Robert Fowler wakes up the Liberals in Montreal

Diplomat slams Liberals and Conservatives on foreign policy


Given that Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler was kidnapped in Niger and held in Al Qaeda’s rough hands for four months before being released last spring, his speech at the Liberal thinkers’ conference in Montreal this morning might well have been entirely coloured by his recent ordeal.

Instead, Fowler delivered a fierce, proud address anchored, not in that personal drama, but in his professional experience through three decades as a federal public servant, a diplomat-mandarin. When he did remind his audience of the kidnapping, it was to deftly accent his broader point.

And that point was barbed. Fowler charged the Liberals in the room with standing for little or nothing when it comes to foreign policy. He was even harder on the absent Conservatives, accusing their government of abandoning a Canadian legacy in the world, and, more specifically, of adopting an “Israel, right or wrong” policy that has undermined Ottawa’s credibility abroad. He asserted that there’s an “iron-clad link” between a failure to push for a fair resolution the Israel-Palestine problem and the rise of Islamist terrorism.

For making this connection, he anticipated the ugliest sort of attack. “It seems that anybody who presumes to acknowledge this blindingly obvious linkage is immediately labeled anti-Semitic,” Fowler said. He went on: “I guess we are supposed to presume that the allure of jihad will inexorably dim as Israel builds ever more settlements in illegally occupied territories in contravention of a myriad of international judgments.”

He is not, however, mainly preoccupied with Israel. In fact, his focus is Africa. But he sees the two topics as tied together, and here his kidnapping ordeal is relevant. He suggested that Islamist terrorism rooted in the Middle East will find rich recruiting grounds in Africa, if the crushing poverty and population issues of the continent are not somehow alleviated. “The continuing turmoil in the Middle East has very direct implications for the peace, prosperity and stability of Africans,” he said, “and not just North Africans.”

He offered this timely illustration: “No serious observer of the African scene could be unconcerned when Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb—my captors—offered, in early February, to give Nigerian Muslims training and weapons to fight Christians in the West African country, where more than 460 people were killed in sectarian clashes just last month.”

So daunting and distant are the challenges Fowler sketched that some will be tempted to resort, by way of reaction, to a variation on the “pragmatic” or “realist” stance: Canada can’t do much about such intractable issues. Of course the problems of Middle East or Africa are not Canada’s to solve alone.

But Fowler rhymed off a string of cases in which Canadian efforts have paid off: helping end civil war in Angola by combating the “blood diamonds” trade, pressing for the ban on anti-personnel land mines, leading the push for sanctions against apartheid in the bad old South Africa, and other examples.

These are not bush-league accomplishments. Credit for them crosses party lines—Tories rightly boast that it was Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark who took a principled, independent stand on apartheid. But Fowler laid it on Liberals particularly for failing to give fresh voice to idealism today. “To this observer it seems that the Liberals today don’t stand for much in the way of principles,” he said. “I have the impression that they will endorse anything and everything that will return them to power.”

There are two possible ways to respond to Fowler’s speech. One would be to take it seriously as a tough but considered criticism of the whole climate surrounding Canadian foreign policy. The other would be to discount it as a sort of provocative, entertaining, but ultimately impractical diversion.

In the buzz around the Montreal hotel conference space after he spoke, I heard some of the latter, a rather patronizing reaction. Bob’s a bit over-the-top, but, hey, he’s earned the right. Did he let us have it or what? Good speech. Now, let’s move on to more practical viewpoints…

It will be a shame if that’s all that comes from this bracing speech. If nothing else, Fowler’s pleas for attention to Canada’s aid spending should be heeded. He cited the shameful statistic that Canada stands 16th out of 22 donor countries ranked by the OECD in terms of the percentage of our wealth we devote to development assistance.

Last month’s federal budget announced a freeze of federal aid spending, after a final increase this year, at around $5 billion. There was no real political outcry over the targeting of this portion of federal spending more forcefully than any other at the start of a deficit-shrinking process. If politicians are wary of the more incendiary points Fowler raised, they could at least turn their attention to the simple question of how much we give.


Robert Fowler wakes up the Liberals in Montreal

  1. "He asserted that there's an “iron-clad link” between a failure to push for a fair resolution the Israel-Palestine problem and the rise of Islamist terrorism."

    I agree with Fowler about this but I bet we disagree on what to do. Fowler wants to appease terrorists even more while I think we should be favouring Israelis because they are admirable people/society who are facing tough moral situations.

    "He went on: “I guess we are supposed to presume that the allure of jihad will inexorably dim as Israel builds ever more settlements in illegally occupied territories in contravention of a myriad of international judgments.”

    So are we supposed to presume, instead, that allure of jihad will inexorably dim if we appease them. If you reward bad behaviour, you get more of it, not less.

