Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Third Way

So far this leadership campaign, I've been linking to Gerard Kennedy's policy announcements and maybe adding one or two insightful words ("Gerard likes the environment. So do I!"). However, his Afghanistan announcement yesterday is definitely worthy of a post of it's own, for a few reasons:

1. It's a major stand on a hot button topic which differentiates Kennedy from the other candidates.

2. I managed to catch a quick flight back from Budapest for the day so I was lucky enough to be at Ryerson for his speech he gave on it. (and, yes, I did get to meet the one and only Jason Cherniak)

3. I really like what GK is saying. And, no, I'm not just saying that.

Since the beginning, I've had mixed feelings on the Afghanistan question. This has been because of the black and white either or argument which it had degenerated to. The question has always been phrased in such a way where the choice is either to stay in Afghanistan crossing our fingers that a hopeless situation will somehow get better, or to pull out and leave. Because of this, anyone who opposed the extension has been accused of "cutting and running" or of "not supporting the troops". Some have tried to dance around the question by arguing semantics on the snap vote but, at the end of the day, it's always come down to an "in or out" question.

So when Liberals I know kept telling me we should get the hell out of Afghanistan, I was left a little uneasy. If NATO pulled out now, we'd be leaving the country in terrible shape and it would probably descend into civil war before long. We made the choice to go into Afghanistan so we owe it to the Afghanis to stay until the situation improves.

But, on the other hand, the situation hasn't been improving. In fact, from a casualty perspective, things are getting worse. We've spent four billion dollars on the mission and have tied our hands so that we can't help in other parts of the world where we might be needed. It's become abundantly obvious that little has been done to improve the living conditions of the Afghanis and that peace isn't coming to that part of the world anytime soon.

What Kennedy is proposing makes sense. As a leader of this mission in NATO, we have some real influence in the direction it takes (so, no, we would not be renegotiating the mission mandate with the Taliban as a certain columnist suggests - it's obviously NATO which sets the mandate). And, as Gerard has said, the mission should be about rebuilding Afghanistan, something which isn't happening. The reason the Taliban still has support is because of the illegal opium trade and because of the abysmal standard of living conditions in the country. We'll never succeed unless the abject poverty that exists in Afghanistan is eased.

After World War 2, Europe was rebuilt by investments in infrastructure and aid. Time and time again, history has shown that the best way to return stability to a region is by improving the standard of living, infrastructure and economy. We can fight the Taliban in the hills, spending billions and losing dozens of lives for ever and ever but if we actually want to leave Afghanistan in respectable shape, I think it's time the parameters of the mission were overhauled. Anyone who argues otherwise needs to offer up some sort of argument for how we can possibly hope to reach the end game in Afghanistan under the current plan.

(for balance, Paul Wells offers up the opposing viewpoint here. But he does make the point that the other seven probably need to get off the fence on this one and use more than the "parliamentary tactics" defense)


  • Is Kennedy's position similair to the NDP's then?

    "...Afghanistan is now the largest recipient of Canadian overseas development assistance. The NDP unequivocally supports the continuation of this funding. And we fully support an ongoing development and diplomatic role for Canada in Afghanistan..."

    I don't think anyone has proposed Canada completely abadon the country. Pursuing a more effective mission seems to be the plausible alternative on the table.

    By Blogger bza, at 7:01 p.m.  

  • CG,

    This post dissapointed me because I really am scared that Liberals will swing further left and abandon any sense in foreign policy. As a very influential blogger, I just don't get your stance on this issue.

    How do you measure success? By casualties alone? Or do you measure it by the 4 million plus children who are now able to attend school? Do you measure it in the busy markets of Kabul where the economy is slowly coming to life and new hotels and markets open up?

    How bout the fact that women are involved in government? Or the fact that Afghanistan has held elections? Or how about that the resistance is now mainly contained in the southern regions of Afghanistan rather than across the entire country?

    What about the goals set out in the London Conference, and the Afghan pact? Or that the UN said on July 30th, 2006 that progress is being made.


    Are you going to tell me with a straight face that Kennedy threatening to pull Canada out because of casualties is a smart plan? What does that say to the international community? That we're willing to contribute until we have a casualty? What does it say to the Taliban and insurgents? That we can make progress but the second anything goes sour, we pull out?

    I don't want to drag this discussion into a "cut and run" debate, but I strongly question your methodology of success. Here is a mission where Canada has led major recontruction efforts in the south, involved itself in parliamentary negotiations and education between Afghanistan and Canada, and actually LEAD the ISAD force. In 2003 and 2004, general Rick Hillier was the commanding officer of ISAF while Canada's chief of land staff Major General Andrew Lesie was the deputy commander. Now Canada is being asked to lead major efforts there and Gerard Kennedy is threatening a pull-out.

    I'm just asking how you measure success. I admit there are sacrifices, but I think they are worth this mission if not only for our security, but for the security of people in Afghanistan who have only known oppression and war for so much of their lives. ISAF offers a chance for hope and peace... but yet according to you this is a hopeless mission?

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 7:04 p.m.  

  • also, earlier when I said "influential blogger".. I meant you. You're an influential blogger and I think it's important you tell your readers the full story.

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 7:05 p.m.  

  • I blogged on this today saying that I thought there were positives and negatives to the statement. I like that Gerard is worried about Afghanistan and that he lays out (in Wells' adendum) that it is a multi-layered development, with the development, opium and security challenges that can't be tackled in isolation.

    What I didn't like was the bit that went, to put it bluntly, "or else." I don't think we really have the ability to ethically say "or else" and still hold to our pretentions of being a human rights champion; we're in a legitimate UN-NATO role supporting a democratic government.

    Kyle C. mentioned in my comments that he thought I was taking the 'or else' component too seriously; all I can say is that some people strongly opposed to any involvement in Afghanistan have really seized on that element; I don't think it's a minor point.

    There's no question, though, that GK touched on important points with his message, and I'd like, like Wells, to see more specific dicussion of the subject from leadership candidates.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 7:46 p.m.  

