Dr. Liam Fox, UK Conservative MP (Woodspring) and the Shadow Secretary of Defence.
Thank you all very much. I appreciate the warm welcome to Ottawa, and the hospitality of the Economic Club of Toronto. The reputation of the Economic Club as a place for serious discussion of policy is well known in America, and I am honored by your invitation. There aren’t any electoral votes to be won up here in the middle of a presidential election. But there are many shared interests that require our attention today, and many Canadians here I am proud to call friends.
If you’ve been following the presidential election, you’ve probably noticed that Canada comes up for discussion quite a bit these days. And this is as it should be — because no other nation shares so many ties with the United States. And today the strength of that partnership is more vital than ever. The economic community we have founded, together with our alliance and the values we hold in common, have served our people for decades, and served us well. It will fall to the next president to strengthen these ties still further, adding to the security and prosperity of all of North America.
We in the United States are very lucky, in a way that’s easy to take for granted. We are surrounded by two great oceans, and by two nations we count as friends. Think of the fate of other nations, and how much of their histories have been shaped by hostile neighbors. Generation after generation, they live in fear, resentment, and competition harmful to the interests of all. Lost in rivalry and distrust are the advantages of regional friendship and stability. What a blessing it is for the United States to have in Canada a neighbor we fear only on ice rinks and baseball diamonds.
The best American statesmen have always understood that Canada is not some adjunct to America. We are firm and fast friends. We are allies, partners in success and adversity alike, and a great deal depends on preserving that unity.
Trade is just a part of what unites us, but a very important part. Last year alone, we exchanged some 560 billion dollars in goods, and Canada is the leading export market for 36 of the 50 United States. This country stands as America’s leading overall export market, and America is Canada’s leading agricultural market. With 60 percent of all direct foreign investment in Canada originating in the United States — some 289 billion dollars in 2007 — our economies draw strength from one another.
A prosperous Canada means a more dynamic and resilient American economy. There are areas where the United States can learn a great deal from your experience. Beginning in 1995, Canada did the hard work to put its fiscal house in order. You reduced spending and brought the budget from deficit to surplus. However, unlike your free-spending neighbor to the south, Canada continued to run budget surpluses even while cutting its corporate and personal tax rates. Lower taxes and spending restraint is a philosophy we should import from Canada.
Our common interests extend to other pursuits as well. The future of our environment, the flows of our energy, and the security of nations — all of these are aided by the close relations forged by our predecessors in Ottawa and Washington. And if I have anything to say about it after January of next year, America is going to expand these ties of friendship and cooperation between our two nations.
At the forefront of our minds, in these years since the Millennium Plot and the events of 9/11, is the security of our citizens. Our governments have made real progress in keeping our borders closed to terrorists and open to trade. Yet this will remain an ongoing challenge and a key issue for the next American administration. Tens of millions of people and vehicles cross the Canadian-American border every year. The two-way trade that crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor equals all American exports to Japan. That transit, and all our crossing points, must remain secure. In extending our security partnership, we can ensure continued flows of people and commerce while maintaining security on which these very flows depend. We need to do an even better job of managing the regular traffic across our border.
Already, we cooperate in preparing for emergencies — exchanging information and manpower to coordinate our response to danger. We have agreements in place to work together in detecting radiological and nuclear threats, to improve security at ports, borders, and airports, and to assist first responders. We exchange public health officers and have agreed on principles for screening intercontinental air travelers in the event of a pandemic. In all of this, we are drawing upon the skills and knowledge of one another, and we are joined in the crucial work of protecting our people.
At the same time, Canada and America are joined in other vital causes around the world — from the fight against nuclear proliferation to the fight against global warming, from the fight for justice in Haiti to the fight for democracy in Afghanistan. I, for one, will never forget the response of our Canadian friends to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It was here in Ottawa, three days later, where tens of thousands of Canadians filled the streets on a National Day of Mourning. The Canadian people even took in Americans who has been left stranded by the shutdown of American air space. We in America have not forgotten your kindness. And we will never forget the solidarity, compassion, and friendship of Canada when it mattered most.