    Nick Cohen – Brit leftist opinion writer – understand what's the matter with liberals these days. Cohen is writing about Europe but it holds true for North America as well:

    "There are no frontier posts on the Left of politics, no pale to go beyond. You can move further and further away from the centre, move so far, in fact, that you turn the circle and join the fascists and it still doesn't matter ….. Conservatives and liberals alike police the pale of right-wing politics while the Left remains an unguarded land wide open to invasion ….. The refusal of 21st-century left-wing and liberal opinion to separate itself from radical Islam is, however, a living disgrace with disastrous consequences for Europe ….. Nominally left-wing politicians' appeasement of religious reactionaries is so routine that it takes a convulsive event to reveal the extent of liberal perfidy." Nick Cohen, Academics and Islamists, March 26 2010

    • bergkamp, the Israel government was founded by terrorists themselves. The current PM commemorates them.
      The IDF commits war crimes.

      You consider this admirable but a people fighting occupation, which is a perfectly legal concept, are not?

      • Tim, you are preaching in ignorance. The 'terrorist' elements (i.e. those paramilitaries that acted against the British) were Irgun, the Stern Gang, and Lehi – led by Menachem Begin, Zeev Jabotinsky etc. They were actually in armed conflict against Palmach/The Haganah (now the IDF) and Mapai, the founding party led by David Ben Gurion. It speaks volumes about your position that you assume that because some Zionist factions acted against the British, all of them did (including Palmach, which is known for being trained by and working with the British).

        As for 'fighting an occupation' being purely legal- by any standard deliberately targeting civilians (as HAMAS acknowledges) is not 'perfectly legal' and is a certifiable war crime (rather than the unsubstantiated allegations against Israel themselves).

    • And that's why he's a foreign diplomat and you write comments at MacLeans.

    • I have two issues with your comment.
      First, the idea that pushing for a just peace in the Middle East is equivalent to "appeasing terrorists." That's ridiculous. Working for justice, equality and peace is in no way "appeasement." We would not be doing this to reward the terrorists – we would be doing it because it is right for everyone concerned.
      Second, you imply that Israelis are an "admiral people/society who are facing tough moral situations," as though the Palestinians are not. And that is blatantly racist – perhaps unintended, but that is how it reads.
      Finally, you are probably aware of this, but Nick Cohen is no longer considered a "leftist" in Britain. He is now a neoconservative, and no self-respecting lefty will have anything to do with him.

    • absolutely on the Leftists love Islam thing – just madness.

      White guilt (notice how there is more white guilt in Ontario, source of colonist conquerers vs say BC and Alberta) these white guilters are to blame.

      If the Islamists were white there would be no issue – just like the Catholics and Evangelicals the Left would have zero problem identifying the philosophy behind Islam as a problem, but because they are brown folks, well they must be right even if we the Leftists, gays, lesbians, etc were in an Islamic country we would be killed or tortured then killed.

      Madness. It's sad that in the 60's and 70's the right was considered reactionary but now we have it in the left as well.

    • totally agree with the leftist love islam madness. aAs a progressive4 and former potential scientist, well okay still, I pretty much look at the origin point of anything to determine it's value.

      If the white-guilters would stop being simply reactionary (another crazy turn around – in the 60's and 70's cons were the reactionaries but now it's the left too) and examined the basis for Islam they would never support it – but because brown people are involved it must be racists who are against it.


  2. Linkage is a myth predicated on ignorance of the Middle East. See the writings of Professor Martin Kramer of Harvard University:

    He identifies at least 9 'clusters of conflict' (i.e. causes of turmoil in the Middle East), and highlights how the concept of linkage originates in the view that the Middle East is a 'system' like Europe (in which conflicts are inter-locking and thus produce chain reactions) rather than "smaller systems and distinct pieces, that function independently of one another."

    I'd also like Mr. Fowler to address how Jean Chretien's snuggling up to Hezbollah tamed that organization's belligerency towards Israel or limited its capabilities as an international terrorist organization. The idea that Canadian foreign policy affects Middle Eastern peace, or should even be a serious concern of a Liberal party lacking in any domestic policies of substance is pretty ridiculous.

    • "I'd also like Mr. Fowler to address how Jean Chretien's snuggling up to Hezbollah…"

      Moving on…

      • Allow me to substantiate the allegation, then:

        "To the consternation of many Canadians, Prime Minister Jean Chretien came face to face with Nasrallah at a summit of leaders of French-speaking countries in Beirut last month. An accredited delegate at the summit, Nasrallah was sitting in the front row as Chretien addressed the gathering. The Canadian prime minister also came under fire for shrugging off the summit's many anti-Israel diatribes. "

        But yes, by all means 'move on'. God forbid you actually respond to any of the points I've raised.

        • "But yes, by all means 'move on'

          Thank you.

          • coward

        • I've heard something similar in the Rights and Democracy debacle. Is it really up to the speaker to police everyone in the room where he gives a speech. If there are 5,000 people there, must he go up and down the aisle with a CSIS sheaf of mugshots, and if finding even one face from them, must he then refuse to speak?

          I mean, I just don't understand what you are suggesting speakers at events are supposed to do.

  3. I agree that Fowler's speech was excellent and should be taken seriously. The situation of the Palestinians is obviously an excellent recruiting tool for terrorist groups; the idea is not that peace will make the extremists stop fighting, but that it will have an effective role in drying up their recruitment pools as it is a major source of Arab anger against the West. It seems that all North American and European nations are nominally in favour of a two-state solution, but none of them are willing to put the pressure on Israel that would be necessary to achieve one. Why would the Palestinians trust any of us as mediators when they are given no reason to believe we care in the least about their interests?

