USA DEMOCRATIC “BACKSLIDE” CONTINUES
“the most appalling gun violence of any advanced economy” – Lawrence Martin
It seems appropriate to start our comment on the continuing unraveling of American democracy — and the increasingly dire implications for Canada — with an update to our post last week on the shocking mass shooting in a black neighbourhood of Buffalo, New York.
This tragedy has now been upstaged by an even more horrific crime — 19 elementary school children and two teachers gunned down in a midday elementary school attack in southern Texas.
An Associated Press report states that the 18-year-old gunman
legally bought two AR-style rifles before the attack, soon after his 18th birthday, and warned on social media minutes before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and was going to shoot up a school.
In a CBC analysis of the frequency of these US mass shooting events, and the repeated lack of an effective political response, journalist Alexander Panetta writes:
It’s the example par excellence of a political system that relies on cross-party cooperation and suffers stagnation in its absence.
If you lack bipartisan support, here’s what it takes to pass a highly politicized bill: trifecta control of the White House, the House of Representatives, and 60 per cent of Senate seats.
That almost never happens so gun reform doesn’t happen either despite widespread public support.
For a comparative analysis of how Australia, Britain and Canada have responded to mass shootings, see How to Prevent Gun Massacres? Look Around the world (John Cassidy, newyorker.com, 26 May 2022).
Australia, Britain, Canada, and other countries have enacted reforms that turned mass shootings into rare, aberrational events, rather than everyday occurrences.
Note that the article approvingly references Canada’s national gun registry of restricted and prohibited firearms, which used to also include registration of non-restricted firearms until then Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismantled the federal long gun registry in 2012.
And, as we noted in last week’s post, the situation is only going to get worse now that the US Supreme Court is set to overturn important gun control laws in liberal states.
We have some encouraging news on the Canadian front, however. CTV’s Rachel Aiello reports:
In the wake of a horrific mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signalled that the Canadian government will be moving ahead on new gun-control measures “in the coming weeks.”
For a comprehensive list of promised and potential new measures, see Trudeau signals new gun-control changes coming; here’s what the Liberals have promised (ctvnews.ca, 26 May 2022).
We commend the Government of Canada for this increasingly robust gun control agenda and urge them to get the job done through the necessary legislative and other implementation measures.
New report: Increasing instability in USA poses threat to Canada
A new report entitled A National Security Strategy for the 2020s includes close consideration of how a deteriorating United States becomes a danger to Canada:
The United States is and will remain our closest ally, but it could also become a source of threat and instability.
The report was written by a task force of former national security advisers, former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) directors, ex-deputy ministers, former ambassadors and academics. Members of the group have advised both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former prime minister Stephen Harper.
In its examination of the Ottawa trucker convoy, the report notes the ties between far-right extremists in Canada and the US and the open support from conservative media and politicians in the United States and concludes:
This may not have represented foreign interference in the conventional sense …. But it did represent, arguably, a greater threat to Canadian democracy than the actions of any state other than the United States.
The report continues:
It will be a significant challenge for our national security and intelligence agencies to monitor this threat, since it emanates from the same country that is by far our greatest source of intelligence.
In an interview with CBC journalist Catharine Tunney, Professor Thomas Juneau, co-director of the Task Force and associate professor at the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, stated:
There are serious risks of democratic backsliding in the U.S. and at this point, that is not a theoretical risk….
So all of that is a serious threat to our sovereignty, to our security, and in some cases, to our democratic institutions … We need to rethink our relationship with the United States.
Increased transparency and public engagement needed
In addition to calling for a broad national security review and a new national security governance structure with a cabinet-level committee and “a strong central assessment function”, the report also recommends a fundamental change in the way the national security community interacts with the public:
Many Canadians today mistrust government. This has major implications for national security. This erosion of trust opens space for misinformation and disinformation to spread; this weakens democratic institutions and contributes to a vacuum that hostile actors do not hesitate to fill.
In this context, the national security community’s tradition of secrecy is outdated and counterproductive.
As such, we strongly recommend that the national security community’s recent engagement efforts be significantly ramped up, both with the public – with civil society, the private sector, the media and academia – as well as with Parliament.
The community, moreover, must continue and intensify its efforts to increase diversity within its ranks.
MORE ON HUAWEI BAN — FINANCIAL IMPACT AND CHINESE REACTION
As we noted in last week’s post, the Canadian government formally announced on 19 May that it would prohibit products and services of Chinese corporation Huawei from being used in Canadian high-speed telecommunications systems.
Commenting on the impact on Canadian tech companies and therefore consumers, Samer Bishay, CEO of Ontario-based communication services company Iristel, stated:
Putting the onus on carriers to strip their existing infrastructure of anything Huawei-made is going to hurt small companies providing vital service to Canadians living in remote and rural areas.
Bishay explains there is “quite a bit” of Huawei technology across the 4G generation networks of Iristel, and its subsidiary ICE Wireless, which provides wireless service to areas of the far north, where Huawei tech endures well the harsh conditions.
In the view of telecommunications analyst Mark Goldberg, a combination of “great price” and “great technology” led many “small rural wireless internet service providers” to choose Huawei.
For more on the financial impact, see Huawei 5G ban could be costly for Canadian consumers, smaller telcos (Craig Lord, globalnews.ca, 20 May 2022).
The Financial Post also examined the potential impacts on Huawei’s other pursuits in Canada, including R&D funding, concluding:
It is unclear how Huawei and its research partners will respond in these areas.
Note that Huawei estimates about 10 per cent of the company’s annual R&D investment in Canada goes directly to research partnerships with Canadian research institutions across Canada.
