Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rae Commands Respect

I just had a chance to look at Bob Rae's foreign policy speech today and was quite impressed. Rae's overall theme of embracing Pearson's legacy was a masterful way to demonstrate Canada's revelance and ideological underpinning in world affairs. Some highlights:

On Afghanistan, Rae makes a strong point that our priorities are wrong:
We need to approach our policy on the basis of at least three fundamental criteria: Is itworking? Is it consistent with our experience of what can work? And is it balanced? Today, Canada’s efforts and resources in Afghanistan are heavily weighted toward the war fighting side of the equation. We have about 2,000 troops fighting on the ground in Kandahar, at a rough cost of half to three quarters of a billion dollars a year. By contrast, we have about half a dozen civilian Government of Canada officials doing much needed development and reconstruction work, and we spend about $100 million a year on aid to

The lack of balance goes beyond Canada. Since 2001 western donors have provided Afghanistan with on average U.S. $2.5 billion per year in aid. Yet it has been estimated that the US and NATO countries combined are spending U.S. $15-18 billion per year on military operations in Afghanistan.

An accurate shot at Harper:
The Parliamentary vote the government engineered in the spring to “approve” this mission was a cynical manipulation of the House of Commons. By prohibiting all but six hours of debate, and insinuating that those who would vote against the government are being somehow unpatriotic, or lacking in support for our troops, the Prime Minister politicized a military operation in a way I have not seen in my lifetime.

The value of aid is the central theme of Rae's speech, wherein he argues Canada needs to double its monetary assistance. On Afghanistan, Rae suggests that Canada currently lacks "balance", allocating too much to military matters, not enough to infastructure and societal betterment. This statement is key in understanding how to effectively win "hearts and minds".

Rae looks equally strong, when speaking about the Middle East. Articulating a bold position Rae argues:
No country can live with rockets and bombs killing and maiming its civilian population. All countries in the region have a right to live in peace, within secure and recognized boundaries. It must be said that every country has a right to defend itself from attack. Managing, reducing, and ultimately resolving conflict in the Middle East is one of the great geo-political challenges of our time. Canada is not "neutral" about the outcome. Canada must be engaged in helping shape it. The outcome must secure the future of every country in the region: Israel, Lebanon and Palestine. All as viable, recognized entities with borders that are secure and with governments that have an equal capacity to govern their populations and control violence.

These are issues whose resolution will take much time and extraordinary perseverance. A radical Islam that cannot accept pluralism and diversity in the Middle East is an obstacle to an objective that sensible people everywhere share. The question is: how to keep the next generation from embracing these destructive ideologies? Defeating extremists who use terror as a weapon in their arsenal is very difficult when they have much of the civilian population under their control. There are as many examples in modern history of unsuccessful efforts to do this as the reverse. Guerilla groups can abandon terrorism when the political context around them changes, but military firmness has to be matched with the imagination to create that new framework.

Rae essentially endorses the carrot and stick approach to bring Hezbollah into the "mainstream". As opposed to the current approach, the military option isn't the only option, but in fact a long term solution demands a dialogue. With the PLO, IRA and ANC as historical precedent, Rae's support of "imagination" translates into cultivating the ground to allow for progress. Wingers will scoff at this suggestion, but in the past they also would have laughed hysterically if anyone suggested Yasser Arafat would win the Nobel Peace Prize. Baby steps, careful and slow acceptance, which can actually lead to something substantative if the right statesman has the vision.

Rae's experience as moderator allows him to understand the deep passion of both sides to any debate. Disputes are complicated, everything Rae suggests is done so with this reality in mind. Rae also resists the idea of government led by ideology, which he sees as simplistic and an impedient to progress:
Another conservative, Edmund Burke was right – “governing in the name of a theory" isa bad idea. The avoidance of ideological enthusiasm, doing less harm, saving more lives,reconciling differences, eliminating the worst poverty, steadily constructing a worldorder, step by step, this is the better way of the future. It should be the Liberal way. It should be the Canadian way...

