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As the “epistemic closure” debate–about whether there has been a closing of the conservative mind–rages in the blogosphere, I found Jonah Goldberg’s (of Liberal Fascism fame, ew) critique of young bloggers particularly jarring, though inadequate.

From NRO:

Let me offer a counter theory. When I first came to Washington, I hung around in very similar circles of young eager-beavers. I may not have been as smart as many of them, but I was just as determined to get my articles published and make my mark. We had many gripe sessions conversations about how hard it was to break-in at places like NR, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal etc. But, because Al Gore hadn’t gotten around to inventing the internet yet, there was no place for me to vent these complaints in print, never mind work them up into a meta-narrative about the decrepit state of conservatism.

That’s not the case for today’s 20-somethings who have the luxury of translating their frustration with “the business” into long cri de coeur blog posts and essays that tend to bounce off one another for reinforcement. Instead of late night griping at the Toledo Lounge, the way we did things in the 1990s, the conversation has gone public. Indeed, so public that it has become something of an intellectual grievance culture all its own.

And here’s Conor Friedersdorf ripping apart Jonah.

When Barack Obama was inaugurated, many Canadians sighed with relief. After watching our southern neighbor stumble for eight long years on the world stage, we were glad to take a break from all our Bush jokes and our self-righteous denunciations of U.S. foreign policy. “What a crazy crusading ideologue that Bush, eh?” we’d say. But now the joke’s on us. George W. Bush is alive and well, and he lives at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

His new name is The Right Honourable Stephen Joseph Harper, the prime minister of Canada. While Canadians were too busy poking fun at Americans, Canadian foreign policy underwent a change so drastic that we hardly resemble our former progressive selves. Prime Minister Harper’s positions on a range of issues—from aid policy to the Middle East—read like the Bush Doctrine. (Note to Sarah Palin: By that I mean the toxic mix of social conservatism, military adventurism, and ideological blindness that characterized the former president’s foreign policy.)

Take, for instance, Harper’s recent decision to stop funding NGOs abroad that provide abortions. Even though a woman’s right to choose is firmly entrenched in Canadian law, and even though experts consider access to safe abortions vital to maternal health, Canada—which will preside over a G8 meeting on maternal health—will radically adopt a “gag rule” on abortions. It was Ronald Reagan who first infamously put in place the eerily similar Mexico City Policy, which required NGOs receiving U.S. aid to not perform or promote abortions. Bush Jr. restored the policy, but thankfully Obama rescinded it and his administration has challenged Harper’s move. Secretary Clinton had harsh words for the decision: “you cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions.”

The comparisons of Bush to Harper don’t end there. On Israel, Harper’s Conservative government has surrendered Canada’s role as an honest broker for Middle East peace, and has instead chosen to side with Israel at all costs. When Israel violated international law by expanding settlements in East Jerusalem, Vice President Biden “unequivocally” condemned the move. Canada’s Foreign Minister, on the other hand, blandly commented that the expansion of settlements “does not advance the cause of peace in the region.”

In line with American neoconservatives, Harper has described any criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitic. His government has revoked funding for KAIROS, a Christian aid group, because the NGO dared to criticize the policies of the Israeli government. And controversy engulfed his government recently when it was learned that he stacked the board of Rights & Democracy, a Canadian human rights agency, with pro-Israel advocates.

His government’s support for Israel is not in itself problematic—in fact, support for Israel ought to be a cornerstone of Canadian and American foreign policies. Harper’s decision to boycott Durban II, the second round of a U.N. conference that degenerated into anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic commentary, was a wise and laudable one. In all fairness, the shift towards a pro-Israel policy occurred under the previous Liberal government. However, the Liberals followed a balanced policy that didn’t shun criticism of Israel and expressed support for Israel’s legitimate security concerns. But like Washington’s neocons, Ottawa’s mini-neocons live in a Manichean world where any criticism of Israel’s government is deemed anti-Semitic. This translates into a suffocating and ideological foreign policy that deprives legitimate peace groups in Palestine and Israel of the funding they need. And now his decision to stop funding safe abortions abroad imperils maternal health and family planning measures in developing countries.

We could easily brush aside these changes to Canada’s foreign aid policy as merely cosmetic. But aid policy is to Canada what military power is to the United States—the way Canada most effectively exercises its influence around the world. Imagine Bush using American military power to invade countries to fulfill an ideological fantasy (i.e the Iraq War.) That’s exactly what Harper’s doing, albeit on a Canadian scale.

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