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A quiz for Canadian conservatives

Circle the correct answer to each of the following two questions:

Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, with no middle class, has been riven by politically-motivated religious violence for decades. It is ripe and ready for the flowering of a democracy. Our troops can bring it.

Canada can reduce carbon dioxide emissions to pre-1990 levels.

Answers: If you are a true Conservative (tm) the answer to the first question is A) Possible and to the second question is B) Impossible. If you scored two out of two, you just might be a Canadian Conservative. Other evidence might include:
- a subscription to the National Post or any newspaper that has a girl in a bikini on page three,
- you read Adam Daifallah's blog without a sickly vomit-in-the-back-of-your-mouth feeling,
- you think that two-tiered health care will magically produce more doctors, or
- you have a predilection for Churchillian quotes when thinking about Iraq or Iran.

Your Afghanistan position is pessimistic and disgraceful. Do you assert that humans have no capacity for change when they are presented with the tools with which to apprehend it? I am a life-long Liberal and am immensely proud of our troops and their mission in Afghanistan.

In true Liberal fashion you perform the typical Liberal flip flop. The Liberals sent the troops to Afghanastan originally. Now it's the Conservaitves fault. Under the Liberal watch, pollution increased over 25% while the bad ole Americans reduced theirs 13%. Do you even know what's going on in the world or do you have your head so far up your Liberal butt that you don't have a clue what's happening around you.

I am a true Conservative, and my answer to both the questions is:
Just because it seems unlikely or not possible, you have to try because it is the right thing to do.


No, I do not consider myself pessimistic nor do I think people cannot change. However, pie-eyed optimism and pride in the troops are not going to change reality. Americans are proud of their troops too, but that doesn't make Iraq any less of a balls-up failure. Afghanistan has a mixture of all the worst kinds of colonization - from the Victorian era British attempts to keep control to the religious conflict that was intentionally fueled by western governments through the 80's to drive out the Soviets.

As a combined result of little economic prospect, damaging colonization, the decade-long struggle with the Soviets, anti-modernist religious fundamentalism, and the mish-mash of tribal wars in the 90's, there is no middle class; none. There is no way democracy can happen there without it, and there is no way NATO is going to put one there.

In my opinion, and only my opinion - feel free to differ (many do!), Afghanistan is not going to democratize until it is surrounded by successful, stable democracies and the economic and cultural benefits leak over the borders - Pakistan being the chiefest of these, but Iran as well. If we want to help Afghanistan, my view is that the best thing we can do is pull out, let local politics take its course and then deal with the resulting government or governments.

I can hear the dismayed and shocked howling already - but I just can't see how acting as Karzai's body guard for a few years is going to stop or slow the larger forces at work in Afghanistan. The forces that created the mujahadeen and taliban still exist - the endless string of tens of thousands of madrasses along the Pak/Afghan border that fueled the same religious fury that smashed the Soviets. And they are still pumping out Islamist fundamentalists that view Afghanistan as a jihad. Yes, they are not fed by the CIA now, but there is still solid, if quiet, support from the Pakistani government, which undoubtedly still views the Pak/Afghan border simply as a line drawn by a British cartographer.

I know that we would run the risk of the taliban getting power again, but from my reading of the military history of Afghanistan, to prevent this from happening is going to take a much, much larger force than any country in NATO is going to have the stomach to field. And all a smaller force stands to do is slow what is likely an inevitable slide into tribal war, out of which some victor (or victors) will arise.

This war has been fought since the fall of the Soviets in '88 and continued outside the ranges of the taliban throughout the 90's. It was interrupted briefly by the initial invasion by the Americans and allies, but it now appears to be raging openly outside the NATO patrol ranges, and in many places within. Unless we are ready to commit a huge amount of firepower now and an even greater amount of economic aid later, the NATO mission is doomed, and more Afghan civilians will die at our feet.

Is that any better?

Now, having said all that, would I vote in favour of the mission were I sitting in the parliament of a democracy that allowed votes on such things? Yes. Yes, because we said we would go to our allies, and we should stay until all of our allies together leave.

Harry - just because you probably linked to this site through Liblogs doesn't mean I'm a Liberal. I ain't. This site also links through the Dippers, which you might not have noticed. I have received the same 'you Liberal so and so' this past week since linking up and am just realizing the past few days where it's coming from. I linked up to both of those sites because my politics land somewhere in the middle of these two parties it seems.

