I find it odd that our media have neglected to mention, if only in passing, that Canada has just undergone the most mortifying foreign affairs debacle of its diplomatic history, courtesy of a cabinet that, having spent five years mistaking squalid pork-barrel hackery and petty partisan larceny for statecraft, is still not anywhere near being ready for primetime, as evidenced by a Foreign Affairs minister who gives scant evidence of being able to locate Israel on a map, let alone offer a meaningful observation upon it.
As far as we can tell, Stephen Harper made clear that his vision of the Middle East “peace process” [*cough*] required that it evolve according to norms not only totally unacceptable to the Arab world but completely contrary to Canada’s traditional Middle East policy, to the 1967 UN resolution that has ever since stood as the framework for negotiations, and to President Obama’s explicitly stated position.
Thus, Harper managed, without having any realistic hope of pursuing the alternative and futile trajectory he was proposing, to destroy Canada’s credibility as a proponent of the two-state solution while simultaneously undermining the public solidarity of the G8 and the authority of the United States, the only nation with the clout to condition the Middle East’s negotiating environment and the hyper-power to which Harper otherwise pledges undying loyalty. I will challenge anybody to find a precedent wherein a Canadian prime minister’s contribution to a multilateral forum has had this blend of incoherence and brattish uselessness as its main ingredients.
Shortly thereafter, the Honourable John Baird staggers out, blinking and stammering, and announces that Canada has reconsidered its position and now fully supports Obama’s view. While reporters wonder whether it was a consultation with a ouija board, a realization of Canada’s fundamental geo-political irrelevance, or a belated awareness of the idiocy of Harper’s initial position that changed the government’s mind, Baird proceeds to give every indication of being utterly unaware of what “1967” actually means to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He then shuffles nervously like an awkward sixth-grader and mumbles that he had no idea that UN resolutions on Israel were so important for a Minister of Foreign Affairs to be aware of, presumably whilst engaging the rueful, silent rumination that a career of banging fists on desks and screaming spittle-drenched taking points ill prepares one for a grown-up’s job.
Meanwhile, as this cheap vaudeville act unfolds, our media blandly report events as if they are not helping Canada become even more completely to the G8 what Poland is to the EU—a parochial, unambitious, and slightly dim gaggle of slap-happy bumpkins who’ve become so deeply convinced of their abject inability to offer the world anything of value that their only significant cultural export is their own poltroonish collective persona.
Allow me to become nostalgic for a moment—not for Lloyd Axworthy, the last Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs to have an overall ministerial value greater than that of his cufflinks collection—but for a time when Canadians could get angry about being made to look ludicrous on the international stage. By my reckoning, that would be 1979, when Joe Clark was eviscerated in the press, and rightly, for promising to move Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. That misstep, seen as hugely embarrassing, was considered by many even in the Tory-friendly media to be enough to bring Clark’s fitness for office into question. Now, having grown inured to the self-abasing incompetence of their elites, Canadians appear immune to shame.
The Harper era has demonstrated a hard truth: a great nation cannot be long ruled by moral midgets without eventually being cut down to their size.