    • "It seems that all North American and European nations are nominally in favour of a two-state solution,"

      Yes, indeed, it seems so.

      But this is what is real and most unseemingly: Within the Hesbollah Constitution it is stated that Israel must not exist!

      Now, if the west and all the rest of |"us" are serious about bringing change to the Middle East, wouldn't you think that Hesbollah's constitution is the stumbling block to overcome????

  4. Actually, there aren't only "two possible ways" to respond to a speech like that. There's at least one which you don't bother to consider at all, namely, that he's wrong. Everything that I see quoted is old-hat, insipid, wrong-headed, etc.

    • Hmmm- not a very useful comment. Shouldn't you at least tell us why you think this. Or is just saying he's wrong enough for you?

      • ““I guess we are supposed to presume that the allure of jihad will inexorably dim as Israel builds ever more settlements in illegally occupied territories in contravention of a myriad of international judgments.”

        The history of the modern Middle East is very complicated, not to mention probably the greatest fodder for trolls and flame wars in the internet, so I don't really care to go into this in any detail, but Fowler's statement is an obvious non-sequitur, not to mention an argument against a claim that is not actually being made by anyone in the Harper government, and, finally, it's just a gross simplification: Israel is one of many factors that come into play in Islamic terrorism, but it's not the only one, or even the most important. Not to mention the patent absurdity of Fowler's claim that what would stop Islamic terrorism is the Israeli government following (unspecified, and therefore undefended) "international judgments": if you're flying planes into major buildings in downtown New York, "international judgments" are not your sole, or even main, criteria for grievance. Put it this way: if "international judgments" can't stop the Israeli government, how can it stop Islamic terrorists? Maybe Fowler thinks that the latter are just a much more sensible and humane bunch, but that's just another indication of his foolishness

        Incidentally, since this conference apparently has something to do with reviving the Liberal Party, is someone ever going to be blunt enough to ask: has any Canadian government ever won an election, or even a riding, on the basis of policies concerning Africa? And does anyone expect that that will ever happen?

      • Incidentally, the fact that Fowler was more interested in fantastical hyperbole than professional analysis is shown by his demonstrably false claim that the government adopts an "Israel right or wrong" policy. In fact, the government has criticized Israel only just recently. That being said, there are many good reasons to support the Israeli government, and Fowler's inability or unwillingness to discuss them suggests that he simply adopts an "Israel, always wrong, always to blame for everything" policy.

        • The Canadian government recently criticized the Israeli government coincidentally after the U.S. did. Impossible not to get the impression it did so for reasons other than the authentic belief that the Israeli government actually did anything wrong.

          • So the action was right, but the motive was wrong?

            Talk about a tough crowd.

          • The point being – we should be able and willing to take such action because it is right, and not just because we are standing beside our neighbour.

  5. He was voicing and opinion on his experiences. Doesn't mean you have to agree or disagree – it's HIS opinion.

    You know, tough love is one of the best solutions to a problem.

    Can't fix a problem if you don't face it.

    • Actually, Wheery's post implies that one doesn't have the option of disagreeing with Fowler's substantive claims, because according to Wheery there are "two possible ways" of responding to the speech, both of which presume agreement with it.

      • I think you're confusing your blog authors.

        • You're right – I thought this was a Wheery post, but now see that it's by Geddes. Either way, same problem.

  6. The people who are saying that Fowler's speech was too inflammatory to be taken seriously says very poor things about what kind of conversations our "intelligentsia" — or the Liberal intelligentsia, I guess — will tolerate. Fowler had poignant and substantive things to say about our pathetic, drooping foreign policy. Why dress it up?

    I would like to see rebuttals, not dismissals. How patronizing and disrespectful of the man's experience and expertise — and critically important points — to shrug it all off as "a bit over-the-top." If that becomes the official party line, it'll be a sad, sad thing to hear.

    • I don't think that's going to develop into the official party line–at least, not if they intend to listen to their grassroots as this is supposed to be an exercise in doing (among other things).

      Here in Waterloo Region, "“To this observer it seems that the Liberals today don't stand for much in the way of principles,” he said. “I have the impression that they will endorse anything and everything that will return them to power” was expressed as "Our values seem to continually get trumped by our interests" with regard to Foreign Affairs (in general, we didn't focus on the Middle East but we did talk about Africa). The point was made that our interests will be advanced as a result of adhering to our values and it seemed to me that such a concept was met with near-universal approval (or at least that was my impression). So our report should give weight to Fowler's impression, I hope.

      • And what are those values?

        • Well, we discussed the fact that we haven't had a discussion on that, either, for some time.

          For me, our values are human rights, equity, and peace to name three major themes. What are your values with respect to Foreign Affairs?

          • As a taxpayer I want value for my money: I want students of higher education to become thinkers by means of reason, rather than being used as copying machines. Once every new generation learns how to reason properly, independently and respectfully, we may come to understand the meaning of human rights, equity, peace and so forth.

