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Nancy Pelosi, The Chinese Dilemma and its Solution

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                                          Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, August 5, 2022

Nancy Pelosi, The Chinese Dilemma and its Solution

 If you have been following the news at all for the last couple of weeks – a practice I would advise against, as “the news” consists almost entirely of brain-rotting disinformation peddled by the corrupt corporations and even more corrupt government bureaucracies that control all but a fraction of a percentage of the main media organs – you are likely aware that the travel itinerary of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker in the lower house of the congress of the American republic has generated a bit of a brouhaha.   Included in that itinerary was a trip to the Republic of China on the island of Formosa.   When the People’s Republic of China on the Asian mainland learned about this they raised a stink about it and began issuing all sorts of warnings, threats and ultimatums, telling the American republic that they would be “playing with fire” if the trip were not cancelled, and even talking about shooting her plane down.   By doing so they accomplished something that few others have been able to do, especially in the last decade or so.  They brought the Democrats and the Republicans in the American republic together and united them on an issue.   Both took the position that the Chinese government must not be allowed to bully American officials and tell them where they can and cannot go.     I had rather expected her to pull a Captain Airhead or a Joe Whatshisname and come down with a sudden case of the bat flu but on the evening of Tuesday 2 September she arrived in Taipei.

While I have nothing but loathing for Communism and Communists, I admit that I can see the point of the brutal Chinese despots on this matter.  I don’t care for the fact that for most of the year Nancy Pelosi is across the 49th Parallel from the Dominion of Canada and would prefer her to be much further away on the other side of the world.    There is little I can do about that, alas, but it makes it easier to understand what must have been going through Xi Jingping’s head when he learned that soon there would be nothing but a 110 mile strait separating him from this creature.    I assume that apart from the whole “nobody tells us what to do” attitude of the Americans, the reason for the bipartisan consensus of indignation towards the People’s Republic’s threats was that Democrats and Republicans alike did not want her trip and thus their time free of her to be cut short.

Since China and not Pelosi is my subject here, the only thing I will say about the person who looks and acts like she is auditioning for the role of a female or transgender Skeletor in a cheesy woke remake of the Masters of the Universe in which the protagonist He-Man would likely be dressed in his twin-sister She-Ra’s outfit and calling himself She-Man and who managed through trading that many see as just a tad suspicious to amass a fortune of about $120 million dollars in her career of almost forty years as a politician is to note that back in May she was excommunicated by the Church of Rome’s Archbishop in San Francisco over her using her elected position to support a special privilege for her own sex, the gruesome and unconscionable special privilege of having the legal right to murder unborn children.   I mention this only because the Archbishop in question, Salvatore Cordileone, deserves commendation for his courage, rare in this day and age, by contrast with the clownishness of the current Pretender to St. Peter’s throne in Rome who ignored the excommunication and administered the Sacrament to her anyway, if it can still be called a Sacrament coming from the hand of a man better suited to be a contortionist than a prelate judging from the performance he recently put on here in Canada, in which he bent over backwards to stick his head, pointy mitre and all, up his own rear end, by issuing a groveling “apology” for his Church’s past humanitarian and missionary educational outreach endeavours. 

This whole controversy has undoubtedly been confusing to those who are only slightly familiar – or not at all – with the situation in East Asia.   This is not like some bizarre scenario where Mexico objects to the point of threatening military action to an official from France visiting the United States.  It is not even like Russia objecting to Western politicians visiting the Ukraine at some point prior to the current war, although this is a little closer.   The island of Formosa, although it has been claimed politically, in whole or in part, by various empires over the last millennium, has ethnically and culturally long been part of China.   Ceded to the Japanese Empire late in the nineteenth century, after Japan’s defeat in World War II it returned to Chinese governance, specifically that of the Republic of China then based on the mainland.   At the same time, however, the Chinese Civil War, which had been officially on hold for World War II, restarted and in 1949 the Chinese Communists led by Mao Tse-Tung had driven the Nationalist government led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek out of the mainland.   The Nationalists, and the Republic of China which they governed, retreated to Formosa which has been governed by the Republic ever since.   The Communists have remained in control of mainland China, governing their People’s Republic from Beijing.   Now, obviously there has been a de facto political separation of Formosa from mainland China ever since 1949.  However, unlike the situation with the Ukraine after the Soviet Union collapsed and she declared her independence from Russia in 1991, the independence has not been formally recognized by both sides.  Indeed, it has not been recognized by either.   The People’s Republic of China claims Formosa to belong to China and itself to be the sole legitimate government of all of China.   The Republic of China agrees with the People’s Republic of China that the island and the mainland are one country.   She, however, although this rhetoric has been toned down in recent decades, has insisted since 1949 that she, rather than the Communists in Beijing, is the legitimate government of all of China.    

