Prime Minister Ignatieff


From his scrum yesterday, the Liberal leader explains why we’re staying in Afghanistan for another three years.

Let’s get back to first principles.  Why are we taking this decision?  Because the only reason Canada is there is to help Afghanistan defend itself.  What is not credible about the Bloc and the NDP is they say we don’t want to abandon Afghanistan.  We want to make sure that Afghanistan is secure and safe.  But they’re not willing to do anything that the Afghans actually want which is to train their army to be able to defend the country.  We think this is a tough decision but it’s the right decision as a matter of principle …

We feel that this is a position that actually meets the national interest because the deal here is you can’t have the Bloc and the NDP coming out there and saying let’s just walk away from Afghanistan and leave them a lot of fine words.  At the end of the day, this is about Canada.  And when Canada is asked by its allies and when Canada is asked by the Afghan people get us ready to defend ourselves, I think Canada should respond as we are responding, as the government has responded

I think there’s no honest way to talk to the Canadian people except by being honest about risk. I think the risk is substantially diminished from a combat role.  Our soldiers will not be walking up the lanes in Kandahar risking putting their feet on IEDs.  That is over.  That will stop.  But the honest thing to say to Canadians is that there’s always risk when you’re in an area where there has been fighting and violence and war.  And it’s only honest to tell Canadians that. But I can honestly say that we’ve looked at the risks and we believe the risks are substantially reduced and that we can accomplish this mission with safety to our forces.


Prime Minister Ignatieff

  1. I can honestly say, the words 'jumping the shark' come to mind…

  2. I'm probably going to regret this, but could you explain how you see that meme applying here?

    I certainly understand that you oppose this position, and fair enough, but how is Ignatieff "jumping the shark"?

    That episode where Fonzie jumped over the shark tank on water skis wouldn't have spawned a meme, heck, wouldn't have even been memorable had jumping over a shark tank been something that Fonzie did in every single episode of Happy Days. Hasn't the above position been Ignatieff's position forever? Hasn't it been the Liberal position forever? I'm not sure the Liberal Party's policy has changed at all on this point, so I fail to see how they've "jumped the shark".

  3. Canada has done its part. It's time for our NATO allies to do there part. Bring our troops home!

  4. I agree, this isn't a change in Liberal party position. It was a Liberal government, after all, that sent troops to Afghanistan in the first place, and later committed us to the combat role in Kandahar. While I have reservations about the entire concept that we have to withdraw from a combat role (which has, after all, seen much reduced casualties this year) Mr. Ignatieff's position is consistent with previous party positions and a fairly sensible statement on its face.

  5. A Liberal leader supporting the Cons, while attacking the NDP [who actually reflect most Canadians's view on this] isn't jumping the shark?

    Blathering on that the Afghans want us to train and arm the country [a new exuse as idiotic as the 'we're there to educate women' one] isn't jumping the shark?

    Fantasizing that Canadians will never again walk or drive over an IED [unaware apparently that you have to drive to get anywhere] isn't jumping the shark?

    I'd say Iggy aimed to go over the entire shark tank, and politically he may well have just fallen in.

  6. Who does he think he is? Explaining important decisions to Canadians? Answering questions and being open, honest and transparent about important decisions? Doesn't he know that is what unelected and unaccountable staffers are for? He clearly doesn't have what it takes to be leader of a country.

  7. and he's talking about principles!

  8. Prime Minister Ignatieff, you wish! Thanks for the joke, I was having a bad day!

  9. And first principles at that.

  10. I think the point is that: at least there is one person acting like a Prime Minister on this issue in Ottawa.

  11. Prime Minister Ignatieff. It will neve happen in our life time. The Libs and Wherry are desperate and want it to happen so badly but Canadians have a different leader in mind and he is currently occupying the job. The job is not open.

  12. I respect a politician who supports his opponents when he believes they are right instead of opposing them simply for partisan reasons.

  13. That's why Harper is going even lower in the polls than he has in the last 5 years?

  14. I respect a politician who does the right thing for Canada, and this ain't it.

  15. I'd go a little further than that… I think both Emily and Mr. Wherry are upset that the Leader of the Official Opposition has appointed himself the role of apologist for the government on this particular file.

