Telling friend from foe: The Trump team is dogmatic on Islam, but Russia is more pragmatic | The Economist

Interesting Trump/Putin contrast – telling:

WITH every passing day, there seems to be fresh news about the Islamophobic sentiments harboured by people close to Donald Trump. It’s not so much that anything fresh is being said now. Rather, the ideological backgrounds of some senior individuals close to America’s new president are being studied ever more closely as they settle into power.

And at the heart of their declared ideology, it seems, is an essentialist view of Islam: in other words, a view that the religion itself, as opposed to some nasty misinterpretation, can push people to violence and is therefore to be treated as dangerous.

As one obvious example, Stephen Bannon, Mr Trump’s chief strategist, has spoken with utter contempt of the two previous occupants of the White House because of their optimistic insistence that Islam, in its heart, is a peaceful faith.

You would expect the former boss of Breitbart, a far-right news service, to be scornful of Barack Obama’s ideas about the Muslim faith. But as people are now recalling, Mr Bannon was equally dismissive of George W. Bush, who a few days after the 9/11 attacks insisted that Islam was “a religion of peace.” Such naivete, in Mr Bannon’s acerbic opinion, was to be expected from a “country-club” politician whose faint-hearted view of the world was little better than the Clintons’. In truth, Islam was a religion of submission and therefore it could not be a force for peace, he insisted.

One of Mr Bannon’s lieutenants, a former Breitbart writer who now has a job at the White House, takes a similarly Manichean view. That is Hungarian-born Sebastian Gorka, who will report to Mr Bannon as a member of his Strategic Initiatives Group. An ex-soldier and military lecturer, he was quoted by the Washington Post as saying he “completely jettisoned” the idea that the causes of terrorism were complex: on the contrary, what mainly inspired anti-American terror was the martial messages delivered in certain parts of the Koran.

To see a third strain of Islamoscepticism, take Ben Carson, an ex-presidential candidate and Mr Trump’s nominee for the job of housing secretary. A fundamentalist Christian with an apocalyptic streak, the retired neurosurgeon has espoused the view that Islam is not really a religion at all but rather a “life-organisation system”. It follows, he thinks, that no adherent of that faith should ever be president.

Whatever the intellectual merits of these arguments, one striking comparison immediately occurs. Although some of his Western admirers might be surprised to hear this, it is virtually unimaginable that Vladimir Putin or any of his well-disciplined team would allow themselves to make such a generalised critique of Islam or any other global faith.

If anything Mr Putin grows more insistent over time in following and even outdoing the Bush-Obama school: respectful of Islam as a religion, determined to give his own Muslim citizens a decent existence as long as they obey him, and open to geopolitical co-operation with Islamic countries. And in the regions of Russia where Islam prevails, loyalty to Mr Putin sits comfortably with an increasingly conservative religious culture.

In a news conference last December, Mr Putin firmly told a questioner he did not like to hear Islam “wrongly linked to terrorism”. Earlier last year, the president said that “in Russia, Islam will always find a reliable ally, prepared to cooperate in solving world problems.” Opening a mosque in Moscow in 2015, he excoriated the Islamic State terror group for “discrediting a great world religion”.

Does this mean that he or other powerful figures in Moscow have pored over the Koran and come to conclusions which are different from those of Mr Trump’s zealous advisers? Of course not. It simply means that the Russian state, like any confident geopolitical player in a diverse and volatile world, wants to keep its options open. To commit yourself unconditionally to supporting one global religion against another is an act of irrational self-limitation. Such a one-track approach would be, to use a favourite Russian word, netselesobrazno (“inexpedient”).

The same sort of flexibility (call it ruthless pragmatism if you like) characterised 19th-century Britain and France when they battled to support the Muslim Turks against Christian Russia. A similar approach was taken by American cold-war strategists who forged deep alliances with Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia.

By contrast, some of Mr Trump’s people talk as though they really do put religious or cultural differences above all else in the way they analyse the world and plan America’s course. Mr Bannon, for example, thinks present generations should be inspired by the example of their forefathers and their “long history of the Judeo-Christian West [and its] struggle against Islam.” But the truth is that those forefathers were often more utilitarian in their choice of friends and foes than we might imagine.

