“Canada remains alienated from its allies, shut out of the reconstruction process to some degree, unable to influence events. There is no upside to the position Canada took.”
— Stephen Harper, August 2003
He was talking about Iraq, in the pages of this magazine, but I couldn’t help remembering that quote as I did a little research today on international reaction to the events in Egypt. That country’s capital, Cairo, has become a bit of a hot spot for high-profile international visitors lately. Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, has been to Cairo and other capitals in the region. So has Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd, U.S. senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Turkish president Abdullah Gul, the German ministers of (roughly) foreign affairs, trade and development, the EU‘s foreign-policy representative and Norway‘s foreign minister. France’s foreign minister Alain Juppé is to arrive in Cairo on Sunday.
I suppose it’s possible to write the lot off as rubber-neckers and grandstanders. I suppose also that each of them will go home with dozens of new contacts in a country that has a shot at a democratic transformation.
In the end, as Stephen Harper once said, Canada can’t stay isolated forever. “The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade.” Again, he was talking about Iraq, but I suspect it applies here too.