. I later learned the briefcase carried by his aide contained three identical white shirts, changed strategically throughout the day-long visit.

I’d learned of his visit to Los Angeles when actor John Gavin, a fifth-generation Angeleno who had been president of the Screen Actors Guild and served as ambassador to Mexico under Ronald Reagan, invited Maureen and me to join him and his wife, Connie Towers, at the Lincoln Dinner. The Lincoln Dinner is the Republican equivalent of the Democrats’ Jefferson-Jackson dinner — the party’s major annual fundraiser.

Former prime ministers are due basic courtesies and I’d sent an email to Mulroney’s Montreal law office. About an hour later (and it was late afternoon in Montreal) my phone rang and a mellifluous voice said “Hello Colin, this is Brian Mulroney.”

He asked me how I enjoyed the job, reminiscing about visiting “that splendid residence” when Joan Price-Winser, the grande dame from Montreal whom he had appointed as consul general, hosted events in Hancock Park. He invited us to come to the private reception before his speech and quizzed me on what was going on in Los Angeles and California. I reminded him we did more trade with California than the European Union and that if California were a country, it would be G5.

Mulroney’s appreciation of Hollywood and its film culture, which had informed and enhanced his famous friendship with Ronald Reagan, was on full display. He seemed in his element.

Located in downtown Los Angeles, the California Club is the premier social club for business and the dinner for four hundred was sold out. John and Connie Gavin knew who was who, and Mulroney, clad in a double-breasted tux and black tie punctuated with his Order of Canada snowflake pin, enjoyed their company. He remembered Connie from her appearances in Perry Mason and he laughed when Gavin told us his story of when you know you are past your best-before date as an actor: in the 70s the girls who came up to speak to him remarked how much their mothers had admired him, but “today it’s their grandmothers”.

Mulroney’s appreciation of Hollywood and its film culture, which had informed and enhanced his famous friendship with Ronald Reagan, was on full display. He seemed in his element.

The former prime minister had just come from meetings in Washington, where he had met President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Bush advisor Karl Rove and US Trade Representative Bob Zoellick. He told me that both Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox, whom he’d seen recently, wanted to use the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Quebec City to push the idea of a trilateral energy accord.

We moved to the dining room, where Mulroney took his place beside the host in the receiving line. When I moved towards the cocktails, he grabbed my arm and said, “You stand beside me…these are people you want to meet…bring lots of cards?” I had, and over the next twenty minutes, I met the elite of Los Angeles.

According to Mulroney, I had been instrumental in the negotiation of the free trade agreement and had his full support as Canada’s representative in Los Angeles. I met more movers and shakers that evening — former Governor Pete Wilson and California First Lady Sharon Davis — than at any other event during my time in L.A., including at those around the Oscars and Emmys.

There were thirty of us at the head table and when the time came to sit, I’d moved from the far fringe to the seat to the left of Mulroney, at his insistence. Fittingly enough for Hollywood, it was like having my own high-powered agent.

Mulroney’s speech – which he had clearly worked on himself as I could see his long and easy-to-read handwriting on the pages of his text – was about  the Canadian-American relationship, California’s place in the equation and the benefits of free trade, as well as Lincoln and leadership. Every few pages, there were lines scrawled in the margins where he would riff from the prepared text with an anecdote.

As I wrote in my journal: “He had the speech in four sections, which he moved with ease off the podium and onto the table. He is a superb raconteur and his delivery is polished and poised and he had the audience on their feet several times in applause. Like a great actor, he can sense his audience, draw from them and to them. He uses his reading glasses and the water glass to effect – pausing, drawing emphasis, shifting between a stage whisper and the deep baritone. It is clear that he still feels un-honoured in his own land and part of the speech talked about leaders like Truman and Eisenhower, who are only now being recognized for their leadership.”

For Mulroney, the telephone was his Stradivarius. He enjoyed conversation; discussing ideas and exchanging intelligence, both high and low. Most of all, he listened and learned.

Afterwards, he suggested I might want to send those whom I’d met a copy of his speech to further cement the introductions. “And those you really want to get to know — send them a hard copy using your stationery with the gold crest.” It was good advice — statecraft combined with stagecraft — and earned me vital meetings to advance our interests.

On our way home that night, Maureen teasingly remarked that she never knew I’d played such a seminal role in the FTA negotiations. We laughed at the blarney, but appreciated that it was blarney in the service of Canada, and that Mulroney generously knew would help me.

Brian Mulroney was a powerful speaker and superb raconteur — even before an audience with no shortage of professional actors, he had no problem holding the spotlight. He revelled in meeting people and if he couldn’t meet them, he called them. For Mulroney, the telephone was his Stradivarius. He enjoyed conversation; discussing ideas and exchanging intelligence, both high and low. Most of all, he listened and learned.

Mulroney may have come to office promising ‘pink slips and running shoes’ to a foreign service that some of his partisans thought Grit-ridden. But within a couple of years, his chief of staff and many of his key aides were foreign service officers and they served him well. Mulroney used the Foreign Service with effect in his diplomatic initiatives – North/South, East/West and especially with the United States. Working with, not against, the Foreign Service, he enhanced Canada’s place and standing in the international community.

As a former international businessman and long-time student of political history, Brian Mulroney came into office with a global vision, with Canada as his nexus of interest at the very centre of it. His appreciation of the diplomatic corps became an extension of that vision. I like to think the foreign service served him well. He certainly served and advanced Canadian interests globally, both during his prime ministership and beyond.

Contributing Writer Colin Robertson, a former career diplomat, is a fellow and host of the Global Exchange podcast with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa.

Managing Canada-US Relations

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1,000 Points of Contact: Managing Change in Our Relationship with the US

By Colin Robertson

POLICY MAGAZINE February 27, 2024

Whatever the outcome of the US election in November, Canada needs to be ready for a changing relationship with a changing America.

