Monday, May 29, 2006

Afghanistan - 2

I posted a while back on why I felt it was foolish to read too much into what was, for all intents and purposes, a meaningless vote on Afghanistan. However, it's becoming more and more apparent that this is a very politically charged issue that will play a major role in both the Liberal leadership race and the next federal election. This has been the first topic nearly every Liberal I've talked to this week has brought up and most people have very strong opinions on it.

And since we're now locked in until 2009, it's certain to be a major election issue in the next campaign. So I'm going to do what every politician does, but always self-righteously tell others not to do, and "play politics" with this issue.

From a purely strategic point of view, I think it would have made a lot more sense for the Liberal Party to come out strongly against to the extension of the mission. We've fulfilled our original commitment which was only agreed to on the understanding that we could open up our troops for deployment elsewhere. There's a very good chance that troops will be needed in the Sudan within the next three years and it's obvious that we won't be able to help there with ground forces because of the Afghanistan mission. The majority of Canadians oppose the extension of the mission and you can't beat a government in power by taking the exact same position as them (unless, you know, their party is under RCMP investigation and the subject of several corruption inquiries...). 70% of Quebecers oppose the extension and it's my opinion that Quebecers will be more likely to vote for a party which shares their values and policy opinions than one led by the leader with the most perfect French.

With that in mind, I think Michael Ignatieff (and Scott Brison, to a lesser extent) are going to be hurt by this issue if it becomes the defining issue of the leadership campaign (a la Meech 1990).

That's not to say that Michael Ignatieff was wrong to vote in favour of the mission. Voting "no" would have gone against everything he's ever believed in on foreign affairs. But by voting yes, he'll be tying himself up in the John Kerry knot if he takes a different position in the next campaign. With Ignatieff at the helm, the Liberal party would effectively be taking the issue off the table during the next campaign.

And this brings me to the one thing about the whole Ignatieff candidacy which really perplexes me. Given his background, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Iggy's policy expertise is in foreign affairs. That's what he's studied his entire life and that's what he feels most passionately about. Yet on foreign affairs, very few Liberals agree with him. He was for the Iraq war, he was for missile defense, and he's now for the Afghanistan mission extension. During the last election campaign, he wrote the following:
Ignatieff said that Republican foreign policy, focusing on promoting democracy, is better suited to the situation in the Middle East than what he termed the cautious, pragmatic neo-isolationism offered by the Democrats. "The times require real vision in the Middle East," he said.

I know very few Liberals who'd agree with this (but, then again, there aren't a lot of Liberals in Calgary for me to agree with). Given his lack of experience on domestic issues, I have a hard time understanding the paradox of how a "vision and policy" campaign which focuses on foreign affairs can be so successful when hardly any Liberals agree with the candidate himself on foreign policy.

I'm not trying to throw mud here because if there's anything which is fair game to criticize other candidates on, it's their policy positions. I'm just generally perplexed on this one.


  • With so many liberals searching for a leader with vision, it seems many haven't looked into what that vision is, and whether they agree with it.

    We will either be forced to deal with these mismatches now in the Ignatieff camp, or we can in the next election.

    His own campaign co-chair voted against the extension! Thats really showing faith in leadership ability!

    By Blogger Manley Man, at 12:39 a.m.  

  • Iggy becomes an anthropomorphic personification of the Liberal Party if he wins leadership and his values will, undoubtedly, be tied to its fabric. In 2004, Martin's gang effectively avoided defeat by portraying Harper as a Reform hawk, despite having backing from erstwhile PCs. It took him one election to dog that, but where he could afford to lose one, Ignatieff and the Liberal Party cannot.

    By Blogger andrewridgeley, at 1:22 a.m.  

  • Ignatieff's vision and policy go beyond foreign affairs. In fact, my initial attraction to his candidacy was because of his vision for national unity in Canada, which is very much a domestic issue.

    His campaign isn't focused on foreign affairs alone. It is false to label it «a "vision and policy" campaign which focuses on foreign affairs». He is a multi-issues candidate.

    By Blogger polfilma, at 1:27 a.m.  

  • But when the foreign policy is war -- and war is what we are talking about, no longer Pearsonian peace-keeping -- then it becomes a domestic, and also a unity issue.

    Any student of Canadian history knows this. From Laurier and the Boer War, to the conscription crisises of WWI and WWII.

