01 August 2006

Neutrality and Canadian Opinion

I guess that this answers my often-ruminated question about Canada and neutrality:

In a poll . . . 45 per cent said they disagreed with Harper's open support for Israel. Thirty-two per cent agreed with the prime minister . . .
When asked who Canada should support, a majority, 77 per cent, said Canada should be neutral. Only 16 per cent said Canada should support Israel and one per cent said Hezbollah. Six per cent didn't know or declined to answer.


More than three out of four Canadians have signalled that they don't think it's in Canada's interest to participate in the War on Terror and Tyranny. Less than one in five thinks that we should be supporting a democratic state in its efforts to rid the region of a deadly terrorist network so that it can live in greater security on its northern border. One in a hundred actually thinks that the terrorists are the good guys.

Cross-reference these findings with Jonathan Kay's article in today's National Post (behind the firewall unfortunately) and I'm more than a little blue (as in sad) about Canadians' views of the world. This is a pretty clear signal that Canada has largely given up on fighting the initial conception of the War on Terror abroad and doesn't have the moral clarity to distinguish between a democratic state defending its right to exist and a terrorist network that seeks to destroy said democratic state. Canadians think that we should be neutral and not take a side, despite the reality that one side deliberately uses civilian population centres as human shields and a base to thrust the sword into Northern Israel, while the other side painstakingly seeks to minimize civilian casualties instead of taking the easy route and launching a full-scale military campaign that would no doubt erase Hezbollah but also kill many more civilians. Canadians seemingly want to be happy-go-lucky fence-sitters that can cling to their delusions of grandeur of a bygone era and claim to be "honest brokers" when the reality is that nobody outside of Canada cares one whit about our posture or seeks Ottawa's supposed brokerage abilities in negotiating an end to hostilities.

When the Prime Minister of Canada takes a position--defending the right of a democracy to respond to terrorist aggression--that is right and appropriate, he is chastised for cow-towing to George W. Bush. Bill Graham actually said that we shouldn't take such a position because we'd just be echoing a voice that's already there. Heaven forbid that more than one country stands up and says something that clearly establishes right and wrong. Even worse is when it's Canada too closely approximating the United States. We just can't have that here, no sir.

I am really quite distraught about this poll finding. I know that it's just one poll in a sea of them, but I'm sure that it's not the only one of its kind. I've long held fears that Canada and Canadians would end up taking this course, and now I've seen them manifested. It hurts to see that 77% of people surveyed think that Canada should not be supportive of a fellow democracy, an ally, and a friend against a vicious group of terrorists with a lengthy history of deliberate atrocities against civilians that is considered by some terrorism experts to be "the A-team" of terrorists.

**Update: Kinsella provides some essential reading, as always.

9 comments:

e said...

According to the CBC, 18 Israeli civillians have died in the past few weeks due to Hezbollah rocket attacks. In that time, 8 Canadian civillians and one Canadian soldier in Lebannon have died due to Israeli rocket attacks.

Does that give Canada the right to mount a massive attack on Israel, destroying it's civillian infrastructure?

SouthernOntarioan said...

e.. the 8 civilian casualties were the unfortunate consequences of living in a war zone.

War is nasty and that is why engaging in it should always come with deep contemplation concerning these inherent problems.

However, the Israeli attack on Lebanon was the result of an unprovoked, premeditated attack on an Israeli military base.

For example, if Israeli soldiers entered Canada, attacked CFB Bordon, kidnapped 2 Canadian soldiers and killed a few others THEN Canada would have the right (nay the obligation) to retaliate on Israel destroying its civilian infrastructure.

The Canadian soldier's death is a close call. IF Israel specifically targeted the base with the intent of killing him, then it would constitute an act of war. Otherwise, its a tragic mistake.

Did you complain when the US targeted Serbian infrastructure during the Kosovo war?

RGM said...

S.O. sums it up nicely, the answer is no. It is deeply regrettable that Canadians were living in the civilian areas from which Hezbollah launches attacks against Israeli civilians, but for the life of me I can't imagine why you would ask such an absurd question.

C. LaRoche said...

Richard,
There is a difference between supporting an Israeli invasion of Lebanon that has overwhelmingly killed civilians (about 90%) -- to a higher degree than Hezbollah attacks, which actually target civilian -- and remaining somewhat cautious. The difference is not, as you assert, a matter of supporting the war on terror. I support the war on terror. I do not support what I see as the worst way of going about de-terrorism -- bombing a similarly democratic, prosperous nation into the stone age. Lebanon needed no renaissance or regime change. It was not Iraq. You would think, with some pressure from Israel, that covert police action against Hezbollah -- or a war against Syria -- would have been a smarter move. All Israel has done in my mind is temporarily disable Hezbollah at the expense of more civilians than Hezbollah has ever killed. And there is a surefire possibility that a ruined Lebanon will now turn into an anti-Israel breeding ground.

RGM said...

Because of all the dynamics that you listed in there (covert action, Syria, etc.) and the ones that haven't even been discussed (i.e. just to what extent is Iran involved in this?), there truly are no "good" options involved here. Being a liberal at my core, I'm always for finding the best option, but this scenario is truly one for the realist in all of us: what is the "least bad" option?

