Two nuclear hotheads and a job for Justin Trudeau -

Two nuclear hotheads and a job for Justin Trudeau

Evan Solomon: The PM should have used his UN platform to tell the world Canada will broker peace between North Korea and the U.S.

Kim and Trump (Reuters)

Kim and Trump (Reuters)

It’s getting weird and scary. Donald Trump called Kim Jong-un “Little Rocket Man” and threatened to “destroy North Korea.” Kim responded by labelling Trump a “frightened dog” and a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” Between checking up on the Elton John song references and running to the dictionary to look up “dotard” (a senile old man, for the record), it’s easy to lose track of the fact that the world may be tweeting towards a nuclear war.

For over 70 years, the game-theory logic underpinning the deterrence theory of Mutually Assured Destruction gave nuclear-armed nations a rational expectation of stability—we nuke them, they’ll nuke us. That was the basis, and frankly, the comfort of the Cold War. But all that’s changed. Can there be a Cold War with two hotheads?

It doesn’t look promising. Kim exhibits little of the rational behaviour that anchored deterrence theory in the two-superpower world, which was all about having nuclear weapons, but never using them. Kim is an amoral dictator who has correctly glommed onto the insight that nuclear weapons allow him to cut the line and get a seat at the adult table of nations, a position that ought to be reserved for countries that actually feed and educate—and don’t torture—their own people.

That he is strategically right about the power of nukes does not mean, however, that he’s sensible on how they might be used. Kim is a nuclear-armed cult leader in the vein of a Jim Jones or a David Koresh, and he may share the same eschatological death wish they did, only on a far more deadly scale.

Trump is not remotely in that league and it’s a vulgar equivalence to compare the two men in any moral way—Kim is part of histories’ rogue gallery of evil men. To his credit, Trump has recognized that past U.S. presidents all failed to contain Kim’s nuclear ambitions and he successfully rallied both the UN and China to take a tougher stance on the increasingly provocative regime, even as his own rhetoric may have been part of the provocation.

READ MORE: What would nuclear war with North Korea look like?

Still, Trump is an unpredictable man, afflicted by a short attention span, bouts of self-pity and bursts of outrage. He’s an enormous personality with an equally massive appetite for attention and respect. The only thing thin about him is his skin, which leads to childish name-calling that passes as Trumpian diplomacy and needless, irresponsible incitements of war. Trump has goaded Kim into escalating rhetoric in a gut-churning game of one-upmanship.

Even stranger, Trump appears to be doing it in his spare time. I counted his tweets and retweets between Sept. 21, two days after he gave his famous “Rocket Man” speech at the UN and Sept. 26, the day after Monday Night Football, and the day when the president finally announced he would visit hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. In that time, Trump’s Twitter feed had four tweets about Puerto Rico, seven about a Senate primary election in Alabama, nine about North Korea and his speech at the UN, 10 about health care, and 24 about the NFL, the NBA and the anthem issues. Twenty-four about…sports.

It’s as if Trump is not governing by strategy, but merely channel surfing through global issues, pausing occasionally to deliver spot reviews. Hurricane? Tremendous progress. Health care? Must pass. Puerto Rico’s massive destruction? Skip. Only when he’s not busying himself with the unrelenting issue of professional football and the conduct of players during the national anthem—is there a fight he has not picked?—does Trump apparently turn his speckled attention to boosting the possibility of a nuclear war with North Korea. Trump is the political equivalent of a butane stove, a device whose sole function is to heat things up.

Given these two hot-headed personalities, there still should not be a resigned acceptance of an inevitable march to war. That’s a death wish. It’s critical that world leaders intervene to de-escalate the situation, which is why it was such a disappointment on the part of Justin Trudeau not to use his recent speech at the UN to publicly offer Canada as a global mediator. Trudeau came to power announcing that Canada is “back” and he’s been openly lobbying for a seat on the UN Security Council, so why did he refuse to address the most pressing crisis facing the world right now?

While it’s critically important to highlight Canada’s failed relationship with the first peoples of the land and address the fundamental failures of the colonial world—and the Prime Minister did that—he nonetheless missed a chance to do what Canadians see themselves doing best: brokering peace.

Canada has a long history of leadership at the UN on critical issues: the foundational work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Canadian John Humphrey; Lester B. Pearson’s role in pioneering the idea of “peacekeeping” during the 1956 Suez crisis; the global treaty banning landmines; helping to establish the International Criminal Court; and pushing the idea of the Responsibility to Protect, as well as maternal and child health.

In other words, Canada has been a major part of making what is often a very flawed, often impotent institution relevant and useful. It is equally fair to say that the very idea of the UN, its ideals and goals, have animated Canada’s own foreign policy, and shaped it since the end of the Second World War. Canada has long tied itself to the UN. Even today, on the Global Affairs website, articles quote Pearson’s imperative:

“Canada cannot occupy her rightful place in international society so long as its security is dependent on American benevolence. If we are to escape from permanent inferiority, our security must be found in an organization to which we ourselves contribute.”

In her widely read and critical June speech in the House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland echoed this sentiment, saying Canada cannot be the “client state” of the U.S. She spoke about Canada taking a leadership role on the world stage, but the Prime Minister inexplicably did not follow up on it in his appearance at the UN.

I fully expected a part two, to flesh out the details, but it wasn’t there. It was as if, because Trudeau didn’t want to upset the U.S. during the highly sensitive NAFTA negotiations, he decided to avoid the North Korean issues altogether. Whatever the reason, it was a mistake. Canada should be at the centre of this situation, doing our part to cool things down.

