Author Topic: "The Canada-Iraq myth"  (Read 11296 times)

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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: "The Canada-Iraq myth"
« Reply #25 on: March 17, 2013, 07:45:11 »
Conrad Black provides a pretty fair assessment of  Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's contribution to Canada vs the Iraq shambles in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the National Post:
Jean Chrétien: A capable caretaker, but no statesman

Conrad Black


It was a bit rich to read of Jean Chrétien patting himself on the head as a world statesman in his Globe and Mail interview last Wednesday. He was right to stay out of the Iraq War, but for the wrong reasons.

The Americans, British and others were correct to dispose of Saddam Hussein, even if fear of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was not the right reason. Saddam had ignored 17 consecutive resolutions of the UN Security Council and sandbagged the nuclear inspectors, while boasting in the Arab world that he had weapons that would assist in the destruction of Israel. President George W. Bush had one of his better moments (they were not frequent) when he addressed the UN General Assembly prior to the war. He told it that he wanted to prevent the United Nations from becoming another impotent talking shop like the League of Nations, which had proven unable even to produce sanctions against the serial aggressions of Imperial Japan, Italy and Nazi Germany.

This was the strongest argument for the Iraq War, and it plays exactly to Chrétien’s twee nostalgia about the value and integrity of the United Nations. The second argument was to relieve the world of an overt supporter of terrorism and Iraq of a terrible tyrant who remains unlamented. WMD was third, and at the time all Chrétien could give us was head-shaking tautological clichés that “proof is proof,” and that in respect to Iraq’s nuclear program, it was lacking.

Chrétien was made to appear prescient by the insane decision of Paul Bremer and Donald Rumsfeld to disband the 400,000 men of the Iraqi army and paramilitary groups. These men marched off with their weapons and munitions as if they were going to set up quail-shooting clubs and recreational target ranges around Iraq, and not to rent themselves out as vigilantes and hired guns to the ethnic, religious and political factions that mushroomed in the post-Saddam vacuum.

That decision must rank with failure to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam and Laos and failure to detect 140,000 infiltrating Red Chinese soldiers in Korea as the greatest American military blunders since the Civil War, and neither Chrétien nor anyone else could have predicted that. In China for more than six months after the end of the Second World War, the civil authority was the Imperial Japanese Army, under the orders of General MacArthur to respect the civil population and help little old ladies across the street and prevent looting, rather than bayonet babies and rape women as it had been doing for nearly 15 years. Similarly in Germany, General Eisenhower left the local police in place in 1945, on the understanding that any recourse to arbitrary force would be punishable by death. There is a well-recognized technique in the administration of occupied countries, of utilizing local forces under revised orders strictly enforced. There was no reason to expect that it would not be followed after the Iraq War.

There is nothing particularly wrong with Chrétien claiming credit for a decision that proved to be correct. Napoleon said that a general’s greatest quality is luck, and the same goes for politicians. Chrétien was a lucky politician, and would never have held the highest political office for nearly 10 years if the Conservatives had not been severely divided by the defection of the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois. As it was, he has the dubious distinction of being the only elected incumbent prime minister in Canadian history to be jettisoned from the highest office by his own party.

He had his successes, and no federalist should forget Chrétien’s heroic service as he toured around the nether regions of Quebec, from Abitibi to Roberval to the Saguenay to the Gaspe, slugging it out with the separatists in their strongholds (and in their own inflections). The Liberal leaders from the prosperous suburbs of Montreal, including Trudeau and Lalonde, were not much seen in such picturesque surroundings. His greatest legislative accomplishment was the Clarity Act (which the current leader of the opposition, Thomas Mulcair, wishes to roll back to facilitate the break-up of the country, while masquerading as the true face of federalism by appeasing Quebec’s racists. This fiddle is what caused the defection of one of his MP’s two weeks ago).

