Canada’s position on the Egyptian Revolt? Sit on the fence

People are right to point out that Canada hasn’t been a substantive "player" in the Middle East for some time. It is also true that Canadians tend to overstate our international influence, demands for commentary and initiative, self congratulatory want that has no little real influence outside our borders. Probably true that we Canadians like to see ourselves as more relevant on the international stage than practically justified.

However, none of these "truisms" detract from justified criticism directed towards this government, and their embarrassing shallow and thin responses to many world events, in particular what has happened in Egypt.

The Conservatives display little curiousity about the world; you don’t sense any real passion for foreign affairs, cookie cutter, superficial, and sadly amateurish far too often. On the international stage, you can create influence, you can position yourself, you can find a niche and exploit for maximum input. This idea that Canada isn’t a factor in Egypt so why bother, is defeatist, as well as self fulfilling. History is full of an overwhelming number of examples wherein middle powers "punch above their weight", but what is required is desire to have influence. This government treats the international stage much like they treat federalism, hands off, only react when threatened, really no "agenda" or overarching philosophy. Defenders will mention Israel, but really most would agree the prominence is more a function of electoral prospects than burning desire. Canada has always been a strong, consistent defender of Israel, the recent controversies are partisan creation rather than bold policy.

Where is Canada making a mark on foreign policy, where is this government distinguishing itself? Everything I read, foreign diplomats openly ask "what happened to Canada?", "where is Canada?", you never read much praise, apart from nuts and bolts acknowledgement of our banking system, other realites that really are separate from this government’s outreach.

The Conservatives react to events in Egypt in robotic fashion, here’s the statements, bland, more duty than desire. There is no sense of genuine involvement, it has no resonance even domestically, never mind beyond our borders. I would argue that while we are marginal players, the inability to understand diplomatic nuance, the forfeiting of a voice for domestic electoral consideration, has rendered us even less influential, to the point of laughable.

I listen to Rae from the Liberals, Dewar from the NDP and you can hear passion in their voices, as they speak about Egypt. You listen to this government, the deadpan doll eye routine and you realize it’s only obligation that motivates. While it’s true that we overstate our importance, it’s also true that this government’s low priority vibe only contributes to a falling stature. Canada might not be a "player", but it’s also credible to argue Canada has never been more of a "bit player" than it is today, right now, under Stephen Harper and his simplistic, black and white view of a complicated world.

Click HERE to read more from Steve Val.

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