            Human rights, equity and peace are words which serve as pleasing soundbites if their contents are not clearly and collectively understood.

          • You can crow about your wonderful higher edcuation all you want, Francien. But you in particular really remind me of that old joke about not hearing people who spend a lot of time in the hospital braaging about their health.

            I don't need a degree to understand what the words "human rights" "equity" and "peace" mean. They may not be defined to your satisfaction, but I don't care about your satisfaction. I further have had no problem using the terms when discussing such things with others. Only you, thus far, have had a problem with the terms as I use them. So, once again, there is no talking to you.

          • I completely understand why I get under your skin, Jenn. When I call out for substance over platitudes, the crowd gathering thins out pretty quickly.

            Whereas we should be engaged in finding meaning within the terms we collectively use, the trend is for bypassing such engagement. And I'm saying that such bypassing will lead to less human rights, will lead to less equity and will lead to less peace.

            So indeed, if you would rather bypass then talking to me is of no use.

  7. Fowler is partially right.We all know how the Palestinians talk a good line like they have for years but always want to be like the Bloc.the more you give the more they want.As for Canada we are coming out of a great recession,we have the poorest of poor in this country living on the streets,Houses aren"t affordable for many in cities like Victoria Vancouver Toronto and are being bought up by foreigners and rented to hard working Canadians at atrocius rents sanctioned by government. Foreigners seem to have lots of money but never seem to help their own people and we make it easy with a stupid immigration policy.Our Indian reserves look worst than any third world country because instead of us taking charge we turn it over to them the Chiefs who have more authority than any city Mayor and rip their people off.We offer them a university and they mismanage it to the tune of millions.No we have enough problems at home and part of it stems from the diplomatic core and the easy marks they are for immigrants to baffle

    • I'm guessing yoru not going to be voting Liberal anytime soon, anyway….

  8. Fowler was of course right about everything. It will be interesting to observe reactions. Such obvious truths should not cause much fuss. But given, as Kinsman noted, the poor quality of our media's coverage of these issues, wherein the media apes politicos and assumes a "median-reader" strategy, and the disproportionate influence wielded by diasporas, whether Sikh, Tamil or Jewish (not really a diaspora, but the Likudniks are, psychologically), most politicians talk about, and the media report on these issues in the most brain-dead, USA-culture-influenced manner. So merely saying out loud what, as Fowler said, everyone knows, is usually seen as controversial.

    If that is the case, then it makes Fowler's & Kinsman's remarks all the more important and useful, even as it serves as an indictment of BS that has grown up around this stuff. For example, years after general expert acknowledgment of how Barak was too clever by half at Camp David (as usual, given special forces background) and no Palestinian leader could ever have sold the supposed boobytrapped deal, one still reads about how it was all Arafat's fault, etc..

    When people have never had to think seriously about foreign affairs, where our national interest and our ideals meet, they are always amazed/horrified when they hear the straight goods. Fowler is like a Martian, bringing news of the galaxy beyond. "No, really?"

    It'll be interesting to see how people react, who is able to raise their game, and who isn't. VANOC 2010 wasn't built in a day, I suppose.

    • I find it absolutely astounding that people are unequivocally stating that he is right across the board when I have presented a quite substantive theory rejecting the entire premise of his argument. Can you argue that he is right? Certainly, you can argue that the I/P conflict is one point of tension which engenders recruitment. Can you argue in favour of linkage as unequivocally correct?

      Well, I've presented an argument that you cannot. Rather than address it, it seems that people would rather sink their heads into an echo chamber. Which is precisely the problem when it comes to problems in the Middle East: presumptions are given the weight of fact with little justification.

      This is just the repetition of the trope that terrorism is the result of poverty in another form: inconvenient facts are ignored when they contradict the simplicity of received wisdom.

      • "Well, I've presented an argument…"

        Looks like a polemic and not an argument so far.

      • I think you should re-read both the blog posting you linked (which is indeed informative) as well as what Robert Fowler said; they aren't necessarily contradictory. Mr. Kramer has a good point when he outlines those separate conflicts and says that peace in Israel doesn't solve peace in the other conflicts, but I see nothing about terrorist recruitment anywhere in what he says. Mr. Fowler is saying there is a link between peace in Israel and terrorist recruitment.

        Rather than jumping on people who think Mr. Fowler said something useful, maybe you should read your own sources a bit better.

        • Thank you for your response.

  9. Would Bob Fowler even have a career now if Jean Chretien had not shut down the Somalia inquiry? Wasn't he the main beneficiary of the progressive Canadian pollitical and media elites circling the wagons and burying everything behind a wall of silence?

    The American led coup in Iran in the fifties was about oil, not Israel. Arabs and Muslims sit on top of the oil or on top of the supply routes for oil, and thus have been subjected to the blunt edge of American-led Western neo-imperialism. Israel is merely a small part of that, an excuse to distract us, from the real cause, our thirst to control oil and the supply routes for it.

    The asymmetric war for control of the oil would be occurring even if Israel did not exist.