In contrast with America’s new masters, Mr Putin’s Russia is closer in mentality to Lord Palmerston, the British statesman who said in 1848 that in matters of diplomacy, “we have no eternal allies and…no perpetual enemies, [only] our interests are eternal.” Whatever their own affiliation, single-minded strategists usually apply the same principle to religious diplomacy too.

The Significance of ‘The Salesman’ Director Asghar Farhadi’s Absence From the Oscars – The Atlantic

For those interested in movies and Iran, good long interview with Hamid Naficy of Northwestern University’s School of Communication (I saw The Salesman at TIFF and well-worth seeing even if not quite as good as A Separation): 

While Hollywood has been loudly critical of Donald Trump since the early days of his presidential campaign, that relationship has only grown more adversarial with the former reality-TV star’s assumption of office last month. As my colleague David Sims noted Monday, the current awards season has seen many filmmakers, performers, and others in the industry calling out Trump, whether for his behavior toward women and minorities or for moving ahead with campaign promises to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico or to keep Muslims out of the country for professed national-security reasons.Then, on January 27 came a confusing and messily enacted executive order that, in part, temporarily bars citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. It quickly emerged that the order would likely mean that at least one important face would be missing from this year’s Oscars: the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film The Salesman is nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film award. A few days later, Farhadi confirmed to The New York Timesthat he wouldn’t be attending:

“I neither had the intention to not attend nor did I want to boycott the event as a show of objection, for I know that many in the American film industry and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are opposed to the fanaticism and extremism which are today taking place more than ever … However, it now seems that the possibility of this presence is being accompanied by ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me even if exceptions were to be made for my trip.”

In addition to celebrities condemning the executive order, which also bars refugees, the film industry has expressed its support for Farhadi. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences called the travel ban “extremely troubling,” and on Tuesday, the American Film Institute praised Farhadi’s work while saying, “We believe any form of censorship—including the restriction of travel—to be against all values we cherish as a community of storytellers.” Immediately after the order was announced, one of The Salesman’s stars, Taraneh Alidoosti, said she would be boycotting the ceremony and called Trump’s move “racist.” Others have reportedly also been prevented from attending.

To get a better sense of the cultural and geopolitical context of Farhadi’s recognition by the Oscars and his eventual boycott, I spoke with Hamid Naficy, a professor at Northwestern University’s School of Communication and the author of several books on Iranian culture and media, including A Social History of Iranian Cinema. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Cruz: Can you describe the cultural exchange between the U.S. and Iran in recent years, and how that relationship might change moving forward?

Naficy: …It’s in that context that you have this very complicated diplomatic, media, and cultural dance between Iran and the U.S. As part of this anti-American cultural diplomacy in Iran, American films were banned in the country after the Iranian Revolution, but a whole active underground market developed for them.On the one hand, the government of Iran declares that there is a cultural invasion of Iran—that Americans are trying to win the hearts and minds of Iranians, not through force but through culture. On the other hand, Iranian cinema, in particular arthouse cinema, has after the revolution become quite a credible presence in international film festivals and in commercial cinema. Those films are valued because they’re so artistic and interesting, but also partly because the view they represent of Iran is almost diametrically opposed to the view the Iranian government presents of itself and that the Western media presents of Iran.These films show Iranian people to be normal like everyone else. They love their children, their children fight with each other, they’re jealous, they’re loyal. There are all kinds of humane stories that I think make people sympathetic to Iranian society and culture. So you have these kinds of competing visions of self and other that are taking place in the two film industries.

Hollywood, from the hostage crisis onward, has produced a huge number of films that basically sort of exploit the enmity between the two countries. I guess the last big one was Argo, which was about the rescue mission of the Americans by the Canadian embassy. (Although I must say, the Canadians didn’t get a lot of credit in that film and neither did the Iranians, but that’s Hollywood.)

Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making – The New York Times

Yet another test for the institutional checks and balances:

It was at a campaign rally in August that President Trump most fully unveiled the dark vision of an America under siege by “radical Islam” that is now radically reshaping the policies of the United States.

On a stage lined with American flags in Youngstown, Ohio, Mr. Trump, who months before had called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, argued that the United States faced a threat on par with the greatest evils of the 20th century. The Islamic State was brutalizing the Middle East, and Muslim immigrants in the West were killing innocents at nightclubs, offices and churches, he said. Extreme measures were needed.

“The hateful ideology of radical Islam,” he told supporters, must not be “allowed to reside or spread within our own communities.”

Mr. Trump was echoing a strain of anti-Islamic theorizing familiar to anyone who has been immersed in security and counterterrorism debates over the last 20 years. He has embraced a deeply suspicious view of Islam that several of his aides have promoted, notably retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, now his national security adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s top strategist.

This worldview borrows from the “clash of civilizations” thesis of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, and combines straightforward warnings about extremist violence with broad-brush critiques of Islam. It sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world. In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States.

Those espousing such views present Islam as an inherently hostile ideology whose adherents are enemies of Christianity and Judaism and seek to conquer nonbelievers either by violence or through a sort of stealthy brainwashing.

The executive order on immigration that Mr. Trump signed on Friday might be viewed as the first major victory for this geopolitical school. And a second action, which would designate the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist political movement in the Middle East, as a terrorist organization, is now under discussion at the White House, administration officials say.

Beyond the restrictions the order imposed on refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, it declared that the United States should keep out those with “hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles” and “those who would place violent ideologies over American law,” clearly a reference to Shariah.

Rejected by most serious scholars of religion and shunned by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, this dark view of Islam has nonetheless flourished on the fringes of the American right since before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. With Mr. Trump’s election, it has now moved to the center of American decision-making on security and law, alarming many Muslims.

U.S., Australia have ‘very strong’ relationship despite reports of tense phone call

A reminder that despite all the preparations and efforts by the Canadian government to meet the Trump challenge, there is a high degree of unpredictability at play, and a real challenge for the first Trump-Trudeau meeting:

Australia’s prime minister said his country’s relationship with the United States remained “very strong” but refused to comment on a newspaper report on Thursday that an angry President Donald Trump cut short their first telephone call as national leaders.

At the heart of the weekend conversation between Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was a deal struck with the Obama administration that would allow mostly Muslim refugees rejected by Australia to be resettled in the United States.

Turnbull declined to comment on reports in The Washington Post that Trump had described the agreement as “the worst deal ever” and accused Turnbull of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

The Boston Bombers refer to Tamerlan and Dhozkar Tsarnaev, U.S. citizens born in Kyrgyzstan, who set off two bombs at the 2013 Boston marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260 people.

Turnbull also would not say whether Trump had abruptly ended the expected hour-long conversation after 25 minutes as the Australian attempted to steer the conversation to other topics.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t go into details about his phone call with the U.S. president, only saying ‘I can assure you the relationship is very strong.’ (David Gray/Reuters)

“It’s better that these things — these conversations — are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” Turnbull told reporters.

Turnbull said the strength of the bilateral relation was evident in that Trump agreed to honour the agreement to resettle refugees from among around 1,600 asylum seekers, most of whom are on island camps on the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Australia has refused to accept them and instead pays for them to be housed on the impoverished islands.

“I can assure you the relationship is very strong,” Turnbull said. “The fact we received the assurance that we did, the fact that it was confirmed, the very extensive engagement we have with the new administration underlines the closeness of the alliance. But as Australians know me very well: I stand up for Australia in every forum — public or private.”

Hours after the Washington Post story was published — and after Turnbull’s comments — Trump took to Twitter to slam the deal.

“Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why?” Trump tweeted. “I will study this dumb deal!”

Source: U.S., Australia have ‘very strong’ relationship despite reports of tense phone call – World – CBC News

Can Trudeau keep resisting calls to be the anti-Trump? Radwanski

Listening to President Trump’s inaugural speech, reinforces the Adam Radwanski’s commentary on one aspect of the challenges facing the government with respect to the Trump administration:

On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration as his country’s 45th president, Justin’s Trudeau’s office was flagging a speech about Canada-U.S. relations that the Prime Minister made when he was the third-party leader back in June, 2015.

