By: Clement Nocos
2012 was a haphazard year for Canadian foreign relations. Last year saw the sudden shuttering of the Canadian embassy in Tehran, despite its importance in the region and the complexity of Iranian-Canadian relations. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird citied Iran’s human rights violations, its nuclear program, and the government’s support for Syria’s Assad regime as some of many reasons why the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has closed the embassy and effectively cut relations with the government of Iran. Meanwhile, Baird announced the opening of an embassy in Myanmar while 800 000 Rohingya people remain persecuted by the military government, Canada took a back seat to settling for peace in Syria, and faced an internationally embarrassing vote on recognizing Palestine in the UN. The prolonged debate on foreign ownership of Canadian business (by China) was accompanied by the swift implementation of freer trade agreements (with China). Lastly, a trip to the Asia-Pacific region by the Prime Minister couldn’t exactly be called much of a success. 2012 was a muddled year for Canadian foreign policy.
Continuing into 2013 is the mixed up foreign policy of yester-year. In the news lately is the Canadian contribution to the military intervention in Mali where a Canadian Forces plane has, for the past week, been ferrying French and ECOWAS troops and military equipment for deployment. Disregarding France’s “colonial responsibility” for Mali, Canada’s involvement in the region is spurred on by a mining operations run by largely Canadian companies whom DFAIT would like to see secure. There isn’t much of an R2P pretence regarding Canada’s latest “peacekeeping” mission.
By: Clement Nocos
We should not […] expect historians to be entertaining or to tell interesting stories: “Do we need professional history that entertains us – especially when public money pays for so much of what we historians do? Do we need physics that entertains us?”
Historians, however, are not scientists, and if they do not make what they are doing intelligible to the public, then others will rush in to fill the void. Political and other leaders too often get away with misusing or abusing history for their own ends because the rest of us do not know enough to challenge them. Already much of the history that the public reads and enjoys is written by amateur historians. Some of it is very good, but much is not. Bad history tells only part of complex stories. […]
We must do our best to raise the public awareness of the past in all its richness and complexity. We must contest the one-sided, even false, histories that are out there in the public domain. If we do not, we allow our leaders and opinion makers to use history to bolster false claims and justify bad and foolish policies. (Margaret Macmillan, The Uses and Abuses of History, pgs. 36-37)
This year has particularly seen an awful lot of the use and abuse of history by the Canadian government. Being the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, we have seen a frenzy of historical “commemoration” of the last “war” to take place on the territorial realm of what would become known as Canada. More than $28 million is set to be spent by the federal government on commemorating the event by the end of 2012. With that $28 million, we have been inundated by re-enactments, TV and Youtube commercials, special money, museum exhibits, and even a phone app that are supposed to help us remember the conflict. It has been heavily debated whether or not this commemoration has been ‘over-hyped’ or not, but it remains without doubt that the purpose of such a campaign is something political.
To the average Westerner, the Syrian uprising appears uncontroversial and straightforward. For the most part, media outlets have unanimously portrayed the conflict as a courageous uprising suffering under the brutal assault of Assad’s repressive regime. While this narrative has some truth, it is merely an oversimplification that is stripped bare of context. For those who wish to appreciate the complexity of the conflict in Syria, the domestic and international forces surrounding the uprising must be understood within a wider framework of international relations. The purpose of this article is to provide a more illuminating political assessment of the powers and interests acting both within and upon Syria.
Observations from the media show that there are concerted efforts by the international community and the United Nations (UN) to intervene or mediate the protracted civil war within Syria. However, these portrayals of concerted international mediation are misleading as they do not acknowledge the competing interests of the individual actors involved in the conflict.
By: Chris Burke
The F-35 jet program has been mired in controversy ever since the Conservative government made it the centerpiece of their military platform. Lost in the reports of bad accounting, technical delays, and government incompetence is another question: do we need the jets at all?
The F-35 has received high approval from Canadian generals who say, “that the F-35 can outfly and outfight most other fighter planes” (Ottawa Citizen). While the military appeal of such a craft is readily apparent, the argument for why this is needed for the country itself is a bit fuzzier. What’s suggested by the argument that the F-35 would win in a dogfight is that there is a legitimate concern for an air-war in Canada’s near future. Now, I’m not implying that Canada is looking to start engaging in military operations that could see the country engaged in an air-war, but I really can’t help but wonder what’s going through the minds of those making the case for purchasing the jets.
The military motive for purchasing the jets is obvious: they will always want the newest and shiniest toy that offers their soldiers the best that can be afforded. Nonetheless, it is clearly problematic that our government should spend billions on the purchase and maintenance of equipment that may not serve a useful purpose. Could it be that our current leaders, who spent their formative years growing up in the shadow of the Cold War, are driven by a need to participate in an arms race in which each nation flexes its military muscle in the hope that this display of strength will result in a deterrent to conflict? Does the paranoia that the Reds are going to fly over the Arctic Circle exist in the minds currently working on the Hill? We are being told we need new fighters but aren’t being given a serious “why” to that reason. The Harper government has made Arctic sovereignty part of its platform though the case for why F-35s are needed to maintain that sovereignty has not been made.
Digging up answers to these questions in the press has proven to be difficult. Of course, the questions may be pointless ones that are mindless musing rather than serious discussion. The press is so focused on the financial debate around the jets that it’s forgotten to ask why we need them in the first place. To say it’s to replace the aging CF-18s isn’t enough. Going from aging jets to ‘top of the line would win in an air-war’ jets is a huge leap that needs to have a stronger justification than: they are cool and we want them, but as far as I can tell that’s the only argument that’s been given.
There is no doubt that global warming is having an effect on the Arctic’s environment, with the region warming at twice the global rate from temperatures recorded during the mid-twentieth century, due to “the manifestation of a human-induced greenhouse gas signature.” This has caused the thawing of Arctic glaciers over land and sea, and has …
As early as 2007, Prime Minister Harper has made clear to Canada that he intends to maintain the sovereignty of our Arctic North Influenced by the melting Northwest Passage, movements towards improved infrastructure and military presence have become a more prominent project in Canada’s north since 2008. What is interesting to note is that the …