Therefore, when the People’s Republic of China says that she does not want Nancy Pelosi going to Formosa, her objection is to the American politician going to what she regards neither as another country nor a territory in conventional secession whose independence she refuses to recognize, but to part of the country over which she claims to be the sole legitimate government.   Leaving aside for the moment the question of the truth or falsity of her claim to legitimacy, her objection to Pelosi’s visit would be simply hot air if she was the only party that regarded Formosa as part of China.   The matter is complicated greatly by the fact that the government of the Republic of China on Formosa agrees with her and so does the third party to this dispute.

That third party is the United States.   The United States has, ever since she decided in the Nixon administration to take advantage of the split in the Communist world between Moscow and Beijing by opening up diplomatic and trade relations to Red China, taken a “One China” policy in which she agrees with Beijing and Taipei where they agree – that there is only one China and Formosa is part of it – while remaining ambiguous on the rather stickier point on which they disagree.   Due to her taking this position and opening up relations with Red China, the United States dishonourably withdrew her previous recognition of the Republic of China, but she tried to make it up to the latter by promising to supply them with enough arms to deter the Communists from attacking.   Thus, her “One China” policy contradicts both that of the People’s Republic and that of the Republic of China in that her commitment is, above all else, to preserving the status quo.

This is understandable, perhaps, in that the United States bears a great deal of responsibility for creating that status quo in the first place.

The Communist takeover of mainland China began with the overthrow of the Chinese monarchy and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911.   This led to several years of turmoil as attempts were made to fill the power vacuum left by the abolition of the legitimate government.   The second president of the Republic attempted unsuccessfully to seize the monarchical power for himself, then the country was torn apart as military factions headed by warlords took control of the various regions of the large empire.   Then Sun Yat-Sen, the leader of the 1911 Revolution who had been briefly the first president of the Republic, formed the Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party, which fought against the warlords to re-unite the country.   These efforts ultimately succeeded in 1926, by which time the Kuomintang was headed by Sun Yat-Sen’s successor, Chiang Kai-Shek.   The success war short-lived however.   Sun Yat-Sen had made a foolish and naïve decision to co-operate with the Chinese Communist Party, backed by the Bolsheviks in Russia.   As was the case with Kerensky in Russia in 1917, this provided the Communists with an opening they were able to exploit to seize power for themselves.  As a consequence his successor was soon embroiled in a Civil War against Mao’s Communists.

The Chinese Civil War began about a little over a decade before the Second World War started and had that latter conflict not broken out it might have ended differently.   World War II forced the Nationalists and the Communists in China to put their conflict on hold, for the most part, to fight against their common enemy in the Japanese Empire.   This, however, placed China in alliance with the other countries fighting against Japan and the Axis.   More specifically it placed her in alliance with the Soviet Union and the United States.   Due to this alliance, when the hostilities in the Chinese Civil War resumed after World War II, the balance had already shifted to the Communists.

