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July 31, 2006

Fair Enough

Paul Wells writes to take me to task for suggesting that he had contributed to the meme that the deaths of eight Canadians undermined Stephen Harper's claim that Israel's response to the kidnapping of its soldiers was measured. Wells writes:

My answer to the Harper/Israel point you made comes in the two sentences after the one you quoted. As I WROTE, it may well be possible to argue that Canadian deaths are a fully justifiable cost of defending Israel. But Harper didn't make that argument. He did the classic (dare I say Martin-esque) read-a-statement-and-hightail act. He may have assumed that those who agree with him on the broader question will fill in the blanks on this narrower question . . . But by refusing to address the question of dead Canadians, he looked, as I wrote, rattled.

My point was quite narrow, as most points I make on the "war on terror" are. Unlike some people at Maclean's and many, many elsewhere, I'm not into sweeping statements assigning innocence or blame to only one side or other in a war zone.

That's fair enough. I think I simply misread the paragraph in question, which read:
The G8 summit in St. Petersburg was the latest evidence that Harper is more eager to put a bold new face on Canadian foreign policy than to worry about what that face says. He called the Israelis' response to the Hezbollah attack on their soldiers "measured," just days before eight Canadian citizens were killed by that measured response. Harper may believe the loss of a Canadian family was worth it to defend Israel. You'll notice he didn't say so. He looked rattled.
My mistake came in reading into those final three sentences the implicit suggestion that Harper couldn't have argued that the loss of the Canadians was worth it to defend Israel - that such an argument would have been an absurdity. My reading was influenced in part, I think, by the choice of words - it's not quite that "the loss was worth it" as that the loss was an inevitable consequence of a justified war - but this may simply be a semantic choice, since it comes down to the same thing in the end. In any case, the mistake was mine, and I take it back.

Incidentally, as to the narrower point - that Harper was rattled and failed effectively to champion his new foreign policy position - I think I largely agree. That stems not only, I think, from the lack of a coherent foreign policy statement, but also from the difficulty of running foreign policy out of the PMO. As good a job as MacKay is doing, I think that had Harper had a foreign minister with whom he naturally saw eye to eye on these issues, and whom he could have trusted to taken the lead or at least taken a leading role in enunciating the government's position, more attention could have been dedicated to determining the nuance in that position. But that's for another post and another time.

(And incidentally, Wells notes in passing the inconvenience of having to register to comment here at Maderblog. I know it's a pain, but unfortunately it's that or no commenting at all - the spambots long ago found my little corner of the blogosphere, and left to their own devices they would clutter up all of my web-space. But those who don't want to register for yet another commenting service are always welcome to e-mail me - mader at maderblog dot com.)

Posted by David Mader at 12:42 AM | (1) | Back to Main


I haven't been following the news closely since Thursday. Tonight's big news, of course, is the bombing in Qana that left dozens dead. The Israelis now say that the deaths may have occured hours after the bombing that was alleged to have caused them. This will become one of those things endlessly debated, I think, and never resolved between partisans.

In a sense it doesn't matter, and in a sense it matters very much. It doesn't matter insofar as partisans will interpret the attack and the deaths as they prefer. It matters very much insofar as popular reaction to the bombing - and the international media has shown itself entirely willing to believe the worst about the Israeli military - may force Israel into a cease-fire.

But how much that matters is another, and perhaps an unanswerable, question. When this conflict began I predicted that the Israelis would voluntarily cease their air campaign after four or five days. Two weeks later, it's abundantly clear that I was wrong. And I must admit that I have no clear sense of what the Israelis are up to. The increasing impression is that, having created an expectation that they would do more than just give Hezbollah a black eye, they feel constrained to continue fighting until the terrorist organization is on its back. As the Israelis have found themselves engaged with a much more sophisticated foe than expected, their war efforts have expanded in scale and scope.

But at this point I'm not sure what victory is. And it's become clear that whatever possible goodwill the Israelis could have relied on in the first week of the war has more than disappeared, replaced on the part of the Lebanese people (and the Arab states) with overt hatred. I can't help but wonder whether, in retrospect, the Israelis had an opportunity in the immediate aftermath of the kidnappings to enter into an informal alliance with Beirut to squeeze Hezbollah from the north and the south at the same time - to ally the two nations against a common terrorist enemy. Perhaps it never could have happened. Perhaps it was attempted, and failed. Perhaps it would have been unnecessary, had the Israeli offensive paused after a week in order to allow Beirut to exert its authority.

But that chance is gone. The Israelis may simply continue their campaign, at great cost in lives and dollars, because world condemnation is no worse than the perpetuation of a hostile army active on their border and protected by an international political consensus. But I, for one, don't understand what they hope to achieve, at this point. I deeply regret the destruction of so much promise, and so much life, in Lebanon. And while I support Israel's right to fight, and while I understand that it may simply have had no choice but to fight, and to continue to fight, I can only hope that it continues to fight with a clear purpose and towards a clearly defined result. I can only hope.

Posted by David Mader at 12:26 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Back in Canada

And ain't it grand. Sorry for the interruption; I left D.C. on Friday, and was in Vermont for a family reunion over the weekend. (It was lovely.) I'm now on vacation, which could mean more blogging (as all I have is free time), or could mean less blogging (since I'll be, you know, doing stuff during that free time). I hope it's more rather than less.

Posted by David Mader at 12:19 AM | (0) | Back to Main

July 27, 2006

Things I Meant to Blog Tonight

Had a firm event tonight that ran late, and I'm in no state to blog at this point. Here are the items I meant to blog:

  • Marcus Gee had a strong column in Wednesday's Globe; use the Google News trick if the link doesn't work.

  • Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker similarly has a strong statement, carried by the Star, defending Israel's current offensive.

  • Andrea Yates has been found not guilty by reason of insanity, after her lawyers argued that "she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and, in a delusional state, thought Satan was inside her and was trying to save them from hell." As I've argued before, it's deeply inappropriate for a court or jury operating under the United States Constitution to declare that a religious belief is evidence of insanity. Yates should not be exonerated of her crime simply because she believed that violation of the law was compelled by a Divine force; if she knew it was against the laws of man, she should suffer the earthly consequences.

  • Stephen Harper, quickly assuming a commanding role as the world's most staunchly pro-Israel leader, challenges the UN to explain why it did not act to evacuate peacekeepers manning a station in the very middle of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. Harper dismissed almost out of hand UN SecGen Kofi Annan's suggstion that Israel had deliberately targetted the UN post, although the Prime Minister did express interest in the results of an Israeli inquiry into the bombing.
That's it for tonight; apologies.

Posted by David Mader at 12:05 AM | (0) | Back to Main

July 26, 2006

On Israeli Intelligence

This Reuters story offers a possible explanation for the unease that I have - and that many share - regarding Israel's strategic bombing decisions:

Israel’s spy services are scrambling to make up for a lack of intelligence on Lebanon that has hindered an offensive against Hizbollah guerrillas, senior security sources said on July 24.

They said Israel now realizes, after 13 days of shelling that have killed more than 370 people, mostly civilians, but failed to crush Hizbollah or free two snatched soldiers, that its withdrawal from south Lebanon six years ago left it blind.

"From an intelligence standpoint, 2000 was Year Zero for us," a security source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. . . .

In Beirut, more than 20 people have been arrested on charges of marking buildings for Israeli bombing runs, Lebanese security sources said. If the detainees are indeed spies, the apparent ease of their detection and arrest could indicate they were rushed into action by their handlers. Israel had no comment. . . .

During the occupation of south Lebanon, the Shin Bet had a leading role in gathering intelligence -- both by interrogating suspected Hizbollah detainees and by placing undercover case officers who would recruit and regularly debrief informers. . . .

"Since the Israeli Defence Forces left Lebanon, most of the intelligence was collected by Military Intelligence and Mossad," ex-Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon said in a television interview.

According to security sources, the change had a price. Military Intelligence has a small field espionage unit and relies largely on electronic surveillance -- the kind that a tight-knit militia like Hizbollah can often elude.

As for the foreign spy service Mossad, its forte in recent years has been tracking down individuals on Israel’s wanted list or recruiting government-level informers, rather than gathering comprehensive information on guerrilla capabilities.

Once again, a move away from human intelligence has hurt the military capabilities of one of the world's foremost military powers. Let's hope this is the last time we have to learn this lesson.

Let's also hope that Israel's reevaluation regarding its intelligence capacities will lead to a reevaluation of its bombing strategy. I'm not saying they've been in error, or that they can't continue to do what they've been doing - I'm saying only that if they do continue to do what they've been doing, they be sure why they're doing it.

