In 2003, I ran into a number of Canadians travelling through the Middle East, but two minutes into the conversation I discovered they were really Americans pretending to be from Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto.
The U.S. had just invaded and occupied Iraq, but Canada’s then Prime Minister Jean Chretien had taken a strong stand against the hugely unpopular war.
The Americans I met had the maple leaf flag on their backpacks because Canada had a generally positive image in the world. Our foreign policy had for more than 60 years been based on global security and peacekeeping, funding international institutions that aided humanitarian relief around the world (yes, even in Gaza and the West Bank) — Canada was a source of good in the world.
The Liberals, despite their many flaws, had maintained that image. More than 12 years later, we see that Chretien and the Liberals were spot on about the Iraq War. They didn’t want to sign on to a project that would ultimately break the Middle East, not fix it.
So, it was with absolute delight that I watched Justin Trudeau take centre stage last week as the Liberals mopped up the elections and pushed the Tories out of power.
I didn’t vote, but my friends did. Most of them voted Liberal. One, in particular, came to Canada 10 years ago, fleeing war and conflict.
“I’m proud to be Canadian,” he said on his Facebook page and Twitter. Proud to be Canadian before the results were even clear.
The world needs a Canada that is a voice of reason in the world, not a Canada that rushes to join the misadventure that is the U.S.-led coalition to take on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq.
We fix messes and bring relief to oppressed peoples. Washington’s approach to Syria and Iraq has unravelled, prompting Russia to step in allegedly to force a political settlement. The Middle East quicksand quagmire has just gotten only messier.
We fix messes and bring relief to oppressed peoples.
Military + political track
Yes, ISIL is a force of evil and needs to be destroyed. But the military strategy needs to run in tandem with a political one, and the Conservatives never offered one.
The reason the Middle East is in a perpetual state of instability and conflict is because Washington’s regime change in Iraq was not only wrong, but short-sighted — there was never a concrete and inclusive plan for the day after.
Not surprisingly, on social media, many around the world congratulated Canada for Trudeau’s win.
And among casual conversations with friends, I couldn’t but help beam with pride as many told me Canada would now be back on track — a multicultural gem in a world that needs tolerance and inclusivity.
[M]any told me Canada would now be back on track — a multicultural gem in a world that needs tolerance and inclusivity.
I expect Canada to lead from the front now, rather than follow from behind, and create its own foreign policy geared toward global peace and security and firm action regarding climate change.
But there is a drawback to Trudeau’s win. As one foreign analyst told me, Canadian men are now steaming red with jealousy.
“He’s a very handsome fellow,” she said of Trudeau.
Red? Yes, as red as the flag and the colours of the Liberal party.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Arab descent who has covered the Middle East since 1992. A former senior editor with Al Jazeera’s English-language website, currently he teaches journalism at the American University of Cairo as an associate professor. He is a member of NCM’s editorial advisory board.