Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Let's Make A Deal

Harper seems uncharacteristically gracious when it comes to the Liberal amendments, making a deal look probable:
A conciliatory Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed as “important progress” Liberal amendments to his government's motion in the House of Commons to extend the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan to 2011.

Mr. Harper said his government would seriously consider the Liberal proposals, which include an end to combat operations in 2009 and full troop withdrawal from Kandahar in February 2011.

Mr. Harper said the Liberal's commitment to a continued military presence in the country post 2009 is “really very close to the government's position” and he raised the possibility the Conservatives would introduce a new motion on the matter.

“I'd like to say just how pleased I am to see greater clarity by the Liberals on their position in Afghanistan,” Mr. Harper told reporters in French.

“The government intends to examine these proposals in greater detail ... so as to give a more wide-ranging answer and perhaps a new motion.”

The fact Harper offers to introduce another motion is a huge signal that a compromise can be reached. The last remaining point of contention, defining the "military presence", what constitutes combat. I suspect the Conservatives may give in on the other Liberal requirements, introduce them in a new motion, but holdout on allowing for a combat role. You would then have the appearance of a deal, hinging on this one aspect, and in the end, the Liberals may find enough to support it. Some careful crafting of the combat language, which doesn't tie the hands of the military, and it could all come together.


ALW said...

I agree. I believe the Tories will concede everything else to the Liberals in exchange for the Liberals being flexible on the combat portion.

Scott Tribe said...

So naturally, Aaron, you'll be "outraged" at this.. because fixed dates of withdrawal are a no-no in your neo-conservative world, yet Harper appears he might actually go for this.

I expect either an explanation from you on why if this comes from Harper, it's good, but from the Dion Liberals it's bad, or I expect to see a blogpost at your site condemning Harper for "surrendering " to a 2011 fixed date.

bigcitylib said...

What I want to see now is no election until after April, because remember everyone is committed to 1000 extra troops or out in '09 and we ain't gonna get 'em.

Best bet is to let the budget pass, ignore the silly Senate stuff (or let the gov fall on that)and give the economy some time to really tank.

ALW said...

Scott - I think you misunderstand -I think the one thing that Harper should not be flexible on is a fixed date for withdrawal. (i.e. I am saying is that Harper should compromise on everything else in order to ensure there is no fixed withdrawal date.)

I am OK with 'revisiting' the issue in a year or two, with the possibility of extension, or setting up benchmarks where the mission can potentially be extended at certain intervals. But I remain opposed to fixed pull-out dates, and if the Tories agree to them, I will voice that. I would rather fight an election and try to make the case for continuing combat, than (in my view) abandon Afghanistan by ceasing combat in 2009.

Greg said...

So, what is the consensus, are the Liberals still in favor of a counter insurgency strategy (calling it security rather than combat) or not? My reaction to the motion hinges on that.

MarkCh said...

I don't like a fixed pullout date, but everyone knows a "fixed pullout date" three years or more from now, after the next election, is essentially meaningless. For me, the main issue is whether the mission must end in Feb 2009, or whether the ROE is restricted then. If neither of those happens, that may be the best compromise available.

Greg, it is still unclear (to me, anyway) whether the Liberals are in favour of the current counter-insurgency strategy. I think we will have to wait a while and see.

Steve V said...

Dion said today he wouldn't try to "micro-manage" the military decisions, which seems to move further in allowing for combat. A little more nudging on both sides, and they could get there.


I'm not sure why you say were can't get 1000 troops, I always took that as a Manley false demand, knowing full well it was achievable. I'm not really worried about the conditions, because they would never have been offered if they weren't attainable.

mississaugajoan said...

The Parliaments of Germany, Spain, and Italy have forbidden their troops to go to Kandahar, and now we are stuck there (without rotation) until 2011. Nice.

Steve V said...


Those three countries were never part of the equation, why we base our policy on them escapes me. NATO was always flawed, rotation pretty much linguistic fantasy.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Oh goody. The Grits and Cons are going to agree to prop up The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan complete with Sharia Law for another coupla years. What will we accomplish? An even bigger opium crop? A continuation of corruption at every level of government? A police force and army that can be bribed to release Talibans for $20 and up? More journalists sentenced to hang? More starving Afghans selling their little girls for grocery money?

Well, at least Dion and Harper won't have to account to the electorate. Drag it out another few years. Mourn over another few dozen Canadian soldiers. Buy more military hardware to be destroyed.