Ramping up our trade advocacy campaign in a Team Canada effort is a first step. But the playbook extolling our mutually beneficial economic relationship, which worked for us in the NAFTA renegotiations, won’t be enough this time around.

A broader effort is necessary: well organized, well financed and more strategic, with an equal focus on security as well as trade. It starts by looking at the US agenda and identifying where we can also advance our own interests. Our narrative must blend both, impressing upon Americans that Canada is a vital and necessary partner in making America (and Canada) prosperous and secure.

We need to go beyond incrementalism by being bold and innovative in managing our most vital relationship.

The prime minister should convene the premiers for a First Ministers Meeting on the Canada-US Relationship. It should include political opposition leaders, business and labor, and be closed-door to avoid political grandstanding. Participants need to agree on an action plan focusing on three broad baskets: trade, investment and the border; defence and security; climate, energy and the environment. The goal should be to achieve consensus on the following questions:

  • What do we want the premiers and legislators to achieve in their various regional annual governors-and-premiers and bilateral legislative conferences? The relationships between legislators, and especially those of governors and premiers, are essential to get across our message of mutually beneficial interdependence whether talking about the economy, energy and environment, or defence and security.
  • How should Canadian unions reach out to their American counterparts, especially with brethren like the Steelworkers who lead ‘Buy American’ efforts? Recognizing the mutual benefits of our longstanding supply chain arrangements, our objective is to continually ensure there is no discrimination against that which is made in, or serviced from, Canada.
  • What are the cross-border business communities’ priorities for joint action? Their efforts have been key since the negotiation of freer trade in the 1980s.
  • What research do we need from our think tanks and scholars to help better understand American priorities and the implications of increasingly defensive and protectionist American economic policies? The model should be the landmark Macdonald Commission on the economy which, within three years in the early 1980s, produced over 70 research volumes and provided the intellectual capital for free trade and regulatory reforms.
  • What are the tactical implementation responsibilities and deliverables for each participant?

The border deserves special attention. We should create a binational Canada-US Border Authority.  Drawing inspiration from our NORAD experience, a binational Canada-US border authority could be a bilateral-security game-changer. Get the northern border service right and it could eventually have application for the US southern border. The danger of our passivity is that a future US administration will apply whatever draconian measures designed for their Mexican border to the northern border.

The pandemic underlined the vulnerabilities of supply chains. Geopolitical tension is accelerating the shift to friend- and ally-shoring. We are committed to joint cross-border energy and semi-conductor corridors and the development and processing of our strategic minerals. The Future Borders Coalition has developed a series of recommendations designed to expedite the flow of people and goods across our shared border.

This multi-stakeholder summit should also launch the specific ‘Team Canada’ effort necessary to ready ourselves for the 2026 review of our continental trade arrangement.

We have a serious productivity problem and much of it has to do with insufficient competition in key economic sectors. We should use the next two years to open up to competition in key sectors of our economy where oligopolies exist.

Premiers should tackle and eliminate interprovincial trade barriers; the unfinished economic business of Confederation.

It’s also time to abandon our supply management system, which protects a declining domestic market but prevents Canadian dairy producers from exporting to the growing global marketplace. This is Canadian trade policy gone awry. Our grains, beef and pork industries are globally competitive; so could be our dairy industry and our world-class cheeses.

With these measures, we would go into the 2026 review with a fully open market available to any company based in a country with whom we have a fully functioning trade agreement. This would immediately put multiple key sectors in the US on our side in pushing the administration not to disrupt our deal.

Our planning coming out of the summit needs to be explicit with precise implementation directed through a secretariat, or war room, with full-time, dedicated expertise and talent. It should be bipartisan and include political and communications professionals used to running successful campaigns and branding and promotional programs. The campaign needs a “hearts and minds” component, building on the considerable legacy of good will between the two countries.

It also needs to be brutally practical, including bilateral channels from industry group to industry group. Recreate, based on their success in our Canada-US FTA and NAFTA experiences, the International Trade Advisory Committee and sectoral advisory groups. Take a page from the Smart Border experience and create a website tracking progress. It serves to motivate both ministers and mandarins.

When we go to the Americans with ideas and solutions rather than complaints, we significantly raise the likelihood of getting what we want. Our enduring binational institutions – the International Joint Commission managing our shared waterways and NORAD ensuring our continental defence – prove we can level the playing field to mutual benefit and satisfaction.

We must also move on defence and security. We live in a world of conflict and increasing insecurity. We need to pay higher premiums for both collective security and greater self-reliance. With defence spending now at approximately 1.4 percent of GDP we fail to meet the NATO two percent commitment and the funding necessary for NORAD modernization.

When we go to the Americans with ideas and solutions rather than complaints, we significantly raise the likelihood of getting what we want.

We became so accustomed to a world structured by American power that we forget what a more insular US would mean for Canada and the alliance. The ‘forever wars’ in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a chilling effect with Americans now less willing, as John F. Kennedy famously declared in his inaugural address, to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

More spending on defence and security is necessary, especially if we are to exercise sovereignty in our North, an action that would also align with US objectives. This must be a cross-party priority.

Our Forces senior command worry about our readiness. We have not met recruitment targets for over a decade. We have yet to deliver on promises made by both the Harper and Trudeau governments when it comes to icebreakers, bases and infrastructure. The Arctic framework, with its yet-to-be defined “long-term vision”, dates to before the 2019 election. The Defence Policy Update is months overdue.

Our joint defence production agreements date back to the Second World War and they have sustained and created Canadian jobs and technological innovation. They also put us mostly within Buy American procurement qualifications, with the result that there is Canadian content in purchases such as the F-35 and surveillance aircraft.

