Canadians like Barack Obama, but not his plans. That seems an awfully apt wrap-up of the man’s whole public persona; he is charming enough, eloquent when reading from a script, victorious in a way that is symbolically, if not practically, meaningful, but also quick to reverse himself and sell his supporters short in the name of mending fences.
The Canadian obsession with Barack Obama has never made much sense, and with the inauguration a day away, it still doesn’t. On the Canadian political spectrum, Obama is neither a Liberal nor a social democrat. (No word yet on how he feels about Quebec sovereignty.) He is a conservative – make that a Conservative. He roughly aligns with the Conservative Party on most major issues, and even leans to the right of Stephen Harper on a few. Health care, gay marriage, and economic regulation come to mind, but chief among these is Afghanistan.
When Obama first announced his opposition to the Iraq war, he declared that he does not oppose all wars. (Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Rahm Emanuel, apparently, don’t oppose any.) But Iraq and Afghanistan are the same, though one was launched at a time of political invincibility for its architects. So the wise political hawk entrenches the occupation of the latter at the expense of the former. He trades one violent adventure for another.
A majority of Canadians oppose military participation in Kandahar in one form or another. Canadian troops will largely leave the province, by political and popular consensus, in 2011 – not soon enough, but an improvement on some endless engagement. Yet, in a way unique to this country’s relationship with the US, Canadians are envious of our neighbour’s political leadership. It may be no wonder that Jack Layton postured as an Obama-like change agent in the last election, but it’s also no wonder that even the lifeless Stephane Dion managed a few good digs at that idea. We like Obama – just not his policies.
[Note: My internet wasn’t working last night, so I wasn’t able to fill my contest quota. I’ll post something else tonight to make up for it, okay, PJ?]