Posted by David Mader at 12:43 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Tough Questions Watch

In the course of a story reporting the Prime Minister's refusal to consider a Canadian contribution to an eventual international peacekeeping force in Southern Lebanon - which is a real shame, incidentally, and something that I'd much rather see blamed on necessity and our underfunded and undermanned military than any sort of desire for a 'regional solution' - the Star reports that the Boss is starting to ask those difficult questions:

Harper also said the government intends to look closely at the rights and responsibilities of dual Canadian citizens.

Some politicians and Lebanese evacuees have contended that long-standing Lebanese residents with Canadian citizenship were taking advantage of Canadian evacuation efforts.

Glad to see the PMO addressing these issues - though it's still important that there be a full and frank discussion of the difficult questions in the public sphere. The Globe's Jeffrey Simpson is doing his part [if the link doesn't work, look it up on Google News:
We seem to believe that, because a person carries a Canadian passport, that person thinks of himself as a Canadian and has an absolute right to assistance from the Canadian government while outside Canada. Both beliefs are false, and potentially dangerous.

It is worth at least asking whether we have made the acquisition of Canadian citizenship so easy -- divorcing it, once acquired, from residence in the country -- that we have spawned legions of citizens of convenience. . . .

All this is to suggest that a gap can arise between the legal realities of being a dual national and the obligations and expectations of Canada, especially in times of crisis.

Good, tough questions. Keep asking 'em.

Posted by David Mader at 12:35 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Politics of the 'Even Split'

The Hill Times has an interesting piece on the potential political fallout of Harper's position on Israel/Lebanon. As I note below, I don't think Harper has to worry all that much on this account; still, it's interesting to see how the various interested parties spin the potential fallout.

As interesting as the article itself, I think, is a list of ridings in which the Muslim and/or Arab vote has a significant relationship to the partisan vote differential in the last election. The implication is that - provided all Muslim/Arab voters vote against the Tories - Harper's Israel stance may cost him Tory seats with significant Muslim/Arab populations, and prevent him from picking up similar Grit, NDP, and Bloc seats.

Here's the thing - well, two things - : First, of the sixty-five ridings listed as having a potentially significant Muslim/Arab population, only eleven are held by Tories. While there may be some ridings with big Muslim/Arab populations that also had wide vote differentials, I'm willing to bet that most of the sizable Muslim/Arab ridings are to be found on the list. That being the case, it's not unreasonable to assume that Harper wasn't getting the Arab/Muslim vote even before he took his current stance on Israel.

Second, and as a related matter, assuming that there are Arab/Muslim votes to be lost in Grit/NDP/Bloc ridings, these vote switches will be significant only to the degree that they are not offset by switches in the opposite direction. Now I have absolutely no faith in the organized Canadian Jewish community to shift its Liberal voting patters in response to Harper's sincere commitment to the security of the State of Israel - but that's for another post. I do wonder, though, whether the polls don't suggest the possibility of winning over non-Jewish Canadian voters. At the very least, the Ipsos finding fundamentally challenges the notion that Harper's position is necessarily a political liability. The math doesn't add up.

UPDATE: There's a third thing, too - the strong pro-Israel stance taken by many Grits. Depending on who wins the Liberal leadership, Arab/Muslim voters angry at Harper may confront a Liberal Party that does not differ, at least rhetorically, with the Conservative government's position. (Years of Liberal governance give reason to question strong Liberal declarations of support for Israel, but let's take everyone at his word.) That being the case, these voters - who generally fall more squarely in the Grit than the Tory camp - may end up voting NDP. This might well have the effect of weakening the Grit rather than the Tory vote in ridings where the loss of such votes could make a deciding difference.

Posted by David Mader at 12:24 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Canadians Support Harper

In case you missed my update yesterday, the National Post has published a more comprehensive report of the Ipsos poll on the Israeli-Lebanese situation that I'd noted. Here's the crux of it:

Almost two in three Canadians believe Israel's military action in Lebanon is justified, a new poll has revealed. The survey, conducted online by Ipsos Reid for CanWest News Service and Global National, found 64% of Canadians believed Israel's action is either somewhat or completely justified. . . . When asked which side should compromise in order to secure a ceasefire, 63% of Canadians said it was "those who kidnapped the Israeli soldiers," while 53% of Quebecers said it was the Israeli government.
These numbers - unreported by the Gazette in the story I'd linked to - cast quite a bit more light on the political findings. Unfortunately the Post, like the Gazette, manages to flub those findings:
Asked about the appropriateness of the Conservative government's position on the Middle East hostilities, poll respondents were evenly split.

Ipsos Reid said 45% agreed Mr. Harper's position is "fair and balanced and completely appropriate," while 44% said it is "decidedly too pro-Israel and is not appropriate." Eleven per cent said the Prime Minister has not supported Israel strongly enough.

As commenter TheWeeScot noted, these numbers are 'evenly split' only if you disregard the 11% who found Harper's support for Israel inadequate. But you can't just disregard 10% of your poll result. The question - do you support Harper's position - elicited three responses: no; yes; and yes but.

I say "yes but" rather than "no but" because it seems irrefutable that those who think that Harper has been insufficiently pro-Israel would prefer his current position (that favored by 45% of respondents) to any less-supportive stance (as favored by 44% of respondents). So if we're looking at absolute answers rather than degrees, you have to group the yes responses together. That gives you 56% yes/yes but to 44% no.

Ah, you say, but 56/44 is pretty close to 50/50, which is an even split. That's true; but this goes, I think, to one's frame of reference. If Harper's policy is expected to enjoy the support of 100% of Canadians, then a 56/44 split can rightly be considered even. But should a Harper policy - any Harper policy - be expected to enjoy anything close to such support? Consider that at the last general election Harper's Conservatives won 36% of the popular vote, and that the latest SES poll had the Tories at 38% support. Even if every Tory voter also supported Harper's position on Israel, then, the Ipsos poll suggests that something in the neighborhood of 20% of respondents were non-Tory voters but nevertheless supported the Prime Minister's policy.

If that's not remarkable enough for you, consider this: if Harper had the kind of support at the ballot that he had in this poll, he'd be looking at a two hundred seat majority.

Even split indeed.

Posted by David Mader at 12:03 AM | (1) | Back to Main


Speaking of flip-flopping, have you notices that when Canadians are killed in Lebanon they're referred to in the news media as "Canadians," but that when Canadians are killed in Israel they're referred to as "Canadian-born?"

As far as I'm aware, if you're born a Canadian, you remain a Canadian. Perhaps we ought to strip citizenship for entry into a foreign army - but do we?

UPDATE: In the comments, Kelly suggests that I may be seeing a bogeyman, and I think he may be right. I'll keep a more careful eye out; in the meantime, if you've noticed the trend I suggest - or the opposite - let me know.

Posted by David Mader at 12:00 AM | (3) | Back to Main

July 25, 2006

Just a Patsy?

Walking down Connecticut Avenue this evening after work I was treated to the spectacle of a marvelous motorcade racing by, carrying Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki (and perhaps an American official or two) from the White House to the Iraqi embassy, which is just off Dupont Circle. I know this will only confirm my new-to-DC status (and just as my summer here ends, too), but, well, it was pretty cool.

Anyway, I then got home to read that Maliki and President Bush had - gasp! - disagreed over the situation in Lebanon:

Mr. Maliki’s refusal to condemn Hezbollah has created an awkward situation for the White House.

“His statements are troubling,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader, said today. “They raise serious questions about whether Iraq, which is supposed to be our ally, can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East.”

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, said he hoped to hear Mr. Maliki condemn terrorism by Hezbollah as well as terrorism in Iraq when he addresses Congress on Wednesday. “That sort of condemnation should be the beginning of our dialogue, and the beginning of our relationship with his government,” Mr. Durbin said.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he was disappointed in Mr. Maliki. “Does he condemn Hezbollah?” Mr. Schumer asked. “After all, other Arab countries have. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt have distanced themselves from Hezbollah.

“Well, what the heck are we doing if the prime minister, who’s supposed to be an ally, refuses to condemn a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, that is not only causing the lives of Israelis to be lost but has killed Americans?”

Now don't get me wrong - I agree with these gentlemen, and I'm glad to see the Democrats finally growing out of their foreign-policy short pants. But does anyone else recall that time - not too distant, I think - when it was de rigeur on the political left to dismiss the new Iraqi government as an artificial imposition of the US government, a patsy regime that would only ever be seen as an imposter by Iraqis and other regional actors?

The rule appears to be: when the Iraqi government supports US policy, it's just a patsy; but when it disagrees, it's evidence of a deep and dangerous split.

Posted by David Mader at 11:53 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Violence - II

You really can't make this stuff up:

NOBEL peace laureate Betty Williams displayed a flash of her feisty Irish spirit yesterday, lashing out at US President George W.Bush during a speech to hundreds of schoolchildren. [Oh, those fiesty Irish -- Mader]

"I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence', because I don't believe that I am non-violent," said Ms Williams, 64.

