Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Harper’s advice to Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu

Next Friday, Benjamin Netanyahu will be meeting Stephen Harper in advance of his visit to Washington for further talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel, the United States, Canada, and their western allies are trying to bully Iran into giving up its efforts to become a military nuclear power. The bullies are not always of one mind, and their collective success requires a high degree of uncertainty in Tehran about how far they will go. Consequently, many scary things get said and many difficult meetings must be held.

Matters must be coordinated because things can’t get out of hand—for instance, an unintended war. The US cannot afford to conquer Iran, Israel cannot secure the peace alone, and none of the politicians can get re-elected if they crash the world economy.  

After watching Republican presidential candidates (excepting Ron Paul and his billionaire bagman) saber-rattle last night, it’s clear what Harper should say to Netanyahu:

—Taking military action now, without US government support, would be indefensible.

—The alliance and the sanctions that the United States has put together have Canada’s full support. As the sanctions tighten, diplomatic opportunities and change will emerge in Iran.

—Acting as an alliance allows for future vital cooperation with Russia and possibly even with China. Unilateral action, however, will isolate Israel.

—If Harper doesn’t want to sound like an old softy, he can get personal: “My closest political ally is Barack Obama and if you go to Washington and embarrass him again I’ll be disappointed.”

—If Netanyahu pulls out a Wall Street Journal clipping about the delay of the Keystone Project, Harper can, in truth, say, “If you screw up Obama’s economic recovery and re-election chances by unilaterally bombing Iran you’ll not have a tinkle of support from Canada, your new best friend.”

After the meeting, Stephen Harper, prime minister of the country with the world’s best listeners, will call Barack Obama to tell him what he may expect.

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