    I understand their concern. Sure the Liberals are in a tight spot when it comes to the Afghanistan mission, but it's the government's job to justify the government's decisions, not Mr. Ignatieff's.

    I'd go further than saying he's jumped the shark, it seems to me that he's jumped the aisle.

  16. The blog post immediately preceding this one is called "In (Fictional) Defense of Jumping the Shark". Perhaps those words came to Emily's mind because she had just read Weinman's blog post?

  17. Maybe so, but from your last post, your first concern was that Ignatieff oppose the Conservatives and support other liberals. Politicians whose main concern is partisan loyalty have already jumped the shark.

  18. Iggy is being partisan, and not considering the country.

    Iggy and Rae support this, most Libs don't.

  19. LOL yup, and I used 'honestly' because Iggy tossed it in about 5 times in one para.

  20. I'm sick and tired of the sanctimonious NDP. They want us on peace missions – duh. We have lost 121 Canadian soldiers on peace missions.

    Peace missions are also dangerous – you don't walk the streets wearing tie-dye shirts and making the peace sign there NDP.

    121 Canadian soldiers have been killed on peace missions – peace missions also have a dangerous element to them.

  21. That's been the concern all along. We don't need two Con parties.

  22. "acting like a prime minister"

    But he's attacking the NDP and Bloc opposition like Harper proactively attacks the Liberals. I think this is very revealing, that you characterize the same old partisan haranguing as statesmanlike because it's your guy doing it.

    I would rather have a Prime Minister who allows that the other parties have some legitimate concerns and are representing a significant number of Canadians when they express them. And if a leader can't honestly do that, then I would expect him to have the decency and skill to stick to a defence of his own ideas rather than attack others.

    I see the same old pile with a different colour shovel.

  23. Yes, everyone knows peace missions are dangerous, and that we've lost people on them too.

    Dying for peace, and dying while invading and occupying a foreign country are two different things though.

  24. OK, thank you.

    So it's just that you don't understand what "jumping the shark" means. Fair enough.

  25. That's probably correct, i.e. about what Emily and Wherry mean.

    But Ignatieff is explaining his own decision which is refreshing to have any politician in Ottawa give us a principled stand on a controversial issue and then not hide from Canadians in explaining his decision.

    I think you have it backwards though: Harper has adopted the Liberal position on this, not the other way around. It would be far worse for Ignatieff to flip flop and oppose non-combat training now, only when Harper has flip flopped, just to say he was opposing the government.

  26. Don't patronize.

    'Jumping the shark is an idiom used to denote the point in a television program's history where the plot spins off into absurd storylines or unlikely characterizations. These changes were often the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose audience had begun to decline'

    That is precisely what I mean.

  27. Canadians have a different leader in mind and he is currently occupying the job.

    He may be "occupying" the job, but the above would suggest that somebody else is actually DOING some of it.

  28. Actually some 2/3s of Canadians don't want Harper. So please don't speak for the rest of us.

  29. This has nothing to do with principles, it has to do with Canada's "War Party Coalition" continuing our engagement in a war that the vast majority of Canadians believe is pointless, and would abandon right now.

    The only real surprise here is that Harper seems content to allow Iggy to avoid a House vote on the extension, a vote that would no doubt be very embarrassing to him if it was allowed to happen.

  30. If you want to get a picture of just how much the Liberal Party of Canada is tearing itself apart over this issue, go visit the comments section of Warren Kinsella's website today. Quite a display. It's obvious that one of the themes at play there is the fact that some Liberals simply can't countenance cooperating with the Conservatives on anything, period. Any cooperation with the government is treason.

    A related observation is that I don't have much time for those polls purporting to prove that most Canadians "want our troops to come home now". I think it's a case of a poll result being driven by the exact nature of the question asked (e.g., "Do you think our troops should come home?" vs. "Do you think our troops should remain, but behind the wire in a training role only?").

  31. I'll agree with that alright.

  32. I guess there is that small part of his scrum. But that is not at all like Harper. He's not calling them evil or terrorist lovers/sympathizers or unpatriotic or not supporting our troops. He's in no way challenging the legitimacy of their views. He's distinguishing his position from the Bloc and NDP. They are trying to have it both ways and he's pointing that out. Nothing wrong like that.

