Canada’s participation in Libya is establishing a precedent

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Canada is participating in the ending of an international modus vivendi that has been accepted practice for over three hundred years. In international affairs since 1648 “The Treaty of Westphalia guaranteed that the internal affairs of a sovereign country were none of the international community’s business, so long as it did not violate any treaties or threaten another nation-state.” Libya has done neither yet other states including Canada are bent upon determining the direction of its internal affairs.

The Honourable Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, in a statement made yesterday wrote: “ the time has come to open a new chapter in Libya’s history, with a strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya.”

Fantino’s “new chapter” is to come about through achieving Canada’s aim: “to rid Libya of the Qadhafi regime”. Regime change in Libya is to come about not through internal actions by Libyans but by military might of NATO forces being justified by a United Nations Resolution authorizing implementation of a “no fly zone”.

This action is ending the pattern established by the Treaty of Westphalia and replacing it with the precedent based on applying this new norm: “The RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT (“RtoP” or “R2P”) is a new international security and human rights norm to address the international community’s failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

Is the Government of Canada aware or unaware of the sea change in international relations it is engaged in bringing about? Is it prepared to argue this new norm be applied even handedly to all regimes applying military force to unarmed civilians?

Before Parliament approves continuing Canadian involvement until the Qadhafi regime is replaced this ought to occur: “the prime minister needs to conduct a focused foreign policy review for the post-Westphalia era.” Establishing “the principles and criteria for military intervention in the affairs of other nations. And it should also address how and when Canada should disengage from such missions.”

Will action be taken to establish the nature of Canada’s involvement before continuing our air attacks? “NO”, will undoubtedly be the universal response, with unknown repercussions into the future as the justification for the Libyan involvement is extended wider and wider in international relations.

Joe Hueglin

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