    But then, Ignatieff isn't exactly a student of Canadian history, is he?

    By Blogger Simon Pole, at 1:33 a.m.  

  • Color me superficial, but I've noticed that Ignatieff is stunningly non-photogenic. Hard to put a finger on, but it seems like he just doesn't connect with the camera. With Paul Martin, you had all manner of goofiness, but you never could generally see some kind of personality. Anyone else notice that Iggy doesn't do this? Even in the photos on his website, he looks aloof and not-really-there. It's like he can't open his eyes, and his fake smile doesn't even look like a smile.

    I haven't seen enough TV footage to say anything about that.

    That's before you even look at his foreign policy positions.

    By Blogger dru, at 2:25 a.m.  

  • Afghanistan is a tough one, because it gets unfairly tied up with the Iraq war and the general policy of the Bush administration.

    The Taliban supported, promoted and hid terrorism. There were and are terror camps in the country. They abused women to a disgusting degree. There were so many good reasons to go to Afghanistan.

    There are still so many good reasons to stay and finish the job.

    The problem is that unfortuantely America took on Iraq, spread out their army too much, destroyed public opinion, and now these missions are unfairly linked.

    By Blogger Shawn, at 2:26 a.m.  

  • I agree that Ignatieff's decision to vote for the extension will probably hurt his leadership bid.

    Some of my Calgary Liberal friends are still supporting him so maybe he still has a chance but I have a hard time seeing him as a significant contender now.

    By Blogger Psychols, at 3:01 a.m.  

  • To me Ignatieff's just a MacGuffin. There's a great def of that here

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:02 a.m.  

  • "Ignatieff said that Republican foreign policy, focusing on promoting democracy, is better suited to the situation in the Middle East than what he termed the cautious, pragmatic neo-isolationism offered by the Democrats. "The times require real vision in the Middle East," he said.
    I know very few Liberals who'd agree with this

    That's why I left the Liberal Party. Promoting democracy is *not* the purview of neoconservatives, it's been a hallmark of Wilsonian America for a very long time now, and it is well past time we moved beyond pursuing stability by propping up dictators and started pursuing the genuinely moral policy of standing up for free peoples everywhere.

    By Blogger RGM, at 8:13 a.m.  

  • I agree with Shawn.

    RGM, I'd argue that neoconservatives tend to support democracy and human rights more than extremist liberals. Which is ironic considering that liberals should be by nature more democratic.

    Liberalism is all about more personal freedoms and human rights. But I think many of today's liberals have become caught up in the 'hate-US, love-their-enemies' paranoia. And the enemies of GWB tend to be overwhelmingly non-democratic countries.

    France is the exception ;)

    By Blogger Eric, at 9:16 a.m.  

  • CG: interesting points. I would comment that:

    a. the Liberal party *did* commit to the current Canadian mission in Afghanistan. Although the Tories didn't have to point that out - the party split did that for them - they could have. Of course, the duty of exercising good judgment means one change one's mind, in which case we have to ask whether the casualties we've had since Jan. 23 are enough to change the party's mind about the wisdom of Canada's largest overseas commitment, and what that says about whether those sacrifices had any meaning.

    b. Darfur. Our time to act in Darfur has passed us by, before Hillier ploughed into Afghanistan (not that I regret the decision per se, but when it was made Darfur was or ought to have been at play to the same extent it is today, except for election results). The situation there has been formenting for years now, and it's galling to see it become a cause celebre at a politically convenient time. What are the Liberal party's thoughts on East Timor or Western Sahara or Ingushetia or Dergestan or a potential Kurdistan or a federal Iraq? Those are places where people face civil strife, abject poverty, and ethic/religious extremism by hostile governments *to the same extent as Darfur*. The majority of which the UN has contemplated intervention in. The only difference is that the south of Sudan is poorly controlled, not bordered by hostile powers with any heft, and hence international aid can make an easier entry. And, finally, finally, Darfur has become "mediatisé".

    By Blogger matt, at 9:38 a.m.  

  • For the record, CG, I don't think your post is slinging mud. In fact, I think that is one of the reasons I think it is great that Ignatieff is in the race at all: it draws people into a policy discussion instead of a 9 month long strategy session. That is critical for any renewal of the party.

