The Real Bev Oda Scandal: Politicizing (& Corporatizing) Canadian Foreign Aid

That now-infamous taxpayer-subsidized luxury hotel switcheroo in Mother London? Small potatoes.

Don Cayo:

[A]nalysis by Fraser Reilly-King, a policy analyst at the non-profit Canadian Council for International Co-operation, shows substantial cuts to foreign aid in last month’s federal budget are aimed mainly at the same kind of underprivileged countries [that were removed from CIDA’s priority list in 2009] – the poorest places in the world. And funds for the better-off political darlings are mostly protected.

Reilly-King’s figures project, starting next year, a winnowing-away of funds for inter-national assistance from an all-time peak of $5 billion this year to $4.6 billion in 2014-15. Over the same period, the share of Gross National Income that Canada spends on aid will shrink to 0.25 per cent from 0.34 per cent, which is less than half the never-attained target set by former prime minister Lester Pearson in 1969.

Wait — it gets better:

The cuts will be felt by 13 cur-rent recipients, he says, eight of them in Africa. One of the countries to be cut off completely is China, a fully justified – if not overdue – move given its rapid economic expansion. But the others to lose out completely include Cambodia and Nepal, which are making progress but were late in catching the Asian prosperity wave, as well as dirt-poor Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Niger.

Yet Ukraine – which has been a priority country for years only because of strong lobbying by Canadians of Ukrainian descent – and fast-rising, upper-middle-income Peru and Colombia are unaffected.

Other countries to duck the axe are Bangladesh, which is very poor, and Vietnam and Indonesia, which are both making rapid progress on their own. Reilly-King points out all the unaffected countries are high on the Harper government’s list of places where it wants to see stronger trade ties.

There’s brazen, and brazen — Oda, proud Harpercon that she is, certainly earns the italicization (and then some):

In an interview with my Post- media colleague Elizabeth Payne earlier this year, Oda candidly conceded that she didn’t separate at all Canadian trade and foreign policy goals from our aid policy.

She also confirmed that CIDA, which has been moving away from its well-established, long-term partnerships with trusted and respected NGOs in the field, is moving more and more to partnerships with private sector partners in the mining and agricultural sectors.

Shorter Bev Oda: Let them eat little cakes — ooh, and freshen up my OJ while you’re at it!

h/t

Related:  More from CBC’s The Current on the debate over CIDA partnerships.

US Health Care Reform: Made in…Afghanistan?

by matttbastard

Stephen M. Walt, commenting on Obama’s recent AfPak escalation and the incongruity of domestic spending initatives vs expensive foreign military endeavours on the part of the US:

As I’ve said before, Americans have come to believe that spending government revenues on U.S. citizens here at home is usually a bad thing and should be viewed with suspicion, but spending billions on vast social engineering projects overseas is the hallmark of patriotism and should never be questioned. This position makes no sense, but it is hard to think of a prominent U.S. leader who is making an explicit case for doing somewhat less abroad so that we can afford to build a better future here at home. Debates about foreign policy, grand strategy, and military engagement — including the current debate over Obama’s decision to add another30,000-plus troops in Afghanistan — tend to occur in isolation from a discussion of other priorities, as if there were no tradeoffs between what we do for others and what we are able to do for Americans here at home.

Thankfully, E-Mart has proposed a modest solution to one particularly contentious domestic issue currently mired in the US Senate:

Maybe we can set up an efficient health insurance delivery system in Iraq or Afghanistan and then import it to the States. Call it a part of our COIN strategy, get Petraeus to endorse it and then ship it home under cover of night.

Wow. That’s so crazy, it just might work.

Le sigh.

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On Analogy and Imperial Ambition

by matttbastard

What was that about Afghanistan not being even remotely analogous to Vietnam?

Andrew Bacevich:

Implementing the McChrystal plan will perpetuate the longstanding fundamentals of US national security policy: maintaining a global military presence, configuring US forces for global power projection, and employing those forces to intervene on a global basis. The McChrystal plan modestly updates these fundamentals to account for the lessons of 9/11 and Iraq, cultural awareness and sensitivity nudging aside advanced technology as the signature of American military power, for example. Yet at its core, the McChrystal plan aims to avert change. Its purpose – despite 9/11 and despite the failures of Iraq – is to preserve the status quo.

[…]

If the president assents to McChrystal’s request, he will void his promise of change at least so far as national security policy is concerned. The Afghanistan war will continue until the end of his first term and probably beyond. It will consume hundreds of billions of dollars. It will result in hundreds or perhaps thousands more American combat deaths – costs that the hawks are loath to acknowledge.

