UN vote a rebuff to Harper’s I’m right-you’re-wrong approach to the world October 13, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Foreign Policy.
Tags: Bush Doctrine, Canada, canada government, foreign policy, security council, Stephen Harper, thomas walkom, United Nations
(Roger’s note: This article describes Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s taking the Canadian government into the world of the Bush Doctrine. Unfortunately, this will be irreversible [at least in the short run]. The reason for this is that the only possible successor to the Harper government is a Liberal government led by Michael Ignatieff, who is no less hawkish or slavishly beholden to US foreign policy than is Harper. We have seen in the US, the transition for the Bush government to the fraudulent Obama has not changed its foreign policy one iota . An NDP government in Canada is perhaps the only possible means of altering the course of Canadian foreign policy, but that would take a minor miracle to happen.)
By Thomas Walkom National Affairs Columnist, Toronto Star, October 13, 2010
Free beer and maple syrup aren’t enough. By denying Canada a seat on the United Nations Security Council, the rest of the world has served notice that – in its view – this country’s foreign policy is bankrupt.
That’s not because the 192 other nations that make up the UN General Assembly particularly dislike Canada. They don’t.
But clearly, a vast majority prefer the Canada they thought they knew, a Canada that strove to defuse international tensions by focusing not just on who was right or wrong but on what was fair and reasonable.
In that sense, Tuesday’s vote was the world’s response to Prime Minister Stephen Harper – a great, big raspberry for the man who has attempted to introduce what he calls a new morality into the realm of Canadian foreign affairs.
The theory of this new morality was outlined by Harper in a 2003 magazine article.
Writing at a time when many thought George W. Bush’s Iraq War defensible, Harper excoriated Canada’s then-Liberal government for not taking part in that conflict – a reluctance that he said stemmed from the “moral relativism, moral neutrality and moral equivalency” of the left.
A truly conservative government, he pledged, would sweep away this “moral nihilism” and base its foreign policy on rock-ribbed values.
Once in office, Harper attempted to do just that. His stubborn defence of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen imprisoned in China, threatened trade relations with Beijing. But the prime minister held firm, vowing that Canada’s foreign policy would note be governed by “the almighty dollar.”
This repudiation of dollar diplomacy didn’t last long. Under business pressure, Harper soon moved to improve relations with China’s dictators. These days, the prime minister rarely mentions Celil’s name.
But the so-called new morality lived on in a different form, focusing less on abstract principles like human rights, and more on choosing sides.
In this view of the world, there are few grey areas. If Colombia’s government is fighting terrorists, then it is right – no matter how vicious its own death squads.
If Israel is fighting suicide bombers, then its actions – however dubious in terms of international law – are justified.
With Harper, Canada’s more measured approach to the Middle East came to an abrupt end. Under the new morality, Israel was right, period.
Harper lauded both its 2006 incursion into Lebanon and its later attack on Gaza. When a Canadian soldier on duty as a UN observer in Lebanon was targeted and killed by Israeli forces, the prime minister made little fuss.
In the new, Conservative moral universe, Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener was merely collateral damage in an apocalyptic battle between good and evil
Indeed, the Harper government’s new morality applied to the UN itself. To those looking for certainty in foreign affairs, the UN – an organization based on compromise – is by definition corrupt, a haven of moral relativists.
Last year, Harper showed his disdain for the world body by skipping out of a meeting of the UN General Assembly to attend a photo op at an Oakville doughnut shop.
This year Canada cut off its aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (which works in Hamas-controlled Gaza and is deemed suspect by Israel), channeling it instead to the anti-Hamas Palestinian Authority.
Belatedly, when he recognized the political embarrassment he could suffer from failing to win a security council seat, Harper switched his approach. He spoke of his respect for the world body. He lobbied the leaders of small countries.
In New York, Canadian diplomats reportedly tried to woo their counterparts with cases of free beer and maple syrup.
But it was too late. The world had seen enough of Canada’s new, I’m-right-you’re-wrong approach to foreign affairs. And it decided it preferred us the way we used to be.