We know as well that Canada, too, has suffered casualties in the years since 9/11, and we honor their memory as we do our own. As always in Canada’s history, this nation has been willing to do hard things, even when the costs run high. Along with our other allies, Canada and America are still fighting in defense of Afghanistan — in the honorable cause of freedom for that long suffering country, and greater security for ourselves. To date, Canada has committed nearly two billion dollars to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, including a recent 50% increase at the Paris Conference. It is a generous investment, and a wise one, and together our countries are going to see this mission through.
Even in Iraq, where Canada has not always agreed with American policies, this nation has done all that those differences would allow to help the Iraqi people. In characteristic form, Canada has given generous humanitarian aid and development assistance. And your government has provided more than 770 million in combined assistance and debt relief to Iraq, helping a struggling young democracy at a critical time.
It’s the mark of good friends that they’re willing to correct you, and to do so without rancor. Many Canadians have objected to the policies of the United States in dealing with terrorists, and with enemy combatants held at the Guantanamo prison. It happens that I also regard the prison at Guantanamo as a liability in the cause against violent radical extremism, and as president I would close it. I intend as well to listen carefully when close allies offer their counsel. And even when they don’t volunteer their advice, I’ll ask for it and seek it out.
We’re going to need that spirit in many efforts. We have a shared destiny, Canada and the United States. We are both continental powers, nations shaped by our diverse heritage and our frontier experience. We are also both Arctic nations. And because of this common geography, we must be acutely aware of the perils posed by global warming and take immediate steps to reverse its effects.
Three years ago, I traveled with some colleagues, including Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Lindsey Graham, to Yukon territory, a front line of global warming. We flew over miles of devastated spruce forests, every tree killed by insects that thrive in warm temperatures. As the trees die, fires multiply, and across the region the waters are vanishing. We heard from men and women near Whitehorse whose traditional way of life had been radically disrupted.
All of this is just a glimpse of the grave environmental dangers that global warming can bring, unless we act to prevent it. I was among the first in Congress to introduce legislation to curb greenhouse gasses. If I am elected president, it will be a top priority to enact an energy policy equal to this challenge. A sensible cap-and-trade emissions system, for instance, is a critical part of such a policy. Under U.S. and Canadian leadership, the Montreal Protocol began the process of phasing out gases that were destroying our planet’s ozone layer. That cap-and-trade system removed the threat of acid rain. I believe we can apply it to great effect against the threat of climate change. And here, too, Canada and America can work in common purpose against common dangers.
We must also work to ensure reliable energy supplies and increase sources of renewable energy. As you all know, Canada is America’s largest energy supplier. Not only does Canada have the second largest proven oil reserves in the world, 60 percent of the energy produced in Canada is hydroelectric, clean energy. We stand much to gain by harmonizing our energy policies, just as have gained by cooperating in trade through NAFTA. Since NAFTA was concluded, it has contributed to strong job growth and flourishing trade. Since the agreement was signed, the United States has added 25 million jobs and Canada more than 4 million. Cross-border trade has more than doubled since NAFTA came into force. We have established North America as the world’s largest economic market and the integration of our economies has led to greater competitiveness of American and Canadian businesses. Because of our common market, our workers are better able to compete, and to find opportunities of their own in the global economy.
There is still more work to do. Complying with NAFTA’s rules of origin can be cumbersome and costly. Border delays can pose a serious impediment to trade, the equivalent of a tariff. And even now, for all the successes of NAFTA, we have to defend it without equivocation in political debate, because it is critical to the future of so many Canadian and American workers and businesses. Demanding unilateral changes and threatening to abrogate an agreement that has increased trade and prosperity is nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls. If I am elected president, have no doubt that America will honor its international commitments — and we will expect the same of others. We will strengthen and extend the open and rules-based international trading system. I aspire to lead a proud, outward-looking America that deepens its partnerships throughout the hemisphere and the world.
Long before NAFTA, America received one of its most valuable exports from Canada in the form of a great statesman, Dean Acheson. He was descended from a great Canadian distilling family and a man who knew Canada well. As secretary of state, Acheson liked to drop by the home of his great friend Hume Wrong, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, for consultation and advice over a quiet drink. As I said, Acheson came from a distilling family.
The relationship was not always smooth. But it was productive. Canada and the United States together gave generously for the reconstruction of Europe. And together, too, we helped to forge the new trading system that restored the prosperity of the world after a terrible war.
