Michael Ignatieff on genocide, Pakistan, and going to war

Here is a transcript of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's responses to questions about genocide, Pakistan, and going to war without the authorization of the UN Security Council:

Georgia Straight: [Samantha Power] makes the case on numerous occasions in the 20th century, governments sat on their heels while genocide occurred. And I'm just wondering if you were to become prime minister...would you behave differently than, say, your predecessors in this area?

Michael Ignatieff: "Well, let's look at our predecessors. Canada took part in the Kosovo operation. Canada took part in trying to stop ethnic war and bloodshed in the Balkans in the '90s. My own life was once significantly protected by Canadian peacekeepers. You know, we did great work in the Balkans in the '90s. And I can't see being a prime minister unless you're prepared to authorize the use of our forces to protect other civilians. But let's be clear. Our military forces should never be used for occupation, aggression or conquest. They can only be used in my view to protect civilians from harm. And—but if we're asked to protect civilians from harm, we have to have the capabilities to do that, which means the capability to fire back when fired upon, and those kind of things. So and but let's not put a, let's not put an exclusive emphasis on the use of military force. A lot of the most important things Canada can do don't involve force at all. They involve helping countries to develop peacefully, to develop good institutions, clean water, you know, education, that's, I would much rather be doing that than send in troops."

Georgia Straight: You hear Obama mention Pakistan in his State of Union speech. And then you look...at the role some people in Pakistan and the madrassas are playing in what's happening in Afghanistan. And I'm just wondering, do you think Canada should be focusing more attention on Pakistan?

Michael Ignatieff: "Success in Afghanistan means stabilizing a democratically elected government so that it can defend itself. That's the mission in my view. That's what we're trying to achieve. You can't achieve that unless other regional players—India, Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia—are involved, and decide that it's in their interest to have a stable democratically elected government in Afghanistan that can defend its own territory. Pakistan has to be part of that solution because Pakistan is...the rear operating base for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. And it's not in Pakistan's interest to have terrorist bases on its borders. Let's be clear, Canada—I've said this 20 times but it needs to be said again—Canada has no business interfering in the territorial integrity of Pakistan. You know, what the Americans do is their business, but I would certainly urge the Americans to proceed with very great caution and respect the integrity of Pakistan. And if they're engaged in military operations against terrorist bases, they have to do so with the consent of the government of Pakistan. But Canada is not going to play any part in that with or without the consent of the Pakistanis. We've got our hands full in Kandahar. We've got to complete that mission until 2011 and then bring our troops home and figure out another mission we can do to help, you know achieve the objective, which is to get a democratically elected government capable of defending its own territory."

Georgia Straight: [Could you uphold the doctrine of the responsibility to protect] without necessarily [obtaining] the support of the UN Security Council?

Michael Ignatieff: "Look, we intervened in Kosovo...without the UN security council approval because the Russians wouldn't allow it. You know, my view was that Milosevic was proceeding to the final solution of the Kosovar problem. I don't mean extermination, but mass expulsion. And that was unacceptable. I mean, absolutely unacceptable. So that had to be stopped and it was stopped. I supported that mission and I supported action in Bosnia to keep ethnic cleansing from prevailing in Europe. I make no apologies for it. And if that means occasionally I supported use of force by the United States, I did so because I believed the use of force by the United States was essential for protecting civilian populations. So I don't feel I've got anything to apologize for....Canadian troops should never be used for occupation, aggression or conquest. Canadian troops should always be used wherever possible only with UN Security Council approval. We're in Afghanistan, for example, because it has explicit UN sanction and we've been asked to be there by a democratically elected government. That's the basis upon which a Canadian prime minister should authorize the use of force. And in my view, that should almost always be the basis—the only exception being this case of Kosovo when the Security Council blocks action and no action is possible and people are dying. Then Canada has another kind of decision to make. It was the same thing that happened in Rwanda. If you sit there and say, 'We'll never go into another country except with Security Council approval, you might just run into the problem that allows a genocidal episde to occur. Canadians have to be honest about that. I don't—let me repeat it so there is no equivocation: Canada must accept that the international authority that authorizes the legitimate use of force in the world is the United Nations Security Council. We should in all cases that I can conceive of, only commit to the use of military force where the UN Security Council gives approval."

Georgia Straight: Look at the situation in Darfur. [With] China being on the UN Security Council [and] China having big business ties with the government of Sudan, how could you ever get any authorization to go in and save these people's lives?

Michael Ignatieff: "Indeed, that's a challenge that we have to face. But I would rather err on the side of caution here given that the use of military force often turns out badly. It is the one thing about the restraint on the use of force by the Security Council is that it allows cooler heads to prevail. But clearly on the Sudanese issue, I have believed for some time and said publicly for some time that if the African Union-UN force needs Canadian help, we should provide it."