Monday, 7 April 2008

Stephen Harper Hates Canada: Part 999(googolplex * π )

Truly noble and heroic enterprises have required scant advocacy before the bar of Canadian public opinion. We met the great global challenges of the last century willingly and eagerly, fielding virtually all-volunteer armies in both World Wars and in Korea. Such advocacy as we harkened to during times of war (from the magnificent Winston Churchill, for an obvious example) merely externalised an already-fixed inner resolve. The moral determination of the Canadian people was spontaneous, unbound by coercion. The struggle against Hitler, which Canada and the Commonwealth carried on alone for more than two years, never needed to be sold to the nation as if it were a brand of deodorant.

Our intuitive ability to distinguish between a just and an unjust war is one of the many symptoms of our collective moral health. It is also deeply frustrating for the degenerates who compose our national managerial élite; approaching as near to Churchillian stature as a soggy hotdog approaches to haute cuisine, stuttering nonentities like Stephen Harper find themselves reduced to the vulgar expedient of dragging a grudging popular assent from a sceptical people by deploying the full arsenal of modern marketing techniques--the kind designed to convince consumers that Utopia awaits them in a box of Corn Flakes.

Clever marketing requires little if any moral integrity; thus one cannot but be astonished at how deplorably incompetent Harper has been at something for which he should be ideally suited. This article offers valuable insight into the specific reasons for Harper's failure. It also carries a subtext which confirms what many of us already suspected.

Ostensibly, the piece is meant to explain why Harper feels ready to become the Afghan war's primary salesman after shamefully letting others do the work for him. The author reminds us that Harper and his government have lately been "invisible" on the Afghan file:

"So much so that the military, in the form of Gen. Rick Hillier, the loquacious chief of defence staff, had to step into the breach with public speeches and his now-famous slide presentation. He even sent returning generals and soldiers out to speak to local chambers of commerce, dinner clubs and anyone else who would listen....Hillier and his soldiers became the face of Canada's war, and a lightning rod for the political opposition. And as the casualties continued to mount, so did the public outcry".

The author wonders whether John Manley had a hand in spurring Harper into a higher visibility:

"The Manley report was critical of Harper, saying he must take charge personally of the Afghan file. It was finally evident last week he was doing so".

The author is reminding us of two important facts--first, that Stephen Harper, a man lauded by his silly cult as a "real leader", was so impotently delinquent in his duty to champion what he claims is a crucial struggle in the "War on Terror" that he forced the Chief of the Defence Staff to politicise himself by effectively becoming Harper's surrogate, and, second, that Harper had to be shamed (by a report filed by a Chrétien-era Liberal) into waking up to his responsibilities. One taxes one's memory to recall a record of prime-ministerial ineptitude as shameful as this. Men are dying; Harper is fiddling, amateurishly.

Most revealing, though, is what the author says about the CPC's new selling point--its new "frame". Apparently, Harper has learned not to sell the war as revenge for 9/11 or as a theatre in the "War on Terror". It would appear that we Canadians are not motivated primarily by self-preservation:

"The mantra almost from the time the Conservatives took office had been that Canada had a responsibility to ensure Afghanistan didn't revert to the status of a failed state that could serve as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against North America. That rang hollow in the ears of many Canadians, a fact that Harper has apparently come to appreciate."

Stephen Harper puts it this way:

"What we've actually found is: when you argue our self-interest, that's actually less appealing to Canadian public opinion than the argument that we are actually concretely helping the Afghan people with their lives..."

The author concludes that

" order to win the hearts and minds of Canadians, the political message [must] be phrased in terms that [are] less - well, less American".

