Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ABC's of the Seal Hunt

Okay, I tried. I really tried. I tried to ignore the news, I tried not to read the papers, I tried to block out the ranting and roaring.

But this morning's latest, predictable outburst of populist cant about the seal hunt is just too much to bear silently.

So I posted a comment on the CBC's web site in response to their story on Williams's kangaroo comments: "So Europeans should have a good, hard look at themselves," says Premier Williams.

Europeans do not have a monopoly on hypocrisy. Williams completely burned the political bridge between St. John's and Ottawa and then launched his own foreign policy initiative to deal directly with the Europeans; now that his reckless gamble has failed, he will place responsibility on everyone but himself.

The failure of Williams's seal hunt foreign policy is part of a larger continuum whereby the ABC virus has infected every aspect of NL's public life. Anyone following Hedderson's foreign policy folly in Ottawa could see that the initiative was doomed from the outset.

Blame Ottawa, blame Liberals, blame Europeans...Williams will blame everyone but himself. I'm sure he'll even try to pin this on Manning somehow.

Williams and Hedderson fooled themselves (and tried to fool the public, too) that they could somehow change European opinion without coordinating their actions with the Government of Canada.

As bad as the EU ban is, it will be important not to burn every bridge with the Europeans. As usual, Williams is putting populist rhetoric before reasoned policy.

Williams seems to forget that there is an international jurisdictional battle over undersea resources looming with France, and Canada will need all the allies it can muster. Ranting and raving may be good for the polls, but it's not a sound basis for foreign policy. In other words, it's better to speak softly and carry a big stick than shout loudly and carry a twig.

Before the nationalist mob starts burning European books in the streets, they should stop and think about what would be the best way to fight the next foreign policy battle, not the last one. Here's the link to the CBC story:
I'm sure the thumbs down votes on my little comment will be in triple digits before the day is over.

It's not as if there aren't voices of reason out there. The Tely had a sensible editorial on the economic realities (as opposed to political rhetoric) of the seal hunt:

But trying to make a reasoned argument when it comes to this issue is like spitting in the wind. It was bad enough when DW had the usual arsenal of populist anger to tap into; now he has the seal hunt to whip the public into an unthinking frenzy of rage and revenge.

Lost in all the rage is reasoned policy. Lost in all the frenzy is a sensible strategy for getting the most out of a difficult situation.

Let me be clear: Yes, the Europeans are hypocrites. In fact, as any diplomat can tell you, geopolitics is full of hypocrisy and Machiavellian manipulation. As Orwellian News tried to point out, for example, Putin did not favour a seal hunt ban because he's a soft-hearted guy:

The latest debacle has links to DW's Excellent European Adventure that started in February:

Now we've come full circle: the foreign policy chickens hatched by the ABC folly have now come home to roost.

Which brings us back to hypocrisy. Dangovt expects the unreserved support of Harper's government at the same time as it continues to condemn them.

Dangovt wants it both ways: they want to blame Ottawa and they want Ottawa's help.

So what do they do? Hedderson's quote in the Globe sums it up:

"Obviously the seal hunt and perhaps us as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are not important,” said Fisheries Minister Tom Hedderson. “We joined this country in '49 and we became full Canadians. And we expect our Prime Minister to stand up for us.”

Blame Ottawa for ignoring NL; dredge up Confederation and '49; and demand that Ottawa fix something that wasn't their fault. That's foreign policy in Dangovt.

Before long, the whole thing will be sold as another Shaft, another reason to give DW more blind support in time for the next CRA polling season.

Before Long Is Here Update:
Well, that didn't take very long did it? Note the machismo language of violent revenge (with "muscle" being the Danword of the day), and the lack of thoughtfulness or reflection on the larger contexts or consequences:

Here are the links to the original Globe and VOCM stories:

Now, back to trying to be on hiatus.

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