Trump’s Up: An International Policy Wish List

The largely unanticipated accession of Donald Trump to the American presidency has occasioned an explosive reaction from the commentariat.

Let us suspend disbelief and assume, if only for purposes of discussion, that civility and rationality will somehow re-assert themselves south of the border. In that spirit of impossible optimism, I offer the following five recommendations for the new administration:

 

  1. Launch a comprehensive international policy assessment, rolling in defence and development, and including politics, commerce and immigration. Engage Americans, who so evidently long to be heard, in a national conversation about grand strategy, identifying areas of both capacity and constraint.  In the quest to chart where the USA is going – particularly in the wake of disastrous interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – propose  concrete measures on how it might get there.
  2. Re-invest in diplomacy and development. Target inequality and polarization – and the tendency of globalization to privatize benefits while socializing costs –  by assisting with governance, public administration, the rule of law, democratic institution-building and human rights support. Achieve this by getting back into public diplomacy.  Multilaterally, find a way to salvage the US position on climate change and focus on the achievement of the UN SDGs.
  3. Recast the mandate, mission and structure of the State Department to create a central agency for the integration of international policy across government and the management of globalization. Functioning at a higher level will require some fundamental re-engineering,  legislative action, and a more sophisticated approach to the use of social and digital media. To better generate intelligence and to take full advantage of the vital connection to place, the reform package should feature a more flexible approach towards overseas representation, and a more prominent role for US missions abroad. The State department is a singularly underutilized asset. Use it or lose it.
  4. Re-energize the “pivot” by accepting the inevitability of shifting power and re-building and reinforcing relationships in the Asia Pacific, which is re-emerging as the dynamic centre of the global political economy. America’s connection to this vital region has been mismanaged and neglected, not only with giants China and India, but also with the promising ASEAN countries.  Jump start the reconnection by making better use of the USA’s large Asian diaspora communities. A variety of think tanks have produced some useful new thinking on future American strategy;  a decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would help to anchor a larger regional reset.
  5. Champion international science and technology. Today, the planet’s most pressing perils are rooted in science, driven by technology and have little to do with ideological rivalry, territorial ambition, religious extremism or political violence. Think climate change, diminishing biodiversity, pandemic disease, management of the global commons, and genomics, to name a few. Little is known about the Trump government’s approach to science advice or its commitment to science diplomacy.  Both  should be accorded a central role in American diplomatic activity.

This sweeping array of S&T-driven, transnational issues together constitute the new threat set, a distinctive group of complex and vexing problems  for which there are no military solutions.

Expeditionary forces cannot occupy the alternatives to a carbon economy. Pandemic disease can overwhelm any garrison. Air strikes cannot save a warming planet.

Armed force is both too sharp, and too dull an international policy instrument with which to engage the swirling currents of globalization. The enduring lesson of the Cold War is that the military  works best when it is not used. Evidence-based policy and decision making is the only way forward.

It would send a re-assuring signal to the planet if President-elect Trump actively supported an accelerated and intensified commitment on the part of the USA to knowledge-based, technologically-enabled problem-solving.  The place to start would be to endorse whatever progress emerges from the COP 22  climate change negotiations which have just concluded in Marrakesh.

The argument in favour of concerted attention to the central challenge of our times is unassailable, and, unlike pipeline approvals, would be strongly advocated by the Trudeau government.

Trump seems given to rapid course corrections… but this is slender recompense for a jittery world. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a climate science epiphany in post-Obama Washington.

No Military Solutions: Science, Technology, Diplomacy and the New Threat Set – Part II

Two solitudes

The capability to generate, absorb and use S&T should play a crucial role in addressing the new threat set by resolving differences, reducing inequality and improving security and development prospects. With few exceptions, however, the individuals and institutions charged with the responsibility for managing global issues are unprepared and ill-equipped to deliver. The thinking of most leaders remains mired in outdated, Cold War era convictions – that security is best achieved through defence rather than by addressing human needs; that the state, not the person is the primary referent; that armed force is the ultimate arbiter in international relations.

The world’s foreign ministries, development agencies, and indeed most multilateral organizations have not kept pace with the transformative impact of globalization. These institutions are without the scientific expertise, technological savvy, cultural predisposition or research and development (R&D) network access required to manage S&T-based issues effectively. How many diplomats are trained in science? How many scientists are found in diplomatic services? How often do diplomats and scientists meet, and, when they do, can they communicate effectively?

