Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper politely declined the military participation of Canada’s military in President Obama’s much-talked about strike on Syria, while affirming the moral righteousness of the cause of punishing Assad for his use of chemical weapons.
Since Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Harper has pursued a cautious diplomacy with the man he, no doubt, is ideologically at odds with. Like Admiral Yamamoto, he doesn’t want to waken a sleeping giant. The problem is, aside from avoiding unpleasant blow-ups, Stephen Harper has very little positive to show for his strategy. This has become increasingly clear as Obama continues to obstruct the Keystone XL pipeline.
Preventing its construction is a shot across the bow. Once it became clear that the President isn’t going to let this pipeline be built, our prime minister lost any reason to be nice to the snoozing giant. Perhaps an embarrassing foreign policy flare-up with America’s closest ally would be just the thing to give Obama an attitude adjustment.
So in the spirit of kicking a man when he is down (now that Obama is flailing away on his self-inflicted diplomatic debacle), I think Harper should have responded much less politely over Syria: until the U.S. approves Keystone XL, don’t expect Canadian cooperation on Syria – or anything else.