…and my friend Matteo Legrenzi – assistant professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Ottawa – appears to be just the guy. Remember, this is the University at which Allan Rock is president.
Recently Matteo penned this critical piece on R2P in the Ottawa Citizen. In his trademark style it has some notable harsh lines including:
Occasionally calls to mobilize Canada’s diplomatic network in support of such notions reverberate through Ottawa. The current government is perceived as not incisive enough in the promotion of these “emerging” norms in international relations.
Admittedly, these calls more often than not come from retired politicians who are not in charge of Canada’s foreign policy, let alone world affairs. They are part of that wider syndrome that affects many individuals involved in policy-making after they retire: We are sorry we did not save the world while we were in charge, but let us tell you exactly how to go about it now that we are out of office.
and, because he is an expert on Middle Eastern issues, this quote:
In many Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, opposition to R2P is the only thing that unites the government and the Islamist opposition.
Matteo and I don’t always agree but I do always enjoy his blunt assessments of Canada’s foreign policy. There is a strain of thinking in Canadian foreign policy that is more obsessed with pursuing the perfect ideal than pragmatically finding solution that works. This is something I’ve occasionally tried to write about. Matteo’s assessments is far tougher, and is the type of piece few Canadians are willing to voice and fewer still like to hear (especially in Ottawa).
What makes Matteo tough is that there is truth to his assessment. Contrary to what some politicians preach R2P is unpopular in many parts of the world and it is not established international norm. George Bush spent 8 years believing that the world could become a certain way if he simply believed and acted that it was as such… it was a dangerous strategy that had devastating results. A similar strategy, even if motivated by what we believe are more noble intentions, will also be fraught with danger.
I know not everyone will agree with Matteo’s analysis, but even those who disagree with his prescription should at least take away that one lesson: reality may bite, but we can never ignore it.