I agree that the legitimate government of Lebanon is in no need of being changed. This is certainly not Iraq; rather, it's more like Afghanistan, except that the Lebanese government is not actively involved in a symbiotic relationship with Hezbollah, as the Taliban were with al Qaeda. There's still the problem of a weak state, however, that is unable/unwilling to do what is required of it under the terms of Resolutions 1368 and 1559. I've mentioned previously that it's possible the Responsibility to Protect doctrine applies here because of Lebanon's inability to protect its people, assert its sovereignty, and come into compliance with the will of the "international community."

What does all this mean for Israel? As I said to Natan Sharansky in an email I wrote yesterday, too many people are seeing this with myopic lenses; Israel's response is not, strictly speaking, about just the two kidnapped soldiers or the eight soldiers killed in the initial rocket attack. While that alone may or may not suffice as a justifiable casus belli, it's pretty apparent that Israel is taking all of the past decades of history involving Hezbollah into its view and saying, "We've put up with this for long enough. We've made commitments on our side to peace; we removed our forces from Lebanon in 2000 with the understanding that the government of Lebanon would do its part to ensure this doesn't happen again. It's failed, so now we're going to do what we feel we have to do to protect ourselves." I don't like seeing the carnage any more than you do; I want this over before it escalates and more innocent people, on both sides, are killed. But we both know that Israel will not accede to any ceasefire that leaves Hezbollah intact with the ability to inflict future damage on its population. And I feel that it is right to do so. Unless there are promises to force Hezbollah to dismantle that will be enforced by the government of Lebanon and/or any future international force that will be installed, it doesn't make sense for Israel to stand down and rely on the good word of Hezbollah. And that my friends, is why war sucks.

SouthernOntarioan said...

One comment.. on the 'deaths' statistics..

How does anyone know how many Hezbollah militants were killed over the last few weeks? It was an air campaign so Israel doesn't know for sure...

How many of the 'civilians' that were killed were military age men? Could those men have been Hezbollah militants?

How many Hezbollah militants were killed and never reported? Do you think if Hezbollah had lost 1000 of its troops it would say so? Of course not, because no one would know if they did (except possibly the Israelis, whom no one would believe).

RGM said...

By and large I think that we're expected to just take Hezbollah at their word and trust them to tell the truth, reminiscent of how trustworthy "stabilizing" dictators are and that sort of stuff. The government of Lebanon may have some figures, but, like with all aspects of this conflict, it remains ironically silent and a bit player regarding what's happening in its own territory.

C. LaRoche said...

Re: RGM,
I agree with everything you're saying here other than I think Israel is acting out of frustration rather than a desire for productivity. The irony may be that simply invading Lebanon from the get-go would have been a better idea -- the air strikes have done damage to Israel's targets, but those targets are small; meanwhile they've done loads of damage to Israel itself. I'm still open to the belief that if the Israeli and Palestinian governments worked together on counter-terrorism, they could have avoided this mess by strengthening Lebanon's ability to control and rid itself of Hezbollah. It is clear LEbanon wanted to, couldn't, and now it is suffering the most. I ask: if this was the 'only case scenario', Rich, why even bother going through with it? Lebanon is only weaker now than before. Hezbollah will be rebound, and the country will have less of an ability to respond. Is Israel aiming for a complete Lebanese occupation?

Re: casualties -- I wouldn't usually recommend Wikipedia for anything specific, but the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict page has a casualties box with updated numbers culled from various news sources (with links). From this, the pecentages are difficult to calculate -- Israel claims it has killed hundreds of Hezbollah agents, while Hezbollah has only fessed up to a few dozen -- but they're still stark no matter whose you use. The civilian death counts, even if Israel has killed as many Hezbollah agents as it says it has, still make up well over 3/4rs of all deaths, and even more so if you include basic "casualties" (i.e. wounded). Displacing hundreds of thousands, thousands and killing thousands seems like a very imprecise way of doing anything. This is not supposed to be a campaign of shock against the Lebanese people. Or is it?

RGM said...

Frustration is a good word for it. I think that it is safe to say that a lot of people, around the world, are frustrated that this conflict is happening, as to many it just seems like another round in a never-ending saga.

Asking Israel and Palestinian officials to work together in counterterrorism efforts is an awful lot to ask for, especially when the current Palestinian government is led by a terrorist organization. I've previously expressed hope that participation in the democratic process would moderate Hamas's behaviour and compel them to end terrorism in favour of strengthening social programs and pursuing policies that were in the best interests of the Palestinian people. For a short while, it looked as though that was going to happen. Then they kidnapped a 19-year old IDF officer, which sparked the latest round of violence in Gaza and inspired Hezbollah to go one better and kidnap two IDF soldiers.

Israel clearly does not want to reoccupy Lebanon. The previous experience that only ended a handful of years ago reinforced a few things: Occupations are costly, they anger the locals, and having the Jewish state occupying Muslim territory would only further incite terrorist activities. I'd think that if they were thinking of taking that route, they would have done so already via a large ground forces invasion. Lebanon's government has clearly demonstrated its impotence, and Israel no doubt knows that it could overrun the country within a matter of days or weeks if it so desired. The limited air campaign has been undertaken because they have a limited agenda and don't want to destroy entirely Lebanon's infrastructure. The airport bombing was probably a tactical error, given that it made international evacuations and will make further international assistance landings more difficult.

No matter how you slice this one, it's still a shit sandwich, if you'll pardon the expression. There simply were no good options, and Israel was faced with having to pick out of a bunch of bad ones, all of which would have resulted in some form of military action. We can all hope for the best, but should always be prepared for the worst.