Friday, January 11, 2008

Defend the Border

The CBC’s new show can only help “the bad guys”

The phrase “defend the border” wasn’t always a metaphor. And it isn’t just a metaphor in many parts of the world, even today: some states do have to worry about overland military invasions.

Canada is not such a state. To the degree that it is, the only conceivable invader is, of course, the United States. Those in Canada who talk about “defending the border” are distinctly unconcerned about such a possibility. They are, instead, making an analogy for a set of power institutions designed to keep “them” out and “us” safe.

Some argue that the threat of terrorism to Canada is so great that it outweighs any mushy, politically correct concerns. The historian J.L. Granatstein, in his book, “Whose War Is It?” makes such claims (1). So, with its new show, does the CBC, a point to which I’ll return below. Stripped down to basics, his argument is that Canada, to be safe, needs to subordinate its foreign policy to the US and join its War on Terror wholeheartedly, instead of half-heartedly. The most incredible aspect of his book, however, is that Granatstein relies on fiction – literally, entirely fictional scenarios about Muslim terrorists releasing poison gas in a Toronto subway at the same time as a natural disaster on the West Coast – to demonstrate how Canada needs to have better military preparedness. Granatstein can’t find real threats to justify his policy suggestions, so he makes them up. The detention of over a dozen young Muslim men in Toronto for over a year, accused of some sort of convoluted terrorist plot and possibly entrapped by the authorities, suggests that perhaps Canada’s police and intelligence agencies are also in the business of making up threats (2).

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