I would love it if you could stick around and debate the issues, but ad hominem attacks don't get us anywhere and just make you look like a fool. Yes, I'm aware of the Liberal record on pollution. I'm also aware that Canada, as an oil exporting nation locked into exporting hydrocarbons to the United States whether we want to or not by the PC government's Free Trade Agreement, has had to increase those exports to meet the increasing American demand. Someone out there correct me, but I believe that we don't actually have a lot of control over how much we export, thanks in large part to the FTA. And guess where a huge chunk of our emissions come from? That's right - petroleum refining.

Gee whiz, does it seem to you that we can't place all of the blame on missing Kyoto targets on the Liberals? Boo boo diddums - real life is so complicated when you can't package it in easy-to-serve partisan epithets, isn't it?

Now, if I've convinced you that I've read some stuff, maybe you can go away and come back when you're prepared to show me that you have too.


I was against the war in 2001, was against the expansion of the mission in 2003, and am against it now. Not because I am a pacifist - wars sometimes need to be fought when diplomacy fails, I understand that. (Of course that's an argument for better diplomacy, not for war, but that's a different issue.) I am against this war because it was started with revenge clouding the minds of the Americans and they were not really thinking about solving the issues that Afghanistan faced. And in my mind, maintaining a NATO force there essentially is maintaining the ghost of that revenge in situ while the political forces that are evolving Afghanistan battle around it.

s.wilson - Yours is a noble sentiment, and one that I agree with normally, but not withoug reservation. Just because something is hard to do doesn't mean it's worthwhile, noble, or likely to succeed. The looming environmental crisis (can I still say "looming"?) is something that we have to tackle by reduction of waste and emmissions because there does not appear to be any other answers in the offing. However, for the reasons I've written above, I have to think there are better ways to affect change in Afghanistan.

Phew, that was long! I should have turned it into a post. Anyway, feel free to take your shots - I would love to be proven wrong on Afghanistan. Not the least of which because my little bro is going there next year.

Needs to be surrounded by democracies to be one? How ridiculus. Tones of countries have come out democracies without being surrounded by them. Post-WW2 West-Germany became democratic even though Communist Germany was to the west and Gaullist dictatorial France was to the east. South Africa was pretty much the only democracy in all of Africa for roughly 70s years (recently some more have developed).

One prerequisite of a democracy s stability. If our troops can establish stability in Afghanistan that will be a great thing. Most Canadians do not know that the Taliban is STILL in Afghanistan. The war that was being fought in 2001 is still being fought, the enemy is not subdued and their leadership is still in tact. Our media has presented the war as being over and the enemy forced out of the country.

Phew! Great response, my friend!

I think your opinions are wholly honourable. I hope mine are too. I supported offensive military intervention in both Iraq and Afghanistan because I've worked in human rights for as long as I could string together a half-assed, pseudo-political teenage rant. The Americans have, unquestionably, botched their coalition mission in Iraq, but I still believe the benefits of overthrowing Hussein [and the Taliban] far outweigh the drawbacks. The number of children starving to death in Iraq annually is around 1/5 of what it was in the 1990s--- access to goods and services, although depleted in a lot of rural areas, has been markedly improved throughout most of the country. Life was terrible in Iraq. It was terrible in Afghanistan. It still is, but it's gotten better. Neither country will be opening a tourism bureau anytime soon, but standards of living are on the rise. And, as S. Wilson said, we have an obligation to look up. Okay, but a war zone surely isn't better than what was before, right? Well, when law dictated that a woman be stoned to death for commiting what was ruled immoral sexual behaviour or personal conduct, the situation today looked better. When the vast majority of a country's citizens had no access to any kind of education whatsoever or any rights to freely and culturally express themselves, today looked better. In terms of regional development, reformers and activists in Lebanon, Saudia Arabia, and Egypt have all cited changes in Iraq and Afghanistan as incentive to make their elections and governments more free and transparent. Even Ted Kennedy has conceded that the Lebanese were given the morale needed to inspire the protests that led to the expulsion of Syrian forces because of Iraq and Afghanistan [TED KENNEDY!].

That said, our party's stated position is in favour of the continuing mission in Afghanistan. I don't think whether someone supports our presence in the region is at all suggestive of their political inclinations. It is, thus, completely out of line to say that supporting the mission in Afghanistan is a sign of a Conservative. I'm a Liberal, one who leans as left as this party permits, but I supported both offensive combat missions of which you've spoken. Not because of vengeance, a percieved threat, or the prospect of an economic boon, but because I believe military intervention was the best remedy to two uniquely deplorable situations. When there are routine injustices that are state-sponsored, like there were in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is an imperitive to stop them. Those are my opinions, and I think, even though we argue for two totally different positions, our convictions are molded of the same clay. You seem to genuinely care about the region in the Middle East and I do too. I just want what I think is best for the people there, as I imagine you do.

