Thursday, January 26, 2006

Stephen Harper and Canada's future foreign policy

Today Harper was hit with his first foreign policy test as the world learned that Hamas has won a majority in the first Palestinian parliament. He gave the standard reaction of leaders across the western world by showing deep reservations, and suggesting it may be impossible to fully recognize a Palestinian government led by Hamas. Harper's quote: "As you know, we've always maintained that we support a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine, but for a nation to be truly democratic, it must renounce any use of terrorism." Beyond that Harper wasn't willing to elaborate on the results- he'll be giving a more formal statement after he has officially assumed the role of PM. This situation should provide a good opportunity for Harper to win some points with the Bush administration. He could parrot the US line word for word without raising much opposition in the Canadian electorate. Not too many Canadians have any sympathy for Hamas, even if they have some for the Palestinian cause.

Harper himself has admitted to not being so knowledgeable about foreign policy- in a way this is convenient because it'll be easy for him to fall in line with whatever the US policy is at the time, or the opinion of the Canadian public (when they have one). Expect to see a close alignment with US foreign policy objectives unless there's clear opposition from a majority of Canadians. There's not going to be much Liberal-style bolstering of the UN, international cooperation, and peace negotiations. The role of mediating middle power is going to be on hold for some time (arguably it's been in deep freeze ever since Bush was elected). If there is any coherent foreign policy vision on the part of the Cons, I'm guessing their instincts are actually the traditional Conservative isolationism. Given the mood of the Canadian public towards US foreign policy at the moment, I would be very surprised if Harper would attempted embroil Canada in any future US adventurism.

If his instincts weren't so cautious and 'conservative', he might try to win over the Bush admin by actively seeking a role for Canadian peacekeepers in the rebuilding/stabilization of Iraq. For example, they could put forward a proposal to send a UN forces to facilitate rebuilding and mediation in specific regions of Iraq. While any UN force would certainly be targeted by the most militant, they would nonetheless be viewed in a more positive light than the US military by the majority of Iraqis. A strong, well organized UN force would probably have more success than the US forces in certain low intensity situations, or regions where the US has lost any sort of legitimacy (e.g. Fallujah, Sadr's Shia fighters). I believe the US military would actually welcome such a force at a time when Pentagon is publicly announcing that the US forces are stretched to the breaking point. A fresh Canadian Conservative admin would be ideal to introduce the idea to the UN, after consulting with Bush in private to see exactly what sort of operation would fit into their agenda. Allies like the British and Australians, are already tainted by association, and therefore wouldn't receive as warm of a reception from the UN and the forces of the 'unwilling'. But, I don't expect cautious Mr. Harper would every seriously consider any foreign policy initiative as bold as that.

1 Comments:

Blogger HaarisS said...

Last week, Harper had his first opportunity to "stand up" to the Americans for an issue that most Canadians don't really spend time thinking about: The Arctic Waters. There was tension over who a certain part of the waters belong to. Sounds like a scheme stretigically created by conservatives from the US and Canada, to raise the canadian people's confidence in Harper's stand on US relations.

I agree the elections held in Palestine formulate a perfect way for Harper to align our foreign policy with the US', in a sort of hegemonic way. Hmm...Can't wait for the political instability to reach our country. It's a good way to lose foreign direct investment, something Canada thrives off of.

12:05 PM  

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