It would be a mistake for President Barack Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline because the new infrastructure itself will not negatively affect the environment. At the same time, Canada’s government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper could do more to sway opinion in Keystone XL’s favour by making environmental stewardship a priority.
Currently the Keystone XL pipeline project sits on Barack Obama’s desk, awaiting the presidential approval needed to begin its construction. If passed, the infrastructure will expand existing pipeline capacity, allowing for increased access to the Midwestern and Gulf Coast refining markets for Canadian and American oil producers. However massive environmental protests, many of which are occurring on Obama’s doorstep, could make the president think twice about green-lighting the pipeline. To do so would be a mistake. The opposition’s arguments against the proposed pipeline are merely symbolic, and do not take the facts into account.
Arguments against Keystone XL attack supply rather than demand
There is no doubt climate change is a critical issue facing both North America and the world, and there is no doubt humanity must curb its addiction to fossil fuels. But like the dismal failure that was America’s ‘War on Drugs,’ the opponents to Keystone XL are attacking the supply of oil rather than the demand for oil. The simple fact is that as long as there is demand for oil, oil will be supplied. Therefore, if the pipeline is blocked, crude oil will still reach the Midwestern and Gulf Coast refineries in the same capacity, it will simply do so by train instead of pipeline. It is estimated that it would take a daily amount of 15 trains, each with 100 tanker cars, to supply the oil demanded if the pipeline was not to pass. Indeed, from 2010 to 2011, crude oil transported by trains in America doubled, and from 2011 to 2012 it tripled. Furthermore, to move crude by train burns more fossil fuels than were the oil to flow through a pipeline. It is for this reason that the Department of State report on the issue concluded the pipeline itself would have no impact on climate change.
The argument that oil refined from Alberta’s bitumen is dirtier than other forms of oil is false. An editorial from the prominent scientific journal Nature stated that oil produced from Canada’s oil-sands is not as dirty from a climate perspective as many believe. In fact, the editorial argues oil produced in California is actually dirtier. Californian oil production would of course be increased to meet demand should the oil-sands be underdeveloped.
How to effectively attack demand
If the environmentalists who protest against Keystone XL are truly against climate change, they should be pushing for a government imposed carbon tax rather than attempting to halt a single infrastructure project. A carbon tax is the only way to effectively decrease demand for oil. A tax on carbon emissions would increase the cost of fossil fuels for businesses and individuals, meaning people would switch to other forms of energy, and demand for oil would decrease. The government of British Columbia introduced a carbon tax in 2008. The results: per capita emissions have fallen faster than the rest of Canada, and the tax has proven to be revenue neutral. The province of Alberta has since also introduced a carbon tax. It is therefore the most effective government policy available in the battle against climate change. Why the protestors who are vehemently against Keystone XL are not pushing for a carbon tax is beyond me.
An image problem: Canada’s environmental policy
I suspect that the underlying reason why environmentalists are vehemently opposed to Keystone XL is the fact that Canada’s conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has abandoned Canada’s image as an environmental steward. In December of 2011 Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Canada was formally withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol. Although both Martin and Chretien (Harper’s liberal predecessors) did little to nothing to implement the protocol, the formal withdrawal was severely damaging to Canada’s environmental image – Canada is in fact the only country to formally withdraw. The withdrawal fits within a broader policy of the Harper government wherein Canada resists international cooperation on climate change. In November of 2012, at the United Nations climate summit in Qatar, Kent argued the developing world must do more to combat the climate issue. While this argument may be true, resisting cooperation as a reaction does not work towards the goal of mitigating climate change. By not cooperating, the Harper government only damages Canada’s image. The fact that Canada has won the embarrassing ‘fossil of the year’ award multiple times proves the country has an image problem.
