Canada’s role in the world: A New Marshall Plan?
Is our presence in Afghanistan, with its origins linked not just to President G.W. Bush but the earlier U.S. interventions in that region, back when the “USSR” was the “target,” a unique benchmark for Canada? Or was that Rwanda? Or the former Yugoslavia?
Canada’s peacekeeping interventions have increasingly drawn controversy. The situation in Afghanistan has morphed from “peace-building” to militaristic. Is it time that Canadians “bit the bullet” on that? And does the muddled up mission point to a new kind of role for Canada in the world?
Earlier posts have referenced the growing evidence that “restoring stability” in Afghanistan and Pakistan ( the two situations are intertwined) will necessitate a dreaded Thirty Years War. Are we up for that? What is the nature of our intervention – militaristic or socio-economic?
Who has not been moved and made proud by the story of Captain Trevor Green: as he sat with a group of villagers discussing water infrastructure, a pen in hand, his gun and helmet at his side, as a sign of respect to the people with whom he met, an axe-wielding youth attacked from behind, slicing open his brain. That he lives today is a credit to his comrades, his family, his spirit, and perhaps to kismet, to fate. The question is: does peace/economic -building really work? Has anyone read Larry Krotz’s new book, The Uncertain Business of Doing Good (University of Manitoba Press) about foreign intervention in Africa?
Canadians must sort out the tension between “doing good/nation building” as manifestations of a required and noble undertaking: ensuring peace, security and economic prosperity in the world; and the opposing view, perhaps nihilistic, which posits that countries like Canada should not intervene militarily in another country.
Are Canadians up for a deconstruction of what “doing good” looks like on the ground in a war situation? Not just in Afghanistan but anywhere in the world? Not just about military intervention but economic/agricultural/and environmental interventions as well? When we export “good works” and “good” workers – teachers, doctors, agronimists – do we make things better or just muddle up existing complicated and inequitable relationships?
If it can be shown that such interventions are inextricably linked to empire building, is that sufficient reason not to act? Isn’t there an argument for a renewed Marshall Plan led by the United States, and supported by Canada and other NATO countries? I predict that President Elect Barack Obama will bring in not only a new New Deal, but a new kind of internationalism, based on Marshall Plan premises. What will Canada under either Prime Minister Harper or Ignatieff do? How many of the Canadians who vociferously opposed any thought of a “coalition government” will want to think about a new kind of internationalism?