Delivered to the Liberal-affiliated Canada 2020 think-tank shortly before the campaign that would bring Mr. Trudeau to power, the address criticized Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper for letting ideology get in the way of our country’s relationship with its most important trading partner. If his party were to be elected, Mr. Trudeau pledged, there would be no “hectoring” of whoever was in charge of the U.S. government; he would build on a proud history of setting aside differences in favour of pursuing shared interests.

So far, Mr. Trudeau seems to be making good on that commitment, even with an incoming president he could not possibly have considered as a potential partner back then. He generally has refrained from public criticism of the White House’s new occupant, despite presumable personal distaste for him; meanwhile, Mr. Trudeau’s officials and advisers have diligently worked to forge ties with those of Mr. Trump and sell them on the importance of a relationship scarcely on their radar.

But as speculation about Mr. Trump’s presidency gives way to hard reality, we will find out the extent to which Mr. Trudeau is willing and able to stay focused on Canada’s economic self-interest – and how much he can tune out voices telling him he should aim for something nobler.

Some of those voices will come from within his own government: Some members of Mr. Trudeau’s caucus, deeply uncomfortable playing nice with right-wing populists, would certainly prefer he strike a contrast with Mr. Trump.

Others will come from Canadian media and the opposition. Even before Mr. Trump was elected in November, commentators wanted Mr. Trudeau to upbraid him publicly. Those can be expected to ramp up again soon, and if he declines to criticize the new president strongly for going against Canadian interests on trade policy or to stand up to him on human rights, Mr. Trudeau will be accused of weakness – not least by the New Democrats, who are seeking Liberal vulnerabilities among voters who are opposed to Mr. Trump.

And prominent voices in other countries see him as one of liberal internationalism’s few great hopes as a wave of populism sweeps across an increasingly destabilized Western world.

“I think this is the time for Canada to be loud, very loud, and that’s not always the case,” was how Ian Bremmer – who heads the global consulting firm Eurasia Group, and is a prominent foreign-policy commentator south of the border – put it in a recent interview in his New York office. Mr. Bremmer, who is friends with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said this may be an opportune time for a “Canada doctrine” – echoing a view that Mr. Trump’s presidency could help compel Mr. Trudeau to take an outsized role in defending and shaping international institutions.

As seductive as such calls could be for a Prime Minister who unabashedly enjoys the international stage, Mr. Trudeau has thus far rejected them in favour of pragmatism – buying the argument from David MacNaughton, the ambassador to Washington, that Canada’s interests (particularly on trade policy) can best be served by acting as a friend to Mr. Trump at a time he will need one. As evidenced by his cancellation of his visit to this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where last year he was the toast of the town, Mr. Trudeau is clearly aware he risks giving rise to a populist backlash in Canada if he pays too much attention to international elites at the expense of practical concerns back home.

But it was relatively easy for Mr. Trudeau, going along to get along, when Mr. Trump’s words did not have real consequences – when Barack Obama was still in the White House and the United States retained its traditional role with NATO and other international bodies, respected Muslims’ and other minorities’ civil liberties (relatively), pursued a climate-change strategy, did not seek out trade wars, was suspicious of Vladimir Putin, and was otherwise recognizable.

If a lot of that changes, Mr. Trudeau will have to turn a blind eye – and live with accusations of complicity – if he wants to make good on that 2015 speech.

Or most of that speech anyway. Toward its end, he spoke enthusiastically of also working more closely with Mexico as part of a continental strategy. His government followed through on his promise to lift visa requirements that Mr. Harper imposed on Mexicans. But it plainly has little intention of otherwise aligning more closely with NAFTA’s southernmost partner when that country is firmly in Mr. Trump’s sights.

The Prime Minister’s aim, one of his advisers said on Thursday, is for Canada to lead by example on matters such as diplomacy and human rights without ramming its views down its neighbour’s throat. But even that has its limits.