We’ve been through an awful lot together, Canada and America, and together we have achieved great things. We have a long shared history to draw from, and deep reserves of good will and mutual admiration. I thank you for all that you have done to advance one of the finest friendships between any two nations in the world today. I thank you for the conviction and clarity you bring to that work ahead for our two nations. And I thank you all for you kind attention here today.
The following is text of the government’s motion on extending the mission in Afghanistan. My comments appear between segments of the motion. The key point of contention is Canada’s extended role in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar from 2009-2011.
That, whereas the House recognizes the important contribution and sacrifice of Canadian Forces and Canadian civilian personnel as part of the UN mandated, NATO-led mission deployed in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan;
This sets the scene and important in the emphasis of the internationalist, multilateral mandate that Canada operates under in Afghanistan. The mission operates with the blessing of the UN, an organization in which most Canadians believes strongly and with which Canada self-identifies when it comes to its foreign policy. The UN mandated mission should be something that Liberals can easily subscribe to, but it’s interesting to note that despite the UN’s acceptance of the mission, the NDP and Bloc take a strict isolationist approach.
whereas, as set out in the Speech from the Throne, the House does not believe that Canada should simply abandon the people of Afghanistan after February 2009; that Canada should build on its accomplishments and shift to accelerate the training of the Afghan army and police so that the government of Afghanistan can defend its own sovereignty and ensure that progress in Afghanistan is not lost and that our international commitments and reputation are upheld;
The Speech from the Throne of course is an important reference point. The government received a mandate from Parliament when the Throne Speech passed in the fall. The Liberals, forming the Official Opposition, passed on judging the government’s proposed mandate and abstained from the vote. The Throne Speech first outlined the government’s intention to extend the mission in Kandahar through 2011. So, what has changed since then?
whereas in February 2002, the government took a decision to deploy 850 troops to Kandahar, the Canadian Forces have served in various capacities and locations in Afghanistan since that time and, on May 17, 2006, the House adopted a motion to support a two year extension of Canada’s deployment in Afghanistan;
whereas the House welcomes the report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan, chaired by John Manley, and recognizes the important contribution they have made;
What has changed is that John Manley has released his report. Manley expressed that Canada lost its voice on the international stage but has now regained it. Manley stated that when Canada speaks, the world listens. He cited the former Liberal PM Lester B. Pearson as a source for inspiration and for doing the right thing with respect to Canadian foreign policy.
whereas their Report establishes clearly that security is an essential condition of good governance and lasting development and that, for best effect, all three components of a comprehensive strategy military, diplomatic and development need to reinforce each other;
The report by the former Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs has stressed the need for a mix of a number of Canadian efforts in Afghanistan (including military).
whereas the government accepts the analysis and recommendations of the Panel and is committed to taking action, including revamping Canada’s reconstruction and development efforts to give priority to direct, bilateral project assistance that addresses the immediate, practical
needs of the Afghan people, especially in Kandahar province, as well as effective multi-year aid commitments with concrete objectives and assessments, and, further, to assert strong Canadian leadership to promote better co-ordination of the overall effort in Afghanistan by the international community, and, Afghan authorities;
The government states, in its motion, that it is following the lead of Mr. Manley. Here the motion stresses aid development and international coordination. All of which should be found acceptable to a majority of Parliament.
whereas the results of progress in Afghanistan, including Canada’s military deployment, will be reviewed in 2011 (by which time the Afghanistan Compact will have concluded) and, in advance, the government will provide to the House an assessment and evaluation of progress, drawing on and consistent with the Panel’s recommendations regarding performance standards, results, benchmarks and timelines; and
Full reporting to Parliament on progress in Afghanistan.
whereas the ultimate aim of Canadian policy is to leave Afghanistan to Afghans, in a country that is better governed, more peaceful and more secure;
How could any MP disagree?
