Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dion The Hawk?

I have to admit, Dion's latest comments come as a surprise. That said, I don't necessarily disagree:
Mr. Dion hinted NATO could take action in Pakistan, which has a porous border with Afghanistan, if the Pakistani government doesn't move to track terrorists.

"We are going to have to discuss that very actively if they (the Pakistanis) are not able to deal with it on their own. We could consider that option with the NATO forces in order to help Pakistan help us pacify Afghanistan," said Mr. Dion in Quebec City, commenting after his two-day trip to Afghanistan last weekend. "As long as we don't solve the problem in Pakistan, I don't see how we can solve it in Afghanistan."

The Liberal leader explained that Afghan officials told him they know where the extremist strongholds are in Pakistan. But he said the Afghans don't take action.

"One day, we are going to have to act because our soldiers are cleaning out some areas, but in fact very often they are only clean in principle. The insurgents go take refuge in Pakistan and they are going to come back (to Afghanistan) at the earliest opportunity. This could last very long if we don't tackle the problems that often originate from Pakistan," Mr. Dion said.

I've argued previously that I would be open to Canadian forces moving towards the Pakistan border, in the next phase of our participation. Infiltration from Pakistan is clearly undermining any progress, leading to the "whack a mole" routine we see in the Kandahar region. Dion's latest comments endorse a combat role, or at the very least, acknowledge the need to secure a porous border. It is hard to interpret Dion as anything less than activist on this front, a stance that tends to distance itself from the "non combat role" argued previously.

Is this a reversal in position? Not necessarily, in the sense that it is consistent with the Liberal position that argues Canada needs to revise our role in Afghanistan. A mission that focuses on training the Afghan army, while simultaneously limiting the ability of foreigners to reek havoc in the country achieves the goal of security, without engaging in the present vicious cycle, which leads to nowhere. Dion seems to be focusing on the source here, which has far greater potential for success.

I see these latest Dion comments as an evolution, which recognizes the challenge in a pragmatic way. The trick, selling Canadians on what amounts to a combat component, albeit it entirely different from our current role.


Raphael Alexander said...

Interesting, Steve. It is, as you say, logical points made by Dion. Although I would disagree his overall position is consistent, it would be nice to think that compromise is on the table if NATO could see their way into a restructuring of the mission, and forays into Pakistan.

I've weighed in on this issue at my own blog if you're interested.

Steve V said...

I'm not going to criticize for demonstrating some pragmatism.

I'll check it out, feel free to post a link (I'm lazy).

Raphael Alexander said...

Dion wants us out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan?

Anonymous said...

Would you suggest that Harper junk the Manley report and call for a surge of Canadian troops into Pakistan?

After Gates suggest that NATO soldiers are not up to the job?

Raphael Alexander said...

mushroom, no. We need a parliamentary consensus, and the Manley report is useful.

And Gates is nothing more than a gibbering neo-con who will soon be removed from office after the 08 elections.

Anonymous said...


Gates a neo-con? Don't link him with Rumsfeld.

A CIA analyst, sees the world through a more realistic and pragmatic view. Like Condi, should be faulted for not seeing the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the latter leading to the most violent war crimes in Europe in recent times.

Anthony said...

sorry steve,

no amount of spin can save dion here

tories gave you guys 2 scandals in one day and dion put his foot in his mouth.

while it is true to say that the porous border doesnt help the situation, what dion implied is not a lessened combat role but a bigger one altogether, which hasnt been the Liberal position at all...

i still think you guys should hammer hard on guergis, it hould be an easy resignation...just start calling her heraldo

Steve V said...

"what dion implied is not a lessened combat role but a bigger one altogether"

I'm not sure I follow that logic.

wilson said...

from the National Post article you posted:

'...Defence Minister Peter MacKay told Canwest News Service Dion's comments were off base.

"Mr. Dion can't be serious to suggest NATO "intervene," in another country while simultaneously saying Canada should abandon its United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Afghanistan," he said in an e-mail.

