Stephen Harper (above) is fifty years old. He’s been in politics since he was in his high school’s Young Liberal Club back when Trudeau was in his hey day. His grown up political career began back in 1985 when he was an aide to a prominent Calgary PC MP (who he later unceremoniously stabbed in the back).
His career has progressed from being a midwife to the birth of the Reform Party in 1987, a Reform MP from 1993 to 1997, a stint as head of the right wing lobby group the National Citizens Coalition, leader of the Canadian Alliance who presided over the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives which morphed into the Conservative Party, becoming leader of that Conservative Party in 2004 and Prime Minister in 2006 – almost 4 years ago. It is a career that has now spanned a quarter century.
But it took him that long to find out that his childish – indeed bizarre – treatment of modern China was not in the national interests of Canada and that indeed China was many times more important to Canada than the Dalai Lama and Tibet. He snubbed China (by not going to the Olympics in Beijing and waiting 4 years before he made his first visit), and repeatedly and gratuitously blasted them over human rights (as though Canada under his leadership had an impeccable record in that department).
I wonder what else he will change his mind about in foreign policy. What will he do when he realizes that Canadian companies have billions of dollars of investment – particularly in the oil and gas sector - in Arab countries? Will he wake up and realize that sending his foreign minister on missions to harangue Arab heads of state as they sit on the tarmac at Gander, Newfoundland waiting to refuel is not such a hot idea?
Is it too much to expect that he will ultimately see the folly of his policy of wholehearted and continual support for Israel to the complete exclusion of Arab interests or legitimate concerns just for the sake of domestic politics in Canada? Will he finally get it that his heavy-handed and one-sided support in that conflict has led to a deterioration of Canada’s over-all credibility in international affairs?
And what of Afghanistan? Will he ever understand the intractable and indomitable nature of the people of that country and how for almost 2000 years they have repeatedly detested and defeated invaders regardless of the power they were up against? Given his blind pursuit of shedding Canadian blood and spending billions of taxpayers' money in that godforsaken country, together with the lies and deceits he and his government have precipitated upon the Canadian people as to progress and success in the battlefield, will he finally come clean and do an about face and get the hell out? After how many years of conflict, lives lost, and billions spent?
The point of all of this is that the office of Prime Minister is no place for on the job training. There are columnists and other Harper apologists and drumbeaters in this country who give him credit for finally moving towards a normal relationship with China. But what credit should he receive for that? Why did he not know long before now what he seems just to have learned about China recently? Or why did he let ideology get in the way of a sensible policy? And if he was ignorant about China and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and dumb and deceitful about Afghanistan, what other costly screw-ups are taking place?
For Stephen Harper to be learning about these issues at the age of 50 after a quarter century in politics is absurd. To be cheered and complimented by some Canadians for having finally reversed a stupid four year track with our second largest trading partner is an acceptance of mediocrity that would be laughed at in any other western industrialized democracy – except perhaps for the dumb and dumber crowd that comprise much of the Congress of the United States.
Harper’s knowledge of foreign affairs is as abysmal as it is embarrassing for this country. That he should receive raves and kudos from many in the Canadian press for fumbling and bumbling his way through to some positive foreign policy change is surely the triumph of incompetence over competence. In fact, it says as much about the dismal state of Canada’s press as it does about Harper.