This Liberal take on cluster bombs http://t.co/K42WhUC0YO maintains status quo--having lost mantle as serious foreign policy partyIn my current effort, a book on Canada and Afghanistan (not the NATO and Afghanistan book), I tend to be very, very critical of the Liberals. Why? Because they opposed a war that they started. Apparently going into opposition requires a party to mindlessly oppose everything that the current government does, including that which they had initiated. I personally think that the Liberals could have criticized how the Kandahar mission played out in 2006-2007 without opposing it.
— Stephen Saideman (@smsaideman) November 21, 2013
What they cited was just too silly to be taken all that seriously: that the Conservatives were not doing enough development and governance (which had come to a standstill after the Director of the civilian side of things, Glyn Berry, was killed); that the mission meant that there were not enough troops to be doing other stuff elsewhere (sure, the only obstacle to a Mideast peace was the absence of Canadian peacekeepers); and that Canada should agreed to just one year and rotate out of a war (as if anyone really rotates into and out of a war on a regular basis).
I have not done any surveys, but I am fairly convinced that this switcheroo did much to tarnish the image of the Liberals as the responsible foreign policy party of Canada. Kind of like how the Republicans in the US used to be seen as the stronger National Security policy until Iraq destroyed that myth.
Getting to the issue of the day, the problem of opposing cluster bombs while participating in joint operations with the U.S. is a complex one. Grandstanding on it makes no sense--not sure the Canadian public is all that sensitive and alert to the issue or that it would sway votes. And the reality is that Canada, if it ever goes to war again (including places like Libya), it will be going to war with the US on its side. So, Canada needs to figure out how to balance its international treaty commitments (cluster bomb treaty) with its international treaty commitments (NATO, NORAD, etc.).
To be clear, I have seen the guidance given to commanders, and these orders do specifically (or at least it did in the missions for which I have the "letters of intent") say that Canadian officers in NATO positions should not use cluster bomb munitions nor ask allies to use them for Canada. The reality is that joint operations have varying levels of jointness, so the US could un-flag their forces and operate independently on those missions where they want to use cluster bombs. The real reality is that as long as the US has cluster bombs in its arsenal, Canada's participation in multilateral military efforts will be with a country that may use them. Sucks but there it is.
The alternative is that Canada does not participate in any international military effort with the US. Sure, this would not exclude UN operations, but it would exclude nearly everything else. Which might be a good pacifist stand to take, but if you want to be a mainstream party in Canada, you might not want to advocate opting out of NATO.
Oh, and why do the Liberals frustrate me so? Because if I could vote in this country, in general, it would be the Liberals that I would be most likely to support... except when they substitute grandstanding and gainsaying (opposing just to oppose) for serious foreign policy criticism.