Thursday, August 30, 2007
# Posted 11:09 AM by Taylor Owen
IRAQ AS HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: Yesterday, David Eaves and I had the following oped in the Toronto Star. While the message is Canada specific, there is a wider theme regarding what the UN should do about the humanitarian crisis that currently exists in Iraq. Further, the challenge is for those who opposed the war to engage with the crisis as it currently exists, instead of how it was before the US invasion. As US forces pull out, peace between sectarian fighters will have to be built or kept, millions of people will have to be moved from refugee and IDP camps, a massive development operation will have to help the country out of extreme poverty, and a nation's infrastructure will have to be reconstructed. The question is who is going to do it?
Iraq suddenly appears on Canada’s radar screen
For the past five years, Canadian leaders have had little to say about the Iraq war. Content not to be in but careful not to be too critical, most have adopted a laissez-faire position on the conflict. This position is unsustainable.
In just over a year’s time, Americans will elect a new president. Regardless of whether the victor is a Democrat or a Republican, the last ardent defender of the Iraq war will have left the international stage and the world will look at Iraq through a new lens. The Iraq war, “Bush’s War,” will be over. Iraq the humanitarian crisis will be in the ascendant.
In anticipation of this emerging shift, the Security Council last week voted unanimously to increase the UN’s role in Iraq. The international body will endeavour to do what it – and notably not what the U.S. military – does best: engage in essential diplomatic, negotiation and humanitarian activities.
And this is only the beginning. While the departure of U.S. and British troops will undoubtedly remove one aggravating factor, sectarian strife, a humanitarian crisis and a failing state will remain.
Within a year, Iraq will have shifted from a precipitous and ill-executed American invasion and occupation, into an internationalized humanitarian crisis.
And a crisis it is.
According to a recent UN report, there are 1.8 million internally displaced persons and 2 million refugees in neighbouring countries, with an additional 40,000 to 50,000 leaving per month; 54 per cent of the population lives below the extreme poverty line of $1 a day; 43 per cent of children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition; inflation is 70 per cent, and in 2006 there were 34,452 recorded civilian deaths and 36,685 recorded civilian injuries.
Compare these numbers to Kosovo and East Timor, and add the regional consequences of a prolonged Iraqi civil war, and surely there is a case for active international engagement.
As the recent Security Council resolution indicates, a global strategy is starting to take shape. There will be calls for still greater UN intervention, possibly even a peacekeeping force. Over the next 12 to18 months, an international plan for dealing with Iraq will likely emerge.
Will Canada help shape it?
We could opt not to. That would be politically expedient, although it would confirm our declining status on the international stage.
Or we could see this as a diplomatic opportunity where we are uniquely positioned to lead. Canada is an ally of the United States and Britain but had the integrity and self-confidence to not participate in the flawed invasion. Canada is not burdened with a colonial or imperialist past in the region. Unlike Germany and France, Canada has had limited financial interests in Iraq. And, in contrast to Russia and China, Canada possesses a relatively well-respected record on human rights.
By helping to develop a solution that could bring stability to Iraq, the region and the international community, Canada could shine. Indeed, the parallels to the event that launched Canada’s much vaunted but greatly diminished status as an international peace broker are noteworthy.
During the 1956 Suez crisis, the world’s powers were equally hamstrung. What made us so useful then is what could make us so useful today.
This potential is, of course, complicated by our role in Afghanistan. It could reasonably be argued that Afghanistan is our primary international commitment and that we simply do not have the resources to contribute to two major peace-building efforts. But military constraints need not curtail our diplomatic role in a new UN-led effort in Iraq.
Any future mission in Iraq will require a legitimacy that the U.S. invasion lacked. Our position within the UN, coupled with our unique standing in the international community, could make sure this is achieved.
As a country, we need to remember that, regardless of the causes, Iraq today is a humanitarian crisis and a geopolitical time bomb, a country whose collapse or breakup could destabilize the immediate region, and potentially much more.
Here’s hoping Canadian humanitarianism helps shape the way forward.
Labels: Iraq(7) opinions -- Add your opinion
The international body will endeavour to do what it – and notably not what the U.S. military – does best: engage in essential diplomatic, negotiation and humanitarian activities.
See also: Lebanon, Africa, etc.
Beat me to it.
In Iraq, "negotiation" is a required skill-set for the U.S. military, and since it has an enviable record of humanitarian endeavors, the pro-forma assumption that the UN is "better" is questionable.
And, defining "diplomacy" as the art of saying, "Nice doggie" while reaching for a big stick, I would dispute even that part.
We shouldn't forget the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Likewise, we shouldn't forget Canadian and European perfidy. We should never again aid Canada nor aid Europe, since they deserted us in this war. If they act like an enemy and talk like an enemy, aren't they an enemy? I hope US policy towards Canada becomes cold, steely and rude. Screw them.
Don't be too hard on Canada. It should be remembered that Canada, Iraq aside, has been a loyal and steadfast partner in Afghanistan. They have lost about 70 people there so far, more than any other country except the U.S. and Britain.
You and David Eaves write at the end of your editorial: "Iraq today is a humanitarian crisis and a geopolitical time bomb, a country whose collapse or breakup could destabilize the immediate region, and potentially much more.
Here’s hoping Canadian humanitarianism helps shape the way forward."
The first paragraph above you could have written in anytime between 1992 and 2003. The second paragraph would have been a laughingstock before the "precipitous", "ill-executed" and "flawed" U.S. invasion that had no "legitimacy" that you despise.
Canadian humanitarianism without military muscle has proven to be pretty useless. If you want to make the world a better place rather than making Canada "Shine" it would be prudent to cease attacking the muscle.
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