Saturday, February 25, 2006

Canada-US Relations: We're Not a Peace Keeper Either

Let's be open about the rivalry: sometimes Canadians like to jibe our southern neighbor's, saying they're a bunch of war-mongers. Paul Martin didn't have a great relationship with Bush. Now that Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, will that change? There is lots of discussion on that. Well, thank goodness the Americans have moved on from asking us to be part of the wild scarecrow in the sky idea: anti-ballistic missile defense systems! We disagree on a lot of things, us Canucks and Yanks, but maybe it's time to patch up our relationship with the States. Incidents like Carolyn Parrish saying that she hates those American "bastards" have done some damage to our relations. Still, one thing I think many people respected Paul Martin for and to some degree Chretien before him, was the fact that they stood up for Canada to the Big Brother.

Canada and the US are like an old married couple. We bicker a lot, but we depend on each other -and we're stuck together. It's ok to disagree, as long as it doesn't become personal. Right now, it seems that a large part of our global problems ARE because people take things personally. They get sensitive over cartoons, or they disagree over what democracy means. One thing that we should acknowledge in this continent, is what we do have in common. Well this is it: however you want to phrase it, we're both at war.

Canada is in Afghanistan, and the US is in Iraq. We both went in to change regimes. We overthrew the Baathists and the Taliban. So how is it working out for us? Well the overthrow part went just find and dandy. Coalition forces were tough. But hmmm, I forgot to check back after the west won the war. We lived happily ever after right?

Right?

Just before a Canadian general takes command in the Afghan south on March 1, a poll reported in the Globe and Mail shows that a large majority -63 percent of Canadians are opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan. Only 27 percent are in favour, and 73 percent believe we should have a referendum to decide!

Q: But wouldn't it be dangerous to pull out of Afghanistan now?

A: Oh you bet your buttons! It would not only be dangerous, but it would also be irresponsible.

No, when I think about it maybe things aren't so good for our troops, for U.S. troops, for Iraq or Afghanistan. I think I heard something about bombs, someone was killed or wounded recently, again, something about insurgents, heroine, a failure to govern, the phrase "brink of civil war" and the list goes on.

Wars are this continent's black eyes. When you just keep fighting and getting slugged, it can be hard to see the reality of it. The majority of people still think we should be fighting this "war on terrorism" but I think it should be apparent that we're not doing a very good job. It's tough to fight a war on terrorism ain't it? Especially when the terrorism just keeps getting worse.

Well, now the majority of the Canadian and American population can agree on something. It seems that the population is slowly being injected with some sense of clarity. What's becoming clear is that we both wish our troops would come home now rather than in body bags later.

I'm not suggesting that we pull out of Afghanistan though, if that's what you think. Americans also realize it would be dangerous to pull out of Iraq at this point, and that the "democratically" elected government there cannot govern without support. I think when it comes to the military, enforcing stability is just a band-aid solution, so we need to give credit only where credit is due. There are some good things that the military can do and that it is doing, but it needs to be balanced and supported. For example, troops have been taking land-mines out of the ground so that children don't blow their legs off when they're going for a walk. However, I'm sure they're also kidnapping people in the middle of the night and holding them in prison for ridiculous amounts of time. What I'm suggesting is that there has to be more to fixing up a country than defense. Collectively, now that it's too late not to have started this war, North America should start collaborating with each other and with other countries to figure out how we can deliver aid that will allow countries to develop and prosper towards their own goals.

Yesterday I went to Andrew Cooper's "Food for Thought" lecture held at the Centre for International Governance Innovation(CIGI) where he discussed various examples from his papers including Adding 3N's to the 3D's: Lessons from the 1996 Zaire Missions for Humanitarian Intervention" and Haiti: Considering the 3D Approach". He discussed how the "D's" of development, defense, and diplomacy aren't enough -that they must be supplemented with the three "N's" as well: networks, niches, and norms. The discussion was lively. Participants brought up the fact that in fragile situations on the ground, it can be difficult to distinguish between civilians and combatants. How do you deliver good and protect your interest at the same time when behind every veil there could be a bomb?

The discussion had special reference to Haiti, where Elections Canada recently facilitated the democratic rise of Rene Preval back into power. That country has a history of failed democracy, which is why they are apt to say "the constitution is made of paper, but the bayonet is made of steel." Ironically, the elections might be regarded as a success, but we still have the paradoxical problem that force was used to interfere with the democratic process. Aristide was plucked from his leadership position, and democracy was imported, not created. We still have many things to learn about how countries can be stabilized and how they can stabilize on their own, when given the right tools. This discussion can be applied to so many post-colonial fragile states and slums around the world.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, neither Canada nor the U.S. has acted solely as an angel. The highly publicized scandals in prisons and on the streets of Iraq attest to this, but Canada's missions and Afghanistan have seemed somewhat ambiguous since the shut-down of the Taliban. Are troops just sitting around drinking coffee all day? What qualities of education do Afghan children now enjoy? What rights do women have? How well do independent businesses operate outside of Kandahar? And what is this war really worth?

