|I missed VCDS Wynnyk's talk, |
arriving for the Q&A
Part of the fun of this is watching the defence contractors flog their stuff. For instance, see this pic and laugh.
Laugh? Because I can't imagine the Typhoon winning the next fighter competition. Well, this conference was different from the past in a couple of ways. The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff spoke as CDS Vance was not around--so I could not ask him a pesky question and he could not give me a snarky answer. Also, I only asked one question, of the Turkish ambassador, so I didn't get buttonholed by Lockheed or General Dynamics. Oh, what did I ask the Turkish Ambassador? His panel was on whether the NATO shield should face east or south, and, as readers of the Semi-Spew know, I have argued for a focus east. Anyway, I asked what does he want NATO to do in the southern direction (Africa/Mideast)? He said basically that the allies should not support terrorists (the Kurds in Syria [and Iraq, maybe?]) or cultists who have asylum (the Gulenists). Since neither of those are really NATO things but mostly gripes about the foreign policies of allies, I am still not sure what NATO should be doing about the southern front. How does NATO stop migrants?
My panel was about how the world sees Canada and how Canada can shape that. I was very proud of Aisha Ahmad, who is to the left in this picuture. She was sharp and insightful as always, and sometimes even agreed with me! Bessma Momani of Waterloo is the silly one with the bunny ears. Christian Leuprecht, off to the side, was the one who got me going. He kept on referring to existential threats facing Canada. I did refrain from screaming that Canada faces only one existential threat--nuclear war. This is not a new threat nor one that Canada can do much about.
But let me address this topic, since this is the weekend of threat inflation (emergency!!!) Canada, as always, is far away from most of the problems of the world. For war to visit Canada, it would have to travel across a big ocean or cross the border from the US. While Trump is very problematic, he is not an existential threat to Canada. He poses a threat to the Canadian economy--that tariffs on autos would be very damaging, but Canada would be here the day after. Russia investing in its Arctic? Let them--it is freaking expensive and it does not help them much in terms of threatening Canada. It does help Russia manage its warming problem--that folks will start using the northern passage over Russia to get from Asia to Europe and vice versa. But those bases are not so helpful for seizing Canadian territory in the far north. Such an effort would be of dubious gain and would be easy to interrupt and hard to sustain.
Climate change is a huge threat to Canada, as well as to any other place. Existential? Again, no.
Diversity? Ah, that came up--that with so many foreign born, it will be difficult to have a national conversation about foreign policy. Whuck? Yes, each ethnic group will care about its kin abroad (I wrote a book or two on that), but each immigrant group becomes good Canadians, which means buying into multilateralism, making a difference, and all that stuff. Canada has done a great job of absorbing the flows of immigrants, and I really don't expect that to change much. Of course, xenophobia may threaten that, which means we must push back on threat inflation as that feeds fear of foreigners. Oh, and also, Canada doesn't have national conversations about foreign policy, so that's not really a threat either.
With Trump making a big stink of an emergency that isn't an emergency, we all have to be a bit more cautious about making things seem worse than they are (see this forthcoming book on Clear and Present Safety). While nuclear war is possible, it isn't likely. What is likely, certain even, is climate change. Yet we panic about other things. How about we don't panic about "existential threats" and focus on the stuff that will, if unaddressed, harm the lives of our children and grandchildren?