MONTREAL -- Former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler has slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's foreign policy, accusing the Conservatives of pandering to Canadian Jewish voters with a "reckless" Middle East policy that blindly favours Israel.
He also says Canada does not deserve a seat on the United Nations Security Council; that the Afghanistan mission is doomed to failure; and that Canadian politicians -- Conservatives and Liberals -- set their foreign-policy goals only to "corner the ethnic vote" in Canada.
"The world does not need more of the kind of Canada they have been getting," Mr. Fowler said in a speech in Montreal on Sunday. "Canadian governments have turned inward and adopted ‘me first' stances across the international agenda; and Canada's reputation and proud international traditions have been diminished as a result."
Mr. Fowler made his remarks at a weekend "thinkers" conference organized by the Liberal Party of Canada, with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and former prime minister Paul Martin looking on.
He was brutal in his assessment of the Conservative government's foreign policy.
He said the Conservatives must "accept the reality and importance of the ironclad link between . . . continuing turmoil and volatility in the Middle East and the rise [and] growing strength of international terrorism."
But, he said, doing that means confronting Israel, as it "builds ever more settlements in illegally occupied territories in contravention of a myriad of international judgments."
He said Canadian politicians -- and here he seemed to suggest both Liberal and Conservative politicians -- refuse to acknowledge that reality for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic.
"It is there for all to see, but apparently politically incorrect to draw attention to it."
Moreover, he accused Canadian politicians of formulating foreign policy, on the Middle East and on other issues, only with a view to winning votes and scoring political points at home.
He said politicians are merely engaged in "the scramble to lock up the Jewish vote in Canada [and] selling out our widely admired and long-established reputation for fairness and justice. I have no reason to love Islamic extremism or indeed terrorism of any stripe, jihadi or political, but I do deplore the abandonment of our hard-won reputation for objective analysis and decency as a result of our reckless Middle Eastern posturing."
Mr. Fowler speaks with considerable experience in foreign affairs. Not only was he a civil servant for 38 years, he was the foreign policy adviser to prime ministers Trudeau, Turner and Mulroney; he was Canada's longest-serving ambassador at the United Nations; and he was the personal representative for Africa for prime ministers Chretien, Martin and Harper.
In 2008, while representing United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Africa, he was captured and held hostage by al-Qaida for 130 days. He now teaches at the University of Ottawa.
Mr. Ignatieff said Sunday he has always stood for a two-state solution in the Middle East and rejected accusations of pandering.
"The Canadian consensus -- and it is a consensus, darn it -- is two states between two free peoples, living side by side with international recognition and international security guarantees," said Mr. Ignatieff. "I say that in every room I go into. I don't chop it. I don't change it."
Mr. Fowler, though, cited other examples of "radical voices within domestic constituencies [that] are being indulged" by politicians seeking electoral support.
"Look only at Liberal politicians falling over themselves to celebrate supporters in Toronto of the Tamil Tigers, one of the world's more unpleasant terrorist organizations," Mr. Fowler said.
"Or consider the ethical and international implications of politicians of all parties attending the Surrey, B.C., spring parades to mark the anniversary of the Sikh religion, where photographs of Sikh terrorists, like the leaders of the Air India bomb plot and Free Khalistan separatists, are prominently displayed and venerated."
While he praised the key foreign policy initiatives of Pearson, Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien, Mr. Fowler was withering in his assessment of Harper's approach to world affairs, suggesting that, because of the Conservative approach, the world is becoming increasingly suspicious and distrustful of a Canada that has increasingly turned away from the world.
Canada will vie with Germany and Portugal to win one of the two seats on the United Nations Security Council 2011-12. Mr. Fowler said Canadians should not assume the rest of the world wants Canada to win that race.
"If we win, it will not be because we have contributed much to the effective management of world affairs over recent years, because we have not," Mr. Fowler said.
The Afghanistan mission, Mr. Fowler said, is doomed because neither Canadians nor its allies are prepared to pay the price, "in blood or treasure" to essentially colonize that country.
"The bottom line is: We will not prevail in Afghanistan," Mr. Fowler said. "We are simply not prepared to foot the massive price in blood and treasure, which it would take to effectively colonize Afghanistan -- the least fortunate country in the world -- and replace their culture with ours, for that seems to be what we seek, and with the Taliban share that view."
Mr. Fowler argued that Canadian troops should immediately withdraw from that country. "It is time to leave. Not a moment, not a life, and not a dollar, later."
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