OPINION | EDITORIAL: War, what is it good for?

Canada and Denmark, generally considered two of the happiest countries on Earth, this week resolved a decades-long conflict that, well, was in no danger of upsetting that perception.

The potential War of Hockey and Hygge was averted thanks to an agreement signed by both countries that finally and formally set the boundaries of Hans Island, a small, barren, uninhabited piece of rock in the Nares Strait that runs between Greenland and Canada's Ellesmere Island and separates the Atlantic's Baffin Bay from the Arctic Ocean.

That part of the rock emerging from the strait takes up about half a square mile and is almost always crowded by icebergs or engulfed in pack ice. Though oil and gas reserves lie within the 330-mile strait, they are too deep and the way too treacherous for anyone to exploit them just now.

Navigating the strait almost always requires icebreakers, which must battle a permanent current flowing south out of the Arctic. Before 1949, only five ships were known to have made it through the passage, according to The Guardian.

A hot piece of real estate, this Hans Island.

Hunting and fishing rights for the Inuit were long ago established through international treaty; this 49-year conflict, then, apparently was born of naked pride. But now, alas, we have closure. The official imaginary line marking the border and running southwest-northeast across the island will give Denmark 60 percent of the land mass, Canada 40.

Over the years, the respective militaries were involved, the paper tells us. The winner of these conflicts boiled down to one's choice of hooch. Canadian troops began visiting the island in 1984, on each trip leaving behind maple leaf flags and bottles of Canadian whiskey.

The Danes would retaliate by replacing the Hoser imports with Danish flags and bottles of schnapps. Politicians from each country, ferried to the island by helicopter, whimsically asserted sovereignty over the rock.

And we thought U.S. politicians had mastered the photo op.

Leaders on both sides of Hans Island lauded the agreement--which entailed some potentially tricky underwater rights--as an example for others to follow in situations when the stakes could be much higher.

"It was the friendliest of all wars," Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told The New York Times. "But when you look at what's going on in the world right now, particularly since the invasion by Russia of Ukraine, we really wanted to give more momentum and renew our energies to make sure that we would find a solution."

So, we raise our glasses to Canada and Denmark. To hockey and hygge, to Labatt and Lego. Our guess is all those bottles of whiskey and schnapps likely helped.


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