Peter MacKay in Munich: Let's not be pound foolish - Macleans.ca

Peter MacKay in Munich: Let’s not be pound foolish

It is worth a little money to make sure the world’s governments are sort-of kind-of on the same page

by

Here’s the speech Peter MacKay gave at the Munich Security Conference in 2010. I’m not a huge fan of the Defence Minister’s speeches, but this one is sturdy enough. Here‘s who was in the audience: people who run much of the world, aren’t used to thinking about Canada, and will not particularly notice if a Canadian government minister fails to show up at the next conference. The kind of audience Canadian government officials need to speak to, in other words. 

I attended the 2009 Munich conference, when the newly-minted Obama administration rolled out nearly its entire foreign-policy apparatus, and Richard Holbrooke made it clear what a mess Afghanistan had become. That was a typical year. In other recent years at Munich, Vladimir Putin delivered a notoriously belligerent speech in 2007 and German’s defence minister, Joschka Fischer, told Donald Rumsfeld to his face that this Iraq war business would not be a diplomatic slam-dunk.

Last year Munich’s Bayerischer Hof hotel played host to 22 heads of state or government, 22 foreign ministers, 24 defence ministers or commanding generals, and 67 other ministers. Henry Kissinger has been going since the 1970s. Russia’s deputy premier is there every year. John McCain had to stay in Washington for votes the year I went, which amazed everyone because McCain never misses one of these things.

All of which is to say that you would think a bunch of people with a bad case of U.S. Republican envy would be all about making sure a Canadian minister shows up at Munich, speaks in Munich and gets noticed at Munich. We spend billions of dollars every time international diplomacy screws up badly enough to suck our kids into a war. It is worth a little money to make sure the world’s governments are sort-of kind-of on the same page.

But here’s the Canadian Taxpayers Federation complaining about MacKay’s hotel bill. It is profoundly idiotic. And yet, I figure the CTF’s chances of scaring the Harper government away from attending the 2012 Munich conference are a lot better than 50-50. Maybe if MacKay got his name legally changed to “Gazebo in Tony Clement’s Riding” he could spend the money he needs to do his job.