Shattering news... if you're Peter MacKay. Devastating news if you're Harper.
The US is prepared to back Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to be the next secretary general of Nato, US and alliance sources say.And that would be an "official" leak. A leak which found its way to a desk somewhere at 101 Colonel By Drive in Ottawa with a message: Back away sonny. This is our turf.
Other contenders for the position include Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, former British Defence Secretary Des Browne, former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy and Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay.At least the Brits had the saavy to put MacKay at the end of the list of "also ran" candidates.
Examine a few realities here:
1. The Europeans will never surrender the convention of "The US commands NATO forces and a European civilian commands NATO". There's a good reason for this. NATO's original purpose was to operate on western European soil and face east, preventing any attempted Soviet incursion across what was, at one time, a very dangerous border.
2. The position of NATO secretary-general is selected without much in the way of public input. It is something of a power play among the Europeans. The US would be offside if they opposed the European choice. Any opposition by Canada to the European choice would be promptly and completely ignored.
3. Nothing happens in a vacuum. That name of contenders is not "official" but each one had to be put forward by someone, including that of MacKay. Normally, the names of individuals to be considered are quietly laid before the Dean and Permanent Representatives of the North Atlantic Council. Typically, each member-state of NATO submits the name and resume of a person they would like to see fill the role. The final decision requires unanimity.
That means that MacKay's name didn't pop out of thin air. Nor did the publicity of his being "in contention" for the position. Someone had to submit it.
I'm putting my money on Harper's office.
This morning MacKay came out with a statement which confirms his name certainly was laying about the NAC table and that he had been told to make it clear to everyone that he doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of ever becoming the Chair of the North Atlantic Council.
Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay appeared on Sunday to call off his rumored bid for the NATO leadership, ceding crucial US support for the job to Denmark's prime minister.Yes, and the only thing missing was the tears, but I suspect those happened in private. Bad news for MacKay attempting to secure a job outside Canada for which his only qualification is an over-blown ego but worse news for Harper on at least three counts.
"I have a tremendous amount of work to do with the Canadian Forces," MacKay was quoted by Canadian media as telling reporters in Brussels, adding he was "very focused on my country."
MacKay's candidacy was reportedly supported by US Vice President Joe Biden as a reward for Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan.
However, on Saturday, an alliance diplomat said the United States would support Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to succeed Dutch diplomat Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as NATO's top civilian official.
First would be the fact that Harper really believes that being involved in an expeditionary military mission gained him a personal position of influence among the NATO partners, and that beating the same war drum as his personal hero, George W. Bush, placed him in a position of some supremacy over the Europeans. The all-important World Stage. What Harper had not factored in, (and he may well be so dogmatic as to not recognize it) was that by the time he came along and started echoing Bush's demands, (providing a North American voice of solidarity), Bush had virtually no traction with the Europeans. Bush had already lied to the alliance putting it into an untenable situation in Afghanistan and anything he had to say was viewed as the rantings of a man impossible to trust. Harper singing the same tune was dismissed as that of a Bush sycophant. Canada may have been punching above its weight in military terms in Afghanistan but it was failing, shoulder to shoulder with the Bush administration, on any significant diplomatic and development initiatives.
Secondly, Harper had counted on his "We're your best friend" approach with the Obama administration to produce some results which would support his personal agenda. It might have been heartening to hear that Vice-President Joe Biden supported MacKay's bid, but if anyone thought that was anything but lip-service they're suffering from delusions. The Obama administration is busy trying to rebuild bridges burnt in the last eight years with the Europeans. Imposing a radical change in convention on the Europeans now would serve only to anger them. Biden's support was always intended as a temporary "feel good" statement. In reality, the US would support the majority position of the North Atlantic Council in an attempt to maintain unanimity and regain some of the amity lost during the Bush years. It probably didn't help that Harper trashed the Obama administration in what was supposed to be a private speech. Of course it was just politics as usual for Harper, but to Biden, it would have been no less than a demonstration of typical conservative behaviour - and Harper as someone not to be trusted.
Third, and probably the most devastating thing for Harper, is that Peter MacKay is staying at home, in country, in government, in cabinet. Getting MacKay a job in Brussels had more to do with getting him out of the country and out of arms reach of the throttle handles of the Conservative Party than anything else.
Harper has a problem. He is rapidly approaching his Best Before Date, both with the Canadian public and within his own party. The facade of moderate conservative which gained him only slim minority governments in two successive elections is starting to fall away and we're starting to see the old Harper - a bitter, nasty individual, out to attack any and all who do not share his Reform Party views.
The faux alliance-building Harper has finally given way to his roots: that of an Alberta Reformer with little interest in a confederated Canada.
While one of his goals was the total destruction of the Liberal Party of Canada, he is now having a difficult time with the fact that his last budget and the consititutional fiasco that preceded it demonstrated that he is literally owned by his political enemies. In the name of his own survival he surrendered his own agenda and ideology to the members opposite. I'm quite sure there was a scene in his office which would have rivalled the performance by Sessue Hayakawa after his character released British Colonel Nicholson from brutal confinement in order to get a bridge built.
And there would have been the realization that he would not do to the Liberal Party that which he had accomplished with the Progressive Conservatives - destruction.
Now, aware of the rumbling in his own party, he has released his Reform Party dogs. Jason Kenney is running amok and the Reformers are becoming more vocal. Harper knows his days are probably numbered and that means ensuring that the DNA of the Conservative Party remains his. The marriage of the Reform/Alliance with the Progressive Conservatives was never equal. It was an assimilation of the PCs. To Harper and his Reformers, the thought of one of the former PCs rising to the leadership of the party is repugnant. They are still too close to the political centre.
Thus, getting MacKay out of town with a plum job was essential. As Harper becomes more vulnerable the contenders for his job will start to pull out their knives. The last person Harper wants running for the leadership of the Conservatives is MacKay, the man who once led the Progressive Conservatives and who delivered the PCs into the hands of the Reformers. The last thing Harper and his cronies want is the only political cadre which gave his extremists enough respectability and camouflage to get elected to power, in control of the Reform dream.
YouTube link to the appropriate scene of Bridge On The River Kwai provided by deBeauxOs.