Tuesday, 15 April 2008

"Fucking Up for Canada"

Once upon a time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was considered the most senior Cabinet portfolio. At its head would be placed the most august of the Prime Minister's caucus colleagues. This is an office that has been filled, with honour, by Nobel Prize winners and former prime ministers. Mike Pearson, Joe Clark, Paul Martin Sr. and Flora MacDonald number among the many who have done Canada proud on the world stage.

The ever-innovative Stephen Harper, always on the qui vive for ways of overturning Canadian traditions, opted to litter the Ministry with two of the most inconsequential dullards of his groggily mediocre caucus, thus facilitating his own retention of total control over foreign policy (for, you see, a minister with a decent IQ or a full scrotum might make that task damnably difficult).

First, the Canadian people had to suffer through the Peter MacKay era. MacKay is a football-faced harlequin whose rise from richly-earned anonymity during the 2003 P.C. leadership race was eclipsed by the ignominy of his pro-Alliance coat-turning and consequent assassination of his own party. He acceded to the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs purely for protocol's sake: being the leader of one the CPC's "legacy" parties, MacKay could not be seen to settle for Transportation.

Thus, bereft of anything even approaching an international profile, MacKay stumbled through his commedia dell' arte of a tenure while Canadians averted their eyes. In one of the most embarrassing spectacles in Canadian diplomatic history, MacKay publicly announced his crush on U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice. For months, the North American press followed this sordid soap opera, which ended only when MacKay, finally put out of his misery in a Cabinet shuffle, was demoted to National Defence (the fact that Harper would use Defence as the destination of a demotion during a time of war says volumes about how seriously he takes that portfolio and the war).

Harper then outdid himself and appointed Maxime Bernier--yet another faceless drone nobody outside his riding had ever heard of--as Minister of Foreign Affairs. With Bernier, Harper got all the amateur-hour gaucherie and shallowness that MacKay had provided, and, what is more, got them wrapped in the big, red bow of Bernier's barely passable English. Imagine Harper's elation at having created his perfect minister: a man who not only cannot think for himself, but who can barely speak for himself into the bargain.

Bernier's latest triumph? He openly mused to reporters about wanting to have the governor of Kandahar replaced. Made aware of the colossal size of his gaffe, he retreated from this position a few hours later after suffering the unprecedented humiliation of being publicly rebuked by his own spokesman.

The governor in question, Asadullah Khalid, has been accused of detainee torture, and, now that the CPC seems to have come to the belated belief that such torture actually occurred, Bernier might see Khalid's removal as a necessary anti-corruption gesture.

Awkwardly, though, most Afghans no doubt consider such a gesture to be their responsibility and their prerogative, to be undertaken how and when they choose--like in an election. The cause of Afghan stability is in no way advanced when the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs addresses the population as if he were an Ottoman Caliph addressing a gaggle of turbulent bedouins.

Ultimately, Bernier has only made Khalid's position more secure, as Karzai--painfully aware of the Afghani perception that he's a NATO puppet--will be loath to allow domestic affairs to proceed according to Western dictation. Moreover, Bernier has provided more ammunition (literally) to the insurgent propaganda that the West sees itself as Afghanistan's overlord rather than an ally. Finally, Bernier has unwittingly removed the fig leaf from the ugly fact that, at least in one region (and there are many others like it), Afghan "democracy" has amounted to a Gaza-Strip-like shambles of corruption and violence.

If Stephen Harper is as smart as he thinks he is, he'll muzzle Bernier, put him on a leash, and send him chasing after Condi's skirt. At least then, like his predecessor, he'll be harmless.

9 comments:

Aeneas the Younger said...

A richness of embarrassment. But what do you expect when the Caucus is composed of a bunch of hacks ...

Dylan said...

"If Stephen Harper is as smart as he thinks he is, he'll muzzle Bernier, put him on a leash, and send him chasing after Condi's skirt. At least then, like his predecessor, he'll be harmless."

Game. Set. Match.

Ti-Guy said...

Two long, long years of watching Harper put incompetents in high-profile positions to embarrass us all. You can't help but think, conspiratorially, that this man is out to destroy Canada, or at least, undermine federalism (which is not the same thing as supporting provincial autonomy). If I wanted to do that, I'd go about it in exactly the way he has.

Red Tory said...

This is what happens when you go fishing in a shallow pool of talent.

Ryan said...

You can't start revolutions without ideologues.

I think Harper cares more about ideological loyalty than competence. Bernier thinks higher taxes are a form or discrimination like all others for Christ's sake.

"cough...Stockwell Day..."cough*

Aeneas the Younger said...

"...cough .... Rob Anders .... cough"

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

You didn't see Bernier's speculation as a brilliantly played trial balloon, that was a strategic tour de force?

Neither did I.

I'm not sure if I have truly appreciated the quality of the Quebec ministers. My top ten Cabinet Ministers would not include a single Quebec rep.

Tomm

Tomm said...

Ti-Guy,

You said:

"...Two long, long years of watching Harper put incompetents in high-profile positions to embarrass us all. You can't help but think, conspiratorially, that this man is out to destroy Canada, or at least, undermine federalism (which is not the same thing as supporting provincial autonomy). If I wanted to do that, I'd go about it in exactly the way he has..."

Is there anything that you vomit out that isn't some sarcastic, cyncial little rant? Are you married? How si that working out?

You call me passive-aggressive, you're just aggressive-aggressive.

Tomm

Ti-Guy said...

Is there anything that you vomit out that isn't some sarcastic, cyncial little rant?

I'm sure there must be.

Are you married? How si that working out?

If you can't avoid taking criticism of Harper personally, then you really shouldn't follow these discussions. They're not good for your sang froid, obviously.

As for being aggressive-aggressive when it comes to people with power...you bet.