February 7, 2011

A quick note about one class this term...

This semester I'm taking Middle East Foreign Policy. It's a special topics course which means it hasn't been taught here before as a regular course. Thankfully we have James Devine, Senior Research Fellow on the McGill-based Interuniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies as our professor. I appreciate his fresh outlook compared to some others I have heard discussing politics. On the first day we discussed Canada's (lack of a major) role in the Middle East. I appreciated that it was the first look taking into account reality I've had just as a basic measure of Canada's importance in the world. I'm sorry to all those who are ardent nationalists, but Canada can barely be defined as a middle power.

From the first day I was excited about this course because it'll be one based on the reality on the ground, and not some pie-in the sky wishful thinking about Canada making the world a better place, or outright depressing pessimism about the structure of the world order itself.

It reminded me of someone asking a really uneducated question in introduction to political science. We were studying the start of the Westphalian Order and someone asked about modern day politics. He asked something along the lines of "Well if there's legal equality then why can't any country just say no to China?"

The professor responded that legal equality doesn't mean that they have the same say on the global arena. She China versus...umm...a small country without much of a voice on the world stage...and came up with Jamaica. It made me wonder wonder why she didn't say Canada. Unsurprisingly she later mentioned Canada being a middle power focused on peacekeeping...which...if you actually look at the facts and not the nationalist propaganda, is no longer true.

I'm glad to have a political science class that looks at the world as it really is, with a primarily realist perspective, especially where is it most appropriate: the Middle East.