Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Predispositions and Position-Taking

Again, back to the recurring theme of perceptions and reality. I had a fun conversation this afternoon with a reporter from the NY Times about the perceptions in Canada about how Canada's efforts in Afghanistan are perceived. It was funny that we got the real starting point of the recent upsurge in this debate at the end of the conversation--that the request by the new NATO Secretary General (Anders Rasmussen) for Canada to stick around in Afghanistan provoked a big backlash.

That is, Canadians seem to think that their contribution in Afghanistan, now at 130 soldiers lost, significantly more wounded and billions of Canadian dollars, is undervalued. But when someone outside of Canada says, we have really relied on you guys and want you folks to stick around, it seems outrageous?!! Yes, there is a huge burden-sharing problem in Afghanistan as my research agenda on caveats and other restrictions is exploring. But, to say that we gave at the office is kind of a strange response.

Canada is definitely punching above its weight class in Afghanistan, doing a lot of the heavy lifting and doing much of it better than other countries. Yes, this is unfair, but, this disproportionate burden is being recognized.

A personal irony in this is that the idea that the reliable get asked to do more is not just a NATO story, but an academic reality. The question one has to ask every step of the way as reliable collective action sucker (as opposed to a free rider) is: are the benefits-costs now for saying no less than or greater than the benefits-costs of saying yes? Is there a long-term benefit for being a good departmental citizen and helping the community? Are there tradeoffs or kickbacks that are rewarding?

Umm. Not right now.

For Canada, yes, there are, I think, as Canada is worried about Russia and that is a problem with NATO's name written all over it.

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