Dion's war policy is hare-brained

Afghanistan - une guerre masquée

"The Prime Minister must assure Canadians that our troops, including the Royal 22nd Regiment, will end their combat role in Korea by February 1953 under any circumstances," Opposition leader George Drew demanded yesterday. Drew denounced the 'irresponsible ... ambiguity' of Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent ..." - From The Gazette, Sept. 2, 1951
Hard to imagine, isn't it? No wonder - it's fiction, made up to demonstrate a point. When soldiers are in combat, announcing they will knock off at a given time no matter what the state of the fight, like so many blue collars at the end of their shift, is absurd. It's a clear signal to the other side that mere persistence, and perhaps a little more killing, will guarantee victory.
Yet this hare-brained approach, we note with considerable dismay, has been adopted by the leader of the official opposition in Parliament, Stéphane Dion. He wants an ironclad guarantee that Canada's combat role will end by February 2009, he says, and with it he wants formal notice to our allies that we're outta there. If he doesn't get it, he claims, he might be prepared to defeat the government over the issue.
Is this merely a shoddy ploy to bolster Liberal chances in the Outremont by-election this month? Or is it serious Liberal policy? Either way, it's not worthy of Dion, a man we endorsed for his party leadership on the basis of his intellectual rigour and clarity.
This is not a question of "supporting our troops," that arch-banality of modern wartime. Nor is it about patriotism. Dion has proved his devotion to Canada far more clearly than most Canadians, and certainly everyone is entitled to be unhappy about the way our soldiers are being used at any particular time.
But this is not the way to express such concern. "Wars begin when you will," Machiavelli said, "but they do not end when you choose."
So what would be the impact of setting a rigid arbitrary deadline, as the Liberals propose? Is Dion merely hoping to pressure other NATO countries into making more of an effort? Does he even care what happens to Afghanistan?
Whatever he's trying to do, his posturing reminds us not of Machiavelli but of another strategist almost 2,000 years earlier. Sun Tzu said that in war, "supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." Canada's resistance to the Taliban's ruthless fanaticism seems, to judge by the Liberal position, to be at the breaking point.
No doubt the Taliban and their allies are aware NATO's biggest countries, except for the United States and Britain, have shown no stomach for sending troops to fight in Afghanistan. No doubt they're aware of the controversy and bitterness within NATO, not least in Canada. No doubt they're aware Canadians split 50-50 on the Afghan mission.
And no doubt they're hoping Dion gets the government locked into a rigid bail-out date. But we're hoping he fails.

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