I spoke with Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, and he told me Canada is ready to be a broker for peace—but has not made a formal offer to do so. Why not? The PM should have used his UN platform to let the world know Canada, with its unique relationship to the U.S., China, South Korea and even North Korea—we shed blood and treasure on that peninsula as well—is a perfect broker.

The world is changing. This is not a classic “peacekeeping” mission, rather a peace-brokering mission. As the rhetoric of war heats up, there needs to be a great cooling down, and cold is what we do best. Who would have guessed that one day we would all long for a nice, rational Cold War with a nuclear power?



Two nuclear hotheads and a job for Justin Trudeau

  1. Canada cannot occupy her rightful place in international society so long as its security is dependent on American benevolence. If we are to escape from permanent inferiority, our security must be found in an organisation to which we ourselves contribute.”….Pearson said this how many years ago and Canada
    remains under America’s shadow. What makes you think Trudeau will do something now? The
    “permanent inferiority” cited by Pearson is now part of the national identity and is deeply rooted.

    • Avro Arrow.

  2. You write these ‘to-do’ lists up once a month and send them to Trudeau do you?

  3. Evan Solomon is so far out of his depth it isn’t even funny.

    1.) Canada is an unknown quantity in Asia: nobody in Asia honestly knows anything about Canada beyond the fact that it is cold, that we play hockey and that we have a strange penchant for maple syrup. Yes, lots of people from China, the ROK, and Japan visit here, study English here, or in the case of Chinese and Koreans, immigrate here. However, that doesn’t mean that they know anything about us, and neither do they care to hear our opinion.

    2.) North Korea actually is crazy, crazier than Trump crazy: Canada acting as a mediator between North Korea and the United States is simply infeasible. North Korea truly only understands strength, and would only view us as a puppet of the United States. Honestly, if a mediator were to be chosen, the best option would probably be Russia.

    3.) Overestimating the appeal of JT: while fashion magazines from the US, to Europe, and beyond, shower praise upon our most beloved leader, people in East Asia specifically, simply do not care about him. He might look good to them, but his social justice warrior talk DOES NOT resonate in Asia. East Asia is generally conservative, and JT’s “brand” would fail on a massive scale in East Asia. They do not have large LGBT+ movements, nor do they discuss transgender bathroom issues, etc. In East Asia they prefer people from a technical background, who appear to be wise, who are respectful, etc (spoiler alert: JT is none of these). His appeal beyond Western Europe and North America is nil.

    4.) Evan Solomon and the out of touch Eastern political elite: Evan Solomon, JT and his entire “crew” are all out of touch Eastern political elites. While they might know a lot about what is going on in the US or in Western Europe, they have no idea what is going on in Asia. Maybe before writing an entire moronic piece on why Canada should mediate between NK and the US, you might want to actually learn about the current events, history, politics, and economics of East Asia.

    Lastly, didn’t Evan Solomon get fired for secretly collecting commissions on art deals that he set up through connections at the CBC? Why does Macleans print this garbage? OH wait, of course, haha, silly me, the Eastern political elite just bailing each other out! So cute!

    Evan Solomon, stick to Canadian politics and shady art deals.

    • Norman Bethune.

      Look him up.

      • I’m familiar with Norman Bethune, but unsure of how he is relevant.

        North Koreans most likely don’t know about him and neither would they care. While the Chinese are an important part of the equation as far as this issue is concerned, uttering his name will not carry much weight with the Chinese and they will not view us as a legitimate non biased mediator.

        You should probably read up on current events, geopolitics, etc, in East Asia if you think mentioning Norman Bethune’s name would be even remotely helpful.

        To be honest there is little that Canada can do concerning North Korea. Thinking that we have the international prestige and political punch to be a mediator is pure fantasy and something only an out of touch (globally speaking) deluded moron from Eastern Canada would think.

        • Either talk seriously, or find something else to do with your time.

          • I probably shouldn’t respond to you since you clearly have nothing to add to this issue and are woefully ignorant regarding North Korea and East Asia, but ma’am, you are rude.

            I should be the one telling you to either “talk seriously or find something else to do with your time”.

            I clearly know far more than you about the topic, so don’t tell me that I can’t share my opinion.

            You need to grow up, stop being rude, and learn about a little something called “facts” and “evidence”. These are used when trying to form a cohesive and logical argument.

            Look them up, you might learn something!

          • I’m always rude when I discover ignorance and you’re loaded with it.

            Canada and China have a strong friendship, Canada fought in the Korean war…..and my entire family speaks Chinese.

            Now go play in traffic

          • Pretty obvious you did not read the Maclean’s article “China is no friend to Canada”.

            Nor have you read anything about China’s new ambassdor to Canada who justed started this past Feb.

            It’s quite obvious that any friendship with China will be on China’s terms only.

          • Chip Macleans may be your bible, it’s not mine.

    • Your words are so true. Canada is not a recognizable world player. In reality, it would be the worst thing to have Justin Trudeau and his band of merry men try to influence any grown-up affairs (I really don’t think sunny ways is going to win over North Korea).
      As been demonstrated for decades North Korea has no intention to give up their nuclear program. Diplomacy has not worked and to date, sanctions have not worked. Hopefully, the new round of hard-line sanctions will have some effect on the rogue dictator but my guess is they will only embolden him.