Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Is that the best you can do?

A National Post article tries to argue that Canada's neutrality is not all it's cracked up to be:
What is rarely mentioned about the Suez Crisis is how non-neutral Canada was. Before Pearson brought forward his motion to end the conflict, he voted in favour of an Indian resolution that explicitly condemned Britain and France for their international aggression. This move was so unpopular among those still loyal to the Empire at home that some have suggested it was one of the key reasons the Liberals lost the 1957 election to John Diefenbaker's Conservatives. During that campaign, Diefenbaker used Suez as an example of how the Liberals had been selling Canada out to the interests of the United States.

At Suez, Canada was clear: The British and the French were wrong. Yet when it came to mediating between the two sides, the world still listened.
The short answer to this is that the world listened because the world agreed with Canada. Indeed, about the only two countries who didn't agree that Britain and France were wrong were, um, Britain and France.

The long answer makes this even more ridiculous. The Suez Crisis started when Britain and France responded to the nationalization of the Suez Canal by urging Israel to go to war with Egypt, so that the UK and France could seize the Canal as a "peacekeeping" force. (Yes, they said that with a straight face.) That the UK and France stage-managed the whole thing is not even seriously debated anymore, and it was not exactly a secret at the UN back then. So a resolution condemning the UK and France was not exactly earth-shaking.

How is this relevant today? Glad you asked. Israel - who had been enduring on-and-off raids by Egyptian and Palestinian forces for years - used the pretext of those raids as an excuse to begin the invasion of Egypt. Again, this was at the explicit urging of the UK and France.

The UN responded with near-unanimous resolutions condemning Israel, France, and the UK for what was transparently imperialist meddling in Egyptian affairs. Canada supported these resolutions, and later offered the famous resolutions that led to the creation of the UN's first peacekeeping force.

Also relevant, everybody knew that Egypt had been arming the Palestinians who were raiding Israeli settlements. The Egyptians were even accused of taking part. But that still didn't stop the UN from condemning Israel for the invasion of Egypt.

So: Israel - with the support of a major power - takes a small border incident with what we would now call terrorist forces, and escalates it in to a major war. Canada, as part of the UN, forcefully condemns Israel and the major power that was behind the escalation. The UN steps in, the belligerents are separated, and the world moves on to the next crisis.

If you were a rational human being, the lesson is clear: Canada - and the UN - should forcefully condemn Israel and the United States for the attacks on Lebanon and the support the US has provided. Moreover (if we follow the Suez example) the fact that Iran or Syria have been arming Hezbollah doesn't change the fact that Israel has overreacted, and needs to be censured. A UN force should then separate the belligerents, and we all move on to the next crisis.

But if you're a Conservative, Canada should support Israel. Huh?

Memo to Conservatives: This effort sucks, try again.

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