Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In Full Retreat

Epiphany, pragmatism or political survival. Stephen is morphing before our eyes, his latest comments on Afghanistan now mirror those "flip flopping" Liberals:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday his government has no plans to prolong Canada's combat role in Afghanistan beyond its February 2009 commitment...

But when asked whether he has any desire to prolong the combat mission in southern Afghanistan beyond 2009, Harper said "No."

"I think Canadians are expecting that if we're in Afghanistan after 2009, it would be a new mission," Harper told a Calgary radio talk show on Tuesday. "Canadians have been fairly clear that if we were to be in after 2009, that they would expect our participation to evolve in some way."

So much for the "moral" necessity rhetoric:
"I don't believe the prime minister. He's given the signal from Day 1 that he wants to extend it," Coderre said in an interview. The government, he noted, has invested billions in new military equipment that won't be delivered until 2009 or later.

Some political observers have suggested the Harper government has softened its stance in recent weeks on whether to extend the Afghanistan mission due to eroding public support.

David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, said Harper would almost certainly extend the mission if he had a majority government.

But he's rethinking his strategy as it becomes clear there won't be majority support in the House of Commons for the initiative, and might be publicly negotiating with the Liberals and NATO, he said.

"He's clearly feeling a lot of heat from the public opinion polls," Bercuson said Tuesday. "If he's asking himself what's more important -- that I maintain governance or that I get approval for a combat mission, then a combat mission is coming second."

Cut and run Harper, let's call a spade a spade. Can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Fairweather hawk? I'm not sure if the change has sunk in with the media, but Harper has made a seismic shift, one that betrays EVERY SINGLE speech he has made since he took office.

The introduction of "consensus", and now the position that he favors a "new mission" are clearly based on public opinion, to which Harper himself refers. Remember, this is the government that will not be guided by political consideration on a matter so fundamental to Canadian ideals and obligations. What I find strange, why isn't Harper addressing the nation, in an effort to bolster support? Why, if this is a matter of principle, one Harper was prepared to take the people, is he now in full retreat?

As was brought up in the comments, in another thread, the Harper Conservatives have now adopted the Liberal position. The same Liberal position that has been openly mocked and described as traitorous. What about all the pius rants and accusations, levelled towards anyone who suggested a "re-think", a "different direction"? I could accept Harper's new found pragmatism, cough, poll gazing, if not for the way in which he so vilified others, who were apparently ahead of the curve. One word comes to mind in describing this shift, gutless.


Anonymous said...

Nah.... I think Bush is in trouble and Harper's hedging his bets their gonna begin to pull out of Iraq and move more US troops back into Afghanistan. Makes the most sense.

Steve V said...

Polling makes the most sense to me, but you do have a point.

Anonymous said...

Polling is another good reason as well Steve V. I think there can be more than one reason. But it is only this week that things are beginning to look quite ominous for Mr. Bush. His party is openly rebelling because they will get murdered in the polls if they keep at it. If Canada says they are done and pulls out then the US loses Afghanistan too and they just can't do that. It's bad enough already. That will never happen.

Unless..... someone else has magically stepped up to take our place in Afghanistan while I wasn't looking.

Steve V said...

It's a compelling argument, and ultimately it may well play out that way, because as you say, the Americans will never "lose" Afghanistan. I just don't believe Harper is making that calculation, because it was obvious months ago that some type of Iraq withdrawal is in the cards for 2008. Having said that, it could be a collection of things, the least of which is CONVICTION.

In_The_Centre said...

Most Democratic presidential candidates (Clinton, Obama etc) have indicated that they will re-double efforts in Afghanistan while withdrawing troops from Iraq.

If a Democratic president were to ask Canada to maintain some sort of a combat role in the south in late 2008, do you think Canadians may become more supportive of the mission?

burlivespipe said...

Harpor of olde would have accused the new Harpor of harming the troops, sending mixed signals that play in the hands of the Taliban. Harpor of olde would have ridiculed new Harpor's position as being all over the map, that it would be leaving our commitment without guaranteeing the work we'd started. New Harpor would say the olde Harpor just doesn't get it, that staying on and fighting a losing battle (me thinks he's refering to that majority chase, but...) is the sign of no leader.
Olde Harpor would then kick a cat and rip up a picture of Bob Fife. New Harpor was last seen doing a crossword between sips of cocoa.