Scientists are for the most part an insular group, and prefer the lab to the polis. Diplomats tend to view science as dense and impenetrable, the subject that they could not wait to drop in high school. Diplomacy (stability, risk aversion, compromise) and science (change, experimentation, empiricism) are founded upon very different values, and effectively constitute two solitudes. The alienation of science and technology from the mainstream of diplomacy and international policy represents perhaps the greatest sleeper issue of our times.

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No Military Solutions: Science, Technology, Diplomacy and the New Threat Set – Part I

 

In February 2016, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences hosted a meeting that was convened by the Science and Technology Advisers to the Foreign Ministers from Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Although the observation was not new, during this meeting the importance of increasing the capacity and capability of Foreign Ministries to broach the ever increasing number of issues at the interface of science, technology and innovation was identified as urgent.

On 18-19 October 2016, a small group of about 30 international policy experts and practitioners  will gather in Laxenburg, Austria to discuss the  vital – if largely unappreciated –  relationship between science and diplomacy. The meeting is being convened by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in collaboration with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the International Network of Government Science Advice (INGSA) and the Global Network of Science and Technology Advisors in Foreign Ministries.

The purpose of this high-level international dialogue on science-diplomacy is to explore opportunities for delivering on national foreign policy priorities by increasing the quality and quantity of science and technology advice into policy development and implementation process.

Principle objectives of the dialogue will include:

  • Highlighting areas where science and technology are impacting the work of foreign ministries
  • Sharing experiences and best practices in providing scientific advice to Ministers
  • Identifying practical issues, such as how best to engage with scientific institutions
  • Developing a global network of practitioners.

I will be attending the conference at IIASA and will be chairing a panel on Mechanisms for Delivering Science Advice in Foreign Ministries”.

Sound boring and bureaucratic? It’s not.

In fact, when it comes to the relationship between science and diplomacy the prospects for human survival may hang in the balance. That said, don’t expect to read about the Laxenburg meeting in the mainstream media.

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Accumulating clouds may threaten Trudeau’s “sunny ways”

Hot on the heels of his high profile visit to China and attendance at the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, PM Justin  Trudeau last week successfully hosted the Global Fund replenishment conference in Montreal and will  address  the UN General Assembly in New York today or tomorrow. Amidst this whirlwind of activity, Canada’s peripatetic PM will undoubtedly attract renewed domestic and international attention.

Not unlike their treatment of fellow celebrities Bill Gates and Bono,  an adoring media is almost certain to dole out continued exultation.

While such adulation is not entirely unwarranted, a closer look at the government’s first year in office suggests that a more critical assessment of its diplomatic and international policy performance may be in order.

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“Canada’s Back” Can the Trudeau Government Resuscitate Canadian Diplomacy?

Blogger’s Note: The Liberal government headed by PM Justin Trudeau has launched defence and development reviews, but little is known of its intentions regarding diplomacy, international policy or grand strategy.  This is the final installment in a three part series on Canada’s role and place in a changing world – where we were, where we are, and where we may be going.

 

Part III:

Looking forward – What a changing world means for Canadian diplomacy and international policy

The first installment in this series set out the defining features of the transition from the Cold War to the globalization age. The second explored the implications of shifting power in an increasingly globalized and  heteropolar world order.

Since the last burst of Canadian international activism – the rolling out of Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy’s Human Security Agenda 1996 – 2000,   the operating environment for diplomacy has continued to evolve. Moreover, it has been a long time since Canadian leadership helped bring to fruition the Land Mine Ban Treaty, International Criminal Court, the Kimberly Process to curb trafficking in “blood diamonds”, and efforts to regulate the trade in small arms and address the problem of children in conflict.  The Canadian-convened International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty produced its influential Responsibility to Protect report in 2001, but in subsequent years this country has been largely absent from the world stage. With the exception of the Harper government’s controversial foray into maternal, newborn and child health and participation in ill-starred military interventions in Afghanistan and Libya, Canada’s once ubiquitous presence in the international arena became spectral.

The Trudeau government is fond of proclaiming that “Canada’s back”, and has taken some significant steps, both symbolic and substantive, to modify this country’s international engagement. That said, apart from the questionable involvement in Syria/Iraq and provocative deployments to the Baltic states, much of the heavy lifting has yet to begin.

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“Canada’s Back” Can the Trudeau Government Resuscitate Canadian Diplomacy?

Blogger’s Note: The Liberal government headed by PM Justin Trudeau has launched defence and development reviews, but little is known of its intentions regarding diplomacy, international policy or grand strategy.  This is the second installment in a three part series on Canada’s role and place in a changing world – where we were, where we are, and where we may be going.

 

Part II:

Globalization, Power Shift and Heteropolarity –  The Way Things Are

 

In the last posting, I made the case that during the Cold War period, whatever its many hazards, Canadians were able to find ample room for diplomatic manoeuvre.

Are opportunities still available today?

Perhaps, but, navigation is difficult. World order has given way to a whirled order, with many of the old distinctions and assumptions, as if placed in a blender, either blurred or erased.  There is less political or ideological conviction, and more volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In the 25 years since the Soviet Union imploded and the icy grip of Cold War constraint melted away, much has changed. The Great Thaw has transformed the operating environment, freeing up virulent strains of ethno-nationalism, nourishing religious fundamentalism, and gestating a  new threat set.

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“Canada’s Back”: Can the Trudeau Government Resuscitate Canadian Diplomatic Leadership?

Blogger’s Note: The Liberal government headed by PM Justin Trudeau has launched defence and development reviews, but little is known of its intentions regarding diplomacy, international policy or grand strategy.  This is the first of a three part series on Canada’s role and place in a changing world – where we were, where we are, and where we may be going.

Part I:

Cold War Comfort  – The Way We Were

In the wake of a series of disturbing events which have left many fearing a generalized descent into chaos, it all seems so long ago and far away. Yet surviving baby boomers and most Gen-xers will remember the elegant simplicity and terrifying symmetry of the Cold War years, 1947-91. Best understood as a binary construction, the Cold War featured a planet divided neatly between the the Free (First) and the Communist (Second) Worlds, each with their respective client states and spheres of influence (in the Third World).  Competing  blocs were led by a metropolitan centre – the USA or USSR – and he world atlas of the day was dominated by large swathes of red and blue.

With its purges, parades and powerful, iconic imagery, the Cold War occupied vast tracts of the collective imagination. There were air raid sirens, basement and backyard bomb shelters, “duck and cover” exercises in public schools and regular headlines warning us of the ubiquitous  Communist threat. Rabid finger-pointing reached an apogee during the McCarthy hearings, and fear-mongering attained levels not to be seen again until after 9/11.

Beneath the gleaming surface of missiles, warheads, and intercontinental bombers on 24-hour standby, deterrence, containment and Mutually Assured Destruction ensured that the “Red Menace” and the “Capitalist Imperialists” remained at bay, albeit with daggers drawn. First strike, throw weight, launch on warning… power was measured in the kilotonnage of warheads and influence calibrated in numbers of hardened silos and submarine launched ballistic missiles. Terrifying prospects – ranging from urban incineration to radioactive clouds and black rain, to endless nuclear winter – made it difficult for  most people to “stop worrying and love the bomb”.

Ironically, that heavily armed peace provided the basis for almost a half century of Cold War comfort.  The apocalypse was averted. International relations, if  dumbed down and punctuated by proxy wars and occasional near catastrophes such as the  Berlin Blockade or Cuban Missile Crisis, were for the most part stable and orderly, patterned and predictable. Then as now, military establishments thrived, demonstrating convincingly that they work best when not used.

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Science Diplomacy for the Age of Globalization

Blogger’s Note:   This short take appears in the current edition of Options magazine.

The planet is facing a bevy of “wicked” problems, which threaten global destabilization. Issues such as climate change, food and water, biodiversity preservation, and pandemic disease cut across disciplines and borders and affect people at all levels of society.

This new threat set requires cooperation between countries, but such challenges cannot be resolved by the same type of diplomacy that characterized the 20th century. During the Cold War international diplomacy focused on ideological competition and territorial ambition, on maintaining conventional peace and security. In contrast, today’s issues require diplomacy that is focused on human‑centered security and development, something best achieved through dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. There are no military solutions to the complex problems of globalization. To find the answers, we need new knowledge and research. As Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it.”

It is very difficult to navigate through the unpredictable eddies and currents of globalization, but I see science and technology as a beacon that can help illuminate the way forward.

Science diplomacy can mean different things: Science for diplomacy occurs when science serves to advance the goals of foreign policy and international relations. This kind of science diplomacy had its heyday during the Cold War, but today it is both less practiced and less successful, not least because of an absence of resources.

Diplomacy for science is the reverse: that’s when diplomats gather to advance scientific objectives. The climate negotiations are a good example of that, or the Montreal Protocol which addressed the issue of the ozone hole.

The concept of science in diplomacy is a third dimension. By this I mean expert science advice being injected directly into the policy and decision‑making process, for example by appointing a chief science advisor. Such positions are becoming more common and feature centrally in models of good governance.

