Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Marching Backward

When it comes to foreign policy, Canada has traveled a great distance since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. Lester Pearson would not recognize his country.

There was no greater supporter of Israel than Pearson. But the man who won the Nobel Prize would have shaken his head in disgust yesterday, if he had been present to hear John Baird's  address to the General Assembly.

Baird argued that any criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu's government amounted to Anti-Semitism. Hearkening back to the Holocaust, Baird declared:

Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens. The Second World War taught us all the tragic price of ‘going along' just to 'get along.'

Mike Pearson did not believe in going along to get along. He criticized United States involvement in Vietnam; and he did so to Lyndon Johnson's face. But the man who invented peacekeeping knew that tin horn politicians like Baird create Mexican standoffs and know nothing about peacekeeping.

Baird, however, did more than attack those who criticize Israel's continued expansion of West Bank settlements.  He also took aim at the organization Pearson helped build:

“Canada will not go along with a double standard that castigates some UN members for alleged failings while ignoring the notorious abuses of others,” said Baird.

The U.N. was established precisely to settle these kinds of flair ups in an international forum instead of on a battlefield. Mr.Baird -- and his boss, the Prime Minister --- know nothing of combat. The only weapons they lob are political attack ads. When it comes to real courage -- something Mike Pearson learned in World War I -- they are puny men, indeed.

But they do know how to march -- backward.


Lorne said...

Sadly, Baird's outburst and uncritical acceptance of all things Israeli is not at all surprising, nor is his attempt to label any constructive criticism of the Jewish state as anti-Semitic.

Like all right-thinking people, I support Israel's right to exist. What I do not support is its hubris in refusing to ever question its tactics vis-a-vis the Palestinians, nor the terrible carnage it has inflicted on them, all in the name of defense.

A nation without introspection or humility is a nation treading a very dangerous path, as history has repeatedly taught us.

Owen Gray said...

I can't help but think that Yitzak Rabin would be shaking his head, too, Lorne.

Support for Israel should not mean that all Israeli policies must be defended as a matter of principle.

George Armstrong Custer was convinced that he was a genius and knew how to deal with those who threatened him.

Unfortunately,his followers paid dearly for his hubris.

Anonymous said...

"Lester Pearson would not recognize his country."

Well... at least he'd recognize the flag Harper et al are so eager to wrap themselves in.


(I'm trying to take a glass-half-full point of view).

Owen Gray said...

Like many Canadians, you are hoping against hope that a majority government will change Stephen Harper.

But you may have noticed Ned Franks comment in the Hill Times yesterday. "They're ruling by fiat," he said.

Nothing has changed. Harper is really trying to change the basic nature of the country.