"Right now, I would love to kill George Bush." . . .

"I don't know how I ever got a Nobel Peace Prize, because when I see children die the anger in me is just beyond belief. It's our duty as human beings, whatever age we are, to become the protectors of human life."

Ummmmmmmmmm so let me get this straight: it's our duty as humans to protect human life, and sometimes that will legitimize the use of force.


Kill Bush? This woman should be voting for him.

Posted by David Mader at 11:48 PM | (0) | Back to Main


Chris Hitchens has a long, rambling, but ultimately interesting piece in the Weekly Standard reviewing a recent book on Allied area bombings during World War II. The core issues are rather pertinent:

And [Dresden] was a city that had always repudiated the Nazi party. Some say that Dresden was not really a military target and that it was obliterated mainly in order to impress Joseph Stalin (perhaps not a notably fine war aim) while others--Frederick Taylor most recently--argue that Dresden was indeed a hub city for Hitler's armies, and that doing a service to a wartime ally is part of the strategic picture in any case.

This leaves us with a somewhat arid and suspect antithesis: Were these bombings war crimes, and if so, were they justified on the grounds that they shortened the duration of the criminal war itself? [. . .]

Suppose we leave these moral qualms to one side for a minute, even though their suppression would potentially license anything, from torture to genocide, if it "worked." The simple question would then become: Did it work?

Military victory, in the simplest terms, involves destroying the enemy's capacity to make war against you. When the enemy's chief strength is military, destruction of his military capacity will result in victory - think Waterloo. When the enemy's military is sustained by his economic infrastructure, victory on the battlefield will not suffice, and victory will require the destruction of the economic infrastructure that keeps his army in the field - think Sherman's march to the sea.

But what if the enemy's chief strength is not military or economic but philosophical and ideological? Victory under such conditions, it seems to me, will require one of two things: the ideological conversion of the enemy's supporters, or their destruction.

Islamism's chief strength is philosophical and ideological. The neoconservative project of transforming the middle east through the introduction of representative government was designed to convert Islamism's adherents, in large part by robbing its facilitators of their power. But what if, as many are beginning to suggest, the neoconservative project has failed? What if victory through ideological conversion is impossible? What then?

Those who see in Iraq and now Lebanon the failure of the neoconservative project must squarely address this question. Can ideological conversion be affected otherwise than through democratic transformation? If not, can victory only be achieved through the destruction - the actual, physical destruction - of the propagators of Islamism? If so, can we take even the slightest step towards that end without utterly compromising our own morality? If not, will our morality be our downfall?

Or, to put it more comfortably: how can we defeat an ideological movement committed to the destruction of western democracy without compromising the moral order upon which western democracy rests?

Posted by David Mader at 11:28 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Go Go Go Joseph

The pride of Texas takes a deposition.

Money quote: "Are you threatening to fight?"

Posted by David Mader at 11:22 PM | (0) | Back to Main

July 24, 2006


Bad but unsurprising news on the global trade front: the latest round of free trade negotiations under the auspices of the WTO has collapsed as the world's main trading powers have failed to come to any agreement on reducing agricultural and industrial subsidies and tariffs.

This is a really remarkable issue that highlights, in a particular way, the weaknesses of democratic and undemocratic government alike. A majority of the world's citizens and, I'm willing to bet, a majority of the citizens in any given country pay for the current illiberal trade regime. Citizens in rich countries pay higher prices at the counter; citizens in poor countries pay much more dearly, having the world's markets shut to their agricultural products. And yet there's no political will to tear down trade barriers. In the rich countries, agricultural interests demonize trade liberalization and buy off legislators; in poor countries, tyrants see no benefit in opening the doors to foreign corporations that will quickly supplant the local autarchs in the hearts and minds of the local populace.

And so it goes. And I don't see any way forward, at this point. The best we can realistically do, I think, is to follow the path marked by Trade Minister David Emerson by entering into far more bilateral agreements. The pursuit of more and more bilats by more and more nations will eventually create a web of free trade that, if not quite global, will perhaps be as comprehensive as can be hoped. And maybe, after all that's the right way to do it - not through some utopian one-world negotiation body, but through individual agreements between individual countries.

Of course the best option would be to unilaterally end subsidies and tariffs, but good luck winning an election on that.

Posted by David Mader at 09:17 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Let Alone

This is a grammar post - I know, snoozerama. Proceed at your own risk. The New York Times writes:

There has been strong verbal support for such a force in public, but also private concerns that soldiers would be seen as allied to Israel and would have to fight Hezbollah guerrillas who do not want foreigners, let alone the Lebanese Army, coming between themselves and the Israelis.
It seems to me they've constructed the sentence backwards. I understand "let alone" in this context to mean something like "to say nothing of." I think what the author here means to say is that Hezbollah opposes the deployment of even the Lebanese army, so they'd certainly oppose an international force made up of non-Lebanese soldiers. But if that's the case, the sentence should read:
. . . would have to fight Hezbollah guerrillas who do not want even the Lebanese Army, let alone foreigners, coming between themselves and the Israelis.
Am I right? Or do I misunderstand the use of "let alone?"

Posted by David Mader at 09:08 PM | (0) | Back to Main


What a remarkable bit of media spin in the Gazette this morning. Canadian readers will likely have heard of an Ipsos-Reid poll that was reported by the Montreal Gazette to have found - I quote the headline - that "Half Think Harper Too Pro-Israel."

Sounds ominous. Sounds like Harper has made a political blunder. Until you actually, you know, look at the poll results.

45 per cent agree Harper's position is "fair and balanced and completely appropriate," while 44 per cent say it is "decidedly too pro-Israel and is not appropriate." Eleven per cent say he has not supported Israel strongly enough.
In other words, fifty-six percent of Canadians either agree with Harper's stance or want him to be more pro-Israel. Now I've never been that strong at my maths, but I'm pretty sure that fifty-six percent is more than half.

And you know it would be a little more understandable if the Canadians who "think Harper too pro-Israel" represented a plurality of those polled. But they don't; more Canadians support Harper's Israel policy than oppose it as too pro-Israel.

Where would the Gazette draw the line? Is there any reason to believe, in other words, that a poll finding 75%/25% support for Harper's stance would be reported as finding that "a full one quarter of Canadians polled oppose Stephen Harper's Israel policy"? After all, a majority already back Harper. After that, isn't it just a question of degree?

But one needn't go that far to conclude that the Gazette has indulged in a shameful bit of anti-Harper spin here. To have taken the most pro-Israel position of any world leader and to enjoy the support of more than fifty percent of Canadians polled on the issue is nothing short of remarkable. It takes a particularly petty and dishonest political slant to turn that fact into an allegation of political mistake.

UPDATE (08:53 EDT 7/25/06): That's more like it.

Posted by David Mader at 08:49 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Liberty and Justice

Three cheers for Justice David Marshall, who's taken the OPP to task for its failure to enforce his order that the illegal protest in Caledonia be broken up.

Marshall says his orders have been blatantly disregarded and the integrity of the court and rule of law are under attack.

"This is a matter at the very heart of the administration of justice," Marshall said in court.

"If court orders can be disregarded the whole fabric of democracy falls to pieces."

Quite right. As the judge says, the failure of the executive to enforce the orders of the judiciary fundamentally undermines the Montesquieuvean notion of tripartite free government.

But the situation in Caledonia presents another, deeper challenge to our notions of democracy. The fundamental enlightenment justification for government of any sort, as noted in the American Declaration of Independence, is the security of individual rights. That doesn't mean that we all get whatever we want whenever we want it; rather, it means, at the most basic level, that when one's rights are threatened, the state will provide a neutral forum and a neutral arbiter in order that the conflict be adjudicated and justice done.

In a democracy, then, if you feel you've been wronged, you go to court. Canada is blessed to be the heir of a thousand years of rulemaking, and it is this tradition of rulemaking - and the domestic tranquility it allows and encourages - that have given the people of the common-law world such economic and societal success over the centuries.

The protests in Caledonia challenge this judicial institution, and through it they challenge our domestic tranquility. I think that if most of us became embroiled in a property dispute, we would turn to the courts. These protesters have rejected the courts. To secure what they see as their rights they have taken up arms and used force. They have, in the most immediate way, rejected the liberty-surrendering compromise that allows for organized government. They have left the body politic - or perhaps they believe they never joined. Either way, the message is the same: they reject the authority of the crown, and deny the force of Canadian law.

That's a challenge to the rule of law every bit as serious as the failure of the OPP to follow the orders of the judicial branch. Happily, the remedy is the same. The police must enforce the law, as interpreted by the judiciary, and must remove these violent usurpers in order to restore Canadian sovereignty over all of Canada and over all Canadians. Because if the rule of law breaks down in Caledonia, it breaks down everywhere.