I agree with Martha Hall Findlay’s criticism of the Harper government on this issue. Hall Finlday is a candidate for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. She argues Harper’s reckless disregard for international environmental cooperation has damaged Canada’s image, which has in turn jeopardized infrastructure projects such as Keystone XL, and thus risks the Canadian economic recovery. In order to pass much needed projects such as the proposed pipeline, the country must do more to repair its tattered environmental image. Only by doing this can Canada sway the opinions of environmentalists in favour of Keystone XL, even if those same opinions miss the facts.
One way to repair Canada’s image is for Harper’s conservative government to follow the conservative government of Alberta’s example. It should take a leadership role in combating climate change by instituting a federal carbon tax.
‘About the Project,’ Keystone XL Pipeline- Trans Canada, 2012. http://keystone-xl.com/about/the-project/
‘Change for Good,’ Nature, 29 January 2013. http://www.nature.com/news/change-for-good-1.12312
Curry, Bill and Shawn McCarthy. ‘Canada formally abandons Kyoto Protocol on climate change,’ The Globe and Mail, 12 December 2011. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-formally-abandons-kyoto-protocol-on-climate-change/article4180809/
McCarthy, Shawn. ‘Canada won’t budge on environment, Peter Kent insists,’ The Globe and Mail, 30 November 2012. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-wont-budge-on-environment-peter-kent-insists/article5872465/
McParland, Kelly. “The stars align behind Alberta’s carbon tax.” The National Post, 5 February 2013. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/02/05/kelly-mcparland-the-stars-align-behind-alberta-carbon-tax/
Tencer, Daniel. Martha Hall Findlay: Economy Threatened by Harper’s Anti-Environmental Stance,’ The Huffington Post, 28 February 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/28/martha-hall-findlay-economy-keystone-environment_n_2783425.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
Zakaria, Fareed. Global Public Square, CNN. 10 March 2013.
As the Arctic warms there will be increased shipping, resource development, and the potential for confrontation. Canada must increase its presence in the region, but it should do this through Canadian Coast Guard not Royal Canadian Navy procurements. Building the CCGS Diefenbaker is thus a good policy move, while the Arctic Patrol Ship Policy is a bad one.
Canada’s Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made Arctic sovereignty a key part of Canada’s foreign policy agenda. Harper has visited the Arctic every summer since becoming Prime Minister. During extensive military operations on Ellesmere and Baffin islands, Harper has made grandiose speeches to Canadian Forces. In 2010 he stated: “The first responsibility of government is to take care of our security . . . Nothing comes before that.” When two Russian bombers made a routine flight along the edge of Canada’s northern airspace, Canada responded by having fighter jets intercept and shadow them, causing Harper to declare that “at no time did Russian aircraft enter Canadian sovereign airspace.” While Harper’s actions on Arctic sovereignty appear to be an attempt to use the military to secure Canada’s Arctic region, it is in fact only a façade – it is useless for Canada to project military force in the Arctic. Harper’s use of the military in the Arctic is largely to gain domestic political support.
No risk of armed conflict in the Arctic
The reason it is useless for Canada to project military force in the Arctic is because there is no risk of armed conflict in the Arctic. By ‘armed conflict’ I refer to states using military operations to resolve disputes through the use of force. International law, not military force, will maintain Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. The Government of Canada’s “Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy” points out Canada’s only disagreements over Arctic territory are with Denmark over Hans Island and the Lincoln Sea maritime boundary, and with the United States over the Beaufort Sea maritime boundary. It also states: “All disagreements are well-managed, neither posing defence challenges for Canada . . . Canada will continue to manage these discrete boundary issues and will also, as a priority, seek to work with our neighbours to explore the possibility of resolving them in accordance with international law.” Canada and other Arctic states are currently mapping the undersea continental shelves of the Arctic, which would solve the issue diplomatically through the Law of the Sea Convention. Furthermore the very idea of Canada going to war with the United States or Denmark is laughable. Although Russia has been a historic rival, co-operation reigns supreme for Canada-Russia relations as well. A 2010 Wikileaks cable revealed Harper told NATO that “Canada has a good working relationship with Russia with respect to the Arctic.” Therefore Harper’s use of the military in the Arctic is likely an effort to gain domestic political backing, as a foreign policy move it is useless.
It is necessary for Canada to occupy the Arctic – Increased Shipping
There is little doubt shipping traffic in the Arctic region will increase in the near future. As the world’s climate warms, so too will the Arctic, meaning ice will melt and the Arctic will become more accessible. This will benefit shipping, using the North-west Passage means 15% of the distance is cut from the current Rotterdam to Shanghai route, Russia’s Northern Sea Route cuts 22%. Furthermore both Arctic routes are pirate-free. In 2011 there were 22 North-west Passage transits and in 2010 there were 18 compared to a historical average of 1 or 2. In 2011 there were 34 Northern Sea Route transits. Even if one were to exclude the need to secure Arctic-resources, increased shipping caused by newly navigable transit routes alone creates a need to patrol the Arctic. The North-west passage is completely encompassed by Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. Canada therefore must increase its presence in the Arctic because of the “increase in environmental threats, search and rescue incidents, civil emergencies and potential illegal activities.” (Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy) Just as Canada patrols its Pacific and Atlantic coasts, it must also patrol its Arctic coast. Increased shipping means increased patrolling.
There is huge potential for Arctic resource development. According to a 2008 Study by the US Geological Survey, the Arctic may hold 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 13% and 30% of the world’s estimated undiscovered reserves respectively. Creating the infrastructure needed to extract these reserves will again increase Arctic traffic, needing an increased Canadian presence for the same reasons as increased shipping.
The potential for a confrontation
Although all Arctic disputes are currently well managed, and there is no risk of armed conflict, there is always a risk of confrontation. By confrontation, I refer to non-military operations that work to resolve situations diplomatically, not through force. In 1995 Canada confronted Spain over resources off the coast of Newfoundland. During the ‘Fish War’ Canada’s Coast Guard CCGS Cape Roger actually fired shots at Spanish fishing vessels to halt illegal fishing by Spain. The situation was later resolved diplomatically and in Canada’s favor. A similar situation could arise in the Arctic. Resource-disputes could cause confrontation, and the potential for confrontation means Canada will once again need to have an increased presence in the Arctic.
Canada’s Arctic Policy going forward – Procurements
As previously mentioned for Canada to project military force in the Arctic is useless, however increased presence is needed to patrol increased shipping, resource development, and to mitigate potential confrontations. This presence should therefore be Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) rather than the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The Department of Fisheries and Oceans 2012 announcement on behalf of the Government of Canada that it is investing $720 million to build a new polar icebreaker, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, is a necessary move in order to increase Canada’s presence. The new CCG flagship will replace the current CCGS Louis St. Laurent, and will have increased capabilities. The CCGS Diefenbaker will be able to navigate the Arctic Archipelago for three seasons per year and break ice up to 2.5 meters thick, while the CCGS St. Laurent is only able to operate for two seasons per year and break ice up to 1.3 meters thick. Both vessels will be/are armed. Canada’s procurement of the CCGS Diefenbaker accommodates an increased presence in the Arctic, and is therefore a necessary policy move.
Although CCGS Diefenbaker will still not have the capabilities over other American or Russian polar icebreakers, it still is a move to increase Canadian presence. Increasing Canadian presence in the Arctic is not a competition, but a practice in international co-operation. International shipping will require a international policing effort under international law, resource-development will require research that can be best achieved when there is international co-operation. Canada should participate in these activities to increase its presence, a goal that CCGS Diefenbaker accommodates.
Canada’s Arctic Patrol Ship Policy is a move in the wrong direction. The project will see the procurement of six to eight ice-capable patrol vessels for the RCN. As previously pointed out, there is no need for a Canadian military presence in the Arctic, and therefore the Patrol Ship Policy is misdirected. Since there is a need for increased presence, Canada should instead invest in CCG vessels. During the ‘Fish War,’ it was CCG ships, not naval vessels, that were needed to confront Spain. Furthermore the CCG is more versatile, able to respond to more situations than the RCN. As the Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy outlines, Canada must be able to respond to environmental threats, search and rescue incidents, civil emergencies and potential illegal activities. The CCG is by definition better able to do this, as the RCN is more focused on projecting military force. Michael Byers, one of Canada’s leading experts on polar issues from the University of British Columbia states: “I am personally hoping that there will be some reversal of these plans. So instead of getting new ships for the navy, we’ll get new ships for the coast guard . . . The fact that the promises haven’t been fulfilled yet means there’s time to alter the plans.”
“Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship.” National Defence and the Canadian Forces. 3 April 2012.
Bartleman, James. Rollercoaster: My Hectic Years as Jean Chrétien’s Diplomatic Advisor 1994-1998. Toronto: McClelland and Steward Ltd., 2005.
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Ibbitson, John. “Harper gears up for another round of Arctic chest-thumping.” The Globe and Mail, 19 July 2011.
Ibbitson, John. “Harper’s Arctic ice show: political stagecraft masks cold reality.” The Globe and Mail, 25 August, 2010.
McRae, Donald. “Rethinking the Arctic: A New Agenda for Canada and the United States.” In Canada Among Nations 2009-2010, edited by Fen Osler Hampson and Paul Heinbecker, 245-254. Montreal: McGill University Press, 2010.
“The Melting North. The Arctic Special Report” The Economist vol. 403 no. 8789, 16 June 2012.
“National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.” National Defence and Canadian Forces. 18 October 2012. http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/pri/2/pro/0/index-eng.asp
Press, Jordan and Randy Boswell. “Military spending in North ‘critical,’ despite budget overages: Harper.” National Post, 24 August 2012.
“Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy: Exercising Sovereignty and Promoting Canada’s Northern Strategy Abroad.” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. 26 September 2012.
http://www.international.gc.ca/polar- polaire/canada_arctic_foreign_policy_booklet- la_politique_etrangere_du_canada_pour_arctique_livret.aspx?lang=eng&view=d# sovereignty
Jean Chrétien’s post 9/11 foreign policy decisions were essentially the right ones. Canada’s involvment in Afghanistan was both a necessary and legitimate. Keeping Canada out of Iraq was a critical achievement, and cemented Chrétien’s legacy.
The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 led to two subsequent American-led wars. I will argue Jean Chrétien’s foreign policy decisions during this time guaranteed that Canada would be remembered as a strong asset of the NATO alliance by participating in Afghanistan while also as a country that would not follow the Americans into a unnecessary an illegitimate war in Iraq. I will demonstrate the 2001 war in Afghanistan, was both a necessary and legitimate for both the Canada and the United States. This means that an invasion of Afghanistan had to occur (it was necessary) and that the war was approved of internationally (it was legitimate). I will demonstrate that the Iraq mission did not meet the goals American government, it was therefore unnecessary and a mistake. Subsequently, not only did Jean Chrétien’s post 9/11 foreign policy decisions guaranteed Canada would be remembered both as a strong asset to NATO and not a country that would commit the same mistakes as the US, by speaking out publicly about the Iraq war Chrétien solidified his legacy as a in the liberal tradition exemplified by Lester B. Pearson wherein Canada could act as a voice of restraint for American aspirations. Essentially, Chrétien’s post 9/11 foreign policy decisions were the right ones, in this way both Canada and Chrétien remained on the right side of history.
Afghanistan, the necessary and legitimate war
The war in Afghanistan was a necessary reaction to the 9/11 attacks for both Canada and the United States. After the initial 9/11 terrorist attack, it immediately became apparent the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. An American mission launched with Al-Qaeda as a target was necessary because Al-Qaeda presented a clear threat – it had attacked the American homeland. An attack on Afghanistan was necessary by extension because Afghanistan’s Taliban government supported Al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden “supplied the Taliban not just with significant financial support, but also with cadres of fanatical, experienced fighters. In return, the Taliban ceded control of training camps in eastern Afghanistan to Al-Qaeda and provided the latter with the sort of secure base that was a terrorists dream.” Afghanistan, “the country where the 9/11 plot was hatched” was essentially a terrorist safe-haven – it was therefore necessary for the United States to invade. On October 4th 2001 George Robertson, the Secretary-General of NATO invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the first time in NATO’s history. Article 5 states that an attack on one member state would be considered an attack on all member states. Member states (including Canada, a founding member) were thus legally committed and obligated to come to the defense an NATO ally that was attacked. Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan was therefore also necessary – its NATO ally was attacked. Thus Chrétien’s decision to invade ensured Canada would be remembered as a strong NATO ally, and in this way Canada remained on the right side of history.
The invasion of Afghanistan was legitimate because it was deemed legitimate internationally by the United Nations. On September 12th 2001 the UN General Assembly issued a unanimous declaration of solidarity for the American people. Security Council Resolution 1378 which passed unanimously on November 14th 2001 called for a change in government for Afghanistan. Resolution 1383 – which passed unanimously – endorsed the Afghan Interim Authority (the new Afghan Government) on December 6th 2001. Resolution 1386 – which also passed unanimously – authorized the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Interim Authority (the government replacing the Taliban) to maintain security in Afghanistan. Even countries historically at-odds with American aggression, such as Russian and China who are both permanent veto-holding Security Council members, deemed legitimate a US and NATO intervention which would replace the Taliban.
Jean Chrétien, the Pragmatist
Jean Chrétien was a pragmatist – he never acted rashly when it came to foreign policy decisions. “Chrétien rejected the idea of a formal speech in favour of a routine scrum in the commons lobby,” he did not even call a full Cabinet meeting. In response to Blair’s visit to Washington, Chrétien stated: “‘I never thought of going to Congress to listen to a speech by the President. You know, it’s just not a normal thing to do.’” This displays a critical element of Chrétien’s personality. As Lawrence Martin, a prominent Canadian journalist and Chrétien biographer argues, “in crisis situations, Chrétien, aides noticed, had a tendency to under react. He wasn’t about to go along with the pack until he had stepped back and taken a long look.” This pragmatism would prove essential as Chrétien skilfully guided Canadian policy in reaction to the events of 9/11. He would invade Afghanistan when doing so was necessary. However Chrétien would not overreact, as the Americans inevitably would, and he would not commit the same mistake as the Americans, a mistake the British would make. Balancing these two forces ensured Canada remained on the right side of history.
Iraq, the mistake
The invasion of Iraq was seen as necessary by the Bush administration, but would prove to be unnecessary because it would end up working against American interests. The first way it worked against American interests is by evaporating the solidarity felt towards the US. The invasion of Iraq, in the words of French President Jacques Chirac, would “‘break-up the international coalition against terrorism.’” Countries like France, Germany, and Russia who all supported the war in Afghanistan would oppose American aggression towards Iraq.
The second way the Iraq war the worked against US interests is by creating a situation where Pakistan and Iran could harass American regional interests. The decision to invade Iraq allowed the Taliban to establish itself in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Iraq “was critical to convincing Musharraf that the US was not serious about stabilizing the region, and that it was safer for Pakistan to preserve its own national interest by clandestinely giving the Taliban refuge.” Furthermore one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Iraq war was actually Iran – Iraq’s regional rival. Zalmay Khalilzad, the former American ambassador to Iraq and later to the UN, claimed the Iraq invasion “‘helped Iran’s relative position in the region, because Iraq was a rival of Iran,’” – Iran subsequently supported Hezbollah and Hamas.