That an alliance with the Soviet Union, the sponsors of Mao’s Communists, would tip the scales in the Chinese internal conflict to the latter, hardly needs explanation.   That an alliance with the United States would have the same effect will sound strange to those used to looking at the United States and the Soviet Union through the interpretive lens of the Cold War in which they are portrayed not just as hostile powers in an ordinary conflict but as polar opposites representing capitalism and communism.   It is nevertheless the case.   World War II began in the second of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms as American president.   FDR was so horrible that only a few years after his death the Americans passed the twenty-second amendment to their constitution limiting a president to two terms.    Had they not revolted against their legitimate Sovereign in the eighteenth century, they would have had no need to create the office of president and would never have had to impose a term limit on it to prevent another rotten politician from clinging to elected power as long as FDR did.   One of the things that made FDR so bad was his attitude towards Communism in general, and Stalin in particular.   Later, in the Cold War era, liberals talked and acted pro-Soviet for a number of reasons.  Sometimes they were actually Soviet agents.  Most often it was simply a case of their liberalism being that of the squishy sentimentality that Robert Frost so appropriately captured when he defined a liberal as “a man too open-minded to take his own side in a quarrel”, the quarrel at the time being with the Soviets.   FDR, however, was the kind of liberal who saw the Communists as fellow progressives, sharing the same ideals and working towards the same ends as American liberals, who were just a little misguided about the means.   The first year of his first term as president, he sent the first American ambassador to Stalin’s Soviet Union, right at the time the Holodomor – the artificially induced famine that killed millions in the Ukraine – was going on.   He recalled that ambassador when he sent back truthful reports of just how awful the USSR was, and in his place sent Joseph E. Davies, who arrived just in time for the Great Purge, i.e., the show trials through which Stalin eliminated his rivals, and sent back to FDR just what he wanted to hear, glowing reports about how wonderful Stalin and Communism and the USSR were, complete with an account of the Great Purge that depicted the victims as guilty and justice as having been served.   FDR would later personally request that the Warner Brothers turn Davies’ pro-Stalin memoir Mission to Moscow into a pro-Stalin propaganda film, with which request, much to the discredit of the company that gave us Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester and Tweety, they complied.    Had this been all, FDR would merely have gone down as the biggest moron in history.   Unfortunately, however, his attitude towards Communism and Stalin also manifested itself in his World War II policies, and in his meetings with Churchill and Stalin from the first at Tehran (1943) to the last at Yalta (1945), convinced that he had some kind of power of persuasion over Stalin – see Robert Nisbet’s Roosevelt and Stalin: The Failed Courtship (1988) – he made concession after concession to the Soviet dictator that ensured that after the war about a third of the world would end up under Communist tyranny.   Unfortunately Churchill, who understood Communism much better than FDR, had been scraping to the American president since even before Pearl Harbour – see Robert Shogan’s Hard Bargain: How FDR Twisted Churchill’s Arm, Evaded the Law, and Changed the Role of the American Presidency (1995), an account of how FDR swindled Churchill with the destroyers in 1940 – and so was in no position to do anything about it.

While Eastern Europe – including Poland, to protect which from the Nazis who had agreed with the Soviets to divide her between themselves, was the original reason for the war in the first place – is the most discussed of Soviet territorial gains due to World War II, the USSR also took over several regions in Asia that had been controlled by Japan.    This included a number of regions to the north of China that had, for much of the past millennium, been part of the Chinese Empire and which were of strategic importance to the Soviets in their designs to help Mao’s Communists take over China.  Mongolia, which had declared its independence from China when the last dynasty was overthrown, had been taken over by Soviet-allied Communists in the early 1920s, and while the Soviets had refrained from recognizing Mongolian independence in this early period, at the end of World War II during which they had repelled the Japanese invasion of Mongolia and used Mongolia as a base from which to launch their own attack on Japan, which FDR had “persuaded” Stalin to do at Yalta, they convinced China to recognize the independence of the Mongolian People’s Republic.  This was part of a treaty the Soviets signed with China in August 1945, the terms of which Nationalist China abided with – recognizing Mongolian independence following a plebiscite in October that had obviously been rigged by the Communists – but which the Soviets were covertly violating before the ink was even dry on it.  Bordering Mongolia was Manchuria, the region that had been home to the last ruling dynasty of China.   This had been taken over by the Japanese Empire in 1932 and on the day the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, the Soviets, armed with weapons provided by the United States, invaded and took it from Japan.   When the Soviets withdrew from Manchuria the following year, nominally turning it over to the Republic of China, it was actually Mao’s army that took control of the region and turned it into a base to attack the Nationalists.

