Monday, 15 September 2008

Election Eclectica, Part II: "Conservatives" Denounce U.S. Recklessness and Hope Nobody Notices

Soon after the election began, I received an e-mail solicitation from Irving R. Gerstein, Chair of the Conservative Fund Canada (i.e. chief panhandler for the CPC), as I'm still on the CPC's e-mail list. The tedium of reading this pathetic appeal for more money with which to wage their intellectually vacant campaign in this farcical election was redeemed somewhat by the precious glance I was given into the way "conservatives" talk to each other when they think nobody is watching. Incredibly, they sound even more stupid than they do in their conversations with sane Canadians.

The ignoble contents of this piffle provide a case in point. Mr. Gerstein whines:

St├ęphane Dion is a risk to our reputation around the world with his reckless suggestions of bringing the Taliban to Canada and NATO invading Pakistan. We can't go back.
The "back" that Gerstein wants us to dread so deeply is, we assume, the pre-Harper foreign policy era--before Canada endorsed child torture, before we turned POW's over to a corrupt Afghan regime for more torture, before we ran away from our every significant environmental obligation, and before the world began to have to get our attention by tapping us on the shoulder while we kneel before the open zipper of the White House. Yes indeed, Mr. Gerstein: thank God that sad chapter is closed.

Gerstein's glib jab about "bringing the Taliban to Canada" would appear to be a swipe at Stephane Dion's suggestion that Taliban detainees could be brought to Canada for internment, an utterly outrageous idea that was, oddly, considered good enough by Canadians during the Second World War, during which approximately 40 000 Axis POW's were imprisoned on Canadian soil, including members of the notorious Hitlerjugend SS Panzer Division, arguably the most fanatical and savage warriors Hitler's war machine produced.

Gerstein's stupidity reaches heroic levels, though, in his denunciation of Dion's "reckless" suggestion that NATO should invade Pakistan. Gerstein is referring to Dion's stated view that NATO might have to intervene in Pakistan, given that the country seems unable or unwilling to police its Afghan border. Dion insisted he meant a "diplomatic" intervention (whatever that is), so Gerstein's allegation is hysterical, at best, though it was repeated and exploited by a number of Blogging Tory lemmings. CPC MP Jason Kenney called Dion's views a "descent into amateur hour".

Someone needs to remind CPC apparatchiks that they really ought to read the news, if only to keep in touch with the reality that they seek to distort. The day after Harper dropped the writ, a U.S. attack on Pakistani soil claimed at least twenty-three lives, most of them women and children. This attack was later confirmed to have been authorised by the President himself. As the story tells us, the most recent attack was part of a new American strategy of operating within Pakistan's borders without the nation's consent:

U.S.-led forces have stepped up cross-border attacks against al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistani tribal areas. Helicopter-borne commandos carried out a ground assault in South Waziristan last week, the first known incursion into Pakistan by U.S. troops since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, killing 20 people, including women and children...The U.S. commando raid and repeated territorial violations aroused anger in Pakistan, prompting the government to partially block supply lines to Western forces in landlocked Afghanistan.
This is astonishing. A CPC operative announces that allowing NATO to operate within Pakistan would amount to an "invasion", an act of fatal recklessness, and that Canadians must do everything in their power to defeat a leader who advocates such a thing. Concurrently, we learn that the White House, the effective executive authority of the Afghan mission in which Canadian soldiers are engaged and the very embodiment of all that is right and noble for the CPC and their acolytes, has been doing precisely what the CPC tells us is unthinkably stupid.

Have I missed something? Have you read that Stephen Harper has announced his dismay at this worrying development and demanded that NATO pull back from Pakistan and respect its territorial integrity? I have not, and I'm at a loss as to how to explain this glaring incoherence.

Is it that the CPC really believed that invading Pakistan would eventually become necessary, but (with typical cynicism) merely wanted to nail Dion for uttering an unpopular notion that it also happened to believe to be true? Is it that an idea, no matter how preposterous and dangerous, becomes perfectly acceptable as soon as it is espoused by Americans? Perhaps the CPC feels that, while it is fine for Americans to protect their own troops by rooting out the Taliban bases in Pakistan, Canadian troops should not be allowed that privilege but are, instead, best employed as the good little dumb-Canuck sitting ducks that Americans think we are.

I hope one of my CPC-friendly readers is able to give me some insight into how the party could manage to extricate its feet from this self-shat pile. I should also like to hear opinions about which path their party should take from here: should it apologise to Dion for ripping him apart over a tactic that the CPC's own heroes and the de facto commanders of the Canadian Afghan contingent are already using, or should it pressure its leader to advise George W. Bush of the "recklessness" of his Pakistani incursions and to demand an immediate halt to them?

Frankly, I think both gestures are in order.


Ti-Guy said...

With this post and this clip, I am reminded of the propaganda technique of asserting the opposite of what is most likely the truth or reality and then forcing the discussion to be about that, rather than reality.