The Clarity Act, which requires a clear majority on a clear question for the federal government to be obliged to negotiate the secession of any province, was the least Chrétien could do after panicking in the 1995 referendum. After mishandling the campaign, he uttered a poor wail of appeal to Quebec not “to vote to break up the country.” The referendum produced a paper-thin negative vote on an outrageous trick question to secede, suggesting Quebec could keep all the benefits of Confederation while exchanging embassies with the world. In the aftermath, Chrétien should have gone farther in the Clarity Act, and required that if any province voted in adequate numbers to secede from Canada, any county within the seceding province that voted to remain in Canada, would remain Canadian. He legislated a half-measure. Still, it was progress.

Nor should we forget that it was under Chrétien, with Paul Martin and Ralph Goodale as his finance ministers, that the federal deficit was eliminated and replaced by steady surpluses. The achievement is not significantly diminished by the fact that it was largely accomplished by just abandoning responsibility for fields of concurrent jurisdiction to the provinces without conceding corresponding revenue sources to fund them (and the provinces largely responded by dumping the burden on the municipalities, which is why our property taxes sky-rocketed). It was deficit reduction, and it has worked. Debt-hobbled provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, have themselves to blame for their fiscal weakness.

Chrétien was a pretty good caretaker, but his claim in the Globe and Mail interview to having been a far-sighted world statesman is hard to take seriously. He laments that Canada no longer sits on the Security Council of the United Nations, and has reduced aid to Africa in favour of Latin America. He preens himself for having gone to Hugo Chavez’s funeral last week, though he had not seen him since before Chavez became president of Venezuela 14 years ago, and for having been friendly with Castro. He claims that Canada is less respected in the world than it was in his time.

This is all rubbish. As the Cold War came to its climax, the only way for Canada to have any influence at all was the way followed by Brian Mulroney: To be taken seriously by the presidents of the United States, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. And Mulroney was; it was a signal honour for this country that Mulroney was asked, along with Margaret Thatcher and both Presidents Bush, to give a eulogy at President Reagan’s state funeral. Mulroney and Thatcher had some influence with those presidents, and the realization of that fact in the world enhanced Canada’s influence. This is something that Chrétien never achieved himself.

In recent years, the United States has been shamefully mismanaged, both in its huge current account and budget deficits and by stranding almost all its major land combat units for a decade in endless, unremitting Middle Eastern wars. These conflicts have been fought well but inconclusively and with no visible improvement to the American national interest. Canada, in contrast, has been sufficiently well governed, in part by Chrétien, that there is now a potential for Canada to have some standing in the world on its own account.

What Chrétien laments was an illusion: Canada was on the Security Council because of Chrétien’s appeasement of African and Latin American despotisms and of the less respectable Arab countries, including states that tolerated or incited terrorist acts and opposed the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. His interventions in the Middle East, as this newspaper averred, showed him to be “clueless in Gaza.” Chrétien wasn’t amassing influence by standing, as he did, as mute and inert as a suet pudding beside Castro as he accused the United States of “genocide;” he was merely making a fool of himself and of Canada. He over-committed to the United Nations, even as the corruption of the oil-for-food program in Iraq reached its murky depths, and pretended that disarmed feebleness was “soft power” and that, in Irving Layton’s phrase, “the spitefulness of the weak was moral indignation.”

The United Nations is a cesspool of corruption and hypocrisy, and much of its vaunted peacekeeping efforts are just primitive countries renting their armies to local factions, as in the Congo, for hard currency payments. Instead of truckling to its Mugabesque majority, as Chrétien did, making himself a patsy of contemptible regimes, or ignoring the UN, as Harper does, Canada should propose its reform as a condition of fully recommitting to the admirable organization established by the victorious Allies in 1945.

There was always more to Canadian foreign policy than grovelling to dictators and irritating the Americans, but there is no sign, even after all these years, that Chrétien understands any of this.

National Post

Lord Black's assessment of the UN and how/why Canada had/does not have a rotating (temporary) seat on the Security Council is spot on.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Journeyman

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Re: "The Canada-Iraq myth"
« Reply #26 on: March 17, 2013, 10:40:24 »
The United Nations is a cesspool of corruption and hypocrisy, and much of its vaunted peacekeeping efforts are just primitive countries renting their armies to local factions, as in the Congo, for hard currency payments.
Excellent line.   :nod: