Monday, July 10, 2006

Liberals and Afghanistan

Reports on the Liberal leadership race since the close of membership sales confirm that Michael Ignatieff remains the front runner, while Joe Volpe may have sold the most memberships. About 70,000 new members will join 80,000 existing members in determining the new Liberal leader. Earlier examples suggest that at best only about half of the new recruits will show up to vote in September. For example in the NDP leadership race that selected Jack Layton in 2003, just 44,000 of 82,000 members voted by phone and internet, much easier than going to a meeting.

While the attention this week has been on the new members, I would guess it is the existing membership that will have the higher turnout and their votes will matter more.

My hunch right now is that this helps Dion who existing party members like and respect, and if Lysiane Gagnon in the Globe is to be believed, is now not so unpopular in Quebec, having somewhat redeemed his reputation by being a passionate advocate for the environment. And others are beginning to see Dion as a potential winner, again partly because he is deemed more acceptable than previously thought in Quebec.

The Liberals would be making a catastrophic error in choosing Ignatieff. Why - because of his views on Afghanistan. He is just as foolish on the subject as Harper, who made a big mistake by visiting Afghanistan soon after becoming PM and taking ownership of the issue from the Liberals.

Just how foolish are both these would be Prime Ministers?

Today I read this account of the war from the London Sunday Times by a correspondent with years of experience in the war-torn country (courtesy of TPM and Wolcott). Its title is Death Trap. Says it all, but read these excerpts:

“If any further reminder were needed that one gets involved in Afghanistan at one’s peril, the Kabul headquarters of the Nato-led peacekeeping force is on the site of the old British cantonment. Its entire strength fled from here in January 1842 after a tribal revolt against the British-imposed ruler.”

“Of the 16,000 soldiers, wives, children and camp followers who left, only one got away; the rest were massacred or taken prisoner by Ghilzai tribesmen. Only Dr William Brydon was deliberately left alive to tell the tale and warn people back home of the consequences of getting involved in Afghanistan.”

“In a country that has ended up as a graveyard for so many thousands of British soldiers, why don’t we learn from history?”

“This time the politicians tell us that we have gone to make peace, not war — to “secure the area so that development can take place and extend the reach of the Karzai government”. But we are woefully underequipped for either: already six British soldiers have lost their lives within 24 days, victims once more of the Ghilzai Pashtuns.”

”Last month saw 53 “TICs” — troops in contact, in other words under Taliban attack — and last week there were two nights during which all but one of the British bases and outposts in Helmand came under attack.”

“How did it all go so wrong? Why does a senior British military officer talk despairingly of “military and developmental anarchy”?.”

Read the rest.

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