I hope one of my CPC-friendly readers is able to give me some insight into how the party could manage to extricate its feet from this self-shat pile.

Peter's over at Macleans calling Scott Feschuck "Scotty."

Aeneas the Younger said...

It don't have to make sense, Son ... just send us some cashola!

Anonymous said...

Ti-Guy, I know this country only has room for one Ti-Guy, but Mom always said you couldn't have too many Peters, and there are lots of us. You are going to go crazy if you troll the entire blogosphere scolding every Peter out there. Who the heck is Dithers? Anyway, I'm reducing my blogging to a minimum until the elections are over and people resume trying to find something interesting to say.

Sir Francis (may I call you Frankie?), you know the answer, which is that nobody thinks for a moment Canada is going to call whether we invade Pakistan or not, so everybody can say whatever he thinks sounds good at the moment. There's an all-party consensus on that one.

Sir Francis said... everybody can say whatever he thinks sounds good at the moment.

Hey, that sounds like a cool, new approach to foreign policy--saying what "sounds good at the moment". The CPC is really on a roll these days.

I like it. It's innovative. Certainly not Paul Martin Sr., nor Lester Pearson, nor Joe Clark would ever have thought of taking the ethic a typical teenager follows on a blind date or the technique an amateur comic uses for a skit on improv night to the practice of foreign affairs.

I guess they just took their jobs too seriously.

Anonymous said...

Joe Clark? Joe Clark!!?? Man did he know how to lay down a no-nonsense UN resolution or what?

Remind me of the wars we were involved in during our glory days where, once in, we made the strategic decisions as to who we would attack and how. Especially the ones decided in House of Commons debates or by public opinion.

It's quite the highwire act you want us to perform, SF. Multilaterist middle power standing for Pearsonian international law and global consensus by day, puffed up isolationist, anti-Nato, anti-UN unilateralist when the Yanks are carrying the can.

Sir Francis said...

Remind me of the wars we were involved in during our glory days where, once in, we made the strategic decisions...

There was this piffling unpleasantness called the "Second World War" of which you may have heard. Of course, a few of our strategic decisions were the wrong ones--Dieppe, for instance--but, still...

...puffed up isolationist, anti-Nato, anti-UN unilateralist when the Yanks are carrying the can.

Why not have said, "puffed up isolationist, anti-Nato, anti-UN unilateralist like the Yanks..."?

To begin, it is other NATO members, not the U.S., that have been carrying the can in Afghanistan, while the Yanks have been preoccupied by their Mesopotamian Morass.

Secondly, the can that is being carried is not one that anyone requires the U.S. to carry; it is one the Americans picked up quite volitionally, as a part of their version of the Rhodesian/Joseph Chamberlainesque "White-Man's-Burden" cross-bearing. Spare me the neo-con guilt-tripping about how much the Americans are doing on my behalf. I'm not a Halliburton shareholder, so you may expect my enthusiasm concerning the New World Order to be moderate.

By the way, I should very much like us to have the kind of military resources that would allow us to undertake nation-building missions unilaterally. My first mission would be Haiti, a nation America has treated like a backyard since about 1808 and where the American paradigm has been a total, unmitigated, rancid disaster.

Anonymous said...

My first mission would be Haiti,

In that case, no need to worry about what the second mission would be.

Let me get this straight. Your main complaint is not that the Yanks travel the globe unilaterally picking fights and imposing their will. Your main complaint is that we don't?

And Dieppe was a domestic Canadian decision?

Sir Francis said...

And Dieppe was a domestic Canadian decision?

Indeed. The initial plan was shelved soon after being developed, as it was decided that the proper air and naval support could not be delivered to the landing parties.

Because of Canadian pressure, especially from Generals Crerar and McNaughton (who were worried about the fact that the Canadian infantry had still not seen any significant action by late '42), Operation Jubilee was re-mounted, without naval support and with hugely diminished air support. The rest is history.

Also, Crerar's insistence on keeping the Canadian contingent as an independent Army Corps--a massive pain in the ass for Montgomery--had significant strategic implications for the nature and scope of the Allied advance across North-West Europe.

It may also interest you to know that Canadian Lt.General Guy Simonds, later one of our Defence Chiefs of Staff, was one of Montgomery's favourite General Staff officers (second only to Horrocks in his esteem) and was often consulted by him at critical times.

Your main complaint is that we don't?

Contrary to your apparent view, I am not a hidebound isolationist. Canada does have international obligations, just not necessarily along the Silk Road, where we're currently investing our time.

There are places next door that offer feasible re-construction missions and that will not require us to wipe entire villages off the map. If Canada had sent a contingent to Haiti to protect Aristide and allow him to serve out his term (rather than help the U.S. depose him), would that have been "imposing our will" or allowing democracy to withstand an onslaught from a machete-wielding mob?