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Dion’s move to promote Iggy was the smart thing to do

I wasn’t really going to write on the Ignatieff appointment by Dion to Deputy Liberal Leader, because there are plenty of other blogs who can cheer about that if they wish.

However, I read this blogposting by Catnip and felt I had to respond to her. Catnip is not an Iggy fan if you read her site on a daily basis (and you should), and while I’m not particularly crazy about some of Iggy’s political positions either, there’s an old saying in politics: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer (Whether Iggy is considered the former or the latter by Dion is up to others to decide). There’s also an attempt here by Dion of handing out olive branches to the different supporters of all the failed leadership candidates to show they’re part of the “Dream Team”. Iggy is foremost among them – he was the front-runner of this race going in, and he had 46% of the delegates on the final ballot. To freeze him out of a major role would cause more internal warfare – something the Liberals don’t need after the Chretien-Martin faction fiasco. I am also not quite ready to proclaim Iggy as the Canadian version of Joe Lieberman.

Catnip also takes Dion to task for not wanting to support the BQ’s motion to take out Afghanistan. But, that is a move of Dion’s I support, for 2 reasons, 1 personal and 1 political. Personally, at the time it was announced, I supported the Afghanistan mission in the first place when it went there because I believed it to be the right thing to do, and I am extremely reluctant to be pulling out of there without some sort of plan to make sure the government is strong enough to withstand rebel assaults, so we don’t have Taliban II in there once we leave. Politically, I also know -as does Dion – that coming out in support of this motion could split the Liberal Party. I agree we should be reviewing over there what our mission is or should be, and I agree that getting them home is preferable sooner rather then later, but I don’t think this is what you bring the government down over – particularly when Canadians are split 50-50 in the polls on this.

They also worry over there in Catnip’s message thread that if Dion waits till the Budget, he’ll get screwed over by the Tories offering large cash transfers to the provinces and particularly Quebec for fixing the fiscal imbalance, and the Bloc will decide to play along and condemn Dion over his probable opposition to this.

Perhaps.. but there are plenty of other issues other then Afghanistan that Dion can vote non-confidence in the government over before the spring budget. It isn’t an all-or-nothing deal on the Afghanistan motion.

9 comments to Dion’s move to promote Iggy was the smart thing to do

  • I think Ignatieff’s public image suffered because he was unable to reduce his balanced understanding of complex foreign affairs into the simple soundbites that the public craves. The public misunderstanding of what Iggie was trying to say is being played out as anger over his appointment to deputy leader.

    The type of debate about Afghanistan going on in this and other Liberal threads is what differentiates the Liberal party from the other parties. Simple solutions such as withdrawal or assault are rejected in favour of a more subtle exploration of the complexities and realities of the situation. Ignatieff has the foreign policy knowledge to add a degree of maturity that may help the Liberals develop the best possible policy.

    It aint gonna be a vote getter for the Libs, but it might be the best thing for Canada and for Afghanistan.

  • Catnip: I’m not saying Canadian military withdrawal guarantees military withdrawal by NATO, but things are going badly already, and that would be a pretty huge problem for them, given the situation with troop caveats.

    There’s no question that going around shooting people is not a very good universal solution to the problems facing Afghanistan, and there are a host of worrying developments. The attitude of Pakistan and people in Pakistan and the autonomous border region, the upcoming US poppy eradication effort. But I have never seen a plan suggesting that the situation in Afghanistan can be improved with a troop withdrawal on our part, in the least. Neither aid nor security works alone.

    Yes, having troops there does generate new problems in addition to those that exist – but what plausible means is there to get any reconstruction done? What other path is there to a human rights respecting country, what other way is there to preserve the democratic government that, however imperfect, is the best the country has had in 3 decades?

    As for “the lessons of Afghan history,” I think that bringing history in prior to the 1970s risks some pretty inexact analogies. I appreciate that the antipathy of Afghans to foreigners does integrate an anecdotal knowledge of their 19th century history, but are we supposed to respect that because we’re just Imperial British or Russian invaders again? Are we to ‘respect’ Pashtun attitudes towards Tajiks and vice versa? Understand, yes, work around, yes, but take as immutable laws to be governed by? It’s an exceedingly complex country and the goal of helping build a half-decent country, on however limited terms, is a huge problem. We (or at least those who cared to investigate) knew that in 2001.

    The mission is precisely as legitimate as it was when it was undertaken; the difference now is that more people understand the scope of it, and we’ve had a few years of costly mediocrity. There is an argument for people who objected in 2001 – there is an argument for people who just don’t want our soldiers to die. But I don’t believe there is a ‘human rights argument’ for leaving, as there is one for staying. The place would get worse, and we can’t say we had no better options than pulling our troops out.

