Nov. 11 is fast approaching. This is the appropriate time for thinking about war and peace.
I may be well known or notorious for my Remembrance Day protests at the Nelson cenotaph. Ever since 2005, I have used that occasion to appear with protest placards to register my deep dislike of how Remembrance Day is “celebrated” by the officiants of the ceremonies.
This year, a sudden break with the recent past must be marked by Canadians as we pass from a Conservative regime with Harperite ideology to a Liberal regime without that dogma. Stephen Harper had a vision of geopolitics, of Canada’s role appropriate to that world, and of the means to his ends — fighting “jihadist terrorism” (ISIS, al-Qaeda, Taliban) and “aggressive troublemakers” (Putin, Iran, Palestinians) — that amount to a dogma. With a prime minister explicitly hostile to Harperite precedents, we must and should expect radical new directions.
I am very gratified to see how quickly Justin Trudeau ended Canada’s air force involvement in bombing ISIS. I expect him also to pull back Canadian warplanes from their forward placement in Romania on Ukraine’s borders. Hopefully too, he will move to restore Canada’s engagement with the UN where Harper lost us our seat at the Security Council with his evident disrespect.
What I do not expect is for Trudeau to withdraw Canada from membership in NATO, which I believe is appropriate at this moment in international diplomacy. If we truly want to reduce risks of war, we need to not be committed to an alliance responsible for our very-mistaken intervention in Afghanistan where our forces killed and died for no valid purpose.
NATO is obsolete; it had a purpose during the Cold War that is invalid now, and the extension of NATO into East Europe and the Middle East is converting it into an alliance justifiably seen as pushing against Russia and Iran in ways illegitimate for a defensive treaty organization.
There is an emerging global order where the “great” permanent powers on the UN Security Council whose special privileges are being challenged by the ethic of equality. Canada ought to lead in this, not be a loyal champion of the outmoded idea that certain states police “law and order” in other, weaker states such as Afghanistan. The UN will adapt to the demand of non-Western nations to have their perspectives respected equally with the old imperial and colonial powers. As Canadians, we have emerged from the empire of the British, but we still seem to be clients of the US and UK in world politics.
We are a middle power. Let’s mediate between West and non-West. India and Brazil, Australia and South Africa, are Canada’s natural partners in this.
But the Liberal Party of Canada is ultimately a party that does not challenge our ruling class but rather serves it. For that reason we are not likely to deviate from the path previous Liberal regimes laid since World War II.