On Afghanistan, Rae makes a strong point that our priorities are wrong:
We need to approach our policy on the basis of at least three fundamental criteria: Is itworking? Is it consistent with our experience of what can work? And is it balanced? Today, Canada’s efforts and resources in Afghanistan are heavily weighted toward the war fighting side of the equation. We have about 2,000 troops fighting on the ground in Kandahar, at a rough cost of half to three quarters of a billion dollars a year. By contrast, we have about half a dozen civilian Government of Canada officials doing much needed development and reconstruction work, and we spend about $100 million a year on aid to
The lack of balance goes beyond Canada. Since 2001 western donors have provided Afghanistan with on average U.S. $2.5 billion per year in aid. Yet it has been estimated that the US and NATO countries combined are spending U.S. $15-18 billion per year on military operations in Afghanistan.
An accurate shot at Harper:
The Parliamentary vote the government engineered in the spring to “approve” this mission was a cynical manipulation of the House of Commons. By prohibiting all but six hours of debate, and insinuating that those who would vote against the government are being somehow unpatriotic, or lacking in support for our troops, the Prime Minister politicized a military operation in a way I have not seen in my lifetime.
The value of aid is the central theme of Rae's speech, wherein he argues Canada needs to double its monetary assistance. On Afghanistan, Rae suggests that Canada currently lacks "balance", allocating too much to military matters, not enough to infastructure and societal betterment. This statement is key in understanding how to effectively win "hearts and minds".
Rae looks equally strong, when speaking about the Middle East. Articulating a bold position Rae argues:
No country can live with rockets and bombs killing and maiming its civilian population. All countries in the region have a right to live in peace, within secure and recognized boundaries. It must be said that every country has a right to defend itself from attack. Managing, reducing, and ultimately resolving conflict in the Middle East is one of the great geo-political challenges of our time. Canada is not "neutral" about the outcome. Canada must be engaged in helping shape it. The outcome must secure the future of every country in the region: Israel, Lebanon and Palestine. All as viable, recognized entities with borders that are secure and with governments that have an equal capacity to govern their populations and control violence.
These are issues whose resolution will take much time and extraordinary perseverance. A radical Islam that cannot accept pluralism and diversity in the Middle East is an obstacle to an objective that sensible people everywhere share. The question is: how to keep the next generation from embracing these destructive ideologies? Defeating extremists who use terror as a weapon in their arsenal is very difficult when they have much of the civilian population under their control. There are as many examples in modern history of unsuccessful efforts to do this as the reverse. Guerilla groups can abandon terrorism when the political context around them changes, but military firmness has to be matched with the imagination to create that new framework.
Rae essentially endorses the carrot and stick approach to bring Hezbollah into the "mainstream". As opposed to the current approach, the military option isn't the only option, but in fact a long term solution demands a dialogue. With the PLO, IRA and ANC as historical precedent, Rae's support of "imagination" translates into cultivating the ground to allow for progress. Wingers will scoff at this suggestion, but in the past they also would have laughed hysterically if anyone suggested Yasser Arafat would win the Nobel Peace Prize. Baby steps, careful and slow acceptance, which can actually lead to something substantative if the right statesman has the vision.
Rae's experience as moderator allows him to understand the deep passion of both sides to any debate. Disputes are complicated, everything Rae suggests is done so with this reality in mind. Rae also resists the idea of government led by ideology, which he sees as simplistic and an impedient to progress:
Another conservative, Edmund Burke was right – “governing in the name of a theory" isa bad idea. The avoidance of ideological enthusiasm, doing less harm, saving more lives,reconciling differences, eliminating the worst poverty, steadily constructing a worldorder, step by step, this is the better way of the future. It should be the Liberal way. It should be the Canadian way...
The choices we face as a country are not between "decisiveness and dithering", or between "taking sides and neutrality". They are rather between over-simplification and wisdom. We made a wise choice, the right choice, as a country many years ago when we affirmed our support for an Israeli state in the Middle East. And we also made a wise choice when we affirmed the need for a Palestinian state. Wisdom is about balance, realism, and finding just, enduring solutions. What steps can we take that will ensure real peace, a peace that starts with a ceasefire and an end to violence, but goes well beyond that to deeper solutions. The answers lie more in the world of politics and diplomacy
than anywhere else.
Wise words indeed. After reading Rae's thoughts, I can't help but think he would absolutely destroy Harper in a policy debate.