“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law
and in the name of justice.” Baron de Montesquieu
February 15, 1998
Over the past five decades, successive Canadian governments have put great stock in liberal internationalism. Given that this country has always had a weak national ego—and our American neighbour a dangerously overdeveloped one—investing in collective security has seemed like a reasonable way to keep out of the American shadow.
But all mutual fund companies—financial or geopolitical—rise and fall with the times. During the Cold War, the need to prevent a nuclear war gave the impression that the UN had an important role to play. Thus, Canada invested heavily in the UN’s utopian group of mutual international funds, especially the ethical war fund (peacekeeping).
Sure, Canada balanced its portfolio with NATO (American Defence Growth Fund) and NORAD (long-term missile defence bond fund—no recent investments), but peacekeeping soon became this country’s raison d’être. Canada would cut back troops in Europe, but it would not miss a chance to invest in any ethical war operation. It poured enormous amounts of financial, diplomatic and human capital into the fund in an attempt to project the image of importance and independence.
However, since the end of the Cold War, gross mismanagement, misallocation of resources and irrelevance has called into question the entire utopian fund and its value to Canada. The U.S. has always been the most dominant voice on the board of directors (Security Council), but now it no longer has to care what other members think.
When the board agrees with U.S. foreign policy, such as when it sanctioned military force against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, the UN looks credible. When the UN doesn’t go along with the U.S., as in refusing to bomb Iraq into oblivion for obstructing UN weapons inspectors, the U.S. prepares to bomb anyway, and strong-arms allies to join in for appearances’ sake.
The fact is, liberal internationalism is as impotent today as it has always been. In 1923, despite the League of Nation’s official proscription on secret covenants, Britain and France signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided the Middle East and parts of Africa among them according to their respective self-interest.
Also, Italy was promised control over Abyssinia (Ethiopia) after World War I. So, when Mussolini attacked, Britain and France were not inclined to defend Abyssinia. Perceptions and rhetoric to the contrary, the League did not herald a new world order. It merely papered over the old world order of alliances and secret covenants with a patina of morality, which made aggression that much more noxious.
What’s important here is not Italy’s aggression against Abyssinia—it’s the readiness with which Britain and France, the great powers of the day, coerced a moral organization into sanctioning it. Problem is, all nations are ruled by self-interest, and liberal internationalism can’t change that.
Thus, as with Abyssinia, the most significant aspect to the military campaign against Iraq is not America’s decision to play policeman, but the unspeakable hypocrisy of dissemblers, like American UN ambassador Bill Richardson, who justify it in the name of upholding a UN Security Council resolution.
If Richardson cares so much about the integrity of these resolutions, why hasn’t the U.S. compelled Israel to return all lands occupied in the 1967 war (Resolution 242) or cease aggression against Lebanon and occupation of occupied lands (Resolutions 425 and 509)? It is preposterous to use a UN resolution—678 to be precise—to justify bombing Iraq, especially when such an attack would be counterproductive.
Expected civilian casualties would outweigh any possible military benefit, and it’s well-known that bombing Hussein would only strengthen his appeal among his people and other states. Already, Iraq and Iran are making tentative moves toward a united front against the U.S. Did the U.S. learn nothing from Hitler’s bombardment of London, or its own failures in Vietnam? You can win all the military wars you want, but it’s the political war that counts.
That the UN has been exposed as a geopolitical eunuch is beyond debate, so what are Canadians supposed to make of this delusional claptrap from Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy: “We see this as one of the important test cases about the ability of the United Nations to respond in a way to preserve security…”?
Test case? In 1991, there was a legitimate casus belli, although then-Leader of the Opposition Jean Chrétien vehemently opposed Canada’s participation in the Gulf War. This time, there is no lawful reason to attack, yet we agree to take part. Moreover, the UN isn’t responding—the U.S. is.
Bombing Iraq has little to do with a putative defence of Resolution 678, and everything to do with removing Hussein from power. Admittedly, Hussein is a thug and the world would be better off without him. If Canada wants to join America’s private war, it should at least be honest with itself.
By the way, Canada wants a seat on the mutual fund board of directors and needs U.S. support. Could that be a factor?