While his detractors chase the shiny things from his daily Twitter feed, US President Donald Trump has revolutionized American foreign policy.
More than a century of the interventionist-warfare state than began under Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson appears to be on the retreat – at least for now – under a president that few believe has any guiding principles.
Much to my surprise, US President Donald Trump quietened down the drums of war from beating out of control. After the first conventional, peace-time attack on a US military base since Pearl Harbour, Trump had cases belli for war with – or at least major strikes against – Iran. As much as Trump claims Iran “blinked,” it was in fact his decision to take a pass at a retaliation that he must have know would spiral into a regional war.
Trump’s decision to pass up a (somewhat) justifiable cause to go to war marks perhaps the clearest sign yet that he is unlike any president since Herbert Hoover in pursuing a non-interventionist, or non-imperial foreign policy.
Every American president from both both parties since the Second (and almost First) World War have fallen into two camps: dove-interventionists, and hawk-interventionists. For the most part, the former have been Democrats, and the latter Republicans. While Democrats pay more lip service to peace, they have shown little hesitation in projecting American power at the behest of a military-intelligence-industrial complex that traditional Republicans have heeded (just with more jingoistic bravado).
Trump falls into a camp more closely resembling presidents before the First World War. What he calls “America First.” Rather than a dove-interventionist or a hawk-interventionist, he is a hawk-non-interventionist. He believes in a robust military to defend American interests, but has little time for playing the role of World Policeman so adored by George Bush Sr.
This radical shift in foreign policy was unlikely to come from the traditionally more warlike Republicans, but it did not begin with Trump. It began (mostly) with Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential campaigns. Paul ran not as an “America Firster,” but as an isolationist, as the backers of F.D.R. would call him. Paul campaigned not just on levelling the size of America’s domestic government, but in dismantling the military-intelligence-industrial complex outright. This was perhaps too radical even most anti-war supporters, and was probably a major reason that his campaign did not succeed.
But his radical foreign policy did change the conversation in the longer-term, especially for Republicans. By 2015, it was no longer seen as unpatriotic for conservatives to oppose the warfare state and America’s endless foreign entanglements. Trump picked up this mantle and ran with it.
While less influential in the long-term than Paul, the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot in 1992 re-planted the seeds of an anti-interventionist in the Republican Party, and more closely resemble the America First policy of Trump today.
Fighting the foreign policy establishment in both parties, Trump remolded Paul’s radical non-interventionism into a more palatable America First, militant-non-interventionism. This policy has cost him a long list of traditional Republican advisors and cabinet members; most notably, super-hawk John Bolton.
In contrast, few major party candidates for president have ever been as beholden to the American establishment as Hilary Clinton. She showed few hangups about supporting the Second Iraq War in 2003, and changed her position only as public opinion made it untenable for a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
Her record as Secretary of State saw foreign US interventions in Syria and Libya to remove (or attempt to remove) rouge regimes, without being willing to fill the power vacuums they created.
Iran’s actions over the last two weeks have given the United States (and now possibly Canada and Ukraine) at least some justification for war. It is highly probable that if Hilary Clinton was president today, that the US and its allies would already be bombing Tehran.
Donald Trump may have blinked first with Iran, but he seems satisfied that the missile attacks on its bases in Iraq were not damaging enough to warrant further retaliation; a retaliation that would most likely lead to a large, regional war.
Strong evidence pointing to the destruction of a civilian 737 from an Iranian missile attack hours after the Iran ballistic missile strikes was about as surprising as learning that the security cameras outside of Jeffery Epstein’s cell were temporarily out of order.
While tragic, it would have been at least understandable if an Iranian anti-air defence unit mistook a plane flying into its borders from Iraq or Afghanistan, and pulled the trigger too eagerly. Iran was probably on the highest alert at that hour for an American retaliatory strike.
But this plane took off from Iran’s main airport in Tehran, and was destroyed minutes after taking off. It is hard to believe that this mass murder of civilians was anything but intentional.
The embassy-drone strike-missile attack, tit-for-tat between the US and Iran, could have been relegated by the Western and Sunni Arab allies as the usual American power play. The murder of 176 civilians makes this an attack on the international community, and gives Trump another cause for escalation, if not war.
But – as yet at least – he has not taken Iran up on its death wish. While he rises to the bait of insults on Twitter or Saturday Night Live, he has not risen to the bait of war. If Iran continues to bait the United States (and now its allies), Trump may yet have a breaking point, and reasonably so. But that point appears to be much less trigger happy than that of his recent predecessors, or Hilary Clinton’s.
Trump’s detractors may finally start to figure out what many of us have understood about him for a long time: his bluster is an intentional and entertaining distraction from his revolution of American policy.
GEROW: Libertarians are the principled option in BC Election
Polls show the Liberals losing badly to the NDP. Principled small-government voters should stop holding their noses and do the principled thing. Vote Libertarian.
After British Columbia’s NDP received a significant bump in their polling support, rumors began to spread that John Horgan wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and call a snap election. The Libertarian Party of BC was quick to warn the sitting Premier that this action was not only unwanted, but might also be illegal. However, the Covid-19 pandemic had created the perfect conditions for political opportunism and John Horgan was not going to let it go to waste.
The BC Liberals are the acknowledged biggest threat to John Horgan’s NDP, but they are not the Chretien consensus Liberals of 2001 and it’s doubtful that past reputation will carry the day. Their brand as a coalition of red Tories and center-left liberals does little to attract the small government, fiscally responsible voter. The first thing you’ll notice on the BC Liberal website is that there is no quick and easy way to understand their election platform. With Covid-19 as the number one issue, Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has skillfully skirted the hard questions.
Don Wilson – Leader of the BC Libertarian Party – hasn’t shied away from criticizing the NDP or the Liberals complicity in what he calls “authoritarian policies.” The first link on the BC Libertarian party website is COVID-19: A Return to Normal: “The current crisis management is disproportionate to the harms of the virus and causes more damage than it helps cure”.
Although they’re the only political party in BC advocating for a return to normal – a move guaranteed to generate support – that is hardly their most successful platform item. Since 1986 the BC Libertarians have advocated an end ICBC’s monopoly on auto insurance. You won’t put on too many kilometers anywhere from Fernie to Fort St. John without seeing their iconic bumper sticker.
That type of success comes at a price. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery” said Don Wilson on Tuesday, October 8,2020 after Andrew Wilkinson announced that if elected they were following the Libertarians lead and would end ICBC’s monopoly on auto insurance. Just like legalized cannabis and same-sex marriage, the Libertarians have once again been vindicated, and once against without much in the way of credit. It’s a shame that it only took 34 years. Now it looks like they will be proven right again by denouncing this election as illegal.
Libertarian omniscience has an ear to the ground for future policy in British Columbia. They are the only party authentically advocating for reducing the cost of living by repealing regressive tax laws which hurt low income working families the most and raising the base exemption rate. They say they’ll eliminate the carbon tax and other sin taxes like the ones on tobacco and liquor.
There is no good argument to make for the BC Liberals being conservative in any sense of the word, other than they are the party backed by the federal Tories. Their platitudes and obscure non-commitment to any real tax reform is a disappointment to their voter base. Yet, Andrew Wilkinson decided to run attack ads against an 8-candidate roster called the Conservative Party of BC on the accusation that by vote-splitting, they spoiled wins for the Liberals in two ridings in 2017. Rather than putting forward any original ideas or standing on the remnants of fiscally responsible liberalism, Andrew Wilkinson steals platform items from the Libertarians and attacks actual conservatives. In doing so, he has made it clear that this race will be the last one where his party enjoys a chance at success.
This is a race between two far-left parties and a weak centre-left party. The need for responsible governance in British Columbia has become unavoidable and the political climate is forcing the traditional parties to adjust course, but voters in BC should simply be voting for the real thing. The 25 Libertarians are the party of ideas and two Conservatives hold the balance of votes in key swing ridings. This enough to form actual opposition to big government and irresponsible policy.
Polls show the Liberals losing badly to the NDP. Principled small-government voters should stop holding their noses and do the principled thing. Vote Libertarian.
