My 9/11 article....
A letter to conservatives...
9/11 was a huge wake-up call for many of us. It was important to finally understand the Islamist threat, and in the 10 years following 9/11, the west has made significant progress; we removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan; al-Qaida has been largely disabled; Saddam Hussein was deposed; and an Arab spring has emerged. The west was provoked and the west reacted.
Unfortunately, everybody seems to be tiring. In fact, the Americans seem to be fast asleep - paralyzed with interminable budget problems and an administration that seems to have no interest in promoting democracy overseas.
The U.S. networks now run non-stop shows about financial problems - personal, city, state and federal. Tune in tonight for the latest batch of bad financial news; more awful news at 11. The fight to raise the debt ceiling was farcical. And, if you think the Americans are bad, well, does anybody really believe the Europeans are facing up to their financial problems?
But what really keeps me up at night is the new tone of isolationism. You can see it in the Republican candidates for the Presidency - they don't talk at all about Islamist terrorism; they all can't wait to get out of Afghanistan; and promoting democracy seems like a quaint notion of foregone years. To these candidates, foreign policy is a useless abstraction - unless it's a plan to cut aid or other related spending.
I worry that some of this "budget-cutting-isolationism" will find its way into the conservative discussion in Canada. And that would be unfortunate.
When I last wrote for canada.com, I said that Canada has a great opportunity to engage with the world and that Canada's time had come. Libya is a good case study. We played a major role in combat operations, and we were one of the first governments to recognize the rebel council. Canada was more engaged than the U.S. - from start to finish.
But there are some problematic signals. We've already seen cuts in aid to the Afghan people. I'm afraid that in our rush to balance our budget, we will cut out foreign aid and the military because it is easy - and it really won't affect us in our daily lives. I certainly think we can save money - we can find alternative methods of aid delivery - spending money where it counts rather than on bullet-proof vests for aid workers living in air-conditioned suites.
But, shouldn't we also have the capability to do more? This is our time to step up to the plate. Forget about the Americans. Forget about the Europeans. As the old, decrepit regimes are overthrown, wouldn't it make sense that people know that Canada was there to help? What an opportunity to build good will!
And, will our move to balance the budget dictate the need to cosy up to the Chinese - our version of "raising revenues." John Baird's last trip to China was educational - human rights was a definite afterthought, no?
So, yes we should balance our budgets. But let's build in room to do some good around the world. And let's not forget that our troops will be needed again. I don't know where or when. All I do know is that they WILL be needed again.