Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pollster Reveals Canadians Woefully Uninformed About War in Afghanistan

Lack of support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan due to lack of information

For those addicted to the mystical world of poll watching, the Strategic Councel's polls on Canada's deployment in Afghanistan have been a real eye-opener. In their most recent poll, the Strategic Councel concluded that 62% of Canadians support negotiating with the Taliban.

The same poll determined that 55% of Canadians opposed the mission -- a 2-point drop from previous polls -- while 40% of Canadians support the mission -- a 4-point increase from previous polls.

For many of the Afghanistan mission's opponents, these recent polls have been treated like mana from heaven. Yet an interview Charles Adler conducted with Tim Wollstencroft (of the Strategic Counsel) today has uncovered another aspect of the issue -- Canadians are woefully underinformed regarding the mission, and about the Taliban in particular.

In the interview, Wollstencroft agrees that a lack of knowledge about the Taliban has an impact on such studies. "Whether you know a lot about the Taliban or little the fact is that there's a sense of unease about the war in Afghanistan, and there's a desire to see some sort of diplomatic initiative."

He also admitted that the polls themselves are largely conducted in an information vacuum.

Although this is a proper polling technique -- to provide any sort of specific information during the polling process risks unduly manipulating the results, as is the case with push polling -- it does reflect the poor basis from which many Canadians are making decisions about whether or not to support the mission.

A conversation held with an opponent of the Afghanistan mission held via an internet message board reflects the uninformed nature of much of the war's opposition. In the course of the conversation, DerbyX asserts that opposition to the war represents opposition to Conservative party policies (despite the fact that it was the [i]Liberals[/i] who deployed Canadian forces to Afghanistan), is indistinguishable from the US war in Iraq, and is essentially an act of imperialism.

Yet, as previously mentioned, it was the Liberals, under Jean Chretien who deployed Canadian troops to Afghanistan. It was the Liberals, under Paul Martin, who deployed Canadian troops into the combat mission in Kandahar. The war in Afghanistan is a multilateral affair, conduced under UN mandate, with solid intelligence backing it. Finally, the goal in Afghanistan is to rebuild the country and leave, not rule it permanently.

All the while, the war's opponents often demonstrate their lack of knowledge regarding the mission. "I guess it just hasn't occurred to you that [Liberals] don't want to see young Canadians killed in a fruitless cause."

Yet, the many successes of the mission, Including 17,000 Afghani girls who are now attending school seem to be lost on these individuals. This defies the categorization of Afghanistan as a fruitless cause.

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