Saturday, March 05, 2005

Lloyd's Unworthy Letter

I read about this matter in other Red Ensign blogs, but reading Right Jab finally caused me to have a look at the actual letter.

The blogosphere is quivering over an open letter penned by the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy PC, PhD., former Minister of Foreign Affairs and champion of Canadian soft power, to Condi Rice, the Secretary of State of the United States of America and champion of actual power. It appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on March 3, 2005. Mr. Axworthy is currently the President of the University of Winnipeg.

First let me reminisce a bit. Back in 1973, John the Mad was a very young, newly employed, Liberal political staff member on Parliament Hill. In the first few days on the job I had occasion to attend a committee of the House of Commons to listen in on some discussion relating to rail freight rates, or some such matter. Lloyd Axworthy MP happened to be speaking.

At first I was in a state approaching awe and wonderment at actually being in the committee room with men of state talking about great affairs of state. Gradually, however, as I listened and watched Mr. Axworthy MP, I lost my sense of awe and became aware that I was in the presence of a pompous ass. He effected a certain condescending tone that, even I as a young Liberal, found off-putting. I have not had a good reason over the years to change my assessment of the man and his recent letter merely reinforces that three decade-old sense that Mr. Axworthy is in love with himself.

Now let us address the letter itself.

Dear Condi,
I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.
Like you, I was surprised that a former foreign minister would adopt such a sophomoric ambiance in an open letter to a US Secretary of State. Given his current job, it may just be that he is spending too much time reading the campus student press. Let's forgive him this shortcoming, for he embarrasses no one but himself.

The thing that caught my eye was the next sentence. What can Dr. Axworthy mean by this comment?

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.
At first blush he gives the impression that he believes he is not prepared to support the wasting of billions of taxpayer dollars on anti-weapons systems that don't work. But this cannot be the case. Look at the Liberal gun registry. The Liberals have spent nearly $2 billion on this exercise in political posturing, and we have four dead young RCMP constables to prove it is only a useless multi billion dollar boondoggle.

If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.
Now I'll accept that this government wants to spend more on social programs and health. But the federal budget only gives substantial boosts to foreign aid and the military four or five years from now, assuming Liberal priorities don't change, and assuming they are still in office. As I've pointed out in this blog, the next two fiscal years will see the Canadian Forces get an additional $500 million per year, when arresting current rust-out of the Forces infrastructure requires $1.5 billion per year. More Liberal smoke and mirrors.

Still, Mr. Axworthy's sudden conversion to supporting increases in defence budgets is most gratifying to me. As a Catholic I know sudden conversions are possible. You may remain sceptical. I understand.

Sure,that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children. Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny.
Oops. That conversion was short lived, I admit. Our Lloyd does raise an important idea though. What is a national government's role? I thought that the defence of the realm and protection of its citizens was right up there in the list. We cannot do that, of course, and his political party is largely responsible for that sorry state of afairs.

The RCMP and Immigration have suffered significant cutbacks in the years following 9/11 and even if you believe in the tooth fairy and the efficacy of Mr. Goodale's five-year budget plan, our military won?t be able to do much defending for years, if at all. If the Canadian Forces were a home they'd be issuing an emergency demolition permit to prevent passers by from being crushed by falling debris from the rotting hulk.

Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such as missile defence can be made openly.
I think Mr. Axworthy is having Ms. Rice on a bit here. While it is agreed that demands may be made for an open debate on missile defence, it is not so that we actually get one. I think we used to call that selectively telling the truth. It's a government thing.

You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.
Now that statement is a fact. Any living breathing Liberal caucus member that wants to launch verbal pot shots at our American neighbours may do so just as long as they don't appear on CBC TV comedy sketches. Do that and they're toast, but short of that and Prime Minister Dithers will let them hack away with all the petty ill will at their command.

What caucus members are absolutely forbidden from doing, however, is to question publicly the ideological and non-teleological fantasies of the current Liberal elites. Papal anathemas would pale in comparison to Prime Ministerial interdicts in such cases. Don't believe me? Consider the probable political destiny of any liberal MP who dares to say our national health care policy is fiscally unsustainable in the long run and must change or consume all program spending in government. I rest my case.

Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.

Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.
Need I bring to your attention the utter gall of a leading member of "Canada's natural governing party" accusing the Bush Republicans of running a one party state. Didn't the Yanks just have a bruising knock 'em down, electoral race that had all the thrills and spills of Northern Dancer winning the Queen's Plate.

Checks and balances? Canada? Third parties can't even participate fully in electoral campaigns here. Checks and balances are very few in this centralized, caucus whipped, PMO run federal government. Let us pass on quickly lest the good doctor/statesman becomes completely embarrassed by his own rhetoric.

If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don't embarrass our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public stage, with no chance to respond.
Ah, too late. He is a determined man our Lloyd. He is clearly not capable of recognizing that he is embarrassing himself. Those who consider themselves the centre of the enlightened universe are seldom able to maintain perspective, I guess. Word missiles? What have we been witnessing from the Liberal party for the last couple of years, but a steady fusillade of insults and smarmy verbal missiles directed at President Bush and the American people? What is this open letter? Mr. Axworthy protesteth too much.

I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your opinions of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and discussions. You would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government. You would see that rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.

These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.
Very well modulated indeed. The Liberal Government of Canada's human rights efforts are so modulated they are invisible. I think the recent elections in Afghanistan and Iraq speak for George Bush's clear support for the rights of people vs nation states.

As I discovered recently while giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease, natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means.
Lloyd. Lloyd. Lloyd. As the respective Canadian-US responses to the tsunami disaster demonstrate, the possession and maintenance of an actual,(rather than a planned way off/maybe, but only if you reelect us) military capability is crucial to the delivery of disaster assistance in a quick, effective and substantial way.

Have a look at the CF Disaster Assistance Response Team debacle over air deployment, compared to the instant and effective response from the United States Navy carrier battle group. There is simply no comparison. Has the UN even got there yet, by the way?

Above all, ignore the Cassandras who deride the state of our relations because of one missile-defence decision. Accept that, as a friend on your border, we will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times when truth must speak to power.
Condi: Ignore John the Mad and his ilk. ... Lloyd Axworthy and the Liberal are really your friends .... Honest to goodness. ... Really!...It's true

4 Comments:

At 5:39 pm, March 06, 2005 , Blogger Rebecca said...

Well done John. I nearly choked on my vanilla oreo while reading the original letter; what a windbag!

Condi Rice could flatten Axworthy with just one kick of her well-heeled foot, and then finish him off with a good dose of common sense.

 
At 12:26 am, March 07, 2005 , Anonymous Tamara said...

"Gradually, however, as I listened and watched Mr. Axworthy MP, I lost my sense of awe and became aware that I was in the presence of a pompous ass."

This sentence struck me - I had a very similar experience with John Manley. When I was at the University of Calgary, most of the political clubs shared an office and I had some friends in the Young Liberals. They snuck me into what was supposed to be a Liberal-only meeting with Manley. His arrogance and unwillingness to try to understand Western issues was unreal! It was even making some of the Liberals uncomfortable.

The proud anti-American chest-beating needs to stop soon - it's an embarassment! Surely we can disagree with our neighbours without making the big show of congratulating ourselves on it. :\

 
At 9:44 am, March 07, 2005 , Blogger RightJab said...

Rebecca?? Tamara?? How come your blog gets all the chicks?

 
At 1:53 pm, March 07, 2005 , Blogger John the Mad said...

Rightjab

Personally, ... I like to think it's because they are so intelligent and wise.

It's definitely not my aftershave.

 

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