While Canada gives a larger portion of its GDP to aid, we're still on the bottom half of the list, and we give nothing close to the portion of our GDP when compared to countries like Sweden, who give 0.5 percent and we have one of the highest standards of living in the world! We have to figure out how we can give more and then do it. We have to deliver resources and supplies in a way that will actually make a difference, in a way that isn't going to enrage residents and put NGO's or embassies or the UN in danger.

Bono recently asked George Bush to put just 1 percent of the GDP towards aid. He went to a breakfast prayer because he was compelled by a "messianic complex" to hearken back to the ancient concept of tithing, a concept that is supposed to be part of Christianity and Judaism. Jews? Christians? Do you remember? People used to put aside 10 percent of their incomes to help the poor, and farmers left sections of their fields for reapers. After Bono's plea was over, Bush used the opportunity to laud his own performance regarding the natural disasters that have occurred, but the reality is that his presidential performance has shown less generosity than previous presidents, and poverty and AIDS are a growing problem. In 2002 when world leaders got together to put together the "Millennium Development Goals", eradicating AIDS, reducing starvation and poverty were part of them. They set the deadline for these goals at 2015. Since 2001, it seems many of us are self-absorbed. Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) calculated that "It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil, we will use the next trillion in 30," but it takes a Chevron ad to ask "so why should you care?" It always seems that we're chasing a dream, and for the moment, we have enough of our own problems to deal with.

So, when it comes down to it, maybe modesty is the best policy. We're not peace keepers. We're not philanthropists. However, in an increasingly globalized world where problems like global terrorism, global warming, global disease, and global poverty exist, they are precisely that: global problems. We might be forced to care. Perhaps we should put our nationalistic pride aside and try to work together to accomplish these goals sooner rather than later.

Filed under News Reviews and Politics

9 Comments:

Blogger Jason said...

I agree with what your saying. What makes me laugh, is that few Canadians truly understand what this is all about. Because afterall, Jennifer Aniston might give Vince the boot, and did you see what Paris was wearing last week?

5:29 PM  
Blogger Kunstem√¶cker said...

I follow but I you must agree that it's wrong to overthrow regimes in other countries eventhough you completely disagree with them.

Meddling in foreign politics is one of the pilars of communism. Ouch.

Yes, it would be irresponsible to pull out the troops now. They shouldn't have sent them in the first place.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Kunstem√¶cker said...

by the way, how about a link swap, since I'll be visiting your blog regularly from now on.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Maddy said...

Well written Barrett. You have
a gift for writing that is
clear - in politics - that
includes everyone - all can
understand. Which harkens
back to what jimmy said above,
if there was a "People" magazine
for politics and Barrett was
writing the confusion and apathy
might see a clearing in the
woods.

Go into politics Barrett.

Smiles!

did the president - lower case
p on purpose - sorry - give the
bloody one percent?

10:51 AM  
Blogger sirbarrett said...

jimmy -Yeah, has Angelina Jolie had her baby yet? I just saw Tombraider.

kunstemaecker -Yes, foreign policy can often interfere with country's self-subsistence and it's not really our place to say who the leaders should be when we're not the voting citizens of that country, but there are certain responsibilities we have in this world regardless of what country we're in -like pollution and management of international territory. I agree that we should have never started these wars. I wrote the government at the time just before the invasion of Iraq, and got a form letter back from the Foreign Minister at the time which basically said nothing. The incentive was purely adherence to stupidity. Fortunately, other countries like France and Germany agreed with Canada re Iraq and used their veto. Unfortunately the US doesn't give a flip about the UN.

madelyn -Politics is a nasty business, but if someone has to do it, I think I would. As far as I know the president didn't do anything. I've read no headlines like "Bush Decides to Allocate Billions to Education Abroad" or to hospitals or AIDS or anything like that. He called Bono a good man who's a "doer" but ironically, he's not in the position to do all that much. He's a doer in that he's asked others in the position of power to do things, like forgive foreign debt on Jubilee Day 2000. It's funny, it's like Bush is saying to Bono: "thank you for asking me to do something that I will refuse." It would be incredible if actually listened and acted though instead of just flashing a plastic smile. The money for tsunami relief, while millions died, did quite a bit, but that's because it grabbed immediate attention. Apparently one percent is too much to ask over the long run for more sustained problems.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Frap Gurl said...

What people never realized when we set into liberate Afghanistan and Iraq is this..It took a hundred years after the Civil War in the States for things to calm the hell down, and still if you are from a blue state..and venture down into them their red states..you be wishing you were packing a big gun!
All is NOT fine in these states! Lousiana..prime example..things are different down south!

2:53 PM  
Blogger Adorable Girlfriend said...

Wonderful post. Don't be like the US. You are a civil country of well educated people. Instead of expecting Afgannies (How is that spelled?) to be better, you should be better and move forward.

Avoid the Bush machine. It's a bad, bad machine.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Nabeel said...

troops are not coming home anytime soon mate .. they prolonged the date 'cuz the country is in turmoil again because of Denmark.

adorable girlfriend - iot's spelled Afghanis .. and no the country is not full of educated people .. OUR country! Can;t avoid the bush machine we don't want to .. WHY do I say that? He's serving his second term .. we the people elected him

6:23 PM  
Blogger Lord Chimmy said...

I like Canadians.

10:02 PM  

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