Climate change needs to be processed as a security issue. Limiting fossil fuel production without taking into consideration that global consumption of fossil fuelscontinues to increase would benefit our adversaries. We should be working with the US and our allies to have secure supply chains for the renewables that exist today and be committed to taking some of the revenues that we derive from fossil fuels to working together on new technologies that will provide the world with affordable, low-emissions energy.

President Biden’s recent decision to freeze new LNG export approvals means our allies will be looking to other sources. Here, we can be helpful while serving our own interests. Germany, Japan and the EU have all come knocking at our door, giving us a “second chance” to harness our capacities and serve the collective energy security requirements of our democratic partners.

Whoever wins in November, we need to prepare for more American protectionism whether we are the direct target or, more typically, collateral damage.

And, before the election, political leaders must avoid the temptation to demonize Donald Trump to suit domestic politics. Even if Trump loses, his many supporters in Congress and in the states will not forget and if Trump does win he makes no bones about his desire for retribution.

The ‘secret sauce’ to successful relations is the ability of Canadian prime ministers to be constructive and active partners with US presidents on most big global challenges, because our interests and principles align. The Oval Office is also our best entrée into the cacophonous American system and our standing with the White House is a fair barometer of our ability to wield influence internationally.

We always need to remember that ours is an asymmetrical relationship. We depend on the US for our market and security. The US accounts for about 3/4 of our exports while we account for about 1/6 of theirs. Between a quarter and a third of our economy is generated through our US connections.

This economic interdependence, coupled with our security status as a contiguous neighbour, puts Canada in a political context unique among G7 countries. Washington is closer to Ottawa than it is to Chicago; this creates an imperative for public pragmatism and diplomatic creativity in dealing with the unprecedented political developments south of the border, as was so successfully evidenced in the NAFTA re-negotiation.

‘Business as usual’ never really characterized Canada-US relations because of our need to keep pace with American dynamism. So, we need to be bold, innovative, and then get it done.

Contributing Writer Colin Robertson, a former career diplomat, is a fellow and host of the Global Exchange podcast with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa.

Canadians in IndoChina

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The Quiet Canadians: Stories from Two Decades of Diplomacy in Indochina

Supervising a Peace that Never Was: Recollections of Canadian Personnel in Indochina, 1954-1973

Edited by Helen Lansdowne, Nick Etheridge & Phil Calvert

University of Victoria Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives/2023

Reviewed by Colin Robertson

February 11, 2024

Supervising a Peace that Never Was: Recollections of Canadian Diplomatic Personnel in Indochina, 1954-73 recounts life in what is now a mostly forgotten chapter of the kind of quiet diplomacy and ‘helpful fixing’ that once characterized Canadian foreign policy, in this case over the two decades when a third of Canada’s foreign service and almost 2000 troops served on the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC-Vietnam) and its successor, the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS).

Published open source (download for free) by the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives (CAPI) at the University of Victoria, Supervising a Peace that Never Was is co-edited by CAPI Associate Director Helen Lansdowne, and former foreign service officers Nick Etheridge and Phil Calvert, who both served in multiple postings in Southeast Asia.

In this mix of diaries, reminiscences and transcriptions from oral interviews, the thirteen contributors are by turns funny, poignant and engaging in their reflection of everyday diplomatic life during the tumult of the long conflict in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

In keeping with the famously fictionalized political complexity and diplomatic intrigue of the place and time, some of these tales read like a cross between Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene.

Nick Etheridge by the unusable Hanoi Villa bomb shelter, December 1972

Nick Etheridge, who later served as our representative to Cambodia and as High Commissioner to Bangladesh, tells us about taking shelter in the storied Hanoi Thong Nhat hotel — the re-named Metropole, a local French colonial landmark that housed multiple UN agencies and embassies, now the Sofitel Legend Metropole — with Joan Baez, who would play her guitar to while away the hours during the Christmas bombing in 1973.

For secretary Anne-Marie Bougie who would serve in more than twenty other foreign assignments, it was endless trips to the airport while cycling through myriad states of mind — “laughter, downcast, insomnia, nonchalance, nervousness, nightmares, …loss of appetite” and “cultural shock…that was fortunately short-lived.”

If Hanoi was repressive, Saigon was anything but. David Anderson, who went out in 1963 and would later serve as Canada’s Environment Minister, joined a riding club, water-skied on the Saigon river and dated the niece of US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge.

Family life with three daughters is evocatively captured by Eva and Fred Bild’s account of their posting in Vientiane, dodging bombs dropped during an abortive Laotian coup. Fred, who would later serve as our ambassador to Thailand and then China, had to be paddled to work on his first day because of flooding on the Mekong.

The backstory to the long Canadian Indochina assignment began at the 1954 Geneva Conference. The Conference aimed to settle issues following the Korean war armistice and the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu that ended France’s empire in Indochina. Supervisory commissions were to be established in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to monitor the implementation agreements over the departure of the French, including prisoner exchanges. India would chair the commissions, with Poland representing the Soviet Bloc. Canada was asked to represent the West.

As Global Affairs Canada departmental historian Brendan Kelly writes in his erudite introduction to Supervising a Peace that Never Was, the request was “unexpected, unwelcome but unavoidable”.

“Unexpected” because we had marginal interests in French Indochina. Our delegation to the conference, led by External Affairs Minister Lester Pearson, had already left. Our interests were in Korea, where we suffered more than 1500 casualties.

‘Unwelcome’ because with a foreign service of 267, Canada was already stretched meeting the needs created by the proliferation of post-war multilateral organizations. Our Asian presence was slim: Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia, Japan and Pakistan. The request would add, without notice, three embassies that together were the size of Washington, our largest embassy.

‘Unavoidable’ because of the pressure from our allies – the request came from British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden with support from the US and France. Participation also aligned with the St. Laurent-Pearson sense of multilateralism and our role as a ‘helpful fixer’ in another example of quiet diplomacy.

