Canada debates troop deployment in Afghanistan

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the lack of public debate in Australia regarding our ongoing troop commitment in Afghanistan (also touched on over at Larvatus Prodeo).  This contrasts with Canada, where that country’s Liberal government has given notice that it wants to extend the country’s combat mission in Afghanistan until 2011, which will trigger a debate and vote on the matter in their Parliament next month.

According to the ABC website:

All the opposition parties want the combat mission to end next February.  The Liberals say Canadians can stay in Afghanistan longer, but only for humanitarian and reconstruction operations.

Numbers in the Canadian Parliament are such that it is possible the vote could be defeated, triggering an election.

The fact that Canada is having a fully fledged political and public debate about the issue contrasts starkly with Australia. The other big difference is the fact that their Parliament even gets a say in these things. In Australia, the decision is solely in the hands of the Prime Minster and his Cabinet.

I’ve put legislation into the Senate a few times over the years – as have other Democrats before me as far back as 1981 – seeking to change this to require formal Parliamentary approval for such deployments, but it has never received the support of either major party, who (not surprisingly) like keeping such power to themselves.

It is not only Canada which differs from us on this ground. Even in Britain, the new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is moving to change things so that the formal approval of Parliament is required before troops can be deployed in such operations.

In Australia, we still seem happy with there being no need for debate, either Parliamentary or public, on such matters.

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  1. Canada does not have a Liberal governemnt. The Conservative Party of Canada has controlled the federal government since early 2006, although without a majority in the House of Commons. The Liberal Party of Canada, the main federal opposition party, is actually a liberal party, unlike ours.

    Note these are only federal parties, the provincial party structure is a nightmare of unfamiliarity where, for instance, the Liberal Party of British Columbia supports the federal conservatives, not the federal liberals.

    It goes without saying that the Parliament should have the right to disapprove any deployment before it happens.

  2. Could someone explain me, in simple words, what is going on in Afghanistan and what is the excuse for any military operation in that part of the world? Is this war in any remote interest to Australian national interest or security? Do they threaten us with nuclear weapons or threaten oil suplies?
    Or are we just sending blankets and heaters for new born babies freezing in the snow?
    Afghanistan used to be our very good trading partner.

  3. Don’t know if I’m an expert Zen, but:
    1. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 defeated the Taliban, but as the country has not had stable governance for many years, (and real power has for many years been held by local warlords) it has been difficult to create a stable democracy. As Iraq (and other places) shows, you can’t impose or quickly develop civil society, legal structures, a rule of law.

    Some suggest that not enough money or effort went into building schools, services, and creating jobs, thus leaving many bored and disaffected.

    2. Does it affect Australia?
    (a) we supported and assisted in the invasion, and thus have a responsibilty to rebuild the nation.
    (b) if you don’t want asylum seekers, you help should create a place that people don’t feel the need to flee from.
    (c) some people think doing the right thing and helping others worse off (even if they don’t have nuclear weapons or precious mineeral resources) is an appropriate human response.

    For a more detailed response, I’d suggest you read The Economist or a foreign policy journal.

  4. That’s an excellent answer, Muzz.

    If anyone is interested, there are some excellent articles in the National Geographic as follows:

    September 2007: Islam’s Fault Line – Pakistan.

    February 2008: Hazaras: Afghanistan’s Outsiders.

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