The choices we face as a country are not between "decisiveness and dithering", or between "taking sides and neutrality". They are rather between over-simplification and wisdom. We made a wise choice, the right choice, as a country many years ago when we affirmed our support for an Israeli state in the Middle East. And we also made a wise choice when we affirmed the need for a Palestinian state. Wisdom is about balance, realism, and finding just, enduring solutions. What steps can we take that will ensure real peace, a peace that starts with a ceasefire and an end to violence, but goes well beyond that to deeper solutions. The answers lie more in the world of politics and diplomacy
than anywhere else.

Wise words indeed. After reading Rae's thoughts, I can't help but think he would absolutely destroy Harper in a policy debate.


Steve V said...

"His speech was lacking in imagination, and is nothing more then a bunch of unresearched talking points, which he has not demonstrated an understanding of."


With all due respect, your comment speaks volumes that you don't have a clue what Rae has been doing with his time since he left office.

Anonymous said...

Even if Rae loses he would make any amazing minister of foreign affairs for the Liberals.

Anonymous said...


Bubbles the chimpanzee would make an even more "amazing" minister of foreign affairs

Steve V said...

"Bubbles the chimpanzee would make an even more "amazing" minister of foreign affairs"

We already have a foreign minister who apes everything from the Americans. Bubbles would just be redundant.

Steve V said...


In all fairness, the deficit was largely a function of a terrible recession. At least Rae was honest about the deficit, unlike the last Conservative government :)


"Rae has also become involved with international issues in recent years. In 2002 and 2003, as chair of the Forum of Federations he helped oversee constitutional discussions between the government of Sri Lanka and Tamil Tiger rebels. On April 26, 2005, he was appointed to advise Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan on whether or not there should be a government inquiry into the 1985 Air India disaster. He has worked to help the constitution makers in Iraq, and worked towards civil society developments in India, Nigeria, and various other countries.

I think Rae knows something about war-torn countries and terrorists. Try again.

Anonymous said...

I thought your comments on Rae's speech were right on. He does have the grasp of someone who has rolled up his sleeves (Iraq, Sri Lanka) and delved into various needs of struggling economies (oh oh, free shot for the chimp luver) and democracies around the world. That someone can offer an insightful idea of how best to de-evolve the growing horror that is middle east politics -- 'yeh, lets keep monkeying with the Bush manifesto, its working SSSSOOOOOo good!' -- is refreshing. Terrorism isn't new; sometimes its also called other terms, depending upon the side of the fence you sit on (what did Reagan call those guys with american-supplied guns trying to over-throw those elected central american gov'ts?)...
I don't agree with Rae's positions on all things. In fact, I support the current mission in Afghanistan but do believe it is time for us to reevaluate as oppose to ramp it up. Harpor continues to divide and conquer, at least that's his plan. It's very sly, republican-like plan. Hopefully jeff's relatives will cancel his subscription to 'tinfoil monthly'...

Anonymous said...

Jeff, i didn't need to point out what Steve already did so... whether you like rae or not, most admit that his experience and eagerness to address the issues has been a well-needed part of the leadership race to date.
Of course, some look back fondly to a race between a tubby economist-wonk, a lanky health care dweeb, and a car parts heiress as the creme de la creme of leadership races.
And the end result was we all had our income taxes raised by the economist.

Steve V said...

"He knows absolutly NOTHING about Afghanistan"

As opposed to Harper, who has an exceptionally understanding of world affairs. Please.

Steve V said...

Re-affirming the goals of a fluid mission doesn't equate to "leaving" so please don't attribute that to Rae. I think Rae raises an excellent point, in that there seems to be a disportionate emphasis on the military angle, both in terms of money and energy.