The first assignment of one Canadian diplomat posted to Paris during the Geneva Conference, writes Kelly, was to “find a good map of Indochina and to send it back to headquarters in Ottawa forthwith.” That lack of knowledge would soon change.

One constant theme is the frustration of the infrequent, inconclusive tripartite deliberations with our Indian and Polish partners on the ICSC. As Si Taylor, who went out in 1955 (and would later serve as deputy minister and ambassador to NATO and Japan) drily observes, “This was not rewarding work”. Still, Taylor’s reminiscences of his time in Vietnam capture the colour of diplomatic life amid living history. “Down the street from the Hotel Metropole, where we lived, was the Canadian mess, and that was a very popular social centre,” he recalls. “We had guests all the time. The most famous guest was Ho Chi Minh, himself. He came in his jungle suit and his sandals made of old rubber tires. Ho had great charm; he was a very sophisticated man.”

The official account of this period will soon be available in forthcoming Documents on Canada’s External Relations covering the Pearson and Pierre Trudeau governments’ Indochina experiences, including the peace missions of Blair Seaborn and Chester Ronning and the visit by Foreign Minister Mitchell Sharp that led to our withdrawal.

Manfred von Nostitz talking to South Vietnamese General Nguyen Van Nghi in Can Tho, 1973

We already had experience in closing up the shop. When Prince Sihanouk tossed the ICSC from Cambodia in 1969, Manfred von Nostitz, who would later serve as Canada’s ambassador to Malaysia and Brunei, Pakistan and Afghanistan, then Thailand, took a sledge hammer to the cipher equipment, loaded it into a boat and dropped it in the Mekong River. He ran out of gas and had to paddle back to Phnom Penh to finish his “idiosyncratic ICSC assignments”.

Was our participation worth it? Opinion among those who served remains divided. We had gone in with few illusions, as the 1954 government statement announcing our participation made clear: “With full knowledge and appreciation of the responsibilities that will go with membership” and “no illusions about the magnitude and complexity of the task.” We suffered casualties. A Canadian diplomat and two members of our Armed Forces were killed when their plane went down, likely by a North Vietnamese missile.

The commission’s investigations were consistently stymied by the Poles, who would do nothing to impugn the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese. The Indians, especially after the 1962 war with China, saw a united Vietnam, even under the Communists, as another hedge against Beijing. So why rock the boat? It is, writes Taylor, “almost impossible to kill an international organization.” When it became apparent that the ICSC’s successor, the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS), set up under the January 1973 Paris accords by which the US pulled its forces from Vietnam, would be as frustrating as its predecessor, Canada withdrew. Seventy years later, Canadians still serve on the United Nations Command (UNC) monitoring the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between two Koreas still technically at war.

The experience left those who served with few illusions about communism. As Taylor also observes, “We were not much for the fashionable ‘Jane Fonda’ view of North Vietnam”. It also created a skepticism about political leadership that espouses “rational, hard-nosed theory” that saw foreign policy as the “foreign extensions of domestic interest”. Taylor and his generation of realists, a good number of whom had also served during World War II, would remind us young officers that while planning was important, middle powers like Canada could never ignore former British prime minister Harold Macmillan’s response to the question from a young journalist of what troubled him most: “Events, dear boy, events.”

The Canadian experience developed deep, firsthand Asian expertise within our foreign service. As von Nostitz points out, this helped Canada develop a “respected Asia-Pacific architecture”, enabling the Canadian breakthrough to recognize China in 1970, becoming a founding dialogue partner of ASEAN, a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum security group, implementing innovative CIDA programs in Asia, establishing the Asia Pacific Foundation, and taking in more Indo-Chinese refugees per capita than any other nation.

That we subsequently let this hard-earned capacity shrivel is why the current government is now trying, through its Indo-Pacific Strategy, to re-establish a significant Canadian presence. To better develop their situational awareness of our earlier experience they would do well to read Supervising a Peace that Never Was.

Contributing Writer Colin Robertson, a former career diplomat, is a fellow and host of the Global Exchange podcast with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa.

Hal Brand’s New Makers of Strategy

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The New Makers of Modern Strategy’, Or the Art of War Redux

The New Makers of Modern Strategy: From the Ancient World to the Digital Age

Edited by Hal Brands

Princeton University Press/2023

Reviewed by Colin Robertson

December 26, 2023

War is back. So is the threat of more war. The study of war and of preparations for war remains central to the study of strategy. How do we deter war in order to stop war, especially as the technology of war changes exponentially? Historian Hal Brands and 44 collaborators contributed essays to The New Makers of Modern Strategy: From the Ancient World to the Digital Age.

New Makers of Modern Strategy was completed as Russia’s full-scale 2022 invasion of Ukraine created the largest interstate land war since World War II. As Brands remarks and as the latest explosion of kinetic conflict in the Middle East has reinforced, it is a reminder that “hard power has hardly gone out of style.”

New Makers of Modern Strategy is the third iteration of a collection originally published in 1943. Designed to help those conducting the Allied effort during the Second World and then extensively revised in 1968 to reflect the “nuclear revolution”, it was required reading when I took the introductory course to strategic studies in my second year at the University of Manitoba.

Nuclear arms were a game changer, introducing a decline in great power bellicosity because of the quantum jump in killing capacity. Nuclear doctrine went through various permutations but it ultimately boiled down to making threats to use such weapons as convincing as possible in order to avoid their use. Brands observes: “If strategic studies was a child of hot war, it matured during the Cold War” redefining the relationship between force and diplomacy to emphasize Cold War co-existence.

But war never goes away, and authors cover the intervening years’ rise of small wars, irregular warfare, counterinsurgency and now hybrid warfare.  New Makers of Modern Strategy also includes essays on the classical strategists including Thucydides, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Napoleon, Mahan and Mackinder.Later essays examine Mao Zedong, Qasem Soleimani, Valery Gerasimov and the return of great power competition.