    More importantly and to the point, Harper only has an attack and never an explanation, never shows the courage of his convictions, never shows the courage to be open with Canadians. Ignatieff is standing up and explaining his position and the principle in which it is rooted. That's statesmanship and leadership and courage, like a PM should be.

  33. This was an invasion now? So all UN sanctioned wars are illegitimate? Every dictator slaughtering the vulnerable and women and children in particular can rest easy because no one's ever going to lay a finger on you. Even when you are in the midst of a civil war, we can't take sides. Wow.

    And training locals how to police and protect themselves – like we have done in the Balkans and in Haiti – is "occupying a foreign country"?

  34. Check out notable Liberal blogger (and occasional Maclean's commenter) BigCityLib's reaction to the so-called "backroom deal":

    And what astounds me, after so many years of his "Liberal Hawk" instincts proving so utterly disastrous, after humping a University degree in basket-weaving courses into a career as a TV talking head (in some little island country across the ocean that was relevant a century ago)… after being installed as LPoC leader because the party was too broke to oppose him…what astounds me is that after all this, Iggy still thinks he's smarter than the people and the party that elevated him.

    Frankly, I think if Iggy wants to support an extension of Canada's Afghanistan mission to 2014, he should have to get up in the HOC, hold hands with Prime Minister Harper, and explain the whys and wherefores behind this Lib./Tory coalition. Lets face it, he's been a crap leader of the opposition. If Dion couldn't explain himself in English, then with Iggy the problem is that when he explains himself it just makes you think he's an enormous dick. Nobody owes him any deference. And he owes the country a better performance.


  35. To what degree are politicians allowed to make decisions, or have a certain stance, that aren't popular, but ones they view to be the right thing to do?

  36. I didn't see the video so it's hard to judge, but the transcribed quote certainly reads like Ignatieff is defending the government rather than his own party. He sounds like a government spokesman… he sounds, in all honesty, like he's reprising the role he played for George Bush, only this time he's playing the role for Stephen Harper. .. On second reading that even strikes me as a little harsh… but deleting it would be dishonest so I'm just taking it back (a little).

    Call it the return of Ignatieff's pronoun problem; who does he mean when he speaks of "we?"

  37. Well since everyone is aware it was an invasion…the Afghans didn't invite us in you know

    The US announced it was invading Afghanistan, and called us out under Nato article 5

    As to the rest of your post….exaggerate much?

  38. One of many themes on Kinsella, and one of many views on polls.

  39. I cannot foresee any problems with training a huge illiterate army under the control of a corrupt government in the world's opium 'breadbasket' during a sustained civil war being waged in two unstable countries (one of which has nuclear weapons) with thousands of heavily armed foreign soldiers intervening.

    No problem at all.

  40. You simnply have to admire the sheer and unadulterated beauty of watching the MSM's usual crew of pundits contorting themsleves into pretzel shapes trying to figure this one out – I love the headline PM Iggy – HAHAHAHA! – I almost dropped my timbit in my extra large double double – too bad the article had nothing to do with headline as at this moment Iggy is doomed of ever even getting close to the PM's chair instead will be looking for handouts from Harper the next while – the match is on now and it aint Harper vs Iggy anymore folks – as of now it will be Igggy vs Jacko and may the best leader win – the LPT stagnation and the NDP gains in most polling data changes everything especially giving Jacko a little wind in his sails :)

  41. A related observation is that I don't have much time for those polls purporting to prove that most Canadians "want our troops to come home now". I think it's a case of a poll result being driven by the exact nature of the question

    Completely agree. On an issue like this, you can get all kinds of poll results depending on how the question is framed.

  42. Did he really say: "the only reason Canada is there is to help Afghanistan defend itself."? Really?

    Aren't we: 1) hunting down Osama bin Laden, 2) hunting down al Qaeda, 3) defeating the Taliban, 4) promoting schools for girls, 5) building a stable democracy, etc.

    So helping Afghanis "defend themselves" is what, rationale number 6?

    How stupid does he think we are? It is of no consequence — zero — to Canada's national interests whether or not this particular backward, illiterate and impoverished country can "defend itself".