By this time FDR was dead and the remainder of his fourth term as president was being filled by Harry S. Truman.   That Truman was little better than FDR when it came to Communism, he would later demonstrate in his refusal to let General MacArthur win the Korean War.   At the time in question, however, the last half of the 1940s, the problem was not so much the American president but the Communists and Communist sympathizers who had become entrenched in the American Department of State with the previous president’s blessing.   Also problematic was another American World War II general with a decidedly different attitude towards Communism than that of the Pacific commander.   General George C. Marshall, whom FDR had made Chief of Staff of the US Army, was sent to China as a special envoy late in 1945 tasked with trying to resolve the Chinese Civil War.  The only solution that he was capable of thinking of was that the Nationalists needed to accept the Communists who were actively waging revolutionary war against them into a coalition government.   This was an obvious recipe for total Communist takeover.  Marshall threatened to withhold American financial assistance to China if the Nationalists refused to cooperate.   As it happened, the Communists were not interested in such a coalition either but, when Marshall’s mission ended in failure, he returned to the United States blaming the failure on Chiang Kai-Shek.  When, soon after, he was appointed Secretary of State by Truman, he used the position to fight against American assistance to the Chinese Nationalists.   Indeed, through the entire period that he served as special envoy to China and American Secretary of State and even earlier during World War II, Marshall worked to prepare public opinion to accept a Communist takeover of China by whitewashing Mao and his forces, claiming that they were merely “agrarian reformers” rather than Soviet style Bolsheviks.   Marshall died in 1959, one year into the “Great Leap Forward”, the Maoist version of a Stalinist five-year plan that generated a famine that killed more people in China than the Holodomor had done in the Ukraine.   It would have been interesting, had he lived to the end of the “Great Leap Forward”, to see whether he would have finally admitted just how much of a fool he had been about Mao in the 1940s.   He was hardly the only one, however.   His deputy and successor as Secretary of State, Dean Acheson was just as bad or worse, writing a thousand page White Paper at the time Mao was driving the Nationalists off the mainland, justifying the Truman administration’s policies towards the Republic of China and arguing that had they done anything differently it would not have prevented the Communist takeover, a laughable obscenity considering that what they had done was insist that the Republic of China clasp the viper of revolutionary Communism to its breast.  Aiding and abetting Marshall and Acheson in this, were the dolts working for the Institute of Pacific Relations, an international think tank funded by the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations, that published the academically acclaimed journals Pacific Affairs and Far Eastern Survey that had become heavily infested with Communists and Communist sympathizers, a great many of whom also served in the State Department and other bureaucratic and diplomatic offices in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.   This was the basis of the charges of Communist infiltration made against the State Department by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.   Although the newsmedia and academic institutions made his name synonymous with witch-hunting over this, William F. Buckley Jr. and his brother-in-law L. Brent Bozell Jr made a convincing case as early as 1954 in McCarthy and his Enemies that there were witches indeed to be found in the State Department, cackling around their cauldron as if they were acting out the first scene of the fourth Act of Macbeth.   The mid-1990s public release of the files of the Venona Project, along with the opening of the Soviet archives after the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the Cold War, established the point beyond a reasonable doubt, although the progressive nitwits in the media and academe, including or especially all those who accepted without question the unsubstantiated claims of Hilary Clinton that her failure to win a third term in the White House in 2016 was due to interference by the current Russian government, are unlikely to acknowledge this any time soon.  For the whole sordid tale of the IPR, which shared board members, staff, and a building with Amerasia the journal caught with almost 2000 classified documents stolen from the OSS and other American and British military intelligence agencies after it had rather stupidly published one in 1945, and the FDR-Truman policies that helped the Communists take over so much of Asia, see John T. Flynn While You Slept: Our Tragedy in Asia and Who Made It (1951).

