Sunday, October 08, 2006

Some Thoughts on Support for Afghanistan

There's something that I really haven't understood: why is there this general perecetion that the dominant position of the Liberal Party is that it does not support the Afghan position? Most MPs didn't vote in favour of continuing the mission (though admitedly there were other factors), and Ignatieff and Brison are seen as virtual outsiders in their support of continuing the mission. Especially in the blogs, so many people seem to be not only calling for a withdrawl from Afghanistan, but also asserting that that's the way forward for the Liberal Party. My question is, why?

Liberals began this mission. Chrétien began it; Martin continued it. Why, now that Harper is in power, would we be opposed to Afghanistan? I know that we're in opposition, but that doesn't mean opposing every single piece of legislation that comes before us. Hell, the Bloc supported over 85% of the legislation that came through the Liberal-dominated legislature when we were in government. A good idea doesn't became a bad idea just because bad guys are in support of that idea.

So, is it politics? Are we opposed to it because we think it'll bring us more votes? I really don't think so.

Support for the Afghan mission is up significantly from its low in the summer; it now sits, according to that poll, around 57% in late September. That means that only 43% of the population is against the war. But most committed NDPers (17.5% of the vote in the last election) are against the war, and they won't vote Liberal even if we advocate an immediate withdrawl. Same for the Bloc, who scored another 10.5% of the vote. Same for the Greens, who scored another 5% of the vote. Even assuming that some of the people who voted the latter two parties DO support the mission in Afghanistan, it's probably the case that of the 43% of Canadians against the war, 25-30% of them are solidly tied up in supporting other parties. What that means is that over half of Liberals support the mission in Afghanistan.

And, if you buy the arguments I (and others) have made earlier about moving to the centre-right instead of the left, there are a lot more gains to be made by supporting the war in Afghanistan than by opposing it.

In any event, this wasn't meant to be a question of whether it's objectively good that we're in Afghanistan (which I also happen to think it is). This is a question of what's good politics, and what makes sense given our (Liberals') past positions. Contrary to popular wisdom, I think both of those questions should be answered with continued support for the war.


Blogger Koby said...

1) The nature of mission changed when Martin stupidly let hot head Hiller talk him into relocating Canadian troops from Kabul to Kandahar. This should have come as no surprise; Martin had arguably the worst political instincts of any Prime Minister in history.

2) The actual mission did change

3) Generally, nation building is a dumb idea, but in the face of insurgency it is pure idiocy. Western powers have no magic formula for developing their own hinterlands let alone one for one of the most backward places on earth. Add to this the fact that NATO troops are not nearly numerous enough and that there is no political will to send more. 20,000 NATO troops are not going to be able to police a population of over 30 million people in a country that is larger than France. Add to this the fact heroin accounts for 50% of GDP and the fact that insurgents have a secure bass of operations inside Pakistan and endless supply of willing recruits there.

4) Yes you are right; the Liberal leadership candidates are not opposed to the Afghanistan mission. 2 openly back the mission and the rest are waiting to find out which way the wind is blowing. I have come to accept such political ineptness from the Liberals, but I was surprised that the Bloc and Happy Jack where so slow to realize what a political loser the Afghan mission was.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Koby said...

As for the poll, most polls show a decline in support and not an uptake. In a recent poll 60% of respondents said the Afghan mission was a lost cause.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Anonymous Liberal said...

Regarding the polls, that's simply not true. Support bottomed out in the middle of the summer, and it's been climbing steadily as Harper has been trying to convince Canadians that it's a good idea. If you don't believe me, read the link in my original blog.

Regarding the rest of what you said (especially 3), while I wasn't looking for a debate on the merits of the Afghan mission, I'm perfectly willing to engage that.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty aspects or questioning some of your facts, I'll first just ask a question: what's the alternative?

I agree that the mission has problems. I agree that the likelihood of success in the short/medium-term is low. I agree that the mission will produce a lot of deaths. And I agree that, as it is, the mission is barely keeping its head above the water.

But despite all of that, a Canadian pull-out is an even worse idea. Right now, NATO forces are providing some degree of stability and, at least in urban centres like Kabul and Kandahar, life, especially for women, is quite a bit better. If NATO leaves, it becomes an even bigger disaster, with the Taliban reemerging and re-setting up what was the MOST oppressive regime in world.

The mission may be terrible and have problems, but a departure would allow for the rapid creation of a fundamentalist religious state where fundamental human rights (especially women's rights) are not respected and that will certainly once again be used as a breeding ground for terrorist groups.

What's your plan for ensuring that that doesn't happen? Or are you ok with the Taliban taking over?

12:41 AM  
Blogger Koby said...

Only one Angus Reid polls shows a significant uptake in support and it follows on the hills of a much larger Decima polls which suggested that up to 60% of Canadians think that the mission is a lost cause. Most of the polls I have seen over the last number of months put support for the mission at between 45-50 percent. Support for the mission is generally strongest in Alberta, the Maritimes and in rural Canada. On the flip side of things, opposition is strongest in Quebec, and in urban areas. Politically the Liberals could take a hit in Maritimes, but that would be more than offset by just Quebec, where the mission is a clear loser.

There is no chance that the Taliban could regain control of the reigns of power in Kabul. Indeed, it is one thing to wage a guerilla campaign against the world's strongest military power and its allies; it is quite another to take control of the reigns of power when the US et al opposes that you do so. 911 gave the US Carte Blanche to stay in Afghanistan until the end of time and that is exactly what it is going to do in one form or another. The musings of Fist notwithstanding, it would be political suicide for a US administration to allow the Taliban to take over the reigns of power in Kabul. That said, it is possible, check that likely, that an agreement will be reached where by NATO agrees to pull back and seed de facto control to whoever is strong enough to control the south. The British have already started doing this. The only thing standing in the way is Harper’s sizeable ego.

12:51 PM  

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