The Middle East Today
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Jan 1981, p. 189-195
Taylor, Ambassador Kenneth, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The possibilities of peace and stability in the Middle East and implications for North America. The question of energy and security. Foreign policy Implications in terms of the supply of oil. Economic and political consequences of dramatic increases in oil prices. The security of oil supplies. The element of terrorism. The intent of the U.S. to establish a security framework in the Persion Gulf area. Canada and NATO's possible role in that framework. The Canadian businessman in the Middle East.
Date of Original
15 Jan 1981
Language of Item
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Full Text
JANUARY 15, 1981
The Middle East Today
CHAIRMAN The President, Reginald Stackhouse


Canada is one of the largest countries in the world, but one of the least known. Few of our twenty-three million people are known beyond our borders. Only a handful of Canadians have grabbed the world's imagination--the Dionne quintuplets, the Mounted Police, Margaret and Pierre. But just less than a year ago, another Canadian emblazoned his name and his country's on the front pages of the world's newspapers with a feat inspiring for its daring, its skill, and its honour.

Ambassador Kenneth Taylor's rescue of American personnel from certain arrest and confinement in Iran has been the one happy paragraph in the whole sad story of the Iranian hostages. More than a library full of treaties, memoranda, agreements, declarations, protocols and doctrines could possibly have done, this one action demonstrated what it means to be a neighbour, and a good neighbour.

The ambassador's action--at some risk to himself--was an example also of the courage and danger that have now become part of the diplomat's daily life. If once that life seemed only an endless round of courtesies, ceremonies, intrigues and triumphs, it has become in recent years a life open to attack, kidnapping, and even assassination. Nonetheless, our diplomats accept these new hazards as part of the duty to which they have committed themselves.

Ambassador Taylor has now served in his country's foreign service for more than twenty-one years. Joining the Trade Commission service in 1959, he served at Guatemala, Detroit, Karachi and London over a period of twelve years. Returning to Canada in 1971 he held various posts at Ottawa until his appointment as ambassador to Iran in 1977. He is now Consul General to New York, and also Canadian Consulate General Commissioner to Bermuda. When we consider how easy it would have been for him to find some pressing diplomatic duty to perform in Bermuda at this time of year, the club is all the more grateful for his coming to Toronto during this deep-freeze weather.

The ambassador has received many honours and awards in recognition of the courage and compassion he and his colleagues displayed in Iran. These have included the Order of Canada, the United States Congressional Medal of Honor, the Haas International Award, the Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival Award, the Canadian Club of New York Gold Medal Award, the American Academy of Achievement Gold Plate Award, the New York Police Association Golden Rule Award, the State of California Medal of Merit, and as a Yankee fan I must add a recognition night at Yankee Stadium. But no award, distinguished as all these are, can be more significant than the acclaim he has received from his fellow Canadians from coast to coast, and the Empire Club is honoured to welcome Ambassador Kenneth Taylor to address us today.


Ladies and gentlemen: I am delighted to join the members of the Empire Club--a club that has long benefited from being identified as one of North America's primary forums. In fact, as you read and reflect over the list of previous speakers, you wonder quite frankly if there is anything left to say that others, far more persuasively and articulately, have not said before.

Of course, I could speak on United States/Canadian relations. I have been in New York for a week and am fully informed on all aspects of our unique and complex links. This is a very fleeting competence for if you ask me the same questions a year from now my replies will be carefully bland and lack any apparent self-assurance that they may appear to have at the moment. This inverse relationship between less sense with more experience was also evident in Tehran where with each batch of confidential files we destroyed for security reasons our messages to Ottawa became more pertinent and effective. Surely there is a message here for bureaucracy and government.

Quite apart from United States/ Canadian relations, what I would like to make some observations on today is the region that is bound to be the focus of our attention for most of this decade--the Middle East.--Our post-war preoccupations were directed almost entirely on the challenges of rebuilding Western Europe; the sixties and early seventies focused on Southeast Asia; then in the mid-seventies we had a period of meandering, progressively inching towards confrontation in the Middle East.

I am not entirely certain what your view would be of the chances for peace and stability in the Middle East and the implications that this region holds for us. My own is rather guarded. Globally, I was taken by a recent Gallup poll which asked citizens of various countries as to whether they were optimistic about the forthcoming few years. The high was registered by two countries where forty-seven per cent of the sampled population anticipated better times ahead. The poll further had the caveat that in those two countries the situation currently was so bad that fortyseven per cent saw any change as an improvement. Despite my relative pessimism, I still feel that we will be able to work our way through the difficulties--and there are difficulties indeed posed by this region. I know that your sensitivities are numbed by statistics ending with seven zeros. But the fact still remains that nearly two-fifths of the oil consumed by the free world economy is vulnerable to terrorism, accident, warfare and extortion. Loss of Persian Gulf oil for a year would return our economies to the great depression of the thirties. Estimates are that the loss of Saudi Arabian oil to the United States for a year would cost $272 billion; increase the unemployment rate two per cent and increase the inflation rate by twenty percentage points. The loss of all Persian Gulf oil would cut the United States' GNP by thirteen per cent and Japan's by twenty-five per cent. This whole question of Persian Gulf oil is, incidentally, brought out very clearly in a new book I recommend to you all entitled Energy and Security from Harvard's Energy Research Project.