therefore, the House supports the continuation of Canada’s current responsibility for security in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to the end of 2011, in a manner fully consistent with the UN mandate on Afghanistan, but with increasing emphasis on training the Afghan National Security Forces expeditiously to take increasing responsibility for security in Kandahar and Afghanistan as a whole so that, as the Afghan National Security Forces gain capability, Canada’s combat role should be commensurately reduced, on condition that:
Stephane Dion has stated that he wishes Canada’s “combat role” in Kandahar to cease by February 2009. John Manley recommends against this. The House will essentially be voting on the recommendations, or at least within the guidelines of the Manley Report. This motion is not inconsistent with John Manley’s recommendations and the Liberal Party (many of whom have incredible respect for Mr. Manley) will find itself divided on this motion if allowed to vote freely. John Manley and Mr. Harper are framing Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan in a Pearsonian perspective; internationalist intervention in failed states is the right thing to do and consistent with values that Canadians cherish. Mr. Dion faces a tough choice. If he chooses to abstain from voting on this important motion, he loses his credibility on speaking on the most important issue facing Parliament today, Canada’s role in Afghanistan. If Dion whips his caucus into voting against, there will be an open revolt against his leadership. If Dion allows a free vote on the motion, internal divisions within the party will be counted as if a roll call and the public division will emphasize that the Liberal party is only a loose collective of membership card holders waiting for the next leadership review.
(a) Canada secure a partner that will provide a battle group of approximately 1,000 to arrive and be operational no later than February 2009, to expand International Security Assistance Force’s security coverage in Kandahar;
A move entirely consistent with a recommendation from the Manley Report. A realistic move to shift some of the weight to a partnering NATO country.
(b) to better ensure the safety and effectiveness of the Canadian contingent, the government secure medium helicopter lift capacity and high performance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance before February 2009.
This is important for Canada’s success in Afghanistan. UAVs are recommended for road surveillance especially during the night in order to spot and help neutralize Taliban fighters planting IEDs at the sides of roads used by the Canadian military and aid workers.
Green Party release on the Manley Report:
Green Party rejects Manley Report conclusions
OTTAWA – The federal Green Party shares a vision of a stable and secure Afghanistan, but today challenged the newly-released Manley Report’s premise that Canada’s troops must remain in Khandahar beyond February of 2009 to achieve this objective.
“The Manley Report fails to consider that the recommendation of more ISAF forces from a Christian/Crusader heritage will continue to fuel an insurgency that has been framed as a ‘Jihad’. This, in turn, may feed the recruitment of suicide bombers and other insurgents,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “Better human security is certainly needed in the South but it should be provided by a different cultural mix of UN countries as well as the Afghan army and police. Even if this proves challenging to accomplish, this key objective should have been included.”
The Green Party also questioned the Report’s recommended indefinite exit date for the Canadian Forces from Kandahar, citing concern that an open-ended departure date could significantly prolong the training time of the Afghan military and police. The continuous availability of external personnel and logistical support in a poor country like Afghanistan risks creating a structural disincentive to rapid military preparedness, especially in an ongoing conflict situation.
Would somebody please tell Ms. May that this conflict shouldn’t be framed in the words of lunatics that strap dynamite to their chests in order to achieve paradise? This isn’t a war of Christians vs. Muslims and it is troubling to see Ms. May speak about it in the same twisted terms as do the enemies of reason.
Let’s see what Ms. May says about Darfur:
The Green Party is recommending that the Canadian government take leadership in rapidly organizing an international emergency initiative that would:
Offer new financial, political and logistical support to the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to encourage it to continue its deployment and also strengthen its capacity to protect civilians at risk;
Break the logjam in the Inter-Sudanese Peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and all rebel groups by guaranteeing a crucial $100 million to the Darfur Compensation Fund and offer Canadian expertise in governance issues related to domestic power and wealth-sharing; Take the lead in persuading other middle-power nations to contribute alongside Canada to a rapid reaction international force that would be immediately deployed to a willing host country bordering the Sudan, and ready to intervene if necessary under a legitimate “responsibility-to-protect” UN-sanctioned process and mandate;
Two Muslim countries, one in Africa and one in Asia. Canada is in Afghanistan with a U.N. mandate.
UPDATE: May retracts her statement, “In hindsight I would have phrased it differently,” the Green Party said on News 940 AM Radio in Montreal, January 24, 2008.
Here is a video from Mike Duffy Live that shows Dion’s comments on Pakistan, and Stephen Harper’s response.
