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September 02, 2006

The Loneliest Multilateralist, or, The NDP's Vision for Canada

As I understand it, Jack Layton's position on Afghanistan is essentially this:

Item #1: We will pull the troops out of Afghanistan by February 2007 at the absolute latest.

Item #2: Having publicized Item #1, we will undertake negotiations with all parties, including the Taliban.

This will appeal to the squeamish corners of the Canadian left, I'm sure: war is bad, after all, and Canada is good. Ergo, Canada should not fight wars. Layton is probably aware of the logical deficiencies in his position, chief among them the laughable idea of Taliban insurgents negotiating with an already-fleeing military force. But the far left long ago resolved itself to ignoring state-sanctioned torture and subjugation of women when they're practiced by medieval theocracies that can only be removed by force.

But the status-of-women angle wouldn't be the most odious thing about sitting down with the Taliban. Canada didn't go to Afghanistan to free its women and girls — that was just a happy side effect. Canada went to Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban. No one ever said it would be quick, easy, or painless. Indeed, Jean Chrétien said exactly the opposite right from the start. Of course it's difficult-to-impossible to pursue humanitarian work with Taliban insurgents running around, but that's not the point. The mission wasn't to rebuild Afghanistan; it was to rebuild Afghanistan after destroying the Taliban. Layton is essentially proposing that we conditionally surrender to a bunch of illiterate, woman-hating yahoos that once comprised perhaps the most despicable government on earth. It is incumbent upon him to explain why the hell we would do that.

Other random notes on Layton's position:

Andrew Coyne:

Leave aside what there is to negotiate with the Taliban. (Perhaps we'll only stone some of the homosexuals to death? Every third school to be burnt to the ground?) Is it to be imagined that they would be content with a share of power, a portion of the territory? The most extreme exponents of an apocalyptically extremist sect, a movement absolutely devoted to the absolute necessity of absolute rule, in which the church-state regulates everyday life down to the most insignificant detail? That Taliban?

▪ I find myself amazed at Layton's idea that Canada is "blindly following the defence policy prescriptions of the Bush administration." Canada's international partners in Afghanistan, whom Layton proposes to leave holding the bag, are as follows: Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland — Switzerland, for Christ's sake! — Turkey and the United Kingdom.

If we're blindly following Bush in Afghanistan, then so is pretty much the entire western world, including five countries that are officially neutral. Or maybe there's nothing blind about it. We didn't go to Iraq, after all, along with many other nations. And it's worth noting that 13 of the countries mentioned above lost at least one citizen in the September 11 attacks.

UPDATE: The NDP has launched a petition: "Support our troops. Bring 'em home." That's what it's called, anyway, and that's Layton's position, but the text of the petition calls only for the "withdrawal of Canadian Forces from the counter-insurgency mission in southern Afghanistan". Is this just bad writing, or is Layton going to back off his "leave the Afghans to their own devices" position somewhat?

Over at McClelland's Asylum, "Raging Ranter" comments thusly:

After the troops come home, we call upon the Government of Canada to redploy them to:
A) Lebanon
B) Darfur
C) Both Lebanon and Darfur

For reasons unclear even to us, we believe that our troops will somehow be safer in these locations, and have much clearer objectives, criteria for progress, definition of success and exit strategies. We have no idea why we feel this way, we just do.

I enjoyed that immensely.

Posted by Chris Selley at September 2, 2006 06:28 PM

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My girlfriend lost here only son on 9/11. He (a Canadian recently living in the U.S. because of a new job) was at a breakfast meeting on the 106th floor. He left behind his young wife and 2 young children. These are the only family she has left because her husband died a few years prior of cancer.

Now, I don't think she'd appreciate it if Canada didn't get involved with dealing with those responsible.

Layton, what can I say, should step down as leader and keep running around in tie-dye shirts at protest rallys.

He doesn't seem to comrehend the different world we live in today. It is not the 70's "make love not war". This is a new (horrible) world and your enemy hasn't got the nerve and guts to stand across from you to fight.

Posted by: Sandi at September 2, 2006 07:09 PM

I think you and Coyne have become confused about what negotiations really mean. You two have obviously begun to believe in Harper's definition that negotiation means capitulation (see: softwood lumber deal). But in the real world and to the NDP, negotiations do not mean capitulation so the idiocy that they'd end up producing some sort of agreement with the Taliban where only every third school is burnt to the ground is childishly absurd.

The absurdity of your shared position is further exposed by recent events in the Middle East. A ceasefire was negotiated between Israel and Hezbollah. Did the powers who negotiated the deal end up giving Hezbollah permission to lob rockets at Israeli towns only on odd numbered days? Obviously not, so why do you think negotiations with the Taliban would produce such an absurd deal?

Other than that, what deluded thinking leads you to believe that talking is a bad thing?

I think you need to refrain from any further involvement at the Western Stunned Herd, Mr. Selley. Their shared dementia is clearly contagious.

Posted by: Robert McClelland at September 2, 2006 09:25 PM

hey robert,

do you think israel preficed its peace negotations with a plan to immediately withdraw all its troops from lebanon?

jus' askin', is all.

Posted by: optimuscrime at September 2, 2006 11:37 PM

Uhh.. isn't the current Afghani "government" the same one that was set to try a man for death because he wanted to give up Islam and convert to Christianity? Yep.
It's the same one that's overseen a massive increase in heroin production too.

These are the *guys* you're rooting for?

You're a jackass.

Posted by: podbert at September 3, 2006 05:15 AM

I'm having issues with the new position myself, but its clear the mission is floundering and moving in the wrong direction. One only needs to have read "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll to realize that we should be doing something to help stabalize Afghanistan and to help the people there. In the long term that will be good for all of us. But I fail to see how imitating the the strategy and tatics of the US in Iraq and Viet Nam will accomplish that. Either we do it right, with measurable goals and the ability to know when we have finished, or we get out. Sadly we don't have that right now.

So we are there without a plan, with no measurable goals supporting a government with dubious values and members. Our fighting is actively being undercut by a supposed "Ally" - Pakistan is making deals with Taliban and pro-Taliban militias, allowing them to concentrate on attacking ur guys (Gosh, no wonder they haven't caught Bin Laden yet). And we are losing troops weekly in all this.

Does this at all sound familar? I read this stuff and keep hearing the words Viet Nam, Cambodia and Iraq in my head. Battle without a plan is a quagmire and we don't need that.

I really don't want to side with Layton an my party on this, but unless the strategy and methodology of the mission change, I will have to, because I support the mission, but not as it is currently being carried out.

Posted by: Mike at September 3, 2006 10:31 AM

An effective Opposition Leader (he's not Leader of the Oppostion, I know) should be calling for a new, better, more effective and surer strategy to success. I'm worried about Afghanistan, and I don't want it to fail.

Layton should be laying out a detailed plan to succeed, or demanding a plan to succeed. This is hammy and amateur and he is making a fool of himself and the NDP. If they had any principles right now, they would have him kidnapped.

Posted by: Jason B. Green at September 3, 2006 11:31 AM

An effective Opposition Leader (he's not Leader of the Oppostion, I know) should be calling for a new, better, more effective and surer strategy to success.

The NDP tried that route when they forced two debates on the issue in Parliament. Unfortunately, the Conservatives treated both like a joke, refusing to answer any of the tough questions and opting for empty jingoism instead. Jack is absolutely right to force this issue and only proponents of one party banana states who think every party should think alike would disagree.

Posted by: Robert McClelland at September 3, 2006 01:11 PM

It's staggering to think that anyone believes "democracy" could be forced upon people. It's quaint and ever so "PC" to suggest it's being done to give women their rights while ignoring the hugely complex tribal and ethnic *realities* that have existed since the beginning of civilization proper.
Map drawing and wandering tribes don't mix.
Grow up. Deal with it. Jeebus, even Robert Kaplan could have told you that.
Besides all this, what rights could be enjoyed by people who cant read? What sort of voting ballot would you present to them? If they're as "alert a citizenry" as our neighbours to the south, what sort of zealous thugs do you think they'll come up with?
Anyone who wants to give the gift of FREE DUMB better have a handy guide to which flavour of FREE DUMB based 'guvment they're throwing around. Will it be the electronically driven shenanigans of good old boy USA? Or perhaps the "religious event" miracles to be seen in the recent Mexican victory?
It's easy-breezy to mock and deride restraint nowadays, but to suggest that we (or you Mr. Silly) know better is an effort to "save them" is ludicrous.
Don't believe me?
Well the next time you see someone treating their children in a way that "bothers' you, why not run over and tell them how they're supposed to treat their kids. Feel "free" to enforce your "righteousness' any way you deem necessary.
We'll wait for you to file your blog from the hospital and have a good laugh at your expense.
Because you know what?
You should have just minded your own damned business.

Posted by: podbert at September 3, 2006 03:38 PM

I think that post 9/11, invading Afghanistan was mandatory. To me, it had less to do with "spreading democracy" than "getting Bin Laden", a venture which went sadly off the rails.

Posted by: Jason B. Green at September 4, 2006 02:48 PM


I think the NDP has gotten itself mixed up on this one. There is nothing wrong with what the government is trying to accomplish in Afghanistan (elimination of the Taliban). The problem is with their plan, better known as no plan.

You mention that the NDP pushed for more explanations from the government regarding a plan. Good. What the NDP should do now is find new ways to force the government to put forth a winning strategy for Afghanistan. I don't know how this is done, since I'm not a politician, but I'm sure they do.

I don't think pushing a pullout from Afghanistan accomplishes this goal, and I think that is why the NDP is looking rather foolish on this issue.

Posted by: lk at September 4, 2006 06:29 PM

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