Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Different Outlets, Different Responses

My piece on Canada and its support of the French efforts in Mali got tweaked and reposted at the Globe and Mail website yesterday.  While CIC has become the go-to site for Canadians interested in the world and the world interested in Canadian foreign policy, it gets less traffic than the Globe and Mail, perhaps Canada's premier newspaper.  This leads to the second big difference--comments on my CIC pieces are few but often quite sharp and incisive.  The comments at G&M? Well, not so much.  They fit into the following categories?:
  • Canada is not obliged by its alliances/Canada owes France nada (despite my writing that France's moves into a more dangerous spot in Afghanistan allowed US to reinforce Canadians in Kandahar;
  • It is all about the oil companies (suitable for all occasions);
  • I am just out to cause mischief;
  • While I am mildly critical of Stephen Harper in the piece, it gives folks with an anti-Harper view an axe to grind.
  •  I need to put my money where my mouth is and join the Canadian Forces--because only those who serve have authority to speak?
 The big lesson: confirmation bias is bad for reading comprehension. There were a few comments that were pretty thoughtful and raised issues about the context.  But many of these comments will appear in anything I write in a newspapers, regardless of the stance I take.  I tend to see myself as a Liberal, not in Canadian terms, but in IR terms--that policy is caused by interests and institutions, those interests are primarily domestic, that international institutions matter.  In terms of how I see Canada in the world, I tend to emphasize things like: its alliances matter, that its power is limited, and that war is neither bad nor good, but (dare I say it?) an instrument of policy that can sometimes achieve ends (such as addressing the direct problem or exerting influence or enhancing influence) and sometimes not so much.

People will want to accuse me of being a fan of Harper, whereas this piece indicates that I think the policy is ok but I don't like how Harper handled it.  I am not anti-military (which offends people), I am critical of the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence (which bothers other folks) but perhaps not sufficiently so at times.  The fact that I am neither forcefully pro or anti makes it easier, I suppose, for people to make me their strawman.   Which is fine.  After all, the only utilities I really want to maximize are being read and getting cited.

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