  • Knb said:

    [quote post=”25″]For those who are not aware, Catnip is not a member of the Liberal Party, she is a liberal, who is entitled to her opinion.[/quote]

    That is why I have her blogroll name listed as “liberal Catnip” rather then “Liberal Catnip”.. a subtle difference I doubt too many picked up on 🙂

  • Respectfully, this isn’t all or nothing ie. we pull out and are completely unattached to Afghanistan’s future or we stay there and fight. There is a middle way. As I wrote in my most recent post on my blog, this war will not be won militarily. It’s Afghanistan – with a very long history of resisting military interventions. Canada can have a role. It doesn’t have to be what we are doing now and Canada is far from being solely responsible for Afghanistan’s fate. I sometimes think that some people believe that our presence there is far more important than it actually is in the scheme of things.

  • He didn’t say unimportant – he said other. Afghanistan is at least as important as anything else facing Parliament, but I – vehemently, utterly, but respectfully – disagree with your position on it.

    Afghanistan-pullout is not some easy option. We – and France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and yes, the US – had the capacity to accomplish our objectives in 2001; 5 years later it transpires that for a variety of reasons we haven’t and things look very bad. It is true that if the situation were genuinely hopeless – not rhetorically hopeless, but truly hopeless – we’d only be making matters worse by prolonging the war.

    But there’s a world of difference between being sick over the thought of all of this being for worse than nothing, and being sure that we will inevitably fail. Because if we aren’t – and we choose to stick the Afghans with the bill for our mistakes out of anything but total certainty that it is the least bad option – then we are going against everything the country is supposed to be proud of.

    There is, to restate it, a difference between being frightened pessimism – which I feel – and a conviction that Canada can legitimately give up hope and ‘do the best we can’ to extricate ourselves in the least shameful and harmful manner. If I were certain of eventual failure, then I would agree with you – but as I am not, I can’t agree, and it’s a very big deal.

    There is no more unfair rhetorical bludgeon, in foreign affairs analogies, than making reference to ‘the betrayal of 1938.’ It has been a staple of half-baked (and usually right wing) metaphors for 65 years or more. So please understand I bring up this last passage carefully, from the memoirs of Louis Spears:

    “…We were in desperate earnest. I for one have never been through such an ordeal as that of Munich. Like most people, I have had my private sorrows, but there is no loss that can compare with the agony of losing one’s country, and that is what some of us felt had happened when England accepted Munich. All we believed in had seem to have lost substance . . . When we threw the Czechs to the Nazi wolves it seemed to me as if the beacon lit centuries ago, and ever since lighting our way, had suddenly gone out, and I could not see ahead. All seemed to have been lost…”

    I’m not so much bringing this up because of something like ‘patriotism,’ but because of a sense that our connection – symbolic but also in truth – with the 1948 UDHR is at risk if we leave Afghanistan without certainty that we have already failed. I felt – especially a few months ago, when I had more optimism left – that if we left Afghanistan to its miseries I would never feel the same way about Canada as an idea ever again. And while my own feelings aren’t too important, the problem is I think I’ll be right not to.

    I could be wrong. We may already have failed; and in that case, every prolongation of the conflict may be a terrible, terrible mistake. I could be arguing for misery and death in the aid of a lost cause, and I’m conscious of that every time this subject comes up. I don’t care about ‘terrorists’ ‘western credibility’ ‘the stability of the region’ or ‘national honor.’ I care about making Afghanistan a decently livable humane and democratic-ish third world country instead of abandoning it to either 1990s anarchy or 2000s religious dictatorship. I have a hard time believing it is impossible for all countries involved now, but I do believe we are failing by choice.

  • Perhaps.. but there are plenty of other issues other then Afghanistan that Dion can vote non-confidence in the government over before the spring budget.

    There can be no more important “issue” than the matter of asking citizens to die on behalf of their country.

  • How much do I owe you, knb? :em21:

  • knb

    Charlie, this is what is out there.

    Scott, I haven’t agreed with everything Ignatieff has said, but as I wrote on her thread, I do think this was a good move. Duceppe’s move is about Duceppe and Dion would do well to stay away from it.

    Catnip’s the best and I would not have expected her to change who she is. Views are views and just as we want to end the bickering within the party, attacking each other on the blogs is not productive either, IMHO. For those who are not aware, Catnip is not a member of the Liberal Party, she is a liberal, who is entitled to her opinion.

  • I also have disagreed with some of Ignatieff’s policies, but I think this is a very fitting position for the man who placed second in the leadership race. I wonder what position Mr. Kennedy will receive.

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