David Frum rather amazingly blames America for Canada’s failure to win a seat on the Security Council.

The story of Canada’s disappointment at losing the Security Council seat took a new turn Thursday: “U. S. State Department insiders say that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice not only didn’t campaign for Canada’s election but instructed American diplomats to not get involved in the weeks leading up to the heated contest. With no public American support, Canada lost its bid to serve.”

So reported Richard Grenell, a former press officer with the U.S. mission to the UN.

Grenell is right that Susan Rice was AWOL during the Security Council elections. She was travelling in Africa, which does seem a strange thing for an UN ambassador to do at such a crucial moment. [Emphasis mine]

First things first.  Rice was indeed, “travelling in Africa.” But it is not like she was on a safari.  She lead a group of Security Council permanent representatives to South Sudan, Darfur, and Khartoum, among other places.  And indeed this trip does come at a ‘crucial moment’ if you care about preventing a conflict that could lead to mass atrocity or genocide.

But more to the point: Having Canada on the Security Council is no more or less a “victory” for American foreign policy than having Portugal as a member. It is not as if Portugal is more wobbly a partner on the Security Council than Canada. When there are tough votes at the Security Council, both countries will reliably vote with the Americans. Still, Frum speculates that the United States actually engineered this outcome by not pushing Portugal out of the race earlier because of a secret deal between Brazil, Columbia and the United States.

I think the answer is much simpler: The United States did not intervene:  1) because the Obama administration believes that holding competitive elections for open Security Council seats is an example that western democracies ought to set for the rest of the world; 2) Because a race between Portugal and Canada is not something in which the United States has much to gain or loose either way.

To be sure, it is a shame that Frum’s homeland (and the homeland of my own forefathers) is taking this so hard. But the fact is, Canada is not the international boyscout it once was. Prime minister Stephen Harper’s decision to align himself with Frum’s former boss on issues like climate change and  human rights is coming home to roost. The rest of the world took notice, and when given a choice between Canada and Portugal, apparently decided that Lisbon was alright with them.

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