Saturday, November 11, 2017

Canada's Pursuit of Security Council Seat: Going, Going, Gone

I have long been skeptical of the chances that Canada would get the coveted United Nations Security Council seat that the Trudeau government has been seeking.  Canada entered the fray way too late and is competing against countries (Norway, Ireland) who not only have better bona fides as contributors to UN stuff, but have ruffled fewer feathers.  Perhaps making a big play at doing heaps more might have helped Canada some.  Clearly, setting up high expectations and then going way under them will not help.

And that is where we are.  Canada's promise to do more peacekeeping is now a promise to do more training of peacekeepers and providing some key logistical support.  This makes a great deal of sense in that this is all stuff Canada can provide, that the UN needs, and exposes Canadian troops to less risk.  But there is the rub: less risk means less commitment, impressing the UN voters less.

I long argued that doing more in Afghanistan meant more influence, even if that became a hard thing to measure or prove.  I am pretty sure that doing less will mean less influence, although losing the UNSC vote will be overdetermined, so I will again lack good evidence for my claim (good thing the editor and peer reviewers of my blog posts are pretty forgiving). 

I think that realizing that modern peacekeeping is really hard is fine, that perhaps none of the missions that were proposed made sense or were too dangerous or were too unlikely to succeed.  The government may be making a good decision, but it will probably message it poorly.  Yes, Canada will be contributing, but not nearly as much as those are putting their own people at significant risk.  So, let's not get too high falutin about this new PKO effort.

Of the campaign promises Trudeau made, this was perhaps the most pie crusty of the promises--easily made, easily broken.  I doubt that voters will care much in 2019 that this promise was broken.  Others will matter more, such as electoral reform.  So, yeah, perhaps a good decision with poor messaging and few real lasting consequences domestically.  Woot?

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