    His strong support for peacemaking in terrorist growing lands is one of the reasons I like him frankly. Recognizing that there are a group of radical fundamentalist Muslims trying to corrupt their religion and attack other Muslims as well as non-Muslims, is not a conservative pandering. We need to stand up for human rights everywhere we can.

    Since when did we start assuming strong military-based foreign policy was a conservative idea? Democrats were in office for WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Kosovo. Liberals were in power for WWII, Korea, Kosovo and Afghanistan.


    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 9:47 a.m.  

  • Quoting:
    "Ignatieff's vision and policy go beyond foreign affairs. In fact, my initial attraction to his candidacy was because of his vision for national unity in Canada, which is very much a domestic issue.

    By polfilma, at 11:27 PM"

    You mean his national "unity" position that supports Harper's view that we must urgently fix the so-called "fiscal imbalance", and that Quebec must be treated as a "nation"?

    Just like on foreign policy, Ignatieff's national unity views are more in line with Harper than with the Liberal Party.

    Harper is already under fire for the fiscal imbalance stuff -- it all sounds great until you actually have to do something about it.

    Ignatieff is not ready for prime time.

    By Blogger harrytuplips, at 9:48 a.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger harrytuplips, at 9:48 a.m.  

  • Calgary Grit,

    I believe that many Canadians agree with the Liberal interventionist position Michael has been espousing for his entire academic career.

    I responded over at Fuddle Duddle

    By Blogger Anthony, at 10:03 a.m.  

  • southernontarioan, very good points and I do agree with you. The neo-cons have, in a sense, out-liberalled a lot of liberals in their pursuit of democracy and human rights. That they do so with an additional inclination for the use of force is what makes them so "scary" to a lot of people, but really it's largely liberalism-with-muscle.
    I've identified myself as both a neo-con and a neo-Wilsonian; I tend to favour the latter if only to head off the usual Bush-bashing commentary from the polemics.

    By Blogger RGM, at 10:17 a.m.  

  • Canadians are more willing to go into Darfur with military force then they are willing to stay in A-stan. So they want us to pull out of a UN mandated NATO led mission, in a country that the democratically elected government invited us in and really wants us to stay and finish the mission. Canadians would rather we invade a country that doesn't want us and would fight very hard to keep us out. (which wouldn't be too tough because we have already demonstrated that we are unwilling to take any casualties if we are to follow through on our promises)
    So tell me again how going into Darfur and engaging in combat operations, (because that is waht we would have to do to get the results that mushy centre-left wants) would be any better than staying in A-stan and engaging in combat operations?

    Don Mitchell

    By Blogger D.M.M., at 10:25 a.m.  

  • Ignatieff has the virtue of being right... :-)

    By Blogger The Tiger, at 10:28 a.m.  

  • Cerberus makes some excellent points.

    There is nothing wrong with bipartisan causes. There are plenty of areas for opposing parties to disagree. It does not follow that it must always be so. And by deliberatly opposing the government on the sole basis of garnering support on an issue rather than standing on principle exposes one as an opportunist. For goodness sake, didn't Paul Martin's shameless and cowardly poll-pandering teach the Liberals anything???

    Part of why we are in A-stan is for some classic causes that all liberals should champion such as basic human rights and the specific rights of women.

    I have long contended that the western left hypocritically champions certain causes only insofar as they can gain advantage. The left scoffs at manufacturing jobs going to China while ignoring the idea that it is helping to pull Chinese out of poverty. James Loney knew better than to sing the glory of gay-pride to his Islamic captors.

    When you stand up for certain principles and rights, you do so universally - not only insofar as it benefits your constituency and your electability. To do otherwise exposes you as a poseur.

    By Blogger Dr. Strangelove, at 10:39 a.m.  