  10. Fowler is right, across the board. I wish it would matter.

  11. Fowler’s speech didn’t impress me and that’s because the game’s over. We’re a second-rate power and we can’t even manage our close friendships well. If the libs would put an end to the tar sands and do the carbon tax and focus on healthcare and job creation and improved housing for lowest 1/6 of family incomes they could beat Harper and please Obama. Our foreign policy should align exactly with Obama. follow the leader. That’s the best course for our Liberals.

    • My God, you can't be serious!
      Tok, tok, tok…..
      Do you have any inkling about how economics work? Do you actually understand how money is generated? Do you have any clue at all about how the world works?

      How will we pay for healthcare, daycare, senior care if money is not generated by primary, and secondary industries and service industries etc? You really believe money grows on trees. Look, there it grows, and grows, pluck, pluck, pluck

      • Of course money grows on trees! We have a paper money standard, i.e., it is trees.

    • by all means let's commit economic suicide, kill the only productive part of the economy and kiss BA's a**. Who is going to pay for your pipe dream. Loony left, I hope the Liberals listen to you, at least the stupidity will be short lived.

  12. It is a little disenheartening to read about the good we could be doing in other areas of the world to lasting effect, then realize we've spent nearly a decade bogging ourselves down in a single country, giving terrorists lots of local targets and making it slightly more inconvenient for them to gather and plan within the borders of that nation.

    • where do you suggest we go? Congo, Sudan? Perhaps we should just let the Islamists regroup and after they kill a few school girls and destroy their schools we can just capitulate and wait for them to catch up on their flying lessons.

  13. You'd get little disagreement that the West's posture towards Israel/Palestine has more to do with what the Americans decide than anything else. I fail to see how any Canadian government can take an independent position without angrying up our bestestfrieddsandlargesttradingpartner. Our own domestic 5th column of Americanized traitors will stop at nothing to vilify Canadians who would even consider that part of the Middle-East dynamic to be significant. "Anti-American" is thrown around in Canada just as much as "Anti-Semitic" is by Conservatives to shut down debate.

    Even our own media won't touch it.

    • Hm. I've noticed this in a few of your comments now, you seem to have a bit of an issue with the US in regards to Canada.

      I'm curious, why?

      • What issues? The US is our bestest friend and biggest trading partner. What else matters?

        • That'd be my question to you, no?

          Here's a comment from yesterday, and here is one from Friday. Add those to your above comment and you get me thinking that maybe you don't like our southern neighbours quite as much as you might. Pardon me if I am mistaken.

          Anyway, I'm still curious.

  14. the simple question of how much we give.

    It seems we're not so much concerned with how much we give, but how much we give relative to everyone else. Maybe this is due to our nation's inferiority complex?

    Assuming it's the case, then if we're 16th out of 22 OECD donor countries, I expect our ranking to rise, simply because this recession will cause other countries to lower their foreign aid. Credit the Tories for freezing, rather than cutting, foreign aid spending (the OECD includes Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, all hard hit with financial problems).

    Should this make us proud as a nation? Not because we're doing more to help other countries, but simply because others are doing less?

  15. I never thought I'd say this, but I sure miss Lloyd Axworthy.

    • ya
      who would'a thunk it, eh?

    • Yeah, let's bring Lloyd back into the fray. That will really tear what's left of the international fabric apart

      • Me too!

    • lay down for 20 minutes, the feeling will pass, kind of like a gas attack. Intestinal gas that is.

  16. adopting a "right or wrong policy"

    The principle reason why progressivism is dying in North America (and apparently in many parts of Europe), is precisely because it embraces the notion of moral equivalences, whatever the subject.

    The reality is there is a right and a wrong, and it often presents itself clearly in domestic and international affairs. Not all countries are equal, nor are all belief systems. Some are much, much worse than others. Or, put another way, some are "wrong".

    The tin pot dictatorships, and radical Islamic regimes that inhabit the region around Isreal – the only western style domocratic rights based entity in the region, are…well…wrong.

    That the "human rights" council of the UN routinely passes over the regions thugs, to heap resolution upon resolution against Isreal, says nothing about Isreal, and everything about the morally bankrupt, "progressive" UN institituions.

    • "The principle reason why progressivism is dying in North America (and apparently in many parts of Europe), is precisely because it embraces the notion of moral equivalences, whatever the subject."

      Would you kindly share where you came by this idea?

      • "The principle reason"

        But reason must be the principle.

    • It goes deeper yet. Large parts of the Middle East and most of Africa have trouble reasoning their way out of poverty. But when the West tries to solve the problems existing within those regions by abandoning reason also, well, then the problems will not only get worse but will be become un-solvable……..

  17. The problem with Canadian politics today is that everyone should sound like Fowler did in that speech on every issue, whether from left, or right, or centre. And yet, only Fowler sounds like Fowler – except, maybe, Coyne on the right. Partisan self-congratulation and "I know you are but what am I" has totally drowned out candid criticism in every possible forum. To our peril.

    Give the guy a medal.

  18. If you appease terrorists, you are on the slippery slope to doom.

    The Palestinians have a case, and Israel, for its own good, should be pressured to offer them a decent deal.

    Fair enough.

