Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On "the Iggy Doctrine"

Ignatieff recently had a speech/released what I assume is parts of, but not the entirety of, a foreign affairs platform. I watched about half of the speech on CBC, from the Arctic issues on, and I thought it was fairly well thought out and direct, especially for Iggy and a politician in general.

However, this comes from the mouth of a person whose foreign policy vision is clouded not only by bias towards Iggy's positions, but by the fact that his books and ideas have had a pretty big influence on me.

So, I decided to break down the key points (as noted in the announcement on, look at the advantages and disadvantages, and try objectively as I can to evaluate the newest addition to the Liberal Party platform for 2010 - the Iggy Doctrine.

So here we go....

  • Propose a new kind of bilateral agreement with China and India to build productive, long-term relationships in key economic, knowledge and cultural sectors;
Good idea, of course, that I think few can argue with. also failed to note that Ignatieff did say things about Brazil and etc. as well, but no big deal.

Possible downside? It's not too different from the Harper government at the moment, though Ignatieff's "piecemeal" comment does hit the nail on the head - this will be macro deals versus micro deals which Harper like to make. Human rights will also become an issue, much like it did with the Colombia FTA debate.
  • Pursue a new, multilateral agreement on the Arctic to advance cooperation on social, economic, environmental and security issues;
Iggy stresses diplomacy here over simple brute force to assert sovereignty and deal with Arctic issues. I personally think this is a good idea, and stakes out a position different from that of the Harper government, who talk little about diplomacy, the environment or talking. Harper's tactics rely on stirring up Canadian patriotic feelings, nothing more.

Downside? Harper's tactics rely on stirring up Canadian patriotic feelings. When you talk about "defending the Arctic," you make it seem like Canadians need to come meet a threat. When you talk about "lets have a better role for the Arctic Council," Canadians could care less. Diplomacy simply never stirs up as much support as pseudo-patriotic military talk.

  • Leverage the passion of Canadian youth, with a new Canada Youth Service program to support volunteer service abroad;
Not quite sure what to say about this. It's a good idea, definitely, and it stresses the continuance of Canadian pride in our service overseas. But, will this be in contention or working with private NGOs which provide the same service? That's an important question to be answered. But, if you can take anything from this, it's clear that Iggy wants to stress the internationalist stance that Liberals are known for.

Possible downsides? Some people simply don't like internationalism.

  • Implement a Branding Canada initiative in key foreign markets focusing especially on Canadian culture and our strengths in higher education;
Team Canada 2.0, more or less. Another internationalist idea, and a good one at that.

Possible downsides? None that I can see; who doesn't want Canada to liven its image abroad?

  • Make empowering women in the developing world an over-arching priority for development assistance;
An obvious jibe at the Harper government for the recent debate over their maternal health initiative for the G8/G20. A good idea which will help spurn our image abroad as a country you can rely on to help women and others raise their profile in the country and the world. Always goes over well with Canadians and women voters.

Possible downsides? Depends on what "empowering" means exactly. Development assistance covers things like education and careers, but what about maternal health? The majority of Canadians may be on our side in the abortion question for such initiatives, but it will be contentious no matter what.

  • Re-establish Canadian credibility and leadership in energy and the environment, working with the international community to fight climate change, while at the same time ensuring we transition successfully to the low-carbon economy of tomorrow,with good jobs in a competitive and innovative Canada;
The most vague of all, really, and the second-most controversial. An idea well worth its words on paper; working with the international community to build better energy infrastructures and agreements to deal with climate change, which will help spurn more investment in a green economy here at home, as well as more jobs, jobs which are or will be in demand. How can you go wrong with that?

Here's how: it is not only too vague, but is too hopeful. The energy infrastructure one is something that is fairly realistic, but the climate change agreement and etc. - does anyone really think we'll end up with something anytime soon? I don't want to be cynical, but we should work more within the bounds of reality. Also, climate change is becoming a more contentious issue - could backfire on us.

