Monday, July 30, 2007


Interesting story in the G and M, which details Afghan army potential moving forward, but also highlights an excellent example of bad framing. In an apparent effort to win public support, Gordon O'Connor clearly overstated the potential of the Afghan army. Hillier has already amended O'Connor's optimism, but in throwing out such a unrealistic projection, O'Connor effectively detracts from an objective positive. You see it in the way this story is written:
Still, even that is far from a fighting force capable of replacing the combat punch of the heavily armed Canadian battle group with its tanks, artillery, night-fighting ability and tight integration with helicopter gunships and fighter-bombers capable of raining death from the skies. And it's far short of the 3,000 combat-ready Afghan soldiers that Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor predicted would be operational early next spring.

When you look at the raw numbers, and see that the Afghan army will essentially triple its independent ability (500- 1400) by next spring, that translates into progress, period. The article includes glowing reviews and ample indication of real potential. However, underlying all that positivity is the stench of a standing army that is half of what O'Connor predicted. In other words, by over-stating the truth, O'Connor detracts from a potential "feel good" storyline.

When O'Connor first made his comments, you could just sense that they would come back to bite him. Smoke and mirrors, overly optimistic assessments, will never fly in the long term, as evidenced OVER and OVER stateside. O'Connor set a bar that was destined for failure, his self-inflicted framing completely irresponsible. In effect, O'Connor sabotaged the optics of progress. Truth isn't the enemy, particularly when you actually have something concrete to show.


Olaf said...

Damn Hillier!

First, he undermines the elected ministers plan for new army reserve units across Canada, then he questions the pullout timeline, and now he's contradicting O'Connors predictions regarding the capacity of Afghan troops???

I think he should stay out of politics altogether, am I right folks? I seem to remember similar cries coming out of Liberal ranks not too long ago, although I suppose that was before he turned into an Liberal prop, eh? :)

Anonymous said...

Hillier should stay out of politics, yes - but something tells me he is more truthful with respect to Afghan than O'Connor is.

O'Connor is misleading us (probably under direction from Harper - only PM approved messages get out).

I thought it was rather unrealistic to say the Afghan troops would be trained enough by next spring - duh, how stupid do Harper/O'Connor think people are?

Hmmm - didn't Bush/Cheney say that about Iraq quite some time ago?

I have to say in this situation, Hillier has every right to speak up after O'Connor passed the blame on to him about the veterans/families/funding. Why should Hillier put up with that kind of crap.

ottlib said...


I am no happier about General Hillier's latest foray into politics than with his earlier ones. His job is to implement what the government tells him to. If the Minister makes a statement that is completely false it is not General Hillier's place to publically correct him.

Steve, with regard to your point, Mr. O'Connor and Mr. Harper are playing politics and politics, by its nature, is a short term game. At the time he made those statements there was much publicity about bad polls and the deployment of the Vandoos. So they decided to compensate for that by making those obviously erroneous statements.

Two or three weeks later those statements have been proven to be false but they do not need to worry because no one is really calling them on it. No media type has really questioned the inconsistancy and the reason for it. There is no QP at the moment so they do not have to worry about the Opposition.

Mr. Harper and the Conservatives have shown that they have no problems with misleading Canadians. They do so when they believe they can get away with it and this is just one of those times.

Steve V said...

The optics are still terrible, even without Hillier, as detailed by the British and American assessments, which show no co-relation to O'Connor. Hillier might actually have done O'Connor a small favor, in re-setting the bar now, rather than a looming failure later, which was inevitable.


I understand the short-term misinformation campaign, but don't you have to acknowledge a potential spring election, wherein your robust claims will meet objective scrutiny? I put these statements under the "political boner" file.

Olaf said...

Personally, I don't give two shits if Hillier has his little forays into "politics". I mean, he's not elected, but it's hard to call him uninformed. If our politicians are talking out of their asses, I don't mind him bringing attention to it, especially seeing how he seems willing to do so in a bipartisan fashion.

I was just giving you guys a good natured hard time before.

Steve V said...


I would distinguish between a comment on military tactics, and one on government funding of the military.

Hard time? You? ;)