Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mission Creeper

I was highly amused by this quote, reported in MILNEWS.ca:
Mulling an extended mandate for Canadian Forces in the Libyan war zone will be a top priority issue for the new crop of MPs. Parliament is set to begin June 2 — just two weeks before the current mission is scheduled to end on June 16. NDP MP and foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Official Opposition is not opposed to a possible extension beyond the three-month mandate, but he wants a more defined role and greater emphasis on diplomatic and humanitarian objectives. “I’m not suggesting that we’d say no, but it would have to be something we would look at and want it to be a role for Canada to play,” he told iPolitics. “We’re all concerned about mission creep.” ….”
Um, the NDP is going to need to get its act together: right now the mission is about bombing--focusing on diplomacy and humanitarian objectives would be an extension of the effort: mission creep.

But, of course, this makes sense.  The party has usually taken pacifist positions, so supporting a bombing campaign is a bit out of character, even if it is the most sincere application of Responsibility to Protect.  The challenge is how to support the removal of Qaddafi when the big Q refuses to go away non-violently?  While there is a role for humanitarian efforts, such as providing shelter to those who flee and dropping food and medicine to the "liberated" parts of Libya, I am confused as to what would be the diplomatic effort.  That is, sure, Canada needs to continue to work with NATO, the US, France, and so on to coordinate the effort, but Qaddafi is not interested in bargaining and has proved to be less than credible.  So, saying that we need to do more diplomatic stuff is a way to be critical without offering any insight or potential improvements.

But we must cut the NDP a break--they are new to being the second largest party, and most of the MPs in all of the parties don't have much expertise on foreign and defence policy.  Before this past election, holding the government accountable on defence meant obsessing about detainees rather than about the quality of the effort in Afghanistan.  Again, a simple symbolic stand* rather than actually pushing the government to take seriously questions about the mission itself.
*  I don't want to say that detainee abuse is not important or that the Conservative government has not ducked accountability on this.  Just that the mission itself is far more important than this one aspect, especially since the question is not of Canadians abusing detainees or sub-contracting abuse a la rendition, but just facing the difficult situation of doing COIN in a country that has a history of barbarous treatment of prisoners. 
Where is the Canadian Richard Lugar?  Maybe I will find one while wondering around Ottawa next month.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Not to mention that the government doesnt need their approval to extend, and even if they did, the Conservatives have a majority, so the point is moot.