    But that has nothing to do with dealing with al-qaeda or other Islamic fanatics. If you assume it does, you have lost.

    It's like sorting out some of the grievances of Germans in the 1930s. Obviously, any inhumanity against Germans should be stopped. But that had nothing to do with dealing with Hitler. THAT was a separate issue, demanding ruthless non-compromise.

    • More like trying to wash the soapscum out of his eyes…..methinks

      • After he soiled himself up to his eyes? Perhaps.

    • Wonderful to be able to agree with you, Mr Coyne, without any misgivings. Reasons? Let us just leave it where it lies. I told this blog elsewhere what one should think of official foreign services.

  19. Well, the point of the conference was to air the dirty laundry. To get it out there. Own it and set the stage for change. It was very brave of the Liberals to do this. Upwards of 15,000 people across the country participated in this conference via the internet and satellite meetings. (I was at the Winnipeg meeting with around 100 people and we had excellent break out sessions and discussions.) There was a real feeling of goodwill and it was not focussed just on the Liberal party. There was no gratuitous slamming of Harper. A lot of good discussion. Fowler is absolutely correct in his analysis. Truth hurts, and that's why the comment boards on this story at various online outlets are seething with Conservative vitriol and fake posts from and Likud party shills. Not everyone in Israel agrees with or likes Netanyahu so why is Canada afraid of him? Do they think one of Israel's 150 nukes is aimed at us, or something?

    • Maybe because those that don't agree with Netanyahu primarily agree with Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, and UTJ- the further right wing. Left wing parties like Labour and Meretz are virtually non-existent in the current government because their policies were discredited in the eyes of the electorate. Indeed, even Kadima, the second-most popular party (and an off-shoot of Likud) has had to fight an uphill battle as concessions to the peace process yielded another war (see Gaza withdrawal).

      But once again, it's evident that dissenting viewpoints can't be addressed on their own merit- they have to be 'fake posts from Likud party shills'. Quite a powerful party, Likud must be!

  20. correction "end"

  21. So how bout that Liberal thinkopuloza! Begins with a reminder of the Carbon Tax and ed with an accusation by one of their own that all they, the Liberals, are only interested in is power and that they are losing their soul. Love those sound bites. So now that we have exhausted every possible attempt at making the Liberals look good for us Canadians, what's next? What about you Lib supporters. Still think ,this Iggy is the answer. Still sending those funds to the LPC? or has the time come for a new party on the left. It is clear the LPC is intellectually morally and politically bankrupt! When ever are you going to see the light!

    • Hey – look at you. Beating the same drum, only this time, at a thread where your post has zero relevance.
      At least you are consistent?

  22. When one party is a democracy who's only goal is to live peacibly and free of attacks,

    and the other party is not a democracy but largely controlled by terrorist factions and thier surrogates in Iran and Syria – who's stated goal is the destruction of the other party,

    the notion of comprimise becomes untenable.

    As long as the Palestinian people are unable to determine their own destiny but are tools used by radical factions in the region,

    there will be no "peace".

  23. It is a shame that the idealism which was a current in Liberal policy seems wo have withered on the vine. It is not a matter of being'left' or right; it is a matter of willing to be daring and willing to take risks.

  24. Whoa. FreedmanForever: Get an editor.

  25. Liberal "Spenders Conference" Ends…with More Proposals to Raise Taxes
    March 28, 2010
    Michael Ignatieff's Liberal "Spenders Conference" has wrapped up and what are the big, innovative ideas that have come out of the weekend?

    On Friday, it was a proposal to hike the GST back to 7 per cent, an idea Ignatieff admits is on the table.

    On Saturday, it was a clarion call to bring back a job-killing carbon tax on everything, an idea Ignatieff took credit for first promoting in his failed leadership campaign against Stéphane Dion.

    And on Sunday, right from Ignatieff's mouth? He called for job-killing business tax hikes to pay for big and grandiose Liberal spending programs. This is just one more step in Ignatieff's plans to raise as many taxes as he can get his hands on.

    • I actually like the carbon-tax better than cap-and-trade, just don't trust the liberals with the money lol. Cap and trade just scares me after the meltdown – it will become just one big scam. I realize the carbon tax is political poison, but maybe wait a few years and then have a real leader suggest it.

      • I've got news for you, cap and fraud, carbon tax are all one big scam. Anyone now or later will be justifiably be shot down electorally.

        • Shush, wingnut. Adults trying to talk.

  26. Yeah. Fowler has a dire warning for Northern Africa, but my question is say Canada boosted its funding to incredible levels; is it enough to save Africa overcoming rampant top-down corruption? Rampant fundamental ideology? If Canada goes above and beyond and Africa still fails – what then – peace of mind? or if Africa succeeds will it credit Canada (this may be offensive but it is realist)

    I see Fowler as the typical foreign service bureaucrat – What is the career path in the foreign service? – low-level diplomat – higher position – enough connections = the UN – So, ofcourse, Fowler aligns his ideas with the UN

    • I see senate seat for Mr.Fowler or token no BS guest on CBC Radio, if the Liberals ever get in power again – reminds me of Daillaire.

