Friday, April 1, 2011

Wars and Dictators and Elections and Eyebrows

A Political Note on Libya

A few posts ago, I was exasperated with Barack Obama’s waffling on support for the Libyan revolutionaries to the point where I was giving up on him. Having seen a vigorous no-fly zone manned by efficient Americans and angry Frenchmen, I am no longer giving up on him (the poster still hangs on the wall by my kitchen). Like he said in his books, he believes in the democratic institutions of his country and the world, even when they move with an aching slowness.

Actually, what’s been exasperating lately, though to a lesser degree, is the perspectives of my leftist comrades. Robert Fisk is a brilliant journalist and author, and in an otherwise balanced (and also exasperated) column, he writes, “Yet again, it’s going to be regime change.” My friends and political columnists who lean left and America-skeptical have begun leaning against Libyan intervention, that the no-fly zone is another grab for oil, or Middle Eastern influence, or something. If it’s not always mentioned, I find it an undercurrent to some of the discourse critical of the intervention.

But Libya is not Iraq. The anti-Gaddafi rebellion didn’t need Western help to begin. These are the revolutions of the Arab world. While it’s probably going to be a mixed bag of success, continued repression, and half-measured compromise, it’s still a vibrant revolution of Arab people. Westerners didn’t manufacture this revolution, but we can still aid it as best we can. A dictator like Gaddafi isn’t talked out of power. I’m no longer willing to say that there can always be a peaceful solution to political repression.

I’m willing to accept the paradox that sometimes you have to start a war for peace. Gaddafi, Mubarak, and Ben-Ali are just three more names on the list of overthrown dictators of people who wouldn’t live under their rule anymore. They join Slobodan Milosevic, Nicolae Ceaucescu, Chun Doo-Hwan, Rafael Trujillo, Porfirio Díaz, Benito Mussolini, Napoleon Boneparte, Louis XVI, and George III.

No matter how much we may complain about the Tea Party’s racism and insanity, and no matter how justified we may be in our fight against the destruction of organized labour in the United States, it was anti-Iraq-Invasion protesters who first put a Hitler moustache on a sitting President.
A Political Note on Canada

I’m looking forward to this election, because I think Stephen Harper will finally lose some seats again. I don’t think the Conservative Party will ultimately lose the plurality in parliament, but if their numbers are reduced to the mid-130s or (if we’re lucky) mid-120s, it might be enough to cause an insurrection in the Conservative Party against Stephen Harper.

I’m registered to vote in Hamilton Centre, one of the safest NDP districts in the country. But when I hear that Harper is losing support in Quebec, and that a lot of seats in Saskatchewan are in play, I couldn’t be happier. Harper has demonstrated contempt for Canadian political institutions and for Canada’s parliament, as well as open hatred for every other political party. Holding Harper in contempt of parliament wasn’t just a political ploy: the reason he’s the only prime minister ever to be held in contempt is because of the seriousness of the charge. It carries with it a nominal restriction from running to be an MP for five years, which Harper has ignored. He treats the Canadian government as if he owned it, and there were no checks on the power of his office. He treats his own back-benchers and party activists like cogs in the Stephen Harper machine.

I posted on my facebook wall a link to an article that compared Stephen Harper’s methods of governance to that of Richard Nixon, and found them brothers in arms. Then a friend sent me another article demonstrating that Nixon’s policies on the environment, engagement with China, infrastructure and scientific investment, and even civil rights were more progressive, humanitarian, and superior to Stephen Harper’s.

I’ll be so happy to see him go.
A Political Note on Senses of Humour

A sign that I think the Liberal party might have a chance of making some serious gains in this election is that they’re giving away a particular free gift with small donations: Stick-on Ignatieff Eyebrows. I’m glad their campaign is finally loosening up and is able to make fun of Michael Ignatieff’s stick-in-the-mud pretentious image. I’m waiting for the media clip where he tries them on himself.
A Political Note on Exasperation

I know one of the excuses that have been heard for just giving the Conservatives a majority is that the increased frequency of elections in the past decade is hurting Canadian democracy. If anything, the greater means of maintaining accountability of politicians in parliament without a single majority party should keep leaders in a more moderate, compromising position which takes more concerns of Canadians into account. Harper hasn’t learned those lessons, and is just becoming more authoritarian in his party and the bureaucracy. If this is his authoritarian streak in a minority, I’d hate to see what he would do to the country with an unchecked four year mandate.

No comments: