Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Body Bags For Prestige

I watched the Harper interview with Mansbridge on the CBC last night. I found Harper's reasoning for our role in Afghanistan misguided and troubling. Harper's argument centered around this point:
"It's certainly raising Canada's leadership role, once again, in the United Nations and in the world community where we used to have an important leadership role," he said...

"It's certainly engaged our military," Harper said. "It has made it a better military."

I have already posted on the dangers of using the military to enhance our reputation, but Harper's latest comments show a real detachment that is dangerous. First off, I don't agree with Harper when he says:
"If I can be frank about this, you know, in some ways I think we can complain that only a handful of countries are carrying the bulk of the load and the bulk of the danger there," Harper told Peter Mansbridge. "But, you know, the shoe was often on the other foot. For a lot of the last 30 or 40 years, we were the ones hanging back."

Canada has consistently made substantial contributions to several United Nations peacekeeping missions, so the "hanging back" suggestion seems to differentiate between bringing people together and killing people. I am offended that Harper suggests we haven't carried our weight in the past, as though peacekeeping doesn't count.

Harper argues that the military is a better military today because of our involvement. Like a team that needs game experience, there is something wrong with the idea that active war is required to keep the troops "fresh". I see nothing wrong with an army that lacks experience, its speaks to a peaceful world.

With regard to our prestige, Harper reveals his desire to be relevant on the world stage. This government has made the military a key priority on several fronts, which suggests that the Harper view concurs with the ideal that "might is right". Apparently, we are willing to sacrifice a few "heroes" because the tradeoff is enhanced appearances. It is almost as if the higher the bodycount, the more Canada can brag to the world about our "commitment". This notion is mostly folly and shows little regard to the soldiers Harper is so quick to champion.

Afghanistan doesn't raise our "leadership role", nor should it be part of our reasoning for our involvement. I thought this was a moral fight, an ideological necessity that defines our values. Afghanistan isn't about the world pecking order, or at least it shouldn't be. Canada already enjoys a role in the world affairs. A middle power that other countries envy, Canada is seen as an inclusive collection of people that operates fairly. There is a reason American college students put Canadian flags on their backpacks when travelling abroad, let's not forget that. I don't care if Canada is noticed, especially if it requires death and destruction to draw attention. Harper has a grandiose vision of the world and seems willing to sacrifice to get the mirage of the gold star. Look at me, look at me.


In the comments knb wondered if Harper equated death with a better military. Here is the quote, you be the judge:
I can tell you its certainly engaged our military. It's made them a better military, not withstanding and maybe because of the casualties.


dalestreet said...

This desire of our leaders to make Canada "relevant on the world stage" is a recurring theme. PM Harper is currently attempting to satisfy this desire via a redefinition of the Canadian military. Previous Prime Ministers have used the economy, trade liberalisation and conforming to the tenets of the IMF and the World Bank to try and achieve economic or fiscal "relevance".

Though there are obvious differences in the positive and/or negative results of these examples, there is a common flaw/oversight in both. In neither case does is appear that Canadian wants, needs, desires or circumstances are evaluated prior to implementation. It seems that the direction(s) taken are based almost entirely on a course that was plotted external to our society and its sensibilities.

Mark Dowling said...

Steve, would you agree the same could be said of Justin Trudeau and Romeo Dallaire?

Anonymous said...

It is more than coincidental that both Harper and Bush will address the UN on Thursday. Harper and Bush have told their countries "wait to hear my speech if you want to know what I am doing."
To my mind, actions of this sort are not what a democracy is built upon.
Increasingly disturbing is the lust for war that both men display in their quests for power. No amount of death is enough until these men have their way.
Harper has got to go.

Anonymous said...

Much of politics is personal. Harper shows some rather alarming traits as a leader so far. His clamping down on elected MPs. His decision to be the person who makes the most important statements. His cavalier attitude to Parliament as the citizens' debating forum. His refusal to debate the role of Canada in Afghanistan. His expressed desire to add a dimension of toughness to our foreign policies. His fervid courting of Bush, through the softwood sellout to beefing up forces in Afghanistan.

These are unusual traits for a Canadian prime minister. This man needs watching. His agenda is to turn the clock back on many policies which Canada has had for the past 30 or so years. Our foreign policies are just part of this revolutionary change of the new Tories.

Steve V said...

Dallaire referred to Canada as "a leading middle power in the world", when he spoke about Darfur. I doubt he has that opinion because of our involvement in Afghanistan. As for Trudeau, I don't really see the comparison, beyond the superficial.

Ti-Guy said...

It always come back to the sheer dishonesty of Stephen Harper. This statement "For a lot of the last 30 or 40 years, we were the ones hanging back" is a distortion. Exactly where does Harper think Canada was shirking its responsibilities? That the country wasn't assertive enough to impose solutions in troubled areas with the bold application of aggressive military power? Who's he trying to kid with this? Only one country does that, and the rest follow along, as we have been. That's the reality. If Harper thinks he's going to change that, he's deluded.

And frankly, this coming from a rather insular, life-long courtier is simply laughable.

Anonymous said...

We have an ignorant coward as PM and one that is so detached from his heart that the deaths seem to be part of our currency now to elevate us on the world stage??? Who the h*ll cares about the world stage. Our soldiers need not die so these ego maniacs that are war mongers feel more powerful. His interview was the most revealing yet. Canadians better take note of a future under this nut. He was right when he said we wouldn't recognize Canada under his control. We can't purge ourselves of this scourge soon enough.

