If Dion gets his way, Dreamland foreign policy is here to stay
If Stephane Dion's recent severe rhetorical blunder over the Chalk River reactor conroversy says anything, it's that he thinks he can fool Canadians quite easily.
Yesterday, Dion took that deceptive show on the road, perhaps thinking that Afghan president Hamad Karzai is just as gullible.
In the course of a meeting between Karzai and Ignatieff and himself, Dion insisted his party remains committed to the Afghan mission, but also insisted he wants "balance".
"We are convinced after the day we've had that we will have plenty of things to do that will involve, yes, to take risks, but anywhere we will go whether Darfur or Haiti, there are always risks," Dion announced in Kabul. "We are not afraid of the risks. But we want to sure that we have a balanced mission after 2009 that will be optimally helpful for the people of Afghanistan."
"The Liberal Party of Canada is very proud of the contributions our men and women in uniform have made to try to bring peace and stability to this region," Dion announced.
"We had a very fruitful discussion about the NATO mission in Afghanistan and Canada's role in it. I hope it was the first of many more to come," added Ignatieff, the man who helped extend Canada's combat mission to Khandahar in the first place.
At the end of the day, however, the issue regarding Dion and Ignatieff's meeting with Karzai is very simple: Dion and Ignatieff are either committing themselves to the support of Afghanistan state, or they aren't. They're either willing to see Canada do what is necessary to ensure that state-building in Afghanistan succeeds, or they aren't.
Reportedly, Dion "believes in the principle of rotation." "After three years of a combat mission, it's normal that Canada would say 'we want to do something else,'" Dion asserted.
The rotation of combat responsibilities is an important issue in Afghanistan, and Dion is not remiss to raise it. However, establishing a rotation on countries assuming front-line combat duties means that Canada will eventually be required to take its turn once again.
When one considers that Dion has taken every opportunity to decry the combat mission as "unbalanced" (despite reportedly supporting the continuing use of artillery and air strikes that invariably kill many more civilians than ground combat), one also wonders if they're aren't forecasting what Dion's attitude will be when it's Canada's turn to return to the front lines.
And while reconstruction and development efforts in the stable Kabul region may mesh more effectively with Dion's preferred dreamland fantasy of Canadian soldiers being -- as JL Granatstein would suggest -- glorified social workers, there is no question that such a mission would be critically unbalanced when one considers the presence of Taliban insurgents who want very little more than to kill NATO troops.
In pretending that Karzai hadn't even considered the possibility of a Canadian mission devoted entirely to reconstruction, Dion only continues to allude to his belief in the general naivete of Canadians.
Canadian troops on such a mission, in Dion's words, would not be "proactively looking for interaction with the enemy." Which seems to mean, essentially, that Dion would prefer the enemy come to our soldiers instead, and reap all the advantages that come with being on the offensive.
That is a recipe for disaster.
If Dion wants to be taken seriously on the war in Afghanistan, he needs to dispense with all the double-speak, and start offering up some details regarding what he would do differently and, more importantly how. Otherwise, all of his big talk on Afghanistan essentially boils down to typical Liberal promises of "visionary" change that somehow always seems to very closely resemble the status quo.
If Dion wants Canadians to consider him to be a credible alternative Prime Minister to Stephen Harper, he needs to cut the double speak and start offering Canadians an alternative plan.
Otherwise, he just may find out -- to his detriment -- that Canadians aren't as guillible as he seems to believe.