Each of these activities is necessary, and together I think there is major potential for a new type of problem solving. Yet for the combination of science and diplomacy to achieve its potential, there remains much work to be done. How often are diplomats trained in science? And how often do scientists study international affairs? How can you expect foreign ministries and international organizations to manage these daunting issues if those with the relevant knowledge and experience don’t work there? You can’t, and that helps explain the current—debilitating—performance gap.

Scientists and diplomats have different training, and ways of thinking. Diplomats are risk averse, change resistant, practical, and focused on argumentation, persuasion, and influence. Scientists are risk tolerant, they value experimentation, trial and error, discovery and change. You can understand why scientists and diplomats make strange bedfellows, and why they might have trouble communicating. But there are shared objectives that the two worlds might build on. Both science and diplomacy seek to use reason to bring order and understanding to otherwise disorderly realms. Perhaps that is a basis for improved collaboration.

IIASA, with its capacity to bring together leading nations from the north and south, east and west, just might provide the elusive sweet spot where the worlds of science and diplomacy can intersect. That’s the kind of shared space in which we all need to spend more time.

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The New Threat Set: Science Diplomacy in the Age of Globalization

Blogger’s Note: Regular visitors to this site will have noticed an absence of new postings over the past few months. However regrettable, this has been the inevitable result of an exceptionally busy spring schedule of travel, teaching, lectures and conferences, as well as competing writing commitments. I hope to resume a pattern of more regular contributions over the course of the summer. In the meantime, the brief entry below represents a summary of some of the main messages which I have been delivering while on the road.

 

We cannot solve the problems we have created with the same thinking we used in creating them.

Albert Einstein

 

Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, today the most profound challenges which today imperil the planet are grounded in neither religious extremism nor political violence. Instead, the globalization age has given rise to a vexing array of transnational issues which are rooted in science, driven by technology and largely immune to the application of armed force. Climate change, diminishing biodiversity, environmental collapse, pandemic disease and resource scarcity, to name but a few of these elemental S&T-based issues, exacerbate underdevelopment and heighten insecurity. Unlike terrorism or ideological rivalry, however, this new threat set places everyone at risk. There are no military solutions; human security is a function of broadly-based development, and is not a martial art.

Science diplomacy – a transformative tool of soft power which offers the prospect of engaging shared interests to overcome political constraints and enlarge international cooperation – represents a particularly promising way forward.  Knowledge-based, technologically-enabled problem-solving can make an essential contribution, not only to the construction of a more secure, equitable and sustainable world order, but also to the prospects for long-term human survival. That said,   S&T capacity is largely alien to, and almost invisible within most institutions of global governance. Foreign ministries, development agencies, and multilateral organizations face a debilitating performance gap, and are typically without the scientific expertise, technological savvy, cultural predisposition or research and development (R&D) network access required to bridge digital divides and manage S&T-based issues effectively. While  innovation, imagination and creative thinking thrive in a lateral, interconnected and networked setting, existing institutions feature bureaucratic sclerosis, stovepipes and silos, rigid occupational hierarchies and authoritarian social relations. All of that must change.

The present misallocation of scarce international policy resources,  in favour of defence and at the expense of diplomacy and development, must be remedied. Even at that, enlarged capacity and major reforms will be necessary if the daunting range of process and structural obstacles are to be overcome. Future  postings will explore the revolution in culture, values and professional practice required to ensure that the proposed combination of science and diplomacy can deliver as advertised.

 

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning

Albert Einstein.

 

 

Restoring Canadian Diplomatic Leadership in Five Uneasy Pieces

From the late 1940s through the early 2000s, Canada enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as an innovative international policy entrepreneur.

From  a central role in the design and construction of the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions, through the Suez Crisis and invention of peacekeeping, to the North-South Dialogue, Earth Summit and Human Security Agenda, Canada’s much-admired diplomacy of the deed  translated into practical political influence and an oversized place in the world.

Although little of that legacy survived the Harper Conservatives’ visceral contempt for all that came before, the adverse consequences of that debilitating interlude just may have given rise to an historic opportunity. 

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Global Affairs Canada? Seven steps to a higher functioning foreign ministry

During its first few months in office the Trudeau government has shown itself admirably adept at harvesting a wide variety of low hanging fruit, both political and public administrative.

Some gestures have been symbolic, others more substantive. In the wake of a lengthy parade of largely indifferent foreign ministers, the PM chose to appoint former party leader Stephane Dion, a thoughtful and experienced academic and who reads his briefs and writes his own speeches. Diplomats have been unmuzzled, and are once again afforded the trust required to engage in unscripted conversations. The curiously retrograde “Sovereign’s Wall” in the lobby of the Pearson Building has been decommissioned, with the oversized portrait of the Queen removed and the magnificent Pellan canvasses restored.

