Monday, May 18, 2009

An undeserved sense of importance

What can Canada do on the world stage? Can Canada actually change policy in a foreign country?

The recent protests/traffic blocking/criminal acts by Tamil protesters have brought all the nutcases out of the wood work. All of them are missing the proverbial elephant in the room - what can Canada actually do in Sri Lanka?

CBC Radio recently had a point-counter point format, first interviewing local blow-hard Lowell Green and then a leftist who's name escapes me at the moment. Both of them focused on entirely the wrong point about the recent protests. Mr. Green ranted at length about why the Tamils were seemingly afforded special privilege to break the law at will with no consequences. That in itself is a very valid point. In his traditional over the top style, Mr. Green went on to describe the inclusion of the women and children in the protest as tantamount to terrorism itself and the prospect of "human shields" was very definitely implied.

The leftist responded and characterized the protests as essentially a large street party, a "family affair", that just happened to take place on a major highway instead of a suburban cul-de-sac. She went on to say that any action is permitted should the cause be deemed desperate enough. The host unfortunately did not press her on who decides what causes are desperate and if all actions, including violence, are really permitted.

The program was a debate on the rule of law disguised as commentary on world events and in the end it accomplished neither a satisfying conclusion on law breaking or a path forward for dealing with events in Sri Lanka.

The majority of protests in Western countries seem to be solely about "raising awareness" in hopes that someone else, now sufficiently "aware", will do something. What protesters generally over estimate in most situations is the ability of Canada, as a country, to effect change in other sovereign nations. They seem to think that a mere stern look or strongly worded statement from the Prime Minister of the day will be enough for governments and terrorists alike to suddenly pause and rethink their entire belief system before eventually deciding that all the "fussin' and feudin'" was actually quite silly. These are probably the same people that think the UN is an effective organization.

With regards to the situation in Sri Lanka, the UN has issued many statements condemning all sides with little effect. Both sides, if they have acknowledged the statements at all, have responded with essentially "that's very nice, now if you'll excuse me I have a war to win". I really, really don't see how a statement from the Prime Minister of Canada can possibly change anything.

The problem is that Canada is completely unable to project power beyond on our own borders. We can't deploy our military without the help of allies and we can't sustain extensive field operations for long periods of time. The reasons for this are two fold. The first is the lack of equipment. Heavy air transport, sea transport and the means to protect them are simply not available. The first two could be aquired in short order in the event of an emergency but sending airliners full of troops half way around the world with no fighter escort could be suicide.

The second reason is political will. There is simply no will in Canada for armed intervention. Afghanistan seems to be barely tolerated and that is only because it is keeping us out of the more "hated" Iraq operation and that the causes of 9/11 can be directly traced to that country.

I'm sure the Tamil protesters would love to see the Canadian military roll up to the government buildings in Colombo and demand that the war stop. However such action, if it were even possible, would be roundly criticized as "too American" and how dare Canada act in such a unilateral fashion.

The reason giving for the escalating Tamil protests is that previous protests failed to change the situation in Sri Lanka.

Now the question must be posed to the protesters - exactly what do they expect Canada to do, and how do they think that action will change events on the ground half a world away?

No comments: