If you’ve been reading my blog regularly – which I’m sure you have, because I can sense you’re a person of impeccable taste – then it will not have escaped you that I spent last week in NY.
As a result, I was a little less well-informed than usual. For one thing, I only had access to Russian-language newspapers at Alexei’s mother’s place. She listened to talk radio a lot, but as that too was in Russian I had to rely on Alexei’s distinctly uninspired translations to learn the news of the day.
But it has come to my attention that, in what will surely be ranked as one of History’s Worst Ideas, comparable only to the flat-earth fiasco and staring directly at solar eclipses, Jack Layton has suggested – apparently with a straight face – that the increasingly brutal death toll inflicted on Canadian soldiers by the Taliban has somehow made it an enticing negotiating partner.
Someone – I forget exactly who, but, well, someone smart – wondered just how those negotiations would go. Do we allow them to stone adulterers only, and not homosexuals? (If so, does that mean we can send Svend as part of the negotiating team?) Do we offer to allow them to kill only a certain percentage of us? I picture it going something like this:
Chief Negotiator Layton: 20 percent. You can kill 20 percent and no more.
Mullah Whosis: 40. I won’t go lower.
CNL: 30. And I’ll make sure it’s a nice diverse mix.
MW: Throw in Svend and it’s a deal.
A pro-NDP site crowed that even Churchill had negotiated with Hitler, as if this were some kind of definitive rhetorical triumph. I’m not sure where the NDP gets their sources, but every hitherto unrevealed document I’ve unearthed indicates that they’re talking out of their hats – that is to say, utterly mistaken. But in general it’s true that Hitler was amenable to negotiation, signing a cornucopia of treaties: the Munich Agreement, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Release of Liability Waiver – oh wait, that was me. And look how well those went. It wasn’t so much that Hitler was bashful about signing on the dotted line as that, having done so, he gaily went about violating them before the ink was yet dry.
The pacts, in any event, did have some benefits. Only thing is, they accrued entirely to Hitler. They bought him needed time and cover with which to flesh out his schemes for world domination, and it gave his enemies a sense of security that couldn’t be falser. Just ask Stalin how he felt about that pact when the Nazis were marching on the road to Moscow. Not too good, I’m thinking. Probably a little green about the gills. A biography of Stalin chronicles him sinking into a three-day depression over the big betrayal by his buddy Adolf.
At the time, indeed, it was more difficult to discern Hitler’s true motivations than it is now to discern the Taliban’s, which makes the whole idea that much less excusable. This is, after all, the group that allowed numerous terrorist attacks against American interests to be launched from its soil, including those of 9/11. Even Hitler didn’t need to overrun half of Europe before it became clear he wasn’t the most desirable negotiating partner.
And I’m not sure how the idea gained currency that if our soldiers become engaged in anything resembling actual combat, then the mission must be aborted immediately. It kind of defeats the purpose of having a standing army if the signal for their retreat is bloodshed. If Canadian values are so little worth upholding that we cannot shed Canadian blood in their defense, then surely we deserve defeat.
Sadly, by the side of the other proposals proffered by the bright minds at last week’s NDP youth convention in Montreal (a sampling: “WHEREAS the core NDP principles are Appeasement, Anti-Americanism, and a discredited Socialism”), Layton’s idea starts to look like the eminently reasonable proposition of a seasoned statesman.
Which brings to two the total number of wreckages I missed last week in my home town – the other being the damage wreaked by a Molotov cocktail thrown through the entrance of a Jewish boys’ school in Outremont.
This is all too reminiscent of the firebombing in 2002 of another Montreal-area Jewish school, the United Talmud Torah in Saint Laurent, which happens to be my own alma mater. In fact, my niece and nephew attended the school (or rather, the attached high school) at the time the firebombing occurred. Strangely, both attacks targeted not synagogues, the symbols of Jewish religious faith, but the places where Jewish children learn. Have Canadian Jewish children become a new front in the “war on terror”?
I wonder if it’s significant that both major attacks on Canadian Jewish scholastic institutions took place in Montreal.
The attack on the Taldos Yakov Yosef boys’ school follows a heated debate about anti-Semitism in Quebec sparked by this article by Barbara Kay of the National Post, penned in response to the massive pro-Hezbollah rally (let’s call it what it is, shall we?) that took place last month and was attended by a number of prominent Quebec politicians. Federal and provincial, federalist and separatist – and a number of permutations thereof – they united across the political divide to speak as one against Israel, alongside the supporters of terror. No wonder, in such a climate, that anti-Jewish extremists feel emboldened to carry out terror attacks against Jewish institutions.
Sure, we had some shocked denunciations by political figures. Much more hearteningly, Monday’s Montreal Gazette featured a full-page ad by a group called FAST: Fighting Anti-Semitism Together, a coalition of non-Jewish Canadian leaders standing up against anti-Semitism in Canada. It’s comforting to know there are people who actually like us.
Perhaps one day, an arrest will be made in the Taldos Yakov Yosef firebombing case. And just maybe, when the culprit’s identity is made public, Jack Layton will propose negotiating with him.