  • Harrytulips
    I think it is remarkably unfair to assert that Iggy agrees with Harper on the fiscal imbalance.
    That is not a term he uses.
    What he has said is that there is a problem with equalization in Canada and that the process and formula is far to complicated.
    He has called for a reevaluation of equalization to better determine what the goals are as well as a vast simplification of the formulas used. He has pointed out that no one understands equalization at all and it is time to fix that. I think most people would agree. Suggesting that he supporst fixing the "fiscal imbalance" is not accurate at all.
    His national unity stance is a pan Canadian traditional Liberal stance.
    I worry about Afganistan. Even here in Calgary I hear red tories talking about Canada's Vietnam.
    What happens when we lose 20 soldiers in a single battle. Personally I think most Canadians would grit their teeth and redouble their efforts though of course the NDP would whine and gnash their teeth.
    Afganistan is not simple, the above comments about conflagation with Iraq is fair.
    We should not run away when it gets hard but we also need to talk about what exactly we hopr to accomplish there and what conditions would allow for us to leave.
    Simple minded "Bushs War" rhetoric helps no one. Not our soldiers, not the Afganis and not Canadians.
    Thoughtfulness coupled with decisivness is a good quality, coupled with indecisiveness you have Paul Martin.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 10:41 a.m.  

  • "Ignatieff said that Republican foreign policy, focusing on promoting democracy, is better suited to the situation in the Middle East than what he termed the cautious, pragmatic neo-isolationism offered by the Democrats. "The times require real vision in the Middle East," he said."

    RGM has it right on this one. It is pure folly to buy into the Republican mantra of "spreading democracy", as we should all remember this was the 3rd reason for invading Iraq. If the US was so interested in "spreading democracy" why do they prop up the dictators in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and all those East Asian "stan" countries?

    Why? because it isn't about "spreading democracy".

    By Blogger Sean S., at 10:56 a.m.  

  • Darfur is an all BS proposition. The entire Canadian Forces could not provide enough force for the mission requirements, we can't get them there, and we have no serious allies. China is supporting the Sudanese government politically and militarily, and would likely increase this were it seriously threatened.

    Complaining that we're using force in Afstan and saying that you'd prefer peacekeeping in Darfur is so pathetically ignorant it's making my eyes bleed. A peacekeeping mission only works when you have a workable ceasefire that people want kept but don't trust the other party. It will not work when one party still wants to fight and will go through the blue helmets (and likely revisit the Balkan tactics of kidnapping and killing peacekeepers) as it desires.

    LPC is tieing itself to the mast of the neo-isolationist Svend Left-wing of the NDP. Great things for the CPC, bad idea for you all. I'm just waiting for the endorsement of CUPE-O's position on Israel becoming a litmus test for LPC leadership. This would also be popular in Quebec, especially in allophone ridings in Montreal. And a true revival of Trudeau's policies and beliefs from his youth.

    By Blogger Hey, at 10:56 a.m.  

  • "Democrats were in office for WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Kosovo".

    And it appears Hillary is going to be more hawkish than Bill.

    Darfur instead of Afghanistan because the US is in Iraq?

    The word you're looking for is pandering. Leave that to Jack. He'll never govern.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:06 a.m.  

  • Wow,

    I love this site, I always enjoy CG's analysis. But this stuff on Iggy and Afghanistan made me sick to my stomach like a child that just learned his father is an alcoholic.

    How could you not support our mission in Afghanistan? I was so proud of Iggy for standing up on principle. This is a mission which satisfys almost every "canadian value" and attempts to instill democracy in a country that was famous for blowing up religious effigy's that were not Muslim.

    Are we supposed to just grow tired of a mission and move onto another random area? Do you even know our current troop deployments or what we are capable of? I for one approve of an effective and focussed approach to foreign policy and I think Iggy knows his stuff. He's no Bush-ite and he travels his own road.

    This post today is just brutal. We should oppose the mission because we can't agree with the current government? WTF? This is the kind of attitude that will boot us out of government for years to come. We can't just shirk from committments WE made to the Afghan population. The majority of people DON'T dissaprove of this mission and who cares what Quebec thinks. Last time I checked they DON'T decide our foreign policy.

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 11:31 a.m.  

  • Riley,

    The Canadian voter deserves more respect than what you are suggesting. All polls have shown that support for the mission in Afghanistan is shrinking.

    I would expect nothing less from Liberals than to ask for full disclosure of mission details so we know what we would be supporting or not supporting in Afghanistan. This information was not disclosed by the Conservative government. I am very proud of the Liberals that did not vote for the extension on the basis that no information was provded and Harper was trying to use this as a political ploy to extend time in Afghanistan without any explanation.
    By the way, many of us do care what Quebec thinks on this issue. Does Mr. Ignatieff?

    By Blogger renew the party, at 11:41 a.m.  

  • Democracy Promotion doesn't, and isn't.