  • Kennedy is not "threatening" to pull out, that is a media and blogger creation. He wants a discussion, an expanded approach to the issue. He never said we will pull out when someone dies. Furthermore, to pretend that this mission can be "won" just with a military approach is simply foolhardy.
    Finally, a leadership candidate that speaks the truth on this issue! It is a shame that we have supporters of other candidates twisting his stance.

    By Blogger true liberal, at 7:47 p.m.  




    While good Canadians are being brought home in bodybags from Afghanistan, Afghanistan is experiencing record opium production.

    Is there a connection? NO, THERE IS NOT.

    However, I don't get it. What exactly are our brothers and sisters protecting over there?

    I know that if supposed Afganistani liberators were in Canada and innocent Canadians were getting killed by them, I would not be happy. If my brother or niece was killed by a stray Afghanistani bullet, I would be even less happy.


    By Blogger Peter, at 8:33 p.m.  

  • A few points. First, somebody needs to inform Kennedy that NATO is a military alliance.

    Second, somebody needs to inform him that Afghanistan is a large country, and that a lot of rebuilding has been done in areas of the country which have been stabilized. That does not yet include the area around Kandahar, which is only in the earliest phases of those efforts.

    Finally, it's nice to see that he supports the Conservative government's efforts in Afghanistan (building, admittedly, on what the previous government had started) on multiple dimensions: to secure the areas of the country which currently remain under Taliban influence, and to provide development assistance through agencies such as CIDA.

    For example, on May 17 of this year Prime Minister Harper announced an increase of development funding to Afghanistan in the amount of $310 Million, to maintain funding at a level of at least $100 Million per year thorough 2010-11. (Ref: CIDA)

    Perhaps Kennedy would be so kind as to publicly acknowledge his support for the Conservative Government's policies, rather than allowing his adherents to misrepresent them.

    By Blogger Paul, at 8:34 p.m.  

  • Kennedy's position is frankly a bit silly. Yes, there are linked threats to Afghanistan, but the security threat is the paramount one, becuase if you are going to have any kind of civil society you need to have the rule of law.

    The war on drugs in America was a failure, imagine how much worse the war on drugs would be in an actual warzone.

    The Marshall plan only happened AFTER the fighting stopped, CG. Further, it didn't work because it actually rebuilt Europe (western European GDP's were back at pre-war levels by 1950 - it takes more than 14 bil for that). It was how that money changed the political dynamic in those countries, and forced them to adopt sound economic practices.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 8:39 p.m.  


    Karzai (Afghanistan President) told Fortune magazine in a recent interview that "lots of people" in his administration profited from the narcotics trade and that he had underestimated the difficulty of eradicating opium production.

    Opium cultivation has surged since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001. The former regime enforced an effective ban on poppy growing by threatening to jail farmers — virtually eradicating the crop in 2000.



    If we can't stop illegal activity that is right in front of our faces, how can we stop illegal activity such as terrorism that is not right in front of our faces?


    By Blogger Peter, at 8:49 p.m.  

  • Bart the Marshall Plan anology doesnt' work, there weren't 1000s of ex-Gestapo officers running around killing people and blowing things up in post WW2 Germany.

    I symphathise with the feeling behind Gerard's position. I think we need to rethink our strategy in Afghanistan, and we need to be rebuilding. And we are. But, given that the Taliban keep blowing things up, that's hard to do on the scale needed.

    What has Gerard really proposed here? He wants a new mandate and rebuilding, or we leave. OK, but what's the mandate that he wants? If we focus solely on rebuilding, what does he propose we do about the Taliban insurgency killing people and blowing things up? Do we wait for them to come to us and fight defensivly? Do we let other NATO countries replace us in the high-risl fighting against the Taliban on the frontlines while we do development?

    It's not really clear what he's proposing besides a change from fighting or development or we walk. It can't be an either/or. As areas are secured, development can begin. But we need to secure them first.

    By Blogger A BCer in Toronto, at 9:34 p.m.  

  • Just so you know, Kennedy's position is Bob Rae's position... just a month late.

    I mean, he is saying the same thing. "Don't cut and run. But ensure that the other objective, rebuilding Afghanistan, is also met."

    Anyway, just thought I'd give a shout out to GK's policy's original author.



    By Blogger Skip, at 10:21 p.m.  

  • I have to disagree, CG. I think this is a very bad position to take; I think it's going to hurt Kennedy; and I agree with Wells in that it exposes Kennedy's lack of intellectual gravitas vis-a-vis Rae, Iggy and Dion. He's in over his head on foreign policy and I think in time, this will tell.

    But, as usual, you continue to be the sane, reasonable voice in the Liberal blogosphere. Keep it up

    By Blogger ALW, at 10:21 p.m.  

  • After WW2 the enemy was vanquished, at the cost of thousands of Canadian lives. The GK's of the day would have packed up the marbles and headed home.

    It's not either or, it's about following through on a commitment that any clear eyed individual would have seen as being difficult and drawn out.

    GK is playing the worst kind of politics, that is, taking a position which he doesn't understand and will show him to be an opportunist in due time. The clock is ticking.

    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 10:57 p.m.  

  • What I don't get and, frankly, blame Harper and his preference for dividing Liberals over uniting and informing Canadians, is why people think the Afghanistan mission is going bad.

    In over 2/3 and maybe 3/4 of the country the mission has been pretty much a complete success. The Taliban are limited to a small area in the south. The death toll has certainly climbed of late, but really only a bit. The difference is that it is Canadian lives instead of American and so we are now paying attention. The death toll is going up overall in the south because we are actually engaging the Taliban, taking a stand.

    Meanwhile in the rest of the country, millions have water again, millions of kids are going back to school. Just ask Rick Mercer who has been there and blogged about it.

    A lot of Afghanistan critics, point out the growing poppy problem. That I really don't get. Talk about confusing the mission objectives. The Liberal Party sent our troops over there to join the UN approved mission to defeat the Taliban and establish relative stability in the region. Not to be a police force enforcing a war on drugs and not to tell the Afghanis how to run their country (unlike what is happening in Iraq).