"He has to explain to Canadians why he wants an "intervention" but wants to turn his back on Afghanistan, which has asked and continues to ask for Canada's help. It's inane."

Why would Dion want to start a war in Pakisan?
an Iggy idea?
Jack is gonna have some fun with this one!

Steve V said...


MacKay lies, with his abandoning Afghanistan nonsense. Can we have an honest debate, or are we forever reconciled to the schoolyard. The debate in Canada has largely been embarrassing up until this point, and this government has set the tone with its bombastic, neo-nationalist, divisive rhetoric.

Everybody knows that the endgame for Afghanistan is dealing with the tribal areas in Pakistan.

ottlib said...

The end game is dealing with the Taliban because they cannot be defeated on the field.

The only variable is whether President Karzai keeps his job and his head.

That is why he has been in discussions with the less bloody minded elements of the Taliban for months.

Once that deal is done, if it ever is, the Taliban in Pakistan will become much less of a problem.

wilson said...

Steve, Dion suggested that we 'intervene' in Pakistan.
As in step in and take matters into our own hands, where Afghans and the Pakistan govt won't.
Un-invited invaders Steve. said...

I've discussed this issue at length in five parts, the first two found here:

Briefly due to British Imperialism, the largest tribal group, which is united by their code of life, the Pashtunwali, was divided by the Durand line in the late 19th Century in an attempt to divide and conquer. This line is the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Currently it still divides the tribe of over 40 million Pashtuns.

Now all Pashtuns are not Taliban, but all Taliban are Pashtuns, and due to the Pashtunwali, all Pashtuns are at some degree sympathetic to Taliban fighters.
Now as Currently we are limited to Afghanistan, and thus only a fraction of the population of where the Taliban draws its support, our mission in Afghanistan can never succeed. This conclusion is built on the premise of Pakistan not being able to seal it's border.

Steve V said...


And that explains why the Taliban in Afghanistan have no appetite for negotiations.

The Mound of Sound said...

Toying with the idea of military incursions into Pakistan's tribal areas is childish at best. The Pakistan army is considerably more powerful than any force NATO can muster and yet they get mauled routinely when they go in to what is their own homeland. Forget al-Qaeda and the Taliban. How do you expect the fiercely independent Pashtun and Baloch tribesmen to respond to the arrival of a force of Infidels? Look, we're talking about the lives of a lot of fine young Canadian soldiers being squandered for no good end. Tell me the last invader who succeeded in these regions. Put the fantasy nonsense aside for a minute and show me the model we need to adopt. If you can't find one, ask Stephane Dion what he'd suggest.

Anonymous said...

Did Dion actually say "attack"? I don't think so - reality is that if they (NATO) don't work with Pakistan, Afghanistan is doomed to failure.

Anonymous said...

Dion's statement seems to be in line with Obama’s foreign policy position, a position that seems to have been adopted by Clinton as well as many stalwarts in the Democratic Party.

A lot of the comments here suggest that people are falsely thinking that this position suggests military intervention should happen immediately and pre-emptively.

This is not the case. The fact of the matter is, there is every bit of indication that Pakistan may be headed towards failed state status. There is no scarier prospect in the world then a failed nuclear state. If this were to happen, you would bet most western powers would intervene, along with India.

Of course, the best outcome would be for Pakistan to tread these dangerous waters with soft power support from the U.S and regional countries. However, the world must be prepared to intervene should the Pakistani government or army lose the ability to contain the situation.

I applaud Dion's comments and this will go a long in bringing back pragmatic centrists back to the party.


Steve V said...

There is a BIG difference between invading Pakistan, and protecting the Afghan border to stop infiltration.

Anonymous said...

Dion does have room to insert both feet in his mouth eh pals. Imagine how Iggy must feel. Two days on the steppes and they've solved the riddle. Quaint and pathetic politicing.