Chinese reaction to Canada banning Huawei from 5G network
Alleging that the move was a form of “political manipulation” carried out in coordination with the US, Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Canada’s decision
runs counter to market economy principles and free trade rules and has seriously damaged the rights and interests of Chinese companies.
China will make a comprehensive and serious assessment of the situation and take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.
Huawei Canada spokesperson Alykhan Velshi said the decision was disappointing for the company’s 1,500 Canadian workers, two-thirds of whom work in research and development. He added that the government had failed
to actually give a specific example about the national-security threat that Huawei poses.
Citing close scrutiny and “zero security incidents throughout this entire period”, the company noted that banning its equipment and services will lead to significant losses in Canada and push up the cost of communications for Canadian consumers.
Five Eyes espionage and the Huawei ban
It is not just Huawei executives who dispute the national security charges against Huawei.
In our 23 July 2021 blog post, entitled State-sponsored espionage whether Chinese or American puts us all at risk, we included this conclusion from Wesley Wark, one of Canada’s foremost national security experts (whom we also referenced in last week’s blog post discussion of the Huawei ban):
the US had failed to provide any “meaningful evidence” that Huawei represented any kind of security threat as a spy proxy for the Chinese government.
We then drew attention to an in-depth, extensively sourced, examination of just what the US war on Huawei entails and the real reasons behind it, in The US War to Destroy China’s Crown Jewel and Secure US Cyber Supremacy (Stephen Gowans, gowansblog.org, 6 July 2021).
We turn now to a 21 May 2022 article in the National Post entitled Huawei ban won’t solve the problem of Chinese spying on Canada, experts say (Anja Karadeglija, nationalpost.com).
Noting that all telecommunications equipment has security vulnerabilities, Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor of international relations at Carleton University, continues:
And just a simple ban on Huawei isn’t going to fix that. China doesn’t need Huawei to spy on us.
The question not asked is, if China does not need Huawei to carry out espionage, why would it risk its global technology powerhouse by using it in this way?
Christopher Parsons, a senior researcher at University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, agrees with Carvin’s assessment but fears that the Chinese government would have geopolitical “leverage” over Canada if Huawei and related Chinese equipment became “dominant” in Canadian telecommunications.
Quite aside from the ability of Canada to guard against “dominance” without an outright ban, surely another possibility is that both Canada and China would have a common interest in keeping Huawei out of the espionage game.
But such an analysis and potential “win-win” outcome would manifestly not serve America’s perceived geopolitical interests.
UKRAINE UPDATE: GROUP THINK REIGNS SUPREME
The article begins:
It’s time to challenge the orthodox view on the war in Ukraine.
In vanden Huevel’s view, the ramifications, perils and multifaceted costs of this proxy [NATO–Russia] war should be a central topic of media coverage — as well as informed analysis, discussion and debate. But that is most definitely not the case. She writes that, instead:
what we have in the media and political establishment is, for the most part, a one-sided, even nonexistent, public discussion and debate.
It’s as if we live with what journalist Matt Taibbi has dubbed an “intellectual no-fly zone.”
Rather than excluding or marginalizing those who have departed from the “orthodox line” on Ukraine, vanden Heuvel asks:
Wouldn’t it be healthy to have more diversity of views, history and context rather than “confirmation bias”?
What is missing, or barely reflected, are
voices of restraint, who disagree with the tendency to see compromise in negotiations as appeasement, who seek persistent and tough diplomacy to attain an effective cease-fire and a negotiated resolution, one designed to ensure that Ukraine emerges as a sovereign, independent, reconstructed and prosperous country.
She concludes with a famous quote from venerable American journalist Walter Lippmann:
When all think alike, no one thinks very much.
SOME GOOD NEWS ON AUSTRALIA AND THE NUCLEAR BAN TREATY
While the newly elected Labor government in Australia is expected to maintain key aspects of the current defence policy, including the controversial AUKUS nuclear submarine agreement, there will be a major difference in approach when it comes to nuclear disarmament.
Graeme Dobell, Journalist Fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, writes:
Labor has promised to sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. For [incoming Prime Minister] Albanese, this is both policy commitment and personal belief. At Labor’s national conference in 2018, Albanese moved the motion to make the treaty party policy.
Graeme also notes that Albanese can promise that a Labor government will be much closer to the US position on climate change than the previous Liberal-National coalition government.
For the full article, see Australia’s election: Quad continuity and climate alignment, with nuclear disagreements (pacforum/pacnet, 25 May 2022).
CANADA AND NATO’S STRATEGIC DOCTRINE REVIEW
Veteran Canadian arms controller and international security expert Ernie Regehr has written a trenchant article, originally for the Globe and Mail, on the urgent need for NATO to “step back from the edge of a nuclear abyss”.
Humanity remains hostage to a global “security” system based on threats and counter-threats of nuclear attack…. At the same time, NATO also promises to work toward “the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.”
This inherent contradiction has never been in greater need of resolution and the opportunity to advance that effort will present itself at the NATO Summit scheduled for Madrid at the end of June.
As for Canada, a member of NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, and therefore with a key seat at the table, Regehr writes:
the upcoming summit does offer a timely opportunity to challenge nuclear orthodoxy – and Canada, along with like-minded partners, has the opportunity and obligation to help drive change.
If Australia, which also has an “extended deterrence” relationship with the USA, can embrace the Nuclear Ban Treaty, surely Canada can engage in meaningful dialogue with NATO on issues like no first use and the removal of American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.
For the full article, see NATO has a chance to step back from the edge of a nuclear abyss (disarmingconflict.ca, 24 May 2022).
We reiterate our call for Canada to fully engage in the ongoing NATO Strategic Doctrine Review with a view to identifying concrete steps to reduce its misguided and dangerous over-reliance on nuclear weapons.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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