Anonymous said...

There are always nuggets of gold in Harper's past writings, which are useful to explain his present policies and actions – this leopard has not changed its spots. Here is Harper on Canada and parades:

"This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based on focus groups. We will not take a stand based on phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of pubic opinion... In my judgment Canada will eventually join with the allied coalition if war on Iraq comes to pass. The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade."
- Stephen Harper indicating that, if elected, Canada will join the US occupation of Iraq, Hansard, January 29th 2003.
And here is Harper on Iraq and Canada's refusal to go it alone with the USA without UN support – note his distaste for the UN Security Council:

"This government's only explanation for not standing behind our allies is that they couldn't get the approval of the Security Council at the United Nations - a body [on] which Canada doesn't even have a seat."
- Stephen Harper supporting the American invasion of Iraq, CTV's Question Period, March 30, 2003.
And here is Harper on Canada "not standing on the sidelines" – sound familiar? Think about his comments on Afghanistan:

"Thank you for saying to our friends in the United States of America, you are our ally, our neighbour, and our best friend in the whole wide world. And when your brave men and women give their lives for freedom and democracy we are not neutral. We do not stand on the sidelines; we're for the disarmament of Saddam and the liberation of the people of Iraq."
- Stephen Harper, Friends of America Rally, April 4, 2003.
And finally, consider this pledge when it comes to future adventures which Harper and his new Tories will lead Canada into if it gains a majority government:

"The time has come to recognize that the U.S. will continue to exercise unprecedented power in a world where international rules are still unreliable and where security and advancing of the free democratic order still depend significantly on the possession and use of military might."
- Stephen Harper, May, 2003, speech to the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
Clear enough?

wilson61 said...

Amazing, posters that prefer not to show their names, calling a PM a coward, while Taliban Jack wants to pull our troops from the front lines in Afghanistan, because of too many casualties and put them safely handing out candies instead(oops) or to be UN human shields in Darfur.

PMSH also said on CTV;
yes, the mission changed when PMPM and Graham recalled troops from a peacekeeping mission Kabul and re-assigned them to the front lines of Kandahar.

Anonymous said...

In my last comment on your post (above), my last quote of Harper refers to the unprecedented position of American power in the world. Seems to echo Ignatieff's statements in his articles about the "mission" of the US in the world.

I wonder if Harper recognized a similar soul through reading Ignatieff's articles, when Harper strode across the Commons' floor to shake Ignatieff's hand after he supported Harper's decision to lengthen the commitment to Afghanistan?

Alberta Report said...

Wilson61 Falling off the turnip truck yet again.

To complain about people calling Harper a coward (when really he's just a simpering, insular and petulant career academic)and then you yourself refer to Layton as "taliban jack" - nice repuglican tactic there. I'm sure you don't see the irony there - back to school for you junior.

So Wilscum61, is that your only trick is to label dissent as being part of the "eeevil doooers???"

How is that "freedom spread" on your crackers in the morning. Speaking of crackers, say "hi" to your other conservative troll buddies.

wilson61 said...

"taliban jack"
as reported half way down the page:


''And Mr. Layton, who is known as "Taliban Jack" now in the military, ought not to purport to speak for soldiers, least of all when they are doing the very sort of thing he claims to want them to be doing.''

hmmm ...seems our brave men & women in Afghanistan are not too fond of Layton, could it be because Laydown's 'bring 'em home' granstanding has encouraged the Taliban to focus on 'sending them home'???

wilson61 said...

Wilscum61 ??
When Dippers can't attack the post, they attack the poster.

Alberta Report said...


When you make dumb comments like you seem to spend your time trolling for the ripe opportunity, you immediately become a target of satire in my books. Don't like the name? Maybe I should call you "the NEW wilscum61" - in keeping with your conservative cohorts style.

And, FYI I have no affiliation - just a brain and the ability to apply reason, quite successfully I might add. Calling others cowards, etc. whilst you yourself choose to throw around names under an alias is pretty laughable don't you think?

Your referral to a dubious comment in the globe, which fails to cite the *actual* source - actually its a broken link, but I'll take your paraphrase with a grain of salt... clearly, even that attempt is a pretty weak defence you have to admit.

I'd suggest calling in reinforcements by yelling upstairs for mother to give you a hand searching the net for any vaguely supporting items, cuz this won't cut it, bud. Get her to make you a nice sandwich with the crusts cut off too, just like you like.

Steve V said...

"This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based on focus groups. We will not take a stand based on phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of pubic opinion..."

I guess Ambrose didn't get the message when the Tories polled Canadians to decide what their environmental policy should be, as opposed to one based on values and moral necessity. That quote is the funniest thing I've read in a long time because everyone knows, and the Conservatives don't even deny it, that this government is completely and utterly consumed with winning votes. As Kennedy said, this is a "marketing" group, not a government.

As an aside, wilson61, blah blah ba blah blah...

knb said...

Steve, do you have any more of the transcript of the interview, (or could you direct me to one)?

I only caught a bit of a clip this afternoon, but I thought I heard Harper say something like, 'our military is stronger, or may be stronger, not in spite of the deaths, but perhaps because of them'.

Surely I heard this incorrectly.

Steve V said...


You can watch it again here.

knb said...

Thanks Steve. I'd read the article but it does not contain the full interview, specifically the clip I heard tonight.

I'll hunt around.

Steve V said...


Look to the right of the link, there is a video of the entire interview :)

knb said...

Ooops, not having too bright a day. Thanks very much.