Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Vote Shopping In Canuckistan, part 2

Use your brain not your back use your brain not a gat
It's a party not a jack(for real)
Don't be scared of them people
Walk up in there and show them that you equal
--Ice Cube
Today I am reviewing the Liberal Party's foreign policy at their website.

Not much to go by, if you review the site, so here are some basics from a policy paper regarding our responsibility within NATO in Afghanistan.

Regarding the mission:
The Liberal Party believes that Canada, together with other members of the United Nations,should remain committed to the people of Afghanistan beyond February 2009. We believe Canada and the rest of the world have an obligation to the people of Afghanistan, to assist them in their ongoing efforts to create a stable, secure and functioning democracy. But we also believe that it is the Afghan people and government that bear the fundamental responsibility for the achievement of this objective.
Fair enough. Canada has pulled its weight.
Nor has there been any candid assessment by the Canadian government of the fact that Afghanistan has now become a virtual “narco‐economy,” with most estimates putting the contribution of the poppy and heroin trade to the GDP at over 50 percent. This reality points to another enormous challenge to democracy in the country, and that is corruption. Again, our own government has chosen not to discuss this difficult reality in any assessment of the prospects for success of the current mission.

This lack of information, realism, and candour is a fundamental flaw in our current approach. Support for the current mission is painted in terms of patriotism, support for our troops, and the notion that nothing but military force will succeed in the so‐called war on terrorism. Canada has paid a price for this simplistic approach, and we hope that the panel will not persist in painting the choices in these ways. There has to be a change by Canada, and a change by NATO, if we are to be successful.

A large portion of this document is quite pessimistic on the chances of Afghanistan's chances on becoming a functioning state. It could be, but given what happened the last time this part of the world was left to its own devices, is it not worth the risk?

This battle is not confined simply to a local failed state, and this Liberal party document does not seem to acknowledge that there is a wider element in play here, beyond simply local Hindu Kush politics. Where do you think the Al-Qaeda and Taliban elements originate from? Where are their sources of money? We can discuss the inability of the Afghans to form a government, I suppose, but is this because of the Afghans? Are they the sole issue here? This policy document appears to suggest it is true.

"Apres Moi, le deluge" - King Louis, XVI

There is a further need for accountability, both to Parliament and to the Canadian people. There is little knowledge in Canada about the history and politics of Afghanistan, of the political tensions that currently exist, or of the choices that must be made by the Afghan political structure to improve the current situation.
Well, I think we have enough understanding to note what big picture is, but thank you for assuming our ignorance. Which Saguenay born minister edited this?

Here's something of positive to note in here:
Membership in NATO has been an important element in Canada’s foreign policy, which allows us to exert a greater influence on global affairs than our size might otherwise dictate. We cannot pretend that we can force success solely by “staying the course” in Afghanistan. Due to the extraordinary work of the men and women of the CF over the past decade, particularly in Afghanistan itself, Canada’s influence within NATO may never have been as high as it currently is. We must not squander the opportunity our troops have provided us – we must show the courage to push for the needed reforms in NATO itself.
Right off the bat, they recognize that our involvement in NATO is a vehicle for positive reform within the organization. This is the pragmatism of a governing party, and good on the Liberals for recognizing that.
Finally, the Government of Canada must immediately address the question of the transfer by the CF of detainees to Afghan authorities. The reality that these detainees face a credible risk of torture following transfer can no longer be brushed aside as Taliban propaganda. Continuing to turn a blind eye to this problem harms the international reputation of Canada. Canada must call for an immediate NATO‐wide solution that ensures detainees are not transferred into a situation where they could face torture. This may require the construction and maintenance of NATO holding facilities completely under the control and supervision of NATO personnel.
There must be constant monitoring and tracking of detainees to ensure that they are never subject to abuse.
Good. But asking that this be rectified only to save our reputation isn't good enough. It's wrong, period, not "It's wrong because someone might find out."

Ok, so the bottom line is:
The Canadian combat mission in Kandahar was never intended to be a life‐long effort, or even a ten year commitment. It was always intended to be part of a wider NATO and UN commitment to working with the Afghan government. Rotation and change should not be seen as “abandonment” but simply as an assertion of a standard operating practice of both NATO and the UN. To say that the combat mission should conclude in 2009 will send an important signal to the world that we are prepared to do our part, but insist on others sharing in these burdens, and that it is Canada’s view that greater emphasis has to be placed on improving the political and economic context in which the Afghan engagement is taking place. No one will listen to this view unless we make it clear that our words will be followed by action.

True. And I believe Harper actually listened to them on this front by declaring that Canadians would begin pulling out if other NATO members did not chip in, and lo and behold France got its act together and decided to put up one thousand more troops for the Kandhahar mission.

Essentially, the Liberals would be happy if we could rotate out of the battle lines of the southern front and give other nations a kick at the can. Politically, other NATO nations do not want that option but they should perhaps have a good talk with the electorate about international responsbilities.

[Side rant: Some European nations (we won't name names) have had a long holiday from international sacrifice and responsibilities after being a long term collective defense shell. Like Japan. This gives them a chance at moral respectability without actual responsibility, and this opportunity should have ended in 1989. Better late then never.]

Anyways, I'm a little off topic, but there it is. I am impressed with the paper written here. It is insightful, generally interesting, and pragmatic. I do not agree with everything here, but I respect the viewpoint expressed.

Mind you, this is the only real foreign policy document I could find (besides this speech by Dion regarding Afghanistan which reiterates the points above), so I really don't know what the Liberals have in mind once they get back in power.

I do not have enough information to make a recommendation as to what the Liberals are doing so I leave it open.

Liberal Party - Your Foreign Policy is _______(?)
You lose by defaulting on the playing field of information.

...What are they thinking? Next election, try putting policy on the web for people to read and evaluate.

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