Editor, The Nelson Daily
Do we accept Stephen Harper’s “new Canadian patriotism”?
We in the Kootenays, with pacificist traditions from Quakers, Doukhobors, and Viet Nam war resisters, surely must be alerted by a Prime Minister with a vision of Canada standing tall with military muscle beside imperial nations like America and Britain.
I fear that maybe Canadians have put this man in charge precisely because he does intend to uphold all the imperial economic methods of the past, when the rich West took what it wanted from the rest of the globe and called itself the most advanced culture.
Empire is not a dirty word for Harper, whether it rules by military might like the Americans use, or capitalist domination as richer nations exercise over poorer. An assertive presence on a global stage, with our expanded armed forces and more intervention, is his aim.
When we went to Afghanistan in 2001, it was on a supposed “NATO” mission with our allies the USA, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.
It was a bogus use of that treaty organization. The US pretended it had been attacked and its NATO allies were treaty-bound to join it to fight the Afghan state and overthrow its government, which task was very easy for our high-tech military.
The USSR began its invasion in 1979 with similar ease. Did we learn from their errors? No way. We are the West. We are good, so our invasions cannot fail like those of the Evil Empire.
It astounds me how little comment our new aggressiveness overseas has provoked, but I think it is because it began under Chretien. He had “kept us out of Iraq” in 2003. His image was sold to us – the man who would stand up for the independent foreign policy of Canada.
In closed door meetings, Chretien was told by the US leadership that our forces were not wanted in Iraq, but we were going to have to show more willing in Afghanistan.
Our role in Kandahar was assigned to us. Then we were sucked into a new Viet Nam scenario, and that was a situation our nation never had agreed to in our entire history. We are not empire defenders. We are empire resisters, we resisted the British Empire in our past whenever it tried to drag our army into Afro-Asian colonial policing actions.
We said no to the USA when it did the same in Latin America. Why did we lack the intelligent and principled leadership we needed in 2002 to say to the USA, “we are going home now from Afghanistan, we are not staying to fight a counterinsurgency, that is not a Canadian policy, never was and never will be.”
We were caught in the myth of our own good intentions and the omnipotence of our technology and our capitalist democratic superiority. Libya proves our new swaggering pose, and Harper says we will fight Iran too.
But history is poised to teach us a lesson, after 100 years of self-identification as morally above the USA and the UK, those two over-aggressive powers of the Anglo-sphere.
Canada had played the role of the nice guy in the world scene since 1945, a supporter of the UN, generous with our UN peacekeeping forces, not domineering over weak peoples – like the real empires of the US, UK or France.
We were always able to harmonize being non-interventionist with our corporate and banking investments in the Third World, and our investments provided profits for the Canadian corporate and finance sectors and upheld our First World affluence at home.
Latin America, where US imperialism was particularly notable before WWII, was a zone where no Canadian soldier ever fought, but many a Canadian businessman pursued profitable opportunities after US forces had set up the puppet regime to make capitalism possible.
Regimes who were reliably anti-communist were just as much the demand of Canada's corporations as of American conservatives and Wall St. financiers.
After imperialism established law and order in primitive nations overseas, Canadian businesses went there to exploit the investment opportunities.
Now Harper is saying what older imperialists no doubt are demanding to hear from Canada, that we will step up and use force when disorder or anti-western regimes threaten capitalist operations abroad. We are a rich nation, and Harper brags at Davos about our smart policies for avoiding the crisis in banking that other nations face.
So, rich as we are, we have new responsibilities to keep the peace among “lesser breeds without the Law.” (Kipling)
It is a fact that Canada is now the nation whose mining corporations are most active and unethical in the developing world. A new face dawns upon us, the Ugly Canadian.
At bottom, our past clean-cut image with people in the developing world was illusory. We were not in their nations mainly to do good, but to promote the economic interests of our own businesses, our own jobs, our own dividends. America had lost its image as a white-hatted champion of people who were ruled by White Imperialism, and a voice of anti-colonialism at the UN, sometime in the 1960's (when the USSR tried to pick up the role in the Arab world and Africa.)
Canadians were handy diplomats for the US and UK when they needed mediators with the Third World. We did the job. We were trusted and liked. At the UN we always got a seat on the Security Council when we asked for it... Until the last go-around, when Harper's foreign policy was punished by rejection by a majority of UN members and Portugal got the seat we expected to win.
Canadians have been losing our old reputation for unselfish helpfulness since 2001 at least. Afghanistan was our baptism into war for capitalist empire. We have promoted it under the guise of spreading democracy and prosperity. The Afghans know better.
Our P.M. has also shown he will brook no opposition to his grand design for producing more exports of natural raw materials and commodities. Expansion of the petro-sector, with no bars to pipelines or tankers or f racking, to make Canada an “energy super-power,” is the Conservative Party's brand.
He was elected with a majority on a clear understanding of this agenda in the West and in Ontario. Harper's worship of economic policies of constant growth in resource extraction at whatever cost to the environment is appropriate to a pre-1960’s mindset, a time when we did not know better, when growth was always progress and we thanked corporations for investing in us for job creation.
That tired ideology convinces less and less.
Harper admits in interviews that he rejects what the 1960’s represents, i.e. that era’s liberality, environmentalism, and radical challenging of capitalist wisdom. He declares war on drugs too.
The 1960's were too permissive about drugs, and Harper will now turn back the clock... just in time for the Liberals to decide that legalization of cannabis will be their official electoral platform.
If we reject Harper’s vision for Canada, we might suffer a decline in material standards of living. I think we know this. I think it is why he can push his agenda.
He has a fine harmony with Canadian selfishness.