Professor Roland Paris of uOttawa, is a pretty bright guy and, caveat lector, I know him slightly from a series of foreign policy talks/discussions at uOttawa that he used to run a few years ago, before he went off to do a short stint as Prime Minister Trudeau’s (much needed) foreign policy advisor. Here he is, speaking on the CBC’s Power and Politics programme, about the strained and problematic Canada-Saudi relationship. It’s worth six minutes of your time.
I agree with Professor Paris that President Trump seems to be writing blank cheques to thugs, tyrants and dictators, like Mohammed bin Salman and Vladimir Putin, suggesting that they, so long as they, unlike China, do not threaten American jobs, can attack neighbours and use murder as a policy tool. That’s not something that, I hope, most Canadians find acceptable.
I also agree with him that the United States government seems to have abandoned the notion that it was the ultimate guarantor of fairness and human rights and dignity in the world. I grew up in a world in which, I believe, most Americans saw themselves (as did the US government) as the cavalry who would arrive, just in the nick of time, perhaps, to save those who were threatened by the very thugs, tyrants and dictators that President Trump now excuses.
Roland Paris says (about 3’30”) that “we,” the West sans America, “have to take action together because there are limits to what we are able to accept.”
At about 4’20” he gets to a point that I have made before: “Canada should suspend any further deliveries of military equipment to the Saudi regime.” I, as is so often the case, go a bit farther; I believe Canada should cancel the entire order, (consisting of 700+ to almost 950 of the most advanced LAV type armoured vehicles, some ordered with 105mm guns) and, albeit not happily, pay the financial penalties that I’m sure exist in the contract. But I do not want the workers in the General Dynamics plant in London Ontario, to pay the price. Almost all of the vehicles should be built and kited out and delivered to the Canadian Army. Now, the Canadian Army does not have enough soldiers to use for or five full strength battle groups’ worth of new vehicles because the Canadian Army in 2018, thanks to cuts made by Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, Stephen Harper and, now, Justin Trudeau doesn’t have even one existing up to strength battle group and could, perhaps, make three or four by chewing up the entire regular force of three mythical, Potemkin Village type brigades. Some of the new LAVs could replace those (we bought about 650, I think) LAV IIIs that have not been upgraded to LAV 6 standard but,
in a perfect world in a country governed by a minimally responsible regime, the government of the day would use this as an opportunity to ‘grow’ that Army back to something like a force with four brigades:
- Two large mechanized brigade groups, needing something like 1,200 LAVs; and
- Two light brigade groups each needing only, perhaps, 100 LAVs each, perhaps (again) including those with the 105mm guns.
Professor Paris says, and I agree fully with him, that the “cost” of not cancelling the sale is “intolerable,” because, while foreign policy is complex and messy, “the stark decision before us is whether we stand up for the rule of law or for the law of the jungle.” I know where I want Canada to stand … but, sadly, I doubt that Justin Trudeau has much of a moral compass, I suspect that he and his PMO, which is de facto, his election campaign team, have only one thought: how will this impact the Liberal Party’s chances in the 2019 election?
Of course, I also think that (same link as above) that “There is one more specific thing that the Government of Canada should, I would argue must do: reduce Canadian dependence on Saudi oil by reversing the incredibly stupid and short-sighted decision, by Prime Minister Trudeau, to sabotage the Energy Eastpipeline ~ a decisions he made for purely partisan political reasons, to curry favour with the old-time Liberal thug (then) Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre ~ and help Trans Canada Pipelines to push it through to Atlantic Canada so that more Canadians can buy Canadian gas, refined in Canada, rather than subsidizing Mohammed bin Salman’s rogue regime. But that, I am pretty sure, will require a new Canadian government, one with adult leadership.” We need a new government with liberal values, not the current Liberal one with no values at all.
Professor Paris has it right: Canada should, on moral, legal and policy grounds, move to punish the Saudis for murdering people … it doesn’t really matter whether non-judicial murders take place at home or abroad and murdering a journalist is not worse than murdering a housewife or a domestic worker. But we should go father and do whatever we can ~ stopping arms sales and building pipelines are both good ideas ~ to distance ourselves from thugs and despots and the regimes they lead and, simultaneously, strengthen our own economy and our place in the world.