    Look at the actual record. Democracy promotion almost universally involves funneling money to US-friendly political parties. Since US interests are almost always at odds with local interests, the effect is to undermine democracy.

    Take the case of Haiti. Thousands of democratically elected officials were removed by an armed rebellion and terror campaign, and replaced with a Canadian- and US-backed "interim" government that proceeded to imprison key members of the majority political party and kill thousands of local organizers, forcing tens of thousands of others into hiding. With US and Canadian funding, the non-elected government went on to sign up members of the murderous former military for all the top positions in the increasingly militarized police force, and fired the entire Supreme Court. These events were scarcely reported, but this is supposed to be Canada's largest-yet role in "democracy" promotion. A whole slew of human rights reports say that things got far worse *after* Canada intervened, but this doesn't seem to matter.

    More on Canada in Haiti here.

    By Blogger dru, at 12:03 p.m.  

  • I do not support this Afghanistan mission because the line between nation building and terrorist hunting has become too blurred. This blurring, in the past week, has caused far too many non-combatant deaths. Grieving loved ones will find themselves naturally drawn to a persuasive insurgency that tells them their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters murder were the result of a foreign occupation that must be eradicated. Who can blame them?

    By Blogger Omar, at 12:40 p.m.  

  • riley; The Liberals sent the troops to Afghanistan in the first place and all support the current mission. What we're talking about here is an undefined commitement at some point in the future which will keep us there until 2009, tying the hands of the Canadian military.

    Personally, as I said, I have mixed views on the mission extension. I simply think, from a political point of view, it makes more sense to be opposed to it.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:03 p.m.  

  • Ted, FuddleDuddle et al: Valid points too. Some Liberals certainly support the extension, just as some Liberals supported going into the missile defense shield, just as some Liberals supported the Iraq war. It's just my hunch that those are in the minority. There's nothing wrong with that since I disagree with most Liberals on a lot of issues too.

    polfima; Yes, Ignatieff has talked about more than foreign affairs. But obviously foreign affairs is his strength. I haven't seen any domestic policy which differs him from the other candidates (except for the french article on Kinsella's site).

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:08 p.m.  

  • Just like I wrote after the Afghanistan vote, Michael Ignatieff has shown he is a principled, thoughtful and well spoken man. I think he is the only candidate who could give Stephen Harper a run for his money.
    Now, as for the other candidates (minus Kennedy and Rae, as they were not in Parliament at the time), they ought to be ashamed of themselves for being part of a government that sent our troops into battle, only to turn their backs on them when the going gets rough.
    I believe Afghanistan is a noble mission. The people there have suffered through decades of Soviet aggression, civil war and Taliban theocracy. Now, their democratically elected government has asked Canada for our continued help - and I applaud Harper, Ignatieff, and all those politicians who said yes. They have shown themselves to be leaders in the face of eroding public support for this worthy mission they stood up to be counted for what they know to be right.
    Volpe, Dryden, Bennett, Fry, and others who came out for and then against the mission are the true John Kerry wannabes, they are followers who care more about opinion polls than doing the right - and consistent - thing.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 2:40 p.m.  

  • I simply think, from a political point of view, it makes more sense to be opposed to it.

    CG, I have to say I'm quite disappointed in this post. You have always struck me as a person for whom consistency of principle was more important than the electoral fortunes of your Party, but apparently this is not the case. I have always thought that you were stuck in the wrong Party, but today you have shown your colours as a true Liberal. Congratulations, I guess.

    Seeing as you have thrown in your lot with the Jason Cherniaks of this country, I'll tell you the same thing I told him: the fact that you guys are even having this discussion means that you have surrendered the political middle ground to the CPC. When the likes of s.b. and Omar the toenail painter trumpet that support of the Afghan extension has designated Iggy and Brison as unfit to lead the LPC, there is no longer much space between yourselves and the NDP. Check their historical electoral results to how popular their policies are with the average Canadian.

    Like I said to Cherniak, at some point you guys started to believe your own BS. What started out as rhetoric designed to lure the NDP voter has become party dogma, turning you closer to the NDP itself. Quite ironic, doncha think?

    By Blogger pheenster, at 3:19 p.m.  

  • When the likes of s.b. and Omar the toenail painter trumpet that support of the Afghan extension has designated Iggy and Brison as unfit to lead the LPC, there is no longer much space between yourselves and the NDP

    Yes, and the Liberals certainly don't want to attract too many of the wrong types to it's big tent Party now would it. It might just as well retain that same philosophy that sees little to no difference between themselves and the Conservatives.

