Canada’s promotion of neo-liberal imperialist internationalism

On March 16 at the United Nations the Liberal government announced its bid to fill one of five non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council in 2021. Commentary by SAM HEATON

140927-EdmontonECAWARPicket-02To convince Canadians that Canada is doing something worthwhile on the world scale the Trudeau government is pushing a neo-liberal imperialist internationalism as a basis for “peacekeeping” and “peacemaking.” From the time of the Second World War to the present, no Canadian government has taken any international measures whatsoever, whether through the Security Council, or any other body, which would defend democracy and establish an international order favourable to the interests of the people.

Without renouncing this legacy, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on March 16 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s candidacy for a two year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council beginning in 2021. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) stated, “Canada is committed to playing a positive and constructive role in the world in order to advance Canadian interests and make meaningful contributions to solving global challenges.” Canada “will expand its contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security. A peaceful world is also a safer and more prosperous world for Canada,” the PMO said.

Behind the efforts to increase Canada’s role on the UN Security Council and other international bodies is the crisis of neo-liberal imperialist internationalism. Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council is an attempt to secure Canada’s role in the imperialist system of states. Trudeau’s foreign policy team and Liberal think tanks have acknowledged the crisis both in terms of what they call the “isolationism” of the Harper decade and the failure of the solutions advanced in the 1990s. Also speaking to the UN on March 16 Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion said it is “the time for our country to choose engagement over isolation” and that Canada seeks a seat on the Security Council “precisely because the world finds itself at a time when there is a pressing need to prevent violent extremism, to manage conflict and to respond to humanitarian crises.” But what is new about the solutions they are offering today and how will they make Canada a force for peace?

Lester Pearson presenting resolution – on behalf of the United States

“Canada the peacemaker”: During the Suez Crisis in 1956, Lester Pearson was falsely credited with credited with bringing about the cessation of hostilities between Israel, France and Britain, on the one hand, and Egypt, on the other hand, through the UN Emergency Force (UNEF), which he proposed to the UN General Assembly on November 4, 1956. Consequently, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 – the first Canadian to win such an award – and was elected Prime Minister of Canada. Photo shows Pearson presenting resolution to the UN – on behalf of the United States.

Liberalism had its its origins in the colonialism which accompanied the laissez-faire capitalism of the 19th century. It became utterly pragmatic in the 20th century, particularly in the post-war period, taking up the cause of the “English-speaking peoples” in a crusade against progress and communism. The sabotage of the anti-fascist united front by the Anglo-American powers and their adapting of geopolitical theories from the Hitlerites to their own purposes gave rise to NATO and the Cold War in which the movement for the emancipation of labour and of peoples in bondage for their right to be became the number one enemy. The geopolitical “heartland theory” that whosoever controls the Balkans and eastern Europe controls Europe and whosoever controls Europe dominates Asia and the world was “complemented” by the arch-pragmatist domino theory whereby containment of communism and national liberation movements justified committing heinous crimes against those peoples who sought to affirm their right to self-determination.

Within this Canada conciliated with the aims of the U.S. imperialists, portraying itself as an honest broker while putting itself at the disposal of geopolitical aims. This was also the context for Canada’s role as a peacekeeper which, as long as it was not consistent with recognizing the right of all peoples to self-determination and went alongside participation in the aggressive NATO alliance, could not be considered to contribute to peace or security.

From the end of the bi-polar division of the world 

With the end of the bi-polar division of the world in the 1989-91 period, Canada’s role and the face of neo-liberal imperialist internationalism was further exposed. Canada’s Liberal foreign policy establishment then gave rise to even more dangerous theories such as “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), whose self-proclaimed successes in the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Haiti and Libya further immiserated the people, prevented the solutions of problems and blamed the peoples themselves for the death and destruction rained upon them.

It is the worst kind of preservation to bring forward failed theories from the past to defend narrow geopolitical interests today. The cataclysm inflicted upon Libya and the serious dangers of war that exist on a world scale gave pause to the ruling circles and their intellectuals who promote this neo-liberal imperialist internationalism for which they all refuse to take responsibility despite the evidence of the crimes committed in its name. Now everybody speaks of learning his or her lessons. Proving that decaying theory cannot keep up with practice, Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan now says that in deciding whether to intervene in Libya yet again the government must look at “lessons learned from Canada’s experience in Afghanistan.” Liberal foreign policy gurus say the Libya intervention was “problematic for R2P” and that “hard lessons” must be learned from previous interventions.

However, the neo-liberal imperialist internationalism being promoted shows that a reshuffling of the past to cover up the crisis of the present will not wash.

The U.S. imperialists are still being driven mad trying to control eastern Europe to isolate Russia and clear the way for dominating Asia, while fuelling those from Ukraine to the Baltics, who are dredging up the dregs of the fascists which humanity contained at the greatest cost. In the name of protecting human rights and the rights of religious minorities the imperialists are eager to redraw the borders they themselves created in the Middle East, creating sectarian enclaves that provide them safe passage not only for a permanent military presence but for private energy interests as well. The old liberal “divide and rule” is alive and well with the human rights card played in the most self-serving manner, showing what is meant by “learning the lessons of Afghanistan.”