What about balancing the mission? Manley informed us that, so far, we've spent $6.1 billion on combat and only $741 million on aid and development. Dion is okay with that?

Not in my name!

Change the climate in Parliament.


Steve V said...

"What about balancing the mission? Manley informed us that, so far, we've spent $6.1 billion on combat and only $741 million on aid and development. Dion is okay with that?"

I'd like to see that spelled out more, rather than Harper's vague references in the motion. The Liberals should push hard here, to ensure that the expenditures are decidedly different. I'm worried, if that is just left to the government to decide. Hopefully, this idea of a Afghan committee, that meets regularly, will keep everyone accountable.

MarkCh said...

Here's an interesting question. If a compromise is reached, and the motion passed, and there is an election soon, say on the budget, and the Liberals win, would Dion be bound to stick to the motion, if he had not campaigned on a change?

Orchard said...

I maintain that the only solution that seems viable to a lot of you is combat and controlling afghanistan.

It's a knee-jerk psychological reaction to times of uncertainty. If things are uncertain, you want control.

This is not possible in Afghanistan. We don't have the military muscle to control Afghanistan or to "win" through military might.

The non-combat components of the mission, forming relationships and trust with PEOPLE in Afghanistan, are the most important.

Figuring out ways of supporting the growing of poppies for medicine, helping people in Afghanistan have greater access to information about their government, helping with water infrastructure, are just some of them.

Scott Tribe said...


"micromanaging" or not.. I think this Liberal amendment motion is pretty clear: offensive Combat and search-and-destroy missions done by 2009, defensive combat operations and training etc till 2011. Pullout of Kandahar after that. As a left-leaning progressive Liberal, if Harper can agree to those terms, I can live with it, and since Dion and Iggy and Rae all co-wrote this amendment, I see no reason why he wouldn't keep to the motion.

Your question however on Dion adhering to the terms I suspect is a moot point if the Liberals bring the Conservatives down on the Budget, as that Globe article says from quoting an anonymous Liberal MP.
The motion is supposedly set for after the Budget sometime in March, so all we are seeing here may be 1 big game of semantics... except for the fact that the Liberals can go on the hustings and point to what they proposed to the Conservatives and what they would implement if elected.

Steve V said...

"Dion and Iggy and Rae all co-wrote this amendment, I see no reason why he wouldn't keep to the motion."

Iggy made it quite clear today, these amendments aren't a "gambit", part of a negotiation, they are the Liberal position, how they would approach the mission if in government. Iggy stressed that he wanted Canadians to know this is the Liberal position.

Steve V said...

"The non-combat components of the mission, forming relationships and trust with PEOPLE in Afghanistan, are the most important.'

Orchard, I'm not disagreeing with you here, and if you look at my posts the last months, you will see that I have always said we need to move away from the combat, you can't win throwing all your resources into "whack a mole". All I am saying, you need to acknowledge the military component, it is simply a reality when you talk about things like training(if you want to be successful that is), or security. If I'm coming across as a hawk here, it is only because I don't think you can be in the south, without acknowledging it is a dangerous theater, that demands some element of fighting. Realistic, but that doesn't mean endorsing the current mission, or thinking those tactics successful.

ottlib said...


Agreed. Stephane Dion received all of what he wanted from the government. Provided Mr. Harper's conciliatory tone does not change after the next internal Conservative poll.

BCL: Interesting point. It would be interesting to see the reaction in Ottawa if NATO does not cough up the troops at the April NATO meeting.

The next question is does this new motion take the pressure off of NATO to provide those additional troops?

northwestern_lad said...

Hold on Scott... ""micromanaging" or not.. I think this Liberal amendment motion is pretty clear: offensive Combat and search-and-destroy missions done by 2009, defensive combat operations and training etc till 2011."

Dion already said that he would not micro-manage the mission and it would be up to the Commanders on the group to make those calls. If they decide that they need to have offensive combat and "search and destroy" combat, this proposal would allow them to do it. Either you say to the Commanders "No you can't do that" or you're allowing them the option to do that. Dion is not saying no to those options, just leaving it up to the commanders in the field to decide that.

Steve V said...


You are right in your assessment of what that acknowledgement means. Commanders in the field will have the latitude to do what they feel necessary, within the confines of the stated goals of the mission. That's what Harper gets out of this compromise, and why he might agree to it.


