The Economist dodged a bullet! (Part I)

Seeing as The Economist gave my work a miss this time around, I decided I might as well publish it myself. It’s a shaky first attempt at political analysis, but even Hem had to start somewhere! Applying for the internships at The Economist was an amazing experience, made even better by the fact that they actually sent me a personalized (though likely automated) response. I think the way an employer’s rejection style speaks volumes, and The Economist has my vote for Best Rejection Letter Ever. It told me there were over 500 applicants for a single internship, and that the high volume surely says something about the state of the economy and the profound interest in foreign affairs shared by many. It told me not to give up without sounding like S Club 7–not even a bit!

More importantly, the letter reaffirmed my long-held belief that good writing is capable of shaping perceptions and changing the world. Instead of feeling disappointed, I was happy, and that is why we must put down our smartphones and Metro newspapers from time to time and read fantastically written pieces that are the product of months, or years, of careful deliberation and reflection. I hope to someday count myself among those who can write such pieces. Aaaand without further tangential preamble, here it is!

Canada foreign policy (31 Mar 2013)

Canada gets tough

Canada’s government sheds its image of impartial peacekeeper in a series of hardline moves

Canada has traditionally played the impartial helping hand in its dealings with other nations, putting the emphasis on foreign aid and peacekeeping missions. However, lately Canada has been assuming a decidedly hawkish role.

At least part of this transformation can be attributed to Stephen Harper’s Conservative government’s eagerness for showing solidarity with Israel. On September 7th of last year, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that Canada was suspending diplomatic relations with Iran. When asked why Canada had chosen now to react to decades-old circumstances, Baird vaguely replied, “there’s just a long list of reasons why we’re coming to this decision.” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu congratulated Canada for its “bold move.”

Another bold move came in November, when Canada was among the nine countries that voted against Palestine’s bid for statehood at the United Nations. The approval of the resolution only served to exacerbate Baird’s hawkish rhetoric—in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly he chided Palestine for acting unilaterally, and ominously declared that Canada would consider “all available next steps.”

However, the next steps available to Canada are few—Canada’s international presence has steadily waned under Mr. Harper’s government. Canada lost its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2010, a historical first, and has dramatically scaled back peacekeeping missions and foreign aid in the past few years. “We’re just not doing enough internationally to have people care about what we think,” observes Alistair Edgar, a political science professor in Waterloo, Ontario.

Despite his embarrassment over losing the Security Council bid, Mr. Harper seems reluctant to change course. In late March, Canada became the only nation in the world to withdraw from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification—moving Green Party leader Elizabeth May to comment that Mr. Harper is turning Canada into “the North Korea of environmental law.”

The federal budget released March 21st gives further indication of shifting international priorities by completing a process started in 2006, when the Conservatives merged the International Trade and Foreign Affairs portfolios. This time, the already bloated Foreign Affairs portfolio is to subsume the Canadian International Development Agency, the department responsible for foreign aid. With $377 million in cuts to foreign aid set to be implemented by 2014, the government is peddling a new strategy of promoting Canadian business interests in emerging economies to foster lasting economic growth.

While this is a potentially fruitful approach, it remains to be seen how it will be implemented. In the meantime, Mr. Harper can tell the Palestinians that their cheque was lost in the mail.

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