Demanding a pullout in 2007 may not be a feasible option at this point, given that we are already halfway through 2006, but I think Bob Rae does the Liberal Party a useful service by laying out the choice for the other leadership candidates: do we organize an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan in accordance with our own national interests ASAP, or do we drive around Kandahar getting shot at for the next god knows how many years until the Americans tell us to go home?
Specifically, Mr. Rae says:
While [Mr. Rae] supports the current mission, he believes that when the combat component expires in 2007, it should not be renewed, and that we have made our contribution with respect to combat," said spokesman Alex Swann.
He added that Mr. Rae believes Canada should focus its military, aid and diplomatic resources on reconstruction and rebuilding Afghanistan.
We should ensure we understand whether any such efforts affect our ability to contribute to resolving other troubling situations, such as in Darfur," Mr. Swann said.
Now, this is the National Post we are talking about, so they are eager to play up the "Liberals Divided" angle:
The issue is already evolving into a defining one for the party. Some Liberals say their leadership choice is now limited to Mr. Ignatieff or Scott Brison, the only two candidates who voted to extend the current mission, while a number of caucus members have said privately they cannot now vote for Mr. Ignatieff, the perceived front-runner.
And it is true that the Liberals are divided on the issue: into a very large group, broadly representative of Canada as a whole, and a much smaller group that stands on the Right of the party and feels that the way back into power is to offer the nation Conservative Lite. In fact, the 67/24 split vote in Parliament on the extension of the mission, with Bill Graham and Iggy and Scott Brison et. al. in the minority helping to prop up the Harper government, probably over-states the amount support within the party's rank and file. Certainly, Michael Ignatieff is out of step with his Toronto constituents.
And Libs should remember, this minority is from the same wing of the party that gave us Turner and Martin--a parade of losers in other words. The party should choose somebody who is willing to buck U.S pressure and bring the soldiers home, and tell these people to get back in line.
(In fact, after the disaster that was the Paul Martin government, this bunch should be offering to wait tables and sweep floors at the leadership convention)