Please see my previous posts on this topic:
Will Stephane Dion make military decisions someday? (1/17, 5:32am)
Stephane Dion should be thankful he’s not a conservative party leader (1/17, 3:55pm)
Pakistan condemns Dion’s foreign policy ignorance (1/17, 6:23pm)
Thoughts about the Pakistan story (1/18, 4:59pm)
Often when writing this blog I try and wear two hats: one of a reporter and one of a conservative critic. If I get whiff of a good story, I’ll do my best to investigate and be first to put it out there for public consumption. As an advocate of blogging as a new reporting medium, I will say that I am thrilled when I see big stories break on blogs before the so-called mainstream media goes to air/print.
Last night, I received word from someone that works in media that a press release from the High Commissioner was just starting to hit the email boxes of fellow reporters in Ottawa. As I’m not usually on the press contact list of most organizations, I called the Pakistani High Commission to confirm the story. They referred me to the press officer who had already gone home for the evening. Likely expecting a number of media calls that evening, the commission passed on the officer’s home number which I called. When speaking with the press officer, I only inquired as to whether a statement or release had been authored concerning “Mr. Dion’s remarks on Pakistan and NATO” and requested that a copy be emailed to me. They informed me that they had in fact just penned a release and that they would email me a copy.
Some people have emailed me with concerns that by calling the High Commission, I brought attention to a news story of which they would have otherwise not been aware. This is laughable and quite insulting to the professionalism of diplomatic staff whose job it is is to track the host country’s political scene in order to report developments which concern their government. Stephane Dion’s statements regarding NATO and possible “forces” being introduced into Pakistan were already published in the Ottawa Citizen and I’m quite certain that the diplomatic staff reads the papers (and watches the news. The story was on both Mike Duffy and Newman last night). I did nothing to suggest to the Pakistani High Commission that Mr. Dion’s statements were inappropriate; I simply expressed to them that I wanted to be cc’d on the release that they were only starting to send out.
I believe that I was the first to publish the release. Minutes later on his blog, David Akin published it too. My blog beat the CP wire by an hour on a breaking news story. The story’s value was “very high” as Canada has important security interests in central Asia and that a man seeking the office of the Prime Minister had apparently taken a new track on proposed Canadian foreign policy. While I may have been first to break news of the release, it is unfair to say that the mainstream media was negligent or uninterested in reporting on the story. After I posted on the story last night, I benefited from discussions with one of Ottawa bureau chiefs and two other Ottawa reporters. To Peter Mansbridge’s credit, the CBC anchor used a scheduled Mansbridge One-on-One taping the same day to press Dion (and hard) on his statement and to ask him about Pakistan’s condemnation of Dion’s remarks.
As for the partisan statements that I made on this blog concerning the release: I do believe in what I wrote. In fact, much of it mirrors and complements what I have previously said. I think that Canadians should set a very high standard for their applicants to executive and legislative powers, especially when it comes to matters of national defense and foreign policy.
As for Conservatives “taking advantage” of Mr. Dion’s statements or positions? This does nothing to hurt foreign relations as Mr. Harper is the Prime Minister and such high level diplomatic/military transactions cross his desk and not that of Mr. Dion. Despite this, it is the responsible duty of our party-based political system to discuss/debate and sometimes ridicule the positions of opponents. As Canadians, we charge our elected representatives with pursing our interests and those of Canada, and anything less than challenging a new proposed track on foreign policy would be irresponsible and a betrayal to our principles of informed debate, the foundation of our democracy. Parties are the method by which discussion is focused and made effective. Rather than having 308 independent and non-cohesive message tracks, we more effectively debate a handful at a time. It is the duty of parties to propose new ideas and the duty of other parties to put those ideas through the test of intense debate.
The Conservatives can hardly be blamed for both debating what appeared to be Mr. Dion’s divergent foreign policy proposal, and they cannot be blamed for taking the Liberal leader at his literal word. Now Mr. Dion has said that he means “diplomacy” and not “force” even though he called for considering “NATO forces” in Pakistan. Either one of two things then happened. Mr. Dion either realized the faults of his proposal and climbed down in the face of being battered on an already weak file of his. Or the Liberal leader misspoke, which is known to happen. However, misinterpreting Dion’s intent based on his words has really only been known to happen in English. Is it possible that Mr. Dion made a gaffe in French about an issue that was on the top of his mind (he had just come back from his first trip to Afghanistan)? It’s possible, but its not probable. I believe that Mr. Dion was proposing a new track even if it’s a proposal for others to help develop his ideas. And in this, I honestly believe that this is where one of Mr. Dion’s political faults lies; he takes an academic approach which is better suited to the safe environment of a “what-if” university seminar. Such an environment is the incubator to under-developed ideas and untested policy proposals. The national stage is no place to “spitball” ideas.