    What this latest rationale shows is Ignatieff''s understandable discomfort in trying to defend the real reason we are there: because a series of Liberal and Conservative governments joined and stuck with this failed mission so as to curry favour with the U.S, and we haven't the guts to pull out until the U.S tells it's okay for us to leave.

  43. I didn't know Ignatieff had a TV show.

  44. I`m lost—help me here—Iggy is Richie right and Harper is the Fonz and Layton is Potsie and Duceppe has to be Ralph Malph.
    So who`s Chachi and Joanie ?

  45. I agree that Ignatieff hasn't been the best Opposition leader thus far, but I think this is exactly what he needs to do. His explanation sounds decidedly more Prime Ministerial than anything Harper has said on the issue. As others have pointed out, the PM has come around to the Liberal position, not the other way around.

    Interesting to see the reaction from various Liberals. But bigcitylib may have noticed that the Liberals are not doing all that well in the polls. Staying beholden to a shrinking base of establishment big L Liberals is a death sentence for Ignatieff. He must lead, not follow, and sometimes effective leadership means that your opponents come around to your point of view. It also sometimes means that people on your own side disagree with you.

  46. Then they should resign and run as Independants next election. They were elected as Liberals and parties don't have whips for show. I've been forced to resign from positions where i could not support management decisions (commit fraud to make your numbers)…why is different for them?

  47. No, polls are pretty clear. Beyond the early months when this mission was about chasing down Osama Bin Laden, polls have overwhelmingly and consistently showed that Canadians do not support this mission.

    That is an inescapable truth, and a surprising one, given the amount of pro-war government, military and defense industry propaganda they have had to endure.

  48. It's obvious that one of the themes at play there is the fact that some Liberals simply can't countenance cooperating with the Conservatives on anything, period. Any cooperation with the government is treason.

    It's politically dangerous for the Liberals to cooperate with the Conservatives too often. If they do, the Conservatives can then paint the Liberals as basically identical to themselves (except, of course, for the Liberals' secret plan to form a coalition with the Evil Socialists And Separatists). The reasoning can then be: if the two parties are basically the same, why not stick with the incumbent?

  49. … because a series of Liberal and Conservative governments joined and stuck with this failed mission so as to curry favour with the U.S, and we haven't the guts to pull out until the U.S tells it's okay for us to leave.

    Bang on…

    The only difference between the Cons & the Libs is that the Cons participate with enthusiasm and the Libs participate with reluctance. But they all participate.

  50. Well, he's defending a policy that is entirely consistent with the policy his own party has been promoting since 2001. It would not be a surprise, of course, for a politician to take a completely contrary position on such a matter, simply to oppose, but credit should be given to Ignatieff and Rae for actually sticking to principle on this issue.

  51. Seriously Emily: when would a dictator or totalitarian regime like the Taliban ever have to worry under what you are suggesting? It's not an exaggeration; it is the logical application of what you are suggesting.

    You also avoid responding to my question: How is training locals how to police and protect themselves – like we have done in the Balkans and in Haiti – "occupying a foreign country"?

  52. Actually, no, the polls have overwhelmingly and consistently shown that Canadians are pretty well evenly divided on the issue – and it does depend largely on how the questions are put, and when the questions are asked.

  53. No – I think the polls do reflect the real views of Canadians.

    And no wonder. Our Prime Minister hasn't shown us the barest amount of respect in explaining anything about why we are there, why it was so important to campaign in one election that he would never leave and only those who hate our troops would set a deadline, why it was so important to campaign in the next election that we had to go and it was vital that we set a deadline, why it is so important now that we stay on for several more years.

    Harper has attacked everyone who doesn't support the war, or his "plans" for the war, as attacking the troops without ever explaining himself.

    His conduct and "leadership" on the war has been disgraceful. It's no wonder Canadians oppose the war or even this new very limited role in rebuilding Afghanistan.

  54. Providing Afghanistan with a stable government that can defend itself, prevents Al Qaeda from re-establishing itself there in its former safe havens. That assists in your goals 1 and 2. It also accomplishes goal 3, which permits goals 4 and 5 to be implemented.