The essays are diverse and, at over a thousand pages, readers should approach New Makers of Modern Strategy as you would a box of Christmas chocolates. Take a bite and, if not to your taste, sample another. Styles differ but each author draws from a deep immersion in history.

Roughly half of the collection deals with events in the twentieth century and later. There is discussion of the gray zones of conflict, the changing technology of AI and cyberwarfare, the impact of social media in spreading disinformation and misinformation, and the application of technology into weapons such as drones.

Brands sets the tone in his introductory essay, arguing that there is no substitute for strategy. Strategy “allows us to act with purpose in a disordered world; it is vital to out-thinking and out-playing our foes.”

Canada’s most recent national security strategy, Securing an Open Society,  was written in 2004. The last foreign policy reviewA Role of Pride and Influence in the World, was published in 2005.  The Trudeau government published its defence policy,  Strong, Secure, Engaged, in 2017 and a promised update is overdue. Both the Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the University of Ottawa have prepared their own national security reports arguing that their efforts should spur on the government to prepare a new Canadian strategy.

There is a recognition that all strategy is suffused with politics; an ‘incessantly interactive endeavour’ that cannot be reduced to mathematical formulae and that will always remain an imprecise art.

For Brands, the essence of strategy is straightforward: “It is the craft of summoning and using power to achieve our central purposes, amid the friction of global affairs and the resistance of rivals and enemies.” Without strategy, writes Brands, “action is random and devoid of direction; power and advantage are squandered rather than deployed to good effect.”

Professor emeritus of War Studies at King’s College, London, and “dean of British strategic studies” Sir Lawrence Freedman argues that strategy today is “a way of thinking, a habit of mind, an ability to assess vulnerabilities in situations, an appreciation of causes and effects, a capacity to link disparate activities in pursuit of a shared purpose.”

While the 19th-century American naval strategist Alfred Mahan is still read in China, the US Naval War College’s John Maurer notes that Mahan has been dropped from the Naval Operations professional reading list. Too bad. As Maurer writes, Mahan is not for the ‘faint of heart’: his stark realism of global affairs warns that struggles for mastery of the global commons cannot be won on the cheap against determined great-power challengers. It’s something Canadian political leadership should remember as they look to purchase new submarines and the infrastructure necessary to guard the Canadian Arctic and help secure the vital sea lanes in the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

National strategies, writes Margaret MacMillan, also reflect location: if the British, Japanese and Americans thought of sea power as crucial for defense and the “projection of power and influence”, the Germans, French, Russians and Austrians, with their vulnerable land borders, had to rely on their armies for security. MacMillan also underlines the dangers of silos within the armed services. She points out that at a 1911 meeting (the last before 1914) of the Committee of Imperial Defence to review Britain’s strategy, the politicians were dismayed to learn that in the event of an attack on France, the army planned to send an expeditionary force to the Continent. The navy, on the other hand, intended to blockade German ports and carry out occasional amphibious raids. Their role did not include carrying the army’s planned expeditionary force to the Continent.

There is a recognition that all strategy is suffused with politics; an “incessantly interactive endeavour” that cannot be reduced to mathematical formulae and that will always remain an imprecise art.

There is also an appreciation that democracies may well do strategy better than autocracies. The concentration of authority in autocracies can produce dexterity and brilliance in the short term, but the requirement for accountability and diffusion of authority in democracies makes for stronger societies and wiser decisions. Still, it is no sure thing.

The most impressive strategies are those that shift the balance of forces by creating advantages and applying pressure in areas where the enemy is vulnerable or sensitive, as Russian and Iranian strategies of irregular warfare have proven. Mao triumphed in the Chinese civil war because he manipulated regional and global conflicts to win a local one.

There is no guarantee that the democracies will prevail, geopolitically or ideologically, in the twenty-first century as they eventually did in the twentieth. If the democracies are to prevail, it requires a minimum deterrence and the re-establishment of a strategic culture that is prepared to answer two questions: Is defence simply a cost or does it have a value? And, if it has a value, how much are we prepared to invest in the value of peace?

While we did not choose it, we in the West are now engaged in a competition with China, a war with Russia and confrontations with North Korea, Iran and Venezuela — all variations on the systemic theme of democracy vs. autocracy. There will be others. The ‘global south’, by no means a homogeneous group, prefers to sit on the fence. They will continue to rely on China for trade and financing until that trap sends them westward for protection. But do not expect gratitude. They don’t like sermonizing from the West on human rights and democracy.

It’s a complex, increasingly multi-centric world complicated by transnational challenges, including pandemics, climate change, dis/misinformation and now artificial intelligence. The West needs a grand strategy with national strategies backed by diplomacy supported by intelligence and military forces skilled in new technology and the tools of our digital age. There is, as Brands observes “a basic logic of strategy that transcends time and space.”

On Henry Kissinger

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https://www.policymagazine.ca/kissinger-on-canada-or-realism-vs-self-righteousness-at-madison-square-garden/

By Colin Robertson

POLICY MAGAZINE December 3, 2023

“Canada…Canada… I have dealt with Canada since Vietnam. The word that comes to mind when I think of Canada is ‘self-righteous’. Yes, self-righteous. In Canada you get to do what is desirable. In America we must do what is necessary.”

I was nonplussed. This was not the response I had expected when I introduced myself — as having recently arrived at our Washington Embassy — to Henry Kissinger on that September evening in 2004.

We were at Madison Square Garden, scene of that election year’s Republican National Convention. The formidable former secretary of state had just given a rousing speech on national security to a group of Young Republicans. The friend who had gotten me into the session told me I looked “a bit stunned, but my grin — or was it a grimace? — was diplomatic”.

A decade later, I got a chance to respond.

This time, the setting was the comfortable confines of the 400-acre Greentree estate on Long Island, where the American Ditchley Foundation was hosting a conference on the US role in the world.

