18 December 2006

Political Moves of the Year

We start with, what else, politics. 2006 no doubt had its fair share of political maneuvering, some of it worked, some of it didn't, and some of it contributed to the defeat of Paul Martin. With that in mind, we turn to the best and the worst politicians had to offer us in 2006.

Best Move of the Year (Canada) - Stephen Harper Severs Aid to Hamas-Led Palestinian Government
It happened early, and it set the tone for the new Conservative government's handling of foreign policy issues. While critics predictably said that the move represented a shift in Canadian foreign policy to ape that of Washington, they neglect that Canada moved first on this after the Palestinians elected Hamas as their government. We didn't wait to see what Washington or London or Brussels did, we set the tone and other countries had to play catch-up. The move said that Canada was going to be a player in the world, that Canada would not send money to terrorist organizations when they became politically popular in their homelands, and that Canada was going to stand with its democratic ally, Israel, in denouncing terrorism in the region. This move foreshadowed Harper's tough stand when conflict erupted between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer, and signalled that Canada stands for and with democracy in the struggle against terrorism.
Honourable Mention - Gerard Kennedy Throws His Support Behind Stephane Dion at Liberal Leadership Convention

Best Move of the Year (United States) - Bush Establishes War on Terror as Continuity in U.S. Foreign Policy in National Security Strategy
Unfortunately the document hasn't reached the same stature as the 2002 version, which established the Bush Doctrine and set the tone for American Foreign Policy in the 21st century. In this 2006 NSS a line of continuity is drawn that links the efforts of this presidency to those of Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, and all of those who have pursued a course of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law and blending that idealism with pragmatic thought. For someone writing a Master's thesis on the subject, this document was the literary equivalent of divine providence. Bush carried on the successor-to-Truman theme until June and then inexplicably stopped, leaving behind an important message in a course that has strayed from its original mission.
Honourable Mention: Bush Sacks Rumsfeld

Best Move of the Year (Rest of the World) - India Ratifies U.S. Nuclear Deal
Though the process for this deal began in 2005, it wasn't finalized until March. India has become a legitimate member of the nuclear club, and will subject a significant portion of its nuclear-related activities to international inspection by the IAEA. Far from spurring a renewed nuclear arms race in Asia or undermining the integrity of the non-proliferation regime, the deal has helped bring a sense of stability and respect to New Delhi's aspirations as a key ally of Washington in the region. India will be expected to play a role in working to prevent proliferation in Iran, and this will put a renewed emphasis on Pakistan's future as a player in the region. While it is true that Islamabad, which sees itself as a strong ally in Washington's war against bin Laden and al Qaeda, will feel snubbed because it doesn't get a deal, this may spur Musharraf to take some measures to ensure political stability within Pakistan and ensure that its nuclear weapons and know-how do not fall into the wrong hands. The move brings the world's largest democracy closer to the world's only superpower, shoring up support for the democracy campaign and bringing a nuclear power under the watchful eye of the nuclear weapons regime.
Honourable Mention: Kofi Annan leaves as UN Secretary-General

Worst Move of the Year (Canada) - "We're not making this up."
I went back and forth between the military ad and Paul Martin's pledge to remove the federal government's power to invoke the notwithstanding clause. In the end, I went with this only because of its lasting impact on the election campaign and its legacy as the final nail in the coffin of Martin's respectability. Both ideas were truly awful, but this one hurt a lot of people, and made it sound as though Stephen Harper would turn Canadian cities into military garrisons filled with armed CF members walking the streets. It was, as I noted back in January, the single worst campaign ad to appear on our television screens since the Chretien "face" ads back in 1993. For denigrating the Canadian military, insinuating that the then-Leader of the Loyal Opposition had "military dictator" written on him, and insulting the intelligence of all Canadians, the Liberal campaign staff and the man who signed off on this ad receive the dubious distinction of Worst Move of the Year.
(Dis)-Honourable Mention: Michael Ignatieff not "losing sleep" over "war crimes" in Qana.

Worst Move of the Year (United States) - Dropping the ball on the Iran and North Korea files.
It's been a good year for the other 2/3 of the axis of evil, which means folks in the United States aren't doing a good job of holding feet to the fire. Both Iran and North Korea have made demonstrable progress in their nuclear programs--with the DPRK actually detonating an atomic device in an underground test in July--taking advantage of the tunnel vision of the American governing elite that is focused squarely on Baghdad. Why Washington hasn't yet launched a concerted multilateral effort to, ahem, persuade Tehran and Pyongyang to forgo their nuclear proliferation programs is simply baffling. The National Security Strategy identifies Iran as the single greatest threat to global security, and thus far precisely very little has been done to limit the extent to which Iran can remain with that distinction. With the size and skill of the American diplomatic corps, it is inexcusable that these two states are still getting away with things that are said to be unacceptable. It damages America's credibility on a global scale, not beneficial for anybody.
(Dis)-Honourable Mention: The Lack of Outright Condemnation and Full-Scale Punishment for Haditha.

Worst Political Move (Rest of the World) - Military Coup in Fiji
Thus giving credence to the view that democratic progress is as likely as backsliding into dictatorship, there was a military coup in Fiji this year. The elected Prime Minister was removed from office, there have been crackdowns on the free press, and the coup leader says that this could go on for the next 50 years. Since then, international condemnation and political isolation has been flowing regularly: Washington has suspended international aid and severed ties, as has New Zealand; the British are threatening to suspend Fiji from the Commonwealth and have already cut their military training ties. This is the fourth coup in Fiji in the last 20 years, making the small island nation one of the more politically unstable countries despite its wealth and high level of development.
(Dis)-Honourable Mention - Ongoing lack of resolve from Europe to provide security in Afghanistan and along the Israel-Lebanon border.

That's all for today! Check back tomorrow when I discuss my personal favourite moments of the year.

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