What Obama and Dion Should Be Talking About

International issues are increasingly domestic, as the death of
three more Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan tragically testifies.

On the eve of the U.S. Democratic and Republican conventions and
what might also be the eve of an election in Canada, as Stephen Harper
tries to break his own law on a fixed election date, it is useful to
survey the world as it pertains to us.

Two years ago, writing about the militarization of Afghanistan and the Americanization of our mission there, I said:

"The scum were to be squished. We were in Afghanistan to kill the
Taliban. It was a matter of our survival; if we weren't there, they'd
be here. Arguably, they could be here because we are there, no? But
such common sense questions are not permitted these days."

It's one of those predictions that one hopes will never come true.

The Taliban's Aug. 15 threat to Canada - in the wake of the killing
of two Canadian aid workers, ostensibly in retaliation for the
increasing Afghan civilian toll from NATO operations - was chilling.

Only cowards cave in to such threats from murderers. Equally, only fools ignore them.

Harper, George W. Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy et al. have responded the right way: we shall not be deterred.

But they are giving the wrong answer for a way out. More troops
won't quite do it. An Iraq-like military surge - if and when it can be
mustered, in the proportion required for Afghanistan - can only buy
time to find a political solution.

The alarming violence - the rising toll among NATO troops, with
Canadians paying a disproportionate price, and among Afghans - along
with the Taliban control of more and more territory, especially close
to Kabul, raise an eerie parallel. Is NATO now where the Soviets were
in Afghanistan in the latter half of the 1980s?

At the very least, the current quagmire has allowed a band of
criminals to frame the conflict as one between foreign invaders and
indigenous freedom fighters.

Afghanistan is not the only conflict spinning out of Western
control. Add Pakistan. Add Georgia. Add other geopolitical setbacks.

The puppets Bush nurtured - and, therefore, Harper, too - are
weakened or toppled: Hamid Karzai, Mahmoud Abbas, Mikheil Saakashvili
and Pervez Musharraf.

The parties Bush disliked - and, therefore, Harper, too - are infinitely stronger: Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.

The projects Bush pushed - and, therefore, Harper, too - are
derailed, if not dead: the entry of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO; the
spreading of democracy in the autocratic Middle East; and winning the
hearts and minds of Muslims to combat terrorism.

Some goals are clearly worthy. It's the execution that hasn't been.

Whatever Bush touched turned to dust, not just because he is
hopelessly inept. It's his overreliance on the military that did him in.

This shows "the bankruptcy of a militarized foreign policy," notes
Jim Reilly, professor of Near Eastern Studies at the University of
Toronto. "The military is best used as a threat. Once you use it,
there's not much else ... The United States has lost the ability to
influence events."

Reilly notes another historic parallel. Great Britain invaded Egypt
in 1882. "Rather than strengthening the British interest, it proved to
be the beginning of the decline of the British Empire. It barely won
the First World War, at a ghastly cost. By the end of the Second World
War, it was in hock to the U.S., and its empire was gone."

Similarly, Bush's wars have left the U.S. in a huge debt, "and in hock to the Chinese," the chief buyers of U.S. treasury bills.

Is it a coincidence that during the Olympics we are reduced to
shaming Beijing for its lip-synching singers and underage athletes,
while having zero influence on its egregious human rights violations in
Tibet and Xinjiang and elsewhere?

Another reason for the erosion of America's influence has been
Bush's penchant for telling others to do what he says but not what he

Take Georgia. Not only is American military/political response
ineffective (no economic sanctions on Russia, as suggested by Bush -
and, therefore, Harper, too), its empty bluster constitutes a case of
the pot calling the kettle black.

Bush said, and Harper agreed, rightly, that it is unacceptable in this day and age for one nation to invade another.

Yet there was the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which Harper
backed. Both also backed the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The U.S. has
violated Syrian sovereignty, to stop the flow of insurgents into Iraq.
Israel bombed an alleged Syrian nuclear facility. And now the U.S. and
Israel are threatening to bomb Iran. So much for respecting the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations.

Bush and his allies rightly demanded a ceasefire in Georgia. Yet
they, especially Harper, had refused to call for one in Lebanon.

Russia wants regime change in Georgia, just as the U.S. wanted and
engineered a regime change in Iraq and is now actively working on
regime change in Iran.

We need the rule of law, internationally and at home.

That will be among the top priorities of the next president of the
United States and, with some luck, a new prime minister in Canada.

John McCain, curbing his independent streak and falling in line with
the neo-con wing of the Republican Party, is not likely to challenge
the status quo. Barack Obama has started to, hoping to restore American
credibility and clout.

Stephane Dion has yet to. He needs to speak up for the urgent need
to break away from the Bush-Harper policies that are alien to Canadian
values, and have also proven counterproductive and dangerous.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 TheStar.com