Wednesday, April 18, 2007

# Posted 9:34 AM by Taylor Owen  

LOOK PORTER, I MENTIONED VIMY!: David Eaves and I have an op-ed, here and below, in today's Globe and Mail.

Beyond Vimy Ridge: Canada's other foreign-policy pillar

This is a hallmark year for Canadian foreign policy. 2007 marks the anniversaries of two events through which Canada contributed significantly on the international stage: the Battle of Vimy Ridge and Lester Pearson's Nobel Peace Prize. This is a wonderful coincidence. These two moments, and the values they imbue, are defining pillars that have guided our foreign policy.

Sadly, these events and the principles they represent are frequently held up as opposing ideological doctrines between which an absolute policy choice must be made. In reality, the very opposite is true. Not only are Vimy Ridge and the Nobel Prize both real and important achievements, but the policies and values they embody function far better in collaboration than in isolation.

The first pillar, Vimy Ridge, is a defining moment in Canadian foreign policy. It compels us to remember, and give thanks to, Canadians whose sense of duty and sacrifice contributed to a greater cause.

Equally important, Vimy personifies a Canada that stood by its allies and contributed more than its share. It created a lasting legacy of values that continue to serve us well: courage, allegiance to allies, steadfastness, valour, bravery.

However, we must also remember that the First World War reflects an enormous breakdown in political leadership. It is an example of what happens when great powers allow their rivalries to run unchecked.

Wonderfully, Canadian foreign policy responded to this deficiency, and evolved to include a second foundational principle: Pearsonian diplomacy.

By providing an innovative solution to the Suez Crisis and preventing its allies from stumbling into a global conflict, Mr. Pearson's prize reflected a different set of values than those of the First World War: honesty, integrity, leadership, principle and a willingness to question and check our allies. The Peace Prize honours a tradition of diplomacy that prevents us from having to commemorate another Vimy.

While both pillars are critical to an effective Canadian foreign policy, many on both the left and right would prefer to celebrate only one of these great events. Each claims that either Vimy or the Peace Prize imbue "true Canadian values." Both are mistaken. It is the interplay between them that makes Canada a credible and recognized actor in global politics. Notably, this is accomplished by being neither militaristic hawk, nor unwavering peacenik.

There is no doubt that diplomacy was ultimately what prevailed in the Suez crisis, yet it shouldn't be forgotten that it was backed up by a credible military presence. An idealistic dependency on diplomacy has limits, as Roméo Dallaire is quick to point out. Sometimes, it is the threat of force that is required to keep or build the peace.

Likewise, the use of military force also has its limits. Washington's predisposition to rely on force often taints the legitimacy of U.S. military interventions. In contrast, countries respect Canadian interventions because they know our diplomatic history and leadership in avoiding unnecessary conflicts. Recent achievements continue to demonstrate the value of carefully weaving together these two pillars. For example, Canada did not participate in Iraq because we rightfully believed diplomacy had not run its course. Ambassador Paul Heinbecker's Pearsonian resolution at the United Nations, proposed on the eve of war, assuaged legitimate international concerns by balancing credible weapons inspections with the threat of force. Had it been adopted, and no weapons found, a disastrous war might have been avoided. Countless lives might have been saved and Canada might have been in the running for another peace prize.

Contrast this to the first Persian Gulf war, where diplomacy was allowed to take its course. An important norm of the international system — the unsanctioned use of force — was defended. Canadians fought valiantly alongside our Anglo-U.S. allies and with the legitimacy of a broad 30-member coalition.

In both of these cases, the Vimy and Pearson pillars worked in tandem and resulted in principled international action.

Sadly, we may be drifting toward an overemphasis on the Vimy pillar of Canadian foreign policy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government appears overly romanced by our military tradition and negligent of our diplomatic history. The UN Peace University in Toronto has recently been closed down and funding for the Canadian International Model UN has been cut. More telling — and in sharp contrast to the months of time, energy and money that were appropriately dedicated to the Vimy celebrations — the government's plan for the Pearson anniversary are unclear.

The Prime Minister's treatment of the peace prize milestone will be telling. If he believes that the second pillar of Canadian foreign policy is indeed symbiotic with the first, the same priority will surely be placed on celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall.


(12) opinions -- Add your opinion

"These two moments, and the values they imbue, are defining pillars that have guided our foreign policy."

Taylor, I don't want to sound like a pedantic grammarian, but it's hard to read past this sentence. First your moments imbue, then they're pillars, and finally guides.

The news junkies reading your editorial - the ones you may want to influence - will probably remember your message better if you carefully crafted its content.
Doesn't every year mark the anniversary of every event that took place in a previous year? What's the coincidence?

How can 'allegiance to allies' and 'a willingness to question and check our allies' not be in conflict?

Why did WWI represent a breakdown in political leadership, but the Gulf War didn't? WWI had coalitions on both sides; how could it be more legitimate?

When Canada joined WWII, it became the 8th member of the Allies. Is 8 enough to be legitimate? Or does legitimacy automatically attach to whatever Canada does?
it is the 75th and 50th anniversaries. used to be in the title, but they edited it.

"How can 'allegiance to allies' and 'a willingness to question and check our allies' not be in conflict?"
They are not mutually exclusive

"Or does legitimacy automatically attach to whatever Canada does?"

Of course not.

Legitimacy, as you have pointed out many times, is a subjective concept. this does not mean that it is unrecognizable. The iraq war comparisons here are useful. It is safe to say that the first, due to the make-up of the coalition, was more legitimate than the second. This was a benefit.

I concede that legitimacy perhaps means more to a small country like Canada (and can be treated in more absolute terms). superpowers obviously have different factors influencing their FP. It is still tremendously important though.
Taylor, thanks for the correction. (85th anniversary for Vimy Ridge, btw.) I'd never heard of that battle. More Canadian and British dead in 4 days than the US has sustained in the entire Iraq campaign, vs only 20000 dead on the other side; it must have been reckoned a horrendous defeat for Canada.

You keep insisting that legitimacy is important, but I see no measure for it besides 'whatever Canada is doing at the moment.' Comparing coalitions for the two Gulf Wars, the second gained Australia while losing France and Canada. Net loss for legitimacy? Fatally so? The second coalition was deprived of the moral support of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria, and a handful of smaller Arab dictatorships. If Bush had gained the blessings of the Assad and Saud families, would that have swayed Canadian public opinion?

Set the Gulf aside for a second. Suppose China decides it's time to bring Taiwan back into the fold. There would be no hope of Security Council action, and I doubt many nations would see a benefit to getting on China's bad side. So my question is this: as a Canadian, would your most vigorous protest be against America for taking military action without UN approval, or against America for interfering in the internal politics of the sovereign Chinese state?
"Washington's predisposition to rely on force often taints the legitimacy of U.S. military interventions."

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with all of the U.N. Security resolutions regarding Iraq.


I suppose you think 10 years of sanctions was not enough time for diplomacy to take hold. And the US was having to deal with people who wanted to lift the sanctions and countries that where violating the sanctions.

Is our predisposition to use military force against Iran troubling you? Maybe you are not aware we have given the EU the lead in order to resovle this issue. Despite the fact that most likely, they are going to make our job more difficult after we have to go in and clean up after their predispostion towards worthless meetings.

Or maybe Washington's predisposition to use military force against NoKo is troubling you? Are you not aware of the treaty we worked out with them only to find they violated it?

I think your comment above says more about your predisposition than Washington's.

I'm sure I could go on for quite some time citing examples of how Washington does not pull the military option out first, but why bother when someone narrowly focuses on Washington's role and ignores the role of Dictotors and Despots.
I don't completely agree with Taylor on this one, as I am no fan of the UN, but anon 6:04, you are far from the brightest of the brave anons to grace this site's comments, and that is saying something. the condescension is also a little heavy for such a poor argument.

Peter Graham
(who liked oxblog better pre-comments)

mixed metaphors aside, and my disagreements about the issue of legitimacy aside, that was a beautifully written piece, and taught me a lot about the dual impulses of Canadian foreign policy. And thanks for mentioning Vimy!

more power to you,
More Canadian and British dead in 4 days than the US has sustained in the entire Iraq campaign, vs only 20000 dead on the other side; it must have been reckoned a horrendous defeat for Canada.

From Forgotten Victory:
"The triumph of the Canadians at Vimy has tended to overshadow the acheivements of Third Army to the south."

The US has suffered a lot less than 20 000 dead in Iraq. World Wars are fought on a larger scale.

That said, the diplomacy in 1914 was not very different from that in 1956. "Credibility" is just another word for "honour", and some diplomats are luckier than others.

Taylor says Washington has a predisposition to use military force. I site examples of how Washington does not resort to the military options first.

Please enlighten me and point out how that is a poor argument. It seems a rather factual account.

And as to the condescending tone, I am certain that falsely accusing my country of having a predisposition towards military force when it can be proven that it is usually the option of last resort is insulting.
On the question of anniversaries, it's actually the 90th anniversary of Vimy, not the 75th (as Taylor said) or the 85th (as bgates said): 2007-1917=90. I thought this was obvious, but given that two people got it wrong, I thought it necessary to point out.
Anon the second: good grief, I can't subtract. Thanks for the correction.

Anon the first: No, I was saying that the 20000 dead were on the other side from the Canadians. Since the Canadians at Vimy suffered more casualties than the US in Iraq, while Canada's enemy suffered fewer than America's, and since we know (because Taylor tells us) that the war in Iraq is a total disaster, I could only conclude that the action at Vimy was even more so. You say Vimy was somehow a victory?

The Canadians must have had a mandate from the UN or something.
You do not decide who won a war by counting the casualties.

In WW2 Germany suffered fewer casualties than the USSR.

The Confederacy suffered fewer casualties than the Union.

Did they win?
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