Source: Can Trudeau keep resisting calls to be the anti-Trump? – The Globe and Mail

When a Canadian is not a Canadian: Pardy on consular services

While Pardy is correct to note that policies have not kept up with increased mobility, he downplays the need to recognize that a “Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” does not necessarily apply abroad.

To my mind, a policy framework for consular services needs to distinguish between Canadian citizens only, dual nationals travelling to countries where dual nationality is recognized, dual nationals travelling to countries where dual nationality is not recognized, and Permanent Residents.

The first two categories are where providing consular services is a given and where this will be recognized in the other country.

Where dual nationality is not recognized, while Canada can try to provide consular services, the other country will likely be unhelpful given that the person entered as a national of that country, not Canada.

And I see no reason to provide consular services to Permanent Residents, as consular services are related to citizenship.

For people in such situations, our missions abroad can make representation on international human rights ground.

So while theoretically there are no limits to what Canada can do, there are in practice.

Of course, media, family and political pressure will undoubtedly favour wider, rather than narrower interpretations, but it is important, from both a policy and operational perspective, to understand the differences:

Unlike historical migrations to Canada that involved a one-way trip and the ending of familial and other connections, people born abroad but living in Canada now have more chance to stay connected with their homelands. Other migratory countries face a similar situation. It is a common aspect of modern migration with, for many, a former life only several air-hours away, or seconds for direct communications.

Unfortunately, affected governments have had trouble adjusting, and international law even more so, to these increasingly common aspects of international travel.

Many countries are not willing to accept Canada has a legitimate interest in ensuring such Canadians (or foreign-born residents) are treated in accordance with international norms and standards. Equally troubling is that many countries are unwilling to recognize the Canadian citizenship of those who hold it.

International law is weak to non-existent in this area. While there is an international convention on the provision of consular services, its weak provisions offer very little comfort in many of these situations.

Equally, there are no specific international agreements or understanding outside of broad international human rights law of the right of Canada and other migratory-destination countries to offer protection to persons who are not citizens.

Canada does not help itself in these matters. There is a reluctance to intervene in cases when a Canadian resident encounters serious difficulty in a foreign country. Usually in response, ministers and officials state: “There are limits to what any country can do for individuals who are not citizens of that country.” But they piously iterate that “the government continues to monitor the situation closely.”

In fact, there are no limits to what a country can try to do to assist such persons. Whether the other country will accept such efforts by Canada is an entirely separate issue; but not to try is an abdication of an appropriate responsibility.

Complicating assistance in such cases is the continuing existence of the historical convention of “Crown prerogative.” It provides discretion to the government for the denial of assistance to even Canadian citizens in difficulty overseas.

There were indications earlier this year that the Trudeau government might be willing to disavow the use of this discretion, but so far nothing specific has been announced.

The continued existence of this discretion undermines the ability of the government to provide consular services generally. It is particularly ironic that the discretion continues even though Canadians specifically pay for such services to the tune of approximately $100 million annually. This is a serious anomaly since the government collects monies for a service it admits to no compulsion to provide.

Source: The Hill Times

Why Justin Trudeau shook up Canada’s diplomatic corps, diversity

HoM 2016 appointments.001The above chart captures the diversity of all 38 Liberal government head of mission appointments in 2016 to date with respect to all appointments as well as those that are classified at the ADM level (EX4-5):

The Liberal government cleaned diplomatic house on Tuesday, announcing the appointment of 26 new ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls general from Havana to Tel Aviv. The list is heavy on foreign service experience, short on overtly political appointments and pristinely gender balanced. In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said the recalls and new postings “ensure its diplomatic leaders represent a wide diversity of Canadians.”

Ferry de Kerckhove, former high commissioner in Pakistan and ambassador to both Indonesia and Egypt over a long career in the foreign service, said the appointments signal a conscientious shift in approach for Justin Trudeau’s government. “We’re back to what I would call normalcy in diplomatic appointments,” he says. “It confirms the Prime Minister’s early statement about giving back to the foreign service its role in representing Canada abroad, and also giving back its ability to actually do their job, which is to report, comment and provide advice.”