    The mission has not changed. We are just at a tough stage but one that isn't even the worst it's been. The fighting will certainly get worse but the fighting is always fiercest before the end.


    By Blogger Cerberus, at 11:08 p.m.  

  • This isn't particularly important, but I'm not sure ALW and I entirely agree. Afghanistan probably shouldn't be the entire basis for anyone's leadership choice, but to the extent it is, in some ways I'm fonder of a guy who stakes out a position I disagree with (Kennedy) than with people who keep trying to slice fog (most of the rest of the field). My position on Afghanistan, for what (little) it's worth, is that I agree with Ignatieff, Brison, the last three prime ministers — Harper, Martin, Chrétien — and with the current interim leader of the Liberal party, Graham: Canada's place is in the battlefield. Always and forever? Maybe not. For longer than it takes to sneeze? Yeah, that'd be nice.


    By Blogger Paul, at 11:35 p.m.  

  • Cerberus "In over 2/3 and maybe 3/4 of the country the mission has been pretty much a complete success. The Taliban are limited to a small area in the south. The death toll has certainly climbed of late, but really only a bit. The difference is that it is Canadian lives instead of American and so we are now paying attention. The death toll is going up overall in the south because we are actually engaging the Taliban, taking a stand."

    This is simply not true.

    Ahmed Rashid New York Review of Books http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19098

    "Since 2003 when the Taliban first began to regroup, they have gradually matured and developed with the help of al-Qaeda, which has reorganized and retrained them to use more sophisticated tactics in their military operations. As recently as a year ago, the main Taliban groups were composed of a few dozen fighters; now each group includes hundreds of heavily armed men equipped with motorbikes, cars, and horses. They burn down schools and administrative buildings and kill any Afghan who is even indirectly associated with the government. In the south, they operate with impunity just outside the provincial capitals, which have become like Green Zones. Approximately 1,500 Afghan security guards and civilians were killed by the Taliban last year and some three hundred already this year. There have been forty suicide bombings during the past nine months, compared to five in the preceding five years. Some 295 US soldiers and four CIA officials have been killed in Afghanistan since September 11, 2001 —140 by hostile action.

    The problem with what Kennedy says is not that he is too bold; it is that he is not bold enough. The situation is hopeless. It will not get better. We should leave. Experts have been saying what Kennedy has just said for months and months. Again Rashid:

    "The aid programs supposed to provide alternative livelihoods to farmers producing poppies or help them grow other lucrative cash crops are derisory when compared to what the drug smugglers offer. The best-functioning programs to help farmers are run by opium traffickers who provide improved varieties of poppy seeds, fertilizer, and better methods of cultivation to increase opium yields and even large-scale employment during the poppy harvest. When we compare Afghanistan's situation today with that of 2001, we see the country now needs to develop an entire alternative economy to replace the drug economy."

    Marshall plan analogy is horrible one. The Americans helped REBUILD Europe. There is nothing to rebuild in Afghanistan;iIt has yet to be BUILT. Good god even during the high point of the modernizing zeal in the 1970s, Afghanistan’s child morality was worse than Bangladesh’s. To see how silly the analogy is consider for a second what Germany, for example, was prior to WW2. The German’s had the by far and away the world’s most advanced Chemical industry. The country had produced nearly half the Nobel Price winners. It had the largest coal reserves in Europe. (It was not until the 1950s the gas replaced coal.) It had the most educated population in the world. And it was also not until 1945 that industrial production fell below 1942 and that was not because of any decline in capacity due mainly transportation bottlenecks related to allied bombing. Throw in the fact the influx of millions of upon millions of ethnic Germans from Soviet sector and Poland, the Sudatenland and elsewhere and you have the makings of an economic miracle.

    Afghanistan, by comparison, is country made up mostly of illiterate peasants without running water or electricity. Most Afghans, it is a young country, know nothing but war. To make matters worse, the vast majority of educated Afghans left long ago and will never return to live.

    By Blogger Koby, at 11:49 p.m.  

  • Before I get to CG's post, one thing about something Cerberus mentioned.

    Anyone who was following the debate on Afghanistan before Harper's vote to extend the mission would have easily noticed the politics that was already on display from both the NDP and the Liberals on the file. That so many in both caucuses, and virtually every leadership hopeful, voted against the extension cannot possibly result from the fact that Harper pushed them in that direction. What's more likely is that he exposed what was already occurring, and nipped it in the bud before it could affect the status of the mission.

    As for CG's blog post, I just don't get this defeatism surrounding the current mission. I also don't understand what threatening to pull our troops out would accomplish. It hardly seems like the statesman's approach to foreign affairs. And while handing out daisies, bread, and milk to the locals might sound terrific, there is an insurgency under way that needs to be dealt with. This involves political as well as security measures. Both are being used currently, not just the one.

    I hate to say this and sound like a broken record but, in typical Liberal fashion, Kennedy is trying to have it both ways on Afghanistan. He's trying to gain support on the left side of the party without completely abandoning the right.

    Almost guaranteed that if Kennedy ever did become prime minister, his proposal would never happen. Does anyone remember renegotiating free trade? This is what this reminds me of. It's a political position more than it is a realistic foreign policy option, imo.

    By Blogger The Cyber Menace, at 11:59 p.m.  

  • pw,

    Let's be fair here. Kennedy is not advocating a cut and run. He is not proposing a rush withdrawal of any kind. He wants a re-evaluation, just like most Liberals and the majority of Canadians. Pretty sensible leadership in my books.
    In fact, he has stated that he supported the initial mission that you refer to that received the support of 3 prime ministers.
    However, the extended mission with no plan is the issue. Who's to say that Chrietien would have supported this extension?? Did Martin even vote on it? What is the plan?
    Re-evaluation sounds pretty darn reasonable to me.

    By Blogger true liberal, at 12:02 a.m.  

  • I hear he's also going to renegotiate NAFTA.

    (loooooong pause)

    That's a joke that might be appreciated by anyone else in the audience who might be over 30.

