Saturday, April 22, 2006

Conservatives Concerned about Afghanistan

I guess when you are obsessed with message control, any issue which can't be framed is of chief concern:
Increasing Canadian casualties in Afghanistan are among the few shoals upon which the Conservatives could founder as Harper charts a course towards a majority mandate.

When several high-ranking Tories were interviewed last week for a story about the relative safety of their government, all zeroed in on the same potential problem area.

"Afghanistan. Absolutely," one said.

The Conservative game plan is simple: deliver on a handful of campaign promises in time for the next election, then pick up about three-dozen or more seats to capture a majority.

The Conservatives decision not to lower the flag may have a political angle, in that they want to minimize the attention on casualties. I do find it interesting that the Conservatives are most worried about the Afghanistan mission, because initially there was an essential free pass. Afterall, it was the previous government that committed to the mission, so Harper always had that indirect absolution, no matter what happened. However, Harper has made the mission his own, through his aggressive outreach to all things military. Harper's attempt to look the uber patriot may well backfire as he is forced to react to events outside of the control he craves.


catnip said...

This decision is absolutely political. Period.

Steve V said...


It is curious how this flag issue comes up for debate when the new government is supposedly still findings its way.

Simon Pole said...

Excellent analysis Steve.

Harper has cast himself a moderate on every issue it seems EXCEPT Afghanistan, and our foreign policy (and maybe Kyoto).

But Afghanistan could come back to bite him, especially in a years time if casualities mount. The Liberals could say, we sent the troops there, and its time for us to bring them home. And Harper has painted himself into a corner with no wiggle room.

Did he not see what's happened to Blair, Bush, Berlusconi, the Spanish conservatives etc.? Seems like he couldn't let ideology go here.

Steve V said...


The strange part about Harper's approach to Afghanistan is the way he parrots the Bush phrasing. Have those arguments been effective in America, what makes him think Canadians will accept the framing?

Anonymous said...

Being in Afghanistan is wrong. Our kids are dying for nothing and we will be inviting terrorists in our country now. We should get out.

Scotian said...

Steve V:

I happen to think that the CPC and Harper are making a very serious mistake regarding the flag issue. while I understand their argument about how this was not the traditional way historically we paid our respects to those that died in uniform fighting for the beliefs and principles Canada stands for, they are ignoring a rather important reality. It has been almost three full generations since we were involved in significant combat operations where the risk of significant fatalities was the reality. The Canadian public has long since become accustomed to only the odd death in peacekeeping and not many deaths in peacemaking/combating insurgencies.

I happen to think it was a very good idea by the Liberals to lower the flag for the deaths in Afghanistan. It was a way to not just pay individual respect to the fallen but to both help remind Canadians of these sacrifices in their names AND as a means to show how highly thought of our fallen soldiers are to the country AND the importance of the mission itself. The Liberals sent the troops into harms way and they were willing to live with the reminder the lowering of the flag to pay respect to the fallen. Why is Harper and the CPC so afraid to do the same, especially given all their rhetoric about honouring the military, supporting the military, and how the Liberals dishonoured the military?

I support the flag lowering in part to make sure Canadians know about these deaths when they happen and do not forget that this mission is not one without serious consequences, both to the troops and to the long term security interests of Canada itself. I think this is a good way to help restore some respect for the military and the fallen, which given the de-emphasis on the military in Canadian society the last few decades is a good thing, both for the civilians and for the military troops serving IMHO. It is cheap, easy, and yet conveys a great deal of symbolism and meaning, especially for those close to those that have died. I think this is a good thing, and I think Harper made a major mistake, and I fear that the CPC/Harper decision was motivated by trying to limit the awareness of Canadians of how many of our soldiers die during this mission. That last if true shows Harper and the CPC placing domestic political calculations well above any sense of duty and obligation to honouring our troops in combat, especially those that pay the ultimate price.

This is one Liberal policy that they reversed that appears to be driven totally by political imperatives as opposed to whether it was a bad policy, and where there is one such example it is unlikely it is the only one. If Harper and the CPC are willing to politicize this fundamentally a non-partisan issue like this, what else will he do this to? This is a real problem both on the symbolic and substantive side, and what it says about the CPC and Harper is nothing flattering, especially when one considers the political rhetoric about the military we have heard from the CPC and Harper throughout his political career and including the last election campaign.

Steve V said...


Lowering the flag was a simple way to show respect. Whether or not there was a historical precedent is irrelevant at this point. The fact that Harper chose to change protocol gives the impression of less importance, whether intended or not. The really stupid thing is, even if the move was politically motivated to lessen attention on casualties, it makes the government look cold and detached.