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Joshua Sharf

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July 18, 2006

Canada Finds Spine - Globe and Mail Perplexed

The Anglosphere's Northern Front used to be known for more than peacekeeping. It used to be known for peace-making, something it's practicing again with great success in Afghanistan. A decade-plus of Liberal rule pushed much of that history into the old-age home, but now Stephen Harper has decided that it's time for Canada to rejoin the rest of the English-speaking world.

Harper was one of the G-8 countries backing the US in its support of Israel.

Harper, on his first major international foray, hadn't even touched down in Europe before aligning himself firmly with the United States and Israel in the latest conflagration.

"Israel has the right to defend itself," the prime minister told reporters aboard a Canadian Forces Airbus en route to London, where he's starting a week-long diplomatic mission.

"I think Israel's response under the circumstances has been measured."

Naturally, the Canadian MSM (Can-MSM) doesn't get it.

That same pre-G8 summit article quoted above continues:

Harper's unabashed pro-Israel stance, is sure to prove divisive at the G8 summit this weekend in St. Petersburg, Russia, which anchors Harper's first major overseas foray as prime minister.

Russia and France have both criticized Israel for using disproportionate force in its attacks on Lebanon.

So Russia and France find something to agree on other than hemming in Germany, but when Canada takes the opposition position, by definition, it's the one being divisive. To paraphrase a famous politician from south of the 48th parallel, divisiveness in the defense of liberty is no divice.

Naturally, the Canadian Left doesn't quite see it that way:

Canada is in danger of losing its role as a mediator and peacemaker in the Middle East, Liberal Leader Bill Graham said Tuesday. Graham,a former foreign affairs minister, told a Vancouver news conference that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has moved Canada away from its traditional non-aligned stance, and said while he supports Israel's right to defend itself from attack, be believes Canada needs to keep some distance so it can be part of a diplomatic solution to the current Mideast conflict.

"Canada has always had a proud tradition in the Middle East of being able to work with all parties in a way to establish the conditions of a long and lasting peace," Graham said.

I can understand why Graham wouldn't want to abandon a position that's shown such success up until this point, After all, where would we be without Canadian leadership in establishing lasting peace?

"If we act in a way that interferes with our credibility in that respect, we will not be able to be an effective ally of Israel or of Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East where we call have an extraordinary stake."

In other words, if we want to be Israel's ally, we can't really be Israel's ally. The NDP - the "Democratic" being optional - has a similar point of view:

He also said it was "regrettable" that Canada is still in the process of planning the evacuation of Canadian nationals from Lebanon, while a number of other western countries have already begun bringing people out.

NDP Leader Jack Layton echoed Graham’s sentiments, saying his party called for an evacuation to begin Friday and is disappointed with the government’s response so far.

"We’re particularly concerned with the situation facing Canadians in south Lebanon and this has not been adequately addressed," Layton told a news conference in Ottawa.

"The prime minister must insist that Israel provide safe passage for civilians attempting to escape the south and must ensure that evacuation efforts by Canada reach the south," he said.

Well, if the Liberals and the NDP hadn't spent the last 10 years breaking helicopters into subsidized plowshares, Canada might have the lift capacity to do something about its citizens caught in the cross-fire. In the meantime, that last plaintive bleat for Israel to do something - maybe air-drop IFF beacons with little maple leaves on them - is ironic in light of this story:

The IDF has found that Hizbullah is preventing civilians from leaving villages in southern Lebanon. Roadblocks have been set up outside some of the villages to prevent residents from leaving, while in other villages Hizbullah is preventing UN representatives from entering, who are trying to help residents leave. In two villages, exchanges of fire between residents and Hizbullah have broken out.

Seems Hezbollah's hostage-taking skills aren't limited to actual hostages, but extend to most of the civiliam population south of the Litani.

At the moment, the Globe and Mail can't decide whether Prime Minister Harper is guilty of good policy and bad politics, or good politics and bad policy. To the extent that it's catering to the "lower-income" "evangelical Christians" who were foolish enough to vote for him, Harper's policy isn't "nuanced" enough.

Although a more nuanced position might be to suggest that Israel react with more restraint, Mr. Harper almost certainly believes that the more easily understood message is to back the country that reflects the mores of Canadian society.

By doing so, he probably appeals to a portion of the lower-income mainstream that voted for his party earlier this year, say his supporters.

I'm sure the Globe and Mail would be happy for Mr. Harper to nuance himself right out of office on lack of principle, but why is the moral equation of the murderers and the murdered more satisfying to the paper? And note that it's not right to back Israel, just "more easily understood."

But then the Can-MSM, demostrating a lamentable lack of independence from its US brethren, argues that the position it doesn't like isn't even good politics:

One senior Tory believes that Mr. Harper has made a bad calculation.

There are not, for example, enough votes among Canadians of Jewish background to make up for those other voters who are upset with the idea that Canada has given up some of its independence by hewing to the U.S. line.

But to believe that Mr. Harper didn't say what he meant is to ignore several years of evolving conservative ideology.

"I don't think it's positive growth material," said the source. ". . . But this isn't necessarily winning politics. It's sound policy."

Unlike the Globe's article, at least Harper's position and statements have the virtue of coherence. Harper believes in democracy and doesn't believe in genocide. He believes that this is another front in the same war Canada's fighting in Afghanistan, and doesn't believe it's good policy to abandon allies who are doing your heavy lifting for you. He happens to head a party that also believes these things, and has for some time. And he happens to think that a democracy like Canada is more likely to sympathize with another democracy than with theocratic butchers whose ideological cousins just tried to decapitate that country's parliament - literally.

What, exactly, is so hard for the Globe or the Liberals to understand about this?


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud