Saturday, July 01, 2006

Bob Rae on the Muslim Chronicle

What a treat to see Bob Rae on the TV show The Muslim Chronicle tonight. It was a meaty 30-minute interview, largely dealing with his feelings about the NDP and his thoughts about the Middle East. (In the leader's debates the candidates are constantly cut off after one, two, or three minutes, making it impossible for them to say much of substance.)

The first part of the interview dealt with Rae's feelings about the NDP, why he left, and about being a Liberal. Much of it is the same stuff that he said in his 1996 book From Protest to Power and has repeated many times since - the NDP is too much about protest and not enough about good government, and is too inflexible and not practical about creating a strong economy to afford social programs. He said that since he left the NDP in 1998 he has worked for federal and Ontario Liberal governments as well as international organizations and private enterprise.

The host's first question about the Middle East was why Rae signed a letter in 2002 that criticized remarks by Svend Robinson that were pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli. One of the reasons I like Bob Rae so much is that he stands by what he believes. Knowing that he was speaking to a primarily Muslim audience, he said that Canada needs a balanced view that supports both Israel's and Palestine's right to exist, but we also should insist on negotiated borders between the two. He said as Prime Minister he'd try to bring together Jews and Muslims within Canada to talk. He mentioned doing this while he was Ontario Premier; apparently after the 1993 Oslo Accords he got groups of Jews and Muslims and went with them to Gaza, Israel, and other spots.

On the issue of Afghanistan, Rae said that he wasn't against a Canadian military presence, but he felt that we shouldn't focus on American-style counter-insurgency: it creates resistance that is counter-productive. He reminded us that the west intervened in Afghanistan not to help the Afghans but to defeat Al Qaeda. He said that the imperial solution does not work, that the Taliban are as strong as ever in northern Pakistan, and that unless someone starts to repair the underlying problems in Afghanistan the Taliban will return to power after we pull out. He said Canada needs to understand how it can be most effective, and that is probably not in a combat role supporting the US army.

On Iraq, Rae reminded us that the US destroyed not just the Iraqi army but the Iraqi state, creating chaos, and that it will be a long job to rebuild. Again, he said that the imperial solution is not effective.

Rae seemed perfectly at ease and in command of the topics. He is obviously a passionate and committed Liberal. He has worked in recent years in both Afghanistan and Iraq, studied the current problems first-hand, knows what he's talking about, is sensitive to all sides and pragmatic about finding the best way to help.

I didn't take good notes so I hope I didn't butcher his remarks too much.


1 comment:

Robert said...

I didn't see the interview, but might he have said the Taliban were as strong as ever in 'Southern' Afghanistan? I was under the impression that was where they were mainly holding out...