Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Andrew Coyne: I Looked Into His Heart...

...and he still fucked me over.

From a recent column:

"Should we trust the Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin’s judgement that “these were code words for the end of our war mission,” that “in a year and a half, other [NATO] partners can take their turn at the combat role.”

I don’t believe it. That’s not what the Prime Minister said, and it doesn’t fit with anything else we know about him. I know he’s reversed himself before, sometimes spectacularly. But this is something that goes to his very core. I do not believe that the same man who not a month ago, on his second visit to Afghanistan, declared that “our work is not complete,” that “we cannot just put down our arms and hope for peace”, that “we can't set arbitrary deadlines and simply wish for the best,” would suddenly have decided to do just that. "

However, in today's National Post, Harper decides to do just that:

CALGARY -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday his government has no plans to prolong Canada's combat role in Afghanistan beyond its February 2009 commitment, arguing any extension would be for a new mission and contingent upon beefed-up NATO support.


"I think Canadians are expecting that if we're in Afghanistan after 2009, it would be a new mission," Harper told a Calgary radio talk show on Tuesday. "Canadians have been fairly clear that if we were to be in after 2009, that they would expect our participation to evolve in some way."

Previously, Coyne characterized the Liberal position on the mission extension as:

...the Taliban should be fought, just not by us; that our troops should be there, but not use their weapons.

All right, I’ll bite: who should fight them? Whom do the Liberals nominate to replace us, among the countries that have refused to fight thus far? The French? The Italians? How are they to be compelled to step forward, even as we retreat? The reality is that, should Canada pull out of the fighting, the gap will have to be filled by the countries that are doing it now -- the British, the Americans and the Dutch. Their mission won’t end in February 2009. Only ours will.

You might want to put that same question to Mr. Harper, Andrew. It looks like he has joined the opposition parties in, as you wrote, "undercutting" the troops.

But of course he isn't undercutting anybody. He is looking at the situation on the ground around Kandahar and, if he is like the majority of his countrymen, wondering if perhaps Canadian forces were not suckered into their current role by a U.S. administration willing to play on sentiments within the Conservative end of the Canadian political spectrum to the effect that "we" had "not done our share" by refusing to jump into the disastrous quagmire that is Gulf War II. He is probably also looking at General Rick Hillier, who has now given disastrous military advice to successive Canadian governments, and wondering how far he could be shot out of the cannon on one of those new-fangled tanks the government has purchased. But most importantly, he is looking at the polls, which represent the feelings of the people who are financing this chickenshit little war with their tax-dollars and the blood of their sons and daughters, and realizing that those people want this sad and very stupid episode brought to an end.

And, Andy, a word to you and the rest of the Conservative "hang tough" crowd. You are quite right, someone else will have to be found to replace our troops around Kandahar when the mission comes to an end. And a means of extracting our troops, and perhaps deploying them to another part of the country where they can uphold the fine tradition of Canadian peace-keeping instead of driving in circles and getting blown up in an attempt to clean up a stink made by the American Empire, will have to be effected. By rights, you and the hard line gang ought to be part of the next phase of the debate. But this is a responsibility you all seem keen to dodge, instead maintaining the position that "If I were in charge we'd fight to the last drop of somebody elses blood!"

Put bluntly, this is moral cowardice, and shames you as a Canadian.


bigcitylib said...

Yes, it is essentially abdigating responsibility to argue at this point that the only acceptable outcome is Canada staying until "the job is done". Afghan War denialism, in a sense. It leaves the tough job, of deciding what Canadian policy should be post 2009, to everybody else. Coyne and the rest of the rah rah crowd shouldn't be let off the hook beause they refuse to embrace reality.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Okay, Harper flip-flopped on income trusts, senate appointments, the environment, Quebec, the Atlantic Alliance and now, Afghanistan.

Has he become indistinguishable from the Liberals? Not yet, but...

When policy is determined according to opinion polls, I see two interpretations. Either the government is pandering to the polls or it is responding to public opinion. Really, those are the same two things - just spun differently.

Harper's use of polling would be excusable if he and his supporters hadn't been so vociferous in their denunciations of the wishy-washy, rudderless Liberals' use of polling.

It is patently obvious that Harper has changed course as a result of public opinion. What is not obvious is why.

Is it a crass grab for a majority, after which we will see an indifference to public opinion? Or, does it signal a willingness to adjust policy according to the perceived will of the people, by which we, the people, are heard?

Does it matter? If polling is accurately determining the wishes of the public and the government responds to those wishes, are we not being served democratically? Accuracy, of course, is key. Regardless of motivation, accurate polling is essential.

WRT public opinion, Harper has moved in the correct direction on the environment and on Afghanistan. His early blunders (Fortier, Emerson) were a result of failing to take public opinion into consideration. He's learning.

It remains to be seen whether his base will tolerate the flip-flops. Do conservative Conservative's have a choice -- other than to stay home on election day? Will red tories be drawn back into the CPC? Will swing voters make up for the alienated right-wing? Will Harper finally join the Liberal Party?


Anonymous said...

Think about it - Harper has to appease to get his precious majority, period.

It doesn't make sense to spend all that money for only another 18 months.

Harper will probably wangle and election prior to the deadline of 2009 commitment and if he gets a majority - we're in for the long haul. I don't believe a word Harper says now.

rabbit said...

Coyne isn't a conservative - he's more of a libertarian.

The two are often confused these days, and many liberatarians feel they have more in common with conservatives than other factions, but in reality they are very different things.

As an example, the traditional conservative attitude towards international trade is protectionist, ala Lou Dobbs. Libertarians, however, are usually strongly free trade. Indeed, they might question whether governments even have the moral right to restrict trade.

Anonymous said...

Canuckistanian, could you please repeat the reasons why Canada should be fighting in A'stan? You said it so well, it's worth repeating here.