Posted by David Mader at 08:28 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Targetting Civilians?

The Times of London makes the troubling allegation that an Israeli airstrike specifically targetted a civilian convoy travelling north out of the area designated a 'buffer zone' by Israel.

The narrow roads that meander through the valleys and undulating chalky hills east of Tyre were a place of terror and death yesterday as Israeli helicopters attacked civilian vehicles fleeing Israel’s 11-day onslaught in south Lebanon. . . .

[T]he evidence yesterday suggested that cars were being attacked regardless of their occupants and direction of travel.

The article itself demonstrates only that civilian vehicles were hit, not that they were targetted, but the very fact they were hit suggests one of two alternatives: one, that there were legitimate military targets nearby that the Times simply does not mention, or two, that the civilian vehicles were indeed targeted. I think Occam's Razor requires us to accept the latter explanation.

I very much hope the Israeli military explains their actions in this instance, and goes without saying that the intentional targetting of civilian vehicles is deplorable and inexcusable.

Posted by David Mader at 08:20 PM | (0) | Back to Main

July 23, 2006

"If I Was President, This Wouldn't Have Happened"

He actually said that. He actually said that!

Oh please, please, nominate him again.

Posted by David Mader at 11:28 PM | (3) | Back to Main

More Tough Questions

This time from George Jonas:

[A] news clip showing what looks like a group of dual-citizenship Canadians yelling at a single-citizenship Canadians for not rescuing them fast enough, seems incongruous: incongruous, and not very pretty. It also makes one wonder if that decision in 1977 to permit polygamous citizenship -- not too sound under the best of circumstances -- shouldn't be considered barking mad in this volatile world of shifting alliances and international terror.
Read the whole thing, if you haven't yet.

Posted by David Mader at 11:09 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Inadvertant Hilarity Watch

Haroon Siddiqui, editor emeritus at the Toronto Star:

The Israeli military offensive on Lebanon that [Harper] considered "measured" has been condemned by no less a moral authority than Louise Arbour . . . .
No less!

Siddiqui's column is in fact a fascinating look into the mind of a contemporary anti-Zionist. Israel is to blame for the emergence of Hezbollah, a group worthy of plaudits for its "honesty;" Israel is hypocritical in failing to live up to UN resolutions calling for its withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, never mind the fact that Israel withdrew from Gaza last year; best of all, the Iranian supply of missiles to Hezbollah is comparable to "the supply of far more lethal U.S. armaments to Israel, with the licence to use them indiscriminately, which is what the current debate on Lebanon is all about."

Well, at least it's creative.

Posted by David Mader at 08:18 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Interesting Developments in British Politics

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague goes wobbly on Israel. Spectator editor Mathew d'Ancona says it simply shows Hague to be of the old guard.

Posted by David Mader at 05:48 PM | (0) | Back to Main

July 22, 2006

Expressing Views Openly, Redux

Needless to say, I strongly agree.

My mom, not simply tickled to have been mentioned, was altogether pleased. She had written to Mr. Dewar, among others, to urge support for the Prime Minister's stand. I still don't know whether the e-mail she received back was a fully personalized response, or whether Dewar's office had drafted a form response. While she was disappointed by Dewar's position, I think she was gratified to have received a response - that's why she had written, after all. But, having in her hand a declaration on the sitaution by her MP, she didn't quite know what to do. She forwarded it to me and to others, with the comment: "I guess we shouldn't be surprised, but..."

I hesitated for about half a minute before posting it; I hesitated because I feared that Dewar might - if he ever learned of it - consider it a betrayal of a personal correspondence. My mother didn't suggest that I post it, and I asked her only after the fact. But I decided that, of all communications, an MP's correspondence with his constituent has a fundamentally public character.

But - again, if the Dewar people are aware of this blog's role in having his name appear in Coyne's column today - I worry that, having been burned, the MP will be more reluctant in the future to respond to e-mails from constituents.

I think that would be a real shame. Open discussion of contentious issues is, as Dewar himself noted in his first letter, a fundamental aspect of our notion of free government, perhaps especially when it comes to our MPs. More carefully considering positions on contentious issues; checking with the party to see if there's an approved tone or line - these are lessons that should be learned. But, much as I think it was important to highlight the position of the member for Ottawa-Centre, I would regret having played any part in making him less willing to correspond, openly, with his constituents. I hope he won't be; and I hope he and his staff know that he'll always get a fair hearing at Maderblog, and that on this issue particularly I'm happy to give him a venue to declare or clarify his public position.

As I say, though, my mother was quite pleased to see Mr. Dewar's position highlighted in today's paper. "This is what I wanted," she said, "to let people know where he stood. I just didn't know how to do it." For that, Mr. Coyne, she thanks you.

Posted by David Mader at 10:50 PM | (0) | Back to Main

July 21, 2006

My Concern

My fundamental concern is that the Israeli counter-attack is not as effective as might be hoped. British sources have expressed skepticism over Israeli claims that fifty percent of Hezbollah's rocket-firing capacity had been destroyed; this report seems to corroborate the general fear that Israeli strikes are not having the intended effect. It's also not at all clear how much planning has been involved in the selection of targets for air-strike; David Ignatius writes in today's WaPo:

Some Bush administration officials share Siniora's concern about the scope of Israeli attacks. These officials are said not to understand Israeli targeting decisions. The administration is understood to have communicated this concern to Jerusalem.
Note that this is different from suggesting that the Israelis are targetting civilians or civilian infrastructure; rather, it's questioning whether the selection of military or dual-use infrastructure evinces any sort of coherent plan, or simply reflects a design to destroy any and all military targets in Lebanon.

My first instinct is to trust that the Israeli military does have a particular plan of action, and there have been recent suggestions that the Israelis are simply implementing a battle plan prepared well in advance of the hostage-taking, a plan that envisaged a couple of weeks of bombing followed by a ground invasion. And of course in the fog of war it's always difficult to figure out just what is going on.

But that's my concern.

UPDATE (22:15 EDT 7/22/06]: More, this time American, doubts as to the efficacy of the Israeli air war.

Posted by David Mader at 05:50 PM | (1) | Back to Main

July 20, 2006

Who Are They?

Say what you will about Garth Turner - now, now, try to keep it polite - but he has a knack for making good points:

Conservative MP Garth Turner said the Canadians with two passports are not "accidental tourists" and taxpayers might question the cost.

A Liberal MP agreed, saying priority should be given to Canadians who were only visiting Lebanon when Israel began air attacks. . . .

"If the figure of 40,000 is true, there have to be a substantial number who are dual citizens who are living in Lebanon full time," said Mr. Turner. "I think all voters and taxpayers would be a little bit concerned about the fact that we are offering transport to these people from a region they voluntarily went to. It's not like they're accidental tourists."

Mr. Turner said the costly exercise raises the question of whether the government has the responsibility of removing people who are not resident citizens in Canada and added, "I think there's a strong argument to say no."

The point is that the evacuation from Lebanon raises fascinating questions about Canadian citizenship and identity. Consider this tidbit from a Globe story:
One of the initial problems [with the evacuation] was that people arrived at the port without the proper documents or there would be one Canadian citizen trying to bring others who were not citizens of this country with them.
Emphasis mine. In other words, you'd have a Canadian showing up at the port with his Lebanese wife and Lebanese kids, wanting to ship the family to Canada.

At the end of the day, I don't think you can rank citizens according to domicile - would Turner make the same point regarding Canadians living in England? In the U.S.? What about Canadians studying abroad? What's the line between casual tourism and residence? It seem to me that once you've handed out a passport, the deal's closed.

But Turner's suggestion raises a broader point about dual citizenship. Namely, is it a legitimate construction? The Americans generally don't allow it, although they don't give Canadians a hard time. But the Lebanese situation - and especially the family scenario I suggest above - illustrates the difficulty of the practice. The difficulty can be manifest in a number of ways. If an immigrant comes to Canada and obtains citizenship through the 'traditional' process (I'd be interested to see how many actually go through the whole process), but then returns to his country of origin and takes up residence there, should that be considered an effective renunciation of his citizenship? Should he at least forfeit a claim of right on the government to remove him from his once-and-current home when circumstances make it inhospitable? And how much stronger is the argument when the citizen in question has never lived in Canada?

These are difficult questions, I think, and it would be very healthy for Canadians to address them - although I fear the question would, in the current context, be burdened with considerations of race and xenophobia. But there are more practical considerations attendant on the Lebanese evacuation. For instance, are officials sure that every individual who borded a 'Canadian' vessel was in fact Canadian? Will all the Canadians be processed upon arrival in Canada? And what about those Canadians who have been domiciled in Lebanon for some years, and who have no residence in Canada? Where will they go? Is the government expected to provide for their welfare until they are able to establish themsleves? Should the goverment be expected to provide for their welfare until they establish themselves?

