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Mr. Proof, Mr. Budget, and Mr. Don't Know Much about History

By Jackson Murphy
web posted September 9, 2002

It has been a year since the events of September 11, 2001. A year since terrorists brutally attacked America. A year since a global fight against terrorism was thrust upon us. A year since, supposedly, everything changed.

But in Canada you would hardly even know it. As some Canadian commentators have noted, the biggest change since 9/11 has been the new taxes at the airport. Perhaps that is not entirely fair considering Canada's, although now ended, six-month deployment of ground troops in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless the debate now rages about the possibility of military action in Iraq, and many of the allies in Europe, the Middle East, and certainly Canada have become squeamish about the prospects of war. The war on terrorism was one thing, but unseating regimes, well, that makes our friends in France, Germany, and others very uncomfortable.

It is worth pointing out that this is a change from Canada's past. When there has been tyranny and evil to stand up to Canada has been on the scene to aid in the cause of freedom. We fought well above our weight in WWII leaving us with one of the largest militaries in the wake of the war. We stood with America during the Cold War helping to create NATO and resist Communism. We sent troops to the Gulf War to resist Saddam Hussein.

And now?

Canada is increasingly finding it hard to navigate through international relations-unable to discern the differences between our national interest and popular expressions of being independent. Either our moral compass is broken or our leaders are not up to the challenge.

The Prime Minister has taken an increasingly aloof line suggesting that unless clear evidence is provided Canada will not support military action in Iraq. In fact one Reuters story highlighted his thoughts on what kind of proof was needed to change his mind. "A proof is a proof and when you have a good proof it's because it's proven," said Chrétien. Whatever that is supposed to mean. You couldn't find more waffling in a box of Eggo's.

Meanwhile his go-to-guy within the government, John Manley, has made it clear that while Canada's military is in need of more funding, the government is not going to risk spending into deficit to pay for it. Fair enough but that doesn't explain the laundry list of wasted money on projects that could be easily cut. (Jane Stewart please call the home office for details.) It is hard to understand what is more important to our government: balancing the budget or insuring national and international security. Actually no it isn't, and clearly the choice for this government is the easy political and cheap choice-do nothing and hope nobody notices. This would be the difference between choices made from political expediency and real leadership.

John McCallum
McCallum

And worse, the news that our intrepid Minister of National Defense, John McCallum, does not know anything about our military history-to say little of the difference between Vichy France and Canada's seminal battle in WWI at Vimy Ridge. While giving a speech to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Dieppe McCallum admitted that he hadn't heard of the famous battle until the week before. This silences any hope that he'll become the Canadian version of Donald Rumsfeld.

I suppose, on the upside, that one couldn't accuse the leadership of Canada of being overtly 'hawkish.' On the downside Canada is squandering any international credibility we had left. We are exhausting our relationship with our close allies to the south, and operating on a policy of hope and pray. Hope and pray another terrorist attack doesn't come. Hope and pray Saddam doesn't have nuclear weapons. Hope and pray we'll be safe so long as it doesn't cost us anything.

We've seen this before; it is simply appeasement. It didn't work then and it certainly isn't going to work now and truthfully the game is much too dangerous now for appeasement. And obviously too dangerous for a foreign policy of wait and see; unless, of course, the goal is to increase Canada's irrelevancy on the international stage. On that count Mr. Proof, Mr. Budget, and Mr. Don't know much about Canadian history are doing an excellent job. Too bad for us.

September 11th was supposed to be a wake up call to nations in the West. Instead Canada has learned to be more complacent, not less.

Jackson Murphy is a commentator from Vancouver, Canada. He is the editor of "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7. You can contact him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

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