The conference was co-chaired by former Kennedy School dean and foreign policy sage Joe Nye and then-Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott. Kissinger was the most prominent of a group of foreign policy experts that also included Jake Sullivan, now President Biden’s National Security Advisor.

I was rapporteur for the group looking at ‘soft power’, that variation on influence that we Canadians like to think we own, although today we do not invest sufficiently in either ‘soft’ or ‘hard power’. At the break, I re-introduced myself to Kissinger, recalling his words from our earlier exchange. That drew a smile from the man who left a massive footprint in 20th-century international affairs, including via introducing the term “shuttle diplomacy” into the popular vernacular. “That wasn’t very diplomatic of me,” Kissinger said. “You know, I have a lot of Canadian friends.”

He went on to reminisce about his meetings with Pierre Trudeau, saying the Canadian prime minister had made a ‘useful contribution’ to both North/South and East/West relations, and that Trudeau, who recognized China more than a year before Kissinger’s then-boss, Richard Nixon did, had also been helpful on that historic file. Kissinger then ventured that Canada can play a useful role as a bridge, “Or, how do you put it? — a helpful fixer — when you work at it.”

As his biographers have written, when Kissinger, who died on November 29th, wanted to charm, he could charm. I had admired Kissinger ever since reading A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822 (1957), his account of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, when I was an undergraduate.

Kissinger’s famous espousal of realism — the school of international-relations thinking based on the belief that states act in their self-interest and war is inevitable — drew on his ongoing study of history and his experience in dealing with the challenges of the Cold War. For the international system to function best, the realist argument holds, it requires the stability produced when anarchy is offset by the balance of power.

Having fled Germany as a teenager in 1938, Kissinger understood the perils of systemic disruption and the human cost of disorder. He read hisfellow German-Jewish intellectuals Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, and Hans Morgenthau, assimilating into his own thinking an appreciation of incrementalism, stability rather than justice, and the less bad rather than the unqualified good.

Even with the best of intentions and efforts, Kissinger was also aware of the ‘inevitability of tragedy’, the phrase Barry Gewen adopted for his The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World (2020). Gewen argues that Kissinger recognized the “realities of power” and that his own “assessment of power” was clearheaded and un-swayed by “high moral principles like self-determination or national sovereignty.”

His diplomatic style was personal and secretive. It depended on relationships that could be developed only through personal contact. This meant being there again, and again and again. Diplomacy, like politics, is ultimately a retail sport.

As Kissinger frequently observed, peace is not the natural condition of humankind and democracy alone will not guarantee global peace and stability. Diplomacy is about the art of the possible. In the wake of the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kissinger would write “the test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction.”These are the underlying premises of what came to be described as Kissingerian realpolitik.

Statecraft for Kissinger involved a close study of history and culture; a clear-eyed analysis of objectives aligned to a realistic appreciation of the possible; and personal relationships cultivated through continuous face-to-face contact, preferably on his opposite’s home turf. For Kissinger, the essentials of diplomacy were: “Knowledge of the history and psychology and psychology of the people I am dealing with. And some human rapport… To have some human relations with the people I am negotiating with…”

His diplomatic style was personal and secretive. It depended on relationships that could be developed only through personal contact. This meant being there again, and again and again. Diplomacy, like politics, is ultimately a retail sport.

The study of history and culture is critical and Kissinger’s erudite grasp of both permeates his own writing through 21 books and a half-century flow of commentaries and speeches.

Perhaps the best accounts of Kissinger’s diplomacy in practice are Margaret MacMillan’s Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World (2007) and Martin Indyk’s Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy (2021). For MacMillan, Kissinger “showed an absolute aptitude for diplomacy and power…an incredible negotiator, a man of incredible stamina, and someone who was fully capable of matching up to Zhou Enlai in what were very difficult and very complicated negotiations.”

For Indyk, it was the “skillful manipulation of the antagonisms of competing forces.” In his appreciation of Kissinger following his death, Indyk wrote that the Kissinger approach – “to avoid bringing too much passion to the pursuit of peace” – continues to have relevance and application, notably to today’s Israel-Hamas war.

Opinion on Henry Kissinger’s legacy is deeply divided. One biographer, historian Niall Ferguson, labeled him an ‘Idealist’ (at least for the first and so-far only volume of his biography, which ends in 1968) while for Ben Rhodes, who served as Barack Obama’s deputy national security advisor, he was a ‘hypocrite’. The Washington Post calls him “One of the most consequential statesmen in US history”. To Rolling Stone, he was a war criminal for his culpability in the overthrow of Chile’s Salvador Allende and role in prosecuting the Vietnam War, yet Kissinger’s peacemaking efforts in Vietnam won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.

Whichever side you come down on, Kissinger was a force for realism in internationalism with scant patience for those he regarded as poseurs or moralists. And it is important to understand Kissingerian realpolitik — a major theme of American foreign policy in the last half century and perhaps again in the future — as the United States debates and rethinks its role in the world.

Melanie Joly’s ‘Pragmatic Diplomacy’

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Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly pitched a need to increasingly engage with countries that don’t share Canada’s values.

 

As Canada’s top diplomat sets out a new path for Ottawa’s international engagement, some experts are applauding a shift to a dogma underpinned by an acceptance of the real world in which Canada finds itself, not one that always mirrors Canadian values.

In two recent addresses on the state of Canada’s place in the world, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly (Ahuntsic–Cartierville, Que.) put forward a view of international engagement that she said will be centred on “pragmatic diplomacy” and “vigorously” defending Canadian sovereignty.

Only a handful of speeches have been presented on the tenets of Canadian foreign policy since the Liberals came to power in 2015. Then-foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland (University–Rosedale, Ont.) presented her view of Canada’s place in the world in 2017 amid the disruptions brought by the unpredictable Trump administration in the United States. After becoming deputy prime minister and finance minister, Freeland offered a new doctrine inspired by geopolitical shocks in which she embraced the U.S.-backed concept of “friendshoring” to link democracies together. In 2016, then-foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion presented his own view of “responsible conviction” to greater engage with those countries sidelined during then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s pursuit of principled diplomacy.

