Saturday, September 26, 2009

Harper has yet to answer two exam questions

Back in November of last year while Mr. Angry was jettisoning his economic principles when faced with a real world economic crisis, I asked a question:
"If at the first time you face a major crisis you are forced to abandon your economic philosophy does that not mean your economic philosophy is bollocks?"
Still waiting.

Today Jim Travers gives reason to pose a similar question with regards foreign policy. To wit (MEIB):

Midweek, Harper played to his party base by not speaking to the forum Liberals love and Conservatives loathe as the epicentre of wishy-washy, do-gooder internationalism. By week's end, he was wisely, if reluctantly, bowing to shifting global realities. ...

He grasps what makes heads bob over coffee and fritters, even if it embarrasses chattering classes nervous about the damage to Canadian multilateral traditions and vital interests. And he's pragmatic enough to understand when going with the flow, no matter how unappealing the direction, is the only viable option.


Of Harper's two performances, the second was the more demanding. Comfortable in his political skin in Oakville, the Prime Minister spoke scripted lines through gritted teeth in Pittsburgh. Faced with hosting an increasingly irrelevant G8 summit or throwing open Canada's doors to the G20, Harper, under considerable world and U.S. pressure, chose the lesser evil of speeding a bright Paul Martin idea toward its logical conclusion.

Wise or inescapable, Harper's choice is rich in ironies. Timing and circumstances are forcing a Conservative prime minister to bring his Liberal predecessors' global governance vision into focus. If that isn't galling enough, it now falls to Harper to set a prestigious place at the table for China, the economic elephant Martin spotted in the room and the Dragon this prime minister tries so hard to ignore.

Smaller annoyances add both to the difficulty of Harper's decision and the credit he deserves for getting it right. Canada's approval is now stamped on a collegial approach to solving world problems that isn't central to the Prime Minister's thinking or record. At the same time, morphing two summits into one adds pressure and prestige to foreign affairs, a department he particularly distrusts and starves of resources as well as influence.

In the end – and the Muskoka summit will now wrap one power broking era and begin another – Harper has improved Canada's prospects of not being pushed aside in the scramble for places in the elite club of nations. To wait would have only drawn attention to the receding importance of a host country whose relatively small economy and population make long-term inclusion in the G20, let alone the G8, far from certain.

Canada's challenge now is to make the Huntsville summit more than symbolically memorable. To safeguard this country's future G-Something membership, Harper will have to craft an agenda that moves beyond accepting inevitable change to reinforcing this country's role as a willing agent of change.

For Canada to hold its world place, the Harper who stands up in Huntsville must be the shrewd prime minister seen this week in Pittsburgh, not the crafty politician who swilled coffee in Oakville.
Perhaps it could be phrased thus:
"If you are forced to abandon your foreign policy philosophy when it is tested by the real world, does that not mean your foreign policy philosophy is bollocks?"
Given the discredited reputation of Tom Flanagan and his ilk referring to the "thoughts" of The Calgary School will not be accepted for credit.Recommend this Post

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