Essentially, the West must define and respond to three paramount challenges:

1. Physical disruption of security of oil supplies;
2. The impact economically and politically from dramatic increases in oil prices; and,
3. The foreign policy implications of our energy vulnerability.

With respect to disruption of supplies, Persian Gulf countries face internal threats that are just as significant as those posed by external forces. The internal threats are largely tied to a restless expatriate population in all of the Gulf countries. In Kuwait, for instance, most of the downtown area is occupied by non-nationals and a number of the senior government cadre is composed of Egyptians, Palestinians, Indians or Pakistanis. The same can be said for their military force. It is not an income gap such as in other developing countries

that we are speaking of, but rather a potentially disenchanted group of expatriates and rivalries among tribal sheikdoms, conservative monarchies, socialist one-party states and theocracies. The external threats, taking into account rapidly changing alliances among Arab countries and the Soviets poised in Afghanistan, increase the degree of uncertainty.

Add to this those without pride or conscience--terrorists. We have already seen in Iran what a terrorist group with a certain political will can do, not only to oil flows but to the pride of a nation and the fragility of international law as well. The breakdown of international legality, characteristic of recent times, amounts to undeclared warfare and desperately weakens the political civilization we possess which was very costly to construct. Coming to terms with terrorism is a challenge not yet resolved in Western Europe and the Middle East. Distinct from the political results, there is of course the human dimension of terrorism particularly for American and Turkish diplomats. During the seventies fourteen U.S. officials, including five ambassadors, were murdered and thirty-eight were kidnapped. In the thirteen years since 1967, as many diplomats were killed in the line of duty as were killed in the previous 180 years of American diplomacy. Oddly enough, a survey of 1,100 U.S. diplomats asked, "Generally speaking, do you and your family feel more or less safe in your foreign post than you do in the Washington area?" Of those who answered that question, 243 stated they felt less safe in their foreign post. About double that, 541, said they were more frightened in the Washington area. Terrorism was a distant seventh place in listing their concerns.

There are no easy responses to the need for an energy security policy in the face of inter-country and terrorist threats. It is not as simple as it first seems, recognizing that security is a matter of degree--it takes into account the possibility of external threat and the degree of likely damage. Moreover, power to enforce security is also a questionable variable. James Eayrs in fact recently wrote an article entitled "The Powerlessness of Power." Apart from exercising power there is the deceptive matter of measuring power. Ray Cline has developed an index of perceived power and allocates 523 points for the US.S.R. and 421 for the United States. Canada follows with 58, a reading he cites as due to the lack of tenacity of purpose among Canadians. Obviously he is not aware of the tenacity of purpose of those following the Toronto Argonauts or the Winnipeg Jets.

What we should seek, or more primarily, what the United States and allies would like to seek, is a mixture of contentment and co-operation at a discreet and delicate level. The United States has made it clear that it intends to establish a regional security framework in the Persian Gulf area. Canada and other likeminded countries, particularly NATo associates, can probably best indirectly contribute to this framework by their continued forthright contributions to the NATO alliance in Western Europe.

This is not to say that Canada is not recognized within the Middle East as a responsible middle-size power. Our country is perceived as a nation closely allied culturally and economically to the United States, with no imperialistic designs, offering excellent educational facilities, an attractive investment climate and as a reliable supplier of alternative North American technology and design. In recent years I have noticed the self-assurance and confidence Canadian businessmen now display throughout the Middle East. The stereotype of the innocent Canadian abroad is no longer valid. Today's Canadian businessman in the Middle East has qualities of endless patience, a realization of the need to set long-term objectives and an awareness that a sensitivity, if not a thorough knowledge of the culture and the country visited, is essential to success.

The thanks of the club were expressed to Ambassador Taylor by Leland H. Ausman, Secretary of The Empire Club of Canada.

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The Middle East Today

The possibilities of peace and stability in the Middle East and implications for North America. The question of energy and security. Foreign policy Implications in terms of the supply of oil. Economic and political consequences of dramatic increases in oil prices. The security of oil supplies. The element of terrorism. The intent of the U.S. to establish a security framework in the Persion Gulf area. Canada and NATO's possible role in that framework. The Canadian businessman in the Middle East.