  55. Umm … I acknowledge that I have memory problems from time to time, so I guess it's good to know I'm not alone. But, er, didn't a group of opposition MPs go to Afghanistan a few weeks/months ago, Bob Rae among them? And didn't Rae return saying that Canada could not abandon the country, but should remain in a training role? And wasn't that before Harper said anything of the kind? Hasn't the government in fact adopted the Liberal policy on this? So … why the problem with Ignatieff "supporting the conservative position"? Why not focus on why the government has belatedly adopted the liberal position? Without much in the way of explanation … such as, "we have acknowledged that there is merit to the liberal policy on Afghanistan, and have decided to adopt it." Why dump on Ignatieff and let Harper get off free with his flip-flop?

  56. But part of my point is, it depends on what "this mission" is. If you pose a polling question in which "this mission" is understood or assumed to be an actual combat mission, you will get one kind of poll response. If you pose a polling question in which "this mission" is understood to be a pure training mission, you will get a different result.

    And people who are vehemently opposed to Canada being in Afghanistan in any role whatsoever are being rather disingenuous in the way they are (ab)using some of these poll results.

  57. Nice fantasy, but here's what will happen:

    Eventually, when it suits the U.S, the U.S and NATO will leave. Immediately thereafter, the same group of drug barons, war lords, corrupt despots, and religious medievalists who have this impoverished and backward country for the last 200 years will resume control over it.

    The only major undecided matter is how many NATO and Afghan troops and mercenaries, and how many Afghan and foreign civilians, will die before we pack up and abandon this foolish mission.

  58. I don't disagree with that. I think the Liberals are in a tough spot in that respect.

    The converse problem, though, is that if they just automatically oppose everything the government does, decides or proposes, it doesn't really amount to much of a vision of consistency, that's for sure. And bear in mind, not every decision made by this government is unpopular — cf. "Potash Corporation takeover bid."

  59. Serious topic folks…war and peace, life and death. Let's keep it that way.

  60. So is there a recent poll showing that a clear majority of Canadians oppose an explicitly training-only role for Canadian troops in Afghanistan?

  61. Rae and Iggy made this policy….it's one of Iggy's 'foreign policy pillars.' Doesn't mean Libs as a whole agree with it.

  62. So if I read you right, the Canadian public is divided on Afghanistan because of Harper's disgraceful conduct; meanwhile, Ignatieff is a prime ministerial statesman because of his brilliant leadership in explaining his own position on Afghanistan. Harper bad, Iggy good. Got it.

    My question to you is this: Why is the Liberal party so sharply divided on this issue? Is that Harper's fault too?

  63. What is strange about all these blogs is no one has listened to the boots on the ground our soldiers?To a last one and those parents and wives of the 153 lost say stay there.We have been there for ten years kids who were born that first year have had a sense of democracy.Those who were ten at that time are now young men and women and would not want to go back to the Taliban. It took us 50 years in both Germany and Japan to develop great democracies.If we want to establish peace in this world we have to pay the price so those young Canadians born today will not be replacements for those who are serving their country around the world.Peace just may be obtainable

  64. So here's what you say when asked to explain your position; "We Liberals have been consistent in our support of a training role in Afghanistan for the past ________weeks/months/years. There has been no change in our position. If you're looking for an explanation of why the Conservatives have made a 180 degree flip/flop then you'll have to find a Conservative to explain that."

  65. Seriously Ted….you know as well as I do the only reason the UN went along with this is because the Americans had already gone for an invasion, and they are on the security council. Also there was a lot of sympathy for the US right after 911.

    Don't apply one situation to others.

    We are in Afghanistan where we are foreigners, and clearly not wanted. Not only do we get killed by insurgents, Karzai wants a pull-out. Entering and staying where you're not wanted is clearly invasion and occupation. Especially after 9 years.

    'Training locals how to police and protect themselves' is just one of those arrogant western phrases we like to use as an excuse to do what we want.

    Afghanistan alone has thrown out several empires….they don't need our 'training'.

  66. Who said there will be no problems.?

  67. It also means knives in the back.

  68. The polls have been quite clear, and as the war has worn on….clearer yet.

    Canadians don't like this 'mission', however it's being defined at this hour.

  69. It only happened yesterday.

  70. Iggy, Harper….both bad.

  71. Nah….another 'cakewalk'

  72. Don't oversimplify CR.

    Canadians would still be divided, but Harper's disgraceful lack of leadership on Afghanistan has made it worse. Where would we be if he had been a leader? I don't know. I do certainly think less divided. And it isn't just Ignatieff who has done a far better job on this: Michaelle Jean has had great and forthright and honest talks and discussions about why we are there. As has Bob Rae. And Andrew Potter and Paul Wells.

