Monday, October 06, 2008

Time to Get Out of NATO?

When the Quebec Conference of 1942 started the process that eventuated in the NATO alliance the world, and Canada, were far different places than they are to-day.

In 1942 the Second World War was looking like it might be a very close run thing when Winston Churchill met with US President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada at Quebec City. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was months away and Britain was fighting Germany alone, and not doing too well at it. The subject was protection for Britain's vital convoys of food and materiel from the 'arsenal of democracy' in the US and the granary of the Empire in Canada. Defense of the North Atlantic was the topic, the alliance was in the future.

As the war progressed toward victory the notion that the relationship of the Allied powers should be cemented in a cross-ocean pact came more evident and NATO took shape. A mutual defense pact - geared first against the Axis took form and included the allied powers Great Britain, the US, the Dominion of Canada, Brazil, Dominican Republic, and the free forces of France, Norway and Holland. Liberation brought Denmark and Norway into the fold, Portugal became a member, too.

As the war turned into a Cold one - eventually former 'enemies' in West Germany, and Italy joined. The Korean War brought Turkey on side, Greece joined as NATO opposed a communist menace in Russia and its east European Warsaw Pact.

Canada as a Dominion, and then, in the seventies, as a fully-independent country maintained its ties with NATO. In the beginning Canada was oriented toward Britain in its trade and in its foreign policy. Both orientations changed over time until the USA was Canada's major partner in trade and in defense, particularly of North America.

Canada's closely-interlaced defense scheme cost her a notable lead in independence and research and development into advanced systems. The AVRO Arrow project was dropped in favor of US 'Bomarcs' and 'Voodoos' and a number of British high-tech industries closed up shop in Canada. In foreign relations Canada generally agreed with the USA but, at times, was annoyingly independent. Cooperation with US foreign policy activities has become more marked with the advent of the 'war on terror'. Canada has become involved in a war to reconstitute Afghanistan at NATO, and US, behest.

At the same time NATO has taken on a distinctive American cast. Perhaps this is due to GWB's notion of "With us, or against us." The black or white option has involved NATO in Kosovo, Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Iraq. Although the range of involvement varies from actual combat operations to civil affairs assistance. There are, now, with French rapprochement, no 'enemies' inside NATO.

Another recent trend is the expansion of NATO. Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Hungary and other elements of the former Russian sphere of influence have been welcomed into the North Atlantic defense pact. Ukraine, Georgia and Asiatic elements have applied as well under the US led all-pile-on-the rabbit scheme of uniting democratic countries wherever they may be. Nothing wrong if this were a cultural or trade group, but the recent bit of stupidity in Georgia indicates that some indigestible 'rump' of disputed territory there could have the potential of a new Balkans, as if the one we already have isn't enough.

Canada signed on to fight the Nazi blight and stayed to combat the Red Menace. It seems that after the demise of one enemy, our southern cousins have a habit of cultivating another. This year the enemy is around the other side of the globe. Where the next one will be could involve a NATO ally, one of the 'newbies' more than likely, and we'd be treaty-bound to 'defend' them. I'd say NATO has outgrown its usefulness for Canada and we'd best let the 'super-blocks' look after themselves.

Modern day NATO isn't what Canada signed up for.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

It Ain't Who You Know

It's what you don't know, that's going to get you.

There's that old saw about ignorance being bliss, and in a way it is. If you don't know anything, you won't worry and you won't gripe about anything until it's too late to do something about it. That, I believe is what our governments are using as a standard operating procedure. If it doesn't get into the papers it's good. But just make sure the papers are full of the stories you want to be in there.

And so our papers are either full of inconsequential pap, or the kind of 'sky is falling' horse-pellets designed to get us all genuflecting in unison. The press of late is no exception.

The US election is the BIG news - shy of a universal pandemic dropping people out in front of the Mall, it won't get bounced. Even the Wall St. meltdown is viewed through the prism of the 'greatest game on earth'.

We had both as-yet-to-be elected candidates acting all presidential to broker the same deal for the Wall St. titans, while the ruptured duck resident of that office quacked the same tune. It would have been great had one of them taken the Nader approach - F**k Wall St, or the 'trickle up' economics of a nation-wide 'bail out of Main St.', so wisely espoused by a CNN pundit. But America don't work like that - too soialistickal, ya know?. And so newspapers, even ours, were filled with their exertions.

A minor story buried in Newsweek about a sophomoric protest at a west coast college, last week, got the deep six from the major media. It was remarkable. Remarkable that EVERYBODY agreed with the immediate police investigation - that no 'crime' was involved and that, considering most people on the Christian campus never saw the protest before it was removed, the Dean could deal with it. Nuff said. No divisiveness.

The protest was about increasing the number of 'disadvantaged' students on campus by some equal opportunity action, and it involved suspending a cardboard cut-out of a prominent black Democratic presidential candidate by the neck, from a campus tree.

Now, we all know and congratulate the USA on the way it has improved relations between the races. At least relations with Blacks - who now seem to have most of the rights that other Americans have, even if the distaff still looks down on them with some distaste. There are other races in that big melting pot still in questionable states. The Spanish-American seem to be tolerably-well accepted providing they're signing up and carrying out some military service and they're not illegally hanging around anybody's community stealing jobs. Asians, particularly south and west Asians, still have a National Security mindset to overcome. No 'Little Mosque on the Prairie' down south, yet. But they do run a good flea market.

But the reaction to a lynching, even a fake one, is more than a non-story given the first time ever a Black man has run for leader of a country outside Africa or a former Caribbean slave state. The 'good housekeeping' approach to see no evil leaves the mentality that a lynching joke, even a dopey one, is somehow 'OK' intact for the next time. Had it been somebody pasting a photoshop of Mrs Palin's whoo-hoo on the campus clock, there might have been a greater reaction - there was to Obama's 'lipstick on a pig' remark. Spare us, we know somebody has already faked that whoo-hoo on the internet .. probably the one where she "dressed like Tina Fey". But I digress into the stuff of current press.

Our Canadian election putters-on in its 'good government' sort of way. The only real oh-ohs are a couple of boners on the Prime Ministers staffers, and a propensity to steal somebody else's ideas, or at least their words in speeches. Ho freaking hum!

There was a debate last week, all the candidates sitting around a table battling it out eyeball-to-eyeball in French and the next night, again, in English. Wonder if our Yankee cousins noticed that?

They are 5 individuals running - each one a good caricature. The little green lady made a surprising amount of sense, too bad she didn't look like MS Palin, because she'd be the next PM, I'd bet. Even all the retired bikers couldn't top a good looking, and intelligent green. But voting green might just allow that sorry SOB Stevie Harper to sneak in again, perhaps with a majority depending how the votes fall. I like May's idea of representation by vote - it makes more sense than a 'mandate' given by 38 percent of the electorate.

One of the topics that hasn't come up is Canada's role in the future North American prosperity and security union (Egad that sounds like the thing the Japanese tried on East Asia 60 years ago.) I would think that an agreement to have the Thunderin' 804th US mechanized infantry come rolling across the Queenston bridge to restore law 'n order in Hamilton might be debatable to some candidates. I thought such an idea was a joke until I read, this week, that for the first time since the Indian Wars, a regular US Army unit is being assigned to exactly that - homeland security in Centcom: the US 1st Infantry Division, starting in October, will be posted south of the Great Lakes to 'assist civil authority'. They used to have a law about that, but a Presidential directive changed it. Discussions for a revised trade zone featuring linked economies, freer trade, transportion and 'linked' security has been 'on the table' for some time now. We wouldn't think that was important, would we?

Add to that a developing notion that businesses are deputies of the FBI in the great fight against terror. Now what, you might ask, can businesses do to assist the forces of law and corder. Well surveillance comes to mind - employees first, customers next. And turning-in a bad guy - or even a suspected bad guy - is a large part of the work that needs to be done. Can't see Walmart Canada, being 'out-of-step' with head office.

Another little American 'gem' is another one of those presidential fatwas enabling the powers that be to seize the property of anyone they deem to be interfering with the Iraqi/ Israeli/Afghan/Colombian/fill-in-the-blank struggle for freedom. I'd imagine that new unified North American whatever would need the same kind of laws too, eh? No more safe harbour for terrorists in the GWN!

Having your feet checked for explosives, and your baggage x-rayed as you leave the airport probably makes sense to somebody, but I'd bet he'd be wearing a badge and a bad attitude about the enemas of his country.

All this unanimity of spirit might have been a good idea when Red was entertainin' Otis at the Scuttlebutt Lodge. Back then only drinking was of concern. But nowadays our usually good-natured neighbours have a hate on for just about the whole world. Their media is designed to keep them that way, and our media is starting to be the same way - as a lot of Canadians adopt that paranoia that comes with having been attacked, well almost.

What you know is becoming more important.