Can Canada emulate New Zealand with some independent security thinking?
Using Five Eyes as a political pressure group is a very bad idea
An important recent example of a small country, New Zealand, diplomatically, but firmly, resisting American pressure to fall in line with a catastrophically bad example of “mission creep” received almost no coverage in Canada.
That’s a matter we have raised with Five Eyes partners. We are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship. – Nanaia Mahuta, foreign minister of New Zealand
New Zealand was resisting the steadily expanding scope of the Five Eyes intelligence-gathering network, composed of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, into the broader realm of foreign policy political coordination, after going along with a joint statement condemning the Hong Kong crackdown but drawing the line at a joint condemnation of China’s treatment of its population in Xinjiang province.
Mahuta went on to say:
We would much rather prefer to look for multilateral opportunities to express our interests on a number of issues.
This is a very diplomatic way of saying that Five Eyes is not a multilateral forum but a very select intelligence-gathering club.
Intelligence tail wagging the foreign policy dog
Rather than supinely falling in line, as Canada seems to have done, this move to expand the remit of Five Eyes beyond intelligence should be strenuously resisted by any member that values its sovereignty and independence from the USA.
As the provider of the bulk of the raw intelligence data and analysis that is the raison d’etre of the group’s work, the US wields tremendous clout in that grouping, as has been amply demonstrated in the Huawei 5 G saga.
It should be painfully clear to all members, not just New Zealand, that it is only in the interest of the USA to expand the scope of Five Eyes beyond intelligence because this really means expanding the ability of the USA to coerce members into adopting its foreign policy political assessments.
In the view of the Rideau Institute,
This mandate expansion short-circuits the ability of individual Five Eyes members to work with other non-US likeminded, in larger multilateral settings, to develop common statements that better reflect the nuances of their respective national positions.
Using Five Eyes for human rights messaging is also hugely counterproductive
This is a stupid idea for America as well, because using Five Eyes to convey political messages is extraordinarily provocative and probably the worst way to deliver a credible message of just complaint about human rights abuses. RI President Peggy Mason comments:
It is almost as bad as the Americans sabotaging the work of humanitarian workers in Afghanistan by trying to use them, and the people they were seeking to help, as intelligence sources in their counterinsurgency battle for Afghan “hearts and minds”.
And is it really necessary to point out that the Five Eyes intelligence assessments are supposed to be based on hard data and reasoned analysis, not political judgments, a process that will certainly not be helped by injecting a manifestly political mandate into its work?
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner summed it up well when he wrote:
This was about politics, not intelligence. New Zealand is not leaving the alliance, it is only drawing a distinction between the two. In retrospect it was an overstretch of what Five Eyes was meant for: sharing secrets.
And what about democratic oversight and accountability?
Bear in mind the opacity with which intelligence networks operate and the serious challenges they can pose to democratic oversight and accountability, as we highlighted in our 27 July 2020 blog, The trouble with intelligence agencies, part two.
Paul Meyer, former Director-General of the Security and Intelligence Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (now Global Affairs Canada) comments:
It is disconcerting to see the Five Eyes intelligence association encroaching, via meetings and public statements, on the domain of foreign policy. For democratic states it is important to demonstrate that the intelligence community knows how to stay in its own lane.
Is this really the precedent that leading democratic states wish to establish?
And note that these joint Five Eyes statements are extraordinarily hard to track down — the one on Hong Kong is no longer available on the US State Department website and the news stories on the Five Eyes joint Uyghur statement do not link to the actual statement.
No public debate in Canada over expanding Five Eyes into political pressure group
There has been no debate or even discussion in Canada over the expansion of the Five Eyes intelligence network into a “political pressure group”.
It is time we joined New Zealand in polite, but firm, resistance.
We call on the Government of Canada to quietly join New Zealand in resisting further misguided American efforts to expand the mandate of the Five Eyes intelligence network beyond its intelligence work.
Canada–China relations: what now?
For a recent discussion of Canada–China relations after the release of the “3 Ms”, hosted by veteran journalist Ed Hand, with guests including former diplomat Colin Robertson, RI President Peggy Mason, Mimi Lee of HongKongers Action Group and Professor Rob Hanlon, click on the arrow below:
And to find out why Canada may have been short-sighted to “cold shoulder” Chinese expressions of interest in joining the Pacific Rim trading bloc known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), see Don’t Count China Out of the CPTPP (Joseph Cash, thediplomat.com, 22 September 2021).
The article begins:
The now-frozen trade deal with the EU shows China can be willing to push the boundaries of reform into areas that might surprise observers.
Update on Lessons still unlearned from Global War on Terror
In our extensive review of why a course correction is so long overdue in relation to the US-led war on terror, we critiqued the pre-eminence given to military over rule-of-law solutions. And we abhorred the failure even to adhere to the laws of war in that military effort, with Abu Ghraib, black sites, extraordinary rendition and Guantánamo Bay the result.
That is why we are drawing attention to the latest report of the International Crisis Group, entitled Overkill: Reforming the Legal Basis for the U.S. War on Terror” (17 September 2021), examining as it does one of the foundational elements of democratic oversight — the decision to go to war in the first place.
After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Congress passed a use of force authorisation that successive presidents have used to expand military action ever further. As part of our series The Legacy of 9/11 and the “War on Terror”, we argue that Washington should enact a new statute that promotes transparency and narrows the war’s scope.
if U.S. political leaders are to learn the lessons of past conflicts, then the law needs to create a framework for them to do so.
