I hesitate to write about this, because everyone else will, but the Tories have arranged a debate on Wednesday with the goal of authorizing a two year extension to our Afghanistan mission. On one level this sickens me, because the result will be that Canadian Troops will be dying in an unwinnable war (unwinnable for reasons given here and elsewhere) for at least another two to three years. On another level, its clever politics, an example of The Tories playing the opposition parties against one another, because while I can imagine the NDP coming down against an extension, and maybe the Bloc, Harper only needs one of the three parties on side to secure the vote, and in this case the Libs will provide.
A quick look at the political winners and losers, in descending order:
1) The big winner is obviously Harper and the Tories. Their political base wants a war, especially a war in service of their U.S. masters, and now we are committed for another two years.
2) Next on the list of winners is the Tory political base. In Alberta, for example, Canada's refusal to join in the Iraq invasion was widely blamed for the banning of Beef exports to the U.S. after BSE was discovered. Now that we'll be trading kids for cows, our cattle farmers will (they believe) be able to sell any number of skanky steaks to our Southern neighbors. Also, though the Tory base gets its war lets face it, no terrorist can even locate Mushaboo or Calgary on a map, and if they could there's nothing really to blow up but the SaddleDome and a lot of wheatfields. So they get their war, their chance to wave flags and call those opposed to the war cowards, and Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver get to eat any Al Qaeda bombs that go off in response. A perfect situation, really, cheerleading from a farmhouse thousands of miles away from the front line.
3) The Libs, who I am betting will vote to support the extension, get to put the issue behind them, which works because they snuck our forces into Afghanistan in the first place and feel that to reverse their position now would be politically unmanly. On the other hand, how this will improve their position in Quebec, where opposition to the mission is strongest, is beyond me. It will also upset a large portion of their political base (like me), who see the genesis of the mission as being an attempt at appeasing the States, and who see the whole mission (correctly) as being determined by events on the U.S. political calendar and, therefore, doomed to failure. On the other hand, consultants have told the Libs that the votes leading back into power lie in rural Canada, and so this helps them suck up to the hicks out in the farmbelt.
4) I imagine the Bloc and NDP will come down against the extension of the mission, but will it do them any good? For myself, I admire the NDP's standing on principle (as usual), but they still have a snowball's chance in hell of ever forming the government, and even after an open display of Liberal gutlessness (which is what I am sure we will see Wednesday), I would still be in a position where I wouldn't want to throw away a vote on the Dippers. As for the Bloc, apparently they don't have an official position on the Afghanistan mission, but I can't see them alienating their own supporters by voting in favor.
All interesting politics. Terrible for the country, however.