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Peculiar principles and Afganistan

Canadian Prime-Minister Stephen Harper is continuing to operate on principles peculiar to himself this September 11th, as he has attempted to drum-up public support for the war in Afganistan by surrounding himself in the symbols of the American administration's "War on Terror". The logical trouble of this approach is simply this: Canadian citizens, by and large, do not support the "War", and often see it as an operation that has spun out-of-control under American leadership. Secondly, Canadians, as a general rule, are multi-lateralists in their beliefs on how international relations should be conducted, which conflicts sharply with the uni-lateralist approach of the current American government. Thirdly, Canadians are generally loath to engage in any action that would imply subservience to an American hegemony.

A photo of a Canadian Armed Forces 'Leopard C2' main battle tank.

The Right Honourable Mr. Harper's approach on the issue of Afganistan therefor manages to rub the popular psyche the wrong way on three points: it links the war in Afganistan to a "War on Terror" that conflicts with Canadian ideals of morality and propriety, it conflicts with Canadian beliefs in the rule of law through linkage to the "War" and illegal acts conducted in its pursuit, and it further implies a debt of Canadian subservience to the American government and its policies and thereby raises the spector of the "little sister, Big Brother" relationship that Canadian citizens so vocally resent.

In short, if Mr. Harper's intent had been to argue in favour of continued operations by the Canadian military in Afganistan, he has been arguing from a stance that is sharply opposed to that of most citizens. Are there convincing arguments to be made for the war that would speak to the beliefs of Canadians? Yes, certainly; should the war be granted meaning as a military operation in support of Afganis (rather than American politicans), it would likely find clear support among the majority of citizens. However, as long as there remains suspicion that the Government is throwing support into the war for "the wrong reasons", there will be strong opposition to it. The suspicion that Canada's military is being used to prop-up an illegal war by allowing American force to be diverted from Afganistan to Iraq is not uncommon on Canadian streets, and it does not settle well in Canadian guts.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
notebuyer
Sep. 12th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
A Non-Reply
Just to note that Tony Blair has set out the situation a little better: and that whatever the war in Iraq was (and illegal is the wrong description here), right now it is a required fight -- even if it is on behalf of those who don't appear understand what is going on.

ccord
Sep. 13th, 2006 12:12 am (UTC)
Re: A Non-Reply
Tony Blair is, without any doubt on my part, a much more skillful orator and politico than Prime-Minister Harper. If anything, I would be concerned that Mr. Harper will manage to talk Canadians out of supporting the Afganistan mission, without actually meaning to do so.

Where the term "illegal" is used vis-a-vis the war in Iraq it is definitely tinged with polmecism, but it is an accurate portrayal of the perception that tends to be had in much of Canada (though less so in Provinces such as Alberta, which coincidentally have high percentages of citizens of recent American ancestry :-) ). This has a considerable amount to do with the differences in perception that a typical Canadian citizen (homo canukis) has regarding law and international institutions compared with her or his typical American (homo yankis?) counterpart. Suffice to say, many Canadians found it pretty shocking for the U.S. to engage in war without a very explicit mandate from the United Nations; it would never have occured to most homo canukis to do something that would seem to flout the UN.

Otherwise, there is a problem with Mr. Nichols' article in that it quotes a statistic without accounting for the meaning or nuance behind it. I might be reading his article wrong, but it seems as if he has the impression that the quoted stat indicates that most Canadians thought that "America deserved it" or "America was asking for it" or something to the effect.

On the contary, I think it should be understood that a majority of Canadians were not surprised that something happened, and considered it to be an inevitable occurance given the number of... might we say "escapades" that the American gov't engaged in during the Cold War. Essentially, the poll should be understood to be expressing a viewpoint taken from a Canadian perspective: that the United States gov't had amassed a considerable number of enemies in the decades proceeding WWII, and that one of those enemies was likely to attempt some sort of attack at somepoint - though I doubt anyone on this side of the border would have expected mass-murder on such a scale.
notebuyer
Sep. 13th, 2006 04:45 pm (UTC)
Re: A Non-Reply
"A considerable number of enemies from the Cold War"

Interesting, but unrelated to the current problem: these enemies oppose the West generally (including, as shown, Canada specifically) despite differences in Cold War policy and behavior.
ccord
Sep. 14th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
Re: A Non-Reply
I think that the problem in this case is that it's becoming difficult to convince Canadian citizens that Al-Qaeda is an ideologically-driven group. The reason why is fairly straightforward: a majority of citizens no longer find the American administration trustworthy, and the argument's association with that administration makes it a target of suspicion.

It's not a terribly reasonable position for people to take, but it should have been expected; Prime-Minister Harper 'aught to have known better than to present a "Bush tainted" argument to the citizenry at this point in time; there were stronger arguments that could have been made that would have avoided the controversy. shrug
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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