I'm curious about the 1000 troops. Are you now arguing that Manley put this out as a requirement, without some confidence that it could be achieved? So Manley was proposing something that "ain't gonna happen"? You agree with this now?

Scott Tribe said...

NW Lad:

The motion still says what it says - that the emphasis will be switched from offensive combat ops after 2009 to a defensive one with an emphasis on training etc. I consider Dion's comment as a gesture and indication to the Conservatives that we're not going to prevent our guys from defending themselves.

The fact is if we're doing defensive protection, and an army group see some Taliban guys hiding in the hills waiting for night fall to attack, I wouldn't blame the local Canadian commander for taking the initiative to get rid of them before the bad guys start shooting - that makes sense. Fact is... the general motion says we won't be deliberately doing that after 2009. I can live with it, as most Liberals can, and dare I say it, a plurality of the electorate.

We'll see if it gets that far whether Harper will agree to everything.. or if it even matters. I've the suspicion it won't.

Steve V said...

"that makes sense."

Coherence at last :)

ottlib said...


To answer your question about the 1000 troops.

I believe Mr. Manley came up with that number because he thought it was feasible but even he could not guarantee it. So I will believe those troops are coming when they arrive in Khandahar.

As well, I am questioning whether this new motion might take the pressure off NATO to provide those additional troops. I think they could construe it like that, if they were disinclined to provide those troops to begin with.

We will see.

Steve V said...


Why does this take the pressure, both sides explicitly demand help from other countries, or the deal is off. Have the Liberals weakened our arguments with their amendments, is that what you are saying here? I'm just curious.

burlivespipe said...

Markch sed... "Here's an interesting question. If a compromise is reached, and the motion passed, and there is an election soon, say on the budget, and the Liberals win, would Dion be bound to stick to the motion, if he had not campaigned on a change?"

What, perhaps more telling is whether Harper, he of no agreement worth sticking too, would stand behind this agreement should he win in the next election... Hmmm, income trusts, atlantic and kelowna accords, kyoto etc etc.

wilson said...

If Dion wins a minority government, would he give Parliament a vote on the Afghan mission, seek a consensus?
Martin didn't.
If Liberals win would Dion give NATO notice that we are pulling out in 2009?

ottlib said...


I think it could. It all depends on how they construe the motion, which may depend on whether they wanted to provide additional troops or whether they felt they were being left with no choice.

There is a chance that some of the more reluctant NATO allies will use this as an out.

Would it be logical? Not in the sense most people think of logic but international relations has its own logic.

We will see.


If the motion passes the House before the election I would expect the eventual winner to honour the promise.

If it does not pass the House before the election then all bets are off. Although the eventual winner would have alot of pressure on them to honour any election promises they made regarding the Afghan mission.

So I guess the real question is: If the motion is not passed before an election will each party campaign on this new motion or revert to their former positions?

bigcitylib said...

Steve, Ottlib:

It looks to me that Manley's demand for 1,000 extra troops was NOT a FAIT ACCOMPLI. France is waffling, Germany has said no, U.S.? Mmm. Maybe. U.K. MMmm. Even less likely than the states.

Tories may want to go to an election NOW because 1) economy will tank worse the longer they wait, and 2) it will become more obvious that we're NOT going to get that Manley minimum. If Tories ever got a majority, they wouldn't care. Their base likes war. But in a minority do they say we'll stay anyway even if we get fucked over by NATO? If they're in power long enough to have to make that choice, that's good for the Libs.

Or they're serious and the troops come home anyway Feb '09. The Canadian People win either way.

Steve V said...


I always believed Manley was pre-determined from the start, a process put in place to get the desired result. Manley's demands are really quite timid here, I'm not sure I buy the argument that 1000 troops really make much of a difference. That number was chosen, because it was manageable, and because they had clear indications it would ultimately arrive.

The Americans have added troops temporarily, and while they have said they aren't permanent, isn't this really more a negotiating ploy heading into April. If you assume the increase is permanent, then where is the leverage at the NATO meetings. Let's get real here, if the French do bail out, which I wouldn't assume, judging by MacKay's shit kicking grin, it doesn't take much for the Americans to meet the requirement. A 1000 troops isn't exactly outrageous, or for that matter, very noticeable in the scheme of their military. I'm just not worried about the "demands", they always struck me as knowable projections. That's my two cents.