Perhaps most tellingly, the clunky, short-lived Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has been re-christened Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

What to make of this whirlwind of activity?

The new government certainly embarked from a strikingly diminished base. After a decade of diplomatic inactivity, with the foreign ministry largely sidelined and marginalized by efforts to promote Canada as a “warrior nation”, almost any action was bound to seem significant. Yet changing the amalgamated department’s name – not unlike attending summits, offering a comforting range of international assurances, hosting the UN Secretary General, and endlessly repeating the mantra that “Canada’s back” – was definitely the easy part. Now that the early gains have been registered, the real work must begin.

If Canada is to regain its stature as an innovative, engaged and valuable player on the world stage, and in so doing burnish its tarnished brand, the performance of the foreign ministry will have to improve. Drastically.

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Is Canada “Back” on the World Stage? Maybe…

 

In conversation last week with members of the global elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, PM Justin Trudeau undoubtedly emphasized once again that “ Canada is back” on the world stage.

Repeating that mantra may be good communications practice, but after a decade of foreign policy retrogression, the substantive case will be more difficult to make.

The Canada to which he refers has been a long time gone.

In such circumstances, the effort to reconnect with this country’s storied internationalist past won’t in itself be enough. But it might represent a useful point of departure.

Canada once contributed imaginatively, generously and energetically to the construction of broadly-based international security and prosperity.

That stature was not merely conjured by spin doctors. It was earned, grounded demonstrably in the diplomacy of the deed.

Lester Pearson and Justin’s father Pierre, for instance, are renown for their commitment to development and peace.

But there is much more.

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Diaspora Scientific Communities at Home and Abroad – Part I: An Untapped Resource for Diplomacy?

Blogger’s Note:  This is the first installment of notes for an address delivered 25 November 2015 at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa.

 

Many thanks to the conference organizers and CSPC volunteers, and warm greetings to all attendees.

I would like try and launch our discussion of the putative role and place of diaspora science communities (DSCs) in international relations by offering an overview of some key considerations and constraints.

The idea of tapping into the skills and expertise resident in diaspora science communities (DSCs) in order to advance international policy goals and more effectively address global challenges is certainly an attractive proposition. That said, much complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity lie just below the surface. The relevant literature is thin, initiatives have been few, and as a result there is little by way of an established track record which might be examined to illuminate the way forward. Moreover, even if it can be demonstrated that scientists who share a common nationality but live abroad do in fact exhibit characteristics of something which could reasonably be described as a community, it is by no means clear that would-be members of DSCs self-identify as such or could be motivated to contribute to the attainment of objectives lying largely outside of the lab.

Would, for example, Chinese or Indian-born scientists living in Canada be willing to participate as a group in any kind of a larger, and in some respects more inherently political enterprise?

Tapping into DSC’s for the purposes of science diplomacy is quite possibly more easily said than done.

In trying to frame and contextualize the issue, there is much to contemplate.

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After the liberation: Is Canada’s public service equipped to deliver?

There is no worse heresy than that high office sanctifies the holder of it.

Lord Acton

These are exciting times across the country, and not least in Ottawa, where the repercussions of Oct.19th continue to rock the capital.

The sensation of a new beginning is palpable – something akin to awakening from a decade long coma to discover a world on the cusp of transformation.

The debilitating communications gag, which had in particular compromised the work of scientists and diplomats, has been removed. Federal government employees, assured that they may once more speak and write freely about their work and will be treated with trust and respect, are exuberant.

The “Sovereign’s Wall” in the Pearson Building lobby – dominated by a larger than life portrait of Elizabeth II once described to me by a British diplomatic colleague as the expression of a “curious royalist fetish” that induced in him an “out of body” experience – is gone. It has been replaced by the pair of canvasses by Quebec artist Alfred Pellan which were removed on the occasion of a visit by Prince William in 2011. The restoration of these paintings, which celebrate Canada and Canadian artistic achievement rather than our colonial past, is a powerful totem.

More substantively, a striking array of initiatives – on refugees, climate change, foreign and defense policy – have been launched to compliment the raft of symbolic gestures and encouraging statements.

Still, the question must be put: with much of the low hanging fruit now harvested, what are the realistic prospects for bringing in the more complicated and difficult elements of the new government’s program?

That outcome will depend in large part upon the capacity of the public service to deliver, and in that respect, beyond the loss of critical expertise, the challenges may prove unexpectedly formidable.

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