There has justifiably been immense interest in official Ottawa in two new reflections on Canada’s role in the world ”” both written with great care and both look- ing at a very different aspect of the pol- icy challenge. Any meaningful foreign policy shift for a complex country like Canada requires at least two key ele- ments ”” an intellectual framework with which a new policy can be shaped and the actual deployable capacity to make that policy real somewhere out- side and beyond the boardrooms of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Jennifer Welsh’s new framework is laid out in a remarkably well written and accessible book that makes a care- ful case for a ”œmodel citizen” position- ing that sets aside old shibboleths about the imperative of a US-centric Canadian foreign policy, in favour of a more global view that anticipates a world where China, India, the European community and the United States all grow in importance and stature. In her construct, Canada exe- cutes a foreign policy reflective of our own core values that is agile and clear enough to be both purposeful and meaningful in ways that strengthen both our own sovereignty and the con- structive forces of development, eco- nomic partnership and global sanity. The case is made by Welsh in an open, original, clear-minded and reflective st way that seems very much what 21 century Pearsonianism might look like. One need not agree with the entire the- sis to benefit immensely from the clar- ity of thought and awesome focus of the foreign policy framework she pro- poses. At the end of Chapter Six, she writes with majesty and precision:
Collapsing and failed states constitute one of the biggest threats to international peace and security. But our primary goal, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, should be to build the capacity of weak states to protect and provide for their citizens. This is the most productive and effective way to deliver human security.
Her arguments for a values-based foreign policy are not in any way insen- sitive to the core issue of great power interests or our need to have robust mil- itary capacity to deploy with allies, as part of a coalition of the willing, or on our own in areas of interest like Haiti. Welsh defines Canada’s world as sub- stantially larger than North America and our values as being reflective of who we are, how our history has defined us, and what our internal exi- gencies continue to require of us.
This is the kind of signal contribu- tion to the foreign policy debate that gets beyond the yin and yang of pro- American versus pro-UN, or trade versus aid. It is a bridge, a sparkling and con- ceptually compelling bridge to a new level in the debate ”” one that embraces more than the foreign policy expert or old external hand; it reflects a genera- tional change in what foreign policy can be, and what intellectual underpinnings a 21st century foreign policy might have.
Beyond the conceptual, Richard Gimblett’s Operation Apollo tells the remarkable story of sixteen Canadian naval warships, and 4,100 sailors who served the anti-terrorist cause between the shock of September 11, 2001, and the end of the deployment a few months ago. He tells a detailed strategy and logistics story of how a deployable naval resource, with well-trained crews and technologically advanced ships, could secure and patrol key sea lanes, enforce and advance anti-terrorist measures and boycotts, and board and inspect over one thousand commercial vessels searching for illegal human or verboten cargo. And, while doing all this, the logistically and technological- ly advanced Canadian task group pro- vided key protection for allied fleets in the region.
His detailed analysis causes one to reflect on how a rapidly deployable navy with the right capacities is an invaluable tool for a foreign policy that requires flexibility.
The Navy can be deployed quickly ”” within days, not weeks and months as is the case with land forces, and in a host of different ways. It allows Canada to project its presence in support of those values, principles and interests which our duly elected government and Parliament seek to sustain. The level or mix of hard-edge firepower, policing, surveillance, or humanitarian focus is well within the scope of the Navy to project. Relief in Haiti? Sovereignty projection off our coasts? Cooperation with allies? An independent presence adjacent to a war zone or sight of ethic cleansing?
The Canadian Navy can and has performed all these kinds of functions. In fact, while the two books were writ- ten by very different people with very different perspectives, they are remark- ably complimentary. Gimblett’s work has a measure of detail, illustration, and both logistical and tactical explic- its that drill down marvellously, help- ing the reader understand precisely why and how a naval deployment is both complex and valuable. He deals with ideas, people, command strategy and the nitty-gritty of hardware and technical exigencies.
It is, in a sense, the perfect balance to Welsh’s book about the core ideas that must fuel an enlightened foreign policy. Gimblett deals with the specifics of deployability that con- tribute to making a foreign policy real.
The student of foreign policy and the citizen wondering what the key aspects of a deployable and real foreign and defence policy might require will both benefit immensely from the Welsh and Gimblett books. They are very dif- ferent in form and content. But they paint separate parts of our foreign and defence policy horizon in ways that provide more light than heat ”” a light from which the discussion and debate on for- eign policy desperately needs to benefit.