I enjoy listening to Harper's speeches after the fact, mostly because I can fast forward the particularly useless tripe. This morning I listened to the self congratulatory barn burner Harper delivered at the Conservative Convention. I don't begrudge Conservatives their moment, after all it's quite an achievement for their side, representing years of work to reach this pinnacle. Having said that, the rest of us can now enjoy the inevitable descent, because success and failure isn't really the deep philosophical achievement partisans would have us believe.
What I found particularly striking about Harper's speech, this almost delusion of grandeur tone, augmented by a sense of growing military prowess. Apparently, the world is changing fast, unlike past decades according to Harper, the stagnant order of things is moving and Canada is well placed to shine. Harper again makes this kind of odd comment:
"not just because we have the tools to act but the capacity"
A clear reference to increased military capabilities, I find this sentiment almost dangerous when put in the context of Harper seeing some larger role for Canada on the world stage. I believe these Conservatives do believe that an enhanced military is a vehicle for increased influence in the world, which is absolutely delusional in my view. A country like Canada never becomes a super power, we never flex our muscles to the world, we will always be a "middle of the pack" entity which Harper challenged in his speech. I agree Canada should pull its weight, but for the Conservatives there is a certain zeal that almost romanticizes the military, as though only true bravery and honour is achieved through a capable use of force. Listen to the way Conservatives wrap themselves in the military, as though only they truly support our troops, and you have a window into the bent mentality.
Harper has been an utter failure on the world stage, apart from praise on our economy, our stature has shrank under the Conservative watch, despite these claims. You listen to Harper and you'd think Canada is a rising force, you listen outside our borders and mostly it's "what happened to Canada?", perplexed and disappointment, not AWE. Harper:
"we take strong principled positions, whether popular or not, and that is what the world can count on from Canada"
The now typical Harper rationalization to explain our emerging PARIAH status in world relations. Irrelevant on climate change, non existent at the United Nations, playing NO role in key diplomatic initiatives, retreating from traditional development and aid, apart from the military angle, we've fallen badly in the eyes of the world. Harper turns it around as a virtue, being marginalized a testament to principles, when really it's a statement on his failure to understand foreign policy nuance. Harper defends the black and white world these Conservatives live in, that is strength in their view, even though that application simply doesn't jive with a shades of grey world. Supporters cheer this simplistic view of the world, but fail to see that rather than influencing, Canada is just being TUNED out, a marginal irritant, rather than true mover. Harper changed the wording of a communique, oh what a triumph, but really empty word revisions won't replace real back channel influence.
At the core, Harper believes a beefed up military gives Canada clout in the world. In reality, I recall past governments having the "capacity" to act, we have a proud history of doing just that, so Harper creates a false baseline. The military did need upgrading, modernization, so on that score some factual assertion, but to the Conservatives it seems more, almost like a juvenile machismo rather than an accurate read of priorities. We've withered on diplomacy, but Harper thinks a beefed up military will provide influence. Harper is dead wrong, Canada will always be an "augmentor", a good ally, but never a "driver", which is why we have formerly seen diplomacy and nuance as our international sweet spot.
Harper says former governments just "went along to get along", whereas Conservatives turn needless conflict and friction into a testament of principled foreign policy. The new reality, our foreign policy is really only for domestic consumption, it sounds fantastic in theory, but outside our borders, increasingly nobody is paying attention. So, while Conservatives wave the flag at home, enamoured with our supposed international greatness, remember abroad that flag isn't placed so prominently on backpacks anymore, and that's far more telling than rhetoric.