And what about the US military command at the heart of the war on terror?
The President of the Quincy Institute, Andrew J. Bacevich, former soldier turned academic, writing in The Nation on 5 October 2021, has launched a full-frontal assault on a vast American military network, Central Command (CENTCOM), which has an area of responsibility (AOR) that encompasses 4 million square miles and 560 million people in the Middle East. He writes:
Painful as it may be for former CENTCOM commanders to admit, the organization’s very existence has coincided with an almost staggering deterioration in regional security and stability throughout the Greater Middle East.
Comparing CENTCOM to the infamous 1950s Edsel automobile, he asks:
Can there be any question that if CENTCOM were a profit-oriented enterprise, it would have gone belly up long ago?
For the full take-down, as well as an inspiring “re-imagining” of what US leadership could mean, be sure to read this article in its entirety by clicking The American Empire is Unwinding (Andrew J. Bacevich, thenation.com).
When will we confront the true global threats to our very survival?
A longstanding feature of our blogs has been the work of one of the world’s pre-eminent peace and security experts, Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University.
His long track record of accurately predicting the failure of the global war on terror, from even before its onset, and his identification as far back as the late 1990s of key trends that would contribute to our “loss of control” of security in the 21st century surely earn him the right to finally be heeded now.
In an article for opendemocracy.net, he recalls his efforts to bring attention to three factors that were going to determine the nature of international conflict in this century:
an increasing rich/poor divide, environmental limits to growth and a global defence culture that prioritised military responses to challenges.
While he sees “plenty of bright new thinking” in many countries on how to move to a more just economic system, the pandemic has only heightened the already “obscene” levels of wealth accrual by the wealthy elites, who remain deeply resistant to change.
On the environmental front he sees more progress having been made:
With environmental sustainability … there has been substantial progress [in] public awareness … and … meanwhile, the technology of decarbonising economies has come on apace….
But the two huge “catches” are the slowness of the neoliberal system to curb carbon dioxide emissions sufficiently and the “hopelessly limited” nature of inter-governmental political cooperation.
Rogers reserves his greatest concern for the third trend, the now-ingrained preference for military responses, writing:
The military security culture remains deeply embedded in the control paradigm, with that war-promoting hydra of the world’s military-industrial complexes holding a powerful position in national cultures, whether in the US, China, Russia, the UK, France, India or any other large economy.
After predicting we will likely not wake up until we have faced “multiple disasters” and the pressure for change to avoid total global disaster will have become impossible to resist, he makes a passionate plea for acting earlier:
The truly urgent task is to speed up the rate of change, with the rest of this decade being the key period.
We either carry on down the current path, making some welcome changes but doing so far too slowly to prevent catastrophe, or we accelerate what needs to be done so that the transformation to a just and sustainable world order comes earlier, with less loss of life and environmental damage.
He ends with an equally passionate plea for all of us to:
speak up and play a part in being the change.
For the full article, see: This century’s major battles are upon us. Can we act before it’s too late? (Paul Rogers, opendemocracy.net, 2 October 2021).
Afghanistan update: new CIPS blog and webinar
RI President Peggy Mason has penned a blog for the highly rated website of the University of Ottawa Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) entitled We Must Avoid an Isolated, Impoverished Unstable Afghanistan.
The blog is an abridged version of her presentation to a 23 September 2021 webinar presented by CIPS and the Fragile States Research Network, where she discussed the future of Afghanistan and took audience questions along with former Afghanistan Ambassador to Canada Omar Samad and host/moderator Professor Nipa Banerjee.
The webinar can be viewed in its entirety by clicking on the arrow below.
Peggy Mason’s complete presentation is available in PDF format here.
For an important update on addressing the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, see Thinking Through the Dilemmas of Aid to Afghanistan (Commentary, crisisgroup.org) 7 Oct 2021. For an analysis of the first moves by the Taliban towards a more inclusive government, see: Afghanistan’s Taliban Expand Their Interim Government (Q&A, crisisgroup.org) 28 Sept 2021.
Canadian Pugwash Group Policy Conference on Cyber Security on 19 October 2021 from 3:00 to 6:30 EDT
We end today’s blog with information on an upcoming virtual conference with a Rideau Institute connection.
As part of its annual gathering of members, the Canadian Pugwash Group is hosting a policy conference, in virtual format, entitled International Cyber Security – Threats and Opportunities for Canada, to be held October 19, 2021 (3:00-6:30 pm EDT).
The event notice reads:
Global society is increasingly dependent on a functioning cyberspace for its well-being, yet the “militarization” of this environment is growing apace alongside criminal assaults on its users.
How should Canada position itself with respect to this emerging technology and its implications for security?
CPG has assembled eminent Canadian experts to discuss this topic, including former diplomats Paul Meyer and Peggy Mason, legal and political-security experts Professors Craig Martin and Stephanie Carvin, and cyber-security practitioners and civil society voices (Bill Robinson and Alyson Pytlak).
Click here for the full programme and short speaker biographies.
All are welcome to attend this virtual conference by registering at this link:
Please note the conference host is located in Vancouver so adding the event automatically to your calendar by Zoom will show the event in Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), three hours earlier than Eastern Daylight Time.
Don’t miss this timely discussion where there will also be an opportunity for audience input.
Photo credit: Reddit.com