Thursday, February 17, 2011

Our national purpose is still taking shape

Matthew Bailey-Dick,

On a parallel track, Canada toyed with the identity of a peacekeeping nation. On multiple occasions since the 1950s, our soldiers acted as the leaders of UnitedNations peacekeeping missions. As Canadian diplomats promoted human rights, international law, and cultural exchange, “Canadian peacekeeping” went swiftly from mythology to reality.

By the 1990s, with only a few exceptions, our international reputation was defined by brokering and safeguarding peace within an increasingly complicated world order. Our golden era had arrived and so we stitched Canadian flags onto our backpacks with pride.

Things have changed in the last 10 years. Canada’s military deployment in Afghanistan immediately pulled us away from our peacekeeping vocation. Then, anyone who critiqued the Afghanistan war — or who refused to support the assertion that Canadian soldiers were risking their lives for our freedom — was labeled unpatriotic.

Today, although we cannot foresee any military victory in Afghanistan nor any significant threat to our borders, we are spending billions of dollars on state-of-the-art F35 fighter jets, while at the same time reducing expenditures on diplomatic and development efforts. Seemingly uninterested in nonviolent approaches to international conflict, we flirt heavily with a perilous combination of the “fearful mind” and the “military contracting mind.”

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