Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

Diplomatic Chemistry

Posted by JJ in Bad Press, Golden Tacks, Crossroads of Culture (Thursday July 20, 2006 at 1:16 pm)

There’s a paean of sorts here to what might be called the Canadian way in the world: “scrupulous neutrality.” The importance of this tradition is clear:

For half a century Canada has taken some considerable satisfaction in its credibility as an international good fellow on matters relating to the Middle East. That status flowed directly from Lester Pearson’s volunteering of Canada for a peacekeeping role after the disastrous 1956 Suez invasion.

Canada’s role then and since then has depended on a scrupulous neutrality in an area where neutrality was almost impossible to sustain. Neither side could point to Canada and say its neutrality had been compromised, so Canada could serve as mediator or peacekeeper. No more.

It’s gloriously self-satisfying to know that Canada could have served as a mediator or peacekeeper. It might have been noble to think that it actually had; but what did Canada accomplish with fourty years of that reputation? Did it broker the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement? Was it the pivot on which the Oslo Accords swung? Or is it, perhaps, responsible for the current state of peaceful resolution?

The nobility of Canada’s position is of a different kind. Perhaps, like blue-bloodedness, it’s a mark of inaction. Or, like the noble gases, not much happens when Canada gets together with others.

Either way, and whatever the virtue or vice of the Prime Minister’s remarks, Canada’s history in this area isn’t anything to take pride in.

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