    So yeah, on Afghanistan: Harper bad, Iggy (and Jean and Rae and many others) good.

    Why is the Liberal Party divided? I don't know if the caucus is. The party is much more of a cross section of Canadians than the other parties and so naturally there are differing views. Like I said, even if Harper showed some real leadership and any statesmanship, Canadians would still have different views on this and that is naturally reflected in the party.

  73. Yes, he actually said such a stupid thing.

    Rationale du jour.

    The only good thing about going to Afghanistan is that it saved us from going to Iraq…the other US request of us.

  74. Have you got a link or source?

  75. Exactly….the Taliban aren't going away. In fact there are many more in Pakistan, and the Taliban country in the NW they carved out for themselves.

    911 highjackers were from Saudi Arabia, and living in the US….so Afghanistan is neither here nor there.

    And you're quite right….if the US decided tomorrow to pack it in….that would be the end of all our 'noble reasons' too.

  76. Because this idea was originally from Rae and Ignatieff. Harper, however, did a poor job in making a plan and explaining it to the public.

  77. Also, as far as disagreement within a party? I suspect the difference here is that one leader keeps a very tight command over his party and those who speak for it. One does not.

  78. http://www.brandonsun.com/national/breaking-news/

    Don't know if this is conclusive, but it does show a nuancing of the question you ask, and most folks still want the troops home, although it's apretty evenly split. Now a real leader [ not one who isn't PM] might try to sell the extention a little more vigorously, no?

  79. No he is doing the exact same. Just because he didn't actually say Taliban Jack, that doesn't mean he was prime ministerial.

    I'd like to set the bar a little higher, and argue that a prime minister needs to represent all Canadians not just the tiny minority that bought a membership in his party. A real prime minster would acknowledge that a lot of Canadians are uncomfortable with this position and deserve to be heard.

  80. Speaking of Liberal-Conservative agreements, where are the detainee documents? Were they part of this deal?

  81. The same? Really? What, you can't even criticize or analyze someone else's policy now? He didn't go anywhere near calling him Taliban Jack or suggesting his position wasn't legitimate or that he was unpatriotic for holding those views. Come on. He just thinks its wrong and said so fairly respectfully.

    He didn't "attack" Jack nearly as much as Jack attacked him. Differentiating two opposing views is not an attack. Pointing out a problem in the logic of an opponent's views is actually an important thing to do and more than legit.

  82. Not wanted? Says who? You would give more credence to the Taliban than the government? Seriously, on what facts do you base that assertion? Karzai has asked for training and development aid and we are going to provide it. If he doesn't need it, why is he asking for it?

    If training is so arrogant, why are we doing it in Kosovo and in Haiti? Is this just more imperialism?

    You are conflating the war with the recovery.

  83. You're forgetting that Afghans when polled [ are the polls reliable – i don't know?] overwhelmingly say they want us to stay. It's basically for this reason, and this reason alone i think we should stay – the moment they don't we should be gone. I never supported this war in the first place…but sometimes you got to stick around and help fix what you helped to break.

  84. Thanks for that — as I suspected, the results differ markedly when you throw the training option in there.

  85. Those are nice sentiments, but it's rare that peace can be established – managed yes. It's not a nice world. We do what we can do and hope the positives outwiegh the f 'k – ups.

  86. I finally get the irony in one of Aaron's tittles right off the bat. [ usually takes me a while]
    It does look like there is some sort of deal – if there was a vote in the house Ignatieff might have difficulty holding the troops together. So, i guess it's smart politics on the part of Harper/ Ignatieff. But i still don't like the fact the PM isn't out there selling the new mission – why is he letting Ignatieff take point? I suppose whatever divides the phantom coallition makes him happy.

    "But I can honestly say that we've looked at the risks and we believe the risks are substantially reduced and that we can accomplish this mission with safety to our forces"

    That's an odd line from a guy who isn't PM.

  87. This is certainly true in general, but it doesn't really apply to the Afghanistan issue. Most Conservatives are perfectly happy with the training mission, but the schism within the Liberal party on this position has been widely observed and reported. The dissent within Liberal ranks (and the Liberal caucus) is real–not just with regards to Afghanistan, but with regards to Ignatieff's leadership generally.

    I think the dissenters are most likely in the minority at this point, but they are still significant enough that Ignatieff preferred to avoid a vote on the extension, and Harper (who probably would have preferred a vote, for political reasons) acquiesced.

  88. I don't doubt for a minute there's a crapload of noise and infighting on the Liberal side, as there's no question some want "the count" to ride off into the sunset, but doesn't it seem almot unnatural, the complete lack of any dissent, ever, from the Conservative side?

  89. "I almost dropped my timbit in my extra large double double"

    Don't you mean you almost dropped your twice-baked almond biscotti into your caramello non-fat soy machiato? You should really check your "Culture War!" bulletin every day.

  90. So if there is a schism is the Liberal party over this position (or any position really), what should the leader do? One option would be to avoid taking a position so as not to offend anyone. That keeps the stakes low. Another option would be to wait until the Conservatives take a position and adopt the opposite. Then stakes are higher, but you're forfeiting the initiative.

    The best option (in my opinion), which Ignatieff chose, is to take a position based on the facts available and defend it. The fact that Harper came to agree with him is a victory, not a sign of weakness as a opposition leader.

    Honestly, I think a succesful opposition leader focuses more on being a leader and less on being an opposition.

  91. I think the relative, or seeming, lack of dissent on the Conservative side comes from a few things. Yes, of course, there's the tight control over caucus that gets constantly pointed out. But also I think even the most hawkish Tory caucus members realize that (i) we've already done our bit there combat-wise, spilled much blood, etc., and (ii) there's clearly little political appetite among Canadians to continue in a vigorous combat role. And philosophically, most if not all CPC caucus members have no problem with a training role. So really, what reason would there be for notable dissent within the CPC caucus on this? Note that the Conservatives don't have this problem that the Liberals have, where cooperation with the other party is seen as treasonous and poisonous — partly because the CPC knows that it has to cooperate with at least one other party to get things done — and usually, better for that to be the Liberals than the NDP or the Bloc.

  92. No one. Just offhandedly listing other considerations we have limited or no control over that defeat the mission before it enters the next stage while providing no alternative.

  93. Nobody disputes that Harper keeps a tight lid on his party, and I agree with you that the natural levels of dissent that exist within the ranks of any party are kept in check by Harper's "very tight command", as you put it.

    Also, despite the infighting, I don't think Ignatieff needs to be worried about a caucus revolt. Most of the dissenting Liberals are unwilling to ditch Ignatieff until he is tested by an election, so he still has some leeway.

  94. I agree with you, ZestyMordant. Ignatieff made the right call, and cooperating with the government on Canada's Afghanistan mission is a sign of leadership. Ignatieff knew his position would ruffle the feathers of the doves and lefties in his own party, but he did it anway, because it was the right thing to do.

  95. So, are you saying that Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal party doing what they've always said they'd do is an "unlikely characterization"? An "absurd story line"? Is it that you've become cynical enough that you never thought that the Liberals would actually support a policy that they've repeatedly and explicitly said they'd support? I mean, for Pete's sake, it's essentially THEIR POLICY. The were for this kind of mission before the Tories were, and they said so. On multiple occasions.

    The Fonz donning water skis and jumping over a tank full of sharks was something absurd that no one ever had any reason to believe his character would actually do. It seemed totally against everything we knew about Fonzie, and was clearly meant simply as an attempt to reinvigorate a struggling franchise. Supporting a post-2011 training mission in Afghanistan is something the Liberals have always said they would do. It's EXACTLY what we would have expected them to do. It's the international conflict equivalent of the Fonz putting both thumbs up and saying "Aaay!", or hitting the jukebox at Arnold's to make the music come on.

    You're correct below that given the context it's silly to harp on the fact that you're using the phrase "jumping the shark" incorrectly, but nonetheless, you're using the phrase "jumping the shark" incorrectly.

  96. In a democracy, the views of soldiers and their families should be given no greater weight in deciding foreign policy than those of any others in society.