The most critical way the Iraq war worked against American interests is the fact that the decision to invade jeopardized the chance for victory in Afghanistan, the initial war that was a necessary response to 9/11. In 2003 Donald Rumsfeld believed the job was almost done in Afghanistan, “the challenges were stabilization, development, and nation-building. There was no sense that the Taliban had withdrawn to the safety of the mountains and were reorganizing and regrouping . . . this kind of strategic retreat is hardly new in the history of guerrilla warfare.” Journalist and author Ahmed Rashid’s book Descent into Chaos argues the Bush administration squandered an opportunity to rebuild Afghanistan – and thus defeat the Taliban. Rashid argued Afghanistan’s agriculture industry needed investment to “revive public morale in the countryside and convince people of the worthlessness of the Taliban.” But this kind of nation-building was anathema to the Bush administration. Bush, Condeleeza Rice (the national security advisor), Dick Cheney (the vice president), and Rumsfeld “had all, very publicly, gone on record . . . deploring the use of military force for this purpose.” In 2000 Bush stated, “I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building – I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win wars.” Rice had stated she did not want “the 82nd Airborne Division walking children to kindergarten.” The Bush administration was more concerned with fighting and winning wars – but nation-building was what was needed to defeat the Taliban. When the Pentagon’s own Defence Science Board requested that stabilization and reconstruction operations be set as core military tasks, the request was ignored. Dan K. McNeill the Commander of ISAF decided to tell the Bush administration what was needed to win Afghanistan in 2008. “The American force needed to be increased by 50 percent, he said.” McNeill never got his troops because these troops were engaged in Iraq. The Taliban realised their greatest weapon was “American tentativeness, an unwillingness by Bush or other officials to commit troops, money, and resources.” “As resources shifted west, toward Baghdad, plans for a reconstruction program evaporated. The initial appearance of an easy victory was masked by the fact that the Taliban had never been defeated.” Afghanistan – a necessary and legitimate war – was abandoned in favour of Iraq. This focus on Iraq would mean the war in Afghanistan would be lost, and the necessary reaction to 9/11 turned was squandered.
The war in Iraq was not only unnecessary, it was also illegitimate. If the UN Security Council unanimous sanctioning of the war in Afghanistan legitimized it, the opposite proves the Iraq war was illegitimate. Despite Colin Powell’s 5 February 2003 speech to the UN, where he presented the US intelligence’s evidence that Iraq possessed WMD, the US failed to get a UN sanction for its mission. This failure occurred because it became apparent both France and Russia, veto-holding permanent members if the security council, would vote against such a resolution.
Chrétien simply didn’t buy it
Since 2001 the Canadian government was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of an Iraq invasion, Ottawa simply did not see a link between 9/11 and Iraq. For Ottawa to see an invasion of Iraq as legitimate, it believed it must pose a threat. Foreign minister Bill Graham argued that “under international law, proof of an imminent threat of an attack would be required to justify a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.” But after a conversation where Bush attempted to convince Chrétien of the danger of Iraqi WMD, Chrétien’s senior policy advisor Eddie recalls Chrétien “shrugged and said, ‘I started my career as a small-town lawyer, and I heard nothing today from the president that would convince any judge in a rural courthouse.’” On 4 December 2002 statement before the Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Charles – Philippe David stated that “the argument that the evil Iraq regime must be toppled now, immediately, without delay, rings hollow. The threat today is not so much greater as it was four years ago, certainly not enough to justify imminent war.” Put simply, both Chrétien and the Canadian government saw an invasion of Iraq for what it was, both unnecessary and illegitimate.
Cementing the legacy, Chrétien to Bush on Iraq like Pearson to LBJ on Vietnam
Chrétien came from a long liberal tradition wherein the party leaders had often acted as a voice of restraint against American adventurism . . . Lester Pearson had courageously challenged Lyndon Johnson, warning him against the escalation of the Vietnam War.” Like Pearson to Johnson, Chrétien expressed to Bush the fact that he remained unconvinced Iraq posed a threat. On the first anniversary of 11 September, before a scheduled meeting with Bush in Detroit, Chrétien told Bush to “show me” the evidence. “Ottawa, he announced, wanted proof.” He then “made it clear to the president that Canada’s participation in a war with Iraq would depend on the support of the United Nations.” Just as Former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson denounced the America’s Vietnam war in a 1965 speech at Philadelphia’s Temple University, on 13 February 2003 Jean Chrétien delivered a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations denouncing the Iraq war. Goldenberg, lists Chrétien’s concerns with an invasion. Canada “had to consider whether participating in a war declared by non-Islamic western countries, without the support of the United Nations, against a government of an Islamic country, no matter how abhorrent the regime, would in the end bring about more democracy in the Middle East, or whether it would be responsible for provoking more terrorism in the world.” Chrétien argued it is important for the United States to act multilaterally, stated that “‘it is imperative to avoid the perception on a clash of civilizations. Maximum use of the United Nations would minimize that risk.’”