Again, not easy questions, but somewhat more practical, and somewhat more conducive to rapid consideration and conclusion. I'm not quite sure where I come out, although I have my leanings, which I'm sure are clear. Where do other people stand? Is a Canadian always a Canadian?

UPDATE (08:48 EDT 7/21/06): The Toronto Sun asks the hard questions.

UPDATE (18:49 EDT 7/21/06): The Star reports an example of the difficult questions in action:
For one young London, Ont., mother, the dockside choice was stark: Stay in Beirut with her 14-month-old son, or hand him to the strangers ferrying Canadians out of Lebanon.

Yesterday, Canadian officials in Beirut told the woman — a landed immigrant who holds permanent resident status — that her Canadian-born son could board a departing boat, but that she must stay behind, the woman's husband says.

Posted by David Mader at 10:40 PM | (3) | Back to Main


I think it's too late to nip this meme in the bud, alas, but it's worth a shot. Paul Wells writes today:

[Harper] called the Israelis' response to the Hezbollah attack on their soldiers "measured," just days before eight Canadian citizens were killed by that measured response.
Similarly, Don Martin writes:
The move helps Harper defray the Arab backlash to his unfortunately timed comments last weekend that Israel's counterattack on Lebanon was a "measured" response, a quote delivered just hours before eight vacationing Canadians were killed by an Israeli bomb.
The meme is that the deaths of eight Canadians in an Israeli airstrike undermined the Prime Minister's suggestion that the Israeli response was measured.

But did it, really? Surely the mere fact that the dead were Canadian wouldn't change whether or not the Israeli response was measured; Canadian lives aren't more precious than Lebanese lives, quite a few of which had been lost prior to the bombing in question. If the Canadian deaths undermined Harper's statement, then, it must have been because the deaths of civilians in general belies the notion that the military response was measured - and that the deaths of the Canadians simply brought that truth home.

But again, is it really a truth? Consider this, from the staunchly pro-Israel BBC:
The 1949 Geneva Conventions aimed to end attacks purely or mainly against civilians, a tactic used heavily in World War II. Article 51 of the First Protocol to the 1949 agreements states: "The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack."

Article 52 adds: "Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives..."

Therefore, there is a war crime if civilians are specifically attacked as civilians. However, it is different if they are killed as a result of a strike against a military or a "dual-use" target.

Precautions to minimise casualties should be taken and one argument is about whether such precautions have been sufficient.

Indiscriminate attacks that target a wide area just to hit a few objectives or which hit military and civilian targets "without distinction" are outlawed by Article 51.

In other words, international law (such as it is) is designed to minimize civilian deaths - to minimize, but not to prohibit categorically. Implicit in the international law approach is the recognition that civilians may, and often will, be killed in the course of entirely legitimate military strike - even a strike against a target that could have a legitimate civilian use.

The notion that civilian deaths show the Israeli response not to be measured is premised on the notion that civilian deaths are never justifiable. Certainly civilian deaths are deplorable, and international law quite properly demands that combatants make every resonable effort to minimize such casualties. But international law also recognizes what many commentators seem not to recognize - that death, including civilian death, is attendant to war. If the war is legitimate, and the particular attacks are legitimate - which is to say, if they target legitimate military or dual-use targets and are designed to minimize civilian casualties - then the civilian deaths which result, while tragic and lamented, are nonetheless justifiable.

We've tried to outlaw war before. It didn't work. The best we can hope to do is to wage war in as humane a way as possible. But the effort, which reflects the heights of human compassion, rests on a terrible tension - because war is a manifestation of the very opposite of human compassion. By not giving in to our most warlike instincts, we maintain our humanity. But we do not give in to those instincts when we accept the terrible reality of war. One day we'll lay down our arms, and know war no more.

We're not there yet.

UPDATE (00:10 EDT): Maclean's has a different approach. From the leader in the print edition:
While Israel is morally obliged to do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties, responsibility for the deaths lies primarily with the instigators and their abettors on the Lebanese side of the border. In the initial days of this round of fighting, Prime Minister Stephen Harper characterized the Israeli response to Hezbollah's aggressions as "measured." His remark has attracted derision as the bombs continue to drop. Harper was indeed off the mark. The response was not measured. Unfortunately, it was not unwarranted.

Posted by David Mader at 10:21 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Everybody's Backtracking

Paul Dewar's not alone. Ottawa-Orleans MPP Phil McNeely was a bit too candid in expressing his views on the war:

Ottawa-Orleans MPP Phil McNeely yesterday called Israel a "rogue state," and said the federal government should apologize to Canadians for its support of the Jewish state's "collective punishment" of the people in Gaza and Lebanon. . . .

A few hours later, Mr. McNeely offered an apology.

"Recently I have made comments with respect to the current situation in the Middle East, which were inappropriate. I apologize for the language of my comments and sincerely regret the hurt they have caused," he said in a statement. "I recognize that the challenges faced in the Middle East are complex and longstanding. During this time of tension, it is even more important for everyone to remain respectful of each other, which I failed to do."

To his credit, Premier McGuinty immediately distanced the Liberal Party from McNeely's comments. These knee-jerk reactions are telling, though, aren't they?

Posted by David Mader at 10:18 PM | (0) | Back to Main

July 19, 2006


CP: Harper Meets French President Chirac; Gets Condolence Call From Israeli Leader

[Hat tip: Taranto]

Posted by David Mader at 11:26 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Sommerville on Gay Marriage

This fascinating interview with ethicist Margaret Somerville is a couple of weeks old but certainly worth a full read. Money quote:

It's a big mistake to think marriage is really about two adults' public commitment to each other and a declaration of their love: it's really essentially about constructing a family. I know my views are very hurtful to some people who feel very strongly about this, and I regret having to hurt them. And I must admit it was not my original stance, which came much more from looking at the situation of gay people. I think they are a vulnerable group that has had horrible discrimination against them, and I can see that same-sex marriage, the inclusiveness of that, is one way that you could ensure that the discrimination stopped. So that, for me, is a big argument in favour of same-sex marriage. But then you look at another vulnerable group -- children -- and to protect them in a way that they should be protected, I think we can't have same-sex marriage. We can have civil unions, which I realize is not what gay people want, but I think it can stop discrimination, give them protections and rights they absolutely must have. That's the sort of thing we do in ethics when we've got two competing sets of values. You look for the least invasive, least restrictive alternative, one that's reasonably available and likely to be effective to achieve the goals you want. So that would be, for me, civil unions, and keep marriage as a man and a woman.
Somerville makes the eminently reasonable point that we have absolutely no idea how the legalization and proliferation of gay marriage will impact our society over the coming generations. She and I differ on the legitimate politico-legal response to this fact - I don't think the possible risks alone can justify non-recognition of same sex marriage, real though I think they are - but I think she does a great service in making the point. It is simply impossible to declare, as many proponents of gay marriage do, that recognition will have either no impact or a necessarily positive impact on society. We don't know what it will do. Those who support recognition must support it in spite of its risks.

Posted by David Mader at 11:04 PM | (8) | Back to Main


Paul Dewer backpedals:

I recently wrote to you regarding the situation in Israel and would like to clarify a couple of points.

First, I have unwavering support for the right for Israel to defend itself as a sovereign democratic state.

Second, the actions of Hamas and of Hezbollah are criminal and the Israel soldiers that have been kidnapped must be returned unharmed. My initial email to you did not clearly indicate my abhorrence of the use of violence by the members of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Finally, I sincerely hope that Canada can play a role in brokering a ceasefire that will bring and end to loss of innocent lives in both countries. NDP leader Jack Layton has called upon Prime Minister Harper to offer Canada’s support for a UN peacekeeping force to be deployed to the Middle East. In addition, NDP Foreign Affairs and International Development Critic Alexa McDonough wrote Minister of Foreign Affairs MacKay expressing the NDP’s outrage at the Conservative government’s response to the destruction levelled by Israel on the innocent civilians in Gaza and Lebanon.

See, now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

Interesting that even the NDP is hewing back towards the center - a center that Harper has managed to define further to the right than any Canadian center in the past decade. Dewar and the NDP appear to be learning to play the new field.

But their knee-jerk response is still telling.

Posted by David Mader at 10:31 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Is the Job Getting Done?

The (real) Times raises a troubling question regarding the efficacy of the Israeli strikes. Needless to say, the deaths of civilians - always deplorable - are justifiable only as long as the attacks in which they happen to be killed are justifiable. I presume - and hope - the IDF has the wisdom to understand that, notwithstanding political pressure.

