Kinsman: What issue should John Baird prioritize?

By: /
June 21, 2011
Jeremy Kinsman
Former ambassador to the European Union and high commissioner to Britain

Support the “Arab awakening.”

The Globe and Mail describes Stephen Harper as a “skeptic” about the Arab Spring, because of its “risks.” Syrian protestors, like young Egyptians, are the ones at risk, apart from dictators. Protestors need our support and if they succeed, short-term financial help to bridge the costs of change. At the G-8, Canada callously referred them to long-term institutional investors.

As usual, diplomats were surprised by the Arab awakening. As NYT’s Roger Cohen put it, “Nobody predicted the Arab Spring because nobody can predict the human spirit.” We protect the status quo, equating it with stability, buying false choices, between dictators and jihadism, a threat to Israel, and messy outcomes. But the status quo ante in the Middle East was inherently unstable.

Change there is rattling authoritarians everywhere, making it a global issue. We need to stay on the right side of history and our own values.