In Maclean’s, Paul Wells looks deeply into the hidden meanings of the Prime Minister’s rare interview utterances:
The Prime Minister’s year-end interviews are always worth close reading. Partly because he gives few interviews. Partly because those interviews, widely spaced, show how his thinking changes as circumstances do. This year the changes are stark.
The part I’ve just quoted came when Friesen asked Harper about the possibility that Bashar al-Assad might use chemical weapons against Syrian opponents of his regime.
Would NATO intervene? “Well, I don’t want to speculate.”
Is the use of what we used to call weapons of mass destruction a “red line,” as the Obama administration has called it? That was the question that got Harper talking about risks and caution. “What we can continue to do, as I say, is try to work with elements of the opposition and others to try to push that country to a better solution and try to avoid further escalation of this conflict.”
This is what being Prime Minister does to you. A decade ago, when conversation turned to the use of chemical or biological weapons and the theatre was Iraq, it was Jean Chrétien talking about risks and caution and Harper urging red lines. I dare hope we’ll never get to test the hypothetical in Syria, but it was not only when it came to Assad that this year’s Harper was notably less cocky than previous years’. Chastened, one might say, by a year when the world turned out to be more complex than advertised.