Pollsters and media analysts alike have been warning the Conservative government that as we head into the spring and summer of this year, Afghanistan will become the Prime Minister’s true Achilles heal as more fatalities are likely to occur during the NATO mission in that country.
As bad news mounts alongside the good, it is the bad that becomes entrenched within the Canadian mindset as details emerge about alleged claims of torture from Afghan-detained detainees, the setback faced whenever one of our heroes falls, and the parallels that some dishonestly draw with the American conflict in Iraq.
However, Canadians have a history of shouldering the heavy burden of the responsibilities met in the hills and on the shores of foreign lands. Indeed, as Canadians we have always supported the fight for what is right and the common thread of this struggle has always been the establishment of the rule of law, peace abroad – which begets security at home – and the liberation of those who could not speak for themselves.
Today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a visit to Kabul to emphasize the reconstruction and humanitarian efforts that currently underway in Afghanistan. Just over one year ago he made a similar yet different trip to visit soldiers that country’s southern tumultuous province of Kandahar. The Prime Minister has gone to underscore the part of the mission that can only succeed with the success of the other; Harper is promoting humanitarian efforts which can only come from the efforts of establishing civil order.
Canadians are understandably wary of seeing ramp ceremonies televised on our national news networks but it appears that enough of us appreciate (if we can never fully comprehend) the results that come from sacrifices made.
Support for the mission usually hovers at about 50% (granted, that means that 50% are either opposed or ambivalent), and Harper generally polls at about 42% while the party (and Harper) sit at about 30-35% (depending on the poll). Generally this means that Afghanistan is not a liability for the PM and that if the NATO mission starts to define this Prime Minister’s tenure, then he actually has a deficit to make up between his own numbers and that of the mission.
Thus from a communications standpoint, the Prime Minister should never act ashamed or himself wary of the mission if Afghanistan; at the end of the day, Canada is doing the right thing and the majority of Canadians understands this. Everytime the NDP captilizes on the doubtful among us, Harper is able to take a firm and rationed stance while leaving Liberals to flop around on the issue to the point where Canadians won’t trust them on any position. When Jack Layton talks about the ‘confusion’ over the Afghanistan issue, Harper can clearly enunciate humanitarian benchmarks reached. When Layton asks about the human rights of Taliban detainees, the Prime Minister can announce that the aggregate sum of rights in that central Asian country has increased x-thousand percent.
In fact, the Prime Minister has taken some of Layton’s more rational concerns and has focused them through his own lens. Take today’s trip to refine the Conservative government’s messaging on Afghanistan. The end goal of the mission has always been to help that country stand on its own with the base ideals that Canada can reflect in an emerging democracy. While security must be realized before reconstruction can be successful, if Harper is to message on all fronts and to embrace the good that has always been the Canadian mission there, he can assuage doubters of the mission while focusing some of the broader spectrum of Canada’s ideals along his own message.