  97. I wouldn't say its rare for peace to be established. the world, as a whole, is probably more peaceful now than it has been in five thousand years. There are few, if any, current "hot" wars between nations, civil wars are mostly in Africa (and in only in a few locations such as Congo and Darfur is the violence really widespread) and in areas where warfare used to be enemic, such as north-west Europe, the notion seems impossible now. So yes, peace can be established – and it has been in most of the world.

  98. That should be "endemic".

  99. I'm just astounded at how many people are shocked, just SHOCKED, that Ignatieff isn't attacking the Tories for adopting Liberal policy. I rather thought part of the whole point of adversarial politics was to try to get your opponents to adopt your policies.

  100. Although the opinions of those with experience and an intimate knowledge of an issue should be given more weight than those who rely on skimming the headlines every month or so, wouldn't you think?

  101. I'm absolutely on side with you. For once we see cooperation based on principles as opposed to opposition based on uber-partisan games and people are acting all bothered and deriding the decision. Weird.

  102. The position is not the focus of my criticism. I'm criticizing the fact that Ignatieff seems to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. He's not explaining a Liberal position, he's justifying a government decision. Count how many times Ignatieff uses the word "Liberal" in the quoted text, it won't take very long because there are zero instances of the word.

  103. Can you prove "the vast majority of Canadians"?

  104. It's not just that Emily's giving more credence here to the Taliban than to the government of Canada, she's also giving more credence to the Taliban than she is to the people of Afghanistan, as the majority of Afghans say they want foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan when they're polled.

  105. Why is that an odd line for an opposition leader? Opposition parties study the risks and opportunities of policy decisions every bit as much as the government. In this case, I'd rather assume that the Liberals have studied the issue even more closely than the government, having adopted this policy man, many months ago.

  106. This is exactly why the Liberals will find themselves in opposition for many years to come. They have serious issues when it comes to Leadership. Too many people in the party have this sense of entitlement and many of them believe their own views should be privileged over others. The reason you elect a leader is so that this particular leader can lead – make decisions based on a deep understanding of the issues and the views held in the party. Liberals aren't ready to let anyone lead them. It doesn't matter who is at the top, there are just too many dissenting voices ready to knock the leader down. Probably because the leader is always the easiest target. Reminds me of reading Raymond Simard's words after loosing his "liberal stronghold" of Saint Boniface in 2008. He immediately blamed Stéphane Dion publicly and openly. It was utterly classless, and frankly, I think he only has himself to blame.

    But getting back on the issue at hand, I think it's healthy for a party to hold a diverse amount of views on particular topics, if anything it encourages debate and I see it as healthy for democracy. The problem here is that instead of containing the frustrations and dealing with it behind closed doors they go straight to the media and shoot themselves in the foot. This happens everytime and it just undermines the leader's credibility and efficacy.

    All in all, the liberals need to acknowledge that they aren't always going to agree on things all the time but they need to show some sort of discipline and support their leader. And frankly, in this instance, they knew what Ignatieff's views were, why is it such a surprise? Same thing happened to Dion… they knew he was the "environment man" and behind his back when the Green Shift was launched, many of his own MPs panned it. So frustrating that bunch.

  107. He's not explaining a Liberal position, he's justifying a government decision.

    The government decision was to adopt the Liberal position. I suppose it's true that Ignatieff could be spending more time rubbing the Tories faces in it, and gloating, but to me, I rather like a politician who's willing to take "yes" for an answer. Maybe Ignatieff's just not as interested as some commenters here seem to think he should be in trying to score some cheap political points by mocking his rivals for coming around to his point of view.

  108. Oh, so now Emily wants to get serious…after reading her partisan attacks for ages.

    I too believe that the Harper Cons are the worst gov't ever, but sheer hypocrisy as displayed by Emily is more annoying.

    I was against Afghanistan from day one…but kudos to Ignatieff for not playing political games with this.

  109. If they do, the Conservatives can then paint the Liberals as basically identical to themselves (except…
    .. and don't forget the ability to balance a budget.

  110. Can Ignatieff say

     'Karzai' ?

    That's the issue. Every month or so there's the obligatory mantra: 'Stop/End/Curb/whatever…the corruption.'
    I'm tired of hearing this mantra. Enough of it, and enough of Karzai.

    Out. Outa there. No trainers. Out.

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