Posted by David Mader at 09:57 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Graham on Harper on Israel

What to make of this statement by interim Liberal leader Bill Graham?

Interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham criticized the Conservative government Tuesday for its quick decision to side with Israel over the conflict in Lebanon and its slow response to the plight of Canadians trapped by the fighting.

"Canada has always been able to act as an intermediary, but we can only serve in that useful role if both in our comportment and our actions we take steps and stances which enable us to play that role," said the former foreign affairs minister. . . .

Graham also suggested that the government's stance could make it harder to get Canadians out of dangerous areas.

"You can't discuss and negotiate peace with people (Hezbollah) that you have labelled as terrorists."

Is Graham saying that he doesn't consider Hezbollah a terrorist group? The only other way to read the final sentence is as a declaration of support for Harper's position - that there can be no negotiation with terrorists. But the thrust of the article is that Graham disagrees with Harper's approach. That seems to leave the first option: that Graham does not think Hezbollah is a terrorist group.

Hezbollah was added to the Canadian list of "known entities" - or terrorist organizations - on December 20, 2002.

On December 20, 2002, Bill Graham was the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Posted by David Mader at 06:11 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Canadian Deaths

Did you know that one of the soldiers killed last Wednesday immediately following the kidnappings on the Lebanese border was in fact Canadian? I didn't know that.

The Globe story also contains this interesting piece of information:

When the Israeli's air raids hit their ancestral town of Aytaroun, the family hid in a cellar. But the house collapsed after a bomb went off nearby.
Interesting, I say, because while I haven't seen any explicit accusations there seems to be a general inference that civilians are being targetted by the Israeli air force. That appears definitively not to be the case here.

Now that may or may not matter; a commenter over at Kelly's place seems to find it immaterial. Certainly civilian deaths are to be lamented however they occur.

But it seems to me there's a fundamental difference between deliberate and collateral civilian casualties. At the very least, it's a difference between malicious intent and reckless indifference, which, in criminal law, is the difference between murder and manslaughter. Of course this is war - a fact some appear unwilling to acknowledge - so culpability is defined somewhat differently. Israel has an obligation to minimize civilian casualties (i.e. no reckless indifference), and that obligation frames the Israeli decision to drop leaflets across Lebanon urging civilians to stay away from infrastructure and Hezbollah positions (like the town in which the Canadian family was killed). But Israeli is under no obligation to forego a legitimate military response because of the risk of civilian casualties notwithstanding minimization efforts. After a point the legitimacy of a war outweighs the risk of such casualties - a risk created by the same actors who create the conditions legitimizing war. It would be better if there were no war. But war it is.

Posted by David Mader at 05:54 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Looking for Perspective?

Consider this Associated Press photograph:

The photographer's name is Muhammad Muheisen. Do you think a reporter named Shlomo Goldstein could get that close to Hezbollah fighters?

Something to ponder.

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What Coyne Said

Andrew Coyne has a fantastic column on Harper's new foreign policy, particularly vis-a-vis Israel. His conclusion:

I realize Mr. Harper’s public embrace of this good sense places us firmly on the side of the western democracies, and thus risks our hard-won reputation as interminable equivocators, impartial, as Churchill said, “between the fireman and the fire.” Perhaps that also means we will not be invited to serve as “honest brokers” in any future conflicts in the region. But as we haven’t been one since that one time in 1956, it seems a price worth paying.
I happen to agree:
The official line was that Canada enjoyed a particular reputation, including a fair degree of trust, among the non-Israeli parties in the region, and that taking a stand on Israel's behalf would jeopardize the access and opportunities that reputation created. But it was all a fair degree of balls, pardon my French. Not that Canada didn't enjoy a certain cachet among the non-Israeli parties of the region. But no one seems to have stopped to consider that perhaps the trust and allegiance of the non-Israeli parties was not something to be accepted that easily, let alone celebrated and cherished. And of course by standing for nothing but inoffensiveness, Canada gradually slipped from relevance, becoming a rhetorical message-boy, always trumpeting its access and importance but never invited to the table. For if Canada enjoyed such cachet in the region, why weren't we part of the Quartet?
Is it too presumptuous to say "great minds"?

AS AN ASIDE: Coyne's column is great - but it's a shame he's the only public voice saying it (I think), and it's a shame it took until today to be said. While mainstream Canadian media coverage of the conflict has been quite good (which is to say comprehensive), there's been little other than reporting. On the one hand, punditry hasn't been particularly illuminating - which is a bit of a surprise, given the number of Canadian institutions devoted to the study of international affairs. Maybe our top foreign policy hacks are writing for the print editions, but I haven't seen much online.

On the other hand, message management by the government has been lacking. This is why, I think, it's so important to have a strong personality in charge of the Foreign Affairs portfolio. The Minister of Atlantic Opportunities has done an admirable job to date, but that job has consisted primarily (on the PR side at least) of sticking to the PM's script. And while the PM's done well enough, he can't be his own Foreign Minister - certainly not in crunch-times like this. The government needs a separate, strong voice, an individual other than the PM who can clearly and regularly articulate Canadian foreign policy without tripping over Langevin Block considerations. If MacKay can't be trusted to do the job, Harper needs to find someone else.

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July 17, 2006

Expressing Views Openly

Here's a statement by Paul Dewar, Ottawa-Centre's rookie NDP MP, on the war:

Thank you for contacting my office with your views about the current escalating crisis in Lebanon. With the deaths of 7 Canadian tourists in Lebanon, this situation has reached a new critical level for Canadians abroad.

I am deeply disappointed in our government for Stephen Harper’s lack of response in the face of this warlike act. As a Member of Parliament, I am embarrassed that our government has not demanded an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the sovereign state of Lebanon. Israel and her army is unjustified in directing it’s rage at civilians and tourists, and dismantling the infrastructure of an entire country in response to actions by the terrorist group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is continuing to put civilians at risk by holding Israeli soldiers hostage, but Israel must withdraw its troops immediately to put an end to more civilian and tourist deaths.

This is a highly sensitive issue, and I appreciate that we disagree on this issue. An important test of democracy is the ability for citizens to express their views openly.

Again, thank you for contacting me about this serious matter.

[UPDATE: Dewar has backpedalled somewhat. See the note at the bottom of this post.] Dewar's to be commended for his prompt response - the disagreement he notes is with my dear mama, who wrote to him last night. He's also to be commended for shying away from a single form letter - he may be using two (one that inserts the "disagree" line), but that's a level of personalization that's both easy to do and appreciated.

And Dewar's to be commended, I think, for helping to outline the deep divide between Canada's main ideological parties on the issue. In a statement released on Friday, NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough managed to dismiss the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers in the second paragraph of a letter that roundly condemned Israel for its "illegal, brutal and disproportionate" response. Through the letter the NDP called on Israel to stop its military offensive without making any similar demand of Hezbollah or Hamas.

Dewar's letter is of the same stripe. His antepenultimate paragraph employs some nifty construction:
Hezbollah is continuing to put civilians at risk by holding Israeli soldiers hostage, but Israel must withdraw its troops immediately to put an end to more civilian and tourist deaths.
That's the only reference to the hostages in the letter, and you'll notice that it doesn't amount to a demand for their release. Dewar's position therefore appears to be that the situation would be rectified if both Hezbollah and Israel simply ceased military operations, notwithstanding the fact that such a cessation would restore not the status quo but the status quo post-kidnapping.

And that's the ideological divide. The Conservative government believes that the status quo to be restored involves the restoration of both Lebanese and Israeli sovereignty; Dewar and the NDP appear to believe that the status quo to be restored involves simply the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty, with Israeli sovereignty to be settled through negotiations between a democratic state and a terrorist organization.

But the real point is this: the entire thrust of Dewar's statement - and McDonough's, for that matter - is that the Harper government's response has been one sided. The argument would have a lot more traction if the criticism weren't equally one-sided. If Dewar and McDonough are really worried about proportion, shouldn't their proposed remedy be defined by some measure of equivalence? Wouldn't we expect them to call for cessation of sovereignty-infringement by all parties? Isn't that the proper counter-approach to the one-sidedness of the Harper government?

And doesn't their failure to take such an approach suggest that it's not about proportion for the NDP at all - but about Israel?

The-Grits-Are-A-Party-Too Update: I said ideological parties. Anyway, here's what Bill Graham has to say, in pertinent part:
To that end, we call upon those responsible for the abduction of the Israeli soldiers to immediately release them and ensure their safe passage back to Israel. It is incumbent on all states in the region to take responsibility for the actions of those located in their territory, to respect the inviolability of the borders of other sovereign states and to be guided in their acts by the need to create the conditions necessary for the establishment of a lasting peace. A dialogue based on this combination of respect and responsibility is a necessary pre-condition for any long-term prospect for peace and security in the region.
Quite so.