Source: Why Justin Trudeau shook up Canada’s diplomatic corps

Tuesday morning started off with a big shuffle as 26 new diplomatic appointments were announced, some replacing political appointments made under the previous Tory government.

As it did with its last shuffle, the department included a statement at the top of the list of appointments stating the government’s “commitment to ensure its diplomatic leaders represent a wide diversity of Canadians and include a greater gender representation.”

While the appointments include 13 men and 13 women, the overwhelming majority of heads of mission being replaced are men. Only four female ambassadors have been rotated out, compared to the 22 men.

A few of the new appointments are simply rotations from ambassadorial positions in other countries, while a few brand new political appointees have been added to the heads of mission team.

Harper appointees replaced, more women added to Canada’s roster of ambassadors

Patrick Martin’s astute analysis of the postings to the Mid-East:

Israel has been watching for evidence of a shift since Canada’s Liberals won the October election. Within hours of being sworn in, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion announced that Canada will strive for a more balanced policy in the Middle East, one that includes reaching out to “other legitimate partners in the region” besides Israel.

He even described Canada’s role as being that of an “honest broker” – no words make Israeli leaders shudder more than those two.

Stephen Harper’s government was very good to Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu’s government knew it had a staunch supporter in Canadian Ambassador Vivian Bercovici. It also knew the next Canadian representative could not be so one-sided.

But in Deborah Lyons, whose name as the ambassador-designate leaked two months ago, the Israelis are being mollified by the appointment of a fair-minded career diplomat of substantial seniority. Ms. Lyons, most recently, has been Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan, a posting that gives her credibility in conflict zones. But prior to that is where her résumé gets really interesting.

She served as deputy head of mission in Washington, as chief strategy officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa and as a trade counsellor for high-tech industries in Tokyo. Few words give Israelis goosebumps more quickly than “high-tech.”

Does this high-level appointment reframe Canada’s relationship with Israel and the Middle East? Perhaps, but it depends on what policy changes follow the appointment.

The departure of Bruno Saccomani as Canadian ambassador to Jordan will be welcomed by those Jordanians who care about such things. The Royal Hashemite Court grimaced at the appointment of Mr. Harper’s former head of security to lead Canada’s mission in Amman.

Mr. Saccomani lacked the experience of a foreign service officer, but also lacked the ear of the Canadian prime minister, which would have compensated for his not being a diplomat.

In Peter MacDougall, the Jordanians are getting an upgrade. Mr. MacDougall’s expertise is in refugees and in setting standards for admission to Canada – two very valuable traits in a country hosting nearly two million Syrian refugees and the place from which Canada chooses those it will allow entry.

The change of ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates is about equal in quality – both the outgoing Arif Lalani and the incoming Masud Husain are senior officials with lots of expertise and experience.

Which is a good thing, because the Gulf countries matter more than ever – with tensions over Iran, Syria and Yemen, and concern over the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

 Ottawa’s diplomatic shuffle signals shift in approach to Middle East 

Former Clerk and High Commissioner to London on the balance of skills that career and political backgrounds bring to appointments:

After several years watching appointments, I realized that political appointees do these jobs differently. Each person brings different strengths and skills to the job.

David MacNaughton and Gary Doer before him have a strength as Canadian Ambassador to Washington that most other ambassadors do not. They are seen as well-connected and understand politics. When they speak to American political or business leaders they know they speak with the PM’s voice. That is remarkably valuable in doing the job.

When I met political, cultural and business leaders in the U.K. and they heard I had been Secretary to Cabinet, they took me more seriously (more than I deserved to be taken). When we want to be taken seriously at the UN, or in Washington, London and Paris, then the person representing Canada may best be a career diplomat schooled in the intricacies of diplomacy, or a career public servant knowledgeable and experienced in the key issues of the portfolio, or a “political” appointee who has access to the prime minister. It depends.

However, there can be too many political appointees. To run a career foreign service we need to have senior offices available for the careerists to aspire to. However, that there are political appointees is not a bad thing.