    By Blogger Paul, at 12:20 a.m.  

  • 1. I read in the Globe a while back an article by someone reputable to the effect that the Taliban remnants were still targeting village teachers and doctors, the families of girls who attend school, etc. And that the direct result of our current military engagements was to lessen that intimidation, thereby directly improving the lives of Afghanis.

    2. Similarly, development work can't take place where one is liable to be shot at - see Iraq.

    3. Unlike Iraq, from all I've read, most of the Afghan civilian population welcomes our presence.

    Each of these three points undercuts Kennedy's Afghan plan. In the interest of genuine debate, where am I wrong?

    By Blogger matt, at 1:42 a.m.  

  • Afghanistan stopped Alexander the Great. Afghanistan withstood and outlasted the powerful Soviet army. Afghanistan will endure/survive Western-backed presidents.

    Excellent read:


    Democracies naturally evolve after people's 1st:"Physiological Needs"; and then 2nd:"Safety Needs" are met.

    Teaching/describing democracy to a starving or homeless person is futile.

    Once a person has the basic needs of food and shelter can they start to think about safety and security.

    After a person has food and shelter and feels safe and secure can they start to consider concepts such as democracy.

    That is why throughout most of human history democracy has not existed and still does not exist in many parts of the world in the 21st century. People are too busy trying to survive on a daily basis and have no time to become educated or to consider concepts such as democracy.

    When people have food, shelter, security, and safety, democracy has evolved without direct American interference. Within the last two decades, Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, the Phillipines, and Chile followed this course without the need of any foreign invasions. China and Cuba will also evolve into democracies within most of our lifetimes if their people's Physiological Needs and Safety Needs are maintained.


    By Blogger Peter, at 1:56 a.m.  

  • Kennedy is simply showing his true leftist colours as he falls back on their default position of "let someone else do the hard work".

    Kennedy would be happy to tuck tail and run from the region and maybe send the Afghans a check in the mail while they remained in a state of civil war. His whole statement is unwritten with a sneer that says "let the Americans do all the fighting."

    His social policy isn't much different "let the people who've worked hard and have money pay for everyone else's social programs". His entire idealogy is rife with cowardice, shirking and ignoble sloth.

    Apparantly all the ideas which Liberals claim are so terribly important to them - education, women's rights, gay rights, human rights in general, healthcare etc don't mean a god damn thing to any of them if a few lives have to be lost to try to bring them to millions of people. Its cowardly, fickle and I feel shame that western civilization has degenerated to the point where there are a number of you who share your lack of anything resembling resolve.

    By Blogger Chris, at 8:29 a.m.  

  • Chris,

    You are reading Kennedy's remarks with your own agenda. There is nothing left wing about facing up to a mission with no plan. Kennedy makes a valid point that we need to re-examine our role there. How do we make a difference in both security and for the everyday lives of the people? He is not proposing anything radical. He is discussing the neglected facts of the mission.
    Kennedy is the voice of reason on this one.

    By Blogger true liberal, at 10:01 a.m.  

  • Man you know all these people who say there is no plan for afghanistan have done little to NO research on the issue.

    The London Conference, the Afghan Compact, the UN mandate, the NATO mission guidelines... you think they don't exist or something?

    Get your head out of the sand for petes sake.

    This issue makes me so furious because people just automatically assume since there are casualties, that everything in Afghanistan is all going to hell.

    Again I ask CG, how do you measure success in Afghanistan? Is it by casualties alone?

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 10:40 a.m.  

  • I think the problem stems from the fact that the current mission is focused nearly entirely on the military. Canada is spending 40 times more on military than on rebuilding the country and on aid (saw that number on another blog so it might not be accurate).

    Despite small gains, I really think it's going to take decades to take controle of the country under the current plan. There haven't been any power plants or infrastructure improvements built since the war began - doesn't it make sense to help rebuild the country in the areas which are stable?

    And given the large number of Canadian troops in the mission and our role in NATO, I don't think it's too far fetched to think we'd have a say in determining the new parameters of the mission.

    Finally, saying this is Chretien and Martin's mission is a bit of a stretch since they signed on for a mission which would end in 2007 under the assumption that troops could be moved elsewhere at that time. Martin didn't even vote for the extension. This mission has changed.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:34 a.m.  

  • Toronto Star reports that Iggy said during an iterview that he is not committed to run during the next election if he does not win. Translation: if I don't win, I'm out of here.

    This is a guy who said he's been a Liberal all of his life. Really? Even those 30 years you lived in the U.S. when you advocated for Republican positions? Ahem, war in Iraq.

    How can anyone support this guy? He's giving us one reason after another to question if he's even a true Liberal, so how can we even think about giving him the top spot?

    By Blogger Concerned YL, at 11:42 a.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 12:14 p.m.  

  • It seems Mr. Brave and Anonymous here is part of a wider campaign as I am seeing the exact same comment or something very similar on many other comment threads, whether or not related to the post subject.

    You can tell from the lack of focus on any policy debate, the indiscriminant comment posting on unrelated post threads, the anonimity of the "stopiggy" crowd. Really, are the anonymous, no-policy drive-by smears helping or hurting the Liberal Party?

    For those who care about accuracy of information, here is what Ignatieff actually said. Judge for yourselves. Like always, Ignatieff is caught being honest instead of giving the usual puff answer one expects of career politicians.

    Q: If you lose the Liberal leadership race, will you run for the party in the next election?

    Ignatieff: Depends who's leader.

    Q: Have you indicated there are some that you would not run for?

    Ignatieff: No. It really is that I have to look what I am looking at.

    Q: Your track record, your history is that you move on to other projects again and again and again.

    Ignatieff: In a rival publication.

    Q: Yes it's been suggested that this is just another fling ...

    Ignatieff: It's a hell of a fling if it is. I mean, the fling stuff won't fly. It has been brutal. Etobicoke-Lakeshore is very very, tough.

    Q: But you won't commit to running in Etobicoke- Lakeshore again?

