Take a lesson in leadership from Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. At la Francophonie Summit, a gathering of 72 French-speaking nations, among the many resolutions, agreements and statements that such processions religiously generate was one such resolution condemning civilian losses in Lebanon. Harper refused to agree on the principle that expressing sympathy for Lebanese civilians without expressing the same for Israeli civilians was, well, wrong.
Harper stood alone. An angry Lebanese Culture Minister, Tarek Mitri, complained that Howard was the only member who opposed the original language. That mattered naught to Prime Minister Harper.
Beryl Wajsman of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal has good reason to be proud of Canada's Prime Minister.
The Summit was thrown into a tizzy when Mr. Harper refrained from taking his seat at what was supposed to be the closing news conference because of his opposition to an Egyptian-led, and French supported, resolution expressing concern and sympathy for Lebanese civilian victims of the recent Middle East War, without mentioning Israeli civilian victims of the naked aggression launched from Lebanese soil that precipitated the conflict. French President Jacques Chirac argued that our Prime Minister's position flew in the face of "the great majority" of the 53 member states at the conference. With typical French hypocrisy Chirac never said Harper was wrong. The implication was that it was not "expedient". And for the French, expediency trumps morality any day of the week.
But as the diplomats scurried frenzily around trying to figure out what to do in the face of conscience and character, rare commodities in their world, Stephen Harper stood his ground. While television cameras zoomed in on Canada's empty chairs at the semi-circled conference table, the Prime Minister announced, with his trademarked calm, determined eloquence, that "The Francophonie cannot recognize victims according to their nationality. Recognize the victims of Lebanon and the victims of Israel." Remarkable. No double-talk. No diplomatic babble-squawk. No eye on focus groups. Just plain-speaking, as President Harry Truman would have said.
Despite Lebanese Culture Minister Tarek Mitri's childish whine that "Everyone aggress except Canada, "all leaders headed back into closed-door session and eventually agreed to "deplore the consequences for all civilian populations". Even the churlish French and the neutral Swiss finally supported Stephen Harper's position. For one brief shining moment Canada was the world's conscience. Albert Camus was right. In this world merely "...being human is already being heroic..." And Canada finally has a Prime Minister who is very human and very heroic.
Now that is leadership.
The resulting text of the resolution, in typical French fashion, still leaves much to be desired.
About an hour later, the French delegation came up with language that was deemed acceptable to all: "In deploring the tragedy in Lebanon and its dramatic consequences for all of the civilian populations, we call for a total cessation of hostilities and a return to calm in Lebanon," the final resolution stated.
Mr. Chirac said the solution was necessary to "allow everybody to save face."
Of course there is still no tragedy yet to befall Israel. But at least some 'consequences' are recognized. And there is no one but Canada's Stephen Harper to thank for that today. Not America, not France, and certainly not the United Nations.
Few things are as inspiring as raw leadership, free of nuance and sloganeering. Thank you for that, Stephen Harper.
And thank you, Canada.