Joly gave a mostly English-language address in Toronto on Oct. 30, and a mostly-French-language mirroring address in Montreal on Nov. 1.

During her speeches, she said the international system is “cracking.”

“Our world is marked by geopolitical turbulence, unpredictability, and uncertainty. The tectonic plates of the world order are shifting beneath our feet. And the structures that are built upon them are fracturing,” she added.

Joly called for the use of “pragmatic diplomacy” to engage countries that may not share Canada’s worldview or values.

“We must resist the temptation to divide the world into rigid ideological camps. For the world cannot be reduced to democracies versus autocracies. East versus West. North versus South,” she said, adding that “pragmatic diplomacy” is about “keeping allies close, while also being open to different perspectives as we encourage others to take a chance on peace.

“We will always defend our national interests. We will always defend our values,” Joly said. “But we cannot afford to close ourselves off from those with whom we do not agree. For engagement does not mean that we support or condone the policies and actions of others.”

She said that, aside from “rare exceptions,” Canada will engage with the world. “I am a door opener, not a door closer,” she proclaimed.

Joly trumpeted an expanded diplomatic presence as underpinning that increased engagement, noting the additional embassies being opened in eastern Europe, Armenia, and Fiji, as well as the establishment of a permanent observer to the African Union.

The two addresses come as Canada’s relations with India and China are at a nadir, and three years after it failed to win a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council

Jocelyn Coulon, a former policy adviser to Dion during his time leading Canada’s foreign service, applauded the course Joly set out.

“It is an important speech because it’s the first time that a Canadian foreign minister had said so bluntly that we have to take the world as it is, and we have to deal with some nasty countries, with some exceptions, which I suspect is Russia,” said Coulon, now editor-in-chief of l’Université de Montréal’s Centre for International Studies’ blog.

“I think for a long time Canadian foreign policy has been defined by the export of our values. That served us well during part of the Cold War and the following years after the Soviet empire. At the same time, the world has changed,” he said. “What we have noticed is the new emerging countries—the members of BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa], but also from the Global South—no longer want to be lectured on values and principles.”

Coulon, who helped author Dion’s “responsible conviction” speech, said through her address, Joly has forwarded a new way to deal with the rest of the world.

“We don’t come with our narrative on values for the first item on the agenda,” he said. “I think this type of behaviour was frustrating for a lot of countries, [and then] they ignored us. If you are in a more pragmatic way, I think they will be much more open to discuss several aspects of international relations.”

Coulon said Joly’s vision for Canada’s foreign policy diverges from Freeland’s past pitch for a more values-based view of Canadian foreign policy, remarking that Freeland’s approach was to build blocs of countries, which forces them to choose one side or the other. On the other hand, Coulon said Joly made the explicit point that democracies shouldn’t be pitted against autocracies because there is a greater need for collaboration across the board.

“It seems to me that [Joly] almost rebuked Ms. Freeland,” he said. “Canada should speak with one voice on foreign policy now.”

Coulon said there are three views of Canadian foreign policy being put forward—one from Joly, one from Freeland, and one from Chief of Defence Staff General Wayne Eyre, who has indicated that Russia and China believe themselves to be at war with Canada, according to a Ottawa Citizen report.

“If you have three people talking differently about some very important aspects of foreign policy, which is our relations with China, we will send a very mixed signal to this country,” Coulon. “It’s time we speak with one voice on foreign policy.”

He said it is up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) to clarify which worldview he endorses.

Former diplomat Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said Joly is laying the groundwork for rebuilding Canada’s relationship with India and China.

“You don’t have to agree on the fundamentals, but you are still going to trade,” he said, remarking that employing a “pragmatic diplomacy” will require a change in tack from the Liberal government after a series of diplomatic spats since it came to power.

“There’s a sense now that we don’t have to agree with you on everything,” he said. “The subliminal theme is that we’re not going to preach anymore because it’s not working.”

Royal Military College professor Adam Chapnick, a leading expert on Canada’s foreign policy, said absent from Joly’s speech is a reliance on values-based foreign policy—a previously frequent focus for the Liberal government.

“It’s absolutely a good thing,” he said. “It suggests that the government is taking the world a little bit more seriously.”

Chapnick said Joly’s foreign policy view and the one set out by Freeland last year aren’t incompatible, as Freeland was speaking about economic co-operation with other democracies, and Joly is spotlighting the need for diplomatic engagement with everyone.

“We may not do business with them, but that doesn’t mean we shut them out completely,” he said. “We still have to talk with them and we still have to deal with them on other issues.”

Chapnick said the real-world execution of Canadian diplomacy won’t be significantly altered, but Joly’s address signals to the Canadian public the realities of foreign service work.

“The biggest change is changing the expectations of Canadians,” he said. “It seems to me that the foreign minister is trying to recalibrate Canadians’ understanding of how Canada behaves in the world.”

“It’s more that we’re telling Canadians what happens in diplomacy,” he said. “Things are not black and white. You have to deal with people that you don’t agree with; some of those people that you have to work with do things that make you feel extremely uncomfortable. That is the nature of the world where not every state shares your interest.”

 

Gaza hospital bombing: Feelings trump facts

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Israel welcomes Canada’s conclusion that Israel didn’t strike hospital in GazaMia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Published  Monday, October 23, 2023 6:14PM EDT

Israel is “pleased” that Canada has joined the United States and France in believing that an explosion at a Gaza City hospital last week was fired by an errant rocket from within the Gaza Strip, the Israeli ambassador in Ottawa said Sunday.

But intelligence and foreign affairs experts say the latest assertions will do little to calm tensions in the region or among supporters of Israel and Palestinians abroad.

On Saturday Canada became the third western ally to back Israel’s assertion that it was not responsible for the rocket blast at the al-Ahli Arab hospital on Oct. 17.\

“Analysis conducted independently by the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command indicates with a high degree of confidence that Israel did not strike the hospital on October 17, 2023,” Defence Minister Bill Blair said in a statement published late Saturday.

“The more likely scenario is that the strike was caused by an errant rocket fired from Gaza. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.”

That followed similar conclusions reached by the United States on Oct. 18 and France on Oct. 20.

Israel’s Canadian ambassador, Iddo Moed, said Sunday he welcomed Canada’s conclusion.

“The loss of life at the al-Ahli Arab hospital was a tragedy that should horrify any human being and it is a reminder of the double war crimes against Palestinians and Israelis that are committed by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” Moed said.

But the National Council of Canadian Muslims said Sunday they had reached out to Blair to get more information about what led Canada to draw the conclusion it did.

A statement issued by the council Sunday evening said there are many outstanding questions and also called on Canada to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court to do an independent ground assessment.

The council also said this is just one hospital that has been hit since the “siege on Gaza” began, along with churches and schools.

“Thus, we are focused around the need for immediate ceasefire,” the council said.

The blast became a new flashpoint in the latest conflict that began more than two weeks ago when hundreds of Hamas militants launched a multi-pronged attack on Israel. Hamas, a group which Canada has labelled a terrorist organization since 2002, launched rocket fire and a ground assault on several sites including at a music festival and at several agricultural collective communities known as kibbutzim.

At least 1,400 Israelis were killed, several thousand injured and more than 200 people — including children — were taken hostage by Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip for 16 years. Six Canadians died in the attack, and it’s believed two remain missing.

Israel responded to the attack with force, cutting off power and supplies to the Gaza Strip and launching its own rocket attacks into the area. It is preparing for a ground assault as well.

As of Sunday, estimates suggest about 4,600 Palestinians have lost their lives in the latest conflict, and the humanitarian impact of Israel’s response is having harsh consequences on the nearly two million people who call Gaza home.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been unequivocal that Canada supports Israel’s right to defend itself but that all sides must follow the law and civilians must be protected.

Canada has called for Hamas to release all hostages and for Israel and Egypt to facilitate aid deliveries to Gaza.

Trudeau repeated those positions Sunday in a phone call with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

Small amounts of food, fuel and medical supplies were delivered over the weekend, though the suffering in the Gaza Strip remains immense. Residents have reported surviving off dirty water and witnessing fights break out over scarce supplies, while packed hospitals have warned of critical fuel shortages.

The hospital blast upended an already tense situation and furthered the distance between western and Arab countries.

Trudeau faced pressure shortly after the hospital blast to assign blame for it. When asked by a reporter in French about the “Israeli strike” on the hospital, before Israel denied responsibility, Trudeau called the attack “horrific” and “unacceptable.”

A few hours later, after Israel said the rocket wasn’t theirs, Trudeau called for international law to be upheld, but did not point fingers.

“Together, we must determine what happened,” he said. “There must be accountability.”

That same day he tasked Blair with having the military undertake a review and analysis of available evidence so Canada could draw its own conclusions.

On Thursday, a day after U.S. President Joe Biden laid the blame on a rocket from inside Gaza, Trudeau said Canada had seen some preliminary evidence but needed more time to reach “a firm and final conclusion.”

The initial Canadian analysis was completed on Oct. 21, and after Blair was brought up to speed he briefed Trudeau and then released the general finding publicly just before 10 p.m. Canada has not specified what evidence led to its conclusion.

Peter Jones, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa, said it’s “fairly normal” for Canada to independently analyze incidents of interest overseas, but that it is less common to put out a statement on its findings.

“Given the enormous media attention and public interest, I guess the government of Canada just felt it couldn’t remain silent,” Jones said in an interview.

“The government was under a certain amount of pressure to declare one way or the other … other allied governments are doing the same thing.”

Jones spent seven years working in intelligence analysis and has himself analyzed incidents of interest to Canada to determine if it agreed with its allies on a particular issue.

“In most events of significance around the world where the Canadian government wants to have its own perspective on what happened and not rely on the analysis of others, Canada’s intelligence community will produce its own analysis,” Jones said.

But Jones said the findings are unlikely to change the minds of those who already believed Israel was at fault.

“In many countries in the Middle East, in many Arab countries, people have already formed their opinion and it’s based upon what Hamas has said and their own anger at what’s been going on and all the rest of it,” said Jones.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and senior fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the facts may support Canada’s conclusion but in the current world, facts don’t always matter.

“Alas, we live in a world where feelings trump facts so it won’t change much,” he said.

He also noted we live in a world where people do not always know whose facts to believe.

Evidence from Israel includes satellite images and intercepted conversations between militants. French authorities said an Israeli explosive is much bigger and would have caused a bigger crater. They said this explosive was about five kilograms, which is closer to the type used by Palestinian militants.

It’s also not yet clear how many people were killed when the rocket hit. The Palestinian Health Authority said nearly 500 people died, while U.S. intelligence sources have been cited saying the number is somewhere between 100 and 300.

Israel has pointed the finger at the Palestinian Islamic Jihad for being the source of the rocket. The PIJ is the second-largest armed group in Gaza, whose sole objective is a military victory over Israel to establish an Islamic State across all of Israel, along with the West Bank and Gaza.

American officials told the New York Times their preliminary evidence also pointed to the PIJ. But Canada has not yet specified who it thinks fired the rocket.

“As Canada provides further updates, Israel is assured that other findings uncovered by the Israeli Defense Forces, including the culpability of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, will be identified by Canada as the source of this war crime,” Moed said.

— With files from Lyndsay Armstrong in Halifax.