    By Blogger Omar, at 4:58 p.m.  

  • Cripes, the TALKING POINTS going on here...

    CG, the answer is pretty simple: Ignatieff's positions are very different than the foreign policy positions of most Liberals, but those who are supporting him for other reasons (such as personal connections, riding-level politics, hopes of getting a job or whatnot) are going to swallow their objections and go along with Ignatieff's positions and parrot whichever talking points they're handed.

    (Honestly, normally I wouldn't be so cynical, but the fact that I keep on reading the same damned talking points from Ignatieff's supporters time after time, with little variation, smacks more of a tight communications strategy than honest debate. i mean, look at that bit from Aristo dodging the term "fiscal imbalance" while advocating pretty much the same thing Harper does.)

    As for the actual disconnect? Well, if it's as strong as you say, CG, it'll probably lead to an "anybody but Ignatieff" movement among those who disagree with the foreign policy. Or, hell, with the Harper-esque tilt in Ignatieff's policies in general. That won't peel off the true believers come convention time, but it'll probably affect those who are dazzled by the "Mighty Harvard Professor returning to Canada to deliver it from Harper" aura that the Ignatieff campaign has been so assuduously building up.

    (Me, I'm missing 2004's Democratic primaries already. At least the Dean vs. Clark vs. Kerry battle felt, well, honest.)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 5:20 p.m.  

  • Oh, and as for this "we need to support the troops" folderol- you don't support troops by extending their mission, you support them by making the best decision possible. A snap vote on a contentious topic does not lead to the best decision possible, and that's why it was just as wrong of Harper to do so on Afghanistan as it was for, say, Bush to ram PatriotUSA through Congress. It was a bad move designed as a political ploy, and Ignatieff demonstrated that he doesn't have the political acumen to figure out that he's being played.

    Of course, if the stories I've read about how hard it was for him to even be nominated in his riding are true, that lack isn't a big surprise, now, is it?

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 5:22 p.m.  

  • Demosthenes
    I really dispute your characterization of me as parroting talking points. I most assuredly have never read talking points from the Ignatieff camapign regarding "fiscal imbalance". My issue is I do not think there is a fiscal imbalance, I think it is a crap symbolic issue made up by Harper.
    I think suggesting that equalization is a mess and no one understands it and perhaps the goals have changed over the last 50 years is a long way from using a made up term as a way of offloading federal powers to provinces to effectivly eunuch the federal government by dishing out unconditional cash.
    I have never heard Ignatieff suggest doing this and I have heard him speak a couple of times.
    His issue is the functioning of equalization.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 6:05 p.m.  

  • By the way CG, I did not think you were throwing mud either. Legitimate questions.
    I would answer further but someone might accuse me of spinning out talking points.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 6:06 p.m.  

  • How is it "not supporting our troops" by waiting until all the facts are on the table and then making an informed decision on whether or not to extend the mission? It seems to me that we'd be "not supporting our troops" by blindly extending their mission and perhaps keeping them in a dangerous situation for longer than we'd bargained for.

    And, as for the whole "political" aspects, I think it's something people consider in every move. Obviously Harper called the vote when he did to get some political gain. His GST cuts are bad policy but good politics. I tend to think that pot should be legalized but I'd recomend that the Libs don't pick a leader who stresses this too much.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 6:23 p.m.  

  • 1. How is it "not supporting our troops" by wanting a clear vote on the issue closer to the time of the extension? It seems to me that it's "not supporting our troops" by blindly extending a dangerous mission, just so that Harper can score some political points against a divided Liberal Party.

    2. Obviously people should vote in what they believe in. That's why I said Iggy was right to vote how he did. But, from a purely political perspective, I'm saying it makes sense for the Liberals to pick a leader opposed to the mission. And, my main point is that since most Liberals are opposed to Ignatieff on a lot of issues, it's surprising that he's doing so well.

    On the same vein, I think pot should be legalized. Maybe even prostitution too. But I think it would be a huge mistake to elect a leader who strongly advocated those positions. I don't think that's selling out or compromising or anything - it's just being smart.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 6:48 p.m.  

  • "waiting until all the facts are on the table and then making an informed decision on whether or not to extend the mission?"

