By Linda McQuaig, Toronto Star, October 19, 2010
Redesigning Canada’s role in the world has been one of the key changes attempted by the Conservatives. They’ve spent years trying to sell Canadians on a new narrative — about Canada as a nation that keenly shoulders heavy burdens in real wars, having shaken off that girlie peacekeeping stuff. Harper-era TV ads for the Canadian Forces have shunned peacekeeping images and instead urged young Canadians to “fight chaos; fight terror; fight with the Canadian Forces.”
But this attempt to repackage us as a warrior nation has always been a top-down effort, orchestrated by Conservatives and our military establishment, not a grassroots yearning among Canadians for a more muscular role in the world. Indeed, exactly the opposite has been the case.
In polling done last year for the Department of National Defence, Ipsos Reid found Canadians not only strongly attached to peacekeeping, but becoming increasingly so.
Macho foreign policy, through the agency of the Canadian military, is not only not popular among the Canadian people, it is also not sustainable as a national posture on the world stage. In fact, all these claims about a "principled" foreign policy of which Canada and Canadians can be proud, in the backwash over the vote to exclude Canada from a Security Council seat, for the first time in our history of such pursuits, shows just how far out of touch with both the home constituency and the international community the Harper government really is.
If peace-keeping is considered "girlie stuff" as McQuaig puts it, and real in-the-open-field gun-fights between Canadian soldiers and Afghanistan Taliban, the manly stuff or real war, the Canadian government mistakes this conflict with a bunch of insurgent infidels, who while persistant and proud, are no Fuehrer and his Nazi hundreds of thousands of tyrannized troups with hundreds of bombers and the skill and knowledge to develop ever more lethal killing forces.
Without in any way disparaging the valiant efforts of our troops, and the troops of the U.S. and other NATO allies, (some of whom are not even permitted to engage in combat by their home governments) this Afghan conflict never should have become a war of the kind of dimension it has become. As Condolezza Rice points out in her interview with the Star's Olivia Ward in today's edition, "originally designed as a light footprint, with the Afghans doing most of the fighting," this war is more about peace-keeping and nation building than about conventional war.
And, just as the "right" denigrates Obama's "community development" career on the south side of Chicago, as "work without responsibility" compared to the work of a governor (Palin, for example), the right also denigrates nation building and community development and peace-keeping as compared with outright combat.
Engaged in a battle of stereotypes in their own minds, the "right" cannot imagine new models and new instruments and new thinking for new and different situations, as exemplified by the Canadian government's regressive, untendered purchase of 65 F-35 Fighter Jets, and millions more in prison cells for prisoners "whose crimes are not being reported." Taking out Suddam Hussein could and would have been done more effectively and more efficiently with far less loss of life and far less political damage in Iraq, by a force like the Israeli force that freed the hostages in Entebbe in Uganda. But the "macho" president and his "macho" Veep, and his "macho" pentagon had to make a Cecil B. DeMille production out of it. Similarly, taking out Osama bin Laden could and would have been more likely to succeed with a more agile, more focused and more 'intelligent' force like the Israeli force used in Uganda in the 1970's.
So too, on a smaller, more modest "Canadian" scale, is the Harper government milking the "combat" component of our Afghan commitment as the "new" more macho Canadian posture on the world stage.
While the whole world, both inside and outside the country, knows that the new "man" is more reflective, and collaborative and collegial and firm and resolute and evolved in his personal and in his political life, without being a bully or a hero or a bigot, a mysogynist or a misandrist...and peace-keeping is a far more sustainable and necessary posture in the coming decades, especially given the instability of the world's environment, economy, political stability and inter-connectedness.
Those not glued to their rear-view mirrors, with their eyes firmly on the road ahead, know that war is as obsolete as the neanderthals who claim global warming is a figment of the imagination of select scientists, and as obsolete as the "macho" warrior who marched and massacred through the pages of history on all continents.
So Messrs. Baird, McKay, Cannon, and Harper, along with Messrs. Bushcheney, Rumsfield, McCain and Palin, "Get over your addiction to hard power and prepare for entry into the real world of the 21st century.