Some Basic Thoughts on Québec and Anti-Imperialist Strategy

March 31, 2014
The Harper government has dragged Canadian politics to a point where intelligent criticism is difficult. Things are almost too obviously bad.

On an international stage, it was enough to see the smug chuckles that Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman exchanged as Harper delivered his speech to Israeli parliament this January, urging Israel's leadership to stay the course toward regional wars (see the expressions at 18:24 of this video, for example). Harper had the air of a Western diplomat from the 1960s, fresh from watching Exodus and eager to rehearse the story of Zionism's “blooming deserts.” He then held a joint press conference with Netanyahu to explain himself. True, Canada may today be isolated on the far, anti-Palestinian fringe of world diplomacy. But, Harper insisted, isolation in the face of world opinion is nothing less than a “fundamental Canadian ethic.”

If the Harper government's Palestine diplomacy has marked its drive toward a sharpened imperial role for Canada – aligned, indeed, not merely with the reigning U.S. administration but with its Republican opposition – it is of course in Afghanistan where Canadian military participation has been most direct. And as the mission there formally concludes this month, mainstream commentary provides yet more cause for alarm.

In the Globe and Mail, that faithful organ of Canada's centrist establishment, Jeffrey Simpson writes that Canada “lost the war, but won the battle” (March 15). Simpson reflects on the results with some satisfaction: “Canada having taken a pass on the war in Iraq,” the imperial division of labour demanded that it “step up in Afghanistan.” The situation in Afghanistan is bleak, he admits; but who in the Canadian establishment really cared about Afghanistan in the first place? “If Canada's involvement in that faraway place accomplished anything, it was to reconnect the Forces and the general public.” Many of those championing the mission wished above all to strengthen the war-readiness of Canadian political culture, suggests Simpson, and “these domestic hopes” were fulfilled.

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