Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Serious Plan

Dion, and the Liberals, are starting to take some flak for their Afghanistan position. The Liberals are opportunistic, short-sighted, hypocritical, partisan, putting into question Dion’s reputation as principled. The Conservatives have attempted to undercut the Liberal position, with the vague claim of the 2009 consultations with NATO. If the Liberals are too remain relevant on Afghanistan, beyond typical sniping, then the negativity has to be accompanied with an alternative.

It is fine to say the combat operation with cease after 2009, but what is the plan beyond 2009? If you are demanding the government tell NATO about our plans, because 2009 is fast approaching, isn’t it also incumbent upon you to inform them of our detailed approach beyond 2009? The same logic applies, if you use Dion’s arguments for informing our allies.

We have heard talk about continued re-construction and training, but those are easy words, that really lack much substance. The Liberals need to tell Canadians how they see the post 2009 era, what are our goals, what are the troop levels, what is the military role, if any…. For instance, would the Liberals favor putting Canadian troops on the eastern border to help stop the flow of foreign militants and supplies? Would our troops exclusively deal in training of the Afghan army?

The Liberals need to offer specifics, a coherent plan that gives Canadians a vision, beyond “no combat role after 2009”. Such a plan would silence much of the opportunistic criticism, and in my view make the Liberals a serious alternative to the Conservatives, rather than merely snipping from the sidelines, which is dangerous politically.

7 comments:

Gayle said...

I could not read the Globe article, but I read the other.

I thought the reason Dion wants Harper to be specific on this issue is to ensure NATO has sufficient time to replace our troops. If Harper is not specific, and NATO does not replace the troops, Harper will not be able to change Canada's combat role.

I think this is the point that ought to be stressed.

A BCer in Toronto said...

These are the same editorialists that unanimously wanted Jean Chretien to join the U.S. war in Iraq. They were completly out of step with Canadians then, and they also are now.

The Gazette is entirely out to lunch. The 09 date is not a "rigid and arbitrary deadline" all all. Well, not arbitrary anyway. That's when our current mandate, and commitment to NATO, expire.

Despite the carping from the Conservative critics and their proxies, the Liberal position is clear, honourable and sound: inform NATO now that we will not be renewing that combat commitment, so they'd better find someone else to take over. We'll have done our part, we're a small country, it's someone else's turn. Not only is that a fair and clear position, it's one shared by a majority of Canadians as well.

What role can Canada play beyond 2009, in a non-combat role? That's a debate Canadians need to have, and something that should be part of the discussion the Liberals are calling for the government to have with NATO, since whatever Canada would be doing would be in the context of the work NATO and the Afghan government is doing.

First things first though, the government needs to inform NATO our combat role ends in 09. The fact the Cons are going through such conniptions to avoid doing so is the real issue here, IMO, and one Dion is doing well in forcing them on.fd

Steve V said...

The Liberal position is quite clear on the timetable, but I think we need to start fleshing out the post-2009 role. If the Liberals do that, then Harper can't frame them as hypocritical or irresponsible, or sympathizers, or not supporting the troops, or all the other nonsense. A detailed post-2009 plan innoculates the Liberals somewhat from many of the criticisms in my mind. Harper is trying to outflank the Liberals as we speak, why not stay ahead of the curve with a look to the future.

Gayle said...

I agree Steve - but I do not think we should lose the message here - which Jeff stated far more articulately than I did.

Dion needs to ensure the public knows that he is trying to avoid the scenario set out in the Gazette editorial - and that it is Harper's wishy-washiness on the whole Afghanistan mission that might make that scenario a reality. The Gazette is not wrong - they are just pointing the finger at the wrong leader.

Dana said...

NATO has nothing to do with it anymore - the entire ISAF agenda is driven out the Pentagon. NATO is just the stalking horse so tell the Pentagon.

Steve V said...

dana

Agreed.

gayle

The problem is, the Conservatives are now arguing that they have informed NATO that the mission ends in 09. If Dion keeps beating that drum, with parallel assertions from MacKay, then he risks look opportunistic. The Conservatives are playing games, which is why we shouldn't put our whole focus on demanding notification.

The other day, I saw two stories, one with MacKay saying we are out in 09 and NATO knows our intentions, the other Dion saying we need to tell NATO our intentions. You and I might be able to discern the nuance and gamesmanship, but I wonder if the casual observer doesn't see a disconnect.

Anonymous said...

I thought Dion had been quite clear - "rotation" - he wants Canada out of the combat mission and back to peacekeeping, building, etc. We've taken the most of the brunt in the mission and it's time someone else did.

Seems clear to me.