When, in the course of her usual morning newsblitz, ITQ finds herself confronted with headlines like this, and this, and this — and especially this (that last one, the latest dispatch from Esprit de Corps’ Scott Taylor, provides a must-read counterpoint to the nearly universally fawning coverage of a certain Conservative star candidate in waiting that surfaced last week) — she can’t help but recall that April 2007 day that the NDP teamed up with the Conservatives to defeat a Liberal motion — introduced by Denis Coderre, and seconded by one Michael Ignatieff — that would have seen Canada’s military role end, as originally scheduled, in February 2009.
At the time, the NDP argued that two more years was too years too long — a position that was, to be fair, consistent with the party’s longstanding position on Afghanistan. But how, one can’t help but wonder, might subsequent events have unfolded had they decided to vote with the other opposition parties, and the motion was passed by the House?
Would the prime minister still have set up an independent panel on the future of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan later that year? What would its terms of reference have been, and would the eventual findings have been different? Would the Conservatives and the Liberals have been able to agree on a compromise motion that would extend the mission for an additional two years?
She also can’t help but think of what that panel heard from Canadians two years ago, when it invited them to share their thoughts on Canada’s current and future role in Afghanistan — not, that is, much of what they told him made it into the final report, of course, as ITQ pointed out at the time.
The full collection of submissions to the panel is no longer available online — the official panel website has long since been lost to domain squatters. But rereading even the excerpts that appeared in ITQ’s original summary brings on a haunting sense of — not quite deja vu, and pretty much the exact opposite of 20/20 hindsight. Whether writing from the perspective of the retired military officer, the peace activist or even just as a concerned Canadian, nearly all those who took part in the process seemed to have a more realistic grasp of what was at stake in Afghanistan, what the cost might be — and, most significantly, the likelihood that the then (and, for the most part, still) current strategy would eventually lead to success.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s something to the idea of the metawisdom of crowds after all.