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Wednesday, July 17 2024 @ 08:25 MDT

Tories Throw Arabs a Bone

Canadian PoliticsDuring his whirlwind tour of Canada's North, Stephen Harper has thrown Arab-Canadians a bone. Harper announced $25 million in aid for Lebanon. He emphasized that this was a large amount and that it would be funneled through "legitimate" aid agencies. A more important announcement was that Canada would not be sending troops to take part in the UN peacekeeping force that will be deployed to the region.

The $25 million is a drop in the bucket given that there is an estimated $3 billion in damage in Lebanon alone. Add another $1.2 billion in damage and economic loss in Israel and the civilian cost of this war tops over $4 billion. Israel will recover quickly as the US will shovel hundreds of million dollars of aid into the country. The real money that will help Lebanon rebuild will come from other Arab countries. Saudi Arabia has already committed $400 million in reconstruction aid and with others, there is nearly $1.5 billion in aid flowing from the Arab world into Lebanon. This makes Canada's contribution look like pocket change.

I suspect the Harper government is giving the minimum that they think they can get away with, in order to try to placate the Arab-Canadian community they've spent the last month alienating. Harper is caught in a tricky situation. If he tries to court the Arab-Canadian vote, there's a chance he'll lose the Jewish-Canadian vote. Worse, in Harper's eye's, George W. Bush will likely not approve of large sums of money going to an Arab country, and as we've seen, the Harper government will bend over backwards to please the Bush administration.

The fact that we won't be sending troops is interesting, given Canada's past involvement in the peacekeeping world. I can see three reasons why we're not sending troops this time around. The first reason is practical, the other two are political.

The first reason, and the reason that the Harper government is most likely to admit to, is that the Canadian Forces are already over-tasked. There just aren't personnel available in the CF that can tackle such a task. Years of neglect by previous governments (both Conservative and Liberal) have left the CF stretched to the limits with its current deployment commitments, adding another would stretch it to the breaking point. There are some Canadian troops in the area with the previous UN observer force, but not any significant numbers. It would be possible for Canada to send a token force, a few officers to act as advisors, but that won't be happening.

This leads into the more likely reasons for not sending even a token force. Both of these reasons are purely political. First off, Harper's once sided unconditional support for Israel's "measured" response has destroyed any chance of Canada acting as an honest broker in the region. The Harper government is so concerned with pleasing the Bush Administration, they're going to squander any good name Canada has left abroad. Due to this the Lebanese may not be willing to have Canadian troops on Lebanese soil, even under a UN banner. The Harper government's actions have seen to that.

The second reason is more fundamental to the conservative mind – specifically the one based on the Bush brand of conservatism. Bush and Co. hate the UN. They dislike the UN because it doesn't always do what the US wants it to do, nor does it always let the US do what it wants. Most US conservatives see the UN as some pinko-commie organization designed to stop the US from exploiting the planet. Many of them want the US to pull out of the UN. This hatred for internationalism seems fundamental to US conservative thinking.

This thinking in the US reflects onto Canada in that our current batch of conservative and Conservative politicians are trying to make themselves in the image of the US Bush conservatives. This means that they have no great love for the UN either. Part of this reason is that Harper and his merry band want to tie Canada to the US to the point where we become the 51st state. Supporting the UN would defeat this goal. Especially since Canada has traditionally used the UN to counterbalance the influence of the US. This tradition has disappeared under the Harper government since they want to be influenced by the US. This doesn't bode well for Canada as the current US administration will use and abuse Canada for their own interests, and since Canadians don't vote in US elections, what's best for Canada will be tossed to the wayside. My fear is that the Harper government will not just do nothing to stop this, but will actively support the US in the destruction of what's best for Canada. This is not a good thing.

I suspect that with Harper tying his fortunes to a US president who to Canadians is the least liked US president since Madison (the president during the War of 1812) will hurt him at the polls come election time. Canadians in general, with the possible exception of Albertans, aren't that enamored with the Americans. Canadians like the Americans as friends, but don't want to become them. The Conservative push to become more American will eventually fail, and will cost them votes outside of Alberta.

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