Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Harper Gives Mixed Signals

Harper made a point of declaring our firm resolve in Afghanistan with the "we will not cut and run" argument. Harper was attempting to show that Canada is committed longterm, that our support would not be dictated by day to day events or setbacks. The message was intended to boost the troop morale, present a united front and appease any Afghan concerns about our longterm presence. It is within this context, that Harper's later comments with Karzai seem contradictory:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday that Canada's desire to keep troops in Afghanistan cannot be guaranteed if opposition parties at home resist...

"As I said to the President, we have a parliamentary system and I don't control the majority and I don't control the other parties, but I would hope that if in the future we reduce our military presence, it's because we've achieved two of our objectives," he said after the two men met in the presidential palace in Kabul.

We will not "cut and run", but I really don't have the longterm authority, or present power, to back up my pledge. These mixed messages offer more confusion to Afghans than if Harper said nothing at all. Karzai is left with the impression that the Harper government is a weak entity, in a volatile environment.

Stephane Dion chastised the Prime Minister for politizing his visit with talk of internal troubles and he was right to do so. Internationally you want to project strength, no matter what the issue. Instead, Harper talks tough one day, then absolves himself of any longterm relevance the next. I guess you can chalk this inconsistency to lack of experience, but given the stakes in Afghanistan it serves as a bad blunder. Harper's purpose in visiting Afghanistan was supposed to clarify our commitment on many levels, to different audiences. Instead, there is still confusion because political uncertainty is now part of the equation, undercutting any appearance of unity.


Anonymous said...

It seems contradictory because of your initial assumption that Harper is "there for the troops." I think the message was far more clear than that and directed at all voters.

"The other guys are bad, will leave you in the lurch, and simply don't care."

Harper isn't mixing anything.

Scotian said...


Sorry, but you clearly did not read the post as it actually was written. Steve is correct, when Harper says Canada will not "cut and run" one day and then the next tells the President of Afghanistan that his is in a minority government which could fall at any time and affect the mission because Opposition parties reject the mission it is contradicting oneself.

Harper made a significant mistake with that comment. He took a second chance to play partisan domestic politics while on his international trip, which doesn't really surprise me. After all we know he will not follow the tradition of a unified international voice on these sorts of issues himself when he was in Opposition, so I would guess that he expects no better from any of his opposition now that he is the government. In case you do not know what I am referring to, I am talking about the ad he and Day took out in the Wall Street Journal after the Parliament decided to not join the Iraq coalition Bush was building for his invasion. The one where he "apologized" to Americans for Canadians for not being with them, how the majority of Canadians actually wanted to be with them (something clearly false even then) and how the majority of Canadians wished them success in their Iraq mission to save the free world. Yep, that is showing unity with the government on foreign policy outside the borders of Canada all right...NOT. Funny though that now he expects such unity when it is his government, yet another "do as I say not as I do" example by Harper.

Harper keeps talking about this opposition in the Parliament that is opposed to the Afghanistan mission, yet he never seems to identify specific voices, I wonder why that is...oh I know, he CAN'T!!! While there are voices for discussing the mission we are in and where we will go from it after we complete this mission and the long term policy approach of the planned military expansion by the Harper government, there are no voices saying we need to get out now during this mission. That is a baseless fraud, something Harper also has experience with as shown by his conduct in the Grewal fraud when he claimed the Liberals were selling Senate seats for MP votes, something subsequently proven false by Harper's conclusive evidence, at least once the full evidence was presented after the heavily edited "pristine" release of May 31 05.

Steve V said...


Your point about Harper undercutting the government on our Iraq position shows how Harper lacks any credibility on "unity". Harper didn't even find it necessary to question a provincial Premier(Klein) blatant disregard for the national government's constitutional role, when he visited with American officials to tell them not all Canadians are against the Iraq war.