The worst dangers of war are evident in the international situation, which the crisis within the imperialist system of states will not lessen but further heighten. The crisis of the arrangements of the European Union of the Monopolies has been laid bare by what is called the “refugee crisis” with the biggest powers competing and colluding to provide a military and “security” solution and the supposed solidarity of Europe, particularly towards the smaller countries and vulnerable people nowhere to be seen.

Germany, the supposed humanitarian, is sending warships to turn away all those seeking refuge; France is simply razing the miserable sanctuaries of refugees to the ground; and Britain blames the others and has given up any humanitarian pretense whatsoever. Within this it is only those countries which are themselves the main victims of the Europe of the Monopolies such as Greece which, in vain, is raising the “shared responsibility… towards our neighboring states, both EU and non-EU, but also towards those desperate people” and opposing cruel and illegal prohibitions on refugees and asylum seekers.

The genie will not go back in the bottle and with the crisis turning to open contention more and more desperate solutions are being sought, which are inevitably militarized solutions to political problems.

The crisis of European arrangements is a crisis for U.S. imperialism, as the Europe of the Monopolies and its ruling circles are themselves a creation of NATO and its police powers and terror cells put in power throughout Europe against the workers’ movement and its communist leadership. It is only the extent of this crisis now brought to fruition by five years of these powers supporting destabilization and regime change across the region, which has forced them to support peace negotiations in Syria. After giving rise to what is called the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet, the crisis of nation-building of the imperialist powers has been unmasked and alongside the cruelty, racism and xenophobia at home they now speak of the need to create stability and security “in places generating asylum seekers.” The genie will not go back in the bottle and with the crisis turning to open contention more and more desperate solutions are being sought, which are inevitably militarized solutions to political problems.

There is nothing new about the solutions that the leading lights of Liberal foreign policy are offering today and they are strictly geopolitical in their outlook. The problems they see are the post-war arrangements themselves, which they say have not been successful at preserving imperialist hegemony, as well as the “fragile and failed states” which haunt them on their frontiers. Their solutions are to double down on NATO’s “forward position” of greater and greater military buildup and threats in preparation for war, increasing military spending, and “adapting” international institutions to suit these aims.

It is not surprising then that Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat comes after the spectacle of Prime Minister Trudeau showing the world that he has made common cause with the policy objectives U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing at the end of his presidency. Trudeau has joined Obama is pushing the image of a dove fighting against the warrior hawks, all to hide that the dove is itself warmongering indeed.

With the fate of the executive power in the U.S. uncertain, an appearance is given that when Trudeau takes up the torch of neo-liberal imperialist internationalism there is something progressive about it worthy of support. A lot of it rides on fairy takes about “peacekeeping” or “peacemaking” in the 21st Century or what are called “Peace Operations.” Like Obama, Trudeau has picked up the refrain that peacekeeping must be reimagined today because states are not “pulling their weight” through the UN framework. They propose to “modernize” peacekeeping by bringing it under the direct control of the U.S. imperialists and integrate it with NATO. Already Canada is scoping out countries in which it can place soldiers for such operations.

What role would Canada play on the Security Council and why? 

What role would Canada play on the Security Council and why? Neo-liberal imperialist internationalist discourse on the UN Security Council contends that it is “dysfunctional” and “paralyzed,” not because it is dominated by the big powers but because some of these powers have exercised their vetoes, as they are entitled to, based on post-war arrangements. These arrangements gave them a veto on the Security Council for purposes of ensuring peace but which the neo-liberal imperialist internationalists use to push their own striving for world domination in opposition to the interests of the peoples of the world. They lament that “human rights violators” have been present on the council by which they do not mean themselves, and they protest at using the Security Council to bring the state of Israeli to stop committing crimes against the Palestinian people. Trudeau says with regards to the Security Council that Canada “aims to be consistent and responsible.” Far from taking an independent position or a position of principle, Canada will not be a factor for peace.

160319-TorontoPicketStoptheWar-01crCanada as a “peacekeeper,” a country which has a history of sending its soldiers abroad for well over 150 years and whose bouts of industrialization have coincided with and been dependent on two terrible world wars, cannot but re-examine this role by going deeply into the problem. How can Canada, which is a member of NORAD and NATO, really be a “peacekeeper” when its interests have been placed on the side of the bloc led by the U.S.? For a country to play its role as a peacekeeper it must have a foreign policy of positive neutrality, condemning all acts of aggression and intervention and unjust wars and supporting all movements that open the path for social progress and lasting peace in the world. There is no reference whatsoever to the study of this experience in speeches of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister justifying their foreign policy, except that the policy of “peacekeeping” is applauded as if it is a recognized truth. Far from calling for getting out of NATO and NORAD, the speeches are indicative of strengthening participation in these military blocs which are not in keeping with the image of a country which calls itself a peacekeeper.

A peacekeeper can only have one standard, that of creating the conditions for peace without, at the same time, being an interventionist and aggressor or defender of militarism and fascism. Positive neutrality under all circumstances must be the watchword if the role of peacekeeping is to be given substance and be suitable for the creation of a new world equilibrium.

Source: TML Weekly, March 19, 2016, No. 12

RELATED READING – The Suez Crisis of 1956: Canada the peacemaker – A myth

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