And while Warren Kinsella has solicited reactions from the Liberal leadership contestants - responses to be featured in an upcoming column - I thought, in the interest of balance proportion, that I'd cite the formal statements put out by the various campaigns as of today, the sixth day of open hostilities.

Here's Scott Brison:
Israel not only has the right but the absolute duty to protect itself and its citizens from terror attacks. In a region that is already a powder keg, the coordinated actions of Hamas and Hezbollah - both of which are on Canada’s terrorist list – can only raise the tensions and elevate the risks for all parties.
Not bad, for a Grit Tory Grit.

Says Stephane Dion:
The current crisis in the middle east is very concerning for many Canadians and especially for those with connections to Israelis, Lebanese, and Palestinians. I share the anxiety of those of us waiting for word from their relatives and friends in the region.
He feels! Which is, I gather, quite a step forward for Mr. Harper's cross-aisle doppelganger. I'm secretly pulling for Dion, so I won't ask him to risk his chances by doing something as meaningless as, you know, stating a position on foreign policy.

We'll leave that to Bob Rae, who shows, unsurprisingly, a fair degree of political acumen:
The issue is not simply Israel's right to defend itself - it is how to police a border, how to reduce tension, how to create the preconditions for dialogue. Israel has a right to live in peace within secure, internationally recognized borders. At the moment this clearly requires the presence of peace monitors. Lebanon cannot and will not do it and has called for a UN presence on its soil to assist in this. The UN must respond.
Rae manages to avoid the issue of culpability altogether, instead moving productively on to a constructive suggestion. Notice too that his proposed answer would benefit both the Lebanese and the Israeli people without benefitting - indeed specifically by neutralizing - Hezbollah. Note to Paul Dewar and the NDP: it really isn't hard to position yourselves on the side of the Lebanese without positioning yourselves on the side of terrorists. Take a page from Bob, and work on that.

And here's a joint statement from Gerard Kennedy, Martha Hall Findlay, Maurizio "Aquaman" Bevilacqua, Ken Dryden (who, it turns out, used to play professional ice hockey), Joe Volpe, Carolyn Bennett, and former Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harverd's John F. Kennedy School of Government Michael Ignatieff:


Yea, they got nuthin. At least nothing on their websites that I can find to date. But as I say, Kinsella's beating the bushes, and doubtless we'll see more fence-sitting soon. (It's good fence-sitting. I'm not knocking it. I just like to know when I disagree with people, and why.)

And finally, in other news, crosses are burning as we speak on lawns across British Columbia.

Goodnight and good luck.

UPDATE: Dewar has since sent a second e-mail which modifies his stance by expressing his support for Israel. As Andrew Coyne notes, this support appears rather qualified.

Posted by David Mader at 11:13 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Keep in Mind...

... that Canadians make up far and away the largest group of foreign citizens in Lebanon - I was going to say foreigners, but of course many - I think I can say most - of the Canadians in Lebanon are dual citizens, and are therefore as Lebanese as they are Canadian. I don't think anyone knows nearly enough to intelligently comment on whether Canadian evacuation efforts have been sufficient to date, but the magnitude of the Canadian task relative to those of other foreign states makes it natural, I should think, that organization would take slightly longer.

Um, or just to put it more briefly: it takes longer to remove 40,000 Canadians than it does to remove 1,300 Swedes.

Posted by David Mader at 09:21 PM | (0) | Back to Main

July 16, 2006

A New World Indeed

Having heaped a fair degree of scorn on "world leaders" for their ineffectual approaches to the war, I should take a moment to say that the consensus approach embodied by the G8 statement is quite sensible. In pertinent part:

The immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to destabilize the region and to frustrate the aspirations of the Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy and peace. In Gaza, elements of Hamas launched rocket attacks against Israeli territory and abducted an Israeli soldier. In Lebanon, Hizbollah, in violation of the Blue Line, attacked Israel from Lebanese territory and killed and captured Israeli soldiers, reversing the positive trends that began with the Syrian withdrawal in 2005, and undermining the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict. The extremists must immediately halt their attacks.

It is also critical that Israel, while exercising the right to defend itself, be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions. We call upon Israel to exercise utmost restraint, seeking to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure and to refrain from acts that would destabilize the Lebanese government.

Ineffectual, but sensible. The reactions among the heads of government have told us much about the state of the world's leading liberal democracies. Unsurprisingly, the poles are occupied by the United States - see here and here - and France.

More surprisingly, however, many countries appear to be hewing closer to the US than to France. Take these remarks by German Chancellor Merkel:
Well, as to the violence in the Middle East, particularly as regards Lebanon, I think that one needs to be very careful to make a clear distinction between the root causes and the consequences of something. So we started here from a case of kidnaping of a soldier, and one of the other root causes also is the activity of Hezbollah. And it's most important for the Israeli government to be strengthened, but it is also clearly shown that these incursions, such as the kidnaping of soldiers, is not acceptable.

And the parties to that conflict obviously have to use proportionate means, but I am not at all for sort of blurring the lines between the root causes and the consequences of an action. There has to be a good reaction now, not from the Israeli government, but from those who started these attacks in the first place.

Indeed, even the French appear to be coming around.

But nobody - including the United States - holds a candle to the Government of Canada. And I simply cannot believe I am writing these words. The first official statement came, I believe, from the desk of Peter MacKay, the Foreign Minister:
Canada strongly condemns Hizbollah’s attack on Israel, which has included the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the launching of Katyusha rockets and mortar bombs into Israeli towns. These actions only exacerbate tensions in the Middle East, threaten the lives of civilians, and risk a deteriorating humanitarian situation.

We urge Hizbollah to immediately and unconditionally release the Israeli soldiers. We call on the Lebanese government to do its utmost to restore order within its border and to fully implement Security Council resolution 1559. We also call on Syria and Iran, both long time supporters of Hizbollah, to cease all financial and other assistance to the organization.

Canada remains deeply concerned about the well being of civilians. We urge all parties to act with restraint and take all possible measures to protect innocent civilian lives.

Wow. That was followed by the Prime Minister's comments on the way to London:
"It's essential that Hezbollah and Hamas release their Israeli prisoners and any countries in that area that have influence on these organizations should encourage an end to violence and recognize -- and encourage the recognition of -- Israel's right to exist."

"Israel has the right to defend itself,'' the prime minister told reporters aboard a Canadian Forces Airbus en route to London, where he's starting a week-long diplomatic mission.

"I think Israel's response under the circumstances has been measured."

I hope my readers, as observers of Canadian politics, appreciate the almost surreal quality of this statement. Not, of course, because it's wrong; my readers will know how strongly I agree. No, what makes it remarkable - to the point of being surreal - is that it comes after at least a decade of Canadian prevarication on the subject. Ottawa was loth to appear the least supportive of Israel at the expense of formal neutrality, no matter the nature of Palestinian or Islamist provocation. The official line was that Canada enjoyed a particular reputation, including a fair degree of trust, among the non-Israeli parties in the region, and that taking a stand on Israel's behalf would jeopardize the access and opportunities that reputation created.

But it was all a fair degree of balls, pardon my French. Not that Canada didn't enjoy a certain cachet among the non-Israeli parties of the region. But no one seems to have stopped to consider that perhaps the trust and allegiance of the non-Israeli parties was not something to be accepted that easily, let alone celebrated and cherished. And of course by standing for nothing but inoffensiveness, Canada gradually slipped from relevance, becoming a rhetorical message-boy, always trumpeting its access and importance but never invited to the table. For if Canada enjoyed such cachet in the region, why weren't we part of the Quartet?

What's remarkable about Harper's statement, then, is that it at long last grounds Canadian foreign policy in a notion of value, of meaning; it restores Canada's moral compass. Does it jeopardize the supposed goodwill enjoyed by the maple leaf in the region? Certainly. Does it jeopardize domestic tranquility to the degree that it upsets Canada's Muslim community? Certainly it would (though I've yet to see a news article covering that angle). But Harper appears to recognize that those are disagreements worth having. And he's right. Some values are fundamental enough that they will engender disagreement. For years, the Canadian government has fled from such disagreements. Finally, finally, the Canadian government stands for something again.

It's remarkable.

Posted by David Mader at 08:27 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The Second War of Israeli Independence

Fifteen years ago, at the close of the Gulf War, the first President Bush spoke of a "new world order," one in which "the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfill the historic vision of its founders."

Bush was wrong. And the disconnect between his anachronistic vision of global politics and the realities of the post-Cold War twenty-first century are being made manifest in St. Petersburg this week. Media attention seems to have shifted away from Israeli and Lebanese cities, and to "world leaders" and their differences over the appropriate diplomatic response to the war.

