26 September 2007

Harper at CFR

Before I get into this, does anybody out there subscribe to the PMO mailing list? Are you also not getting any messages from them lately? **Update** Never mind, just received two of them this morning. Good job, old chap, on the surplus!**

Luckily, I do still receive the podcasts (yes, I listen to the Prime Minister on my iPod...Bush's weekly radio address too), and the latest release is Harper's speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York this week. It is a great speech, delivered in front of a highly intelligent audience, and the Q&A that followed the speech is equally impressive. For those who don't know, the CFR is the body that publishes the most influential political science journal in the United States, that being Foreign Affairs. So the questions they ask are top-notch IR/poli sci stuff, and they result in serious responses from a serious prime minister. It is a far cry from the usual sham that goes on when he is interviewed by the Canadian mainstream media.

In the early minutes of the speech, Harper spoke of the need to promote democracy in the world, as well as open markets, the rule of law, and political pluralism. A more democratic world will be a more secure world, in which people are more free to pursue their dreams without fear of repression from their government. To hear Harper talking about this is very welcome to me. His section on Afghanistan was inspiring while remaining pragmatic. He understands that all the social, political, and economic progress in Afghanistan will arise out of a secure state, and that further progress in Afghanistan will bolster the security of the state. When people have a stake in a brighter future, they will be more willing to defend it. At this time, Afghanistan cannot do so on its own, and Canada has a responsibility to help, and it is fulfilling that. I hope that when decision time comes next April, Canadians of all political stripes will look at the accomplishments we have made there and helped the Afghan people achieve, and realize that we cannot walk away from that prematurely.

To conclude, it would be fantastic if Harper spoke with such clarity and conviction when making speeches for domestic consumption. However, he can only give amazing responses to relevant questions, and that is something the Canadian media need to realize. The political theatre environment of Canadian domestic politics today doesn't exactly encourage the type of speech that Harper gave at the CFR. It's all about the soundbite, who can "get" who the most often and the hardest. To date, Afghanistan has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves. Opposition politicians talk about how Afghanistan wasn't among Harper's "five priorities" in the last election, or that because the work is hard we should come home, or any number of asinine things that are said with an eye on the next SES poll. When conducting foreign policy, domestic politicking should not have a place at the table. Doing what is right and in the country's national interest should be first and foremost among considerations as to what actions, if any, the state should take. Promoting democracy, in the Americas, in Afghanistan, and all over the world is in the Canadian interest, and the political wrangling of leftist opposition parties undermines that pursuit.

No comments: