Stephen Harper and the world: hanging out with wrong crowd
By RALPH SURETTE (originally published in the Chronicle Herald, Halifax, N.S.)
IF YOU’VE been given to grim thoughts lately, you might entertain this one: What new havoc will be loosed on the world before George W. Bush leaves office in over two years time? More specifically for our purposes, how deeply will our own Stephen Harper drag us into these adventures?
There’s a slogan going around Washington, coined by a right-wing commentator – “Give war a chance,” flipping the Vietnam War-era slogan “Give peace a chance” on its head. It refers to giving Israel time to smash Hezbollah, but it emanates from those who have been hankering to attack Iran and Syria, but who have been held in check because U.S. forces are bogged down in Iraq.
If some very influential people within the Republican party were let loose, it would conceivably look like this: catastrophe in Iraq; quagmire in Afghanistan; perhaps continuous war with a furiously resistant Hezbollah, which Israel is even now admitting is a lot tougher than it counted on and which it may not be able to suppress; plus whatever bogdown the geniuses of the Iraq debacle can engineer in the even more formidable arenas of Iran and Syria.
No doubt some conspiracy novelist will soon come up with a book with this plot line: George W. Bush is taking his orders from Osama bin Laden, who also wants to “give war a chance” and whose dream of a general Armageddon involving the West and Islam seems to be coming true, thanks to his pals in the White House.
Luckily, “the West” in this context is an exaggeration. In reality, it’s the Bush government, profoundly unpopular now in its own country, plus a pitifully small list of true friends that include, specifically, Australia’s John Howard and Canada’s Stephen Harper.
How friendless this wrecking crew is in the world is indicated by this paragraph I found in the New York Times’ report on the failed talks in Rome aimed at bringing about a ceasefire between Israel and its enemies:
“Even Britain’s patience with the United States is wearing thin. The British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, told reporters that Britain would make a formal complaint after British media reports that American aircraft carrying ‘bunker busting’ bombs from the U.S. to Israel refuelled at a Scottish base last weekend.”
The Bush administration came to power in a flurry of ripped-up international treaties and by contemptuously trashing its own diplomatic corps, declaring that it would change the world, and especially the Middle East, by unilateral action.
The fact that it understood nothing either of the world or the Middle East would not deter it.
Now, by shamelessly encouraging Israel to hammer Lebanon even harder, no matter what the “collateral damage,” it has declared to the world, especially the Islamic world, that it has also dumped its role of standing above the fray and using its standing as the world’s ultimate power to insist, however imperfectly, that international law and human rights prevail.
The result is that its status in the world has never been lower, creating a vacuum of confidence that allows troublemakers like the Iranian government to do their thing.
The official argument in the Israeli case is that Hezbollah started it by kidnapping a couple of Israeli soldiers, and logic and justice dictate that it must be hammered into oblivion, no matter what the “collateral damage.”
That Hezbollah started it is true if you read only last week’s news. If you had read the news of even the previous few months, you’d find that Israel had been on a campaign of assassinating Hezbollah and Hamas leaders, in reaction of course to a previous outrage, which was caused by a prior counter-outrage, and so on, back to the very founding of Israel when two-thirds of the Palestinian population was deported to make way for the new state.
There is no military solution here. If we must abandon peace, human rights, international law and negotiated settlements as our goals in international affairs in favour of blind warmongering, then where are we?
Meanwhile, Stephen Harper’s Canada has chimed in with disdain for the United Nations, multilateralism, diplomacy and peacekeeping, thus ensuring that our reputation in the world plunges along with that of George W. Bush’s U.S.
But it’s not all grim news. On a cheerier note, the latest poll shows the Tories taking a plunge.
Ralph Surette is a veteran Nova Scotia journalist living in Yarmouth County.
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