Some will say that they’ve found it refreshing to hear a Canadian politician “tell it like it is on Pakistan” and “say what we’ve all been thinking”. Pakistan has been a laggard when it comes to taking care of the radical elements in its western province. Like most Canadians, I am concerned about our inability to address this problem directly. Yet, Pakistan is a sovereign country that has the jurisdiction over its own security. Most Canadians would agree that the only scenarios that would allow military presence within Pakistan’s borders would be either with the permission of the Pakistani government, or with a broad international consensus to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. The Pakistani government is not about to allow any western nation to put our soldiers on the ground there (this is a well known sentiment of the Musharraf government – so it is surprising that Mr. Dion suggested this). Further, the UN is not on the verge on granting any military the authority to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Mr. Dion’s statements were ill-conceived and more theoretical than practical in nature.
For Canadian security in central Asia, Pakistan needs a stable administration. If it’s democratic, all the better. But, the “nuance” here is that if Western troops go in, it’ll tip the population of Pakistan away from Musharraf, and away from Bhutto’s PPP and towards radical elements. Having Americans in Saudi Arabia supposedly radicalized Osama bin Laden against the West, so suggesting something half-baked (but on the very surface, quite logical until you dig deeper) is irresponsible of Dion and especially for a man who is supposedly advised on these matters. As a privy counselor, former member of cabinet and leader of the Opposition, Dion receives security briefings. Since Pakistan stability is a key buttress against the whole of central Asia collapsing, Dion made an unfortunate error in making such a weakly-considered statement as the Pakistani media picked up comments from the Canadian opposition leader, named him as the likely winner of the future election and claim that his policy musings will be the Canadian agenda in a matter of weeks or months.
Dion, of course has the right to make such statements however inappropriate they may be. But it is the duty of partisans of all stripes to put his ideas through the machinations of public debate in order for Canadians to be best served.
I just got off of the phone with the press officer for the Pakistan High Commission here in Ottawa after asking for Pakistan’s response (if any) to Mr. Dion’s comments regarding his proposal that NATO expands their mission into Pakistan.
Here is the official release:
We are dismayed by the statement of the leader of opposition, Mr. Stephane Dion about NATO intervention in Pakistan. It shows a lack of understanding of the ground realities. We have, at the highest level, made it clear that Pakistan will not allow any foreign forces to operate within its territory under any circumstances. The sovereignty of the state will not be compromised at any level as the government and people of Pakistan are fully capable of handling their security matters themselves.
Pakistan is a peace-loving country and has joined the international community in the war against terrorism as an equal partner. The contribution made by Pakistan in this regard has been recognized throughout the world.
The price paid by Pakistan being a frontline state cannot be undermined by certain irrational comments.
Pakistan has been saying all along that the problem lies inside Afghanistan and the solution should come from there too. It is because of the security situation there that Pakistan is facing heat across the border.
Dion needs to tell Canada, Afghanistan, Pakistan and our NATO allies if he maintains his position of NATO escalation into Pakistan, or if he is simply ignorant of foreign policy and whether that ignorance lies within his understanding of what NATO is, or that Pakistan is a sovereign nation, or that NATO is in Afghanistan (and not Pakistan) with the blessing of the UN. I hope that he is not clueless on all of these facts.
UPDATE: The Liberals have clarified that this is not what their leader meant. So, he’s just ignorant of foreign policy.
UPDATE: This isn’t good. The following was printed in The Daily Times (Pakistan) (h/t catherine in the comments):
Dion, a leader of the Liberal Party likely to win the elections this year, said NATO could be forced to take action inside Pakistan if President Pervez Musharraf’s government failed to stop the movement of terrorists to Afghanistan.
I’m not concerned that they think Harper will lose the upcoming election (we’ve got a better vantage point here in Canada). I’m concerned that they think that Dion will be Prime Minister and that this would be the policy of a future Canadian government. I think that Dion ought to emphasize his position himself, with clarity. It’s that important.