      • You're a bilious ignoramus. Dalllaire earned his reputation by having had to experience a hell you can't even image.

        The problem with Canada? Too many people like you.

      • Tony, you have it in spades.

    • I disagree about the nature of bureaucrats, but agree with your cynicism. Bureaucrats are wedded to their departments. No matter what they will fight for more funding and attention to their issues. Why? A bigger budget brings them more staff, more prestige and more power. In some ministries, those that deal with regulation of industries, there is the revolving door problem (if you know a lot about regulating the chemical industry, guess who wants to hire you…). However for folks like Fowler, they have already largely reached the top.

      The real problem is that the mindset this promotes is a very small-minded one. These guys have their issue, and harp on it endlessly without seeing the big picture. Increasing size and specialization has made the foreign policy of this country markedly worse. If some large event were looming like an elephant on the horizon, we would have reports of a trunk, a tail, and big feet – but nobody to describe the beast. Another problem is that of path dependency and inertia. Bureaucracies reflect the budget allocations of the last 10 years or so. As a result, they grew to respond to problems that may now be outdated.

      Touchy-feely missions, foreign aid, human security, and the lot were all fine and good (actually they were a waste of money, and have both failed to substantially encourage development, or to increase our global legitimacy – though they may have resulted in a marked rise in sham democracies) when the west lacked a threat from other great powers. Those days are over.

  27. on the contrary too many like you. Dallaire f***ed up and spent the next twenty years trying to cover his ass.

    • Typical wingnut liar.

  28. An African specialist pleading for more attention on Africa – What a surprise.

    • Having said that, I liked "The Thinkers Conference" from what I have seen online – gimme one Thinkers Conference every 20 years over question period every day.

      • Ohh, just heard Iggy's closing address about changing Canadian Politics forever – uh, no you didn't – that sounds like question period type BS

  29. My admittedly limited understanding of Palestinian politics is that Hamas as a political force arose because Fatah was prone to corruption, was failing to properly deliver services, and because the peace process was going nowhere. Hamas might not be satisfied with peace and statehood, but if those were to happen they'd certainly be marginalized. And really, there's no need to "extinguish" every last person who would want to attack us, we just need to ensure that ideals hold less and less appeal for others. Fewer donors and fewer middle class volunteers means terrorism becomes less viable.

    Personally, I am skeptical of China becoming a threat to world peace. Their rise to dominance is not an inevitability; it is entirely conceivable that they, just like every other economy in the world has in the past, hit a pretty serious bump that halts growth, causes significant domestic unrest, and forces them to take a step back and slow down. Besides, if they do continue to grow at their current pace there becomes less of a need for them to act militarily as they'll be able to more easily leverage their economic power to achieve the diplomatic results they want. I fully expect there will be a diplomatic solution to Taiwan rather than a military one, either way.

    Anyway, I'd recommend you reconsider your views on Africa, especially if you're concerned about China. The Chinese are everywhere in Africa making deals to get access to resources and propping up some pretty disreputable governments in the process. Promoting stability and democracy in Africa would not only be a good thing just on humanitarian terms, but also would open up new markets for Canada, and would make it less likely that China would get sweet deals on resources.

    If there is going to be conflict, I don't think it'll be military conflict but rather economic conflict. The US has been at the center of most of the trade agreements over the past half century and has pretty aggressively pushed their view of how economies should work on the world. I fully expect that there will be more and more pushback over this in the coming years, and that will be the primary "battle" of the future.

  30. I should probably apply that first comment to myself. Dammit.

  31. Help Africa more? Isn't that like helping your druggie son who has now been at it for decades swearing o get clean and reform and get to hard work?
    President Zuma of South Africa has requested an increase in family allowance to R15 Million so as to look after his over 20 illegitimate children and his wives – lost count of how many he has. Meanwhile, the stock exchange has lost the majority of its listings and new ones are not coming on board. Only 600 engineers graduated over the last year – where is that future?
    Aid money has completely warped Malawi and Zambia since the seventies because the brightest and best focus on getting it rather than creating real business. Giving aid also enables governments to leave looking after the citizens to the foreigners.
    Back in the seventies, Zambia had more GDP per capita than China. You got two US dollars for one Zimbabwean dollar – now you can get a 1 trillion Zimbabwian dollar. The best and the brightest are voting with their feet and moving to Europe and Canada. I would focus on getting tose people to return because they would if there was personal safety, property protection, corrupt free bureaucrasy, politicians not self enriching and terrorizing their own people. When Ghaddafi is allowed on the Human Rights Commission at the UN – where is the proper help. Otherwise, Foster's suggestions are all window dressing and band aids to make the school teachers and grandmothers feel good.

  32. Little Andy Coyne, editor of Macleansberg is choking on his $1,000. tie! The authoritarian libertarian doesn't know what to say. Truth hurts eh Andy?

  33. No doubt Mr Fowler personally is a worthy man, but as a career foreign service operative, he will have been conditioned to adhere to that organisation's mores and one must bear this in mind when considering his public utterances. Having some, admittedly limited, experience of both Africa and the Middle East, one is sceptical indeed of the "linkages" theory. At its crudest, it relates to Arab hatred of Israel, Arab jealousy of the West, and the Arab obsession, irrational as it may sound, with re-establishing the Caliphate. One must treat with a large grain of salt anything any foreign service anywhere believes about "linkage" when it relates to the Islam.

