Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Need an Independent Foreign Policy Again

Canada proudly punched above its weight on the world stage for decades under Liberal and Conservative governments. On foreign aid, apartheid, peace-keeping, banning use of landmines (the Ottawa Treaty), we were admired for strong principled and independent stands. We made a difference and we were respected across the world. Stephen Harper has broken that proud tradition. He has embraced an ideology far to the right of where we once stood. If anyone had any doubts about that, revelations that Harper delivered an addresss which plagiarized huge portions of John Howard's speech on going into Iraq should make it crystal clear. For those who say it was five years ago, well candidates have been dismissed in this campaign for offensive things they did or wrote more than five years ago and Conservatives called for their dismissals. They may have apologized for what they did but what was done was still not acceptable. Unless we think plagiarism is acceptable (and it certainly isn’t for students or journalists who can be expelled or fired for these things) then we can’t dismiss this act of plagiarism on the part of our current Prime Minister either. Nor did past politicians get away with it. Joe Biden had to abandon his Presidential aspirations in 1988 because he plagiarized a speech from a British politician and it took him years to recover politically from that and he still apologizes to this day for it and says how unbelievably stupid it was. Barack Obama was given quite a hard time by Conservatives (probably blogging Tories too) for using a section of Deval Patrick’s stump speech (“just words”) in his own and had to atone for that. But in the latter case he was told to do so by Patrick who was working on his campaign team and Obama fully admitted who he stole the lines from. Did John Howard directly tell Harper to use the same speech in this case? If so, it just proves the main point here.

Because the real story here and is that Canada simply does not have an independent foreign policy under a Harper administration and we have even more clear evidence of that today. We see no evidence that Harper has moderated his views on foreign policy since 2003. Harper gets his cues from elsewhere and Canada deserves a real leader, not a follower. You would think that on an issue as important as going to war Harper could articulate his own views. If he throws the blame on a staffer (UPDATE: as appears to be what he has done) the fact remains Harper couldn’t come up with an original rationale himself and put very similiar material in numerous op-eds which he signed. Not to mention he would be refusing to take responsibility for words he was proud to take credit for before.

Our past Prime Ministers led on the world stage and this one has failed to the point where our world standing has NEVER been lower. Stéphane Dion would restore our standing on the world stage and make us a real world player again.

People can say the economy is the main issue in this campaign and that’s fine, but it would be a tragedy not to have a real debate on foreign policy as well. Canadians pride themselves on our international reputation and how we comport ourselves across the globe so we need to make sure Canadians know what kind of foreign policy a Liberal versus Conservative government would undertake and what inspires those kinds of policies.

If Conservatives say we should just stick to the economy (where they’ve shown incompetent management anyway) it’s simply because they desperately want to avoid Canadians discussing their foreign policy and how far we’ve veered from our proud international record over the past 2.5 years.

Here is Bob Rae's speech today on foreign policy following up on yesterday's solid speech by Ignatieff on the economy.

UPDATE: Wonderful international press for our country, courtesy of our current PM

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catnip said...

Well said.

BlastFurnace said...

Say what you will about Brian Mulroney, one of Canada's proudest moments was when he stood up to both Thatcher and Reagan in demanding comprehensive trade sanctions against South Africa -- and the world followed his lead. One has to ask if Harper would have taken the same stand or would he just kowtowed to the two big time heroes of the neo-con movement?

catnip said...

Let me add that, as an independent liberal, I didn't want to leave the impression that I necessarily agree with this statement:

Stéphane Dion would restore our standing on the world stage and make us a real world player again.

We need leaders who want peace.

James Bowie said...

Great post D! Keep up the good work!

Miles Lunn said...

I generally agree here, but for me it is more about what is doing right than what wins us support abroad. The harsh reality is unfortunately the world is not as progressive as we may like it to be and as of recent it seems a large chunk of countries (not just US and Australia) but I should add much of Europe too are swinging to the right. That being said, we are so small that only those who follow politics even know who are PM is. It is much like Canadians knowing much about Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Polish, or Greek politics. It is more that at least what we do present is what most Canadians believe even if the rest of world agrees or doesn't agree with us. I like to think of us as being more progressive not just than the US, but most of the world and if our voting records over the past forty years and values say anything that is largely true.