UPDATE 1/18: Dion, in his own words calls for “diplomatic intervention”. CBC reports that Dion moved to distance himself from the suggestion that NATO should be deployed in Pakistan.
FURTHER READING FROM ST.CA: Previous Post – Will Stephane Dion make military decisions someday?
During the 2000 election, one of the greatest “blunders” that Stockwell Day made during the campaign was to compare the Canadian “brain drain” to the flow of the Niagara River, which as it turns out flows north, not south as Day was trying to imply.
“Surely a man who doesn’t know the flow direction of the Niagara River is unfit to lead this country” became the narrative of the journalist pack that covered the race.
Fast forward to yesterday and Stephane Dion’s musing that NATO should expand its mission into Pakistan. Not only has the Liberal leader changed his position on Canada’s most significant foreign policy direction a number of times, he’s now spitballing under-developed ideas which no serious policy analyst would responsibly suggest.
This is a man who will soon be running in an election to lead our country. Where is the scrutiny that we have come to expect from our easily offended geography buffs in the Canadian media?
The Parliamentary Press Gallery complains that there’s never a microphone around the Prime Minister or any ministers when they’d like. Conservatives have long since learned that in the Canadian media environment any sniffle becomes a sneeze. While members of the press try to pin down conservatives (in power or not) with a barrage of microphones, conservatives worry that there isn’t a press mic powerful enough to pick up any sound that comes from the Liberal leader who is showing that he just may be unfit to lead a serious discussion on Canadian foreign policy on the national stage.
Yesterday, Stephane Dion made an unfortunate declaration regarding Canada’s foreign policy and amends his position on Canada’s military role in central Asia.
QUEBEC – Any attempt to counter terrorists in war-torn Afghanistan will not succeed without an intervention in neighbouring Pakistan, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said Wednesday.
Dion hinted NATO could take action in Pakistan, which has a porous border with Afghanistan, if the Pakistani government doesn’t move to track terrorists.
“We are going to have to discuss that very actively if they (the Pakistanis) are not able to deal with it on their own. We could consider that option with the NATO forces in order to help Pakistan help us pacify Afghanistan,” said Dion in Quebec City, commenting after his two-day trip to Afghanistan last weekend. “As long as we don’t solve the problem in Pakistan, I don’t see how we can solve it in Afghanistan.”
The suggestion that NATO could put boots on the ground in a country whose administration is already unstable due to tensions between civil society and fundamentalist Islamic elements within its own military and intelligence service – not to mention rising tension from the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto – is outright irresponsible of the Liberal leader. While President Musharraf is a reluctant ally, or at best one who must walk a fine line to maintain a delicate order, the very suggestion that Canada is ready to introduce a destabilizing element into the mix is enough to tip the balance there in an unpredictable way. The nuclear nation with a thick streak of radicalism that permeates its power structure and that has elements sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda, is not the foreign policy sandbox for a Canadian opposition leader who is constantly refining (or rather redefining) his position on international security.
Could Pakistan be doing more to help the UN mandated NATO mission in Afghanistan? In a hopeful and unrealistic world where dreams come true, this could happen. Then again, France, Germany and Italy could be doing more to support our operations in that country wedged between Pakistan and Iran. However, the political systems of our European allies are not on the verge on catastrophic collapse. In the past, Mr. Dion has been critical of Canada doing all of the heavy lifting in Afghanistan. However, if NATO were to expand the theatre of operations to Pakistan, wouldn’t this further test our soldiers by spreading NATO assets even thinner?
Frankly, while Dion’s position is under-developed, it is surprisingly bellicose. However, it comes as no surprise that the Liberal leader has changed his position again this time after just recently visiting the nation on which he has so inconsistently opined.
After all, as a member of Chretien’s cabinet, Dion voted to authorize the use of Canadian force in that country. Dion has expressed unambiguous support for the mission in the past:
“It’s a very important mission and we want to be there” — Stephane Dion, March 2006
“We will succeed in Afghanistan if we show a lot of determination … We need to be resolute and to succeed.” — Stephane Dion, March 2006
“We need to be there. Canada is a good citizen of the world. We are very courageous. We have been in Yugoslavia. We are ready to be in tough situations.” — Stephane Dion, 2006
“There is no way that Canada will be an occupying force. I’m supporting the mission because I’m still convinced that most of the people of Afghanistan want our protection.” — Stephane Dion, October 10, 2006
Dion however voted against extending the mission in May 2006 and continues to oppose the current mission believing Canada should do less fighting. Dion has explained that our troops must withdrawal “with honour”. Further, it has recently been Dion’s position that “The combat mission in Kandahar must end in February 2009.”
