Monday, August 22, 2005

Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart

The Telegraph manages to put the Hans Island dispute in the proper context with a wonderfully dismissive headline: "Canada flexes its muscles in dispute over Arctic wastes." Canadian warships were sailing towards the Arctic yesterday in the latest act of gunboat diplomacy over control of the frozen wastes there. Ottawa has launched a series of Arctic sovereignty patrols to assert its territorial claims and fend off rivals, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States. Its scramble for the Arctic is a consequence of global warming and the retreat of the polar ice. This has raised the prospect of once-inaccessible areas becoming available for oil and mineral extraction. It has also revived the dream of a "North-West Passage" for shipping, linking the Atlantic and Pacific. Amid diplomatic arguments over territorial rights, Canada's defence minister recently clambered on to a frozen rock, tiny Hans Island, triggering protests from Denmark. Even members of the British press are snickering behind their keyboards at feeble Canadian attempts at maintaining Arctic sovereignty; I think that really says something. This is the kind of military reputation I'd expect of, say, Monaco, not Canada. As long as "peacekeeping" is the ideal, however, can we expect any better?


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