Since you are a student of military exercises, please cite successfully campaigns against a determined guerilla movement. It is a fair question to wonder if we are spinning our wheels? It is also intellectually simplistic to belittle anyone who dares question the validity of a mission? Saying the mission is flawed doesn't mean you endorse abandoning Afghanistan, just as criticizing Israel doesn't make you anti-semetic.

If you look at the situation in Afghanistan, and military professionals agree, it has deterioriated in the last year. This trend is quite serious, and demands a re-examination of how best to achieve our aims. Jeff, if you are going to Afghanistan, I don't want to see you die in vain, that is what this debate is all about in my mind. I refuse to endorse an open-ended campaign, without constant pragmatic solutions.

Scotian said...

Steve V:

Good post, and I agree with you on Rae's experience in the real world (as opposed to political theorizing that has been Harper's history in the international arena) shows through in it. Rae is correct in what makes the best approach to a real long term peace in that region, but then it has never been the diagnosing of the problem and how to fix it that has been the problem but rather being able to implement it given the extremists within Israel and within it's various opposition groups from Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.

As for Afghanistan, the vote earlier this year was a clear sham. Harper gave no time to study the new deployment before demanding an immediate vote. He made it impossible for hearings to be held to hear from experts to determine whether the government policy being put forward was the best one. He told everyone that regardless of the outcome of the vote he would continue the mission for one year instead of the two he was putting forward.

Indeed, ever since he came to power and started using Afghanistan as a political prop the support in this country has significantly fallen for this mission, I believe in no small part directly due to his using it as a partisan political tool. Whatever else one wants to say about the Liberals they were not using Afghanistan as a political tool, no they recognized that for the mission to succeed and for support to be maintained even in the face of significant causalities required that the issue be above narrow party partisan politics. This idea that Harper is somehow well informed and behind the Afghanistan mission is belied by his willingness to use it for party partisan purposes, and indeed the decline in support can literally be traced to his beginning this with his first trip as PM where he told everyone that Canada would not "cut and run" despite there being no one in the Parliament calling for this in the first place.


You seem quite willing to place your time as a Peacekeeper out there as a reason why your opinions should be granted weight. Which is fine, but your political analysis seems a lot like an advocate of the CPC and your use of your experiences so extensively has a ring of "unless you have been there you cannot understand and therefore your opinions are worthless/irrelevant" to them. Now whether you are intending this or simply this is an accidental occurrence does not change the fact it is present.

Now, I agree with you that Rae was not exactly a great Premier for Ontario, and that he made some really stupid mistakes in that job. That because of those mistakes he cost himself power and discredited the NDP Provincially for many years afterwards. However, his work outside of elected office since then has been in international affairs and he has established a track record of competence there, so using his Premier days to dismiss his current opinions in foreing affairs despite that experience seems more than a little suspect.

You claim Rae is talking from approved poll talking points, I would expect then you can back this up by showing us all these talking points that you claim he is following. Otherwise you are making an assumption here without evidence, because the way I read Rae's comments left me thinking this was his own opinion/perspective and not some shallow set of easy to remember talking points. Incidentally, talking points generally are in a format of simplicity and tightly defined and usually binary configurations, they are not nuanced, which his comments appear to be.

You want to disagree with Rae, fine. You want to think he is wrong, fine. However for you to dismiss him as you have for the grounds that you have leaves you looking like the one working from talking points and holding an uninformed opinion. Now, if your experiences as a peacekeeper in the Armed Forces gives you credibility to discuss military matters for you to deny Rae the same courtesy given his experiences in foreign affairs seems a bit well hypocritical of you.

Steve V said...


Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I particularly liked this line:

"beginning this with his first trip as PM where he told everyone that Canada would not "cut and run" despite there being no one in the Parliament calling for this in the first place."

If this debate has become politicized, Harper is the architect.

Scotian said...


I come from a family that has many that served in the Canadian Armed Forces since Canada was founded including WWI, WWII, Korea. My Father was Army Reserve. Another first degree relation and honoury parent was a senior intelligence person with the highest clearances and need to know in WWII and through the first half of the Cold War. I was a cadet for several years preparing to go into the Reg Forces when I had a genetic disorder go active and disqualify me from service.