    Ignatieff: I like to serve my constituents well. But you're asking me an anticipatory, hypothetical about the situation that prevails on the 3rd or 4th of December I am quite confident I will win.

    Q: But do you have a commitment to the Liberal party long term?

    Ignatieff: I've had a commitment to the Liberal party since I was 17. And my commitment to the Liberal party continues. But there are all kinds of ways you can stay committed and involved and active in the Liberal Party of Canada without being an MP.

    Q: Without being an MP?

    Ignatieff: Being an MP, without being an MP. I have been a Liberal all my life. When I go into rooms, people are glad I am in the room because people have read stuff I have written which has contributed to their sensibilities to be a Liberal and what Liberal philosophy is. There are all kinds of ways I can serve the party. Don't doubt my devotion to the Liberal Party of Canada. You wouldn't do this occasionally difficult job if you weren't seriously committed to it.

    And I wonder, I just wonder, who was asking those questions for the Star. Hmmmm.


    By Blogger Cerberus, at 12:17 p.m.  

  • CG:

    Assume we follow your strategy and stop military action in the hostile provinces and blow our whole budget on infrastructure and development in the stable provinces. What do you suppose the insurgents in the unstable provinces will do, stop at the border of the stable provinces? "We shall not enter, for their are new schools here. Let us stop our facist crusade here, for there there is development."

    Get real. Military operations are expensive. Especially in failed states. But some heavy lifting needs to be done to restore order to Afghanistan.

    As for Kennedy, is he supporting a pull-out now, or only after 2007 when the "original mission" was slated to end?

    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 12:23 p.m.  

  • Kennedy's thesis (we only ought to participate in development and ensuring the security necessary to effect that development is icky) reminds me of Homer Simpson frantically eating only the chocolate ice-cream out of a Neopolitan package. Peter, Riley, Ted, and Paul are quite lucid on this point in their comments: development requires security.

    By Blogger matt, at 12:52 p.m.  

  • Ted,

    I think it doesn't really matter who is asking Ignatieff the questions. The answers he gave are the answers he gave.
    Like it or not, he is not displaying real committment to serve in this party. To state that you may not stick around unless you become leader is pure opportunism. The arrogance is stunning.

    By Blogger true liberal, at 1:39 p.m.  

  • It is interesting how Kennedy's stand is being twisted.

    Kennedy is not advocating development before security. He does not suggest security should be comprimised or troops should be withdrawn now or on any specific date.
    He is advocating a broader approach to Canada's presence in Afghanistan. He notes that Canada needs to decide what our goals are in Afghanistan and if we cannot succeed depsite all of our efforts, then withdrawing our troops should be considered at some point.
    I really do not see what the big deal is. The majority of the Liberal caucus wants more debate on the issue as well.

    By Blogger jill, at 1:54 p.m.  

  • It is stunning to me how reluctant the "stopiggy" crowd is to discuss Ignatieff's actual policy but attack him personally.

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 2:03 p.m.  

  • Jill:

    The big deal is that Kennedy doesn't get two basic points:

    i) security is a necessary condition for development
    ii) it is more expensive than development.

    But it does fit into the larger narrative of the all flash no substance GK Campaign. Kennedy is a guy who is flogging around looking for an oppositional point, a heresctetitc on which to beat Ignatieff. It is, admittedly, much harder to find when you don't stand for anything. I wish him well.

    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 2:19 p.m.  

  • Hey Peter,

    If Ignatieff's Aghanistan position was to re-open the debate, then Kennedy's position would be the same as Ignatieff's.
    Unlike the fictional characterization of Kennedy you are trying to create, Kennedy is a man of principle and substance. He believes in the stands he takes as I am sure Iggy believes in his.

    By Blogger jill, at 2:55 p.m.  

  • The mission in Afghanistan was never intended to be one of hand-to-hand combat or an offensive one in any sense of that word.

    The reason the Nato contingent is small and the reason it's called the International Security and Assistance Force, with the emphasis on Assistance.

    Its purpose is:

    1. Assist in the training of the Afghan military.

    2. Assist in the training of the Afghan Police capability.

    3. Assist in the reconstruction of Afghan infrastructure.

    Somehow, without even a general meeting...operational changes were made and the mission veered from one of Assistance, to one of Combat.

    The whole point about this is that without an informed debate, neither the political parties nor the general public could possibly know even a small part of what has been happening.

    There has been little if any information coming from either government or media. Most of us are in the dark on policy respecting this mission.

    Clearly little if any headway is being made and money is being poured down a black hole, with no real return in sight.

    I think Kennedy is right to point this out and call for a fresh look at the committment.

    By Blogger Jim, at 3:00 p.m.  

  • Yep, that black hole of reconstructing a failed state, building and opening highways, reducing the influence of regional fiefdoms and warlords, and improving the lives of women dramatically. Silly black holes.

    The point is that Kennedy is trying to exploit the deaths of two dozen Canadian soldiers for political purposes. If he believed this at his core he would have come forward with this policy when all the other canidates who were in the Commons were having to take their stands.

    Whether it is good politics or not I cannot say. But it tells me a lot about how the man thinks.

    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 3:03 p.m.  

  • CG: "Canada is spending 40 times more on military than on rebuilding the country and on aid"

    Do you really think we're spending Four Billion Dollars a year on the military effort in Afghanistan? Sounds a tad high for a contingent of about 2300 personnel, with no ships or fighter aircraft.

    - With apologies to PaulW, who is also commenting here as "Paul". It's a mighty fine name.

    By Blogger Paul, at 3:05 p.m.  

  • Peter,
    Your remarks:

    "The point is that Kennedy is trying to exploit the deaths of two dozen Canadian soldiers for political purposes."

    If you have any shred of decency, you will withdraw those remarks. Not only are you now desperately smearing Kennedy, accusing him of exploiting dead soldiers is juvenile and insulting.

    This is your intelligent response?? In your eyes, any candidate that wants to re-open the debate is exploiting dead soldiers. Pathetic.