What the media seems not to realize - what many of the leaders seem not to realize as well - is that the differences of "world leaders" don't matter a fig. Israel's at war, and all the French whinging in the world won't shake her from her purpose.

And what is her purpose? Some have called this the "Israel-Hezbollah War, and that's true, but it's inadequate. All else having been equal, a cross-border attack by Hezbollah resulting in the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers from within the undisputed borders of the State of Israel would not have resulted in a response of this magnitude. But the Hezbollah attack came in the midst of a crisis in Gaza, a crisis in which Hamas terrorists had similarly crossed the undisputed borders of the State of Israel and kidnapped an Israeli soldier, holding him for ransom - the ransom being the release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.

But of course I'm using dated terminology; the lesson of each attack was that the borders were disputed. Last year Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from the Gaza strip. The move had met with widespread condemnation, despite years of demands to "end the occupation," because Israel's opponents in the territories and around the world recognized that a unilateral withdrawal allowed Israel to set its own borders. And yet - to the best of my knowledge - there was no controversy over the unilaterally-drawn borders in Gaza. The fear was that unilateral withdrawal from all of Gaza, none of which is or was claimed as sovereign territory by the State of Israel, would be followed by unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, some of which is.

Similarly, after twenty years of occupation, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, bringing home not only an occupational army but thousands of Christian Lebanese fighters who, had they remained in their homeland, would have been massacred by the Islamist forces which filled the gap. The only outstanding "controversy" on the northern border involved a Hizbollah claim to the Shebaa Farms, a claim which the United Nations dismissed as meritless. And yet, last week, Hezbollah forces crossed into land that was, until that point, undisputedly Israeli, and killed and kidnapped Israeli soldiers on sovereign Israeli soil.

Again, had things been otherwise, either infraction might have been met with a muted, if pointed, response; and recall that Israel had halted its incursions into Gaza prior to the attack in the north. But, because of the Gaza attack, things were not otherwise; instead, Israel found herself attacked on two fronts, from lands recently vacated, and on land that was recognized as sovereign Israeli territory by even the most unsympathetic international observer.

The attacks were, in other words, attacks on the very State itself. They were challenges to the continued existence of the State of Israel in the Middle East. They were expressions of denial of the legitimacy and territorial integrity of that State. They were an attack on her independence.

Much has been written regarding the Iranian involvement on both fronts. I've seen less that ties Iranian involvement on the one hand with the "disproportionate" response of the Israelis on the other. Of course if the attacks are understood to be attacks on the sovereignty and independence of the State of Israel, arguments of disproportionality fall quickly away. But the precise lines of relation are somewhat unclear; it's taken me some time to make sense of the Israeli reaction, and I'm quick to admit that I may be wrong, and that I remain uneasy.

I believe, however, that the Israeli response is designed to make the Iranian threat a regional problem, rather than an Israeli problem. What I mean is this: with Iranian encouragement, both Hamas and Hezbollah have been waging a proxy war on Israel from Palestinian and Lebanese territory, respectively. As so many have observed, the Israeli response to the actions of Hamas and Hezbollah have had a severe impact on Palestinians and Lebanese generally, and not simply on members of the two terrorist groups. At first blush this does indeed seem a "disproportionate" act of "collective punishment."

But consider the Israeli actions as a form of burden-shifting. The cost of electing Hamas, or even allowing it to operate from Palestinian territory, has been, to the Palestinian people, zero. That cost has instead been borne entirely by Israel, whose people are the target of Hamas attacks. Similarly, allowing Hezbollah to occupy and operate out of southern Lebanon has involved no risk for the Lebanese people, as Hezbollah targets not the Lebanese but the Israelis to the south.

The "disproportionate" Israeli response, targeting infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon, shifts the burden back to the local populations. No longer is it costless to permit the operation of a terrorist group on Lebanese sovereign territory; now the continued presence of Hamas in Gaza will bring consequences.

This is a painful realization for the Lebanese people, of course, for whom some degree of sympathy is due; they appeared to be moving steadily towards democracy and tolerance and, as many have protested, Lebanese confrontation and disarmament of Hezbollah would mean civil war. But the sympathy is limited when one considers that avoiding civil war costs the Lebanese nothing and the Israelis peace and security. Why should Israel bear the cost of Lebanese cowardice?

So she is no longer bearing that cost. Now the continued presence and operation of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon has a direct cost for the Lebanese people. And now they are coming to appreciate that.

That being the case, it may soon be time for the Israelis to end their offensive, and to give the Lebanese an opportunity to fight the civil war that must be fought. Indeed, I'm not sure the time has not passed. Perhaps the Israelis have determined that Hezbollah is effectively in control of the Lebanese government. I would expect to see a cessation of Israeli aggression in the coming two or three days, followed by a period of opportunity. But make no mistake: a failure of action on the part of the Lebanese government will result in a renewal of attacks, and there will be no end to such a renewal. It will result in a ground invasion which aims to totally destroy Hezbollah and, most importantly for the Lebanese, Hezbollah's capacity to make war against Israel. That means civil infrastructure; it means travel routes (as have already largely been closed); it may mean governmental infrastructure as well.

The key is Arab willingness to stand up to Hezbollah, and Hamas, and their Iranian and Syrian masters. That was entirely unlikely prior to the Israeli offensive, and I admit it appears less likely the longer the Israeli offensive continues. But it is infinitely more likely now than it was before. And that was, I believe, the basic purpose of the Israeli response: to shift the burden of Islamist terrorism back onto local Arab Muslim populations, and to force a confrontation between the Islamists and the rest. The alternative, for Israel, was an ever-escalating attack on the sovereignty and integrity of the Israeli state. Now it's up to the Lebanese people, and the Palestinians, and all the non-Islamist peoples of the region. Either they confront Islamism and remove the burden from themselves and from Israel, or they share in the Islamists' fate.

And there isn't a damned thing Tony Blair and Jack Chirac can do about it.

Posted by David Mader at 07:23 PM | (0) | Back to Main

July 09, 2006


You've got to hand it to Andrew Sullivan: he may be disingenuous, but at least he's obviously disingenuous:

Saddam Hussein was [according to President Bush] exponentially more dangerous in 2002 than Kim Jong-il is today. In 2002 we were told of the necessity of acting before a threat became imminent.

Speeches were given; ultimatums were delivered; the public was warned that acquiescence to Saddam’s attempt to get WMDs was not an option. “We cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” the president warned.

And yet a day after a nuclear-armed dictator fired failed missiles at Hawaii Bush had to be cornered at a doughnut shop in the middle of a motorcade trip to provide a response. The Washington Post noted that his national security meeting last week was devoted to . . . Cuba.

Clever. And yet it seems to me there's some fundamental difference between Saddam and Kim. What was it, now, what was it . . .
There are, of course, differences between North Korea today and Iraq four years ago. It was partly because Saddam did not yet have a nuclear capacity that he could be tackled militarily. . . .

You can, of course, make an argument that removing Saddam came first precisely because it was doable and he was less of a threat.

No, that's not quite it - though it's a fair point. No, I'm pretty sure that what distinguishes Iraq from North Korea is the fact that Iraq is smack in the middle of the Arab-Muslim Middle East. The whole neoconservative justification for the war in Iraq was - and is - that by replacing the region's most egregious tyrant with a representative democratic government, the region-wide tyranny that feeds Islamist terrorism and Islamist ideology would gradually be replaced by more-or-less representative governments and more-or-less pluralistic ideologies.

Now you can argue with that justification. But here's the thing: Sullivan never has. On the contrary, he's long been one if its most vocal supporters.

And that's where his disingenuity comes in. His entire criticism of the Bush response to North Korea - a response on which, by the way, I take no position at present - is based on the notion that the Iraq war was motivated primarily, if not solely, by Baghdad's alleged possession of WMD.

Sullivan knows it wasn't; he knows that the WMD issue was pushed to the fore under pressure from Colin Powell's Foggy Bottom, Tony Blair at Westminster and the prospect - now known to have been absolutely futile - of winning French and German support at Turtle Bay.

And yet he blithely ignores his own past arguments and justifications in order to score a cheap point against a president who long ago lost his personal support.

And then ends the column criticising Bush for "incoherence."

It's a mark of how cheap Sullivan's punditry has become. And it's a shame.

Posted by David Mader at 11:48 AM | (1) | Back to Main

Still Here

And I've actually got a list of things I'd like to blog. But it's been busy - my brother was down to visit last week, and DC has a way of distracting one in any case; on top of which I'm still getting the hang of my mac. But more to come; in the meantime check out Savage Washington, the new Maclean's blog by DC bureau chief Luiza Ch. Savage. Maclean's gets better and better.

Now if only they could get my virtual subscription straight. Still waiting on that e-mail, folks . . .

Posted by David Mader at 01:36 AM | (2) | Back to Main