Fowler scorches Canadian foreign policy

fowlermarch2010Former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler launched a blistering attack on the foreign policy of recent Canadian governments during a speech to the Liberal Party’s “thinkers’ conference” on Sunday (video of speech here). Fowler, now retired, was a senior member of the Canadian foreign policy establishment for decades, serving in a wide variety of posts, including foreign policy advisor to prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, and Brian Mulroney, Deputy Minister of National Defence, and Canadian UN Ambassador and Canadian representative on the UN Security Council.

In his speech, Fowler declared that “the world does not need more of the kind of Canada they have been getting.” He said Canada has abandoned Africa, that it does not deserve the UN Security Council seat it is currently seeking, that the Afghanistan mission is doomed to fail, and that Canadian politicians are undermining foreign policy by pandering to the “ethnic vote” in Canada.

As David Akin reported,

While he praised the key foreign policy initiatives of Pearson, Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien, Fowler was withering in his assessment of Harper’s approach to world affairs, suggesting that, because of the Conservative approach, the world is becoming increasingly suspicious and distrustful of a Canada that has increasingly turned away from the world.

Canada will vie with Germany and Portugal to win one of the two seats on the United Nations Security Council 2011-12. Fowler said Canadians should not assume the rest of the world wants Canada to win that race.

“If we win, it will not be because we have contributed much to the effective management of world affairs over recent years, because we have not,” Fowler said.

The Afghanistan mission, Fowler said, is doomed because neither Canadians nor its allies are prepared to pay the price, “in blood or treasure” to essentially colonize that country.

“The bottom line is: We will not prevail in Afghanistan,” Fowler said. “We are simply not prepared to foot the massive price in blood and treasure, which it would take to effectively colonize Afghanistan — the least fortunate country in the world — and replace their culture with ours, for that seems to be what we seek, and the Taliban share that view.”

Fowler argued that Canadian troops should immediately withdraw from that country. “It is time to leave. Not a moment, not a life, and not a dollar, later.”

(David Akin, “Former diplomat Fowler slams Harper’s foreign policy,” Canwest News Service, 28 March 2010)

Further coverage

John Ibbitson, “Robert Fowler attacks Ottawa’s inaction in Africa,” Globe and Mail, 28 March 2010

Kevin Carmichael & John Ibbitson, “Liberal Party in danger of losing its soul, ex-diplomat says,” Globe and Mail, 29 March 2010.

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