    By Blogger jill, at 3:26 p.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 3:56 p.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 4:00 p.m.  

  • You know what, I actually care so little about what GK says that I'll withdraw the remark. Perhaps it was unfair, and it's certainly not worth the hassle.

    Let me replace it with this claim: GK's position is based solely on its ability to take votes from Dion, Rae and Dryden. If he is leader, I presume good sense will prevail and he won't hide tail on the Afghans. But I don't reckon we'll have to watch that counterfactual unfold.

    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 4:04 p.m.  

  • CG,

    So your only measure of the mission is how much we spend on diplomacy and development? We're not the only people over there you know.

    There are lots of tangible ways we are engaged diplomatically over there despite some naysayers online.

    You noted the "small gains".. I take it the rebuilding of Kabul, women in government, national elections, 4 million kids in school... those are small gains right?

    How do you think any of that was achieved? Through handshakes and good will? No, it was from military security in the country. Canada is proving needed security for the south of that country.

    If you don't think the parameters of the mission are right, explain to me what in the Afghan Compact you disagree with?

    Or is it that you want to lobby for more funding for diplomacy and development? Is this about funding? Do you disagree with the military going to village elders of towns and talking to them? What about the soldiers who set up medical clinics for local Afghans? What about the parliamentary education exchange between our parliament and Afghanistans? 12 parliamentary members from Afghanistan came to Canada in the Spring, you disagree with that? Maybe that is not diplomacy enough for you?

    What about the NGO's and reconstruction going on in Kabul thanks to Canada's previous efforts. Is that also not sufficient? Just because we are in the south trying to stabilize a key area we should just give up cause of some casualties?

    All I'm asking CG is how do you measure success. Is it by tangible evidence, or some blogging complaint about funding, or maybe cause Kennedy says so? Or is it about casualties?

    Why not measure growth on the ground? How many insurgents have we captured? How many students have gone to school? How many people voted? How many buildings have been constructed? How many women are free to be a part of society? How many people are free to practice their own religion?

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 4:38 p.m.  

  • riley; You measure success by having some stability and an economy which shows some semblance of life. Given the casualties, bombs, infrastructure, lack of development, and economy, it's hard to argue that things are going well there.

    peter loewen; Kennedy is talking about when the current mission ends.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:18 p.m.  

  • CG;
    Given the casualties, bombs, infrastructure, lack of development, and economy, it's hard to argue that things are going well there.
    I don't know if there is anywhere else in the world that has developled more per-capita in the past 5 years then Afghanistan. Their infrastructure is improving every day, and casualties are still remarkably low in Afghanistan. I find it much harder to make an argument that things are not going well there.

    By Blogger Brad, at 5:31 p.m.  

  • Afghanistan Mission myths

    Myth #1: If Canada pulls out of Afghanistan, the Taliban could come to power.

    This one always brings a smile to my face. 911 gave the US Carte Blanche to do what they want with Afghanistan until the end of time and that is exactly what it is going to do. There is no why the Americans would ever allow the Taliban to regain the reigns of power; it would be political death nail. Not only do the US have motive they also have the ability. It is one thing to wage a guerilla campaign against the world's strongest military power; it is quite another to take control of the reigns of power when the US opposes that you do and is willing to stop you. Remember not only do the Taliban have no ICBMs, no nuclear subs, no SAMs, no attack helicopters, no jet fighters in all likelihood they also have no tanks. Anyone who puts forward this silly argument should be reminded of the fact that the 50 odd guys in pick trucks took Kandahar.

    Myth #2: The Afghan mission serves Canada’s security interests. It serves to make Canada safer.

    It is high time politicians of all stripes acknowledge the elephant in the living room. Namely, our presence in Afghanistan greatly increases the chances that Canada will be targeted by terrorists, especially domestic ones. The arrest of the Ontario 18 has certainly driven this point home. According to the Crown, Canada's Afghanistan policy was what motivated them. Canada is thus added to the list of countries targeted (Britain, Spain and Australia (the Lodhi case) and the US) by its own citizens because they were angered by their country's foreign policy. Politicians should notice that the Canadian public has to say on this issue.

    "When asked about the likelihood of Canada being a terror target because of its military presence in Afghanistan, 56 per cent said we are more likely to be attacked.

    This represents an increase of 18 per cent compared to one year ago. Thirty-four per cent say the military presence has no bearing; while five per cent say having soldiers in Afghanistan make us less susceptible to an attack."


    As for Harper’s tripe about how "we are a target because of who we are, and how we live, our society are diversity our values”, even Bin Laden has mocked Bush's claim that the reason Al Qaeda attacked the US was because Al Qaeda hate American freedoms.
    "Oh American people, my talk to you is about the best way to avoid another Manhattan, about the war, its causes, and results. Security is an important pillar of human life. Free people do not relinquish their security. This is contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example. It is known that those who hate freedom do not have proud souls, like the souls of the 19 people [killed while perpetrating the 11 September 2001 attacks], may God have mercy on them. We fought you because we are free and do not accept injustice. We want to restore freedom to our nation. Just as you waste our security, we will waste your security."


    It goes without saying that no Conservative has ever explained why Al Qaeda has singled Canada out, but that is not because they have not said. Al Qaeda has made it clear it is because of our presence in Afghanistan.
    "What do your governments want from their alliance with America in attacking us in Afghanistan? I mention in particular Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany and Australia. We warned Australia before not to join in the war in Afghanistan, and against its despicable effort to separate East Timor. It ignored the warning until it woke up to the sounds of explosions in Bali.”


    In Al Qaeda speak, Canada's involvement in Muslim lands makes us part of the "far enemy"; the "near enemy" are the regimes of the Middle East. However much Harper might wish it, Bin Laden's words can wished away with the wave of his neo conservative wand. Bin Laden's words lay out an ideological and strategic Western citizens inspired by Al Qaeda's ramblings and as sure as the sun will set and rise some Canadians will be inspired and will consider carrying out acts terrorism so long as Canada is part of military operation in a Muslim country. Furthermore, pace Rae, Kennedy and Volpe, it likely does not matter what the nature of our military role in such missions is. Sending a "reconstruction team" is just as likely to get us targeted as peace making team. It is foolish to believe that anyone inspired by Al Qaeda would care to make such distinctions; most are too blinded by ideology, lies and hate and those that are not will see the strategic reasons for erasing such a distinction.

