Stephen Harper, Feb. 21. “Well, I think a lot of people in the past have been suggesting that, you know, victory is the complete defeat of the insurgency and the replacement of a failed state in Afghanistan with a modern liberal democracy. I don’t think that’s realistic. I think what we should be aiming for in Afghanistan is a viable state that respects, you know, obviously some democratic norms, but I think ultimately the insurgency will last a long time. Afghanistan, through most of its history has been an untamed country. So I think the idea we’re going to wipe out an insurgency is completely unrealistic.”

Stephen Harper, Mar. 1. “We’re not going to win this war just by staying. We’re not going to — in fact, my own judgment, Fareed, is, quite frankly, we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency. Afghanistan has probably had — my reading of Afghanistan history, it’s probably had an insurgency forever, of some kind. What has to happen in Afghanistan is, we have to have an Afghan government that is capable of managing that insurgency and improving its own governance.”

Barack Obama, today. “I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you … to defeat an enemy that heeds no borders or laws of war, we must recognize the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan … There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated … we will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future.”



  1. Harper was referring to insurgents, in general. Obama was referring to al Qaeda terrorists. There’s a difference.

    • well, that is def how Harper would explain the the chasm anyways.

      • Geez! I thought it was pretty clear Harper was/is saying: No we can’t, it’s too hard. And Obama was/is saying: Yes we can! and must defeat them! The difference between the two men is clear.

  2. What is the difference you are trying to point out about “defeat” in any of those statements?

    One is talking about a general insurgent nature of the country (Harpers) while Obama is talking about a specific enemy, Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda, Taliban and general “insurgency” are three separate issues which feed into eachother. Al Qaeda is a specific platform with international goals, the Taliban is a lose-knit group with religious beliefs with a quest for national control, and the general insurgents consist of unemployed and/or druglords needing an infusion of cash for illegal smuggling activities.

    Harper is trying to say that the country is stuck in the dark ages, and needs help to modernize and take care of itself. Obama is talking about defeating a specific enemy. In Harper’s discussion “to win” means to create a stable government that can handle itself. In Obama’s discussion “defeat” of Al Qaeda means the removal of Al Qaeda as a global threat and power-player in the region as a whole.

    If you wanted to point out the difference in strategies of Afghanistan, that’s one thing. I think what Canada wants, and what Obama wants, are likely two separate issues. But if you’re aim is to point out that Harper said you can’t defeat “insurgency” while Obama said you can, then I think you’re missing the boat and oversimplifying a complicated issue.

    I’m really tired of pundits trying to make lame pot-shots at Harper.

    • “I’m really tired of pundits trying to make lame pot-shots at Harper.”

      I read this as more of a potshot at Obama.

  3. Well, if you think it is tough to be nuanced about this sort of stuff in Canada, try it in the States! Obama would get crucified for promising anything less, regardless of what he and his advisers may recognize a a reasonable outcome.

  4. A glaring difference is that the US has the military might and diplomatic heft to try this stuff. It will either make things better for somebody or make things worse for everybody. Who knows ?

    But Canada’s days are numbered one way or another ….


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