    You are still labouring under the misapprehension that Parliament ratifies our precise role AFTER we negotiate it with our allies.

    The vote was clear. Parliament including Graham and Ignatief gave the gov't the mandate to plan our involvement out to Feb. 2009 up to to and possibly including lead role in 2008 AFTER the UK's turn.

    A Liberal caucus, that sent us their without a vote, howling about a mandate to negotiate roles for 2007 and 2008?

    War planning isn't done with ifs and I'll check back and let's juggle it all again and hold some more votes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:51 p.m.  

  • Iggy can wax poetic about they need to go on this or that adventure all he wants. All the good intentions in the world do not at up to good policy.
    Neo Wilsonian theory, aka democracy at gun point, is dead intellectually. Iggy and Hitchens are like those mythical Japanese soldiers fighting on years after the WW2 ended.

    By Blogger Koby, at 9:51 p.m.  

  • CG,

    I can't believe your suggesting that after our own party initiated the mission, we should desert our goals in Afghanistan because it would be politically opportunistic. It just makes me sad cause I love this blog so much.

    To those who think the mission goals and such aren't clear, do some research. I've posted elsewhere on the numerous reports to parliament committees on our role in Afghanistan as well as the academic discussions between DND and DFAIT reps at universities across Canada. Combine that with the outlines of the Afghan Pact from the London Conference and the mission concepts developed by OUR OWN PARTY which have been extended and nobody should be saying we're going in blind in this operation. Look up how many MP's have visited the region too.

    Or maybe we should just shy away from being an internationally engaged country. Maybe we should deny requests from the Afghan government. Maybe we should shrug off our duties to the people of Afghanistan and let them sink back into the totalitarian regime they were once under. Just cause it'd be politically advantageous for the left-wing of the Liberal party right?

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 10:44 p.m.  

  • great post, CG.

    to me, that sort of thing deserves a response. We'll see if it gets picked up by anyone in the race - it would be fascinating to hear Ignatieff respond.

    By Blogger Tarkwell Robotico, at 10:47 p.m.  

  • CG - Congrats once again on being selected as Best of the Blogs by the Toronto Sun!

    Regarding this post, I feel that the Liberal party shows integrity by allowing individual thought, rather than forcing all caucus members to vote as a Bloc. (Spelling intentional).

    We need more democracy, not less.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 7:21 a.m.  

  • koby,
    As long as the United States remains the world's most-powerful state, there will always be some form of neo-Wilsonianism being practiced. It is far from being "dead intellectually," as you state. Just because it doesn't have a lot of traction in this country doesn't mean it doesn't in a country 11x our sizes and the zeitgeist to implement it.

    Sean, you said: "If the US was so interested in "spreading democracy" why do they prop up the dictators in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and all those East Asian "stan" countries?"

    This is one of the things that I'm hoping ends sooner rather than later. For too long the realists who desired stability in the region have had their way, and the bankruptcy of their position was revealed for all to see on 9/11. "Stability" brought a region seething with anti-Americanism because it heard Washington's Wilsonian words and saw deeds that undermined those principles. It is well past time to stop holding hands with the corrupt and despotic House of Saud. Given that one of the reasons they were supported throughout the 1990s was to prevent against an attack by Saddam's Iraq, and given that Saddam is gone, they can, should, and must be made expendable. It'd kill two birds with one stone: ending support for a repressive autocracy and help launch a search for alternatives to wean America from its addiction to Middle Eastern oil.

    By Blogger RGM, at 9:08 a.m.  

  • Montroe Doctrineor Interventionist foreign policy
    initiated by Roosevelt as a response to Pearl Harbour, but with other motivations?

    Obviously, you can't argue against stopping imperial Japan or the Fascists in Europe.

    However, how has this "Paradigm shift" been used by U.S. administrations since to justify neo-colonial domination of the Americas, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Coup d'etat aka Chile, Iraq, etc?

    And how does this allow other nations to effect similar policies within the global realm with impunity, aka Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary the Baltics invaded by Stalinists?

    Same Paradigm.

    Does Canada really want to go from a "Monroe Doctrine Nation" to a "Roosevelt Corollary Nation" without real power, making us essentially a puppet of US foreign policy that has been wreaking havoc in geo political global conflict for half a century?