It is easier to understand how the American leadership of the 1930s and 1940s could have been so naive at best and collaborative at worst towards Communism if we grasp that in a sense FDR was right about the relationship between American liberalism and Communism.   The two are cousins of a sort.   Both are the children of the Modern Age, and the philosophical spirit of that Age which spirit can be summed up in the idea that human beings need to abandon tradition, time-proven established institutions, religion and the like and pursue maximum freedom and equality through reason and science, movement towards which goal is what is meant by the word “progress” in its political-philosophical sense.   American liberalism is the direct descendent of the earliest manifestation of this spirit in the sixteenth-seventeenth century English movement that began as Calvinist Puritanism and secularized into Whiggery.   Communism is descended, through Karl Marx as interpreted by V. I. Lenin, from the Jacobin movement responsible for the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror (the revolutionary movement with which Marx aligned himself and for which he wrote began as a faction of the Jacobins).   Jacobinism, like American liberalism, was descended from Puritanism-Whiggery, but through the intermediary of continental philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and especially Jean-Jacques Rousseau.    So FDR was right that American liberalism and Communism have the same goal – a society in which freedom and equality are both maximized – but with different ideas about the means to achieve it.   Where he was wrong was in thinking that this was a worthy goal.   It is not.     Progress is not desirable but evil.  The end of the Modern Age is based upon a contradiction.   Freedom and equality, in their purest forms, are utterly incompatible with each other.   Freedom is compatible with justice but not with equality.   Freedom and justice were considered to be goods in the pre-Modern tradition, that is to say, desirable ends that were what they were as part of the transcendent order.   Freedom and equality are considered to be values in the Modern Age.  Equality is a perversion of justice.   It is to justice what a $3 bill is to real currency.   When idealists make equality their goal rather than justice – and when modifiers such as “social”, “racial”, “sexual” are added to the word “justice” it is actually equality that is meant – they think they are working towards a better society, but are actually making it worse.   Gresham’s Law states that bad money drives out good. Similarly, equality, the counterfeit of justice, drives out justice – and freedom along with it.  The ancients understood this – it is the point, or one of the points at least, of the myth of Procrustes, the giant with the “one size fits all” policy regarding beds, whom Theseus encountered on his way to Athens.   Just as Modern thought errs in thinking that freedom and equality are compatible, so it errs in thinking of pre-Modern thought and tradition as something to be dismissed and discarded except in that it can be interpreted, ala the Whig Interpretation of History, as leading to the Modern Age and its goals.   See Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s writings, especially Liberty or Equality (1952) and The Menace of the Herd (1943) for a fuller explanation of the incompatibility of equality and freedom.  For an illustration look to the French Revolution and all the Communist Revolutions that took their inspiration from the French.   While the Jacobins who founded the first French Republic, the Bolsheviks, the Maoists, the Khmer Rouge, etc. all saw themselves as “liberators” and claimed “liberty” or “freedom” as an ideal as much as the Americans do – the motto of the French Revolution, remember, was “liberty, equality, fraternity” – the French Republic and all the People’s Republics were terror states, life within which could hardly be described as freedom.   That the American Revolution did not immediately produce a similar state is due to a number of reasons, the foremost being that while the leaders of the Revolution were liberals with the same contradictory program of freedom and equality as the Jacobins and Bolsheviks, the Revolution they led was a secession movement rather than the seizing of a central state and furthermore, a secession movement on the part of a coalition of political entities which, once secession was achieved, initially established a much weaker central government than what it eventually grew into because they wished to preserve their own powers in the new federation, and thus the liberals were not able at first to impose their agenda like a Procrustean bed on all Americans from the top down, which meant that much of the freedom of the pre-Revolution tradition was able to survive.

While nobody in their right mind wants to see the inhabitants of Formosa fall under the totalitarian rule of Beijing – the recent example of what happened to the inhabitants of Hong Kong when it was transferred to the People’s Republic should suffice to convince anyone not yet persuaded that life under Red Chinese rule is not desirable – it is a mistake to look to the United States to preserve their freedom.   It is not just that American liberalism is cousin to Communism and that the United States failed to prevent the Communist takeover of mainland China and arguably abetted it.   It is America’s self-contradictory policy with regards to China.   By agreeing with both Beijing and Taipei that there is only “One China” including both the mainland and Formosa, they take a position that keeps them from supporting Formosan independence qua independence and requires them to support one of the governments as the sole legitimate government of all of China.   They cannot support the government in Taipei as the legitimate government of all of China and retain their relations and trade with the Peoples’ Republic.   Therefore, they logically have to support the People’s Republic as the legitimate government.   So far their commitment to keep Formosa from falling into Communist hands has prevented them from doing so in an unambiguous manner.   This does not seem to be a sustainable position in the long run however.   The current incident that is the occasion of this essay demonstrates that among other things.

I will conclude by saying that in my view neither the Republic of China in Formosa nor the People’s Republic of China on the mainland is legitimate.   My views lean towards Jacobitism rather than Jacobinism, albeit Dr. Johnson’s brand of Jacobitism in which loyalty is to the current reigning house, and accordingly I regard no republic as legitimate.   I therefore take a legitimist position with regards to China.   The legitimate heir of one of the ancient dynasties – I will leave it to the Chinese to determine which one – should be found, and restored to his throne over all of China, and both the Republic and the People’s Republic ought to be dissolved into the restored Chinese monarchy.   That is the proper resolution to the situation.   Since the Americans are not likely to get on board with it any time this side of the Second Coming, when they will have to repent of their republicanism and democracy and bow the knee to the King of Kings if they don’t want to share the fate of the first Whig, the devil, the Chinese will just have to do it themselves. — Gerry T. Neal

Justin Trudeau on Castro’s Death- a PM without Common Sense

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Paul Fromm, Director of the Canadain Association for Freedom of Expression gloats with talk show host Brian Ruhe about How Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stuc…
Published on Dec 2, 2016

Paul Fromm, Director of the Canadain Association for Freedom of Expression gloats with talk show host Brian Ruhe about How Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stuck his foot in his mouth by overpraisingFidel Castro in his eulogy. Brian and Paul discuss the theory that Justin Trudeau is the son of Fidel Castro!

