Diefenbaker’s first UN speech was a disaster. Now he promises to make matters worse by delivering a second one
PRIME MINISTER DIEFENBAKER made at least one campaign promise that can do no good and great damage. He undertook to introduce a resolution in the United Nations condemning Soviet imperialism. This would further distort Canada's image and weaken the UN.
If anybody could sweep away the Iron Curtain with bombast, John Diefenbaker would surely be the man. He must know', however, that his oratorical crusade can only raise false hopes among the non-Russians living under Soviet rule. It seems to be meant only to seduce the so-called "ethnic vote” in Canada.
Consider the Tory claims for The Speech which Diefenbaker gave in the UN in September, I960, and which Howard Green has described as the Government’s greatest contribution to world affairs. The Speech was a vigorous reply to Khrushchov’s attack on the SecretaryGeneral. It attracted slightly more attention than is usually accorded Canadian speeches because our spokesmen had previously made a point of ; bstaining from the sterile Cold War slanging match. Instead, while standing firmly with the West, the Canadians had sought to reduce the international temperature and to expand areas of agreement. They had earned a reputation for reasonableness which served Canada and her friends extremely well.
The Diefenbaker Speech marred this useful image. Even greater damage was caused when the prime minister discovered that boasting about the speech could rouse the enthusiastic applause of all the virulent anti-communists in Canada. Soon he was presenting himself as a
great foe of communism and casting aspersions on the alleged “softness” of the opposition. The Liberals’ response was to contend that Pearson really delivered The Speech before Diefenbaker. In place of the Peace Prize winner, they began offering their leader as the architect of NATO and an even fiercer Cold War warrior than the prime minister.
Distortion reached new heights during the election campaign when Diefenbaker suggested that it was his speech that had provoked Khrushchov’s celebrated shoe-pounding. In fact, the Soviet boss was one of the many delegates who missed hearing The Speech, and he did not remove his shoe until 16 days later, long after Diefenbaker had returned to Canada. Just as far from reality is the Tories’ contention that the clumsy Russian note delivered late in the campaign was a panic-stricken attempt to defeat John Diefenbaker before he could return to the UN and introduce his motion of censure.
If Diefenbaker can’t be dissuaded from doing so. Canada’s UN representatives will be compelled to exhaust our dwindling diplomatic credit in order to drum up votes for a resolution which, to judge by the record, can serve no useful purpose. Indeed, most authorities now agree that the UN was severely weakened by the long series of propaganda defeats inflicted on Russia during the years when the West had an automatic majority. The Afro-Asian countries particularly resent Cold War debates which divert the UN from its major function, the promotion of security. Of course the Russians
are not blameless. Nevertheless, replying in kind is both degrading and sterile. We can be firm without resorting to bombast. Canadians, in particular, should realize that we cannot combine with success the roles of both mediator and crown prosecutor. Our diplomacy cannot afford another Diefenbaker UN speech.
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