    Should we not help develop diplomatic solutions and real development through the UN, with emergency peacekeeping and disaster relief capabilities?

    I think the answer is clear.

    5/31/2006 9:55 AM

    By Blogger S.K., at 10:56 a.m.  

  • Mr. Ignattieff's "Roosevelt Corollary" paradigm shift for Canada, would see us divide the planet again. Theocracies vs Neo Liberal Democracies, instead of Capitalists vs Communists.

    Only this time the Theocracies won't be quite so "Cold" as international relations with the Eastern Block.

    I think things could get a whole lot "Hotter" when the Theocracies form a Middle Eastern Block against the Western Democracies.

    Then What?

    By Blogger S.K., at 11:50 a.m.  

  • s.b, you're forgetting that said neo-liberal democracies aren't doing so hot either. Look at south America; the original target of the Monroe Doctrine is slipping through the grasp of America a little more each day, and the rest of the world is learning the hard way that neo-liberal market fundamentalism is pretty much useless without basic political institutions that the "Chicago boys" didn't either know or care about.

    In any case, the problem with "neo-Wilsonianism" is the same as ever; that by and large, it simply serves as liberal cover for neo-conservative invocations of American nationalism.

    Riley, the problem is that there are contradictory goals in Afghanistan: the first to "defeat terrorism", and the second to rebuild and secure Afghanistan. Enduring Freedom is the former, and the NATO mission is the latter. I think the core problem here isn't that Canadians (or liberals, or hell, Americans) hate the idea of securing Afghanistan, but that they aren't interested in jettisoning Canada's interest in creating peace to buttress the Bush administration's lust for creating war.

    I can't say I disagree much, either.

    The problem is simple: the liberals don't think they can trust Harper, because they (and everybody else who's paying attention) knows that every single move he's making is to win a majority. The policymaking he's doing right now has absolutely nothing to do with what a Harper majority would look like. For all intents and purposes, he's still on the campaign trail.

    If he gets his majority, exactly what Canada's military gets committed to (hint: Iran) is a very important question, and this Afghanistan vote will serve as an important justification of those commitments.

    And please, don't try to distract people with namedropping DND's mission descriptions, because the mission has changed and continues to change. The question is who gets to decide how it changes: DND, or DoD.

    Right now, Harper seems to be willing to hand off the job to the latter.

    To be blunt, they don't have a good track record.

    That matters.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 3:49 p.m.  

  • Give Mr. Brison marks for consistency and some moral fortitude. Unlike several others, he did not abandon support for our mission in Afghanistan after being part of the government that sent them there in the first place.


    Russ Campbell

    By Blogger cycroft, at 4:26 p.m.  

  • As an aside the US "Department of National Defence" was called the "Department of War" before the Roosevelt Corollary. Significant I think.

    By Blogger S.K., at 4:53 p.m.  

  • Neo Wilsonianism was only ever an American phenoma and it is full retreat there. Key figures such as Francis Fukuyama have moved on and outside of the Western Standard the movement enjoys virtually no support.

    By Blogger Koby, at 9:52 p.m.  

  • Oh yeah Fukuyama. "The End of History" Right? and Right! Guess he was wrong.

    That man has his head so far up his right wing, capitalist ass that he can't see a trillion dollar deficit, a prison industrial complex, or the rise of religious fundamentalism, as the age old historical catalyst that it is, as HISTORY.

    I disagree.

    By Blogger S.K., at 9:56 a.m.  

  • CG: A few things. First, it's a little imprecise (albiet a commonplace statement) to suggest Ignatieff is for missile defence. It's more accurate to say he's for good missle defence diplomacy, which was sorely lacking.

    On the matter of the vote: personally, although it was obviously a trap, I can't imagine Michael refusing to vote for an extension to 2009 when we all know we'll be in Afghanistan for at least until a few years after than, unless we decided to dump our commitment on someone else.

    But we want a leader who opposed it, on political grounds? Uh? As part of our strategy of pulling out of Afghanistan after the election or what? We need to fix Afghan policy - a need Harper's sham vote neither addressed nor prevents from being fufilled. I don't think we need to let Afghan policy stagnate with a majority in parliament; I don't think we can just advocate whatever policy is most electorally saleable.

    (I'm not suggesting you're advocating something so cynical, just arguing against that trend.)

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 11:12 a.m.  

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