    Myth #3 Failed States are the biggest source of terrorism

    No, more than anything else it is foreign occupations that are the biggest source of Jihadi terrorism. Indeed, the Afghan Arabs, including Al Qaeda, were an outgrowth of the Soviet Afghan war, Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Iraq war, Hezbollah is a byproduct of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and finally Hamas is byproduct of first Palestinian uprising. It is telling that of all the populations of the Middle East, Iran is most pro Western. On the flip side of things, the populations that produce the most Jihadis are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two of American’s strongest allies.

    Myth #4 Canada has as much to gain by staying in Afghanistan as the US and as much to loose if it leaves.

    If the US leaves Afghanistan, and let me make this clear they will not, they will not be any the safer. The threat of domestic terrorism will not drop any. Conversely if Canada was to pull out of Afghanistan, we would be safer. See above. Canada also has more to loose too. Indeed, a terrorist attack stemming from Canada’s involvement in Afghan could very well break up the country. This puts Ignatieff in a spot of bother politically.

    You see, according to Ignatieff, despite his strong support for war in Iraq, he would not have sent Canadian troops into the country. He gave several reasons.

    One was that Canadians did not support going to Iraq and public support in a democracy matters. The other was that going to Iraq would have had significant consequences for national unity here at home. Separatists had historically made hay whenever Canada had sent troops abroad and this time would have been no different; it is hard to argue that Ignatieff is wrong in this regard. Iraq would have been a huge boast for them. That said, in trying to distance himself from the Iraq war, Ignatieff created more troubles for himself then he solved. For you see, the sword cuts both ways. As with Iraq, the Canadian people did not support extending the Afghan mission. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that separatists could not make hay with Afghanistan. Indeed, a terrorist attack, inspired by Canada's presence in Afghanistan, could spilt the country apart, especially if Quebec is the victim. Currently the Afghan mission is opposed by what 70% of Quebecers and huge number opposed the mission's extension. If Quebecers die as a result of us being there, the separatists will use it as a reason why Quebecers need their own country with its own foreign policy. Given what has just transpired in Ontario and the fact that the accused were said to be motivated by Canada's role in Afghanistan, Ignatieff can not very well claim that chances of such an attack or not insignificant.

    Incidently, Ignatieff’s most recent attempt to distance himself from the Iraq is equally lame.

    From today’s Star:


    “Q: What do you tell Liberal delegates who ask why you thought it right to support George Bush in Iraq when the Liberal Party of Canada had decided it would not?

    A: What I say is, they have to understand what I saw in Iraq in 1992. I have been a human rights reporter and you get scorched by what you see. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds in 1992 and I decided there and then that I would stand with these people no matter what happens. And I've done so ever since.”

    Kurdistan was de facto independent state from 1992 onwards. That is way Ignatieff was able to visit the region. Giving the plight of Kurdistan as a reason for regime change in Iraq proper is thus pretty lame.

    By Blogger Koby, at 6:14 p.m.  

  • Brad "I don't know if there is anywhere else in the world that has developled more per-capita in the past 5 years then Afghanistan."

    One, you are talking about a very low starting point. Two, much of that growth is due to opium production. Three, the Western presense in the country is fueling massive inflation, especially in Kabul. This one reason why Kabul is not as stable as it once was. Wages have not kept up with inflation.

    By Blogger Koby, at 6:19 p.m.  

  • "Given the casualties, bombs, infrastructure, lack of development, and economy, it's hard to argue that things are going well there."

    Huh? Those causing the problems you describe have been losing ground for five years, not gaining it.

    Just because some people are ill-informed and believe that what the media report is the whole story is no excuse for you to denigrate the successes which have been amply demonstrated.
    - Paul "O"

    By Blogger Paul, at 6:24 p.m.  

  • CG,

    isn't the GDP growth in Afghanistan TWICE Canada's? (Or just a little better than Calgary's GDP growth?)

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 6:30 p.m.  

  • Paul are completly daft?

    By what measure are these people retreating?

    Coalition causalities are way up.

    Opium production is way up.

    The number of Taliban is way up.

    The number of suicide attacks has skyrocketed.

    The number of Afghan causalities has sky rocketed.

    The number of attacks on schools is way up.

    The number of teachers killed is way up.

    If you support the mission, offer up a real argument and not Panglossian spin.

    chukercanuck "Isn't the GDP growth in Afghanistan TWICE Canada's? (Or just a little better than Calgary's GDP growth?)"

    Opium production accounts for about half of Afghanistan’s GDP. In other words opium is far more important to Afghanistan than oil is to Alberta. In fact it is not even close. Without the growth of the opium industry, Afghanistan’s economy would not be growing at all. It would likely be shrinking.

    By Blogger Koby, at 7:21 p.m.  

  • koby,

    point well taken. I'd add that opium production is a much longer trade in Afghanistan than Alberta's oil. so, citing opium production being way up isn't really a good measure of mission success/failure.

    i mean, we can't back injection sites here at home and talibanize their trade in Afghanistan. you know? take it easy and work with what you got.

    FYI, your other stuff is what we call assertion.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 8:30 p.m.  

  • Kennedy is saying we should pull out or that we should abandon the military component of the mission. He's saying that there should be a larger focus on rebuilding the country.

    To me, that makes perfect sense.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 8:36 p.m.  

  • FYI, Koby's an Ignatieff stalker; something to keep under advisement.

    If Ignatieff came out in favour of cherry pie he'd be talking about the carcinogenic properties.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 8:55 p.m.  

  • CG: I really like your blog and I enjoy reading your thoughts.

    But I just don't agree with you on this.

    The Taliban is more active yes, and more Canadians are dying yes. But is it because we are being more aggressive in engaging them or because they are getting better training and equipment?