Anonymous said...

Well I wouldn't said that for sure (2008 pullout) Steve until just recently....when it become apparent he is losing control. Bush could still have bombed Iran and the whole thing could have blown-up into a third world war. I believe Bush is losing power and that option has moved out of Bush's reach now. Well OK ...granted there is the Israel wild card in this situation. http://www.canada.com/topics/news
I for one am hoping for a breakthrough peace agreement (won't happen under Bush). I know I am being overly optimistic but seeing the glass half full is just easier.

Anonymous said...

Way too hot for cocoa burlivespipe. You would have to be made of ice to need it right now. Actually that might explain his cuts to child care, First Nations and scrooge-ish policies towards the poor.

bigcitylib said...

There are issues involved in beefing up Afghanistan with forces drawn from Iraq. For one thing, the U.S. Army is officially outta rotable troops in about 8 to ten months (that's what the generals are saying), and to deal effectively with Afgh. they would need all 130,000 of them in Iraq. That would bring the numbers roughly up to what the Russians had.

So the piss-poor status quo is going to be maintained until way past 2009. I see Harper as simply being the hand he has been dealt. I see our guys doing something else in Afghanistan in 2010.

Anonymous said...

Face it, Harper will do anything to get his precious majority. He's trying to appease everyone "right now" with that goal in mind. He's probably planning an election before the 2009 deadline.

I don't believe a word he's saying and if he gets his majority - watch out!

Anonymous said...

Stevie is proving to be a renaissance man rather than a man of conviction. What's funny is all the bobbleheads behind him are nodding up and down and muttering, 'yes, yes. It is necessary to adapt'.
Like a flea circus, little piles of dust run back and forth in a never ending cylce of getting nowhere, spending billions, spending lives, spending Canada's international prestige with unabashed buying of voting blocks while dumping the "BIG FIVE".
For a real read of the man have a look at todays Calgary Herald.com which features Steve shaking a soldiers hand but he can't look him in the eye (look quick before the Herald gets told to remove the picture).

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

The issue aside, it's a strange thing in modern politics that things are so partisan that no one can ever win an argument. When one's opposition holds an opposing view, they are attacked for being wrong. If one manages to convince them to change their view, they're attacked for being hypocrits (or liars).

It's like all our politicians (and most of the public) are constantly screaming at each other "You're position is totally wrong and morally indefensible, and don't you DARE change it!!!"

I'm all for attacking one's political opponents, but wouldn't it be more productive (and maybe even more damning) to PRAISE one's opponents when they finally come around to your (correct) point of view?

ottlib said...

LK has a point.

Personally, I would love to see Mr. Dion make a statement that he is happy that Mr. Harper has decided to accept the Liberal Party position on the Afghan deployment. Further he should articulate that position completely and propose to Mr. Harper that the Liberal position should be a starting point for him and Mr. Dion to work out a joint position on the war.

Leaving aside the massive increase in exploding heads amongst the BTs it would also put Mr. Harper in a tight spot.

Does he actually cooperate with the hated Liberals and let them take credit for government policy on one of the most inportant issues facing Canada? Or does he go with his gut instincts, which are vilify the Liberals and never cooperate with them?

Either choice would not be palatable for Mr. Harper and both would carry political costs.

Gayle said...

"Personally, I would love to see Mr. Dion make a statement that he is happy that Mr. Harper has decided to accept the Liberal Party position on the Afghan deployment. Further he should articulate that position completely and propose to Mr. Harper that the Liberal position should be a starting point for him and Mr. Dion to work out a joint position on the war."

I agree. I was a little disappointed that the liberal defence critic simply said he did not believe Harper (which may be fair comment, but comes across as horribly partisan).

I am very happy Harper has changed his position.

Anonymous said...

The question to ask is do you want to accept the "in together, out together" appeal that Harper is making.

Important for Harper given the Van Doos will be going in Afghanistan soon.

The alternative is to for Dion to say " I no longer want to be part of Harper's racist and imperialist war" and move closer to Layton's position.