Friday, February 22, 2008

Good Politics and Good Policy -- Harper on Afghanistan

Sorry Jarrett and Brandon, but I completely disagree, I think this is an extremely smart move by Harper. Of course it's good politics, as you agree, but I think it's good policy too.


What this brought to my mind was Stephen Harper's strategic error three years ago (!) now: seeing a Liberal budget which catered to a couple of Conservative priorities, Harper announced he was happy with the Liberal budget. Which, of course, led to the inference that, if even Stephen Harper is happy with Liberal governance, why would anyone vote for Stephen Harper when a vote for the Liberals gave the best of all worlds?

I think this move will differ from the budget one. Harper's image to the public, even to myself, is bully-like. Don't get me wrong, he's really smart politically, and I like that he doesn't make theatrics and yelling in question period like Dion does; however, the public isn't stupid and the media frame his demeanour to be very manipulative and aggressive.

Take a look at this NP article,

It's a bit odd how a usually-defiant Stephen Harper allowed Liberal nemesis Stephane Dion to ghost write his most pressing foreign affairs decision, but that either proves how determined his government is to avoid an Afghanistan referendum wrapped in an election or how laughably far the Liberals have caved to spoon with the Tory position.

He’s showing Canadians that he is capable of compromise wanting to make a minority government work, which makes re-electing the conservatives more appealing. It’s adding to the score of who is making minority government work, without having to go to the NDP or Bloc.


If any of our NATO allies were to take on our burden in Afghanistan, great. Our combat troops would then be in position to leave with honour. But as far as I understand it, the Liberal amendment the PM intends to adopt would end that mission regardless of whether or not that happens. And that, in my humble opinion, "would squander our investment and dishonour our sacrifice"

It is my understanding that this is not an end date for the mission in Afstan, it's an end-date to be in Kandahar and the volatile south end of the country. Actually what will happen in 2011 is still up for interpretation:

The troops and their equipment will either be relocated north into safer provinces or out of the country entirely by the end of 2011. That next destination requires someone to interpret a clause stating there shall be a "redeployment of Canadian Forces troops out of Kandahar" which neglects to clarify if that means all of Afghanistan.

And by 2011:

What makes both motions worth less than the paper they're printed on is that four years represents an eternity in military deployments and minority government lifespans. By the time Canada starts its sixth year in Kandahar in 2011, one of the two national parties could have a majority mandate for the prime minister to do as he or she damn well pleases in military matters.

Good policy is what’s good for the country and the people in it, both in Canada and Afghanistan. Dion wanted troops out immediately, then he wanted by 2009. Now we’re getting until 2011, but with Liberal wording. Good policy is also having our politicians actually agree and compromise instead of the childish partisan bickering that does nothing for our country, and turns people off from politics entirely.

In Canada we can barely get 2/3 of our eligible citizens to vote, most people rather watch American Idol than Question Period, and few people are reading books and reading fluffy celebrity “news”. But yet, we want to transform another country into a democracy, so that they have the same rights and freedoms as us. Don’t get me wrong, having women go to school and a farmers not be terrorized by gangs (Taliban) is a noble cause, it just seems every Canadian has an opinion about what they think we should do if Afghanistan, but they take for granted the rights and freedoms that we’re fighting for over there. Sure, we have that freedom to not care, but contributing to society should include an engaged and informed citizenry. You can’t engage citizenry when politics is full of name-calling theatrics and partisan games.

We certainly have done our fair share in the south region compared to our NATO allies who prefer the less violent/combat regions. It’s time for other countries to step up to the plate. And, we have to be honest with ourselves. Does our Canadian military in its current form have the logistics to carry out this mission to the best of its ability? Coming from a military family on both maternal and paternal side and having spent several years in army cadets, I do not believe I speak ignorantly on this issue. For crying out loud our soldiers first went out there in greens! Over the years of this mission we've gained respect and experience in the region and I know it’s probably not politically correct to say, but had our military had better equipment, could any of the soldier deaths been prevented? That is the elephant in the room.

Good policy admits and accepts that we did the best we can with what we have. Being present in Afghanistan with trained soldiers and good, but not having the enough of right equipment is bad policy. Harper has been good to increase the military spending that was severely cut in the 1990s. But we won’t see many changes for at least five years because it takes time before our contracts delivery equipment like our own helicopters. In addition,

Highlighting the Government’s commitment to rebuilding the military and Canada’s long-standing tradition as a reliable partner and ally in the quest for global security, the Prime Minister announced that the Government has decided to set aside stable and predictable funding for this plan by increasing the automatic annual increase in defence spending from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent, beginning in 2011-12. This increase will be reflected in the fiscal framework.

Who knows who will be in power and if it will be minority/majority in 2011. Sure funding may increase then (that is, if conservatives are still in power), but by the time we can acquire new (I mean already used and hopefully not falling apart) equipment we still won’t see the effects of our rebuilt military until 2015! From what I remember of reading Granatstein’s new book last year, I think he also wants us to withdraw sooner rather than long-term to rebuild until we get to the point where we can really be of assistance (don’t quote me on that though, it’s been almost a year since I read the book).

Canada will have honour and pride when her military does not need to issue an ultimatum to NATO or have the ability without begging her allies to help Canadian citizens out when a war breaks out and our PM uses his own private plan to fly people back to Canada, when we couldn’t charter air and sea transport from other countries fast enough.


Blogger Nicol DuMoulin said...

I agree with you. Politics is about optics and Harper knows that perception is everything.

This why I also believe he was right to not touch the issue of Human Rights Tribunals. Even though I am very much opposed to them and am a free speech libertarian, I think those conservatives and bloggers who are pushing for him to act are wrong.

Harper will be very hard to judge as a conservative PM until he has a majority. Until then, he has to do as best he can to be a conservative but also compromise. That's what a minority is about. The only reason why the Liberals could do the opposite is due to the NDP. He does not have this luxury.

He also makes it harder for Dion to differentiate himself and the Liberal brand. This is why Harper is smart.

Good analysis!

Fri Feb 22, 01:00:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jarrett said...

Du choc des idées jaillit la lumière, to use a proberb literally...

Sat Feb 23, 12:15:00 AM EST  
Blogger Justin said...

I think having Parliament debate military deployments isn't necessary and turns it into politics. I suppose partly because of the fact that it's a minority parliament is why he's forced to do it.

It should be the government's decision for precisely the reason that has come up again and again, by debating it you're putting the troops in danger etc.. It’s an argument which politicizes the military's involvement.

I think no debate in parliament is necessary.

But I do think Harper's reaching out looked good on him; maybe he should try it more often.

Although it was pretty funny to have Peter Mckay talking compromise, and then a little while later making partisan attacks again..

Fri Feb 29, 08:38:00 AM EST  

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