In an article in the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Coyne’s headline writer asks: “Why criticize the Saudi arms deal but support a trade agreement with China?”
Mr Coyne opens with a litany of broken Liberal promises:
“It is hard to think of a government that has backpedalled as hard on as many fronts so soon after being elected as the Trudeau Liberals.
It took the Chrétien government, it is true, only a month to renege on its promise to “renegotiate or abrogate” NAFTA. But it was a couple of years before it made the transition from austerity-bashing to deficit-slashing, and a year or two more before it finally admitted it had no intention of abolishing the GST.
But here we are, barely two months into the new government, and already the Liberal platform is in tatters. The promise to hold deficits to $10-billion for two years is but a distant memory. The promise to bring in 25,000 refugees by New Year’s was off by a factor of four. The CF-18s are still flying bombing missions over Iraq and Syria, and may remain there past the original March deadline.”
OK, that’s all old news and, thinking back to Prime Minister Chrétien in the 1990s, we might recall that just about the only promise he kept was to scrap the EH-101 helicopter deal ~ and the Canadian Forces are still trying, over 20 years later, to get a modern maritime helicopter into operational service.
But the key issue for Mr Coyne is: what about Liberal rhetoric vs Liberal reality?
The realities may be, as Mr Coyne suggests, that “the Saudis, bloody-handed as they may be, are a bulwark against still worse butchers in a part of the world where none of the options are pretty,” and, in the world of political practicalities, “agreeing to trade freely with an odious regime is less objectionable than supplying it with arms.”
There is, in my opinion, one fundamental difference between China and Saudi Arabia: China, although a harsh, one party dictatorship, is trying to improve the lot of its people in most important areas like education, jobs, public health and, yes, even good government. (The Chinese, on several different levels, after 3,000 or so years of trying, have become a deeply conservative, Confucian, society, in which liberal values, including liberal democracy, may not be the best fit ~ see Prof Daniel Bell’s ‘The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy’ for more detailed discussions of that notion.) The Saudis, on the other hand, are “in business,” purely and simply to keep an old, corrupt, anti-social royal family in power. Neither China nor Saudi Arabia is our “friend,” but the Chinese do not pander to, support and arm our declared enemies … the Saudis do.
Still, I thought, and still believe, that selling arms to Arabs, for cold, hard cash, is good policy … so long as we stay “out of range” of our own weapons ~ remember, please, that I am opposed to Western intervention in the Middle East, even though I know the US, especially, cannot resist the temptation. I believe that a long, bloody series of revolutions, civl wars and regional wars are inevitable while the North Africans, Arabs, Iranians and West Asians sort themselves out, as they will despite our “help.”
Equally, I support free trade with China, indeed, with everyone. I believe that free(er) trade must be a core Conservative Party of Canada value, and I will not support a candidate for the leadership who is not a committed free treader. protectionism is for fools, only.
So, by all means, fellow Conservatives, let’s enjoy making Prime Minister Trudeau stew in his own juice on the contradictions between his “sunny ways” and the “peace and love” rhetoric of the 2015 campaign and the harsher realities of power, but, please, let us not lose sight of the fact that selling the LAVs (and the associated gun turrets) to Saudi Arabia is our, Conservative Party of Canada deal, and free trade with China ~ with everyone ~ is good policy, no matter who advocates it.
John Henry Temple, Lord Palmerston, perhaps the greatest of all foreign ministers, ever and anywhere, said:
Our, Canadian, interests are in making better lives for our people … we want to achieve peace and prosperity. We need to make/create and sell goods and services to others in order to be able to do that; that’s our vital interest and it is our duty, as a Conservative party, and our government’s duty (regardless of political stripe) to follow that duty, even to selling arms to odious regimes and trading with dictatorships.