Thursday, April 19, 2012

There Ought To Be A Law.

My column in the Ottawa Citizen today is about the custom of Canadian ministers and mandarins alike striking off into a lucrative Beijing-Ottawa circuit of revolving doors, post-employment sinecures, appreciative board appointments and second-career retirement paths.

For decades, Ottawa’s foreign policy elite has been wholly unencumbered by scruple in its intimacies with Beijing. All you have to do is look at who’s sitting on the boards of the Canada-China Business Council, the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada, the Canadian investment-law firms that do business in Beijing, or the Chinese investment conglomerates that do business in Canada.

Here's what the 2006 Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders has to say:

“Public office holders shall not act, after they leave public office, in such a manner as to take improper advantage of their previous office. Observance of this Part will minimize the possibilities of: (a) allowing prospects of outside employment to create a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest for public office holders while in public office; (b) obtaining preferential treatment or privileged access to government after leaving public office; (c) taking personal advantage of information obtained in the course of official duties and responsibilities until it has become generally available to the public; and (d) using public office to unfair advantage in obtaining opportunities for outside employment.

"After Leaving Office - Prohibited Activities 27. (1) At no time shall a former public office holder switch sides by acting for or on behalf of any person, commercial entity, association or union in connection with any specific ongoing proceeding, transaction, negotiation or case to which the Government is a party and where the former public office holder acted for or advised the Government. (2) Nor shall former public office holders give advice to their clients using information that is not available to the public concerning the programs or policies of the departments with which they were employed, or with which they had a direct and substantial relationship.

"28. Subject to section 29, and to the object of this Code, former public office holders, except for ministers for whom the prescribed period is two years, shall not, within a period of one year after leaving office: (1) accept services contracts, appointment to a board of directors of, or employment with, an entity with which they had direct and significant official dealings during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service in public office; or (2) (a) make representations whether for remuneration or not, for or on behalf of any other person or entity to any department, organization, board, commission or tribunal with which they had direct and significant official dealings during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service in public office; and (b) in the case of former ministers, make representations to a minister in the Cabinet who had been a Cabinet colleague of the former minister. . ."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Obama The Catastrophe, Part XXXII.

"The administration is talking about negotiating with the very people we've been trying to discredit for 10 years. We've been trying to gain the support of people who are scared to death of the Taliban, and now they're scared to death that we're trying to bring the Taliban back."

- Mike Rogers, chair, House Intelligence Committee.

Monday, April 16, 2012

This Is What "Peace Talks & Troops Out" Gets You.

A kind of suicide:

President Karzai also faces a moment of decision: it is clear that the Taliban he hoped he could make peace with has no intention of accepting any kind of deal that Afghanistan's political system as a whole could live with. In 2010, Mr. Muhaqiq had warned: “the new political path that Karzai has chosen will not only destroy him, it will destroy the country. It's a kind of suicide.”

Maybe I've been too hard on Barack Obama, and maybe not. Maybe it's all because of my own kind of perspective on these things, which Brian Fawcett pegs, in an intelligent criticism of my book Come From the Shadows, as that of "an Orwell leftist, which is to say, not tied to any political or environmental faction, openly skeptical of ideology, and loyal only to whoever or whatever is getting screwed."

I'll take it (except the "angry man" bit, maybe not so much). I don't spend too much effort in the book on my own opinions but one thing the overwhelming weight of evidence and informed opinion made it impossible for me to ignore was that the peace talks racket would implode upon on its own contradictions and conceits. The most modest assessment now would have to contain an acknowledgement that this is exactly what has happened.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Throwing Iran's Democrat's Under The Bus.

"The cold truth is that the West, including the United States, would gladly negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran's hardliners at the expense of Iranian human rights and democracy. If all it took to reach a nuclear deal were to remain silent about Tehran's repression, the prospects for a deal would be excellent."

That's because there is no "left" left in the "west" with the capacity or the inclination to do anything about it. Peace out, man.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sooner or later, it becomes just too painfully obvious.

