David Akin has posted Michael Ignatieff’s speech to the Liberal Party convention. Overall, it’s a clear and relatively responsible statement of liberal principles, combined with a warning to its anti-American left-wing that it represents an ideological and electoral ghetto. While he doesn’t come out in support of BMD, he criticizes Martin’s handling of the decision:
We do not want our decisions to fracture the command system of North American defense,- and we do not want a principled decision to result in us having less control over our national sovereignty. We must not walk away from the table. We must be there, at the table, defending what only we can defend.
He also issues challenge toward the peaceniks who associate defence of human rights with pacificism:
People sometimes ask me why a human rights teacher is such an adamant defender of a robust military for Canada. In the failed and failing states of our world, the most urgent human need-the central unmet human right-is security. People at the mercy of tyrants and gunmen need protection, first of all. To protect them, we have to have the capacity to fire back. We do not want to repeat Rwanda, when a brave Canadian soldier, Romeo Dallaire, was sent out on a UN mission to protect civilians, without the arms, equipment and troops to stop the slaughter in front of his eyes. We owe this to our men and women in uniform. We owe this to our moral commitment to be citizens of the world.
Domestically, he promotes a centralist federal system and he’s critical of Martin’s side deals with Maritime provinces over equalization, along vague motions toward various social spending programs.
Yesterday I noted Ignatieff’s Kantian internationalism, which hinders his ability to justify protection of his own country versus concern for enemy combatants. This came out in his defence of Liberal Party multilateralism over what he calls “continentalism” (with a shot at Mulroney’s relationship with Reagan):
We have never been afraid to chart our own course in world affairs: in the first half of the last century, fighting for European freedom in two World Wars before the Americans joined in; in the second half, recognizing Cuba and China, supporting the International Criminal Court and promoting the Land Mines Treaty. Our neighbor has respected us when we said NO, because they know that when we do say YES, our word is our bond.
While reasonable people can disagree over the pros and cons of these measures that Canada has supported, I wish to point out that all the post-WW2 measures he lists are cost-free for Canada in the sense that they haven’t required it to commit major financial or military resources. “Our word is out bond” precisely because we lack anything else to offer. This is the free-loading and irresponsibility that Ignatieff himself has criticized. This requires him (and his party) to question whether shows Canadian “sovereignty” and “own course” can only occur while performing low-cost exercises. Considering how Quebec figures into our foreign policy thinking, the question almost answers itself.