Bah — costs, shmosts. Remember, kids: Failure is not an option; No end but victory; Clap harder, etc. Positive reinforcement is like the platinum card of force projection — and one can always refinance the mounting debt if the interest proves too great.

Glennzilla (h/t):

Obama deserves some credit for at least refusing to capitulate immediately to the military’s demands without taking time to consider alternative options.  Russ Feingold just wrote another Op-Ed arguing for a withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan, but that option is not even part of the Washington debate.  The only issue is whether to escalate and, if so, by how much.  The Washington Post today reported that as part of Obama’s March order for 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, “the White House has also authorized — and the Pentagon is deploying — at least 13,000 troops beyond that number.”  With Democrats like Feinstein controlling the U.S. Senate, is it any wonder that our status as a perpetual war nation appears to continue indefinitely?

Ah well, if we can’t actually be granted meaningful Change in the direction of US foreign policy, at least we can vicariously cling to the imperial hopes and dreams of those who profit from the expansionist state.

Yes, we can.

Oh, and for us Canucks, the prospect of US forces committing to a protracted, NATO-lead COIN campaign in Afghanistan combined with soaring Tory poll numbers would appear to put Harper’s long-promised 2011 exit date for Canadian combat troops in serious question.

Ok, I guess there are some differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam — at least Canada knew enough to stay out of that tar pit.

Related: First Van Jones, now Joe Biden?! Seriously, Arianna Huffington (or her ghost-writer, natch) desperately needs to get over the notion that being out of power somehow magically imparts one greater influence (and PONIES!)

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On Hard Decisions, Afghanistan, and Unshitting the Bed.

by matttbastard

Pale just sent me this link, which has me right back to asking ‘what the fuck are we doing in Afghanistan again?’  Is it to promote civil society, install democracy and fight for women’s rights, as the Harpercons and the Bushies liked to go on about? Yeah, right; Joe Biden recently gave an interview on CNN where he basically said that it was too effing bad that Afghan women are still getting shat upon, but the primary reason why the US (and NATO) is in Afghanistan  is to keep America safe.

Ok, fine–I get that the US isn’t in the democracy promotion business any more.

Really.

I get it.

But, whether we like it or not,  for all intents and purposes,  NATO is the goddamn Afghan government–we (Canada included) are occupiers, with all the legal responsibilities that go along with that designation.  Karzai (aka The Mayor of Kabul) is a puppet; we pick and choose when and how we are going to pull his strings.  And the way the Obama admin is framing this? As I’ve said before, it’s pure Brzezinski realpolitik. We’ve swung from Utopian idealism to cold, amoral realism.

There is no balance.

Also, the manner in which some have been objecting to the ‘surge’ — the fact that Obama is putting in more troops, period–is the wrong complaint. There’s no point in putting in an additional 17,000 US combat troops because it’s JUST NOT ENOUGH.  Afghanistan needs several hundred thousand additional troops to provide adequate security and allow reconstruction to move forward. And even then it’s gonna be a 30-40 year project. Long. Term. So, if anything, Obama deserves to be spanked for trying to lazily emulate the Bush compromise surge in Iraq — a symbolic act to show that we are Doing Something, even if that Something is, ultimately, futile.

In other words, Obama’s Afghan strategy is a political gesture designed for domestic consumption that will do nothing to advance the stated mission in Afghanistan, nor measurably improve conditions on the ground.

So, we (as in ‘countries that make up NATO forces in the region’) face a decision:  do we want to do the Marshall Plan thing — go big, go hard, remake and rebuild Afghan (and, to a certain degree, Pakistani) society, long-term, FOR REAL–or mop up enough juuust enough to declare victory and get the fuck out before the shit hits the fan? I mean, post-WWII Germany, Japan? Decades-long projects, taken seriously without the half-assed measures and mixed messages about what exactly the mission and its desired outcomes were.  IF we are going to take the former route we need to do it RIGHT–or don’t do it at all.  Because we are investing priceless commodities–lives, money, and political capital–into this endeavor.

Problem is, many on the left are still acting like it’s 2002 and Afghanistan is Iraq,  arguing about whether the war and its stated goals (haphazard as they may have been) was the right thing to do. Newsflash, kiddies: it’s already been done–we broke it (oh, how we fucking broke it) and are once again the proud owners of another failed fucking state. Now we need to decide what the fuck we’re going to do with it.

And, unfortunately, sometimes there are no ideal options–merely the least-bad of a truly rotten bunch.