    Either way, the solution is not to give up.

    Attacks on teachers and schools are way up as some have said. Does that mean we should stop our military presence and only fund rebuilding the schools? Of course not. The solution is to be more aggressive in attacking and destroying Taliban elements. Increasing our presence, not decreasing.

    Our military presence is a requirement for rebuilding to occur.

    Oh and to Koby. The Taliban came into power DESPITE the US opposition back in 1995. The reason? Because no one was willing to militarily stop them.

    If we pull out, who's army will stop them? Hopefully the Afghan, but don't hold your breath.

    By Blogger SouthernOntarioan, at 9:24 p.m.  

  • "The Taliban is more active yes, and more Canadians are dying yes. But is it because we are being more aggressive in engaging them or because they are getting better training and equipment?"

    Coalition causulaties are way up and no this is not as result of a larger presence. Remember as the US has been drawing down NATO has replaced them tic for tac. It is attacks on the Afghans in particular that are way up. This from what I posted above. “There have been forty suicide bombings during the past nine months, compared to five in the preceding five years.”

    ”Either way, the solution is not to give up.”

    There is no solution. Do you seriously believe that a NATO force of 20,000 is going to tame an insurgency in the country much bigger than France? Do you seriously believe that the Western governments are going to rework the country’s economy? Good god, Western countries find it impossible to develop their own hinterlands yet alone a back water like Afghanistan. Do you know how fast the opium trade is growing? Not only does the opium trade finance Taliban’s military efforts, the Taliban have repackaged themselves as defenders of the opium trade.

    By Blogger Koby, at 11:08 p.m.  

  • CG:

    Given the causalities, eh? I wonder if the families of the soliders who have died feel like it's all a waste. I retracted an earlier statement that Kennedy was making hay of causalties. I retracted it. I don't plan to retract it in your case.

    To be clear: the lives lost in Afganistan so far have been lost honourably, and obviously with great suffering from the families involved. Too bad you don't seem to believe in the first part of that statement, if not the second.

    I am also going to resuggest that Kennedy is making political hay of 24 honourable causalities.


    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 11:51 p.m.  

  • koby, put down the kool-aid. It's not helping you.

    Just because the Canadian military have picked up some of the heavy lifting which has been shouldered by others for the past five years does NOT mean that casualties are up.

    Just because the NATO exercise, in conjunction with the Afghan military and police, is finally (after five years) making inroads into parts of the country which have still been controlled by terrorists for these past five years does not mean that the terrorists have upped their efforts.

    Just because you don't know what is happening in the world does not make you an expert. I'd be softer with my criticisms but my patience for the day has been worn out.

    By Blogger Paul, at 2:59 a.m.  

  • This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

    By Blogger Koby, at 4:05 a.m.  

  • And how many were killed in the three decades from 1960-1990?

    By Blogger Paul, at 4:39 a.m.  

  • Wow was that a Red herring Paul.

    Jason T: I thought Ignatieff did a bang up jump answering the bench mark question and I think he would make a fine leader if his foreign policy quirks are kept in check.

    "QWhat are your benchmarks for Canadian success in Afghanistan?

    A The Taliban offensive will probably run out of gas as the winter season comes. These things are seasonal. One benchmark of success is if we don't get a resumption next spring. If it comes back gangbusters in April '07, we do have a problem. The second benchmark is just intelligence co-operation. Are villagers helping us? Our moral legitimacy depends on us believing we are their friends and the Taliban their enemies. If we start to lose intelligence co-operation and help, that's a pretty good benchmark that something has gone badly wrong in our relationship.

    We've got to sustain the Karzai government. We have to have some benchmarks about police training and Afghan army deployment. We are not noticing that a lot of these missions are dual missions (with) the Afghan army. So the military has got to give us an assessment of whether these guys are standing up or running.

    The whole deal here is to do ourselves out of a job. And the benchmark that matters is whether the Afghans can hold the power. Then there's some reconstruction benchmarks that are important. Part of my benchmark for evaluating Harper is whether he's got the reconstruction, humanitarian and military pillars of this in balance. If this becomes exclusively a counter-terrorism exercise, that's not what the Canadians wanted and that's not what the Liberal mission implied.

    We've got to be building some clinics and getting some kids to school. And help stabilize village councils and governance. These are the kinds of benchmarks. It would be great to get some benchmarks of progress on the poppy issue, get these people into the medical production of opiates rather than selling heroin to the Pakistanis.

    So there are some clear benchmarks that I would look for as a prime minister."

    By Blogger Koby, at 5:27 a.m.  

  • Kennedy is saying we should pull out or that we should abandon the military component of the mission.

    Your Freudian slip is missing a not.

    By Blogger anonymous, at 11:14 a.m.  

  • If GK was serious about negotiating with NATO he'd have a two track policy:

    1) pushing NATO hard within the current Parliamentary mandate.
    2) linking any role beyond 2008 to NATO's responsiveness.

    But GK isn't honouring Parliament or our allies or Canadians with his "continuation if possible but possibly not continutation" vote hustling straddle.

    Kinsella has GK's weight to the ounce:

    I want a candidate with Dion's integrity, decency and commitment to federalism; a candidate with Ignatieff's charisma, candour and brains; a candidate with Martha's freshness (and gender); a candidate with Brison and Volpe's and Bennett's clarity on the Middle East; a candidate with Dryden's solidity and sense of the country; a candidate with Rae's, um, piano-playing ability; and a candidate with Kennedy's smile and hair, I guess.

    By Blogger anonymous, at 11:48 a.m.  

  • As this campaign progresses, I am getting more and more disappointed with Kinsella's indirect swipes at Gerard.

    Since he does not accept comments on his blog, Kinsella should be reminded that many of the people (both young and old) he will be asking to help McGuinty get reelected are presently supporting Gerard.

    Gerard's team believes in their candidate's SID: Sincerity, Integrity and Decency.

    By Blogger Peter, at 5:05 p.m.  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:49 p.m.  

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