As you can see here, Dion’s many positions on the Afghan mission have been dizzying.
Unfortunately for Mr. Dion, there is no room for on-the-job training when it comes to foreign policy positions that a Prime Minister must take.
The only federal leaders who have been consistent in their positions have been Stephen Harper and Jack Layton. With a mission started by Chretien’s cabinet, moved to Kandahar by Martin’s cabinet, and which is now receiving on-again-off-again support from a hapless Liberal leader who now suggests escalation and expansion into Pakistan, Canada would be rudderless internationally under Prime Minister Stephane Dion.
Will Stephane Dion one day be in a position to make a critical decisions regarding Canada’s deployment of its military?
The Prime Minister held a press conference today in the National Press Theatre to the surprise of Ottawa observers and certainly the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Roger Smith alluded to the PM’s presence there but joked that he didn’t want to use up his one question to address the PM’s choice of venue.
The presser served as a general Q&A going into the next parliamentary session. The Prime Minister addressed questions primarily on the Throne Speech and on the topic of the Afghan mission. Other issues addressed had primarily to do with the mandate that the PM is seeking including crime, the environment, and the economy.
On Afghanistan, Harper emphasized that it is his belief that anyone who wants to hold the office of PM has to look to the long term security of the country and cannot govern by uniformed political sentiment. Another important development has been the Prime Minister’s admission that “consensus” was perhaps the wrong word to use to describe what would be needed to continue past February 2009. Consensus implied unanimity on the issue, whereas the PM states that a he’d seek a majority in the House on the future of the Afghan mission. The PM says that the opposition parties need to consider all options on Afghanistan responsibly. Harper stated that it would be irresponsible for Canada to “pull up stakes” and leave Kandahar, but that they must leave responsibly. Leaving Kandahar in February 2009 would be “hard to imagine”. On a question about why Canada is shouldering a heavy burden in Afghanistan compared to other countries, the PM said that other countries do need to do more and that we’re shouldering a heavy burden because of the decision of the previous Liberal government to engage in Kandahar province, perhaps the most dangerous in that country. Finally, the Prime Minister stated that Canada has a moral responsibility to finish the job and to hand the country over to an Afghan security force that is ready to stand up on its own.
Concerning the Throne Speech, the PM was asked about the Bloc and Liberals’ non-negotiable demands for the speech. Harper mused that while he’s not a pundit, the losses of the BQ and the Liberals during the Quebec by-elections may suggest that they cannot make non-negotiable demands. The PM said that while the Throne speech may not meet the demands of the Opposition, it will try and address its concerns. Among other concerns stated above, the Throne Speech will also address Canada’s place in the world, and our sovereignty. The Prime Minister expressed that he desires to strengthen the state of Canada’s federation and therefore he will not be able to meet all of the ‘non-negotiable’ demands of the Bloc. The passing of the Throne Speech will be perceived as a mandate to govern and Harper emphasized that the Opposition cannot support the Throne Speech and then perturb his efforts to achieve that mandate. Predictably, Harper stated that an election precipitated by a defeat of the Throne Speech is not the preferred outcome. Regarding the Opposition, the Prime Minister stated that those parties must “fish or cut bait”. Asked why he wouldn’t take advantage of the disarray on the left and engineer his own defeat, Harper replied that he wants to govern, present defensible policies to Canadians and stated that the longer his party is in government, the better record they build to eventually run upon.
Peripheral questions included one about the Prime Minister’s opinion on Rick Hillier and whether or not the Chief of Defense staff faces a foreseeable termination date. The Prime Minister provided a spirited defense of the General. Another question came up regarding the Canadian Wheat Board. The Prime Minister stated that it is the policy of his government to push the policy of allowing farmers to sell wheat on an open market system.
On the economy, the Prime Minister noted that because of the high dollar, Canadian companies are now buying American companies and remarked sarcastically that we’ll soon be hearing alarm bells concerning the “hollowing out of the American economy” by Canadians.