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Israel, Palestine and Demographic Realities

by matttbastard

Gershom Gorenberg, writing in the Jan-Feb issue of Foreign Policy, outlines the cold, harsh reality with regards to the efficacy of any so-called two-state solution (where Israel and the former occupied territories revert to pre-1967 borders, Israelis and Palestinians set aside lingering grievance and resentment to the delight of the global community, and Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft subsequently distribute free ponies for everyone!):

From my home in West Jerusalem, the road that Israelis use to head south toward Hebron runs through two tunnels in the mountains. Known simply as the Tunnel Road, it was built in the mid-1990s during the Oslo peace process, when Bethlehem was turned over to Palestinian rule and Israelis wanted a way to bypass the town on their way to settlements that remained in Israeli hands.

A turn from the Tunnel Road takes you past the Palestinian village of Hussan to Beitar Illit, a settlement covering two hills. The streets are lined with apartment buildings, faced in rough-cut, yellowish-white stone, all with red-tile roofs, so alike they could have been turned out by the same factory. In 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat shook hands and peace seemed close enough to touch, about 4,000 people lived in Beitar Illit. Now, 34,000 live here, and more will soon move in.

The message written on the landscape is simple: Every day, the settlements expand. Every day, Israel grows more entangled in the West Bank. To a large degree, the Israeli and Palestinian publics have accepted the need for a two-state solution. But time, and the construction crews, are working against it. No one knows exactly where the point of no return is—when so many Israelis will have moved into so many homes beyond the pre-1967 border that there is no going back. But each passing day brings that tipping point nearer. If a solution is not achieved quickly, it might soon be out of reach.

According to Gorenberg, “[i]n 1993, when the Oslo process began, 116,000 Israelis lived in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank… . Last year, when Olmert resigned and elections were announced, the number of settlers in the West Bank had passed 290,000, living alongside 2.2 million Palestinians.”  And, following elections in February, “more than 300,000 Israelis are likely to be living in the West Bank, with the number continuing to climb [all emph. mine].”

Remember, several years back, the domestic PR headache posed by engaging in the forced removal of angry, militant Israeli settlers from their homes in Gaza?

Yeah, that–all over again, only with at least 35 times the population to send packing.

So, when people act as if a viable choice between pursuing a single or two-state solution with Israel and the former occupied territories still exists, one must first account for a very precious non-renewable resource, one that, as noted by Gorenberg, is in increasingly short supply:

Time.

Related
: John Bolton shows why he’s the AEI’s new go-to guy for solving tough diplomatic conundrums with his latest op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he proposes a three (yes, three) state zombie solution to Israel’s current post-colonial woes.  Yeah, that’s a brilliant idea — simply foist the entire Palestinian problem onto Egypt and Jordan, using all the diplomatic leverage that the US has accrued in the Middle East over the past 8 years (especially the past 6).  I’m sure that’ll fly in Cairo and Amman–especially if Brzezinski and Scowcroft throw in extra ponies to account for the extra state involved.

OMG PONIES!

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A Violent Collision Between Rhetoric and Reality

by matttbastard

(video courtesy CSPANJunkie)

Apparently Rafah-based freelance journalist and teacher Fida Qishta was otherwise occupied and didn’t get Secretary Rice’s helpful reminder re: ‘responsibility’ before filing the following dispatch to the Graun:

I wake up at 7am after an Israeli F-16 attack. Our house is shaking. We all try to imagine what has happened, but we want to at least know where the attack was. It is so scary. We try to open the main door to our flat, but it’s stuck shut after the attack. I have to climb out of the window to leave the house. I am shocked when I find out our neighbour’s pharmacy was the target. It is just 60 metres from our house. They targeted a pharmacy. I still can’t believe it.

[…]

The Israeli army is destroying the tunnels that go from Rafah into Egypt. For the past year and a half the Israeli government has intensified the economic blockade of Gaza by closing all the border crossings that allow aid and essential supplies to reach Palestinians in Gaza. This forced Palestinians to dig tunnels to Egypt to survive. From our house we can hear the explosions and the house is shaking.At night we can’t go out. No one goes out. If you go out you will risk your life. You don’t know where the bombs will fall. My mother is so sad. She watches me writing my reports and says: “Fida, will it make any difference?”

Before the attack started we got some food aid from the EU. It’s not much, but it’s enough, we’re not starving. But some of our friends have nothing. My mum warns me: “Fida, don’t leave the house, it’s too dangerous outside.” Then she goes out to share our food with the neighbours who have nothing.

Just  remember: it’s actually Hamas (and only Hamas) that has, in the words of Secretary Rice, “held the people of Gaza hostage”.

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Mumbai Attacks: “These Weren’t Just Terrorists”

by matttbastard

ForaTV:

Counterterrorism expert Bruce Hoffman describes the November, 2008 attacks on downtown Mumbai, India as “more like a military operation than a terrorist attack,” and examines what implications the incident may have for the ongoing fight against global terrorism.

Complete video here

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