Now, I am not surprised that Harper's CPC would instinctively frame the Afghan mission in American terms. The CPC frames everything in American terms. Their political imaginations are entirely colonised by American priorities and values. I am fascinated, though, that Harper seems taken aback by the finding that Canadians are not motivated primarily by self-interest. It clearly never occurred to Harper that we Canadians can easily put others before ourselves, that we are generous--selfless, even. Keep in mind that generosity is a quality that continentalists like Harper reflexively attribute to the United States (just recall the notorious Canada-bashing speech in which Harper refers to the U.S. as "a light and an inspiration to [Canadians]").

I am willing to concede what is obvious, given Harper's rabid free-market fundamentalism (according to which self-interest is a primordial and sacred virtue)--that we should actually be flattered that Harper believed us all to be under the grace of the brutish self-interest that he considers the engine of civilisation. It is nevertheless lamentable to see the office of prime-minister occupied by a man whose ideological puerility blinds him to the real moral character of the people he pretends to lead, a man who has had to be bludgeoned into acknowledging his nation's generosity--a quality he has been only too blitheringly ready to assign to a nation that has done far less to earn it than we have.

So, Stephen Harper has learned that Canadians are generous. Good for him. Who knows? If he works hard at it, he might even learn something else about us before his term is over.


Red Tory said...

Well said.

It’s kind of astounding that this fact would have been utterly lost on Harper for so long, but perhaps not so much when you consider the rhetoric spewed by his supporters that mindlessly parrots the familiar mantras of the Bush regime about combating “global terra” and “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” That always seemed like an especially feeble argument.

If the focus is going to be on aid projects and actually helping the Afghans with material assistance during this next phase of activity, the government had better be prepared for some fairly intense scrutiny in this area. I wonder if they’re up to the task…

MAW said...

As I recall it was sucessive Liberal governments that put us in a war for whatever reason.

A war that's not easy to get out of thanks to NATO imperatives.

All I would like to know is where all the enemies guns are coming from? Which NATO member is selling arms through intermediaries?

One country that comes to mind for selling arms out of one side of it's mouth while saying something completely different from the other side is France.

Aeneas the Younger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aeneas the Younger said...

What the continentalists in both main parties fail to realise is the Canada was founded on the altar of SACRIFICE.

The French - having lost the War to the British on the Great Plains of Abraham, were sacrificed by the Ancien Regime and left to themselves to find a way of concord with their Conquerors in North America.

The Loyalists sacrificed all they were and had to maintain the bonds of loyalty to their lawful King.

The Acadians were sacrificed by the Colonial Regime and sent packing to the remnants of French America.

The Aboriginals of course, sacrificed much in the face of the evolution of a British North America. Some of this was given willingly in service of the Crown, and some was forced upon them via Treaty and Colonial Expansion.

The early settlers of the British North American Colonies sacrificed much in comfort and amenities and quality of life.

Great Sacrifices were made, by British Soldiers and Aboriginal Warriors in repelling the Great American Invasion of 1812.

Sacrifices were made in 1837 - by both sides. The right side came out victorious, but a sacrifice was made that put us on the road to Responsible Government.

British Canadian gave their all repelling the Fenians.

Sacrifices were made on the Canadian Prairies as Canadian Soldiers and Metis fought for their Countries.

Canadians rose to the Clarion Call of Empire in 1899, 1914, and 1939 - as you said, with a VOLUNTARY EFFORT of almost unimaginable proportions.

We, as a people, settled one of the harshest climes and landscapes on God's Earth and created something that at times, is the envy of much of the World.

That inheritance - borne of great effort and sacrifice - cannot be sold to the highest bidder. Embedded within our Cultural DNA is something that predates liberalism and the ruthless machinations of the "market": NOBILITY.

Do you mean to infer that Stephen Harper is just learning that, now?

Sir Francis said...

As I recall it was sucessive[sic] Liberal governments that put us in a war for whatever reason.

Paul Martin was assured that the Kandahar deployment would focus on reconstruction. It became entirely a combat mission, and not by accident. I think Rick Hillier has been the éminence grise in all of this.

Sir Francis said...

...the government had better be prepared for some fairly intense scrutiny in this area.

