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Chrétien off the fence

Well, looks like Chrétien finally got off the fence . . . but on the wrong side:

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien says Canada will not be part of the U.S.-led “coalition of the willing” in a war against Iraq unless the United Nations authorizes military action.

After weeks of dodging questions about Canada’s position, Chrétien ended the fence-sitting. He told MPs yesterday that if the Security Council refuses to authorize a war, the United States will have to do without the help of its closest ally and largest trading partner if it decides to pursue a military campaign to remove Saddam Hussein.

“We have not been asked and we do not intend to participate in a group of the willing,” Chrétien said in reply to a question from Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe.

“If (the Americans) want to go there all alone, they can go there all alone,” Chrétien said. “But we say they must go with the authorization of the United Nations. If they don’t, the international system of peace and security will probably be more destabilized than it need be.”

There are three problems with this statement: Firstly, the United States will certainly not be alone if it attacks without UN approval. Secondly, the UN Security Council has been unable to resolve the problem or to propose a solution other than endless appeasement of Saddam. Thirdly, if the United States decides to attack, they won’t exactly miss our military forces (or lack thereof). Three soldiers and a snowmobile aren’t exactly crucial to the American war plans.

Popular opinion in Canada is largely anti-war, so Chrétien took the easy way out of this one. But while it won’t hurt the United States or Britain or anyone else, it is likely to hurt the already-fragile relationship that Canada has with its largest trading partner and cohabitant of this continent. In the international scene, it is clear that Canada has no better friend than the United States . . . and there’s only so long we can keep making our friends do the dirty work for us and then berate them for having dirtier hands than us.

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