The Liberals decision to sell Canadian built light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia after all demonstrates the moral hypocrisy of the self appointed protectors of human rights who clamor for attention in our sympathetic national media.
According to their world view, it is morally wrong to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, but apparently morally acceptable to purchase oil from them (instead of from Alberta). It is proper to chide Saudi Arabia for clinging to a pre-medieval misogynistic view of women, but improper to prevent Salafism/Wahhabism from entering Canada under the guise of multiculturalism. Trade with our second and fifth largest trading partners, China or Mexico, is not an issue, either, despite both nations ranking lower than Saudi Arabia on some indices.
Contrary to the claims made by the opponents of the Saudi Arms deal, armored vehicles are not used to kill civilians, but to engage enemy combatants, quickly bring troops to combat areas, and support them as they carry out their assigned tasks. The great civilian slaughters of the last century were carried out by gas (Germany), gun (Cambodia), and sword (Rwanda). If we are to be concerned about our arms export policies, we should focus on our existing small arms trade with a myriad of other regimes.
Basing trade on some sort of ethical imperative is neither feasible nor desirable. We trade because we need certain things we do not have, cannot produce ourselves, or because someone else does so better or cheaper. All these factors matter. We no longer manufacturer clothing in Canada because it is done as well, and cheaper, in countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. The money we save by outsourcing allows us to pursue the production of greater value goods and services.
Accessing many necessary goods means having to deal with nations that do not share our values. Indeed, the majority of nations in the world do not share our values. From their perspective, the whole notion of human rights that springs from liberal democracy is a form of neo-colonialism. Our attempts to modernize Afghanistan and Iraq should serve as clear examples. Indeed, ethical trade amounts to a form of economic isolationism, a path that leads to financial and national ruin. In plain terms, we engage in trade not for the benefit of our trading partners, whomever they may be, but for our benefit.
But perhaps we should limit ourselves to the questions as to whether we should be in the arms trade at all? Of course, there are groups that expound that position: that any trade in arms simply perpetuates violence and is not Canadian. That position is, however, once again, entirely unrealistic.
It is in the best interests of our nation to engage in the arms trade because there are people/organizations/nations that wish to do us harm; to erase from the face of the earth, the idea of western liberal democracy and human rights. Our small internal market for armaments cannot sustain our weapon manufacturers, and so, in order to develop the weapons we need to defend ourselves, we must look outside for markets and allies.
We choose to sell weapons to Israel instead of Hamas and Hezbollah because Israeli values closely match our own, and are under threat. Israel is, despite its shortcomings, the dim light of liberalism in the Middle East.
With the sale of the LAVs to the Saudis we are firmly aligning ourselves with the kingdom over the Iranian backed Houthis, a group whose motto is "Death to America, Death to Israel, curse the Jews, long live Islam." This is a group that most Canadians would not wish to see rise to power. Their ascendency would be a step backwards in the fight for human rights.
Saudi Arabia is not an ideal trading partner, but it is the best choice, the pragmatic choice, in a situation where only bad but necessary choices exist.