Wednesday, March 29, 2006

If not this, then what?

Cerberus is banging the drum for Ignatieff as a Liberal leader:
His support for the Iraq war is not as easy to explain as torture, but let me first ask two questions: Is that foreign war a litmus test against which all other Canadian policy issues become irrelevant? If someone supports an endeavour that the Americans also support, does it matter if the reasons are different? My answers: no and absolutely yes.
Both these questions are important, but Cerberus is wrong on both.

First of all, yes, the Iraq War needs to be a litmus test for a Liberal leader. Not because other issues are unimportant, but because this was, quite simply, a no-brainer. Before the war began, it was clear that this would end badly. I keep banging away at this, and I understand that some people refuse to see it, but all the same: The anti-war crowd didn't turn out correct by accident. We saw the same evidence as everyone else, we were just smarter. We were right. Ignatieff - and everyone who backed this war - was wrong. Period. Full stop. Give it up already.

If I can't expect Ignatieff to make the right decision in a case as morally and practically simple as the Iraq War, why on Earth should I expect him to make the right choice about taxes? Welfare? Daycare? Health care? Nevermind laws and security. The choice before the war began was simple - either you were for an aggressive war sold on lies, or you were against it.

Ignatieff was for it. If he wants a future in politics, let him run for the Conservatives.

The second question is also important - Cerberus is trying to excuse Ignatieff's support of the war because Ignatieff isn't Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld. Fine, I'm sure Ignatieff honestly believed that his support for the war was based entirely on his belief in human rights. This makes him naive, not evil. If Ignatieff thought George Bush was both interested in defending Iraq rights, and competent to do so, than Ignatieff was even wronger than I imagine.

Once again, the anti-war crowd saw quite clearly that the war would be objectively worse for Iraqis. Even if Iraq had been "liberated" without a civil war, it was clear (again, before the war began) that the result would be a more Islamicized, Shia-run state. How Ignatieff could possibly believe this would lead to a net increase in human rights is beyond me.

There's more than enough reasons to oppose Ignatieff aside from his moral ineptitude - to but it bluntly, he's a crappy politician. Moreover, I don't share Cerberus' belief that Canada needs a new philosopher-king. Ignatieff can never be the new Trudeau, even if we wanted one. (What we seem to forget is that Trudeau was able to be intellectual without being academic. I have yet to see Ignatieff master this.) We mock politicians, but to paraphrase Jack Nicholson, that's because we can't handle the truth - we want those same politicians. Ignatieff would be a bad Liberal leader because he will lose any election he leads them in to.

I'm sure he'll manage to weasel his way in to Cabinet somehow. I just hope it's as Gerald Kennedy's Minister of Justice.


Cerberus said...

Correction: I'm not banging the drum for Ignatieff. I haven't decided who to support.

I am banging the drum for policy discussion instead of, in the case of the "torture" issue, distortions of what Ignatieff has said and, in the case of Iraq, drive-by pro-Bush smears.

And I'm all for discussion of Iraq. We never really had that in the party. Personally, I opposed the war but I'm sure glad Saddam is gone and, not now for sure but ultimately, the Iraqi people will benefit. (I'm not saying the ends justify the means, but I'm not going to deny that I think eventually the Iraqis will benefit just because I'm opposed to Bush here.)

But I don't think his position on Iraq should be a litmus test. Trudeau supported the unlawful incarceration of terrorists. He also accepted extra-billing by doctors. Martin and Chretien were anti-choice before the law was struck down by the SCC. Martin and Chretien voted in favour of and supported heterosexual marriage only until the courts smartened everyone up.

Should a leadership hopeful be judged for positions they have taken? Absolutely. 100%. That's not what I'm saying.

But should this leadership campaign be about the US war in Iraq??? Is that a defining fundamental principle for Liberals?? No.

What are our litmus tests? Pro-choice? Equal marriage? It would seem that these are more clear consensus fundamentals among Liberals and yet I don't see any attacks on Volpe, for example, who will not win but will be a significant kingmaker.

By litmus test, that means it doesn't matter how amazing the candidate is, it doesn't matter how great his policies are, if he doesn't pass that test then he cannot be leader. I have certain of my own minimums: I couldn't support any candidate if he or she was anti-choice, anti-equal marriage, for full privatization of healthcare, for nationalization of private business, accepted deficit financing of programs, and others. All fundamentals of being a Liberal for me and all forward looking. Everything else becomes an equation: add up the pros and cons.

So no, I don't think his position on Iraq means he should be written off. He gets some minuses from me for Iraq, maybe even big ones (I haven't decided yet) but he's not written off. I don't think judgment can be passed on all future decision making because of one decision. Again, we don't/didn't apply that principle Trudeau on the October Crisis, wage-and-price controls, NEP, the debt, etc. etc. which are all pretty significant.

However, I do appreciate posts like yours because you have discussed the underlying policy decision. I don't know if you are even a Liberal but discussions like this are healthy. Including the simple discussion of whether it should or should not be a litmus test of some sort. Drive by smears are not.


Demosthenes said...

I hate to make such a crude response to Ted, but there are something like 100-200,000 dead Iraqis who disagree that Iraq doesn't trump other issues. Pro-Choice and Equal marriage matter, but there's precious few issues more deadly serious in a democracy than the decision to go to war, and the means by which it is fought.

And yes, Volpe should definitely be looked at askance for his anti-SSM position, but let's be honest; that's pretty much a settled issue at this point. The question of whether or not the United States should get Canadian support for its wars is different. Sadly, it's very unlikely that Iraq will be the end of it, and Liberals need to figure out now where they'll stand when the war drums start sounding again.