Darcy Gerow is a columnist for the Western Standard
WAGNER: This isn’t the first time the CBC has tried to silence its critics
Michael Wagner writes that in 1986, the CBC tried to silence a study about its ideological bias.
In June 1986, the University of Manitoba hosted a conference of academic societies where scholars presented papers. One of these societies was the Canadian Communications Association (CCA), headed at the time by a Carleton journalism professor named Peter A. Bruck. A presentation was made to the CCA by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper. He shared the results of an unpublished report entitled Bias on the CBC? A study of network AM radio. The CBC was extremely unhappy about Cooper’s report and tried to get it suppressed.
The controversy over Cooper’s study and the CBC’s reaction was newsworthy, and it was featured as the cover story of the July 21, 1986 issue of Alberta Report magazine.
Anecdotal evidence had led Prof. Cooper to become concerned about the apparent left-wing bias of the CBC, and he decided to determine if such bias actually existed by having five students monitor four of its most well-known current affairs programs on AM radio, namely, As It Happens, Sunday Morning, Morningside, and The House. Generally speaking, stories that were pro-defence, pro-business, and anti-union were categorized as right-wing, whereas those that took an opposite stance were categorized as left-wing. The results demonstrated a distinct leftist and Eastern bias in the CBC’s coverage.
Among the more specific findings detailed by Alberta Report were that “72 per cent of the stories evaluating government policy did so negatively; 62 per cent criticized from a left-wing perspective; 27 per cent from the centre, and 12 per cent from the right.” Furthermore, “Of the stories for which an ideological focus could be ascertained, 50 per cent were oriented to the left, 34 per cent to the centre, 15 per cent to the right.”
Coverage of Cooper’s study had also appeared in the Globe and Mail, prompting the CBC’s Toronto-based vice-president of English radio, Margaret Lyons, to write a letter to the editor where she dismissed it as “virtually ridiculous.” Susan Freedman, CBC’s Edmonton director of radio said, “I think it’s junk.”
However, Colin MacLean, CBC Edmonton’s arts, culture and entertainment reporter told an interesting story. He had covered a meeting of the Western Canada Concept at the Jubilee Auditorium for the CBC. There were about 300 people at the meeting, which was quiet and orderly. MacLean told Alberta Report, though, that “When I filed the story, Toronto said ‘We don’t want this. We want rednecks running rampant in the streets.’”
The CBC did not take Cooper’s study sitting down. As an article in the July 28, 1986 issue of Alberta Report explained, the CBC threatened legal action. Barry Kiefl, the director of research for the CBC, wrote a letter to Prof. Bruck of the CCA stating: “I am writing to inform the CCA that the CBC wishes your association to renounce this research and retract the paper from the record of the conference and inform all who heard or received the results of this action. The study in question had several methodological flaws making the findings invalid and the conclusions not proven.”
Kiefl went on to state, “The CBC feels that its renowned reputation as Canada’s most pre-eminent journalistic organization has been damaged by the release of the paper and we sincerely hope that the CCA will formally withdraw it from the conference record, preventing the need for any further discussion or litigation.”
Ted Byfield’s column in the same issue of the magazine noted that Kiefl’s letter was six pages long. As Byfield explained, “Such a letter could only be written by a public body that has lost all touch with practical reality, and has long ago abandoned any remote notion that it is responsible to the people who pay for it.”
Nothing of significance appears to have resulted from this episode, except embarrassment for the CBC – embarrassment for its childish reaction to Prof. Cooper’s report, and embarrassment for threats to get the report retracted and denounced.
In 2020, it’s the Western Standard’s turn to receive threats of legal action, albeit on different legal grounds.
The case for privatizing the CBC was strong even before its latest antics. Canada does not need a state broadcaster that unfairly competes with the private sector. It’s coverage of news has been unbalanced for decades, as Cooper’s work has demonstrated. The consistent bias is irritating and unfair for the conservative and libertarian-minded taxpayers who are forced to pay for it. There is a solution: privatize the CBC.
Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’
How the CBC presented a rosey view of the Soviet Union during the Cold War
“The CBC created a smokescreen for Marxists before the fall of the Soviet Union, the ultimate “progressive” state. But it’s important to realize that during the Cold War, Canada’s taxpayer-funded state broadcaster ran interference for the most powerful Marxist dictatorship in history.”
Some conservatives and libertarians like to joke that the acronym of Canada’s national broadcaster – the CBC – stands for “Communist Broadcasting Corporation.” But a post-Cold War study by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper presents information and analysis that may leave people wondering how much of a joke it really is.
Cooper studied the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for several years, and the most significant result of his efforts was the book, Sins of Omission: Shaping the News at CBC TV which was published by the prestigious University of Toronto Press in 1994. From the evidence presented in this book, it is clear that CBC TV had an affinity for the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
To conduct this study, Cooper poured over a large number of transcripts from TV broadcasts and compared what was said with the political reality of the situation being portrayed. When he began this work in the 1980s, he decided to focus on coverage of foreign affairs, and in particular, issues related to the Cold War and the Soviet Union.
One part of the study looks at how the internal affairs of the USSR were portrayed, including the Soviet occupation and withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was a major issue at the time. The general tendency in the coverage was to make it appear that the Soviet Union was much like Canada. As Cooper puts it, “Obvious external or elemental differences, such as the absence of genuine elections, the existence of a secret police, the concentration camps, and restrictive emigration policy, were ignored, played down, or euphemized into innocuous variations of normalcy. In short, the substantive political and, indeed, cultural differences between the political regimes established by communism in the USSR and those set up by liberal democracy in the West were minimized.”
In reality, the political life of the Soviet Union was very different from Canada’s due to the brutal nature of the Marxist ideology that guided its regime. To some degree, the CBC turned a blind eye to the suffering of the people in that country, giving Canadians a misleading, sugar-coated view of the communist regime
A major feature of the Cold War, of course, was the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. During the period studied by Cooper, there were a couple of summit meetings between the leaders of these two countries – Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan – that received considerable media coverage. Officials from both countries presented the views of their respective governments, but the CBC did not treat these statements in the same way. As Cooper puts it, “the surface meaning of Soviet accounts was overwhelmingly accepted at face value. Accounts by U.S. officials, in contrast, were severely scrutinized, and alternative visualizations were presented.” The CBC was skeptical of American claims, but rarely of Soviet claims.
There is considerably more detail in Cooper’s study carefully documenting his conclusions, but the long and the short of it is this: “The visualization of the summit meetings was remarkably consistent: the USSR was seen as a progressive and dynamic actor, the United States as a source of resistance to peace initiatives.” The CBC, Cooper writes, “advanced the vision of a progressive USSR and a dangerous United States.”
In short, government-paid journalists in a free country – Canada – sided with one of the most oppressive regimes in history. As Cooper puts it, “CBC visualizations were ‘objectively’ in the service of Soviet propaganda.”
Cooper goes on to note that the philosophy guiding CBC coverage of US-Soviet relations was “moral equivalence.” Basically, this view assumes that the USA and Soviet Union – liberal democracy and Marxist totalitarianism – have similar virtues and vices, so one side should not be seen as morally superior to the other.
But the “moral equivalence” position was garbage, as Cooper explains.
“The doctrine of moral equivalence, which is the articulate conceptual statement that the CBC operationalized in its coverage of the Soviet Union, ignored the most fundamental distinction in political life, the distinction between tyrannical and non-tyrannical forms of government. This omission led to such otherwise inexplicable curiosities as equating or balancing U.S. support for the Afghan mujahedeen with the Soviet invasion of that country. Moreover, some stories did more than bend over backwards or forwards to excuse the actions of a tyranny.”
So there you have it. The CBC created a smokescreen for Marxists before the fall of the Soviet Union, the ultimate “progressive” state. But it’s important to realize that during the Cold War, Canada’s taxpayer-funded state broadcaster ran interference for the most powerful Marxist dictatorship in history.
30 years after the end of the Cold War we are left to consider: what is the CBC’s agenda for us now?
Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’
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