What are the feds up to?

Why mixed signals on iraq are PR ploy

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Experts weigh in on Defence Minister John McCallum’s shocking suggestion that Canada will send troops without UN sanction.

“We have ships integrated with the American fleet in the Persian Gulf now. We’re involved, whatever Ottawa thinks. The margin of manoeuvre is whether or not we send more. My own feeling is that the U.S. has bigger fish, and if we had good reasons not to go along and other major players like France and Germany refused to go along, there wouldn’t be any consequences. It’s a monumental issue for us and for the National Post because Canadians have to take the Americans very seriously, but it’s not a monumental issue for them.”

Stephen Clarkson, American-Canadian relations expert, University of Toronto

“You’re seeing conflicting statements from Ottawa for a very simple reason. This is actually part of the government’s policy-making style. It stumbles along. It zigs and it zags. Frankly, I don’t think there will be war in Iraq. Even the Arab League is telling Saddam that he must comply (with UN inspectors). He knows it’s better to be defanged than have no power. When Saddam spoke in 91 about the mother of all battles, he wasn’t speaking of a battle in a literal sense, but a political one. And in order to win that battle, it’s not necessary that Iraq beat the U.S. on the field of battle, but that Iraq and specifically Saddam survive politically.”

David Rudd, executive director, Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies

“My sense is that Ottawa would hope there isn’t a war. In any case, we haven’t got much to give militarily. In a very real sense we have a free pass. We can get credit from the Americans by supporting them if they go in knowing we can’t do very much. Our ability to send people is marginal. My guess is that there would be almost no army. But we’ll go because the cost of not going will be severe. We made our bed with free trade in 1988, and we’re now condemned to lie in it. Our independence comes at the margins now. And on an issue of critical importance to the U.S., we’d be crazy to fly in its face. We’re a Western democracy and nominally a Christian society, and that makes us an enemy to terrorism, no matter what we do. These things are part of the global war on terrorism, and anyone who thinks they aren’t must be smoking something strange.”

Jack Granatstein, history professor emeritus, York University

“We’re seeing on the one hand a communications strategy that the Liberal government is engaging in in order to calm Canadians’ fears about becoming too integrated with the U.S. and its war on terrorism. At the same time, there’s a policy that’s evolving of cooperation and deeper military integration with the U.S. A lot of the PM’s pronouncements have been meant to stave off a real backlash from Canadians. Polls show that we are opposed to war with Iraq with or without UN endorsement. And the government is reading those polls. On the other hand, it already has two ships in place and a number of aircraft, and could commit even more. When Iraq first became a U.S. target, the PM said Canada would not join in an attack unless there were proof of some link with al Qaeda. Look how far we’ve come from that. McCallum’s comments last week came at a time when support for the U.S.’s going into Iraq was crumbling. Even Tony Blair seemed to be sending conflicting signals about Britain’s involvement.”

Steven Staples, project director, Polaris Institute

“Ideologically, almost spiritually, we’re in favour of multilateralism, but I think we’re also not naive. We realize that sometimes the multilateral institution doesn’t act on multilateral principles, but in the particular interests of countries and, one might even add, the perverse interests of countries. In 91, we also had to make similar decisions over Kuwait. I remember the debate in Canada: “Is Kuwait really an independent country?’ In fact, we went to war for the first time in our history without a parliamentary resolution. The government felt it had to make a decision. In retrospect, I don’t think most people would say that was the wrong decision, either ethically or in terms of the needs of global security.”

Martin Rudner, Norman Patterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University

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