Below is a FAIR USE of an article by PAUL WELLS, National Affairs, Tues., Nov. 29, 2016, at:
https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2…

I want to talk about the rest of Canada’s weird, hesitant relationship with Cuba. But first, since I’m just getting to it now, a few words about Justin Trudeau and Fidel Castro.

We haven’t seen Justin Trudeau mourn like this since his dad died. In expressing his “deep sorrow” at the death of Castro, a “larger than life” figure whom Trudeau lauded as “a legendary orator” —

Sorry, let’s just pause right there. Legendary orator? On Sept. 26, 1960, Castro addressed the United Nations General Assembly for four and a half hours, a record unchallenged to this day in the most boring room on earth. In 1998 in Havana, he spoke for seven and a half hours. Calling Castro a great orator is like calling porn legend Ron Jeremy a romantic: it confuses volume with quality.

Onward. Trudeau lauded Castro’s “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people,” whose speech and dietary protein Castro rationed, by law, for decades. I guess it was tough love.

To be sure, Trudeau balanced his praise with criticism. “During Castro’s rule, thousands of Cubans were incarcerated in abysmal prisons, thousands more were harassed and intimidated, and entire generations were denied basic political freedoms,” the prime minister wrote. Just kidding! No, that last quote isn’t from Justin Trudeau at all. It’s from Human Rights Watch. As for the PM, in a communiqué overflowing with praise for Castro, he could find room for only one word about the Cuban dictator’s human rights record: “controversial.”

Nor can the PM’s defenders long sustain the notion that his statement must have been penned by some careless lackey in the Prime Minister’s Office. No, the communiqué is too solidly in line with the entire Trudeau family’s record on the man to be anything but an honest reflection of Justin Trudeau’s thought.

Castro was a pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral. The PM’s brother Alexandre Trudeau wrote in this newspaper a decade ago that Castro was “something of a superman,” whose “intellect is one of the most broad and complete that can be found.” Alexandre Trudeau wrote that he “grew up knowing that Fidel Castro had a special place among my family’s friends,” even if ordinary Cubans “do occasionally complain, often as an adolescent might complain about a too strict and demanding father.”

One notes family similarities in prose style.

Justin Trudeau is defending the statement he made following the death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro. The prime minister says he never shies away from addressing human rights issues.(THE CANADIAN PRESS)
So a prime minister who claims to prize evidence-based policy was caught putting family connections ahead of the exhaustively documented abuses of a man whose death marks a crucial step in his own people’s long-delayed march toward freedom.

But the rest of us — we cold and bashful Canadians — will probably continue to watch Cuba as we have for decades, unsure or divided in our response to events in the land Fidel Castro leaves behind.

Exhibit A in the theatre of ambivalence is Justin Trudeau’s predecessor. Stephen Harper met Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and still the president of Cuba, only 19 months ago, attending what would be Harper’s last Summit of the Americas in Panama City. The two men sat smiling awkwardly at each other in hard-backed chairs next to a little round table.

Probably most Canadians not named Trudeau have long known that Cubans did not have the government Canadians would want for them — and, indeed, not the government Cubans would choose, were they granted the freedom to change their minds about the revolution. But that knowledge doesn’t tell us which mix of engagement and isolation is wisest.

Most Canadian leaders have fallen back on a policy of doing a little less than the Americans. It’s a deeply unsatisfying policy. John Diefenbaker resisted putting Canadian forces on a war footing during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Harper let Obama decide on a change in stance, providing only conference facilities and plausible deniability.

Having blown some political capital by saying what he thinks, Trudeau is now going to skip Fidel Castro’s funeral. It’s a retreat to ambivalence dictated by a public outcry that must have astonished the prime minister, who grew up with a photo of Fidel Castro in his family’s home and thought, perhaps, that everybody does.

Paul Wells is a national affairs writer. His column usually appears Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.