  • Renew the government’s capacity to act on the Global Networks Strategy, in part by reallocating the incremental spending by the Department of National Defence in Afghanistan, after the combat mission ends in 2011.
Not a bad idea, of course. Foreign policy funds should be allocated to more foreign policy projects after the other project ends. Might draw some fire for not spending the money on domestic issues, but we'll see.

I cut this short because didn't mention the most contentious issue - the idea that there should be a training role in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends.

This will by far define what the Iggy doctrine is. True to his credentials, Iggy has said that the job isn't done, and while the combat role should end, we should still have a part there to help build up the capacity for the Afghanis to defend themselves. It falls in line with Iggy's nation-building ideas. I agree with it.

The other parties seem to agree on this, but whether the people will is another story. I think a good portion just want to wash their hands of the whole affair, which I think is the wrong thing to do - however they have a point. It's been futile, it's cost lives and the Americans seem to be doing well without us. Why spend more money on it?

However, it's been clearly defined that the combat role must end in 2011, no ifs, ands or buts about it. That's a good position to continually hammer home. Not everyone will agree, but they'll see our position and might decide its the lesser evil. With the deadline coming up and the two major parties defining where they're at, more or less, Afghanistan will die as an issue and the NDP won't pick up as many votes from it due to their get-the-hell-out-ASAP position. If the end is just over the horizon, it won't concern as many voters.

Which is why we must be even more specific about this training role we'll be in. Let's not fall for the poppycock stuff about how "even a training camp could be attacked." That's combat, yes, but its not the kind of combat which is meant by "combat role." It's these sort of ideas we need to beat down. It might not give us many votes, but I'd feel more comfortable about it than if we had no plan whatsoever.

So, overall, the Iggy doctrine is essentially internationalist. He promotes nation building, diplomacy, trade engagement, and all that good stuff. It's essentially a status-quo Liberal doctrine, in my mind. It's Pearsonian. It's in line generally with the Chretien/Martin reign. This is what we stand for, and Iggy is backing that up.

Some Liberals will no doubt have issues with it. Most of it will stem from the training role talk. But, I'd like to point out that foreign policy for the Liberals has always been a tad to the right. We're internationalists, more or less. We were the original free traders. We brought around peacekeeping. We either helped administer or did administer two world wars and their direct aftermath. Liberals are engaged with the world and we take the duties fairly seriously, whether military, political or economic. Iggy is simply continuing this tradition. It's not "Conservative-lite" - it's Liberal.


  1. Please define "internationalist".

    It's simple to use a term and much harder to define it.

    "So, overall, the Iggy doctrine is essentially internationalist. He promotes nation building, diplomacy, trade engagement, and all that good stuff."

    Please eplain how this is any different from what is happening now under the current governmant?

    And please remember, Canada was a superpower after WWII, it was Liberals that dealt that away.

    Man, I don't have enough time to pick all of your weak arguements apart...shame.


  2. Oh forgive me...I didn't realize you were just getting ready to vote in your first Federal election.


  3. First off, Jim, you don't need the attitude. I didn't give you any, so why you feel the need to insult me is beyond any reasoning I can think of. You don't need to be a dick for me to listen to you.

    Secondly, I've already voted in a federal election, I've worked on campaigns for several candidates, I've taken part or participated in several party policy and organization meetings, and I probably know more about politics in Canada in my couple of years interest, than you know about your mother in however many years you've lived.

    Thirdly, why would I address any point you make when you come on, not to engage in a legitimate discussion, but to just throw about insults? Unless you have something constructive to say, don't bother posting anything. It's a waste of yours, mine and other's time.

  4. I don't see where I insulted you.

    My opinion that you are naive and your stand is weak are certainly not insults.

    You are young and your enthusiasm towards politics is admirable, if somewhat misguided.

  5. If you can't see where you've insulted me, then there is no point to this discussion.

    If, however, you believe you have legitimate complaints over either myself or what I say, then please, don't hold back.