Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Politician Keeps His Promise?!

Lo and behold, folks are flummoxed that Justin Trudeau would tell Barak Obama in their first conversation that Canada was pulling out of the bombing campaign against ISIS.  Seems like people don't think politicians keep their promises.  They do like to do so, when they can.

Yes, the promise to withdraw the fighter planes (are the auroras and refueling planes also going home?) seems strange when combined with the commitment to keep the troops on the ground in the training effort.  Those trainers have spent significant time on the frontlines and have gotten into firefights.  One might think that the more risky effort was on the ground.  So, why this combination of promises?

Because the Liberals over the past couple of years were jockeying for votes with the NDP, which had ruled out participating in either the ground or air effort.  By agreeing to one aspect but not the other, especially not the more visible, more kinetic (more violent) aspect, the Liberals could appeal to NDP voters while remaining somewhat true to the Liberal Party tradition of participating in multilateral military efforts.  It was, well, a waffle of a kind--do some, but not too much--but I guess I cannot criticize it since the Liberals were able to get heaps of votes from those who had previously voted for the NDP.

Was it wrong for Trudeau to raise it in the first meeting with Obama?  Probably not.  He wants to "re-set" US-Canadian relations in a more positive direction (it is not all about Keystone, Steve), but part of that re-setting is being straight with Obama about what Canada will and will not do.  Obama was certainly not surprised as he has an Ambassador, a Defence Attache and desk officers whose job it is to ask precisely this question: "what happens if Trudeau wins?"  Of course, a majority for Trudeau seemed like a low probability, but some combo of NDP/Liberal replacement of Harper/Conservatives was pretty likely.

What next? Canada will still participate in the NATO Reassurance missions aimed at the Baltics/Russia.  The training mission might actually get bigger (see ye olde campaign promises).  And US-Canadian relations will survive this, just as they survived a far more important early departure--Canada leaving the US in the lurch in Kandahar.  The Canadian air contribution against ISIS has been more symbolic than substantive with a low rate of air strikes.  Kandahar?  That was something else entirely.

So, everyone should just chillax.  Well, everyone except the Conservatives.

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