Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"We Are Lost Right Now": Ignatieff on Afghanistan

Probably the most plain language we've heard, and something which needs more examination, Ignatieff on Afghanistan:
"To be frank, we are currently lost in Afghanistan. I support the mission, but I think we are lost right now. We need to find a new strategy and I think Canada can offer a legitimate contribution," he said.
The debate on Afghanistan has been largely non-existent, basically nothing more than a discussion on the 2011 end of military operations. It's as if Canada is merely playing out the clock, and nobody is putting forth any strategic re-think in the intermediary. Canada will just plod along with it's NATO partners, even though the evidence mounts that the operation is a destined to fail, by any measure.

I don't want to elevate what Ignatieff said, but a recognition of being "lost" is a starting point and I would encourage the Liberals to concentrate on 2009 and 2010, what the policy should be, rather than constantly referring to a position two years out, which does nothing for the NOW.

The Conservatives seem content to debate the "future of NATO", the same old line that more input is needed from our partners, if we are to succeed. That emphasis assumes there is a solution at hand, we just need better participation and commitment. However, that policy endorses status quo tactics, merely a question of degree.

Admitting failure is half the battle to understanding plausible solutions. Rather than talk of end dates, it's about time we heard a debate about whether we're just spinning our wheels until then. If one determines that we are "lost", then they need to offer an alternative vision, and if that isn't conceivable under this international regime, then we can legitimately reconsider our commitment.

I'll be curious to see, now that Ignatieff is getting his internal footing, if he articulates a path which distances the Liberals from a mere endorsement of the 2011 end of operations, as though that's the only consideration. I want to hear what is the "new strategy", because after you admit being "lost", it's incumbent to clearly define a way forward, otherwise you're simply irresponsible.


Anonymous said...

What a joke.

Canada isn't lost. NATO isn't lost. The US isn't lost.

All of these players are LOSING a criminal war against a national liberation movement in a Third World country.

They know full-well what they are doing, namely, imposing a bloody occupation for the consolidation of Western economic and military power in the Asian continent.

Ignatieff is a idiotic moron to 'support the mission'.

The war was illegal according to the UN Charter, as the UNSC did not pass any resolution in favour of war.

The war relied on the militias of the Northern Alliance, which has a long record of human rights abuses stemming from the 1992-1996 civil war period.

The war installed a hand-picked puppet government, comprised of militia leaders, known drug dealers, and war criminals.

The war was used as a platform for launching the illegal war against Iraq and for consolidating US control over the energy supplies of the Caspian Sea basin.

The war was also used to expand the network of US military bases in Central Asia -- the purpose of which is to surround Iran, Russia, China, and Pakistan.

The war has made deliberate use of air power against a defenseless civilian population, leading to thousands of casualties.

The occupation has also done everything possible to block the emergence of popular democracy and political parties in Afghanistan, especially by propping-up militia leaders and tribal authorities.

In this context, Canada isn't lost; it's part of the problem.

Troops out now. End the occupation. Cut all funding to the Canadian military. Canada out of NATO.

For background reading, see Ahmed Rashid, "Descent Into Chaos" and John Warnock, "Creating a Failed State: The US and Canada in Afghansitan."

The Mound of Sound said...

We're "lost" in Afghanistan? What in hell does that mean? Who is lost? What is lost? Does he mean we have lost, as in we've been defeated, or does he mean we're losing to the insurgency? Have we lost the battle? Have we lost our moral compass? Have we lost the hearts and minds of the Afghan people?

I think that last budget Iggy supported shows we're more "lost right now" at home than we are in Afghanistan.

Steve V said...


Only you could turn it into a discussion of the budget. Well done :)

The Mound of Sound said...

C'mon Steve, you're trying to read all manner of wisdon into "we're lost right now." We're not lost, we're following orders, ISAF orders. We're apparently going to be following those orders until 2011.

Steve V said...


If you actually read, there is a bit of challenge to articulate what you do after admitting we're in a aimless circumstance. It's pretty shameful if we acknowledge futility, but carry on regardless. By carry on, I mean the military tactics, I still support training Afghan police and military, plus any reconstruction efforts that are possible. Maybe Canada needs to back off with the whack a mole routine, redouble our efforts to help on the corruption front, use some of our technological expertise to bring some transparency. If were lost, then let's hear the new plan, and if you can't articulate one, then it's time to be bold.

All I'm saying, admitting you have a problem is half the battle, nothing more...

Comrade One said...

Wouldn't it be more likely he meant lost as in seemingly directionless? Ineffective efforts? That sort of thing?

Discussing how to be more effective within the current structure is hardly worthwhile. The options are, leave as quickly as possible or stay and follow whatever path the U.S. chooses.

The realities are quite simple really, as nothing of consequence will be achieved militarily or otherwise as long as militants have the mountainous area between Afghan and Pakistan to come and go from. Pakistan just announced an agreement with Taliban clerics to allow Sharia law in part of north western Pakistan that is supposed to be under their control, so forget about significant co-operation from them.

Given that the Taliban are Pashtun, and their are 40 million or so Pashtun's, there is only one, on the ground military solution. Why would we want any part of that?

Talking about Canadians making significant changes is just that. Talk.

As far as admitting we have a problem is concerned, excuse me if am not elated with such revelations. Anyone with a basic knowledge of that region and it's history knew we had a problem right out of the gate. And as far as discussion is concerned, maybe I'm misunderstanding what Igg meant there, but discussion has been ongoing and intense.

Steve V said...

"but discussion has been ongoing and intense."

Where, within the two principle parties? In the media? The public? Where exactly?

Comrade One said...

Certainly among the public, some media have done very good work on this and I would hope given the gravity, among the politicos as well. Iggnatieff was there when the vote to extend the mission was taken. I assume they discussed the issues.

Steve V said...

All I've heard really is this endless 2011 debate, or lamenting the latest death, not much on what is really going on, or any discussion as to possible alternatives.

Comrade One said...

I have been involved in many online discussions on this, and have taken in a large amount of interest from others. Plus I have bored countless souls with my in depth analysis. Have discovered some very good pieces from various MSM and I recall bleeps and blurbs from party leaders as they wound their way through their political interests. Bottom line in my opinion is that utilizing a small force such as is there now, is futile. The militants are Afghan, Uzbeck's, Pakistani's, Saudi's, Azerbaijanian, Tajiks etc. To them, everyone else is foreign invaders. Left to their own devices in the absence of foreigners, they fight amongst themselves. It's that black and white. Throw in Tribal culture, mix in Religion and the fact they don't see law the same way westerners do, and the overall scale of this intervention becomes increasingly clear.

History tells us the Pashtun originated from a mix of ethnic backgrounds and have been influenced by conquerors. If we were to do this, western society could have influence, but even that would be limited as the committed tribesmen would withdraw to the areas mentioned above and continue their raids and politics from there. In fact we would enter a period of many decades of extraordinary military occupation and all of that is contingent on us not causing a regional conflict that would derail everything and quite possibly cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

That's the short version. Again I say, why would we want a part of that?

What we have seen on this so far from our political representatives is stroking America, political optics and decisions based on election timing.