Sunday, September 14, 2008

Murray Dobbin on Canadian Foreign Policy

Dobbin waxes eloquent about mythical Canada

Coming once again via the Real News Network, Murray Dobbin insists that Canada's engagement in Afghanistan somehow imperils Canadian culture.

Dobbin recites all the tired left-wing rhetoric surrounding Afghanistan: that the combat mission was accepted to appease the United States, that Canadian forces are "occupying" Afghanistan, and Canada is becoming too "American".

But Dobbin makes a serious misstep when he insists that the "military is being integrated into what has been a strictly non-military culture."

Dobbin is either a tremendously poor student of Canadian history, or has simply allowed his reading of Canadian history to be distorted beyond recognition by his personal ideological preferences.

Canadian culture has never been "strictly non-military". Historians are in general agreement that notions of Canada as a sovereign state -- as opposed to merely a British colony -- came out of a military engagement: the Second World War. Historians agree that Canadians -- like the citizens of many British colonies -- came out of WWII believing that Canada had earned its sovereignty by playing a critical role in winning the European conflict.

Canadians have always taken pride in our military. Canadians have been known to boast about the "make-do" ingenuity of Canadian service men and women, who perform amazing feats with equipment many others would be considered ill-suited to the task.

We come together as Canadians every 11th of November to honour the sacrifices of our service men and women. Those sacrifices were predominantly made during times of war -- mostly during the First World War, Second World War and Korean War, although various Peacekeeping missions and the Afghan war have also added to the ranks of the remembered dead.

One of Canada's great national symbols, the Snowbirds, is made up of Air Force pilots specially trained to perform aerial stunts. They are world-renowned for their skill and artistry.

Even the Peacekeeping that Dobbin and his ideological stalwarts laud is carried out not by civilians, but by military personell. It was the labours of such military personell that helped Prime Minister Lester Pearson secure his Nobel Peace Prize -- again, a symbol of pride for Canadians.

Dobbin clearly misunderstands the role of the military in Canadian history. There is nothing un-Canadian about the military.

Dobbin also trots out a conspiracy theory suggesting that the engagement in Afghanistan is being fought primarily to secure a proposed pipeline through Afghanistan. The pipeline would carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to foreign markets.

However, Dobbin should be interested to learn that the pipeline in question would not be carrying natural gas to American or European markets, but rather to India and Pakistan. Furthermore, no war effort would have ever been needed to secure that pipeline, considering that the Taliban was in favour of building the pipeline.

Dobbin also accuses Stephen Harper and the Conservatives of being in league with George W Bush in allegedly trying to surround Russia with NATO states friendly to the United States.

But Dobbin should also keep in mind that Georgia and the Ukraine applied to NATO for membership, and that membership has still not yet been granted. It seems illogical for NATO to drag its feet on granting full membership -- as opposed to their current associate membership -- if their goal is to encircle Russia.

Dobbin argues that Harper and the Conservatives are backing American foreign policy despite it being against Canada's interests. But he may want to double-check what Canada's interests really are.

To begin with, Central and Eastern Canada remain energy importers. Thus, Canada has an interest in helping to break Russian dominance over east European and west Asian energy markets.

Furthermore, Canada has a very real interest in helping to corral states that harbour terrorists -- not to mention interests in promoting human rights by ensuring that one of the world's worst abusers of human rights does not return to power in Afghanistan.

In the end, Dobbin engages in some base defeatism. Canada cannot win in Afghanistan, he insists, although he, like his ideological stalwarts, have made a habit of overlooking successes in Afghanistan so that they may focus on the failures and challenges there.

Unfortunately, it isn't at all unlike Murray Dobbin to be narrowly ideological. His Michael Byers-esque turn on Canadian Foreign Policy is really little more than another drop in the bucket.

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