I also have several direct ancestors that were elected officials in this country from local to Provincial to Federal from both Liberal and PC sides of my family. So I have some background with both military and political circles. Indeed, starting at the age of seven I was trained in political analysis by one of the most prominent for several decades party (one of the 2 main federal ones)organizers in my region, so prominent that this person had a major party institution named in their honour (I refuse to be more specific since to do so makes it very easy to trace my identity, something I am not willing to do given some of the crazies online).

So your response to me cuts no ice, indeed it was nothing more than an appeal to authority response in disguise. I have a more than passing familiarity of both politics and military mindsets and environments and I respect those within both professions that are competent in their fields of expertise for what they do. However you are making it more and more clear that the tone of condescension and a belief that only your opinion should carry weight in these topics because of your own profession is not accidental but deliberate.

In other words you are using an appeal to authority argument style to not only advance your opinions but to dismiss all that disagree with you because of your authority as someone with your experience. That does not strengthen your argument it actually weakens it and goes a long way to discrediting your opinions with those of us that actually are interested in real discussions and debates than what appears to be your interest of declaration and dismissal.

If your experience in the military qualifies your opinion above the rest of we mere mortals then your dismissal of Rae's experience in foreign affairs and international negotiations between warring factions is hypocritical to say the least. It also leaves me at least believing that you are in truth a CPC partisan and are using your profession to support their policies and to dismiss and denigrate the opinions of those that disagree. Not a terribly intellectually honest approach IMHO.

Incidentally, the sole reason I referenced my own experience/background was not as an appeal to authority but to underscore yours, as I don't do this except when dealing with someone else using this technique to underscore their assumptions about my own expertise/experience within these fields being so outclassed by theirs. When I do reference it in discussion which is not often I do so using it to simply show I have some direct connection to something under discussion and not to establish that my opinion should automatically carry more weight. No one knows everything even within their fields of expertise and anyone that does not understand the reality of the more you learn the less you know and believes too strongly in their own certitude of knowledge/expertise over others is being arrogant and foolish in my view of the world.

Steve V:

Thanks for the compliment. I can appreciate why you so liked that sentence, it does go to the heart of when the slide in support started and makes it clear which party and PM was the one to begin using that mission for domestic partisan political advantage. Which I might add is not something normally done with military operations in this country, which is one of the reasons why I believe it triggered the negative reaction that it did. Harper appears unable to not find and take whatever partisan advantages he thinks he can get from anything that he and his government does, something I distinctly recall him and his supporters accusing the Liberals of being the masters of and something he found contemptible.

Harper is doing our men and women in uniform a grave disservice with his using them and their lives for such purposes and anyone that cannot grasp that to my mind has shown themselves to be a CPC partisan themselves. I will find it ironic if the Afghanistan mission and the causalities it is starting to rack up ends up being one of his significant weakeners of support. Which given that this was a mission the Liberals were originally responsible for and only became so strongly identified with him from that visit to Afghanistan I referenced earlier with the "cut and run" nonsense would be most fitting IMHO.

Harper seems to view the military as a prop to some extent, he also appears to think of himself as the commander in chief from some of the attitudes he has shown and actions taken to date. Which given he is not and is only the head of government and not the head of State (whom it was too dangerous to allow to visit the troops in Afghanistan after both MacKay and Harper went underscores this attitude as well as his partisanly abusing the military for his own ends) is particularly insulting and offensive to me and I suspect many others not drinking the CPC Kool-Aid.

Lept said...

Since he is number three on your list of chosen ones, I thought that I'd send you this image: please check this out.
Especially after the loving piece on him in today's 'Toronto Star'.

Steve V said...

Thanks Lept. Maybe if Stephane loses, he can get a gig in Las Vegas :)