That scrutiny has already begun, and the results are not good. We appear to be funding the building of some madrassas, for instance (oh, but don't worry: they're "moderate" ones, we've been told). I'll likely be posting about that shortly.

Sir Francis said...

Do you mean to infer that Stephen Harper is just learning that, now?

This is what we must expect from an apostle of the "Economic Man" dogma. Selflessness is inconsistent with the optimisation of utility and cannot occur in any system that radicalises the latter.

Thus we are invited to ponder yet another aspect of the fundamental incoherence of neo-conservative theory and practice: the ethical feature required to pursue a critical foreign-policy initiative is negated by the neo-conservatives' own world view. Splendid.

As I said, Stevie's on a steep learning curve. Watching him surf it shall be a diverting spectacle indeed.

Red Tory said...

Paul Martin was assured that the Kandahar deployment would focus on reconstruction.

Actually, I don’t think that’s correct, although he was sold a bill of goods. He was told that it would be a short-term combat engagement to rid the area of pesky Taliban insurgents and was assured by Hillier that in the meantime it would in no way compromise Canada’s ability to make peacekeeping deployments to other parts of the world (e.g., Darfur) should this be deemed necessary. Well, more fool Paul Martin for swallowing that load of codswallop just so that Hillier could go play soldier for REAL instead of running pointless training exercises and working on disaster relief projects and such (which had been his entire experience up to that time). It’s also quite likely that Martin felt pressured by the Bush administration to make more of an “active” commitment to the Afghan mission to offset their previous refusal to joint the “Coalition of the Bribed” in Iraq and thereby demonstrate obedient fealty to our American overlords. ;)

Sir Francis said...


As painful as it is to defend Paul Martin, published accounts suggest that the Kandahar mission was designed as a reconstruction effort with a purely defensive combat element--meaning that our forces were to secure an area of operations and, while keeping it secure, oversee reconstruction tasks within that area. The mission was supposed to be driven by the "Three D's"--defence, diplomacy, and development. The Three D' did not include search-and-destroy missions, but, clearly, Hillier had other plans.

We'll probably never know the precise extent to which Martin and Hillier were working and thinking in tandem. We need to rely on the personal testimonies of the main actors, each of whom has his own agenda. A contemporary news story like this one, though, seems to suggest that Martin felt he'd been railroaded.

Ti-Guy said...

As I said, Stevie's on a steep learning curve.

And being several years older than I am, it's something that continues to fascinate me.

I have been watching that man's learning curve ever since the early 90's, and the reasons for his appeal to anyone continue to escape me entirely.

There's a kernel of a big truth somewhere in the personality of a man who trumpets hard work and individual responsibility who has no discernible talent or skill and who has lived off of other people's money his entire life.

Sir Francis said...

...a man who trumpets hard work and individual responsibility who has no discernible talent or skill and who has lived off of other people's money his entire life.

...and who can't even get a decent haircut out of a psychic. Sad.

Dylan said...

Good post Dred.

While you might call me a "mild" fan of Paul Martin, I thought that his Afghan three D mission was the most honourable one we've set out on in a long time. I thought that we might, maybe, redeem ourselves from avoiding Rwanda like rats jumping from a sinking ship.

That being said, I also thought we'd be the first to put together a peace force in the attempt to bring some safety and stability to Darfur. I, foolishly, thought that maybe a liberal internationalist Martin government would make Canada a leader in world peace-keeping once again.

With Martin deposed, I doubt Dion will step up to the plate and there's no way in a frozen hell that Harper would be so bold as to stray from the Republican mother ship.

Indeed, these are rough times for progressive peace makers.

Sir Francis said...


I harboured hopes along those lines as well, but I doubt if anything useful can be extracted from the mission at this point. I had hoped that we would do more for Haiti too, but we're just following the White House's master-plan there (if you can call it a "plan"). I'll be posting on that shortly.