Friday, July 17, 2009

Ignatieff On Peacekeeping

Maclean's has a piece, detailing an Ignatieff speech on "peacekeeping". I thought I would put up the actual audio, because it gives a better context from which to judge:

I don't really see the purpose in trying to ignore what Ignatieff said, rather it's better to have an intelligent debate about his viewpoint (any flaming comments aren't welcome, so don't waste your time- CLICK). I actually see his view as valid, because there is much "folklore" surrounding our international standing, but it really doesn't translate to reality. Ignatieff's statements are merely a recognition that you can't do peacekeeping if you don't have the means, if you don't invest in the forces required. Is that really controversial?

One irrefutable fact when we entered Afghanistan, our armed forces were woefully equipped, to the point of embarrassing. It was so bad we had to borrow uniforms, and we're still playing catchup. Now, this mission isn't peacekeeping, but that's splitting hairs, because it still served as an illustration of just feeble our military had become, and last time I checked it's the military that does the peacekeeping.

Canada did make choices, and I'm not sure I disagree in the final analysis. However, to have made those expenditure choices, but still boast about our capacity in the world, was never a honest presentation. Ignatieff does defend the Americans, but he also worries about a international community dependent on them as the only one's capable of adding the necessary might to moral imperatives. Taken further, a Canada that is well equipped to actively engage, is a healthy development, because then we act within our own sense of right and wrong, rather than relying on a singular country. You could look at the argument, as an empowering plea.

Ignatieff puts forth a debatable perspective, which is worthy of discussion. It's not a romantic view, particularly the "men with guns" idea, but it's a realistic one that includes the obvious, wants aside. I don't find the above offensive, I find it frank.


Éric said...

Agreed. It's too bad politicians aren't allowed to talk like this without it becoming a "gaffe". Canada's armed forces number around 60,000, and the number in the army is about 20,000. Then when you go down to the level of actual soldiers (men with guns) you end up with around 10,000.

You can't do much with 10,000 soldiers.

Éric said...

Indeed, Canadians have a lot of misconceptions about their own country and history.

I remember seeing a chart ranking nations by their peacekeeping contributions per capita. Canada was very, very low on the list. IIRC, Fiji was on top.

Steve V said...


If that's the choice Canadians accept, than I'm fine with it. However, let's just dispense with this romantic view of our role in international peacekeeping. It's sort of sacrilege, especially for a Liberal, to question our peacekeeping "heritage", but it's really just calling a spade a spade.

Steve V said...

"I remember seeing a chart ranking nations by their peacekeeping contributions per capita. Canada was very, very low on the list. IIRC, Fiji was on top."

I saw that too, it wasn't pretty.

I wonder if Ignatieff's view has changed somewhat, because this was said in 2005, and we have updated our forces since then.

Éric said...

But we are not in a better position. With 2,000 to 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, we're more or less stretched to our limit. We don't have the ability to take on any new missions of more than a trifling size. The United States is having the same issue.

Steve V said...

Agreed. I guess I meant more in terms of modernizing. We're not dressed in forest green, driving around in open window jeeps :)

Anonymous said...

The problem you've got is your Leader is slamming the Liberal Party's own record (calling it "bogus") and basically making the case for the Tories' defence policy, the policy the Liberal Party ridiculed in the 2004 and 2006 elections with attack ads. One of the prime examples of Liberal failure he gave was Canada's previous lack of strategic heavy lift capability - a problem fixed by Harper. You can praise Ignatieff for being frank, etc... but he's kicking the shit out of your record, your approach, your worldview - the very reflexively anti-American worldview that you've used to define the choice for Canadian voters. While you are listening, check out his comment about finding Canadians "disgusting" and not wanting to be international citizens. I am sure the Tory attack ads are already in production.

Steve V said...

"the very reflexively anti-American worldview that you've used to define the choice for Canadian voters."

Not sure how to take this from someone posting from Illinois.

Steve V said...

To your broader point, maybe that's why it's controversial because it does challenge past decisions. I'm not sure you need to fall into the lineage angle. You could say the same things about EI, because when you talk about the crazy regional disparities, he's really criticizing past Liberal policy. I've got not qualms with that, not do I see any ownership.

Anthony said...

I am pretty sure Michael Ignatieff spent much of the 2006 leadership race campaigning against the former Liberal government's position on Quebec, fiscal imbalance, role in the world, environmental record, and it goes on and on.

and to anonymous, he was assailed for it. I remember Ignatieff being frank with a former Liberal Environment Minister.

He got told that he knew nothing and that it was not easy to make priorities. Liberals cheered. Tories made attack ads anyway.

Better the Liberals are up front with their record, especially the parts they did not do well. If they continue to believe the Chretien/Martin years were perfect, voters will just roll their eyes.

Koby said...

Igantieff is right. I said so then and stand by my comments.

Furthermore the age of Peace Keeping has come and go.

Where Ignatieff errs is the prescriptions he makes. He seems to not to realize that just as age of Peace keeping has come and gone so thankfully has the age of nation building. For Ignatieff to suggest that Canada and other Western countries should abandon their social safety nets just so they have enough troops to police the rest of the world without having he count on the US is such bleeding heart gibberish it hardly merits comment.

Indeed, if it comes down spendiing billions on military hardware or spending billions on health chare, that is pretty easy choice to make. It would be plain stupid for Canada to spend billions on military hardware just so it has the military capablity to send troops half way around the world to get blown up by IEDs and accomplish nothing except greaterly increase the chances that Canada will be attacked by terrorists homegrown or otherwise.

I am surprised that no one has slaged Ignatieff for his idiotic Ireland example. Let me be the first. It is stupid.

RuralSandi said...

With these volatile times, it would be stupid not to keep the military up-to-date.

The world is in a nasty place right now.......pretending it isn't is naive - do both - military and health care.

LMA said...

What concerns me is our ability to provide surveillance in the Arctic once the sea ice melts and the Arctic Ocean becomes an international shipping highway, probably in the next decade. It will be like a new frontier, and there will be disputes over the extent of our continental shelf, and the need to enforce our sovreignty in a peaceful manner.

Demosthenes said...

Well, it certainly is "provocative" to call your countrymen disgusting. And I think there is something to be said for a fair-minded look at Canada's foreign policy.

But let's be honest. This speech was rank Bush Administration apologism, and in 2005 no less. That's a bit like singing the praises of Nixon in 1973, or Hoover in '31. Sure it's "provocative", but for all the wrong reasons.

Besides, to say that "if you want to create peace, you go to the Pentagon" in 2005 is just ludicrous. This is the Rumsfeld Pentagon he was referring to. Ignatieff appears to be the only person in 2005 who thought Rumsfeld's tenure was anything but a debacle.