Michael Weiss does a withering job of laying out the evidence: "Barack Obama’s foreign policy prescriptions are rooted in a deeply conservative and nostalgic tradition. When it comes to Russia, the tradition this White House channels most is that of Richard Nixon. This seemingly incongruous resemblance was well illustrated in a recent controversy over the nullification of a Nixon-era piece of legislation, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which binds U.S. trade relations with autocratic regimes to those regimes’ human rights records."

As I was saying only a few weeks ago, drawing on a slightly different analogy: "Well, bite me, because after McChrystal’s cashiering came a series of Pentagon career-enders and State Department demotions and White House defenestrations until all that was left was Joe Biden and a stratagem that would make Henry Kissinger blush."

Marty Peretz, January 2011:"My point is that across the depths of Africa--from Egypt in the north to Zimbabwe in the south (and dare I say South Africa itself?) and in Congo and Sudan and a dozen countries besides--the killers and the humiliators are free to kill and humiliate without even a chastising from the United States. So where are the idealists and youthful human rights champions? Nowhere. Darfur was only an issue when they could taunt George Bush about it."

Nick Cohen, January, 2010: "I accept that readers may find this a hard sentence to swallow, but when it comes to promoting democracy, the emancipation of women and the liberation of the oppressed, Barack Obama has been the most reactionary American president since Richard Nixon."

Monday, April 09, 2012


Between the wars: "I don't think there's any way to come out of this that Afghanistan is going to be more stable than when we went in," says Christine Fair, a South Asia security expert at Georgetown University in Washington. "A lot of people, including me, expect another civil war."

The first ones to starve, the first ones to die: "Most of women's important achievements over the last decade are likely to be reversed," predicted a bleak report issued last month by the Afghan Human Rights and Democracy Organization. Don't blame Hilary.

Still crazy after all these years: Russian communists have held on Saturday afternoon a rally in Moscow against the projected deployment of a NATO supply base on the Russian territory.

Understatement of the month: "More than three years into his term, it’s possible to assess where the promotion of democracy and freedom ranks in President Obama’s foreign policy: not high."

Like I said.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

So Long, Agony Machine.

The $11-million-a-year random scandal generator officially known as the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, more commonly called Rights and Democracy, is over and done with at last. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued R&D’s death certificate on Tuesday.

This is precisely the mercy I wished for in my last column, where I also expressed the hope that Ottawa would start over with something that actually works.

It's a long story.

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Unbearable Lightness of Barack Obama

To say that the contenders for the US. Republican ticket espouse "a dangerously simplistic foreign policy philosophy" is almost dangerously simplistic in its understatement. In any case:

Faoud Ajami: "It is a sad truth that the president has become the embodiment, and the instrument, of our retreat from distant shores-and concerns. He trades away strategic American assets in the hope that the American people will not care or notice. On the face of it, he exudes a sublime confidence that the world could be held at bay-at least until November, past that last election."

Compare and contrast with Sari Shafia, an unveiled Afghan woman with an AK47: "The bravery of our sister gives other women the courage to work with or in the government, and work shoulder to shoulder with their brothers, and not to fear anything."

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Ya Think?

Duh: “Inclusive economic institutions that enforce property rights, create a level playing field, and encourage investments in new technologies and skills are more conducive to economic growth than extractive economic institutions that are structured to extract resources from the many by the few,” write M.I.T. economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James A. Robinson.

Thomas Friedman finds this fascinating.

Negotiate with this: Afghan officials say a girl and a boy have been killed in an acid attack in central Afghanistan. The girl was believed to be 12 years old and the boy 15. Locals say they were probably murdered in this way because they were friends.

The utter ordinariness of heroism: "Afghan witnesses said that when a 10-year-old Afghan boy darted under a vehicle, Specialist Weichel climbed under and pushed him to safety. Then the huge vehicle ran over Specialist Weichel, killing him."

Bravo Zulu Specialist Dennis Weichel.

Way Worse than Joseph Kony.

China is the single most important political, economic and military ally of President Omar al-Bashir since he took power in Khartoum via a coup in 1989.