The appointments announced Tuesday should be judged on the quality of the people and not on whether they helped get the Prime Minister elected. Every prime minister has appointed former ministers, party apparatchiks, and business people, career public servants as well as career diplomats to the rank of Ambassador or High Commissioner. They should be judged on their talents, what they bring to the job and ultimately on what they accomplish.

I like to think that because I had been a senior public servant with access, I added value to representing Canada that was more than many others could do. My predecessors each brought different strengths to the job and did it differently, not better or worse.

All those Ambassadors and High Commissioners announced Tuesday will do their best to represent Canada well. Many of them will do a very good job and accomplish great things. We should wish them all well.

 Judge diplomatic picks on talent, not their relationship with Trudeau 

 

Trudeau chooses two women to fill top diplomatic positions – and broader diversity emphasis

Telling and consistent with overall diversity and inclusion agenda:

The Prime Minister has told Global Affairs that its list of career candidates has too many white males and promised better representation in terms of gender and ethnicity.

Overall numbers for all Global Affairs employees: 54.8 percent women, 14.4 percent visible minorities (TBS EE report 2014-15).

Source: Trudeau chooses two women to fill top diplomatic positions – The Globe and Mail

Liberals’ replacement for Office of Religious Freedom will promote broader range of rights | National Post

Less new than meets the eye and unclear regarding resources(there was an existing Human Rights Division with 14 people) so it may be more repackaging and reorientation:

The Liberals have unveiled a long-awaited replacement for the Office of Religious Freedom, which will now include championing the rights of indigenous peoples abroad.

Canada has a “duty” to speak up for and help indigenous peoples around the world who may be struggling for their rights, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said in an exclusive interview to mark the launch of the new Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion on Tuesday.

“If we are improving, as we hope, the situation of indigenous people in Canada, we have the duty to try to do the same around the world,” Dion said from Vienna. “The situation of indigenous people around the world is worrying. There is a lot of room for improvement, to say the least.”

The emphasis on indigenous rights creates a potential conflict with Canada’s commercial interests, especially in Latin America and Southeast Asia where local populations have opposed Canadian mining operations. But Dion said he believed most Canadian mining companies would welcome the new approach.

“I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of the mining industry of Canada will welcome this focus and will say it’s exactly what they want,” he said. “In order to do good business, you have to have the support of the populations. … So they will be willing to work with this office, I’m sure.”

The new office effectively replaces the Office of Religious Freedom, which the Conservatives established in 2013. Representatives from some faith groups had urged the Liberals to keep the religious freedom office open but the government let its funding expire in March.

Dion described the new office as a “pooling” of the former Office of Religious Freedom’s resources with Global Affairs Canada’s work on human rights promotion. He said the new office will have a budget of $15 million — three times that of the religious freedom office.

Dion said it was a “mistake” to “isolate” freedom of religion from Canada’s broader human rights efforts. The new office’s mandate will include promoting religious freedom, and an official will be in charge of interacting with faith groups and other stakeholders. But the work will fall under the broader rubric of inclusion.

“Inclusion is not only the freedom of religion,” Dion said. “It could be sexual exclusion. It may be political exclusion. So inclusion includes freedom of religion with other aspects of our society. Pluralism. Rights of women. Rights of refugees.”

Source: Liberals’ replacement for Office of Religious Freedom will promote broader range of rights | National Post

On Saudi arms deal, the new boss in Ottawa is just like the old boss: Neil MacDonald

As someone in the past who has written comparable memos, I can only congratulate the various writers and editors of the memo on the Saudi LAV to FM Dion. Macdonald captures it perfectly:

Well. If further proof was needed that the sunny new regime in Ottawa is perfectly capable of behaving just like the un-sunny previous regime, we now have it, in a memo that was stamped “Secret,” then rather inconveniently laid bare in the Federal Court of Canada.

The document, signed by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, is a gem of hair-splitting, parsing, wilful blindness and justification for selling billions worth of fighting vehicles and weaponry to Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth.

Source: On Saudi arms deal, the new boss in Ottawa is just like the old boss – Politics – CBC News