Thanks, it was great to read your response and NO I'm not backing Michael Ignatieff.

"Harry" writes:

"Under the Liberal watch, pollution increased over 25% while the bad ole Americans reduced theirs 13%."

Really? Perhaps you'd care to substantiate that wild and grandiose claim.


Thanks for the responses, I promise a more substantive response later on about Afghanistan, but I have to pack the kids up and go play outside. Life is so tough sometimes ;)

Two quick comments before I go.

Paul Vincent - Afghanistan is different from the examples you site in that it doesn't appear to have anything to base an economy on - it is going to require active trade with as many neighbours as it can in order for the economic situation to improve enough for democracy to be possible. There is a lot of literature on how big the a middle class has to be in order for a democracy to actually work, but there is little doubt in my mind that it doesn't exist in Afghanistan yet.

Besides, I'm still dubious about the whole "democracy from the point of a gun" thing.

CC - I only quickly read Harry's comment, and you're right, he's got the numbers close to right but the sense wrong and the context not correct. Canadian CO2 emmissions have increased by 25% or so since signing Kyoto and the Americans have increased by 13% over the same time. I'm not sure where those numbers came from, but I read them on the CBC site a couple of months back.

If Socialists are so smart and articulate, why have they not be able to win the hearts and minds of Canadians? Saskatchewan is a socialist mess and now even the hardcore left-wing NDP's here have come out with the most right-wing budget the province has ever seen. The 2006-2007 budget slashes corporate taxes by roughly 40%! This is a clear admission that the socialism just doesn't work.

Touche, Trent - Lumping all "socialists" together is every bit as sensible as lumping all "conservatives" together like I have done.

I would say that no, it is not an admission that socialism can't work because NDP governments are forced to work within traditional capitalist paradigms and very often have huge debts to handle, handed to them by previous "capitalist" governments. (See how stupid it sounds when I use the word capitalist that way? It sounds just as dumb when socialist is used that way.;)

Paul Vincent - I expect that most Canadian do know that the Taliban exists, because many of the attacks on NATO soldiers are reported to be by them. West Germany became a democracy after the second world war largely because it was completely disarmed, encamped by hundreds of thousands of Allied troops and then reconstruction was supported by the huge endowment of the Marshall Plan. I don't know that much about SA, but I do know that they had economic opportunities undreamed of by most other south African nations owing to its natural resources and agriculture.

You're right, stability is a pre-requisite for democracy, but it is only one of many; and there is no guarentee that the NATO forces are going to provide that except for a very small area. Let's say that they are able to create a stable little oasis in the middle of a factional war. What is NATO's goal? To expand that oasis of stability through military means? To outwait the war and expand after the fact? What is the plan? What can be done with ten or twenty thousand troops?

And that only speaks to the military/security issue. It leaves aside the whole economic one, which is every bit as important if not moreso. If we create a stable region within which noone has any hope of making a living or sending their kids to school, what happens? The region becomes ripe for revolt even as we think it's stabilizing.

In my mind I don't think that Canadians are interested enough in Afghanistan to provide enough troops to effectively end the hostilities in Afghanistan, and with our government's reluctance to adequately fund foreign aid generally, I can't see us ponying up adequate resources for effective economic rebuilding. That is not to say that we should do nothing - just that what we're doing now is likely not going to work.

As I mentioned in my previous epic comment, I think that a better thing to do would be to let the factional war sort itself out, which, by the way was the recommendation of elements of the CIA in the early 90's, and then deal with whoever becomes the new government. If that government is Taliban, then so be it - we work at improving the economic opportunities to those within and promote democratization from within.

Yes, it would be slower, but it might have a better change of working.

Nothing is accomplished by an ad hominem attack - if you disagree with the opinion, I think we'd all like to hear a well-reasoned argument in favour of your own position. Attacking the messenger is an emotional reaction, and displays prejudice, not logic.
I know all the other bloggers on this site, and respect them for their articulate and reasoned positions, even though I may not always agree. And when they disagree with me, I don't attack them or 'their kind' to make a point, I state my case to the best of my knowledge, and so do they. It's never a great feeling to be wrong, but it's easier to accept different ideas if you take the time to think about them, and not judge the person rather than the argument.
Sorry, I just get a little frustrated at the tone displayed in some responses. Kevvyd obviously did his homework and has given this some thought, let's give him the courtesy of listening.
Lecture over. Blog on!

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