Still a pragmatist to the end
It is important to acknowledge that Chrétien’s pragmatist nature got the best of him; ultimately he would support a mission without UN support if Iraq posed a threat. Graham inferred that it was possible a situation might arise similar to that of Kosovo – where a mission was necessary for humanitarian reason, but a legitimising UN sanction was impossible due to the veto-holding power of Russia who saw Kosovo as in its sphere of influence. Therefore Chrétien would support a mission if it was necessary – if the US could prove Iraq posed a threat. Despite Powell’s UN speech, Chrétien was unconvinced that Saddam possessed WMD or that it posed a threat. Greg Fyffe, the former Executive Director of the International Assessment Staff in Ottawa stated that Chrétien and his staff’s instincts were that Iraq did not possess WMD, and Canadian intelligence did not contradict this notion. Chrétien would not be duped by an American attempt to make the invasion appear necessary with weak intelligence, and would express this opinion publicly, he therefore remains on the right side of history.
A critic of the argument that Canada remained on the right side of history by not invading Iraq would argue that Ottawa’s winter 2003 decision “to send two thousand troops back to Afghanistan on the eve of the Iraq war” allowed the United States to shift its military focus to Iraq. In this way Canada supported the Iraq war without directly invading Iraq and could therefore be seen as on the wrong side of history. I would argue Canada had already made the decision that Afghanistan was both necessary and legitimate and Canada’s commitment to troop escalation in Afghansitan was therefore worthwhile despite the US’s shift towards Iraq. As previously mentioned, this commitment could have neutralised the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban had the Americans been committed to nation-building. Since the US and not Canada abandoned Afghanistan the fault lies with the American government.
Tony Blair ‘On the Wrong Side of History’
To fully appreciate the foreign policy fiasco Chrétien avoided by not invading Iraq one can examine British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair – who has been described as “America’s biggest admirer” – was so concerned with expressing solidarity to the US he would act irrationally. Britain would invade Iraq either because Blair believed the faulty intelligence presented or agreed with the preconceived American plan to intimidate other would-be aggressors. Either way Tony Blair’s Iraq legacy will be the same as Bush’s, he committed a foreign policy blunder. Luckily, Chrétien’s pragmatist nature would mean he would not be convinced by faulty intelligence and Canada would remain on the right side of history.
Conclusion, thanks for keeping us out of that mess
Charles – Philippe David’s 2002 parliamentary address denounces the Iraq war by comparing it to Vietnam. “The Iraq II Campaign would be the first major US-led invasion and occupation since Vietnam. It cannot be compared with other policing actions in Grenada in 1983 or Panama in 1989, and still less with other military interventions in the interim.” Because the American invasion of Iraq was and deemed unnecessary and illegitimate it is fair to say its legacy is that of a foreign policy mistake – perhaps the worst since Vietnam. Unlike Tony Blair, Jean Chrétien would not commit the same mistake the Americans would. Chrétien pragmatist nature would thus skilfully ensure Canada would both not be seen as a ‘free-rider’ by the US and NATO when it came to the necessary and legitimate war in Afghanistan and avoid a major foreign policy blunder when it cam to the unnecessary and illegitimate war in Iraq. His ability to speak publicly on this ensured Canada would be remembered this way. Indeed, today Canada’s decision not to participate in the Iraq War is widely considered to be one of Prime Minister Chrétien’s most important achievements. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s post 9/11 foreign policy decisions were ultimately the right ones, they ensured Canada would remain on the right side of history.
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