Monday, July 18, 2005

Still, I'm sure that you can rock the cynics if you try

Much ado was made on the weekend over this: OTTAWA -- Canada's blunt-talking top soldier won praise yesterday for his clear and sometimes brutal description of the coming military effort against terrorist "scumbags" in Afghanistan. Defence analysts and politicians from the NDP and the Conservative Party said it is time for a military leader like General Rick Hillier, who speaks from the heart about the role of the Canadian Forces in the war on terror. "Controlled anger, given what's happened, is an appropriate response," NDP Leader Jack Layton said. "We have a very committed, level-headed head of our armed forces, who isn't afraid to express the passion that underlies the mission that front-line personnel are going to be taking on. "A bit of strong language in the circumstances, I don't find that to be wrong." Bravo, of course, for Hillier; it's refreshing to see a chief of defence staff who understands that the purpose of military forces is, well, to kill certain people as ruthlessly and efficiently as possible, not to do social work. But I'm not entirely sold on the tripartisan-support angle. I suppose it's taken for granted that Conservatives support a strong military capable of projecting force in the defence of the nation, however that may be defined, and the Liberals similarly so, albeit in a form somewhat more corrupted by the pernicious influence of the Peacekeeping fantasy. But the NDP? I'm having trouble believing that this isn't going to cost Layton some support (or at the very least, goodwill; hippies do so hate sellouts) at the grassroots level. Hillier's remarks so don't jibe with NDP attitudes, it's not funny. Jack Layton responded to the London bombings themselves by, after rotely condemning the terrorism itself, urging the G8 conference to immediately direct itself "[addressing] global climate change and meeting our commitments to fight global poverty." In the NDP's world, yes, terrorism is a nuisance, but not nearly as important as the pressing concern of redistributing wealth on the basis of claimed victimhood, whether by direct no-strings-attached aid, or Byzantine schemes like the Kyoto Protocol, currently on-track to fine tiny and green New Zealand into a financial crisis for the crime of being, comparatively, too industrially successful. As for the Liberals, of course, they know which way the wind is blowing, and are famously adept at playing to poll results. Right now, with 7/7 fresh in the minds of Canadians, it won't hurt a bit to appear tough on terror and those who perpetrate it. I wonder if the PM's newfound backbone will remain once the first casualties from this mission appear? Should terrorism again temporarily appear to be only something from which Americans and Israelis are victimized, what then? Will Hillier be quietly told to clam up, or else suffer an unusally early opportunity to spend more time with his family? There is something that would convince me of both Layton and Martin's sincerity, though. If both are willing to endorse the notion that terrorists are "scumbags," and may (nay, must) be taken out by our armed forces wherever they may find them, as a matter of doing the right thing against a barbaric and merciless enemy...a token contribution of fifty or a hundred Canadian troops to ongoing operations in Iraq would, I'm sure, be welcomed. But that would be asking both men to admit that doing the right thing can converge with American policy - and that would engender some strong language on someone's part, likely not Hillier's.


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