  34. Wrt Israel/Palestine…what is your "vision" of the most reasonable/most likely/most equitable/best chance of lasting final soution?

    Eg…Jerusalem, settlements…

  35. "To this observer it seems that the Liberals today don't stand for much in the way of principles,” he said. “I have the impression that they will endorse anything and everything that will return them to power.”

    It would be truly great if the LPC took these words to heart and changed accordingly. I think the problem, unfortunately, is endemic – not only has it been the party's modus operandi for decades, but it is admired by many in the party as evidenced by all the nostalgia for the heady Chretien days.

    The problem resolves to this: the LPC has wholeheartedly embraced socially left policies, and at their root these are based on the notion that there is no objective moral order. It follows that the party should do whatever gets them elected…since principles are not objectively "good" or "bad" according to this line of thinking.

    It's no good to say "Get some principles!" to an unprincipled person. At best they might fake that they're actually taking a moral stance on something come hell or high water, but they can't have such a conversion over night. It's a whole worldview and a set of habits to go with. In the case of a party, this means rebuilding from the ground up: philosophy, leadership, membership, and platform.

    • I think your equation of lack of principle to socially left policies (and by implication the equation of principle only to socially right policies) is seriously misguided and deserves some serious re-examination on your part. At the least it is a gross misstatement, at worst it is really offensive.

      All I'll say is that every political party in Canada subscribes to common and agreed on principles simply by participating in politics and generally agreeing with the status quo. The vast majority of Canadians likewise agree with these same principles. Please try to remember that.

      • Do not make the common mistake of thinking that I am calling leftists unprincipled. Many leftists are fine, principled people. Their views, however, are based on the notion that right and wrong are subjective notions determined by society.

        If you find it offensive to hear that the underlying principle of social leftism is one you don't like, that's ok. It would be better if you were to address my error directly though.

        • "Many of their views, however, are based on the notion that right and wrong are subjective notions determined by society."
          This is nonsense.
          It would be more accurate to say that for rightwingers truth is subjective, as witness their dishonest denials of AGW and other evidence-based science.

        • To rephrase what I just said in my second paragraph: almost all participants in our democracy subscribe to a pretty common set of basic principles. It is very unfair to say that anyone who believes in this system is unprincipled.

  36. No doubt Mr Fowler personally is a worthy man, but as a career foreign service operative, he will have been conditioned to adhere to that organisation's mores and one must bear this in mind when considering his public utterances. Having some, admittedly limited, experience of both Africa and the Middle East, one is sceptical indeed of the "linkages" theory. At its crudest, it relates to Arab hatred of Israel, Arab jealousy of the West, and the Arab obsession, irrational as it may sound, with re-establishing the Caliphate. One must treat with a large grain of salt anything any foreign service anywhere believes about "linkage" when it relates to the Islam.

  37. of the many issues of concern in africa, the two that I can think that are often ignored is blood minerals (used for electronics) and also the religious strife between Muslims and evangelical christians who are trying to convert these Muslims.

  38. Well, two things on the big picture stuff:
    1. While I generally agree that China and India will surpass the US for GDP and will want greater global influence, both of their primary challenges are going to be domestic and they are both face huge issues there.
    2. There is exceedingly little that Canada can do to change any outcomes in that particular story. I think there is a very good case to be made that the best we can do is to make a strong effort to support democracy and support basic human rights while working as hard as possible to rebuild and maintain our credibility as an "honest broker". That, for better or worse, is the biggest and best role we can possibly play.

    I know you're down south and the picture is certainly very different for the US but I think there is a strong case to be made that the US should get out of the force projection business. If anything, having bases in countries like Korea, Japan, and Afghanistan serves to give the Chinese an incentive to build up their military more than it deters that. I'd also suggest to that "democracies make poor allies" is a really shortsighted statement which is only true if you view other countries as tools to be used. All of the best and most useful allies of the US are democracies.

    With regards to Hamas and terrorism, I was just going for the most obvious example. I think there is a solid case to be made that groups like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda would have a more dififcult time recruiting if there was a Palestinian state and Israel was viewed as less belligerent. I think Hezbollah currently has a really strong case if they were to say "Israel is a threat to Lebanon" and it is really easy to draw a link between Israel and the US. I don't think that if the Israel/Palestine issue was solved, all of the sudden there would be no terrorism anywhere but I suspect it would help to improve things generally.

  39. And to restate what I just said, I am not saying, nor am I implying, that "anyone who believes in this system is unprincipled." Quite the contrary.

    • It seems to me we're playing a semantic game and due to your phrasing I am not having an easy time following your line of thought. As far as I can see, either you're saying that the "socially left" may have principles but doesn't believe them to be better or worse than any others, or that the "socially left" doesn't subscribe to basic democratic principles. Or I could be misreading this entirely.

      If you'd please clearly rephrase your statement, I'd be appreciative.