According to Monday's G&M, Michael Ignatieff was the only one of 11 Liberal leadership candidates to mention Afghanistan at this weekend's shindig in Toronto. Unfortunately, he said all the wrong things:
"We have got to be the party that stands for human rights everywhere, that does the tough lifting when it has to be done," Mr. Ignatieff told the crowd of about 1,500. "You ask us to do something hard and difficult and we can do it. We're doing it in Afghanistan. It's in the greatest tradition of our country and that's the kind of country we want."
My general reaction to hearing the words "Afghanistan" and "human rights" used together in the same paragraph is to get ready for some projectile vomiting, and I am so glad that, at least according to leadership candidate Joe Volpe, Mr. Ignatieff's comments "didn't go over well" with the Liberal delegates:
"There was a deafening silence in the room. There wasn't much of an uptake on the robustness of Canada's disposition, because the robustness of Canada's approach isn't matched by the robustness of the [public] support."
However, I think the Libs are going to have to start talking about the Afghan mission pretty soon and, crass as it seems, weigh the political pros and cons of staying the course as opposed to ending our participation in that country's occupation.
Obviously, I think Iggy's claim that the military must not be allowed to become "a symbol of the Conservative Party" is alot of baloney, a sign that he does not understand the country he wishes to lead, but how should the Libs be positioning themselves?
Since the next round of decisions re. carrying on vs. withdrawing from the mission will be made early in 2007 (February I think, but I will confirm that after a couple of coffees), the correct Liberal Party position is that these decisions will be made via a vote in Parliament. This should be a minimal consensus that the whole party can rally behind, as it is pretty clearly the majority view in the country as a whole and, I suspect, would even be supported by a fair number of Tory voters.
What ought to happen on the occasion of that vote, I am not yet prepared to say. However, the most likely scenario for Afghanistan over the course of the next year is that the situation there continues to deteriorate. Should this be the case I think there will be very little support in the country for pressing on and, if Harper wishes to extend our military commitments in the area, he should do so without Liberal assistance.