Harper should not follow Bush

Student argues against current govvernment’s alignment with U.S.

David Bowden, ArtSci ’07
David Bowden, ArtSci ’07

On Sept. 21, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made one thing clear. When it comes to the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, “We will succeed.” There is no question Afghanistan is in dire need of assistance and Harper’s own assessment that stabilizing Afghanistan will take years of commitment is surely accurate. What I would question, however, is Harper’s definition of success.

The establishment of a stable, effective and democratically elected government, free of foreign support or interference, would certainly be a success for Afghanistan.

But is this the definition of success Harper has in mind for Canada? Or is Canada’s contribution to the stabilization of Afghanistan more of a means than an end to our Prime Minister?

In recent years, issues such as hardwood lumber, border control and most notably the war in Iraq have served as economic and political hurdles between Canada and the United States. Underlying these differences were the ideological disparities between the then-governing Liberal party in power and their Republican counterparts in the U.S.

Being more closely aligned both ideologically and politically to American President George W. Bush than his predecessors, Harper is in a prime position to stabilize what has recently been a shaky relationship between the two countries. The best way to do this, Harper has seemingly decided, is to emulate them. Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery.

CBC journalist Kenny Yum said in an online article, “Harper may well point Canada’s foreign policy to a new direction. While Canadians will recall [Liberal Prime Minister Jean] Chrétien’s defining decision to not support the U.S.-led Iraq war, Harper has indicated more of a willingness to side with the Americans.” Like Bush, under whom the American defence budget has reached record heights, Harper’s vision for Canada rests firmly on the shoulders of its military.

As Yum writes, “That increasing military role, along with his hard stance against terrorism, helps distinguish him from his Liberal predecessors.”

Even Harper’s rhetoric is beginning to sound like Bush. At his UN speech, Harper lauded Canada’s work in Afghanistan: “That is why Canada is engaged in work like the rebuilding of girls’ schools, ripped down and destroyed by the Taliban in their frenzy of hate.” Only a founding member of Bush’s infamous “Axis of Evil,” such as the Taliban, could be capable of such a “frenzy of hate.” Harper is open about his intent to increase Canada’s role in the UN through global peacekeeping missions, such as the ones in Afghanistan.

But with an American president whose approval rating is ever-decreasing both internationally and domestically, one has to wonder if simply falling in line with his American counterpart is the most effective way to cozy up to our previously alienated neighbour to the south.

The Liberal government under both Chrétien and Paul Martin refused to participate in Bush’s war in Iraq because they disagreed with the grounds on which it was founded. Although the mission in Afghanistan may be more justified, Canada must only participate because the Canadian population believes it is the right thing to do. Canadian participation in Afghanistan, like all Canadian foreign policy, should be contingent on popular support from Canadians, not on appeasing the American government.

American support for the war in Iraq, a war which was never supported by Canada, is at an all-time low. In Afghanistan, chants of “Death to America” can be heard in the streets according to a CBC news article. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez compared Bush to the devil during a speech to the UN General Assembly, while Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the legitimacy of America’s membership in the Security Council given its repeated violations of international law.

When all is said and done, the foreign policy of George W. Bush is likely to be remembered as one of the worst in American history.

It is my sincerest hope that appeasing the Bush administration by emulating such policy is not Harper’s definition of success.

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