Sunday, March 28, 2010

Liberals: Stand for Something or You'll Fall for Anything.

MONTREAL — The Liberal party is sacrificing its principles and maybe even its soul in an empty quest to return to power, says Robert Fowler, a career Canadian diplomat and veteran public servant.

Aye and aye. I've never been much impressed with Mr. Fowler's "ideas," but he's gone straight to the sordid heart of the Liberal Party's problems. Good for him. Stand for something or get the hell out of the way.

UPDATE: I regret to say Robert Fowler is a bigger goofball than I thought. By an order of magnitude.

Canadian foreign policy should not be the exclusive purview of diplomats and policy wonks, Mr. Fowler. It should reflect precisely the interests and activism of Canadians. There's nothing "parochial" about that, and there is no virtue in peacekeeping just because it's something the autocrats in Beijing and Moscow and Tehran would prefer Canadian soldiers do.

Fowler appears to lament that Canadians are not prepared to invest the blood and treasure (TM) required to "effectively colonize Afghanistan. . .and replace their culture with ours, for that seems to be what we seek, and the Taliban seems to share that view." What the hell is he saying, exactly? The right to know how to read is something peculiar to "our" culture? If we help Afghan teachers with their work, we're replacing Afghan culture with "our" culture? Or does he want us to "colonize" Afghanistan? If that's what he wants, then he's quite right, we'd be doomed. But colonization "seems to be" what we're doing because that's what the Taliban claims? We let the Taliban do our thinking for us? What about the vast majority of Afghans who want nothing to do with the Taliban? They don't see Canada as some kind of colonizer. Don't their views count?

An especially ugly bit is his assertion that bang for buck we'd be able to teach more girls in Africa than in Afghanistan, and without having to kill anyone. If Fowler wants Canada to invest more in education in Africa, fine, he should say so. But why should Afghan kids have to compete with African kids for Canada's attention to their right to an education? Why should we allow Islamist crackpots to decide which kids are allowed to go to school, and which ones are not?

"Non-peace" in the Middle East causes global terrorism, which then inflames fundamentalist Islamic diasporas throughout the world, and this threatens Canada directly, Fowler claims. This appears to betray a fairly dim view of the intelligence of Canada's Muslims, but wait for it. . . anybody who acknowledges this "blindingly obvious linkage is immediately labeled antisemitic." What?

Say what you like about the Taliban, but I can't recall "non-peace" in the Middle East being cited by any of their school-burning nutcases as the motive behind their madness. Come to think of it, what if they did make these kinds of claims? We should just scurry off and subsidize Robert Mugabe's education ministry instead? Shut up and do what we're told?

The incubation of fourth-generation Palestinians in squalid refugee camps is indeed a prime cause of what Fowler calls "non-peace" in the Middle East, but I'm afraid you can't simply blame Israel for that. In Israel, the Palestinian community is vested with greater rights and liberties than any Arab country allows its citizens. The bloated and byzantine UN Relief and Works Agency, now 60 years old, runs camps to keep Palestinians confined from the Arab mainstream and festering in their resentments. UNRAWA's Palestinian wards are six times as numerous as the original Palestinian refugee population, now to the fourth generation, and they're fenced off in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Gaza.

Thousands of UN bureaucrats oversee this obscenity. One doesn't have to be quaking in one's pampooties for fear of being labeled antisemitic to merely point these things out.

Fair play to him for noticing that the Israeli government is making matters worse for the cause of a Palestinian state by allowing continued development in its West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem. But are we really expected to believe that if the Israelis withdrew all their settlers from the West Bank as they did in Gaza, Afghans would not be living in fear of their president selling them out to the Quetta Shura and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezbe-e Islami? Things would be better in Somalia, Waziristan, Nigeria, Sudan?

It's not that Fowler had no useful or saucy observations to make, not least his reference to the way politicians routinely pander to the Khalistani chauvinism, which has become a regular feature of official Sikh events in Canada. But that's hardly a new thing - politicians of every stripe get called out for that pretty well every Vaisakhi Day.

The rest is what you might expect from an old Africa hand. I learned nothing new. Africa is a bloody mess. Thank you Mr. Fowler for pointing that out, but no, an argument that Canada has "interests worth defending" in Africa at the expense of our Afghan friends is not an appeal to the big-heartedness of Canadians. It's a cynicism every bit as grisly as the politics you claim to assail.

In the end, Fowler's speech was in the line of lame performance art, a deliberate attempt to be controversial - 'hey, this will really get people thinking.' Next time, he should maybe try wearing black leotards and expressing himself through interpretive dance.


Blogger ArmdRecceBoy said...

Well, thanks for the mental image of Bob Fowler in black tights. Right after breakfast too ...
Here's my question, which he rather blithely skipped over: What exactly are Canada's interests in Africa? By which I mean our vital national interests, not just humanitarian angst at the ongoing nightmare that sub-equatorial Africa is now and probably will be for some time to come.
Because someone, somewhere is going to have to come up with a reason why Canadian soldiers are dying in central Africa (for instance), if Fowler gets his way, if only to explain to the grieving widows, parents or children why Daddy or Mommy isn't coming home any more.
And make no mistake, Canadian soldiers WILL die there if they are sent in any significan numbers. As one general, with extensive experience in the region, once told me: "If Canada wants to send a battalion into central Africa we should kiss them all goodbye when they leave, because we won't see them again ... "

7:37 AM  
Blogger Thermblog said...

I'm puzzled by the reference to the Cons trying to lock up the Jewish vote.

Aren't there far more Muslims than Jews in Canada?

When he adds the bit about being called "anti-Semitic" he seems to be driven by some bias rather than rationality.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Penny said...

Another turnip sprouting on about the Jewish vote, then covering his hide by stating the much-hyped 'criticizing Israel makes me an anti-Semite' card.

Makes me want to move to the moon.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Christopher W said...

As someone on another blog pointed out, Fowler is the Canadian version of those "Arabist" career diplomats who dominated the British Foreign Office and the US State Department for most of the 20th century. Even the French foreign affairs career diplomats were in the same boat, as the "shitty little country" (i.e. Israel) incident in London revealed several years ago. And though many of them have now become heroes to the "anti-imperialist" left, it is interesting that virtually all of these diplomats graduated from the Lawrence-of-Arabia "imperialist" school of diplomacy, which may be why Canada was affected to a far lesser degree, though Canada had its equivalent civil servants in other ministries such as immigration, of "none is too many" notoriety." Fowler would certainly fit in that tradition.

9:50 PM  

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