Canada’s Soft Power

Stronger than the US’ weak-kneed response to Saudi dictatorship?:

The North American media have widely publicized the case of the Saudi Arabian woman sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison. Her “crime” was being gang-raped by seven Saudi men, and then having the gall to go to the press. This is clearly one of the most blatant violations of human rights imaginable by a government against one of its own citizens.

The Canadian government says it will lodge a formal protest with the Saudis, and Josee Verner, the Canadian minister responsible for the status of women, has rightly denounced the Saudi court ruling as “barbaric.”

The United States, on the other hand, has thus far offered a shamefully tepid response, not wanting to offend our authoritarian ally in the “war on terror” and hoping to entice the Saudis to attend the Annapolis Arab-Israeli peace summit. Sounding more like an apologist for the Saudis than a spokesman for the United States, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack observed, “This is a part of a judicial procedure overseas in the court of a sovereign country.” He then gave the mildest possible rebuke to the Saudis: “That said, most would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens.”

The author’s (Pierre Atlas) analysis:

Canada has long been held in high esteem internationally. While many people around the world have a love-hate relationship with the United States, Canada tends to inspire only positive feelings. This is in part because Canada never had the burden of superpower responsibilities during the Cold War and, thanks to the American nuclear umbrella, it was able to “free ride” on security and devote much of its resources and attention to “non-strategic” global issues like international humanitarian law, peacekeeping, and development in the Third World. Rather than focusing inward, Canada long ago made the deliberate choice to pursue its values internationally, under both Tory and Liberal governments.

The widening gap, under President Bush’s tenure, between America’s own laudable values and its actions has undermined our international standing. This in turn handicaps any efforts to win hearts and minds in the “war on terror.” Perhaps it is time that the United States takes a few pages from Canada’s playbook. America, and the world, would be the better for it.

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 11:02 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] Canada’s Soft Power […]

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