Saturday, March 24, 2012

Canada, a country of losers?

For most of its existance Canada has been beholden to greater powers for any advantages that it has enjoyed.  This country has never really stood on its own two feet.

Since before Confederation Canada has always been dependent on other countries.  It was the British from before Confederation until the Second World War and it was the United States from the end of the Second World War to the present.

It is well known that for virtually all of its existence Canada's main source of economic activity is the extraction of resources and being a branch plant economy for the big US multinationals.  I could understand that this was probably necessary when our country was just starting out but you would think we would have moved on to something much greater as our country matured into an independent nation.

Of course that is not the case.  Our country enjoys the advantages of having a well educated population, and a modern, industrialized economy.  We should be making alot more noise on the international scene and on the world economy.  Instead we have not really progressed much farther than where we were in 1867.

We are still extracting and selling our resources to other countries to be processed, instead of processing them ourselves.  Very few of the companies that are doing this extracting are actually Canadian, which is no different that in 1867, except the companies doing the extracting are no longer British, they are American, Chinese and Brazilian.

Our biggest industrial companies are still subsidiaries of large American Corporations.  Whenever a Canadian company does rise to prominence within the Canadian economy it tends not to last long.  Nortel and JDS Uniphase are examples of that and RIM will soon be another example as it will either go bankrupt or be bought out by Apple or Microsoft in the near future.

Hell, we are seeing this everywhere.  I read yesterday of a Canadian company based out of Saskatchewan, called Viterra, which was just sold to a foreign company.  Viterra owned a sizable chunk of the grain elevators in the Prairies, as will as, port facilities in Thunder Bay and BC.  They sold the lot to a company based in Holland, a country justifiably well known for its vast tracks of rolling wheat fields.

Even in culture we are well behind the rest of the world.  Canada has a culture and has a tool to promote and highlight it in the CBC.  Canada in one of only a handful of countries that have a national broadcaster.  We could be using that to a great advantage but the opposite is true.  The fate of the CBC is actually unknown but there is a good chance that it will be privatized or it will just disappear into nothingness.

How can we as citizens of this great country allow this to happen?  Why are we standing by and watching it happening instead of putting a stop to it?  Why are we not demanding that Canadian resources be processed in Canada instead of just being dug out of the ground and shipped elsewhere as raw materials?  Why are we allowing successful Canadian companies to either disappear or be bought by companies from other countries?

Considering the wealth of human and natural resources this country enjoys Canada should be one of the movers and shakers in the global economy.  The fact that we are not is a sad testament to the collective failure of our society to leverage those resources to the greatest advanage of all Canadians.  Or to put it another way, just by taking the path of least resistance we have managed to grow an economy that is in the top ten in the world in size.  Just imagine what we could do if we actually took control of our economy and began making it work for Canadians.

Full circle in Afghanistan

A couple of weeks ago a US soldier went on a rampage in an Afghan village killing many civilians.  This was a tragedy and the reactions of the Afghan authorities was predictable.

What I found more surprising was the Western media reaction to it.  Not too many years in the past they would have acknowledged the tragedy of the event but they would have downplayed the significance of it on the broader implications for the war.  That was not the case this time.  I was surprised at how many media commentators, in the US and in Canada, who are staunch supporters of the war, who stated that this presented President Obama with an excuse to pull US troops out to Afghanistan (with NATO right behind it) and who stated that he should take the opportunity.

I believe that the media have finally acknowledged to themselves that this war is unwinnable.  I would have preferred if they would have come to this conclusion six or seven years ago when that fact first became apparent but I guess better late than never.

It did not have to be this way of course.  It became very obvious to anybody who could look at the situation on the ground with any degree of objectivity that the Taliban was not going to go away after its ouster as the Afghan government. 

The West should have acknowledged that fact and reached out to the more moderate elements of the Taliban to invite them into the new government of the country.  People do not want to lead that country for the good of its people they want to lead it so that they can have a share of the spoils of the rampant corruption of the government.  If the West would have offered a share of those spoils to moderates in the Taliban they would have probably accepted.  That would probably have had the advantage making the last few years alot less bloody for Western forces and it might have had the added advantage of splitting the Taliban, perhaps weakening the hardliners enough to push them to the fringes.

Instead of course, George Bush decided to try to destroy the Taliban, a task that is as impossible as any effort to destroy the Democratic Party.  The result was over a decade of war and the radicalization of the Taliban.  If there are any moderates left in the Taliban they have no power or influence and they will not be able to stop the civil war that will erupt in Afghanistan after the West finally withdraws.  A civil war the Taliban has a very good chance of winning by the way.

We all know that George Bush and his band of neo-cons had a very simplistic view of the world and they bear a great deal of the responsibility of the ongoing tradegy that is that war.  However, the allies that joined Mr. Bush in this ill starred endeavour should have known better.  Although it probably would have fallen on deaf ears they could have attempted to convince the Bush Administration to take a different tack.  Instead they did nothing and in some cases actually enabled the Bush Administration strategy, the actions and rhetoric of the Canadian, British and French governments being particularly noticable in this regard.

So now we have come full circle.  The Taliban won a civil war to rule that country after the departure of the Soviet Union and it is poised to do the same thing again after the departure of Western forces.